Friday, April 30, 2010

How to be a consultant?

Dear readers,

I have to pick up the pace, I know.

However, I've been caught up in figuring out how to be a consultant.

I never realized how much work it seems like everything that involves being 'independent' is for the super talented.

You need to be part lawyer, all businessman, an accountant, figure out insurance, health stuff, make sure no one can sue you, you have a good reputation, they have a good reputation, etc and so on.

You also need to make sure that. you. get. PAID!

I've been spending tons of time, trying to figure out contracts, tax language, legal documentation, figuring layers of relationships and more.

Have you been a consultant? Worked for yourself? Tell me how you pulled it off without losing track of something important!

Would love to hear your thoughts!


Monday, April 26, 2010

What's it take to have a successful women's movement in Africa?

Moral clarity, persistence, and patience (According to Lehman Gbowee (the now-famous figure from Pray the Devil Back to Hell).
I would add: creativity and courage

Most of this post comes from reading a great blog post "It's Time to End Africa's Mass Rape"

The Liberian story, like many others, really brings home the ability of women within a society to completely transform a war into peace. I highly recommend seeing Pray the Devil Back to Hell.

I know its not necessarily the case that women automatically change the nature of a conflict, but its great to see the impact of these tough, strong, paradigm-changing ladies.

Movements to watch:

Women Peace and Security Network Africa (WIPSEN-Africa)

Women of Zimbabwe Arise

African Women’s Development Fund

The African Feminist Forum

Peace is Loud!

I've always been fascinated by the stereotype of 'quiet' women. Sure, I've met one or two, but I've been fortunate (yay Wellesley!) to have known many warm sisterhoods and some pretty feisty ladies.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Africa Reboots: Forces rally against poor governance

Dearest readers,

I ran across a great article: Africa Reboots, by, of all people BONO.

It stresses the idea that two forces, normally opposing, are rallying around poor governance and weak institutions. Both feel that they suffer from corruption and that weak states negatively effect their respective flocks.

I think this is an interesting and valid point of view. I do, however, think that at least the corporate interests have created much of this problem. Bribing from the low to the high becomes the norm, when all parties allow it to occur. Cops don't become corrupt by themselves. Neither do presidents, ministers or anyone else.

"Entrepreneurs know that even a good relationship with a bad government stymies foreign investment; civil society knows a resource-rich country can have more rather than fewer problems, unless corruption is tackled." This is a pretty accurate description.

So, can civil society and business unite? Can these two forces push governments to be more accountable, less corrupt and to think of the bigger picture?

Some interesting figures were introduced in the article, described by Bono:

John Githongo, Kenya’s famous whistleblower, started a group called Inuka.

DJ Rowbow: His station, Ghetto Radio, was a voice of reason when the volcano of ethnic tension was exploding in Kenya in 2008.

Youssou N’Dourmusician in Senegal who best exemplified the new rules. Maybe the greatest singer on earth — owns a newspaper and is in the middle of a complicated deal to buy a TV station.

Luisa Diogo, the country’s former prime minister, who is now the matriarch in this mesmerizing stretch of eastern Africa, leads Activa, a women’s group that, among other things, helps entrepreneurs get seed capital.

Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese entrepreneur who made a fortune in mobile phones.

On another note, President Goodluck Jonathan seems to have his thoughts together on his interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour this past week. I think his statements about political opponents 'let them come! anyone who wants to, can come!' is an excellent attempt to undermine opposition--if you seem like they can't ruffle your feathers, that President Jonathan has nothing to fear--is more effective than just bluster and criticism.

I read a few articles analyzing the interview, but I think it's worth watching in its own right.

Hope all is well with you.

Friday, April 16, 2010

In honor of the Nuclear Summit, part V

Dear all,

Here is part IV in my series of excerpts from President Ikeda's 2010 Peace Proposal.

2010 Peace Proposal
Toward a New Era of Value Creation
Daisaku Ikeda
President, Soka Gakkai International

Regarding pledges of mutual non-use, even an agreement limited to the United States and Russia would be a watershed event that would produce a major reduction in perceived threats, from which alliance partners would equally benefit. It would also provide an opening for reviewing the extraterritorial deployment of warheads and missile defense programs as steps toward the gradual dismantling of the nuclear umbrella.

As demonstrated in the final report of the International Commission on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, a joint initiative of the Australian and Japanese
governments, issued in December 2009, there are increasing calls from within countries living under a nuclear umbrella for a review of traditional nuclear doctrine.

Among the benefits of establishing declared nuclear non-use regions would be to encourage progress toward global denuclearization and a comprehensive system to prevent the proliferation of all weapons of mass destruction and forestall the dire possibility of nuclear terrorism. The aim would be to transform the confrontational stance prevailing in certain regions—including those where the nuclear-weapon states or their allies are present—of meeting threat with threat. What should be encouraged instead is the approach of mutual threat reduction exemplified by the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program instituted between the United States and the states of the former Soviet Union in the wake of the Cold War.

Regrettably, the NPT in its current form does not include provisions for reducing threats and offering mutual assurances that can enhance confidence. If progress can be made on negotiations toward these goals on a regional basis, it will make even more salient the physical and psychological security offered by participation in disarmament frameworks, as opposed to the further deepening of isolation on the outside. This will in turn reduce motivations to develop or acquire nuclear weapons.

If, through these systems, expanding circles of physical and psychological security can be created to encompass not only countries relying on the nuclear umbrellas of nuclear weapon states, but also North Korea and Iran, as well as countries such as India, Pakistan and Israel that are currently not part of the NPT framework, this would represent a major breakthrough toward the goal of global denuclearization.

There are still many more pages, so thanks to those who've followed so far!


Thursday, April 15, 2010

In honor of the Nuclear Summit, part IV

Dear all,

Here is part IV in my series of excerpts from President Ikeda's 2010 Peace Proposal.

2010 Peace Proposal
Toward a New Era of Value Creation
Daisaku Ikeda
President, Soka Gakkai International

Expanding frameworks for non-use of nuclear weapons

To date, the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZ) has represented an effort to fill the gap in the legal framework left by the absence of any treaty or convention providing a blanket prohibition against the use of nuclear weapons. In 2009, NWFZ treaties entered into force in Central Asia and Africa. These followed similar agreements covering Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. The decision by so many governments to eliminate nuclear weapons from so many regions around the world is truly significant.

Although the preamble to the NPT, which entered into force forty years ago, calls on signatories to “make every effort to avert the danger of such a war and to take measures to safeguard the security of peoples,” it is clear that the nuclear-weapon states have not fulfilled that obligation.

The NPT does not, of course, accord these countries an open-ended right to possess nuclear weapons. Despite this, their continued adherence to the doctrine of nuclear deterrence has had the effect of encouraging both “vertical proliferation” (expanded and enhanced nuclear arsenals within nuclear-weapon states) and “horizontal proliferation” (the spread of nuclear technologies to other states and entities). The real-world effect has been to shake and undermine the foundations of the NPT regime itself.

The time has come for the nuclear-weapon states to develop a shared vision of a world without nuclear weapons and to break free from the spell of deterrence—the illusory belief that security can somehow be realized through threats of mutual destruction and a balance of terror. A new kind of thinking is needed, one based on working together to reduce threats and creating ever-expanding circles of physical and psychological security until these embrace the entire world.

As evidence of the nuclear-weapon states’ genuine resolve to move beyond deterrence, I urge them to undertake the following three commitments at the 2010 NPT Review Conference and to work to fully implement them by 2015.

1. To reach a legally binding agreement to extend negative security assurances—the undertaking not to use nuclear weapons against any of the non-nuclear-weapon states fulfilling their obligations under the NPT.

2. To initiate negotiation on a treaty codifying the promise not to use nuclear weapons against each other.

3. Where nuclear-weapon-free zones have yet to be established, and as a bridging measure toward their establishment, to take steps to declare them nuclear non-use regions.

I have no intention of underestimating the difficulties that lie in the way of realizing these commitments, especially the second and third. But it is important to stress that these are political decisions that the nuclear-weapon states can take now while maintaining their current status as possessors of nuclear weapons.

Stay tuned till tomorrow!


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

In Honor of the Nuclear Summit, Part III

Dear all,

Here is the third installment of President Ikeda's Peace Proposal, the part that focuses on nuclear abolition.

2010 Peace Proposal
Toward a New Era of Value Creation
Daisaku Ikeda
President, Soka Gakkai International

Toward a world without nuclear weapons

In a proposal I wrote last year (September 2009), I offered a five-part plan for laying the foundation for a world free from nuclear weapons, including the promotion of various disarmament efforts and making the transition to security arrangements that are not reliant on nuclear weapons. At the same time, I reaffirmed my longstanding conviction that if we are to put the era of nuclear terror behind us, we must struggle against the real “enemy.”

That enemy is not nuclear weapons per se, nor is it the states that possess or develop them.
The real enemy that we must confront is the ways of thinking that justify nuclear weapons; the readiness to annihilate others when they are seen as a threat or as a hindrance to the realization of our objectives.
(this is my favorite quote)

My proposals should be considered as a series of steps to overcome and transform the thinking that justifies nuclear weapons and to strengthen the momentum toward their abolition.

The first of these is to work, based on the existing NPT system, to expand the frameworks defining a clear legal obligation not to use nuclear weapons, in this way laying the institutional foundations for reducing their role in national security.

The second is to include the threat or use of nuclear weapons among the war crimes falling under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), further clarifying the norm that nuclear weapons are indeed weapons that must never be used.

The third is to create a system, based on the United Nations Charter, for the General Assembly and the Security Council to work together for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.

None of these proposals will be easy to implement, but all of them build on existing
institutional foundations. They are by no means unreachable goals. It is my earnest wish
that the NPT Review Conference to be held in May will initiate movement toward these
goals and that they can be implemented within five years. Such efforts should culminate in
a nuclear abolition summit in 2015—to be held in Hiroshima and Nagasaki seventy years
after the nuclear attacks that devastated these two cities—which would effectively signal
the end of the era of nuclear weapons.

There are many more pages to go--what do you think so far?


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In honor of the Nuclear Summit, part II

Dear all,

Here is the second installment of President Ikeda's Peace Proposal, the part that focuses on nuclear abolition.

2010 Peace Proposal
Toward a New Era of Value Creation
Daisaku Ikeda
President, Soka Gakkai International

When the Soka Gakkai was founded in 1930, Japan and the world were shuddering under the impact of the financial panic of the previous year. People were afflicted by a deepening sense of dread and unease. Writing at that time, the founder of the organization, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871-1944), called for a transition from a dependent or even an independent way of life to what he called a contributive way of life. He rejected a passive, dependent way of life in which one is swayed by and at the mercy of one’s surroundings and the conditions of the times. He likewise rejected a way of life in which we are capable of looking out for our own needs but remain indifferent to the sufferings of others.

He urged, instead, a contributive way of life as described by the Buddhist maxim that when we light a lantern for others, our own way forward is lit. The source of illumination needed to dispel the chaos and darkness of the age is to be found in actions that bring forth our own inner light through committed action on behalf of others.

The second president of the Soka Gakkai, Josei Toda (1900-58), as heir to Makiguchi’s spirit, declared: “I wish to see the word ‘misery’ no longer used to describe the world, any country, any individual.” He put this conviction into practice through his efforts dedicated 4 to peace and people’s happiness and to the construction of popular solidarity rooted in a philosophy of respect for the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person.

Surveying the challenges that confront contemporary global society, I am convinced that nothing is more crucial than an essential reorientation of our way of life based on a commitment to the welfare of all of humankind and the entire planet, such as Makiguchi and Toda called for. Rather than stand to one side and ponder how the future might develop, we must focus on what each of us can do at this critical moment, the role each of us can choose to play in changing the direction of history. We must strive to make a proactive, contributive way of life the prevailing spirit of the new era.

On the basis of this recognition, I would like to offer several concrete policy proposals focused on two main challenges. The first challenge is nuclear weapons, which continue to threaten humankind as the ultimate embodiment of a cruel and blatant dismissal of the needs and welfare of others. The second is the structural distortions of global society where poverty and other threats continue to undermine the human dignity of vast numbers of people.

What do you think so far? What are your thoughts on nuclear weapons? Where does the average person stand on this issue?


Monday, April 12, 2010

In honor of the Nuclear Summit, part I

Dear all,

I am watching the Nuclear Summit closely. I am strongly dedicated towards nuclear abolition--not just for the removal of the weapons themselves, but for making an important step forward as humanity--to realize that we shouldn't use fear as an weapon. Nuclear weapons may seem remote to those of us who grew up after the Cold War, but they're still very real.

In that vein, I will spend most of the week posting excerpts from President Daisaku Ikeda's 2010 Peace Proposal, which focuses on the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Hope you enjoy--please feel free to post events/thoughts/articles related to this issue:


Daisaku Ikeda
President, Soka Gakkai International (SGI)
(Excerpted Translation)
On January 26 and 27, the annual Peace Proposal by SGI
President Ikeda was carried in the Seikyo Shimbun newspaper.
The following is a translation of the portion carried on January 27 dealing with specific policy proposals in the fields of nuclear abolition and human security.

I would like to take this opportunity to discuss several proposals that I believe can support efforts to resolve the current crises faced by the world and construct a new order of peace and coexistence for the twenty-first century.

The global economic crisis has had a severe impact on the lives of citizens in many
countries. There is also concern that one of its impacts will be a slowing or scaling back of international cooperative efforts to respond to the complex array of global issues, including poverty and environmental destruction. We must avoid a vicious cycle in which crisis gives rise to pessimism, which in turn exacerbates crisis.

In terms of finding a path toward the resolution of global issues, the year 2010 will be a critical one, with a number of important meetings scheduled, including the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in May and the special summit in September on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

We must remember that there is always a way, a path to the peak of even the most towering and forbidding mountain. Even when a sheer rock face looms before us, we should refuse to be disheartened, but instead continue the patient search for a way forward. In this sense, what is most strongly required of us is the imagination that can appreciate the present crises as an opportunity to fundamentally transform the direction of history. By mustering the force of inner will and determination we can convert challenges into the fuel for positive change.

I will post more tomorrow.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

The 3Ds, challenges in language and culture

Dear All,

Hope this finds you well, sorry for the delay in posting--its been a busy month or two. I'm headed to the Niger Delta in May to do a six-month consultancy and I've been accepted in the 'pre-employment phase' at USAID to be a 'crisis, stabilization and governance officer', which means i don't have a job, but I do have paperwork. :) More on that later.

The 3 Ds (Diplomacy, Defense and Development)

At first, i thought it was just my mother. That my mother and I couldn't communicate about my newfound understanding of war and how that impacted my wish to work and create value within the security world. After 2+ years of back and forth, we've managed to communicate with each other and she is supportive of my goals and context (she always was, in a sense, but associated security with guns and death, not the ability to protect and transform).

Now, what about with everyone else?

I find myself struggling with a new identity

I am not a classic security person, but i have learned a new language and have trouble going back to who I was before. I need to find new ways to communicate with the people who resemble who I was, while appreciating their perspective.

How should I start? Should I start with an agreement on terms? Perspective?

I've been trying to find a place in the development world that can utilize my new security perspective, my diplomatic upbringing and my desire to create long-term, effective improvements in the lives of humanity.

However, when I found myself in an job interview for a position that I thought epitomized this (a development job in Afghanistan), I found myself repeatedly making a cultural mistake: I assumed we were speaking the same language.

I asked a seemingly innocent question: So, what is your security perspective for your work in Afghanistan?
A: Well, we have a security team that makes sure we stay alive...they're very good.

I tried, no, how does the context the context of war affect your work?

A: Well, we try to stay away from the more volatile areas and conduct risk analysis, etc.

This was not the answer I was looking for--I wanted to know, how does the context affect your work? What about the trauma of the population with whom you are working? What about the trust and legitimacy issues?

Frustrated, I finally tried a direct approach, even though I was beginning to realize that I was just not speaking the same language...

I asked: But you're in a counter-insurgency, you have funding because development work is part of the war effort, how is that not part of your planning?

You could have heard a pin drop, they looked like I had slapped them. THEM, part of the WAR? Never!

One tried to argue with me and it was clear the others were angry..."But, we're doing the hearts and minds stuff...long term goals'...'we don't get funding from DOD'....'We don't deal with guns'

It was clear that one, they didn't realize that 'winning hearts and minds' IS a military strategy, and that COIN is political, more than about guns.

So, what am I to do? How do I use the things I've learned to work with the people who do the work I want to do, without upsetting them (but using the things I've learned to bridge this gap in communication?).

I'm open to your thoughts!