Between the Lines

Between the Lines

40 years of books without bosses, 1977-2017

Who Are You and Why Are You Here?

Tales of International Development

By Jacques Claessens  Translated by Nigel Spencer  

Who Are You and Why Are You Here?

$27.95 – Available for purchase on June 28th, 2018

Every international development project looks good on paper until someone asks, “Who are you and why are you here?” In this case, it’s a man from northern Burkina Faso. His question reveals everything wrong with international development work today.

Jacques Claessens questions the real effects of development programs and agencies, NGOs, and multinational corporations on the economy and welfare of the global south—from a Kafkaesque well-drilling project in Udathen to the Chernobyl-like environmental devastation wrought by the Canadian-owned Essakane mine. Through tales of uneasy encounters between nomadic Tuaregs and Western engineers, well-meaning NGO staff and their incredibly self-serving bosses, UN bureaucrats, a greedy Canadian mining company, and Burkinabe villagers–all pursuing ostensibly noble goals, all barely listening to each other–we begin to understand the realities of international development.

  • Paperback / softback, 264 pages
  • ISBN 9781771133036
  • Coming June 2018


“This is a sobering, painful, and often humorous chronicle, which brutally questions the business of externally imposed “development” with scant attention to cooperation in Africa and elsewhere. This is not a book to read and put away. Every line matters and demands action.”

– Nnimmo Bassey, environmental justice advocate and author of To Cook a Continent: Destructive Extraction and the Climate Crisis in Africa

“Jacques Claessens gives us an insider’s rich account of how “international development” actually works or, often, fails to work. With humor and colorful anecdotes, Claessens shows how the lack of real consultation can squander funds and opportunities, leaving little behind. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the genuine advancement of the world’s poor.”

– Ernest Harsch, Institute of African Studies, Columbia University

Table of Contents

Editor’s Note
Eugene Boelens
Preface The Abyss
Normand Baillargeon
Burkina and the Sahel
The southern forests
Fifteen years later
Mining Eldorado
Epilogue I had a dream...
Principal acronyms

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