Humanosphere is on hiatus. Many thanks to our web design, development and hosting partner Culture Foundry for keeping the site active while we plan our next move. Culture Foundry builds, evolves and supports next-level websites and applications for clients you know, and you couldn’t ask for a better partner to help you thrive in digital. If you’re considering an ambitious website design or development project, we encourage you to make them your very first call.

Alanna Shaikh’s entertaining observations on UNCTAD

What the heck is UNCTAD?

No, it is not some kind of festering boil in a section of the body you would prefer not be discussed. It’s actually another one of those UN agencies hardly anyone pays attention to, its full name the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Here’s the organization’s description of itself, which is perhaps even less informative than its acronym.

Never mind all that. Just think of UNCTAD as an international meeting where you get to hear what the rest of the world really thinks of how the rich world has screwed up the global economy.

Alanna Shaikh

And then just read Alanna Shaikh’s daily musings from UNCTAD in Doha, Qatar, on her great blog Blood and Milk (listed in reverse chronological order). Alanna is a great writer, an aid/development expert and doesn’t mince words. Often hilarious. Even if you don’t care much about UNCTAD, her observations give you an idea of what it’s like to sit in on these development discussions.

Some excerpts:

Day Two: “Day two began with the Inter-Agency Cluster on Trade and Productive Capacity.  This is an inter-agency meeting that only takes place at UNCTAD. Like so many inter-agency meetings, it consisted almost entirely of agency representatives reading prewritten statements and ignoring each other.”

You break it, you buy it: “UNCTAD delegates are calling for more government intervention into the economy, more taxation on investments, and more FDI, all at the same time. They want an explanation for what went wrong from the same hapless souls who steered us wrong in the first place. Do we really think suddenly everyone is smarter now?”

Day Four: “The first half of the high-level event on women in development depressed me. Heavy on platitudes and generalities, light on any real ideas. I also heard a lot of boring old tropes recycled – women don’t want to work outside the home, changing policy doesn’t help when culture is the problem.”

The conference goes until April 26 so Alanna’s got a few days left to go.

Oh, and you might also want to read her new TEDbook on global health, What’s Killing Us. Here’s a review by Tom Murphy.


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.