Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Anna the consultant: my job at NCDR

this isn't me.

The NCDR office is near eighth circle, so it’s a little bit of a haul from my house. Our office is in a tiny satellite office, set up in a refurbished apartment down the street from the real office. It’s small, but the space is clean and open and friendly and there is always plenty of tea. There are only four of us in here—me and Muna, the head of International Relations, and two of her staff.

NCDR is the National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation, a semi-independent agency that’s responsible for coordinating demining operations in Jordan. Here’s the deal with that: there’s a lot of work to be done. The North Border Project, which is clearing landmines from the Jordanian/Syrian border, is home to 93 mine fields that spread over nearly 600,000 square meters of potentially fertile agricultural land. And that’s just the NBP—there are also mines in the Jordan Valley (fun fact: the Baptismal Site (Jesus’, I mean) used to be a minefield) and other Explosive Remnants of War in the North, left over from internal conflicts, external conflicts, military training—all that kind of stuff. Except that they’re laying around in fields where people are trying to shepherd their sheep or grow some food, or where children are trying to play. And what little kid wouldn’t pick up an old hand grenade, if he saw it lying in the dirt where he was playing?

So this is pretty bad stuff, but progress is being made. Help comes from the Norwegian People’s Aid and the US State Department and many other foreign governments. Jordan should have cleared all its land mines by 2012—or at least, that’s the goal. Right now NCDR is in this phase of transition from primarily field-based work (that is, actually clearing mines) to emphasizing its training courses—there’s a yearly training course about removing Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) and Unexploded Ordinance (UXO) and the quality management side of the process. Last year there were representatives from over twenty countries where this is a problem.

My official title at NCDR is "consultant",which is hilarious. My job is to put together the “quarterly” newsletter, which was last published in April 2009. So I’ve been sorting through two years of press releases and numbers and surveys and numbers, figuring out how to put them together. This is a job I actually like a lot—I like research and talking to people and I like putting together big documents and making them look nice and having a finished projects that lots of people are going to see. The thing about this job, though, is that since there hasn’t been a newsletter since April 2009 no one knows what the newsletter is. They also don’t understand who I am: who’s that short American girl with the backpack and hiking boots and jeans that’s always running around the office? Who let her in? Is she lost? Is she sure?

When I first met with Ahmad, the director of the Operations Department, he said: “So you’re visiting just for today? Doing research?”

“No,” I said, “I’m actually working here for a couple of months helping Muna with the newsletter.”

“Oh,” he said, and then: “Oh! An American newsletter.”

“Actually, no,” I said. I explained: “The NCDR newsletter.”

“Right,” Ahmad said. He looked worried. “The...NCDR newsletter?”

So it’s been an adventure.

Last week I met with Deemah, the head of the UXO/ ERW survey project, and we had a long talk about the economic implications of ERWs and landmines. (This was surprising, since usually we’re talking about the social implications of ERWs and landmines, example, people getting blown up.) Here’s how that breaks down:

At the end of the NBP, not only will 50,000 civilians who were once in danger from land mines be safe, but 34.5 million square miles will be released for agriculture and 33 water wells will be released for agriculture.

A $1 billion free trade zone between Jordan and Syria will be established once the border is cleared.

In Jerash, the second largest tourist attraction in Jordan, the survey found that out of 55 communities, 24 are impacted by ERWs. 42% of the impacted areas are inhabited and close to residential areas, meaning that 23% of the population of Jerash is at risk from ERWs. Because of this wide impact, only 21% of income in effected communities comes from agriculture—despite the fertile nature of the land in Jerash.

In October of 2009, British Petroleum (BP) agreed to invest $237 million in exploring natural gas reserves in Risha, in the northeast of the Kingdom. The project’s aims to triple gas production in Risha, which would make Jordan energy self-sufficient. Unfortunately, operations came to a halt when UXOs, ranging from artillery hells to cluster bombs, were found in the area.

Last time I met with Basem, who's the manager of the Jordan Valley, he said I might be able to come into the field to check out some of this stuff for myself. That would be exciting. This is definitely one of the more interesting jobs I've ever had.

Anyway, I'll be home in 25 days.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm. 25 days left? Better get cracking on that newsletter. This is really good content, Anna. I'm learning a lot. Love you.