Tag-Archive for » Brussels airport «

Why taking the Eurostar through the Chunnel is worth the extra expense

Traveling by Eurostar between Europe and Britain is very convenient since it bypasses all the hassle of getting to and from airports. The overall journey is shorter and more pleasant.

Eurostar connects Brussels South with St. Pancras station in London, stopping once in France and once in Britain between these end destinations. Getting to Brussels South in Belgium by train is included in the price of your Eurostar ticket although there is no equivalent benefit in England.

Since both the Eurostar Brussels station and St. Pancras have both been remodeled it is a pleasure to board and alight and go on your way. Both have been modeled on the best airport facilities with small shops, restaurants and all the facilities.

Indeed the journey on Eurostar itself is much like flying. I traveled from Brussels to London in Leisure Select class, which is equivalent to traveling first. There is also a Leisure Select business in which businessmen can meet and/or work. That costs a little more. There is also a standard class that is somewhat cheaper.

In Brussels you pass both Belgian and British immigration services on the way out and coming back I passed through British and French immigration services, even though Britain is part of the European Union. That surprised me but added to the international flavor of this train.

On board Leisure Select you are met by the cabin attendant and conducted to your reserved seat. Mine was a single seat on one side of a large aisle, which was comparable to a business-class seat in a good plane except that there were no seat belts. That felt a little odd.

During the journey I was served a breakfast in one direction and lunch in the other. These were both excellent meals, well cooked and hot with all the trimmings and good wine. They were equivalent to first-class plane meals before the airlines had to start economizing.

Travel itself was very fast and the journey interesting except that the Chunnel’ is merely a long tunnel. The one thing, on my journey, that brought the real meaning of the Chunnel to mind is that the train was delayed for an hour on the French side because an unauthorized person had been found on an earlier train in the Chunnel. That delay, however, rarely occurs. We saw more of the Chunnel train sidings and work facilities on the British side.

From France, open flat farm country is left behind, while emerging into England, the countryside changes to that of Kent’s undulating green. In a plane you would have seen nothing of that between identical plane tarmac landing strips.

Furthermore, I would have landed far from London at Heathrow making subsequent travel difficult. In passing, I should add that any mode of travel that avoids Heathrow is worth any cost since Heathrow is undoubtedly the worst airport that it has been my displeasure to visit. That alone makes the small additional cost of the Eurostar worthwhile.

As a postscript, I should mention that this was not my only visit to the Chunnel. During construction, before Eurostar existed, I was able to enter from the English side and travel to the center of the Chunnel by small work train. There I could see the work of the tunnel being clad with concrete. I was nice to return as a passenger.

Georgia Attacked South Ossetia and the U.s. Supported It!

by Michael Webster: Investigative Reporter Aug 16, 2008 12:01 PM PDT


L.A. Times reported that Russia and its allied forces destroyed a key railway bridge linking war-weary Georgia’s capital to the Black Sea coast, and blow up Georgian coast guard and other vessels, effectively severing all east-west transportation routes within the small country, the Georgian Foreign Ministry announced. The move came a day after the Georgian president signed a French-backed cease-fire proposal during a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Russian soldiers occupying the central Georgian town of Gori also pushed forward 14 miles toward the capital, Tbilisi, setting up positions on the country’s main east-west road 25 miles from the capital. Adjacent agricultural fields were set afire, apparently by Russian soldiers.

Global Research’s Michel Chossudovsky reported that during the night of August 7, coinciding with the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, Georgia’s president Saakashvili ordered an all-out military attack on Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia. 

The aerial bombardments and ground attacks were largely directed against civilian targets including residential areas, hospitals and the university. The provincial capital Tskhinvali was destroyed. The attacks resulted in some 1500 civilian deaths, according to both Russian and Western sources.  “The air and artillery bombardment left the provincial capital without water, food, electricity and gas. Horrified civilians crawled out of the basements into the streets as fighting eased, looking for supplies.” (AP, August 9, 2008). According to reports, some 34,000 people from South Ossetia have fled to Russia. (Deseret Morning News, Salt Lake City, August 10, 2008) 

The importance and timing of this military operation must be carefully analyzed. It has far-reaching implications. 

Georgia is an outpost of US and NATO forces, on the immediate border of the Russian Federation and within proximity of the Middle East Central Asian war theater. South Ossetia is also at the crossroads of strategic oil and gas pipeline routes. 

NATO encouraged Georgia to attack according to Russian envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin. He sent an official note to representatives of all member countries in Brussels in connection with Georgia’s military actions against South Ossetia. He’s calling on them not to support Mikhail Saakashvili.

Russia has already begun consultations with the ambassadors of the NATO countries and with NATO military representatives. Rogozin said. “We will caution them against continuing to further support of Saakashvili.”

Rogozin says Georgian aggression against South Ossetia is obvious. “It is an undisguised aggression accompanied by a mass propaganda war,” he said.

Rogozin has linked Friday’s onslaught to the support given to Saakashvili at the recent NATO summit in Bucharest.  At the meeting, Rogozin says, it “was hinted Georgia has prospects in NATO.”

South Ossetia close to humanitarian disaster Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says he hopes Georgia’s Western partners take note of what has happened in South Ossetia and draw conclusions.

“It all confirms our numerous warnings addressed to the international community that it is necessary to pay attention to massive arms purchasing by Georgia during several years. Now we see how these arms and Georgian special troops who had been trained by foreign and U.S. specialists are used,” he said.

They also accused the Georgian authorities of ignoring the UN Security Council’s call to observe a ceasefire during the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Meanwhile, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili told CNN on Friday that Russia “is waging war against Georgia”. Claims over 2,000 Georgians have been killed during the Russian invasion so far.

He said it was in the interests of the USA to help Georgia.

“It concerns not only Georgia -it concerns the U.S. and its values. We are a freedom-loving country which is being attacked,” Saakashvili said.

Georgia has called on the U.S. and other countries to put pressure upon Russia “to put an end to a military aggression” in South Ossetia, Georgian ambassador to the U.S. Vasil Sikharulidze told the American media on Friday.

“We ask our friends, including the U.S., to be mediators and try persuading Russia to stop this military aggression and incursion into Georgia,” Sikharulidze said.

Earlier U.S. president George W. Bush said the U.S. supports the territorial integrity of Georgia.  

The President of the breakaway republic of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity claims about 1,400 people have been killed by Georgian shelling.
“It is the third genocide of the Ossetian people from the side of Georgia, and Saakashvili is the main murderer,” Kokoity said.

In connection with the escalating tensions in South Ossetia, Abkhazia’s armed forces have moved to the border with Georgia, the breakaway republic’s president Sergey Bagapsh said on Friday.

“Irrespective of the development of situation in South Ossetia, we won’t stop moving to the border with Georgia. Today they launch a military aggression against South Ossetia and tomorrow it could be Abkhazia. It cannot go on like that,” Bagapsh said.

Meanwhile the EU has called for an immediate cessation of violence. It says it’s ‘deeply concerned’ about the dramatic escalation in the conflict between Tbilisi and its separatist republic.

A spokesman for the EU Council said The Union’s high representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, had spoken to Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili on Thursday. He said Solana urged Saakashvili to show restraint and to return to the negotiating table.

Javier Solana’s spokesperson, Cristina Gallach, said on Friday that urgent action is needed to stop a further loss of lives.

“We are extremely concerned with the latest developments and we think that it is very regrettable that there has been loss of lives. The most urgent thing at the moment is to calm the situation down,” she said.

The NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has called on the authorities of Georgia and South Ossetia to stop the violence and to restore peaceful negotiations.

U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, Told the president today at the Crawford ranch that she also urged Russia to stop attacks on Georgia, respect its territorial integrity and withdraw its troops from Georgian territory. There is a ceasefire in effect but no one seems to be honoring it. Russia is promising to pull out of Georgia but as of this writing they have not. Russia has cut the country vividly in half and is controlling the roads and the harbors, hence controlling commerce including the flow of Georgia’s oil pipeline. The EU is not expected to do anything either as Russia already controls forty percent of all of Europe’s natural gas and an even larger percentage of their oil.

For Related article Google or go to: www.lagunajournal.com

Presenting: Pablo Chufeni – Servas Traveller And A Champion Of Cross-border Youth Exchanges

I met Pablo at the Canada-US Servas Conference that was held at the beginning of August in Vancouver where I had a chance to spend about an hour and a half with him to find out more about his involvement as a volunteer for Servas, an organization with hosts and travellers in more than 130 countries whose motto is “Travel for peace” to promote greater inter-cultural understanding and tolerance. Pablo is one of those people who always has a smile on his face and he is filled with an incredible amount of energy. Through Servas he has travelled through a variety of European and North and South American countries.

As a volunteer for Servas, Pablo has tried to harness the international network of Servas in new ways, and most recently he has created an initiative that allows young Servas members to go on language exchanges free of charge that are facilitated by other Servas travellers. Both accommodation and language training are provided free of charge by local Servas hosts. So far his network of participating countries includes Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico, the United States and Canada which will provide no-cost language study opportunities to young Servas members in Spanish, Portuguese, French and English.

In addition he is also organizing a youth summit for Servas, to be held in January 2006 in the resort town of Bariloche, Argentina. And he does all these activities part-time, after work, as a volunteer. Meet this bundle of positive energy – Pablo Chufeni.

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, what is your profession, where do you live now?

I’m 27 years old and I work as a theater professor in various institutes. I also study politics at the university as well as French and Portuguese. This year I started to work for the Developing Bank of the Americas in a social program here in my city, Rosario, in Argentina, where I currently live nowadays. I work in the capacitation department as a tutor for teenagers who are at risk. For 7 years I worked for the local TV station as a general producer, but that took up all my time, so now I prefer to use my days in a different way. I also work for a foundation that works with cultural promotion here in my city.

2. You have been a Servas member for a few years now. How did you hear about this organization and what was your first travel experience like?

I heard of Servas by acident,sitting at a coffee table. First I went to Europe as a traveller, but after that I organized my own local group of Servas hosts here in Rosario, and I got involved in the running of the organization. I have been to official meetings in Canada, Spain, Argentina, Mexico, UK and Uruguay. The Servas experiences are so deep and so profound that it is quite complicated to talk about them in a few lines. What I have experienced is simply amazing, it has changed my life.

3. What countries have you travelled to through Servas? What kinds of people from what places have you hosted in your home? What makes Servas travel so

special to you?

I have traveled with Servas in Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Canada, Spain, Belgium, France, Ireland, Portugal, and the UK. But I´ll make my list larger as soon as

possible!!! At my place I have hosted people from the USA, Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Brazil. My house is open to Servas travellers all year long.

It´s not only the bridge that Servas builds for you, but also who is waiting for you on the other side. All the people in Servas are great and interesting, otherwise they wouldn’t open their doors and use their time to chat with you and show you their world.

4. Please tell us about your 3 favourite or most memorable travel stories.

I met a nice couple in Lisbon, she was Mexican and he was born in Angola. The time I spent with them was great. They originally met trough Servas when she was a traveller staying at his house. And now they are married!!!

I also met a guy in Brussels who ate food without cooking it and had strong opinions on flavours and health and how human beings developed the art of cooking only by following their tongue. I had another interesting travel experience with an Arab person who lived in Paris. This was simply amazing. We went together to see a show in Paris of Ute Lemper, a German singer that I always liked, and one day I saw signs in the streets of Paris, announcing one of her concerts. Unfortunately the signs said SOLD OUT! But when I returned to his house he told me, Pablo, I’ve got tickets to a show tonight in case you want to go. We had a great time at the concert.

5. Please tell us about your 3 favourite or most memorable hosting experiences.

It´s hard to say, all my guests have been great in their own way.

6. You are very actively involved in harnessing Servas as a network for learning experiences for young people. Please tell us about the language learning opportunities that you have created through Servas.

In 2003, Servas South America organized an essay contest about “The role of Servas”. I participated and ended up coming in first place. As a contest winner, I was able to attend the Youth South American meeting in Montevideo (Uruguay), also visiting Santa Teresa (Uruguay) where activities were developed for three days. Here I met Camile Costa from Sao Paulo (Brazil) who had taken Spanish classes in Chile. It was then that the idea of using Servas as a platform for developing language study exchanges for young people through Servas was born.

The program is organized in four modules, with respective classes. All the classes are weekly and 1 ½ hour in duration. The modules are: A) Language – B) Arts – C) Social – D) special Events. The young people particpating in these programs get a fully rounded picture of their host society.

7. You are also organizing the first international youth meeting of Servas in the southern hemisphere, called “Patagonia 06″, to be held in the beautiful resort town of Bariloche in Argentina during the 3rd week of January of 2006. Please tell us about this initiative.

Working hard with the help of SERVAS Argentina, the first international youth conference in the southern hemisphere will be held January 15 to 22, 2006. PATAGONIA ’06 will take place in Bariloche in the heart of Argentinean Patagonia. The landscape is simply amazing. Although our focus is not on the landscape, it provides an additional incentive to attend the conference.

SERVAS YOUTH is not only for people under 30, if you are interested in youth issues and want to help us and develop youth projects in Servas, you don’t need to be a teenager. The meeting will cost only U$D 160, which will cover four meals a day, access to every single activity, accommodation in bungalows or tents (no transportation from BsAs included).

This youth meeting will help us a lot to continue developing the position of youth in SERVAS and at the same time to grow as people. There will be three different topics during the meeting. The specific topics of Youth in Servas are: how to develop the youth position, how to reach more young people, the programs that we are already working on and how to make them grow, how can we help developing the local activities in our national group, and how to get young people involved, new programs that we can start implementing, and everything linked to the Youth issue inside Servas.

Here is the link to the PATAGONIA’06 Conference: www3.telus.net/SC/SERVAS/index.htm

8. Despite having your hands full, you are already thinking of other ways of harnessing the Servas network to provide internship and job shadowing

opportunities for young people from across the world. Please tell us more about that.

This is an idea for the near future. First I want to reach my personal goal with PATAGONIA ’06 and the international youth exchanges. Then I want to use

the Servas network to provide job opportunites to young people abroad to develop their resume and their skills.

9. You also host local “diversity meals”. What are they and what is their purpose?

I heard about “diversity meals” from Mary Jane at the United States Servas office. She told me about an activity they have in San Francisco where a number of meals are organized at various Servas members´ houses, where they become hosts to a diverse group of indivdiuals. I decided to borrow this idea and import it to the youth branch of Servas in Argentina.

Although the participants come from different cultural and educational backgrounds, commonalities surface quickly. Diversity meals are intended to foster tolerance and understanding, not just through international travel, but locally with local participants. It is not necessary to visit Bali or Nicaragua to find a different

way of understanding the world. Our neighbours next door are an equally valid option.

10. When you are not volunteering for a good cause, how do you spend the rest of your time?

Honestly I do not have any free time. I work 10 hours a day, so frequently I work on Servas projects at night, that´s why all my emails get sent out at weird times. I also go to the gym daily. In addition, my mother has a life-long medical condition, so I have to help her and stay close to her all the time just in case.

11. What are your upcoming plans, travel and otherwise?

It is always a challenge for my try to find a way to be involved in the kind of activities that I am participating in, considering the fact that I also have to earn money. If one day I find a way to get my economic needs met while working at Servas and anothers NGOs I would be absolutely happy. I always have the feeling that I´m wasting my time when I am working, thinking of all the things that I could be doing if I had the time to spend working on Servas projects. This is my personal challenge.

Thank you, Pablo, for taking your time to explain all your volunteer activities with us. We wish you the very best for you international youth language exchange program and for the Servas Youth Conference, Patagonia ’06. You are actively helping to spread the message of intercultural tolerance and peace to the next generation.

For the entire story including photos please visit http://www.travelandtransitions.com/interviews/servas_pablo_chufeni.htm

Appreciate The Excellent Galleries In Antwerp

When seeking a spirited place, Antwerp tourism opportunities are ideal. Antwerp tourism options give the traveller a custom to experience fine eating options, to drop over extraordinary sites of importance, and to drink in the rich past of the conurbation of Antwerp in Belgium. Fabulous, uniquely styled architecture, inviting and welcoming stores, magnificent past monuments, numerous art galleries, loads of , and myriad cultural activities await the visitor of Antwerp. In addition, getting around the municipality of Antwerp and to various destinations of leisure is amazingly easy, thanks to the myriad forms of public transportation accessible to tourists and metropolis inhabitants.

Antwerp has a host of museums that reminds foreigners of its illustrious former times. The Plantin Moretus Museum is a UNESCO world heritance site for its contribution of European printing while the 16th century. Antwerp zoo is one of the ancient zoos in the world. It has a mass of more than 4000 animals housed in the structure that came from the 19th century. Antwerp has a multitude churches that display diverse architecture these as the baroque church of Carolus Borromeus, and the Cathedral of our Lady, which is one of the grandest churches in Northern Europe. Other locations of importance include the conurbation hall, the ancient market square, and the Vleeshius meat house.

Take a expedition of one of the earliest zoos in the entire world; the Antwerp Zoo contains sea lions, adorable King Penguins, crocodiles, dolphins, monkeys, a vast diversification of reptiles, and fish. Plus, the Zoo is perfect for and children alike! If the zoo doesn’t appeal to you, perhaps the Royal Museum of Fine Arts will hold leisure for you. Once ruined by a devastating fire, the museum has a rich history, having been made, around 1884. Within the museum’s walls you may delight in the extraordinary work of artists like Rubens, Jacob Jordaens, and Floris Claesz van Deck.

Amusement options in Antwerp are hot tickets in Europe. The place has a repute for wonderful ballet displays and operas. You could hear the Royal Flanders Philharmonic do their magic in the concert halls around the metropolitan area. For flick breaks, the UGC Antwerpen has wonderful seats and excessive screens. Entertainment halls populate the city centre. Consult local people on the supreme spots to display amusement amid casual night outs.

Antwerp stands out from the rest of Belgium when it comes to food. While Brussels is legendary for its chocolate, Antwerp has a delicacy named “smos” which is made out of bread. It is difficult to say where the choice “smos” is, as every human in Antwerp has a various opinion about it, but one favored store is Jean-Pierre. The friendly citizens of Antwerp will gladly direct the excursionists to a zone near the university where the accepted “smos” is served.

The preferable restaurants in Antwerp do not offer Belgian food, unfortunately. The common food offered is just like the other locales with regard to ethnic food.

The economic dominance of Antwerp didn’t inaugurate with diamonds. The sheer economic success of the province dates back to the 16th century, and quite obviously, the success has carried over to modish times. Nowadays, the diamond trade is a sparkling feature that gives the conurbation its deserved lustre, yet it still gives us umpteen cultural value that citizens will appreciate.

Automotive history: Citroen Deux Chevaux (2cv)

I described the Citroen Deux Chevaux as half an egg and an engine because in profile, that is what it looks like to me. It also has to be one of the great automotive designs of all time. In terms of putting Europe on wheels, it is in the company of the original Volkswagen Beetle, the original Austin Mini, and the Renault 4. Of these, only the Beetle, commissioned by Adolf Hitler and designed by Ferdinand Porsche, (yes, that one) ever made much of a showing in North America, but the others are arguably more interesting designs. By the way, I am almost certain Dr. Porsche was not a Nazi, and his original design became the basic layout of all those legendary sports cars.

Pierre Boulanger was head of Citroen before the Second World War, when the project first was shaped. It did not see production until 1948, and by the end of the run, more than five million had been sold. The design requirements, since the 2CV was targeted at farmers who needed cheap, practical wheels, were that a man could sit in it while wearing a hat, that it could hold a bale of hay, and also carry long loads of lumber as well as passengers. To call the bodywork basic is an understatement, an absolute minimalist yet very practical bit of work. Fold-down, bolt on fenders, headlights on stalks, (but adjustable from within the car) and a roll top roof made of canvas. This was actually intended to allow awkward loads to be carried, but certainly was fun in nice weather.

The suspension was ingenious, with long travel for an amazing ride, and had only two springs for its four-wheel independent suspension. The original car had nine horsepower, and must have weighed less than eight hundred pounds. It was front wheel drive, with an air-cooled two-cylinder engine.

My most notable times driving a Deux Chevaux were one summer in Belgium. My then girlfriend owned a 1972 model, which I think had around twenty-eight horsepower. It weighed around twelve hundred pounds, amazingly light for any car, and that two cylinder never complained about being run hard all day. Getting across Brussels during rush hour involved a lot of rowing the gearshift lever, but the dents and mismatched paint gave it a take no prisoners appearance which made those in pristine Peugeots and the like quite willing to share the road.

Once we drove it to Austria, up and down those twisting alpine roads, and while it was slow, it was not a rolling roadblock to other traffic. Downhill, there was nothing faster. The thing leaned over so far in corners it felt like your elbow would brush the pavement, but actual grip was very good, on super-skinny Michelin X tyres. The dashboard mounted shifter worked fine, and on the Cote D’Azure, that roll back roof made for some wonderful cruising, especially on moonlit nights. The seats could be removed and used as picnic chairs. Fuel mileage, overall, was about fifty miles per gallon. The UK version apparently even qualified as a low emissions vehicle in the late seventies.

Cheap to buy and operate, practical, roomy, with all the benefits that come from lightweight design. What could be better? This was not a minicar, but a full four seater with legroom to spare. Deux Chevaux have competed in some of the world’s toughest rallies and endurance events. They even race the things on road circuits in England and elsewhere. With modified engines putting out 35-45 horsepower, they can do about 150 kph on a long straight. I’ve seen one of these events, and the competition is furious. There are 2CV clubs, competitions and shows all over the world. In our country try Citroen Autoclub Canada.

There is not a car manufacturer today that could not learn from this design.

Travel Europe – Amsterdam Travel

So you are thinking for a travel to Amsterdam. Well, before you opt for a travel, I guess it is nice for you to know first some of the basic facts about Amsterdam, especially the mode of transportation. It is best that you know how to get there and how to get around for an ultimate Amsterdam travel.

Getting There

Amsterdam is actually accessible by air, by bus or by train, depending on your exact location.

By Air:

Note that when you go for your Amsterdam travel by air, the flights to the city usually arrive in the Schiphol Airport, which is approximately 18 kilometers away, southwest of the city center. From the Schiphol airport, the trains typically leave for Central Station every 20 minutes and so the journey takes 20 minutes. Then, from the Central Station, you’ll get to have a taxi ride to town which takes approximately 15 minutes and the journey will cost you approximately €30. However, the cost actually depends on which part of the town you are going to.

Also important to consider when you prefer to take your Amsterdam travel by air is that some budget airlines are starting to fly to Rotterdam Airport, which is approximately one hour from the city via bus.

By Train:

As mentioned earlier, you can take your Amsterdam travel by train as there are domestic and international trains that travel going to Amsterdam. They typically arrive in the Central Station, which is located in the heart Amsterdam’s city center.

By Bus:

The buses arriving and leaving from the city of Amsterdam do so from Amstel Station. This station is actually linked to Centraal Station by metro. And, the buses leaving for London, Brussels, and Amsterdam’s other cities depart from the Amstel Station.

Getting Around

On your Amsterdam travel, note that you can stroll around the city on foot, by bike, by tram, or by bus or metro, as these are the usual mode of transportation around the city.

On Foot:

Actually, the central part of Amsterdam city is just easy to get around. However, most of what is within apart from the Red Light District and Dam Square, most of what there is to see is a short tram or bike ride away.

By Bike:

Here is a great tip for your Amsterdam travel: the best way to see the entire city of Amsterdam is to travel by bike. Today, there are more than 500,000 bikes in the city. As such, you can hire one of them for about €7 per day. Perhaps the most important thing to consider is to lock your bike, as bike theft is a huge problem in Amsterdam.

By Bus/Metro:

Both the tram and metro are useful for your ultimate Amsterdam travel. These are highly useful if you are traveling outskirts, but otherwise you probably won’t need to use them. In Amsterdam, there are two metro stations, at the Nieuwmarkt and Waterlooplein, while the bus stops are not as sparse.

By Tram:

Finally, you can take your Amsterdam travel by tram, the most important mode of public transport in the Dutch capital. In the city, there are 15 different lines and they are the backbone of the city’s public transport network. Just note that the best tram for your Amsterdam travel is No.20, which stops close to most of the tourist attractions.

International Development Sector: Back Office Administration Lessons Learned

Why Back Office Administration?

In the international development sector, back office administration and social networks are fundamental to how practices are improved. The work of the administrator expert for the purpose of providing back office activities for development projects include such a diverse range of administrative tasks and routine services. These services carried out in support of a professional activity such as monitoring and organizing a national survey, providing overall administrative guidance and support to multi-donor programs for good governance and economic growth programs have played a central role in consultants’ work in various regions of the world. Such work has involved efforts to reach out to the relevant local partners, government officials, urban professionals, businessmen and women, and rural community heads.

Back office administration has played a particularly prominent role in managing international development projects. This reflects the enduring expertise of administrator experts in many international programs. Back office administration has been strategic to the work of international development projects. And the administrator expert engagement has been fundamental to efforts to manage development projects. Because of the growing importance of back office administration for international development projects strategy, its potential contribution to future phases of managing development projects, it is vitally important for administrator experts at all levels to understand what management and the decision sciences suggest, and what consultants who have worked in such capacity have learned, about how to engage and leverage local partners in projects and institutional networks.

 Administration 101 for Consultants: Lessons Learned

 Back office administration is a form of organizational management activity based on common claimed effort to improve projects implementation practices. (2) It is not necessarily technical, as projects terms of reference (ToRs) may specify technical aspects of projects. (3) Back office administration rather has the benefits of the administrator expert being involved in scientific and/or statistical research without actually having to do it. It gives the administrator expert the administrative and management jobs that the scientists or statisticians see as tedious and time-consuming. For the administrator expert, these jobs represent tasks with a definite beginning, middle, and end. Thus back office administration is a part of most development projects where tasks dedicated to running the implementation of the project itself take place (4).

There is no such thing as a “typical” technical and/or statistical development project. Technical projects may embody diverse project rules, structures, types of political authority, and terms of reference (ToRs) which may be influenced by social and institutional conditions and government policies. (5) Thus, for instance, the ‘microfinance sector capacity building in Sierra Leone’ survey project (2007/08) in the category of the ACP Business Climate Facility (BizClim), a joint initiative financed under the 9th European Development Fund (EDF), tended, at least traditionally, to be purely statistical but the interpersonal definitions of the project underscores the relevance of the administrator expert.  There are major organizational issues involved in all donor funded project that require the engagement of an administrator expert who deals with these issues in a timely and efficient manner. (6) The administrator expert’s inputs in the ACP-EU BizClim project include the overall organization and monitoring of the field survey which makes the expert more influential than the other experts in the project. The administrator expert is looked upon as the project coordinator who enables the right conditions under which all the experts of the project are able to work. (7)

Administrative Values, Processes, and Organization

Administrative values remain deeply ingrained in back office administration of international development projects and have had a profound influence on development projects’ social mores and political culture. (This observation holds for much of all development projects as well.)

These values include the high premium put on originating and leading organizational issues that provide high performance culture that emphasizes empowerment, quality, productivity and standards, and goal attainment. These values also foster ingroup solidarity, which finds expression in loyalty to the technical expert team, (8) coupled with a powerful desire to ensure proper inclusion of the project output (in the case of the BizClim project, the survey) into the strategic development plan for the overall program; ensuring proper operational coordination with the contractor’s terms of reference; which finds expression in having the necessary skills, personal qualities and levels of motivation to competently meet the objectives of providing back office support and working with institutions or corporations locally. (9)

Administrative processes include traditional forms of services tailored to effectively support the technical experts, to mitigate problems when possible and to preserve a dynamic and productive environment. (10) These processes are conducted in accordance with basic administrative principles, providing colleagues (who are the technical experts) with the resources (i.e. human resources, physical facilities, as well as computing infrastructure and systems) they require to carry out their project research or service mission. (11) Further, working in cooperation with the local partners is extremely important and other tasks of significance include research and review of existing materials, and recommendations for operational structure that produces. (12) The precise extent to which these basic administrative processes are applied determine how successful in meeting the mandate of the contractor by such service requirements by which the expert must:

· clearly understand the needs of all the stakeholders of the project; (13)

· develop a team approach based on strong collaboration and mutual support and trust between the expert team and the local stakeholders in the project; (14)

· motivate and continue to inspire a competent and skilled auxiliary local staff in the project; (15)

· ensure that roles and responsibilities for program objectives and resource management are clearly defined and well understood by all concerned. (16)

Organizationally, each international development project implemented in any region consists of nested beneficiary groups. In the case of the BizClim microfinance project in Sierra Leone (2007/08), the direct beneficiary of the activity is NaCSA’s microfinance program as well as the partner organizations (MITAF, BoSL and SLAMFI). There are also the indirect beneficiaries which include the six existing MFIs and the four community banks actively involved with MITAF as well as the sector as a whole. (17) The terms used to describe these stakeholder groups and the meanings ascribed to them may differ by project, however, basic administrative processes apply in every case. This simplifies efforts by the administrator expert who must be skilled to understand stakeholder relationships, dynamics, and politics in the implementation of projects. (18)

The enormity of tasks in a project and the political issues to be dealt with has caused development donors to fall back on inputs of the administrator expert for support in confronting the challenges of coordinating the implementation of projects. As a result, strategic administrative processes have assumed greater salience in back office administration in recent years. It is not a mistake to emphasize the significance of the role of the administrator expert in a project or to regard the administrator expert as the central organizing principle of any development project implemented.  Large parts of back office administrative processes are to ensure the specific objectives of a project are consistently pursued, in the case of a survey project, for instance, the survey tools are developed and tested; the field research is undertaken; data is reviewed before processing, and statistical analysis is undertaken and final report drafted. (19)

A detailed, up-to-date picture of the back office administrative system in international development projects is hard to see—at least in the open literature. Much of what is known about back office administration is based on profiles provided by project donors, and information gaps frequently have to be filled by what the administrator expert must do to ensure the successful implementation of a donor funded project. While there are a number of useful compendiums on the traditional responsibilities of administrative officers in organizations, these are largely catalogs of job description that are in much need of updating to meet the high expectation needs of international development projects. (20) Finally, there has been no systematic effort to assess the impact of the role of the administrator expert in project implementation and the state of relations between the administrator expert and all the stakeholder groups in a project. This article will hopefully constitute a modest first step in this direction. (21)

The Cultural Logic of Back Office Administration and Project Implementation

How do administrative values express themselves in the conduct of the administrator expert? Administrator experts are intensely jealous of the integrity of work outcomes—to the extent that integrity of work outcomes has been described as the “consulting center of gravity.” The culture of integrity of work outcomes and the implicit threat of forfeiting fees if project outcomes are compromised may be a vestige of the back office administrator’s oath of expert engagement—a commitment of ensuring individual and group survival when there are terms of reference to be strictly adhered to. As a result, social relations among stakeholders in a project are characterized by a high degree of concern over integrity of work outcomes, status, and timeframes. (22) A well-known Steven R. Covey proverb expresses this tendency: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.  Some see the extraordinary politeness and generosity of consultants that characterize their social relations towards stakeholders in a project as a means of curbing this propensity for anxiety and apprehension for the integrity of project outcomes. (23)

What accounts for this tendency? One explanation is that it is a consequence of what defines a consultant. A consultant’s career is built on maintaining the scrupulous ethics and honesty that are the hallmark of any successful consultant—and to pay even more attention to the perception of ethical behavior. (24) Another explanation is that it is a characteristic feature of being a consultant to be efficient and be conscious of project timeframes. The administrator consultant must have the right experience. Knowledge of industry procedures, project requirements, likely project costs, and likely project timeframes, are all examples of where inadequate organizational experience can result in cost and time blowouts. The administrator expert must keep in touch with the latest developments in projects administration to provide the right advice to project stakeholders. (25)

In back office administration, the expert team of consultants, direct and indirect project beneficiaries, and government affiliations define the administrator expert’s identity and status in a project. Consequently, all personal interactions in a project potentially have a collective dimension. Experts assembled for a project is not a personal choice, but a team affair, with implications for the status and standing of the entire expert team. (26) Conflicts between individual experts in a team always have the potential to become conflicts between groups that undermine the success of the entire project. (27)

Relationships are central to project life. In an environment marked by suspicion and potential conflict between the expert team and the local stakeholders, building and maintaining relationships is a way to reduce the circle of potential adversaries or enemies. (28)

Back office administration is systemic, it has to do with the organizational issues of the project, and the activities undertaken provide the basis for sustained systemic action. Interpersonal interaction is the fundamental unit of getting tasks done in a project. On every occasion, the administrator expert considers organization-wide cooperation as key to the successful execution of tasks; it is generally in response to a specific task, such as collating economic data that should be included in a report. (29)

Back office administration has an inter-organizational dimension as well. A project is often identified with the government of a country, its civil service structure, and the civil society. Thus, an administrator expert is obliged to deal with all of these structures at a professional level.  (30) For the administrator expert, the administrative domain of all international development projects thus usually consists of dealing with a number of relevant stakeholders exclusively specified by the terms of reference of the project.  Among the team experts, there is strong pressure not to alienate these stakeholders in a project. Because the group of experts (consultants) is usually involved in more than one institution’s culture, and in each case they are seen as outsiders at the beginning, experts need to be able to win the confidence of strangers who may be initially threatened by the presence of consultants. The administrator expert must be that person of personable character capable of projecting the expert team’s image to the other stakeholders. A big dose of humor is said to make wonders, especially when directed at one’s self. (31)

Some back office administration activities take the form of effectively making use of all sorts of networks. Civil service and civil society networks are sometimes reinforced by less professional social interactions or more personal relationships, and may be mobilized in the pursuit of shared interests. Administrator experts are particularly adept at mobilizing social networks and forging more personal alliances, which account in part for the success of international development sector projects. (32)

The Spider in the Web

Overall, donor agencies have dealt with administrator experts as projects power brokers to help administer or implement a project, and they have often attempted to co-opt the work of the administrator expert as part of a strategy of “get things done”. Other participating consultants in a project have likewise depended a great deal on the work of administrator experts to achieve quality project outcomes. It is therefore important to understand the sources—and limits—of administrator expert authority and organizational influence. (33)

Administrator expert authority. The administrator expert traditionally performs a number of functions related to the inner life of the project and its relations with the other stakeholders and the authorities. The role of the administrator expert for international development sector projects involves more like traditional administrative functions, and the administrator expert fulfill a number of important functions. The administrator expert’s job has been to be the spider in the web—collecting information from partners, everything from administrative data to their technical contributions, their expertise, and their expectations of the project, while making sure they meet the project’s deadlines. (34)

A very interesting task is to thoroughly understand all the specific terms of reference of a project and get all partners to understand them and agree to them as well. (35) In some cases the work seems to consist of calling other people’s bluff—not the participating consultants but the local stakeholders in the project. Almost without exception, often times the local stakeholders view with suspicion the work of the consultants, and the challenge is to what extent one has to be flexible on most things, and when to stand ground on the things that matter—like getting things done according to the terms of reference and maintaining one’s integrity. (36) One has to be willing to draw the attention of the contracting authority in such instances in order to defend one’s position in both of those cases without jeopardizing the project. (37)

The administrator expert must have an in-depth knowledge of how donor funding works, and should be skilled in developing good personal contacts with people in government and in civil society. (38) The very big plus side for the administrator expert is being right in the center of decision-making in the project implemented and the role of the administrator expert becomes more important when he or she is able to create the conditions for making the most out of people working in the project and their talents. (39) The administrator expert is more in control of his or her own work, to see output that is in some sort of relation to the time and effort put in, to work on projects that have a beginning an end. The administrator expert is responsible for the day-to-day running of the project. The work of the administrator expert is literally research project management. (40) The administrator expert has to be well organized to make sure deadlines are met and all partners are involved; diplomatic enough to deal with people of different backgrounds; and, perhaps most important of all, unflappable. (41)

Elements of traditional organizational management still apply in all international development sector projects. Management and organizational issues abound in delivering development sector projects. For example, if survey administration is the “line” activity within the project, the ultimate responsibility for delivery lies within the purview of the administrator expert. (42) And the more actors and organizational units that are required to deliver international development sector programs, the more complex that delivery may be. The need for coordination and cooperation in such complex systems is critical to success. (43)

Administrative influence. Administrative influence is reckoned in terms of the tasks completed. Details matter. Every task for the successful completion of projects matters. (44) Integrity also matters. The integrity of work outcomes is critical in international development projects. (45)

Today, as mentioned above, back office administration is generally the highest level at which sustained social action occurs; administrator experts are considered effective units of action. And the influence of an administrator expert is generally measured in terms of his or her work ethics, the ability to secure the interests of the project. (46)

The Donor Sector Today

The rules of donors and their influence and their specific terms of reference vary but have a common goal—effective delivery of project objectives. (47) There are a good number of well known donor agencies working for the good of humanity. Some of these donor agencies consultants should know about include:

· The ACP Business Climate Facility (BizClim), an ACP-EU joint initiative, is demand-driven and the requests for assistance introduced are implemented through contracts using the framework contracts of the commission (beneficiary) or through tenders. To this respect, the Contracting Authority is the European Commission but the daily management of each contract is ensured by BizClim. (48).

· USAID, the independent federal agency of the United States Government, often times cooperates with multilateral and regional institutions such as the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Bank of International Settlements, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), IFAD, IMF, IOM, OECD, and the UNDP, to implement projects in various parts of the world. (49).

· The Department for International Development (DFID) is the part of the UK Government that manages Britain’s aid to poor countries and works to get rid of extreme poverty and often works with consultants in many respects.  It has two headquarters (in London and East Kilbride, near Glasgow) and 64 offices overseas. It also has over 2500 staff, almost half of whom work abroad (DFID). (50)

· The Australian Government, through AusAID, competitively contracts aid work to Australian and international companies. These companies use their expertise to deliver aid projects and often train local people to continue the projects long after the end of the contracts.  AusAID contributes to global and regional poverty reduction programs set up by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank and works with (AusAid). (51)

· The OECD brings together the governments of countries committed to democracy and the market economy from around the world to support sustainable economic growth, boost employment, raise living standards, maintain financial stability, assist other countries’ economic development, contribute to growth in world trade. The OECD also uses a lot of help from independent consultants and shares expertise and exchanges views with more than 100 other countries and economies, from Brazil, China, and Russia  to the least developed countries in Africa (OECD). (52)

· UNDP is working through its specialized agencies like IFAD, UNICEF, UNCTAD, and with a wide range of partners to help create coalitions for change to support the goals at global, regional and national levels, to benchmark progress towards them, and to help countries to build the institutional capacity, policies and programs needed to achieve the MDGs (UNDP). (53)

· The African Development Bank (AfDB), Africa’s premier development finance institution, dedicated to combating poverty and improving living conditions across the continent through loans, equity investments and technical assistance, also offers great opportunities for independent consultants. AfDB-financed contract procurements are carried out in accordance with the requirements stipulated in the Rules of Procedure for Procurement of Goods and Works and the Rules of Procedures for the Use of Consultants (AfDB). (54)

· The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) also uses consultants’ help to promote sustainable development through loans, guarantees, risk management products, and analytical and advisory services. Established in 1944 as the original institution of the World Bank Group, IBRD is structured like a cooperative that is owned and operated for the benefit of its 185 member countries. (55)

· The Asian Development Bank (ADB) often partners with governments and the private sector to help reduce poverty and improve the quality of life of member countries based on its Strategy 2020, a long-term strategic framework adopted in 2008, grounded on three complementary strategic agendas: inclusive growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. (56)

These donor agencies have their specific rules and terms of reference. (71) Within the field of EU-supported Research and Technological Development (RTD) projects, partners normally sign a consortium agreement to organise the work and to specify certain rights and obligations to carry out the Project. Separate and independent consulting firms are subcontracted by the EC or the consortium for projects in various parts of the world. (57) And experts who are engaged by the successful firms the consortium has subcontracted are strongly encouraged to always co-ordinate their activities with the activities of other EC funded projects or projects funded by other donors in the region of implementation. The work of the administrator is to establish such contacts. (58) And considering the fact that experts do have different experiences in project implementation, there are also certain issues experts must know about:

· Using proper documents, forms and terminology as required by EC Delegation and there are basic documents all consultants should use when communicating with their partners—the firms contracted by the EC or the consortium.

· The ToR as a basic and binding document must be strictly adhered to. If the expert thinks the requested deliverables or outputs are out of touch of reality, the expert must communicate his or reservations in the Inception Report or with the Delegation in a written form.

· Experts should be patient with the EC Delegations and Beneficiaries, if an expert does not agree with work processes or procedures as specified by the EC operations manual and terms of reference, the expert has the responsibility to try to convince the EC or the consortium by justifying other ways value can be added to deliverables or outputs.

· Experts must, however, understand the reality that the EC does not accept other rules and forms except theirs.

· Even when consultants are subcontracted by firms contracted by the EC or the consortium, consultants are expected to respect EC rules which prevail for all projects. (59)

Lessons Learned

Hands on experience with back office administration in international development sector projects concludes that the administrator expert performs a strategic role in helping the project accomplish its objectives by bringing a systematic, disciplined approach to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of work processes, control, and management processes. (60) The administrator expert creates a capacity which safeguards and reinforces project’s reputation as a reliable steward of donor resources.  (61)

Other required functional competencies of administrative expert include the expert having excellent written and verbal communication skills, including the ability to set out a coherent argument in presentations and group interactions. The expert should be adept in the use of information and communications technology. (62)

Donor organizations prefer experts that operate within their organizational competency frameworks. They expect experts to lead and manage change with integrity, trustworthiness and confidence, keeping the contractor’s vision and values at the forefront of actions.  The experts must maintain a strong, independent mental attitude and highest integrity and ability to inspire and nurture an organizational culture of ethos and fairness.  (63)

As an expert, it is professional to keep accurate and systematic accounts, files and records. The records must clearly identify, among other things, the basis upon which invoices have been calculated. The expert must be proficient in preparing and submitting regular reports on the project activities to the project team leader emphasizing among others their impact on the different areas of intervention. The expert should also seek to set benchmarks and targets for achieving both program and activity based goals inclusive of indicators for measuring the extent of achievement and to highlight these in all reporting. (64)

Experts must not attempt or commit any fraud, deception, financial or procedural wrongdoing in relation to the performance of their obligations under the Contract, and shall immediately notify the contractor of any circumstances giving rise to a suspicion that such wrongful activity may occur or has occurred. (65)

The expert should not engage in any personal, business or professional activity which conflicts or could conflict with any of their obligations in relation to the Contract.  (66)

The expert must be familiar with the provisions of race relations, sex discrimination and disability discrimination and the expert should not unlawfully discriminate within the meaning and scope of these provisions. (67)

All donor agencies respect the environment; they therefore expect all consultants to help protect the environment in relation to the performance of the services and should comply with all applicable international environmental laws, regulations, and donor practices. (68)

The condition of maintaining professional indemnity insurance is important for most donor agencies. Professional indemnity insurance provides financial indemnity to a professional man or firm against a legal liability to compensate a third party who has sustained injury, loss or damage through breach of duty. (69)

Again, experts must know about project equipment use and keeps inventory of equipment, its condition and location and make such inventory available to the project contractor. (70)

Expert must know that no expenditure may be incurred in excess of the financial limit and budget items of the project without the prior written authority of the donor contractor. (71)

For most donor contractors, fees payable are deemed to cover cost of salary, overseas inducements, leave allowances, bonuses, profit, taxes, insurances, superannuation, non-working days and expenses of whatsoever nature that may be incurred except those otherwise specifically provided for in the Contract. (72)

Donor specific forms and invoices often in the form of letterhead, the contract reference number and bear an original signature are used to recover payments from donors. (73) For, DFID, for example invoices are numbered sequentially, dated and marked—“For the attention of the Administration Officer”—stating the period the services are provided using “from” and “to” dates. The final invoice presented in connection with this Contract should be endorsed “Final Invoice”. Experts must know that any invoices not presented in accordance with donor specific format may cause unreasonable delay in payment. (74) For currency information, the London Financial Times “Guide to World Currencies” does provide the information needed on exchange rates. (75)

Experts must also familiarize themselves with procedures for negotiating claims or disputes arising out of or in connection to Contracts. The Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution in London (CEDR) can be very helpful.  CEDR is an independent non-profit organization with a public mission and supported by multinational business, law firms and public sector organizations. (76)

Overall, the administrator expert prioritizes work schedules. Relieves the technical experts of administrative detail, coordinates work flow, update and chase delegated tasks to ensure progress to deadlines, maintain terms of reference manual to ensure consistent performance of routines. (77) To maintain proper communication mechanisms, the expert composes daily reports, research relevant data the technical consultants can use to support final drafting of the project report. (78) For any meetings, the expert emphasizes on agenda meetings. The expert arranges meeting facilities, acts as recording secretary, and prepares action minutes. The expert performs to earn stakeholders’ confidence. Even arranges local transportation. Seeks greater role in projects within administrative and other areas of competence. At the advanced levels, back office administration is about methods for handling work; it requires a constant audit of the way a project does things, and willingness to rock the boat for meeting deadlines in getting work done. (79) Here are some typical tasks:

  • Study and understand international development sector procedures
  • Recommend action to improve standard operating procedures.
  • Take part in any administrative meetings to assure secretarial follow-through. (80)

In other areas, the expert finds himself with networking with the various stakeholders in the project that are playing a significant role in the life of the project. There is a saying in OD consulting that says “it is futile to put personality ahead of character, to try to improve relationships with others before improving ourselves”. Interpersonal coordination of projects objectives is the cadence of back office administration. To navigate the chaos of dealing with organizational issues in a project, the administrator expert tries to draw on the pillars of being an effective manager, pillars built on work integrity, respect, and reciprocity. The expert relies on the intimacy of an expert team and the other key stakeholders in the project. (81)

Emphasis on Interpersonal Relations

Some analysts and practitioners have argued that interpersonal relations are key to the success of projects. While consultants are often viewed with suspicion by the local operators they meet, it is the responsibility of the administrator expert to allay those suspicions.  Clearly, the administrator expert has realistic expectations regarding the influence of project stakeholders. The experts are generally well connected and plugged into various stakeholder networks (essential if they are to ensure project tasks are adequately completed) they have generally proven useful as sources of information and advice and as vectors of influence among their teams and the local stakeholders. (82) Experts can assist too in the preparation of technical projects instruments and the training and motivation of enumerators and/or other project participants. (83)

Despite such acknowledgements of the importance of social networks and the fact that interpersonal activities in back office administration consume between 50 to 70 percent of the administrator’s time, it is remarkable how little attention has been devoted to this subject in the consulting professional literature. Hopefully, this article on back office administration will spur greater interest in what is probably the most important work process in international development sector. (84)

The following engagement lessons learned—with particular emphasis on the special challenges of the administrator expert engagement—are drawn from a review of the administrative literature, journalistic dispatches, individual and group interviews with other consultants who have served in various parts of the world, and the author’s own experiences. (85)

Institutional and cultural sensitivity, “hearts and minds,” and shared interests. Because of the complexity of the operational environment in international development consulting projects, particularly when local participants in the project view with suspicion the involvement of “highly paid” external consultants, organizational challenges are inevitable. (86) Winning “hearts and minds” is what the administrator expert does which is necessary for project success. What is important is for administrator expert to nurture that spirit of shared interest in working together with local consultants to achieve common goals. (87)

Building relationships. In projects, as is with, in all organizations, persons are more trusted than institutions. Personal relationships are the basis of effective professional partnerships, and a sine qua non for effective organizational activities. These relationships, however, can only be established and maintained by engaging the project stakeholders. (88)

Relationships take time to build and need constant tending. “Face time” with project stakeholders is critical, even if nothing tangible comes of some meetings, since time together is an investment in a relationship whose benefits may not be immediately evident. In addition, such meetings might discourage slack in project. (89)

Credibility is priceless; once destroyed, it is very hard to reestablish. Accordingly, it is vital to make good on promises and to avoid making commitments that cannot be kept. Broken promises undermine efforts to establish rapport and build the relationships that are essential to success. (90) For these reasons, administrator experts should, to the extent possible, avoid practices that disrupt relationships with the local partners, such as showing off and pretending to be more knowledgeable than anyone else in the project.  (91)

Management Implications of Donor Rules of Engagement

While a detailed discussion of how each donor rules of engagement with external consultants are enforced in projects is beyond the scope of this article, it is important to recognize the management value of such organizational knowledge.

Another feature of donor rules that may be managerially significant concerns the relationship between patterns of work ethics and social relations among project participants. Work cultures vary in parts of the world. This is a widespread phenomenon in the developing world. (92) Research of work cultures in developing countries and in Africa has shown that most work cultures in the developing world have a laid back easy going work habit. The expert has to be patient but firm in promoting the right habits that should be nurtured. The point is proper work habits deepen democratic values and reinforce the benefits of responsible management of projects. (93)

Engagement as a management activity. Engagement planning at the lower tactical echelons—which are the echelons that interact most intensively with the civilian population (for example, the enumerators as in the case of a national survey)—is often ad hoc, highly informal, and done “on the fly” by the administrator expert with little if any formal staff input. Engagement, however, is too important to be done in such a manner, and should be approached like any other essential management activity. (94)

There should be a formal engagement planning process, with input from all relevant staff elements, to identify engagement targets, assess their motivations and interests, determine engagement goals, schedule meetings, and set agendas. Administrator experts should hold after-action reviews to evaluate the outcomes of meetings and plan for and prepare follow-on activities. (95)

Engagement planning would probably benefit from jotting down any activity undertaken in a day in a diary which helps the organization and oversee of activities. (96)

Understanding excellence in consulting. Consulting is a knowledge-based occupation; therefore, it is responsible for administrator experts to continue to acquire new skills and knowledge on how to meet the changing requirements of assignments or for career development purposes. The expert must continue to invest in relevant training to obtain and maintain the mix of skills and knowledge needed to achieve the highest level of performance in accomplishing projects objectives. Adequate investment in training to maintain and improve knowledge capital is a key strategic action by any energetic administrator expert. (97)

Being the expert is what empowers the consultant. Local stakeholders in a project have sometimes had unrealistic expectations concerning the expertise of consultants. Being a learning individual is a must. (98)

Avoiding the pitfalls of institutional politics. Working with stakeholders in a project poses special challenges. Local stakeholders are intensely status conscious and competitive, and rivalry and intrigue often characterize institutional politics. Thus, expert engagement often requires a careful balancing act among local coordinators, supervisors and other population groups in the project, to avoid creating or aggravating rivalries or conflicts. (99)

A specific pitfall associated with institutional politics is errors of ignorance. It is easy to err due to a lack of knowledge of work cultures in institutions. It is therefore essential to become intimately familiar with the history and politics of the institutions and the relationships that govern such institutions in order to avoid any missteps. (100)

The challenge is to strike a balance among participating stakeholders in a project. Expert engagement should be part of a broader effort to engage multiple sectors of stakeholders in a project in order to promote a spirit of comingling to work toward common goals. (101)


Interpersonal engagement is probably the most important administrator expert line of operation in back office administration in the international development sector. If experts achieve any degree of success in project implementation, it is in large part because they succeeded in engaging the stakeholders and leveraging stakeholder networks.

Interpersonal engagement, however, poses unique challenges deriving from the special demands of interacting with stakeholder communities whose norms, values, and forms of social organization diverge, in many ways, from those of donor agencies.

Finally, while interpersonal engagement lessons learned in back office administration by administrator experts in an international development project may apply anywhere; this should not be assumed to be the case. Every project is unique in its scope, its internal dynamics and politics, and its relations with the donors. Independent expert consulting is the driving force for participation. Research needs and organization emerge from all consultancy work to produce added value to international development sector projects. Back office administration is research project management suitable especially for those who don’t have that passionate interest in a specific area of science. With back office administration one has the benefits of being involved in scientific research without actually having to do it. The job market for administrator experts in international development projects looks very good. The UK Research Office in Brussels, ‘Development Executive Group’, ‘Microfinance Gateway’, ‘devnetjobs’,  ‘Association of International Consultants’,  Devjobs, ‘Eldis’, ‘Expat List’, ‘Idealist’, MSI Worldwide, ‘Peace Corps’, and ‘Relief Web’ advertise vacancies in just about every week they update their websites. These are time-limited appointments, but so are many research posts and almost all jobs in the international development sector. For an expert to stay employed between short-term consultancies, the expert should continue to make intense effort to email résumés to as many international development consulting firms as possible. With an ongoing, intense marketing effort there are good chances that an energetic expert stays employed.

Terrific Antwerpen Has Captivating Parks

When seeking a spirited mecca, Antwerp tourism opportunities are ideal. Antwerp tourism options give the traveller a custom to experience fine eating options, to see extraordinary locations of importance, and to drink in the rich past of the center of Antwerp in Belgium. Fabulous, uniquely styled architecture, inviting and welcoming stores, magnificent ancient monuments, numerous art galleries, an abundance of , and myriad enlightening activities await the visitor of Antwerp. In addition, getting around the place of Antwerp and to mixed destinations of importance is amazingly easy, thanks to the myriad forms of public transportation accessible to guests and borough inhabitants.

As with legions other locales in historically rich Belgium, Antwerp has a magnificent olden days. The area is a paradise for those who think the world of literature, art, or even architecture as seen in spots like the Rubenshuis, the Plantin Moretus Museum, and the Cathedral of Our Lady, respectively. Since it is the diamond capital of the world, one might ask where one can buy some terrific diamonds. As mentioned earlier, 3/4ths of the world diamond trade happens in Antwerp, so the question is misleading, as one may buy diamonds just about anywhere in Antwerp. The terrific would never be in question either as the pride of the province exists in the diamonds one brings home.

Alongside from the casual stroll and site-seeing, there are other frolic and insightful activities that you could do in Antwerp. Indispensable tours in Antwerp include the Port Antwerp trip. The port is the 2nd largest in Europe and the 5th greatest in the world. This port was one of the instruments of free trade in Europe as it welcomed goods from Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The Antwerp Ghostwalk is a center itineration that explores the darker side of Antwerp. The peregrination tells the collapse of Antwerp due to a succession of wars before present it turned around and became termed it is nowadays.

The Pelgrom comes to mind as a divergent form of pleasure. It is a building that has a phenomenal pub underground. It also boasts the “poortershuis,” a remake of a 17th century meeting community. One other thing of note when it comes to pleasure is the little obvious view of the conurbation skyline when one takes the pedestrian tunnel in St. Jansvliet. It is simply breathtaking to see how the diamond capital of the world sparkles at night. The view is nothing short of dazzling. For shoppers, seeing the Meir is a fine idea, especially for those looking for brand heading items.

Antwerp stands out from the rest of Belgium when it comes to food. While Brussels is outstanding for its chocolate, Antwerp has a delicacy called “smos” which is made out of bread. It is difficult to say where the ultimate “smos” is, as every character in Antwerp has a unlike opinion about it, but one famed store is Jean-Pierre. The friendly members of public of Antwerp will gladly direct the day-trippers to a suburb near the university where the notorious, “smos” is served.

The preferable restaurants in Antwerp do not offer Belgian food, unfortunately. The common food offered is just like the other locales with regard to ethnic food.

Antwerp’s past events as a trading hub allowed it to accumulate humanism and past disparate from other metropolitan areas in Belgium. Present, Antwerp is going back to top form economically. Antwerp is one of the rare tourist ports in Europe that is classic and active, ready to bring its spontaneity in the new century.

Glide Between London and Paris with Eurostar Train

The Eurostar is a high speed train service connecting London and Kent in Britain, with Paris and Brussels in Europe. It is the world’s most advanced train, whisking you under the sea through the famous Channel Tunnel in luxurious surroundings, taking just 20 minutes at a record speed of 186 mph.

The first trains ran in November 1994 and since then, Eurostar has established a dominant share of the market on the routes it serves. With the announcement that the Channel Tunnel Rail Link will open into London St Pancras station on November 14, 2007 the Eurostar service will enjoy “High Speed 1″ status.

Eurostar claims the journey times match or beat air flights, thus making it an alternative to air travel for holidays in Europe. Fares include the price of the ticket and seat reservation. Meals are included for Business Premier and First Class fares. The service is also non-smoking!

Food in first class is better than that served in the economy seats of a plane and comes served separately with metal cutlery and complimentary half-bottles of wine.

There is also the convenience factor. If you live in London, instead of enduring a 40 minute trip to Heathrow, you can make it to Waterloo Station in just 10 minutes, thus shortening your trip.

If you get a seat in the first class (not premium first), not only does the leg-room double, but seemingly, so does the seat size.

From those who have travelled on Eurostar for weekend leisure visits to Europe, comes a trick for getting cheaper tickets. The idea is to book your tickets in reverse to take advantage of leisure fares coming in from the French side. So instead of booking London to Paris Monday to Friday, book Paris to London Friday to Monday. You will see a massive difference in price.

Some say it’s cheaper to buy an air ticket, but if you add on airport taxes, the cost of getting out to one airport and then finding your way into the city from another airport, then all the drinky snacky things you’ll buy on the way, you’d be hard pushed to do the trip for less than the Eurostar ticket. It will also take you much longer and be a much less pleasant journey.

A day trip from London to Paris, or vice-versa? No problem. By plane? It would be a nightmare! The Eurostar also caters very well for disabled people, so if you’re disabled, there’s another plus.

There are another few useful things worth knowing about Eurostar: they sell gift vouchers, which make nice presents. All their timetables are available on the internet, as are booking facilities and even details of how to book onward journeys if you want to transfer to another train to go elsewhere in France.

The downside at present, is that Eurostar’s rail network is not very extensive, which means finding more train connections if you’re going anywhere other than London, Paris and Brussels. But there are plans ahead for the service to extend across Europe. The day may come when you can catch a sleeper from London and wake up in Rome.

Airline reviews: Air France

Air France

Enhance your trip to France via Air France by combining your air itinerary with the reliable and luxurious SNCF, the French rail operator. Joining air and rail travel itineraries through Air France saves you time and money with cut-rate fares. You also have the ease of using advance ticketing. You need not worry about arriving late at the airport in Paris-Air France will automatically book you onto the first available flight or rail departure upon your arrival.

Air France offers low fares. Since the promotions change from time to time, it is best to check with your travel agent or go directly to the Air France website at www.airfrance.us .

Trains in Europe are comfortable and run on time. Air France makes it possible to fly to Paris and then shuttle by train to Brussels Belgium in a trip that last less than 100 minutes. Amazing. Whether Brussels is a side trip or a destination, you can visit the city for a few hours and return to Paris the same way a few hours later or whenever you choose.

Air France makes it easy:

Only one reservation required for both air and rail travel

Electronic ticketing offered

It takes about 15 minutes to move from airport terminals to rail stations

Travel in comfort in special Air France First Class coach with refreshments offered

At Paris Charles de Gaulle, Air France provides a complementary baggage service to transport your baggage between the station and flight terminal for a small additional fee

Very often the time saved over air travel is significant. Consider the distance and short travel time to and from Paris/Brussels. Flying would take much longer and possibly involve airport security or other delays.

Air France Buses

For about $17, you can avoid a very expensive cab ride from Charles de Gaulle Airport to your hotel in the center of Paris on comfortable and secure Air France buses. Once downtown, you can easily hail a taxi for a few Euros or even ride the swift and clean subway.

Service is reliable with coaches departing every half hour to and from Paris between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

You can book this service via toll-free line from U.S. and Canada 1-866-427-4882 or by email: info@linkparis.com .

Give credit where it is due: Air France is leading the way in supporting a clean environment, minimizing as it can their own impact on the environment, knowing the many challenges of controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

Air France even provides a new tool and formula so that you can calculate the CO2 emissions generated by your trip! The calculator is available on their website.

You do not need to speak French to travel on Air France but you can expect to be surrounded by the culture in First Class. Would you like to relax, work and sleep whenever you choose? Try Business Class. Or, take advantage of the very low fare promotions in Economy. Either way, Air France has a lot to offer.