Posts

,

Destination Wish List: Cabo Verde

I was born asking questions. Seconds after I popped into the world, I opened my mouth and screamed whhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyyyyy! Nothing much has changed in the intervening years. I particularly like when I get to meet people from countries I’ve never been to and (almost embarrassingly) places I know very little about.  My geography is atrocious. I went to Costa Rica last month thinking I was going to South America. I was utterly confused when, driving in to Istanbul from the airport a few years ago, I saw a sign welcoming me to Europe. And sure didn’t I move to Hungary thinking it was by the sea. The mind boggles. I’ve long since come to terms with this failing and have accepted that I’m missing the geolocation gene that might just help me figure out where I am and where I’m going – perhaps to Cabo Verde.

In Geneva this week as part of DiploFoundation’s CD Multi programme, I’ve met people from 17 countries I’ve yet to visit: Mauritius, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Malawi, Benin, Cameroon, Uganda, Cabo Verde, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Suriname, Fiji, and Cook Islands. I’ve met people before from everywhere except Cabo Verde and Benin, so of these two countries I know even less than usual, if nothing at all. Apart from a vague notion that they’re in Africa, somewhere, I was clueless.

In conversation one evening, I got to ask about Cabo Verde.

I was right in thinking we were talking about what I knew of as Cape Verde, a former Portuguese colony about 500 km off the west coast of Africa. But what I hadn’t realised is that it’s not one land mass but a series of 10 small islands  with the main airport in Praia on Sao Tiago (Santiago). All but Santa Luzia are populated. The islands don’t have much going for them in terms of natural resources. What land there is not suitable for crops, and drought is a challenge. In the last century, 200 000 people died as a result of droughts which gave rise to mass emigration so that today, more Cabo Verdeans live outside the country than inside, with a sizeable diaspora in Portugal, the USA, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and Luxembourg. Reminiscent of Ireland in the famine days, and indeed countries like Romania today, emigrant remittances play a huge role in the local economy.

Back in 1975, when the country achieved independence, there was talk of unifying with Guinea-Bissau, but a coup in G-B put paid to that idea. Classified as an LDC (least developed country, i.e., a country that exhibits the lowest indicators of socioeconomic development, with the lowest Human Development Index ratings of all countries in the world) it was upgraded by the UN in 2008. A poster child for political and economic stability, this upgrade seems to me to be something of a poisoned chalice. Once out of the LDC bracket, many sources of funding dry up. Better off countries who actively support LDCs in their efforts to develop divert their funding to those still in the group. There is (and I could be wrong) a three-year transition period, a weaning off, after which the stabilisers are removed and the country is left to its own devices. But is that long enough? I wonder.

Cabo Verde, now classified as a SIDS (a small island developing state), is feeling the pinch and the pressure of going it it alone. Yet increased efforts to attract the tourist dollar and develop the infrastructure that goes with this are slowly paying off. In reading various reports, it would seem  that there is huge potential for start-ups, for young entrepreneurs who have a vision for the future. With an 87% literacy rate (considerably higher that of sub-Saharan Africa at 61%), there is cause for optimism. And as a tourist destination, something tells me that I’d like to see it before it makes the popular list of places to go and is overrun, swallowed up by sameness.

Black sand beaches. White sand beaches. Volcanoes. Great creole food. And the music…. I’m a few years too late to see the great Cesaria Evora live, but the national music genre, Morna, is something I could listen to. It’s a fusion of Portuguese, African, Brazilian, and Cuban – a form of blues. Nick Mayes did a great piece in The Guardian on it a few years back. Worth a read.

I’ve been trolling the Net, looking at pictures, reading blogs and articles – a first for me. I don’t plan. I go. But now, I’m planning. And to show I’m serious, I’ve done the unthinkable and added a travel category to this blog before visiting. What a great start it would be to 2018.

It’s been a busy week. Lots happening. I’m grateful for the education, the conversation, and the inspiration. And to anyone who would limit travel, curb immigration, or advocate a stay-at-home policy, to you I say stop – and think. Don’t deny me the opportunity to meet, to learn, to experience. So much of the world’s attraction lies in its diversity; we just need to get out a little more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

,

A good day at the office

I find it hard to explain to people what it is I do to put milk in the fridge, to pay my bills, to keep my sanity. I don’t have one of those neat jobs that fits tidily into a box, easily captioned, and even more easily explained. I have what Charles Handy would call a portfolio career, picking up degrees and qualifications in various fields as I’ve move from one thing to the next. Over the years, though, I’ve found that I really enjoy training in public speaking. For me, speaking from a stage is the cheapest legal high I can get. Better than any drug and, while equally addictive, far less harmful. And when I can encourage that passion in others, I’ve had a good day at the office.

This week, I’m in Geneva with DiploFoundation’s Capacity Development Programme in Multilateral Diplomacy for small Pacific, Caribbean, and African States, known in brief as CD Multi.

Small states with limited geographical, human, and financial resources face the challenge of doing more with less: they need to employ all available methods to increase their representation, including networks, alliances, and information technology tools. In addition, diplomats from small and remote states often lack the experience and exposure to Geneva-based institutions and processes that would allow them to ensure that the interests of their nations are well represented.

Small states, especially geographically remote Pacific, Caribbean, and African nations, strongly depend on international law and order. The effective presence of such states in International Geneva is vital for their social and economic development, as Geneva is the main governance hub for issues such as trade, climate change, health, and migration.

Twenty-six participants from 17 countries [Mauritius, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Malawi, Benin, Cameroon, Uganda, Cabo Verde, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Suriname, Fiji, Cook Islands] are taking part in this 10-day immersion programme, the final of three phases (the other two being Online Learning and Policy Research) of CD Multi-Carib and CD Multi-Africa which began in October last year.  Back in 2014, I got to see parts of Geneva I’d not visited before with the CD Pacific group. What sticks in my mind most was the visit to the International Telecommunication Union. This time, we’ll get to catch the latest in Internet governance developments at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) at the ITU next week.

The programme offers participants a chance to network, to meet representatives from those International Organisations that have so much to say in decisions that affect their lives at home. Four of the countries participating in the programme do not have permanent representation in Geneva [São Tomé & Principe, St Vincent & Grenadines, St Kitts & Nevis, and Suriname] so for them, this is an opportunity to scope out the prospects for setting up shop.

Each participant brings an admirable level of expertise to the table. They range in age and years of experiences. With backgrounds in the voluntary sector, air traffic control, international development, policing and security, ICT, teaching, and diplomacy, they share a passion for ensuring that their countries have a voice, a seat at the table.

During the various conversations that we’ve had over the last few days, I’ve been quietly impressed by the depth and breadth of their collective knowledge but even more so by their energy, their enthusiasm, and their determination to make a difference.

In my world, I see lethargy, apathy, and a general ‘whatever’ attitude that borders on helplessness in the face of the political turns this side of the world has taken. [Admittedly, the voting turnout (nearly 70%) in the UK election this week has given me hope that tomorrow’s leaders are stepping up and taking note (453,000 of the 600k new voters to sign up on deadline day were aged between 18 and 34), but talk from Ireland and Hungary both brings to mind a vision of hell and a hand-basket.] The company I’ve been keeping in the last few days has been cathartic, helping me shed some of the disengagement I’ve been feeling and reigniting my interest in the world at large.

Ceiling of the Human Rights Council room at the UN

1000 sq m weighing 23 000 kg – took 9 months to do – depicting the ocean floor and said to be a metaphor for multilateral diplomacy and the different perspective everyone has (view is different from every seat in the room)

Next week, we’re at the Human Rights Council – it meets three times a year for a total of ten weeks and is currently in session. We’re also at the Commonwealth Small States Office, the ITU, the Austrian Permanent Mission, the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The session I’m looking forward to most is one on Fake News – and the role of confirmation bias in a post-truth world.

Yes, indeed. It’s been a good few days at the office.

 

, ,

2017 Grateful 35

My Balkan love affair began back in 2010 with my first visit to Subotica (which I now know isn’t technically in the Balkans) and continued later that year with my first trip to Belgrade. It’s been a few years since I was last in Belgrade (I’ve been to many other cities since) and yet it’s still held its position as one of the top five cities in which I could live – were I to leave Budapest. Read more