Links & Contents I Liked 339

Hi all,

UNGA week is wrapping up, but the focus on this week's link review is on some of the other #globaldev stories, from shrinking civic spaces in India to flipping the script of child sponsorship and diverse hiring panels! Plus: Avoiding gender bias in reference letters & a look into the 2014 archive!

My quotes of the week
When we say that civic space is shrinking, this usually refers to legislative measures, human rights violations, and other oppressive practices to curb the space for civil society. But what we see today in many places, including India, is a change in atmosphere. People seeking social justice find themselves increasingly operating in restricted spaces, where populist speech demonises reformers, and legitimises opinions that were until recently unsayable in public. As someone said: ‘Hate is in the air, in many ways and against many‘. Hate of all kinds of ‘others’ extends to hate for people who promote inclusion.
(What is happening to civic space in India?)

Some civil society activists I’ve met as part of my research in India and Indonesia told me they were sceptical of their own governments’ narratives about data colonialism, worrying instead about the increased access to sensitive personal information that localisation gives to governments
(‘Digital colonialism’: why some countries want to take control of their people’s data from Big Tech)

Enjoy!

Development news

The Oscars of International Politics: A #UNGA74 Recap

And what nobody else did, media-wise: PassBlue journalist Laura E. Kirkpatrick tackles how many women stood out at this year’s UNGA (spoiler alert: not many) and notes that some men actually championed gender issues in their speeches moreso than women.
Stéphanie Fillion & Kacie Candela for PassBlue with an overview of key developments during UNGA week.


World Vision Flips the Script on Child Sponsorship

Almost 1,000 children in rural Guatemala gained sponsors this month from a megachurch in southern Indiana.
But in this case, it was the indigenous children in need who pondered photos of smiling faces and chose one they felt a connection with. And it was the adult donors in the United States who nervously waited, wondering who would pick them.
The role reversal, which World Vision is calling “Chosen,” is the first significant change to the Christian humanitarian organization’s bread-and-butter method of engaging Christians with the world’s needs and equipping children to live healthier and safer lives.
Jeremy Weber for Christianity Today. So far most of the coverage of World Vision's new approach to child sponsorship has received a warm welcome by Christian/religious news platforms; this topics definitely deserves more critical attention as child sponsorship has always been criticized-and I am totally biased against anything that involves an American megachurch and 'deserving' children in Guatemala...

MPs criticise 'dramatic increase' in aid spending over lack of transparency

MPs have criticised a “dramatic increase” in aid spending in ministries outside the Department for International Development, because they have not put in place adequate measures to assess value for money.
A report, by the House of Commons public accounts committee, questioned the doubling of the Newton Fund, managed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to £735m, despite the department’s “weak understanding” of how funds were spent, where and with what results.
Karen McVeigh for the Guardian. A 'good' way to damage #globaldev's reputation: Give aid money to other departments, wait for them to have problems with 'impact' or accountability, invite the Daily Mail to criticize the waste of taxpayer money in Africa...

Five Small Steps

One leading multilateral agency has committed to banning all-white interview panels for every role within the organisation in order to reduce the potential for bias in recruitment and selection. If managers cannot put together a suitably diverse interview panel internally, they have committed to bringing in outside experts to sit on these panels. Bravo.
Lorriann Robinson shares five steps to make recruitment in #globaldev more diverse (i.e. less male & white...).

Document, mobilise, amplify: The media activists in Rio's favelas

Brazilian mainstream media is failing when it comes to covering this story - putting white journalists in the spotlight when the vast majority of the favelas' residents are of African descent, and often using dehumanising terminology.
The danger for journalists reporting from inside the favelas is real - as highlighted by the brutal murder of Globo's journalist Tim Lopez back in 2002 - but violence plays a disproportionate part in their coverage, leaving aside other, more positive stories.
"That's why Papo Reto and Mare Vive are fundamental,'' says Renata Souza. "Because they have a direct link with everyday lives, they listen to the residents, they give visibility and amplify those voices. To have alternative communication tools like Mare Vive and Papo Reto speaking out against the logic of war and the dehumanisation of black bodies in the favelas is fundamental."
Al-Jazeera with a feature (that seems to be missing from this short post?) on media activism in Brazil.

Searching for the nexus: The view from the ground

Frustrated frontline responders told TNH about additional paperwork and meetings. They complained about confused project definitions and scope, leadership issues, and, perhaps most crucially, limited government buy-in hindering genuine cooperation and aid delivery.
For Fie Lauritzen, senior humanitarian policy advisor at the Danish NGO Dan Church Aid, greater alignment between humanitarian and development response is welcome, but there has not been enough engagement with local organisations.
“We are seeing closer working between the donors and the UN on developing priorities and approaches, but we’re not seeing that extended to the local, national, and even international NGOs, or community organisations and civil society groups,” she told TNH. “That’s a big gap. Where are the local actors in the nexus? At the moment, they’re not included, and that is a big omission. We need to do more to engage them if it is going to be a success.”
Louise Redvers for the New Humanitarian. If you have anybody in your networks who works in #globaldev you will have read their complaints, admired their memes and cringed with their Tweets about the Nexus...

What are the headlines of 8 years of research into Effective States and Inclusive Development?

My most exciting/inspirational result of 8 years of progress?: The recognition that we now have a brilliant generation of scholars that are going to keep talking about politics. A remarkable set of authors from the Global South, Ghana, Bangladesh, India, Uganda. They will keep on talking about how politics and how it shapes development. That’s my favourite takeaway from all of this.
Duncan Green talks to Sam Hickey about insights from a long-term #globaldev research project.

What is happening to civic space in India?

When we say that civic space is shrinking, this usually refers to legislative measures, human rights violations, and other oppressive practices to curb the space for civil society. But what we see today in many places, including India, is a change in atmosphere. People seeking social justice find themselves increasingly operating in restricted spaces, where populist speech demonises reformers, and legitimises opinions that were until recently unsayable in public. As someone said: ‘Hate is in the air, in many ways and against many‘. Hate of all kinds of ‘others’ extends to hate for people who promote inclusion.
Nandini Deo, Dorothea Hilhorst & Sunayana Ganguly for the ISS blog on Global Development and Social Justice on 'shrinking spaces' for civil society and more contemporary developments in India.

Automated Decision-making Systems: Is the aid sector ready for ADS? Are ADS ready for the aid sector?

How are we in the humanitarian sector preparing people at all levels of the system to engage with these systems, design them ethically, reduce harm, and make them more transparent? How are we working to build capacities at the local level to understand and use ADS? How are we figuring out ways to ensure that the populations who will be affected by ADS are aware of what is happening? How are we ensuring recourse and redress in the case of bad decisions or bias? What jobs might be created (rather than eliminated) with the introduction of more ADS?
Linda Raftree for Wait...What? summarizes a discussion about another emerging trend in the ICT4D & #globaldev sectors.

‘Digital colonialism’: why some countries want to take control of their people’s data from Big Tech

While the international economics of personal data may follow some of the same general dynamics as oil production, data is fundamentally different from oil because it does a double duty – providing not just monetary value to businesses, but also surveillance opportunities for governments. Some civil society activists I’ve met as part of my research in India and Indonesia told me they were sceptical of their own governments’ narratives about data colonialism, worrying instead about the increased access to sensitive personal information that localisation gives to governments.
Jacqueline Hicks for the Conversation with some nuanced reflections on the 'data colonialism' discourse.

[BigDataSur] Cashlessness for development: A dangerous orthodoxy
Yet against this backdrop, limited empirical evidence so far links cashlessness to the pursuit of financially inclusive policies in developing nations.
(...)
The street sellers we spoke to are frequently visited by representatives of digital wallet companies providing information on their products: yet such systems, rather than building on the long-standing ecosystems of street vending, are designed in rupture with these, effectively dismantling their transactional architecture.
Silvia Masiero & Soumyo Das for Datactive share some initial research findings on the risks of cachlessness in India.

How Dare Samantha Power Scrub the Yemen War From Her Memoir

In choosing to entirely ignore one of her most glaring failures—as a self-proclaimed activist and diplomat—Ambassador Power missed a crucial opportunity to set the record straight on her horrific actions and inactions as ambassador. In the eyes of this Yemeni-American, Ambassador Power remains neither educated nor an idealist.
Shireen Al-Adeimi for In These Times. The book is on my pile as well and I definitely appreciate these critical information before I start reading it!

Immanuel Wallerstein (1930-2019)

Wallerstein’s intellectual presence was like a juggernaut, breaking down unbreakable walls. But sometimes, brute intellectual force and theoretical élan took the place of rigorous systematic formulation. Critique has showed that his work seemed to rest on some uneasy functionalisms. Perhaps more importantly, his devastating dismissal of national development as a phantasm, a fantasy of inclusion in a system which by its nature excluded, may have brought its own blinders.He may, by leaning on Kondratieff cycles rather than class power, have underestimated the degree to which post-1973 saw a global counter-revolution.
Max Ajl for Developing Economics with a longer and more nuanced obituary for Wallerstein.

Africa Update Vol. 26

Welcome to the latest edition of Africa Update! We've got the Nigerian space program, trans-African highways, online therapy in Kenya, why the Sahara is bad for infant mortality, and more.
Check out Rachel Strohm's latest newsletter!

Our digital lives
Why you might not want to start a nonprofit newsroom

While many in the journalism industry, and many of the industry’s main benefactors, are currently preoccupied with the nonprofit newsroom model, a lot of the people that I’ve talked to who are outside the echo chamber don’t even understand — or, dare I say, don’t care — about the difference.
(...)
Let’s focus first on building journalism products that surprise and delight customers. Products that deliver real value. Products that meet real market needs.
Let’s recognize that if the industry just keeps investing in the same models that we’re already familiar with, and the same people we’re already familiar with, we’ll likely end up with the same news ecosystem that we have today — troubled and sorely lacking in diversity of perspectives.
Phillip Smith on why the hype about nonprofit news warrants a more critical discussion about the future (and financing) of news.

Publications
Strengthening the United Nations’ Role in Media Development

The UN should promote greater coordination among the UN agencies active in the media sector, following on the successes from the UN Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists. UNESCO and UNDP, in particular, have untapped synergies in this field.
In post-conflict states, the UN’s mandate should explicitly include support for public access to information and the protection of journalists and independent media in those countries
Bill Orme with the Center for International Media Assistance' latest report.

Social Norms as a Barrier to Women’s Employment in Developing Countries
For example, if social mores limit women’s ability to interact with men, then programs that enable home-based work or enable women to more easily network with other women could be especially useful. By creating more equality in the labor market,this approach might, in turn, erode the restrictive norms, creating a virtuous cycle.Another promising approach is to try to directly change individuals’ and community’s beliefs and attitudes that privilege men in the workplace. While this type of attitude change intervention is often used by non-governmental organizations, there is an important opportunity for governments in developing countries to expand their use of this strategy.Many governments want to promote gender equality, whether as an end in itself or as a way to increase economic prosperity by putting women’s talents to better use. Media campaigns and school-based programs like the one studied by Dhar et al. (2018b) could be a valuable complement to more standard governmental strategies such as using the legal system to promote equality. Governments are in a powerful position to inculcate individuals and communities with a commitment to equality of opportunities, both in the labor market and overall
Seema Jayachandran with her latest paper.

Academia

Three in four Africans applying for student visas in Canada this year have been rejected

New analysis of data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada shows that three in four African students (75%) who applied for study permits in Canada between January and May this year were rejected. The rate is much higher than the global rejection rate of 39%.
Yomi Kazeem for Quartz Africa with more evidence that there is a global visa crisis for Africa students, researchers and other experts regarding their access to the global North.

Seven steps to make travel to scientific conferences more sustainable

We do not have clean hands, but we suggest these measures because people urgently need to reduce consumption. Scientists face significant pressures to travel - a culture change is needed. Individuals can petition conference organizers, administrators and others in the community for an environmentally friendly scientific culture. Conferences are often organized and are always attended by researchers, so we do have the power to apply pressure and change organizations. Travel should not be an essential element of academic success; instead, evidence of sustainable travel should be valued in a researcher’s career.
Olivier Hamant, Timothy Saunders & Virgile Viasnoff for Nature. To me, the culture shift is growing. The ISA conference next year will be held in Hawaii which means an extraordinary amount of travel for thousands of researchers and very little digital access options. Boycott!

What we were reading 5 years ago

(Link review 128, 16 October 2014)
Should the voices of senior consultants feature more prominently in public debates on international development?

Why are senior consultants ‘hiding’?
There are some more obvious reasons why senior consultants are often not very visible in public debates:
They tend to be very busy: they have carved out their niche and are on the go to the next assignment in ‘their’ country, region or area of expertise
They tend to be older and may not have been socialized in the digital culture of sharing, being online and maintaining a digital presence or even a brand
They actually have something to lose if public critique leads to fewer assignments for a favorite organization or they are perceived as ‘difficult’ (many freelance senior consultants have quasi-employment status with some of the largest bi- and multilateral organizations)
They know development is a job; after decades of work, every profession, job or calling has been met with plenty of reality checks; even if you are not cynical or burned-out it is difficult to have similar discussion regularly or get excited when the latest ‘participatory bottom-up community design project’ turns out to be just like any other project with a budget, log-frame and quarterly reports
They do not really like the academic reflection business and prefer to get an assignment ‘done’ rather than reflecting on an industry that may not be responsive to critique anyway (see previous point)
12 ways to communicate development more effectively
Avoid promoting quick fixes: What that does is provoke disillusionment down the road. We need to discourage young people particularly from thinking complex problems can be solved with a rush of energy and cool new tools. We need to be communicating that many tough challenges will require stamina and sustained effort and commitment.
Life After Help: A Returning Expat's Account
Gone is the pernickety Ibu, head of the household, living in her own tropical Downton Abbey. Now I actively smell the sheets on the bed and think they can last another week without being changed. I purchase "easy-iron" clothing or even "no-iron" if I can find them. Electric appliances are my constant companions. I have even given the dishwasher a name (Doris Smeg).
As I consider what's for dinner tonight (we are working my way through our suitcase supply of Indofood Nasi Goreng paste), I pause to consider Life After Help.

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