The second time as farce

Rory Stewart, in his book about walking across Afghanistan, has this to say about the post-colonial cadres working for the UN and other international agencies in developing countries:

Critics have accused this new breed of administrators of neo-colonialism.   But in fact their approach is not that of a nineteenth-century colonial officer.  Colonial administrations may have been racist and exploitative but they did at least work seriously at the business of understanding the people they were governing.  They recruited people prepared to spend their entire careers in dangerous provinces of a single alien nation. They invested in teaching administrators and military officers the local language.  They established effective departments of state, trained a local elite and continued the countless academic studies of their subjects through institutes and museums, royal geographical societies and royal botanical gardens.  They balanced the local budget and generated fiscal revenue because if they didn’t their home government would rarely bail them out.  If they failed to govern fairly, the population would mutiny.
Post-conflict experts have got the prestige without the effort or stigma of imperialism.  Their implicit denial of the difference between cultures is the new mass brand of international intervention.  Their policy fails but no one notices.  There are no credible monitoring bodies and there is no one to take formal responsibility.  Individual offices are never in any one place and rarely in one organization long enough to be adequately assessed.  The colonial enterprise could be judged by the security or revenue it delivered, but neo-colonialists have no such performance criteria.  In fact their very uselessness benefits them.  By avoiding any serious action or judgement they, unlike their colonial predecessors, are able to escape accusations of racism, exploitation or oppression.

Rory Stewart [2004]: The Places in Between. London, UK:  Picador, p.272, footnote #59.

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