In my few years of trudging
up, or rather across the interminable plateau of positions in International Organizations (IOs), one caustic trait never ceases to rear its ugly head- the unequivocal love for Daily Subsistence Allowance. DSA is what many IOs pay their staff, personal service contractors and conference participants, to cover the costs of lodging, meals and transport during authorized work travel. Any administrative backlogs in the provision of DSAs could invoke the rage of Achilles within the odd Development Practitioner (DP). A select few can’t seem to function without it. In all fairness the benefits of local currency when you arrive in a foreign country is important, the berating of administrative staff due to a short delay in disbursement, however, is not. Grown men and women throwing tantrums outside conference halls where experts and ministers gather to deliberate on pressing development issues, is far from pleasant. In fact, it’s so insufferable it resembles Marlon Wayne’s character in Little Man.
All bad jokes aside, let me deconstruct this. First, we can agree that most DPs have personal utility functions that satisfy their material needs and wants (the Lipstick). This is not so much a paradox, until it is. (Bear with me). In spite of ‘tree-hugger’, ‘captain planet’ monikers, DPs actually appreciate the good life and that’s OK. Yes, many things can exist at the same time; such is life (gasp!). In a perfect world DPs select a career path that lets them spring the world’s most vulnerable out of poverty, mitigate the effects of climate change, and ensure peace and security in fragile states. Checkout the Sustainable Development Goals for more info! But somewhere in the midst of ensuring social progress, issuing business class flights and allocating DSAs as regular add-ons to salaries seemingly take precedence. In other words, all these development priorities cease to exist separately from the DP’s capitalist mindset, rather they lie in the center of a continuum- a grey area where the elements of social need and personal wealth intermingle and taint opportunities for development, what some call ‘chasing paper’. For this, I recommend a serving of humility, a pinch of altruism, dash of consideration and smidgen of integrity.