By: Kairos dela Cruz
Every time I attend a conference, workshop, or forum, I’m always particular about the persons in the “guests of honor” list. It saves a lot of my time because it shows the objectives of the gathering without having to sit for two hours blindly wondering if it’s worth my while.
However, I always make an exception every time politicians make it to the list. My reason is very simple: I have high hopes that they’ll either give me a good laugh, a good reminder why I should continue to study, or an affirmation that maybe things can potentially become better. It’s very common that I end up listening to a twenty-minute lamentation of how he/she ushered a better world (an imaginary one, of course).
I’m usually disappointed until this morning.
I was invited to share the Philippine experience in implementing the Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative (AFAI) as part of a national symposium on adaptation finance accountability and governance in Lusaka, Zambia. After the national anthem and the opening prayer, Guy Scott, the Vice President of Zambia, was introduced by Nellie Nyang’wa, Oxfam’s Country Director. I was surprised to see a white Scottish-accented man as Zambia’s VP. However, with the Zambian President’s 52 days of unaccounted whereabouts, the VP seems to be in charge.
He started by saying that there are three major bad things that you can get from Zambia “alcohol, cholesterol, and protocols.” I think he was being sarcastic about the long opening prayer. He can be easily called a real piece of work but he was straightforward regardless of the audience, a trait that I very seldom see. He said with a stern look that if non-government agencies (NGOs) want to be taken seriously they should stop asserting that they are smarter than everyone else. He added that NGOs tend to assert that they know better but never bother to converse with the other stakeholders, which makes them uninformed and out of context.
Among all the swag and slang, he zeroed in on something very important, “stop talking and start doing something.” As a member of the Program to Prevent Malnutrition (PPM), the arm in charge of mitigating the impacts of the drought in 1992, his experience and instincts make him talk with authority despite the fact that he is basically demolishing the importance of the whole event. He said that if Zambia is serious in addressing climate change, it should be striving towards integrating CC programs with other existing government programs. The audience, even the organizer, took the blows with a smile because he really knows his stuff.
He ended by saying that he had no intention of attending the event, if not for the smile of Oxfam’s Country Director who assured him that he will come and open the event even if he didn’t want to.
This symposium just got better.
You either admire or abhor someone who can speak his or her mind without the quirks. The VP? he got my respect.