I have much discussed the overt and covert roles of NGOs here over the years.
Here is the British Council looking for the next generation of “cultural leaders” in Ukraine and offering leadership training, funding to the tune of £3000 for personal development and perusing the written plans of said applicants with “cultural leadership” aspirations.
From a UK perspective, of course, it is most wise to familiarise with and mentor where possible the next generation of Ukrainian “cultural leaders”. To help shape and forge strong bonds with the next Ukrainian people of influence from an early developmental position is exactly what the UK should be doing.
In the world of leadership and international relations, personal relationships go a very long way when it comes to the ease of access and negotiation with another nation.
From a Ukrainian point of view, on one hand it may turn out to be quite beneficial in the future to have the same easy access and personal connections with those determining policy in the UK, but on another, depending upon the transparency of the selection process employed by the UK Foreign Office via the facade of the British Council NGO (a budget that is the responsibility of the Foreign Office), there will be an acute awareness of the ability to be rather partisan in selection and therefore coercive to certain interests.
Of course you would expect HM Gov to have an agenda otherwise there is no real point to the exercise. Without an agenda, they may as well pay the fees for my next Open University educational upgrade in one of the political sciences (P,P or E to be exact, starting in a few months if they ever get around to setting the fees for overseas students that is) and then use their influence to shoe-horn me into a Ukrainian NGO in which they have a particular interest.
From my perspective a good trade-off of course. It is actually quite difficult to get actively involved in a NGO even when you want to. It’s even harder to get involved in EU or UN bodies despite what would appear to be obvious benefits to them ostensibly based on costs and location . We will see, for example, if anyone asks me or any resident foreigner I know, to act as an OSCE observer for the next 2012 parliamentary elections here in Odessa, or whether the taxpayer will be asked to pay for a different foreigner with a far worse linguistic ability (thus needing additional funds for an interpreter) to be flown here, accommodated and then flown out again.
Which is the most effective use of EU taxpayers money? – Exactly, so the chances of that happening are similar to the hole in my derriere disappearing overnight!
Anyway, returning to the point, whilst this is quite an overt and seemingly well intentioned endeavor (and it quite possibly is just that), there is of course, depending upon the transparency of the selection process, the ability for rather darker motives in the long-term, as anyone excelling within this sponsored programme will very likely become a prominent figure either regionally or nationally in Ukraine over the next 10 years.
One has to recognise though that there is no neutral action in foreign policy. Even inaction can be something other than neutral depending upon the circumstances. I could and maybe should go on to explain that further, but it becomes quite an academic argument and this post would turn into more a dissertation/thesis than flippant commentary you are used to.
Maybe I should create another section called “It’s all really quite academic….” and take a layman’s meander into policy in clear and simple English, but the amount of research and reading required would mean sporadic and lengthy entries. What do you think?
As it happens, I am all in favour of this UK endeavor, even if the long-term motives are somewhat more opaque and coercive than they appear prima facie. Then I would be, as I have one foot firmly planted in Ukraine and the other in the UK. It is in my personal interest to have and encourage top-class bilateral relations between both nations and between Odessa as a region and the UK for that matter whether it be with the leadership of today or that of the next generation.
The less I have to explain the more nefarious or opaque actions of the UK when confronted about them, the better it is for me. Like so many in society, issues judged separately and in the short-term rather than in the context of the bigger picture over the medium/long-term.
So, if there are any fledgling Ukrainian “cultural leaders” reading amongst my Ukrainian followers, click on the above link and apply. If you need help with the application or working on your personal progression plan, leave a comment. All comments are screened by me before publication, so if you do not want your comment/interest released for public consumption and would prefer a more confidential arrangement, mention it when making contact with the blog.
If there is one thing I am more than capable of, it is writing dry, strategic, technically sound English for the corporate and government machines of the UK and EU. Now there’s an offer you don’t get every day!