OP-ED

It’s all about balloons

By Fakhri al-Arashi

It’s no one’s birthday that I know of, but I still wish that I had enough balloons to hand one to every person in Yemen. Just a token to cheer up those fighting cancer or fighting corruption, a little gift to stop assassinations or to improve the standard of living or to back up the outcomes of our National Dialogue. This is really a fact: it’s all about the balloons. With just a single balloon, your dreams can come true, especially if you are a local CSO financed by major international organizations working within Yemen.

Writing skillful proposals to win a project is important, and having balloons included in the proposal is a must to draw the attention of a few people in a crowded street, as well as to entice the financier’s interest. What could be more appealing than reaching the ultimate goal of spreading your awareness campaign across the entire Sana’a sky? The concept is very common and very legal, but a serious question remains. How can one organization call for immediate help and action fighting hunger and poverty among half the population, while on the other side there are organizations frittering money away on silly initiatives under the guise of “awareness” and fancy dreams?

One month ago, a local CSO called All Girls for Development received good financing from a well-established international organization. The CSO wished to promote the NDC outcomes and the success of the dialogue. Up to this point, the ideas were professional, but at this point the working ethics of the operation began to come undone. From its name alone, it sounds unprofessional, simply because it gives the impression that the name was registered just to make money, or just to use the cause of “girls” to inspire the sympathy of international organizations. Who could resist supporting girls’ capacity, participation and rights?

All Girls for Development planned a large event not long ago. That day, there were not enough spectators gathered, and the majority of attendees were either NDC employees or volunteers. The scant audience is irrelevant, though, because the first goal of the event was to cheat all the girls who were not there .The second was to convince others of the success of the project by sending balloons flying up into the sky. This is not the way to help a country overcome its ongoing crises. If All Girls for Development thinks so, then it was a failure of the financier to support such an initiative from a local CSO. There is nothing worth supporting in an activity that ends up just launching balloons into the sky.

What Yemen needs is real development, working opportunities for unemployed youth and encouraging capital investment. If this does not meet with the standards and objectives of international organizations, they still have the chance to support education or health projects where they will also find many people in need. What Yemen does not need is balloons, nor cheap initiatives, nor unemployed youth.