Developing countries soon to take the lead?

 

These are exciting times!

A couple of days ago, I attended Norfund’s summer conference in Oslo. Norfund is the Norwegian state’s investment company intended to invest in profitable and sustainable enterprises in developing countries. The conference speakers had many interesting things to say regarding today’s investment landspace in the developing world, as well as different aspects that proves to be challenging at this point, and that we should focus on in the years to come.

First of all, I’m positive to the mandate of Norfund, and the ideology that is behind it. Kjell Roland, the first speaker and adm. dir. of Norfund, started the conference by talking a bit about the traditional “Washington” view of development aid, and the new “Beijing” approach taken by the Chinese in investing in different projects in Africa. I’m strongly persuaded to think that big governemental development aid plans are often misguided, wrong-focused and doomed to failure. The Washington approach has been to apply tha exact kind of model on all reciever countries, thinking that aid alone without any sense of responsibility or demand of results will straighten things out. This is of course never the case. What China has done, is to listen to the locals, hear what it is they want, respect differences between countries, invest in projects that are going to do well, and make everyone in each link responsible for theis assignments. An important stipulate is that both the investor and the locals are interested in achieving the same things.

These are principals that it seems like both Norfund and the Norwegian aid politic in general seems to show some interest in. This is very positive, I think. If we can keep in mind that development also has to be sustainable, and has to respect democratic principals and human rights, the evolvement is very positive indeed.

As it looks now, the western countries with U.S.A. and certain EU countries at the lead, seems to be lagging behind developmentwise. The economic growth in Germany was reportedly on 0.1% from january to march this year, which in reality means that the engines on the German locomotive has stopped. The Western world is coming to a halt. On the other hand, many african countries experiences a surge in the economic growth, with some countries nearing a 10% increase. This is completely new in history. Of course, the developing world has a long way to go, but it’s good to see that the speed is rapidly increasing.

So what are the challenges? One can talk about many things.

A major issue is the water problem. Many african countries are suffering from periods of drought, and with the climate changes, this is only getting worse. The hunger crisis on the horn of Africa is an all too real example. With proper irrigation systems, this could be prevented, and much bigger land areas could have been used for agriculture. This could have been used to feed populations where too many now are starving. This is an absolute condition to help a country develop as a whole; no-one can grow and flourish without food and a good health.

Agriculture is in my opinion the number one thing we have to focus on in all developments aid and investments. African countries have to get self-sustained. And with the high food prices at the world market right now, african countries can have a lot to gain on exporting wares as well. But I think it’s also important to remember that there is in reality enough food being produced as it is. It’s just that the unfair systems that governs politics globally, ensures that the world’s resources are unjustly distributed. This is the reason why almost one billion people are cronicly hungry. Had these systems not been in work, hunger had not been a problem anywhere. So let’s not lose the perspective on reality.

Corruption is another challenge, and it’s an important part of many cultures. This is why we always should demand responsibility, accountability and results in our dealings with development aid.

But the main challenge is to procure good leadership and get the necessary human resources. Without it, nothing else will function. And this is something we always have to keep in mind.

With the global economic situation being what it is, the progress in the time to come will be extremely interesting to follow. Will the situation turn towards a more optimistic outcome for Europe? Or can it be that the traditional industrialised western countries will lose it’s economical and cultural hegemony? Will the NIC-countries and soon also african countries be the new winners? Is it the beginning of a new era where we wil have to get used to being inferior? Or will the economic recession in western countries pull the rest of the world along with it, making the whole world stop?

As it is, we have yet to find out.

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And here are the last pics…

…From Jotunheimen :)

Fleskedalen, the valley where all the bad weather came from.

Safely arrived at Ingjerdbu!

Time for the last day of walking.

Vettismorki.

Bye, Ingjerdbu!

Vettisfossen, Norway’s longest waterfall, 275 m.

The view down to Vetti gard

Folkevegen, “the people’s road”, a 6 km long road from Vetti gard to Hjelle. It was made as Norway’s biggest volunteer labour project.

Looking forward to seeing civilization again.

Summer recap part 2: Jotunheimen, beautiful and brutal

So, as a follow-up on my post on eventful things I have done this summer, I thought I would show some pics from the trip we had to Jotunheimen. This was at the beginning of August, and I had a couple of weeks of free time between the end of my kindergarten work and the beginning of the school semester. Martin Leander had always wanted to take a trip to Jotunheimen, and since I had seen some of its beauty on a trip last year, I was optimistic about the idea. We had planned a week of trekking, from the western part (Turtagrø) and into the mountains, walking from west to east, through Skogadalsbøen and Olavsbu to Gjendebu, and then turning and finally ending at Fondsbu in the south.

We planned a camping trip, so we brought a sleeping bags and a tent, along with a primus stove, gas and food for a whole week. The backpacks were VERY heavy. Martin’s weighed approximately 24 kg, and I guess mine was right below 20.

Then came the trip. We started out optimistic, but already after the first night, the spirit began to swoop. What we hoped would be relatively nice weather turned out to be more or less heavy rainfall, throughout the journey. And I mean, it rained almost every second of every minute of every hour of the day. After the first hour we were already soaked through, and the minute we stopped walking, we would get freezing cold. Over the mountain tops it was foggy and hard to see, and the rock ground was slippery. But for my part, the worst of it was the heavy load on my back, because my feet were over-exerted. The second day it seemed like an eternity to walk to the nearest cabin, but the thought of the alternative – to stop, setting up the tent in the rain, and then use hours to try to get some warmth in our bodies, before we would have to put on out cold and wet clothes again the next morning – was so little tempting to consider that it kept us going. We were cold, hungry and very aching, especially on the last part of the day’s walk, but finally managed to get there. After we had arrived at the cabin later that night and put some warm and dry clothes on, we had to realise that we were little prepared for this kind of hard core trip, and that it wouldn’t be any nice to keep going as planned in pouring rain for a week. So we took the easiest way out, and kept going south down Utledalen for two days before arriving in Øvre Årdal, and taking the bus to Bergen.

It was extremely wonderful to come home to a warm house and eat a big, home-cooked meal!

So here’s some pics. Aside from the bad weather, our low morale, the coldness and aching bodies, the trip was ok. I mean, the scenary wasn’t exactly bad, as you might see!

Optimism at Turtagrø

Starting view

Hurrungane in the south

<3

Putting up the tent on the first night

Starting the next day

…And then no pics before we had arrived at the cabin.

Gloomy weather.

We spent the entire next day by the fireplace in the living room, looking out at the dreary weather, and playing cards and dice games

…discussing the route for the day after.

Walking from Skogadalsbøen.

Toguh guy posing!

 

The view up Utladalen, in direction of Skogadalsbøen.

 

Hurrungane from the east.

 

Someone are in for a cloudberry-treat.

 

Kjærlighetspost til Samfundet

Kjære Samfundet.

Her er jeg, da. I hovedstaden. Ærverdige Kristiania. Med landets eldste universitet, 200 år gammelt, med stortinget, slottet, aker, løkka, politikerne,  studentene og samfunnsdebatten. Alt det fine og flotte. Og likevel er det noe som mangler.

Når jeg står og ser på Chateau Neuf, den stolte bygningen som skal representere byens studenter, står det ingen annen tanke i hodet på meg enn denne: Dette er ikke Studentersamfundet i Trondhjem.

For hva skal man svare til engasjerte studenter her nede når de snakker varmt om studentersamfunnet sitt? “Kjære deg, du skulle bare visst?”
Jo mer jeg ser av det, jo mer blir jeg nemlig klar over hvor fantastisk, flott og spesielt det var å være oppe i Trondheim sammen med deg, og hvor lite noe av dette andre kan måle seg med det.

Men hvordan kan man vite hva man går glipp av når man aldri har opplevd det før? Det er ikke mange her i Oslo som vet hvordan det føles å komme HJEM når man går opp den slitte baktrappa ved Samfundet. Bli gjenkjent av dørvaktene etter lang tids innsats. Å bli møtt av gamle kjente i Daglighallen. Å kjenne lukten av svette og øl slå mot deg fra Soci. Kjenne sommerfugler i magen etter en flyktig flørt på Festivalen. Synge “Halvard Thoresen” under siling. Snike seg opp til FK fra bakscena. Sitte til de tidlige morgentimer og drikke whisky oppunder kuppelen og tenke at “dette er livet”. Danse på bordene til indierock på Klubbstyret. Stå med spøkelset i container’n. Diskutere fortid og framtid i Edgar. Spise Sesamburger i Bodegaen på Stille time klokken 04. Sovne i sofaen under søndagsfilmen. Sende hete blikk til gutten i den andre enden av lokalet. Høre Pirum bryte ut i spontansang. Røyke i jungelen på Regi. Få hjertet sitt knust på LIM. Ramle inn og ut av hybler i de sene nattetimer. Komme inn i et rom og bli ropt “hei” til av titalls ulike mennesker. Føle ærverdigheten på storsalsmøtene. Bli kjent med noen i hver gjeng og etter hver begynne å skjønne hvordan hele systemet henger sammen. Sitte inntil veggen og være gammel og klok, og ta seg i å tenke at ting var bedre før. Kjenne nesten hundre års studentliv strømme mot deg fra de tykke, ruglete murveggene. Krype nedover baktrappa igjen en tidlig morgen og nyte soloppgangen mens du går over Elgeseter bro.

Kjenne at samholdet du føler av å være i en fullspekket Storsal mens alle synger, klapper, ler eller gråter, nesten gjør at hjertet får lyst til å bryte ut av brystet ditt. Tenke: dette er verdens beste plass, og vi skaper den sammen.

 

 

 

 

Det er ikke mulig å skjønne hvordan det er, med mindre man har vært der.
Jeg begynner i hvert fall å skjønne at det aldri kan erstattes. Det fins ikke noe annet, eller noe bedre. Ikke noe er som Samfundet, du er det beste av det beste, og selv om du snart ikke husker meg lenger, kommer du alltid til å bo i hjertet mitt.

 

Jeg savner deg.
Jeg elsker deg.
Og jeg vil aldri glemme deg.

 

 

Klasseskille i abortspørsmål?

I dag leste jeg en artikkel i Vårt Land som fikk meg til å stille grundig spørsmål ved fødsels- og foreldrepengeordningene vi har her til lands.

Når det gjelder abort, kommer det ikke som noen stor overrasskelse på meg at unge kvinner uten fast jobb velger å ta abort i flere av tilfellene enn hva gjelder eldre kvinner med trygg karriere. Det framstår for meg som veldig logisk. Jeg hadde heller ikke hatt lyst til å få barn på nåværende tidspunkt. Men at dagens velferdsordninger kan bidra til å understreke og kanskje forstørre denne forskjellen, har jeg ikke tenkt på før. Ifølge artikkelen vil foreldre som har krav på foreldrepenger kunne få en årslønn på inntil 475.296 mens de er i permisjon. Dette gjelder hvis man har opparbeidet seg retten til disse pengene gjennom å ha jobbet i minst seks måneder på arbeidsstedet sitt før permisjonen. De kvinnene som er så uheldig å ikke ha rett til foreldrepenger, får istedenfor utbetalt en engangsstøtte på 35.263 kr per barn.

35.263 kroner!

Det staten åpenbart legger opp til, er da at kvinner skal være i arbeid. Og det er jo både fint og flott. Men hva med de som ikke er så heldig at de har vært lenge nok i arbeid? De som er under utdanning, eller nettopp er ferdig med utdanningen? Unge kvinner som ikke har rukket å stable en karriere på bena ennå? Det er helt vanvittig at de som faller inn under denne gruppen skal bli “straffet” med å få en liten engangsutbetaling som knapt dekker forbruket i bleier dersom de skulle befinne seg i den situasjon at de er gravid.

Her ser vi en tydelig stratifisering mellom klasselag. De trygge og økonomisk stabile kan slappe av med en rundhåndet donasjon i permisjonen, mens de som har lite eller ingen ting fra før blir stilt overfor valget mellom å føre et lite barn til verden på null økonomisk grunnlag, eller ta abort. Er det virkelig slik det skal være?

Så klart er jeg for å oppmuntre til at kvinner deltar i arbeidslivet, men jeg syns ikke denne formen for økonomisk tvang er på sin plass. velferdsstaten skal jo prøve å utjevne sosiale forskjelle, ikke forstørre de. Her er det åpenbart en stor mangel i systemet. Dersom dette fører til at flere tar abort når de egentlig kunne tenkt seg å la være, syns jeg noe bør endres med dagens ordning. Det er verdt å huske på at selv om Norge ligger blant toppen på fertilitet i vest-Europa, så betyr ikke det at vi ikke likevel står ovenfor store utfordringer når det kommer til å fylle gapene i velferdsstaten ettersom eldrebølgen slår inn for fullt.

Summer recap 1: Italy, wonderful and annoying

In June, Martin Leander and I went to Italy for a week. The trip was rather random; we wanted someplace to go and Italy it was. I bought the Lonely Planet guide for Italy (Lonely Planet has been a lifesaver many a time) and tried to get a certain oversight.

We decided to focus on the Tuscany area, which was supposed to be the most beautiful, with sweet, coastline cities and rolling grape vine hills. Tuscany has Florence as it’s largest city, and Pisa in the west with it’s famous leaning tower (it really is breathtaking). It’s also well known for it’s Chianti wine, a reputedly good red.

Here we are, well arrived in Florence, and enjoying our first meal (with Chianti Wine, of course).

The famous La Duomo in Florence is one of Italy’s “big three”, and is well worth a visit! All the tourists in Florence seemed to agree.

We stumbled upon a marvellous shop right next to the Dome, which sold a lot of different, beautiful hand-made paper. I wish I could afford it!

In Italy, the cockroaches are scarily big!

Of course, Italian romance is one of a kind.

La Duomo by night.

The city of Florence!

Apparently, the Italians do have some humour.

Martin is thrilled to have some steak on his plate.

The bridge leading over to the city centre of Pisa.

Some important guy, no doubt.

The tower. Yes. It was big, beautiful and more leaning than you ever thought could be possible.

…But the dome which it was built for, wasn’t bad either.

Podere san Lorenzo, an agriturismo farm which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever stayed. And with the coolest housekeeper.

And a biological swimming pond with frogs and algaes.

And the best italian cooking.

Even Martin is pleased, even though this dish didn’t have any meat in it.

The housekeeper! Francesca :)

Wine grapes. Lots!

The general landscape.

Frog earrings! Of course I had to buy them.

 

One of the famous towers of San Gimignano. Here we also ate the world’s best ice cream, officially. Award-winning. It was amazing!

The sight from San Gimignano.

It looks a bit morbid, but hey.

An old bridge right next to Locanda del ponte, a hotel we slept at one night.

Martin makes friends at Podere Terreno, a vineyard we stayed at the following night. Nice place, and a whole lot of nice people we ate dinner with around a big table in the living room.

Wild boar stew at Bar Ucci in Volpaia. Nice!

Our day to explore Rome!

Strange how it’s completely natural to have ruins just lying around in this country.

The one and only.

What a sight!

We should have been warned by the menu. If you reckognize this on your way through Rome, do NOT eat here. It’s terrible food in a shabby place to a way too high price, and you’re lucky to avoid food poisoning.

 

A snapshot by the fountain next to tha Pantheon.

Pantheon I!

Good to see something else in the streets than tourists and people trying to make money on them.

 

Vespas, the true symbol of Italy.

Dinner at Enoteca Berberini, a wonderful place. We ate there to nights in a row, and we got a glass of champagne the second night because they remembered us from the night before. Recommended! Food, jazz and service all top notch.

Pepper steak. Yum!

…And we all agreed that it had been a nice trip.

Wonderful: The scenery, the people (when you got to actually talk with them), the weather, the wine, the villages, the ruins and the architecture.

Annoying: The traffic limitations, the aggressive drivers, the fact that very few speak English (or refuses to), the food (honestly – one get’s bored of pasta and pizza, the prices (way too high, which can explain why young men live at home with their mothers well into their thirties), the transport systems and lack of information, and all the tourists.

The best would be to travel sometime during low season, so you don’t get lost in the crowd. And if you’re prepared for all the annoying aspects, Italy is well sorth a visit, cause it really is beautiful!

Another summer ending

Yet another summer is coming to an end – not that there’s been a lot of summer really, but that’s how it is here up north – and a lot has happened, in which the terrorist attack that rocked the Norwegian nation, along with the rest of the world, is the thing that sadly looms over everything else here at home.

A lot of wellspoken words have been said as a response to that, and the whole of the Norwegian people has been united in sorrow for the last couple of weeks. To make sense out of such a senseless act has proven to be hard, and many of us have had to search the darkest and deepest cavaties of our minds in search of it. The response to the doings that killed 77 people, most of them young and optimistic, has seemed to be to retaliate with a more inclusive and engaged society, at least for the time being. People far better than me, and with a bigger heart than me, have spoken a lot of showing love in the face of hate, and these are words that people need to hear to grasp the reality and find meaning for oneself.

As for me, I was at work in Oslo the day the bomb went off and Oslo became a new and dangerous place. We were inside the kindergarten some distance from the city centre, and I didn’t know about anything until my boyfriend called a few minutes later, telling me about what had happened, and asking me to get safely home. He had been walking past the centre of the explotion under an hour before it happened. At home, the windows had bulged under the pressure from the explotion. After the dust had settled, I just kept counting my blessings that none of my dear ones had been hurt og killed. But others has lost those dearest to them, and their lives has been changed for ever.

Life is precious and all too short, as we are continously reminded of. But I think that it is in situations like these, when we are faced with hatred, violence, desperacy, that we really feel it. That we remember that in the big picture, nothing else matters than human lives, and the love we share with each other.