Saturday, July 16, 2005

I return to my office from a day off (yes, an actual day off!) and immediately stumble across something that makes me laugh, even if it is in one of those needing-to-laugh-so-that-I-dont-cry-out-of-sheer-desperation sort of ways.

An email that has been going around various UN agencies in Sudan has been forwarded to me: it's a pretty standard security briefing that warns UN staff to be particularly vigilant due to increased threats within the current "political" climate (no explanation as to what exactly that political climate is and why it's a threat, but a stern note at the bottom of the mail urging all readers to discourage rumours and unconfirmed information...)

In instructing staff how to respond to this increased security threat, the mail helpfully explains that Sudanese phone networks are unreliable (really?) and tells people to ensure that they are carrying their VHF radio with them at all times.

Seems sensible at first glance, until one of the UN staffers across town hits 'reply to all' to politely thank his colleagues for worrying about him and to point out that none of the staff have actually been given said radios to carry with them (he is absolutely right - besides drivers and logisticians, hardly anyone carries the things or knows how to use them according to security protocol).

The fact is that even if they had a radio they would probably not bother to call in for their regular security checks. Some people do, but ever since being told that nothing actually happens (i.e. no one from a central agency goes and looks for you) if you don't respond plenty of others have given up on the process entirely.

Good to know that if my trusty Land Cruiser gets swept away by a river (as one NGO truck did this week in North Darfur) there will definitely be some security people who care. It's just that no one will be able to tell them about it.

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