Links & Contents I Liked 43

Hello all,
This is one of those weeks where scrolling all the way down to an excellent speech by Makerere professor Mahmood Mamdani on the state of research at the university and an excellent documentary on capitalism and creative spaces may offer great intellectual rewards...but don't miss excellent pieces on volunteering challenges, a very sad story about illegal ivory trade and the question whether consultancy work can help to fund your long-term research strategy-especially in the context of underfunded academic systems in the global South.


Enjoy the reading, thinking and writing!

New on aidnography
How the EU is creating the need for humanitarian volunteers

The EU wants to spend 239 million Euros (about US$ 312 million) on 10,000 humanitarian volunteers that will be sent to the field from 2014 to 2020 'to volunteer worldwide in humanitarian operations'. Why? Because the project is 'meeting the need for humanitarian volunteers' as the promotional video explains

Development

Opportunities in the Republic of Georgia

Interns will be expected to organize and finance their own health insurance and travel to Georgia. The hosting NGOs will provide free accommodation in return for four days of full-time work a week. Interns are expected to meet their other living costs (food etc) by teaching private English lessons in their spare time
I'm deliberately not providing a link to the original source of this 'opportunity', but it seems that an email has been sent to many, primarily British, development studies institutions asking their fresh graduates to send their CVs to a Gmail address. While there is nothing wrong with volunteering or teaching English in a foreign country per se, this seems to be a rather dodgy way that in my view takes advantage of the current volunteering discourse and students' struggles to find work or other meaningful engagements. Just be careful when submitting your CV to such organisations and be alert when advertisements do not mention any names of local organisations or contact details of organisers. You didn't complete your IDS degree to become a private English tutor-and if you desire to become one, you should simply get paid for it-even if local salary equivalents may not be high.

Charter Cities, Canada’s Porn King, and Garífuna Land Rights

Honduras has signed a memorandum of understanding with potential investors for its charter-city project without the knowledge of the project’s transparency commission, prompting Paul Romer to distance himself from the project. On September 7, 2012, the five members of the nascent transparency commission who were appointed, but never officially confirmed, to oversee Honduras’s charter-city project sent an open letter to President Porfirio Lobo Sosa asking him to not proceed with the official appointment of the commission. The signees, including CGD president Nancy Birdsall, noted that “conditions have not existed to permit the Transparency Commission to play the role envisioned for this ambitious and important project.”
Last week, I featured an item about charter cities in Honduras. I questioned the involvement of CGD president Nancy Birdsall in the endeavour, but hadn't come across this piece which provides a more nuanced overview over the developments.

'Poverty barons' who make a fortune from taxpayer-funded aid budget

The Department for International Development (DFID) paid almost £500million last year to consultants, mostly British, many of whom earn six, even seven-figure incomes, courtesy of the taxpayer.
(...)
Several of the best-paid consultants are former DFID officials who appear to have gained substantial increases in their personal wealth since leaving the department, even though they are still doing essentially the same work.
Yes, linking to the British 'Telegraph' hurts. However, I do believe that there is some value in engaging with conservative right-leaning aid critics and if you take away some of the 'wasting tax payers money' discourse there is an interesting discussion hidden in the piece about the aid consultancy business.

Ivory Worship
IN JANUARY 2012 A HUNDRED RAIDERS ON HORSEBACK CHARGED OUT OF CHAD INTO CAMEROON’S BOUBA NDJIDAH NATIONAL PARK, SLAUGHTERING HUNDREDS OF ELEPHANTS—entire families—in one of the worst concentrated killings since a global ivory trade ban was adopted in 1989. Carrying AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, they dispatched the elephants with a military precision reminiscent of a 2006 butchering outside Chad’s Zakouma National Park. And then some stopped to pray to Allah. Seen from the ground, each of the bloated elephant carcasses is a monument to human greed. Elephant poaching levels are currently at their worst in a decade, and seizures of illegal ivory are at their highest level in years. From the air too the scattered bodies present a senseless crime scene—you can see which animals fled, which mothers tried to protect their young, how one terrified herd of 50 went down together, the latest of the tens of thousands of elephants killed across Africa each year.
A very sad story, but a great piece of journalism from the National Geographic inside the illegal ivory trade.

The five kinds of people you encounter on High Level Panels
Having been involved in a few previous UN Panels like this one, including last year’s one on Global Sustainability, my guess is that Panel members will fall in to one of five categories
Alex Evans' post reminds me a bit of Japanese Kabuki theatre with the ritualised performances that one can expect at high level panels and many other conference settings...

Crowdsourcing Development Frameworks Matrix
There are a series of competing ideas and frameworks in regards to development and aid. Terence Wood kindly put together a table that captures some of the larger ideas held by big names like Jeffrey Sachs and Dambasia Moyo, as well as institutions such as the World Bank.
The final product is a fantastic way to compare competing ideas, but like any chart it misses on some divergent ideas. I am reproducing the chart with the permission of Terence and the encouragement to get feedback.
A great way to learn about development language, power and discourses by helping Tom Murphy to collect development frameworks.

Could an emergency fund help NGOs put the humanitarian house in order?
The idea of a standing fund for emergencies isn't new; the UN already has one, and the Disasters Emergency Committee pulls together UK appeals. But the former is vulnerable to political pressures and inefficient administration, while the latter only responds to high-profile cases. By contrast, instead of competing for resources handed out by a web of government and private donors, all with their own different criteria, the NGO proposal suggests making decisions based on peer review by the fund's implementing agencies, using a unitary framework focused solely on quality, need and impact.
This article popped up a couple of times this week. Interesting idea, but knowing the limitations of 'peer review' in academia I have doubts that a similar process would produce the desired 'objective' results and impact.

No more amiability, patience and naivety: new political strategy for NGDOs, by CONCORD & Action Solidarite Tiers Monde
It seems to us that the time has come to review our approach to political advocacy. Our institutional and governmental partners insist on “polite and constructive” input from us, on “realistic” and not just critical propositions, on evidence and not just rhetoric, and on engagement in institutional processes at all levels. They ask us to have confidence in them even in the absence of any real progress. All those things we’ve done – for twenty years! Amiably, patiently, neatly and sometimes naively. In a world obsessed with efficiency, with the need to measure results and to apply objectively verifiable indicators, can we seriously hold up our work to evaluation and claim that our advocacy work has led to any progress in the international agenda and the lives of the world’s poor?
Interesting piece to think about-and a small reminder of how difficult it is to bring NGOs together-especially for a central funding mechanism like the humanitarian fund above.

Our research: striving towards excellence
What does excellent research mean? And how can it be achieved? We have developed a booklet that sets out a vision of how excellent policy and action research that contributes to sustainable development can be carried out.
IIED introduces its new Research Quality team with some good advice on 'excellent research'.

Can Consultancies Sustain a Long-Term Research Strategy in Developing Countries?
I believe it is perfectly possible to use consulting contracts and other commissioned work to sustain a long-term research strategy, and at the TTI Exchange I presented the following six criteria for selecting consulting projects so as to support a long-term research agenda in the absence of lavish government funding for research
Very interesting article and very relevant for the academic-practical space many researchers in developing countries (and the global North, too...) find themselves in. Also excellent comments for and against the main argument that consultancies can support a long-term research strategy. In my view, without some core funding it will be difficult to find the time and space for long-term research and the problem is much bigger with regard to tertiary education, as the next link demonstrates well...

Let Us Consolidate Makerere’s Core Mission: the Pursuit of Scholarship [pdf]
To produce quality students requires quality teachers. Good teachers do not work because of how much they are paid. But they need to be paid enough to be able to work with diligence. Teachers are not business people, and those with an eye on making money should go to Kikubo, not to a university. The important thing is to reform the motivational structure at Makerere so it attracts and rewards scholars, and discourages and keeps away those who wish to mint millions. That would mean, for a start, that we pay people meaningful salaries for their main work – teaching and research – and not allowances for attending endless meetings. I was glad to hear the Prime Minister say in his opening remarks that government intends to triple budgetary allocation to institutions of higher learning over the next few years. My second suggestion is that Makerere abolish all allowances for attending meetings, all payments for invigilating or marking scripts, and use the money saved to increase salaries of those who teach and do research, and those whose services support this core activity. My guess is it will do away with 90% of meetings, and dramatically reduce the time taken by meetings that do take place. It may not increase salaries substantially, but it will surely send the right signal to all concerned.
Mahmood Mamdani, who used to teach at Columbia University, talks about some of the challenges he faces reforming scholarship and education at Makerere University in Kampala.

CreativeCapitalistCity.org-The struggle for affordable space in Amsterdam
Creativity is fancy, glamorous and desirable. Who can be against creativity? At the same time it is used selectively for economic purposes and consists of precarious and hard work.
In this film, the search for creativity is linked to existential struggles for affordable housing and working space in Amsterdam, such as temporary accommodation, squatting, anti-squatting and some institutional synthesis: "breeding places" Amsterdam.
This film is more than a local documentary on Amsterdam. It explores the latest urban re-/development pattern in advanced Western capitalist cities. The hype around the creative city began already a decade ago, it is global in scope and about to reach its peak. After Richard Florida's influential book "The Rise of the Creative Class" (2002) creativity has advanced to be the role model of urban regeneration:
The New American Dream.
What is new about this dream? What happens when the hype is over? Housing as a job or the Right to the City?
In some ways this documentary, now available for free online, summarizes this week's link topics very well: How do creative people and organisations find meaningful engagement in and with spaces that are dominated by 'capitalist' thinking?

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