Are you staring at the EU’s ass?

by | Aug 21, 2010

Look at this little fellow…

…and try telling me that he wouldn’t look better with this logo stuck to his furry flank:

What, you may ask, am I going on about?  Here we go: this week, the EU’s Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid – Kristalina Georgieva – was asked “why TV reports had shown aid being distributed in Pakistan in sacks carrying the US flag, but never the EU emblem”.  She attributed this to (i) EU modesty and (ii) pesky NGOs:

Europe had chosen to work very much with partner organisations present on the ground, as in Pakistan. But these organisations, such as the Red Cross or Save the Children, have their own brand to promote and are reluctant to use the EU’s to a certain extent.

Sometimes this is because it may seem like their work is being politicised, sometimes it is purely for safety reasons, and sometimes it is because they want to show off their own brand, which is understandable, the commissioner explained.

What is to be done?

“Raising the visibility of Europe and making sure that our flag shines when we are abroad helping people in need is something that I find incredibly important. Especially now, when we are still not through with the economic and financial crises and it is hard for people here, and we also have our own disasters at home,” she said.

Georgieva said she was telling humanitarian organisations that they should do more to help the EU to help them by flying the EU flag.

I have questions about this approach, which I’ll write about soon, but I was also struck by this snippet from the interview with Georgieva, who knows her stuff:

She explained that the main problem was ensuring that aid actually reaches people in need, and that in some places donkeys were a more precious means of transport than helicopters.

Surely this points to the difficulty in “branding” any humanitarian operation: the fact that getting aid through involves a great deal of improvisation.   It’s hard to wave the EU flag while bartering for donkeys.  Unless, that is, the EU wants to set up a Donkey Corps to airlift highly-trained pack-animals to future crises?  When one of them appeared on TV, everyone would know exactly whose ass they were staring at…

Biological note: yes, I know donkeys and asses are not identical.  The New Yorker had a great piece on mules and the military, now sadly for subscribers only.


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