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No Dancing, No Dancing: inside the global humanitarian crisis

Danis Dragovic’s ‘No Dancing, No Dancing: inside the global humanitarian crisis’ (Odyssey, 2018) is an important reflection on the aid and disaster industries, revisiting sites of previous aid work – South Sudan, Iraq and Timor-Leste – to discover what, if anything, has remained of earlier aid efforts and, where there has been failure, to seek answers as to why aid projects have ultimately failed.

While not news to many of us, the set time-lines and ‘tick the box’ approach to aid delivery, lack of local engagement and especially the short-term approach to disaster relief, means that very little of the international community’s aid commitment remains viable just a few years after the circus has moved on.   

As Dragovic notes, and again what many of us would be aware of – is that a people-centred approach seems to work best and leaves the most tangible longer term results. Those results, as Dragovic notes, are mostly found in human capital, in the best of aid recipients learning how to be community leaders and bringing their communities with them, now sustaining, now modifying programs put in place by INGOs.

Dragic puts into practice a model that has been used by community to community projects in Timor-Leste, that they be Timorese led, long term, and sustainable. If there was any doubt about this, DFAT has now recognised that this model of small, locally-led people to people projects build the most sustainable long term outcomes.

As a text, Dragovic’s book is not based in theory or even focused on the ‘how to’. But its reflections are important for people entering the aid industry and, as we had done some time ago, may be useful as part of an introduction for students either testing the aid and relief waters for the first time, or for those who have spent time in the field and may benefit from such reflections.