Links & Contents I Liked 361

Hi all,

I hope you are well & enjoyed some form of Easter-related break!
This week's review features a lot of great long-reads on the history of pandemics, Canadian steel plants, World Vision & Renee Bach...perfect for exploring at home ;)!

The COVID-19 section does not try to 'catch up'-so it is relatively short and selective. And there is poetry, wins against algorithmic intransparence, reflections on 'naked' research & more!

Enjoy!


My quotes of the week

Bach’s two sisters live in California—one is a nanny, the other a doctor—and she was considering moving there. “I want to be in a place where I could live a life of service again,” she said. “I genuinely enjoy helping people. And I feel like an idiot saying that, because everyone is, like, ‘You just killed a bunch of people.’ I would love to live in a really low-income, diverse community—like immersion. Just to move into a Section 8 housing community, and not be completely ostracized, is an art.” (A Missionary on Trial)

Many American organizations, from Compassion International to InterVarsity to the National Association of Evangelicals, are anticipating the new realities and tapping Christians who look more like the majority world for positions of leadership. But it is also important to recognize that the shaping of faith-based institutions by people of color is not just a present and future reality. (...) Who are the men and women lost to historical memory, or hidden all along, who have built Christian institutions across the globe? (World Vision’s Forgotten Founder)  


To address the epistemological injustice, let’s think about becoming these ‘Naked Researchers’- is that even possible? No boundary maintenance- genuine relationships- a consistent practice of reflexivity of discomfort- the discomfort of the cloak of power and privileges- is it possible for researchers to become vulnerable, self-critical and willing to be challenged, and to change during the research process?- more than anything be accountable to communities that we create this new knowledge with? (The ‘Naked’ Researcher)
 
COVID-19 & #globaldev

New Pathogen, Old Politics

Perhaps the most difficult paradigm to shift will be to consider infectious agents not as aliens but as part of us—our DNA, microbiomes, and the ecologies that we are transforming in the Anthropocene. Our public discourses fail to appreciate how deeply pathogenic evolution is entangled in our disruption of the planet’s ecosystem. We have known for decades that a single zoonotic infection could easily become pandemic, and that social institutions for epidemic control are essential to provide breathing space for medical science to play catch-up. Our political-economic system failed to create the material incentives and the popular narrative for this kind of global safety net—the same failure that has generated climate crisis.
This is the final, unfinished act of the drama. Can human beings find a way to treat the pathogen not as an aberration, but as a reminder that we are fated to co-exist in an unstable Anthropocene? To expand on the words of Margaret Chan, WHO director at the time of SARS, “The virus writes the rules”—there is no singular set of rules. We have collectively changed the rules of our ecosystems, and pathogens have surprised us with their nimble adaptations to a world that we believed was ours.
Alex De Waal for the Boston Review with a super-long-must-read!

Coronavirus Outbreak out of Control in US

Meanwhile, traditional American social practices, as well as entrenched cultural values like individualism, have greatly contributed to the spread of coronavirus, whose carriers can be highly contagious even without showing any symptoms.
(...)
This breakdown in trust has a deep history. Though the country has not experienced violent conflict recently, the United States is wrought with long-standing political divisions between its urban and rural tribes, which have repeatedly renounced efforts to find common ground.
“It’s almost as if they are opposed to the common good on principle”, said Tesfaye Haile, who spent eight years as Ethiopia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom. “This kind of division and the institutional inertia it creates is simply the way of life there”.
On the other end of the spectrum, Jina Moore for the Elephant with a more...ironic take on crisis reporting.

COVID-19 Crisis “Requires Us All to Be Bolder”

“I feel like the decades of us being deferential to people with more power has resulted in a situation where we are constantly starving ourselves and that jeopardizes the people that we are serving,” he says. “This crisis requires us all to be bolder and to take more risks, and that means being a lot more forthright about our criticism.”In fact, as the pandemic unfolds, Le contends that some in philanthropy are causing direct harm to nonprofits through tone-deaf funding practices that “are not just annoying but actually endangering people’s lives, such as funders requiring anything to be signed or mailed.”
Amy Costello & Frederica Boswell for Nonprofit Quarterly talk to Vu Le for their Tiny Sparks podcast.

Moral multi-tasking in the COVID-19 response

Against the backdrop of these strategic socio-economic choices, we must grapple with the more intimate personal ethics of our duty of care to ourselves and others. In the COVID-19 emergency, humanitarian workers are not simply helpers. They are also potential carriers and spreaders of the virus. The arrival of aid workers from outside has long been politically ambivalent for at-risk communities. It is now also medically ambivalent because aid workers may carry and transmit COVID-19. So, here, aid workers’ personal behaviour has to be profoundly careful as well as caring.
Our duty of care also extends to our staff and volunteers, as potential victims of COVID-19. We have to protect our own from being hurt by the virus as well as limiting their potential to hurt others by spreading it.
Hugo Slim for the New Humanitarian touches on issues that were also part of yesterday's webinar hosted by the CHS Alliance and moderated by Heba Aly.
More Covid analysis by African authors, and a first instalment from India

Fighting the Infodemic: Media in Times of Covid-19
 

COVID-19 - HUB - Communication and Community Engagement

Duncan Green, Deutsche Welle & the Communication Initiative Network with curated resources, further readings & more #globaldev takes on the crisis!

Development news

Namibia's youngest MP enters the crucible as Africa's youth lead the way

But Theofelus is female, particularly young and representative of a continent where almost 60% of the population is under 25 years old, and where many presidents are among the oldest in the world.
Carien du Plessis for the Guardian with a longer portrait on Emma Theofelus who I mentioned two reviews ago as well & broader political changes in Southern Africa.

Q&A: Syrian doctor Amani Ballour on running a hospital under siege

They let us down. I'm very disappointed. We thought that they were going to help us. They were talking about human rights and human dignity. This is what we wanted when the demonstrations [against al-Assad] started [in 2011]… to live in a democratic country. I was sure that they were going to help us, but they did nothing, they were just watching. I don’t think they have the will to help Syria.
Ben Parker talks to Syrian physician Amani Ballour for the New Humanitarian.

A Missionary on Trial

Bach told me, “I am not sitting here claiming I never did anything wrong.” She said that she obsesses over potential failings, “recounting every interaction you’ve ever had with another human and wondering, Was I hurting or was I helping that person?” On reflection, some of Nielsen’s arguments had moved her. “I believe in what No White Saviors stands for,” Bach said. “There are a lot of people who go to developing environments and they exploit people. That should be a global conversation: are we presenting ourselves and the work that we’re doing in a way that’s honoring the people we are ministering to, and caring for, or sponsoring, or whatever?”
(...)
Bach’s two sisters live in California—one is a nanny, the other a doctor—and she was considering moving there. “I want to be in a place where I could live a life of service again,” she said. “I genuinely enjoy helping people. And I feel like an idiot saying that, because everyone is, like, ‘You just killed a bunch of people.’ I would love to live in a really low-income, diverse community—like immersion. Just to move into a Section 8 housing community, and not be completely ostracized, is an art.”
Ariel Levy for the New Yorker. Lots of food for thought...at some point it seems more about Kelsey Nielsen the founder of 'No White Savior' than Bach who is careful not to admit wrongdoing and deflect her personal responsibility as part of a global conversation on medial volunteering.

World Vision’s Forgotten Founder

But 65 years ago in Orchestra Hall, the notion that World Vision was the brainchild of two men was already starting to fade. As Pierce became a legend, friend to presidents around the world and the recognized founder of World Vision, Han was ushered off the stage, disappearing from American consciousness.
(...)
Many American organizations, from Compassion International to InterVarsity to the National Association of Evangelicals, are anticipating the new realities and tapping Christians who look more like the majority world for positions of leadership. But it is also important to recognize that the shaping of faith-based institutions by people of color is not just a present and future reality. It is something that has been happening all along. It is time for mission agencies and humanitarian organizations to plumb their pasts in search of their own Kyung-Chik Hans. Who are the men and women lost to historical memory, or hidden all along, who have built Christian institutions across the globe?
David R. Swartz for Christianity Today with an excellent long-read on the Korean founder of World Vision, organizational history-making & the challenges of Christian #globaldev organizations to diversify their leadership.

Urbanisation and the Insurance Market in South Africa
At the start of my research I was surprised that insurance companies became active within a market where people are poor and exposed to many risks. How are they going to make a profit here? It soon became clear that profit was not nearly as important as I thought. The ‘discovery’ of this market had more to do with democratization and the recognition of Black South Africans as fellow human beings. This emerging financial market was the outcome of a political struggle for dignity and human rights where Africans had to be recognized as fellow human beings who were part of what Mandela called the Rainbow Nation. The ‘discovery’ of a financial market was the result of an ideological change and a political struggle which shifted the boundaries of who financial companies could see as clients. Companies are also profit driven. But this book warns against a narrow focus on profit and utilitarian motives. Financial markets are also ‘discovered’ because of ideological and political struggles where people are suddenly seen as clients.
Erik Bähre for Zed Books introduces his new book.

For years firms that bribed Indonesian officials have evaded justice. Could this be about to change?

Villagers complain that AHB, the nickel miner, has blocked off their water sources, leaving them dependent on a water treatment plant built by another firm whose management costs they must pay for. Still, they’re torn about whether AHB should be made to close because they’re now dependent on it for compensation payments.
“We made a deal with [AHB] to receive compensation, so if the business stops, the money stops too,” says Hatta, 54, Kokoe’s former village chief. “If the business stops, what are they going to give us?”
The Gecko Project shares some great insights on corruption in Indonesia and the complexities around 'justice' in this area.

‘Them plants are killing us’: inside a cross-border battle against cancer in Ontario’s rust belt

When Andrew heard his co-workers had been exposed to hydrogen cyanide, he felt frustrated and upset. “It’s like we are the guinea pigs for companies’ profits,” he says.
Andrew first awoke to the dangers of industry when he worked at a plant in Sudbury. The air inside was thick with dust and smoke. In the decade since he left Sudbury and moved back to the Sault, at least 10 people he worked with in Sudbury have passed away. The youngest was 39. “Most of it was cancer,” he says.
Hilary Beaumont for the Narwhal with another long-read from the US-Canadian border which is technically not a #globaldev story, but touches on many issues around corporate power, dispensable workers & the dynamics of global capitalism we are witnessing all around the globe.

A conversation with George Ogola about African media, unchecked political power, and more

Kim and George discuss African media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, the media’s role in checking political power, and the “pockets of indiscipline” where citizens can access quality reporting that has evaded state power.
Kim Yi Dionne with another great episode of her ufahamu Africa podcast featuring George Ogola!


The Cost of Resistance
The mother holding her last piece of jewelry

wonders whether to sell it

for bus fare to the protests.

She’s torn by the choices:

raise her voice,

or sit idle.

She’d rather die than ask others for money

*

The little girl who cries at school each day

feels unloved at home

thinks her mother hates her

yearns for her affection

doesn’t understand how you can

love someone who’s no longer present

*

The husband who considers leaving

isn’t getting what he thinks he needs

the fire is out

the food isn’t good at home

is what we say when he strays.

He’s searching for shreds of joy

while his wife longs

for her daughter and brother to return

Anushani with a poem for a new issue of Adi Magazine that focuses on Terrorism in South Asia.

Our digital lives

Google’s former CEO hopes the coronavirus makes people more “grateful” for Big Tech

“Think about what your life would be like in America without Amazon, for example. The benefit of these corporations — which we love to malign — in terms of the ability to communicate ... the ability to get information, is profound — and I hope people will remember that when this thing is finally over,” Schmidt said on a livestream to the Economic Club of New York. “So let’s be a little bit grateful that these companies got the capital, did the investment, built the tools that we’re using now and have really helped us out. Imagine having the same reality of this pandemic without these tools.”
Theodore Schleifer for Vox. I'm afraid that he actually believes in what he's saying...

How Dutch activists got an invasive fraud detection algorithm banned

According to Ms Wieringa, the court’s decision makes it clear that the biggest problem of SyRI is not that it wants to battle fraud (this is a legitimate aim, the court says), but the way it does it: “The system is deemed too opaque by the judges. If the government wants to ‘fix’ this problem, it will have to add more transparency to SyRI. A ‘SyRI 2.0’ will likely be SyRI but less opaque. Previous experiences point to that course of action. The “Waterproof” system, a forerunner of SyRI, was deemed illegal in 2007 on privacy grounds. Later, the government simply passed a law to make circumvent the problem, thus creating SyRI. Another ‘lazy fix’, this time geared towards increasing transparency, would be a logical step for SyRI.”
On the other hand, two public organizations in the Netherlands, the UWV and the tax authority, have reacted to the court’s decision by reassessing their own algorithmic systems for fraud detection. “This is a sign that the court’s decision is urging everyone to find a new way of dealing with algorithms in the public sector”, Ms Wieringa maintains.
Koen Vervloesem for Algorithm Watch with a great case study from the Netherlands on how to challenge algorithms in public service provision!

Academia

Are we all digital scholars now? How the lockdown will reshape the post-pandemic digital structure of academia

The embrace of these tools throughout the university system is a practical matter of keeping the institution up and running during a time of unprecedented crisis. At the same time, they are a mechanism to overcome our atomisation and sustain an intellectual community at a distance. It would be easy to sleepwalk into their unreflective use, as we work our way through the endless list of tasks needed to keep things operating under such difficult circumstances. I’m sceptical that it’s possible to realise the communal possibilities of these platforms, if, we simply muddle through in this entirely understandable way. We urgently need to begin talking about the practice and politics of digital scholarship in the locked down university.
Mark Carrigan for LSE's Impact of Social Science. This is essentially the debate the ICT4D community has had for years on how digital tools will exacerbate old inequalities and create new ones, the impact of platforms on the casualization of work & the challenges of digital solutionism in general.

The ‘Naked’ Researcher

To address the epistemological injustice, let’s think about becoming these ‘Naked Researchers’- is that even possible? No boundary maintenance- genuine relationships- a consistent practice of reflexivity of discomfort- the discomfort of the cloak of power and privileges- is it possible for researchers to become vulnerable, self-critical and willing to be challenged, and to change during the research process?- more than anything be accountable to communities that we create this new knowledge with?
I would like to acknowledge the Pacific methodologies I was exposed to as part of my next research on Pacific diaspora in humanitarian response to disasters
(...)
What I have explained here is not much. Not 100% participatory. Not 100% of becoming a ‘naked researcher’. It is a good attempt, though, by slipping the cloak of power and privilege and becoming a participant in the knowledge production and dissemination. I argue, thus, a researcher in the qualitative research tradition of social sciences, especially when you work with historically disadvantaged communities in a development or humanitarian research, should become an active participant of the knowledge production and dissemination by slipping the cloak of power and privileges as well as practising the reflexivity of discomfort.
Jeevika Vivekananthan for Convivial Thinking continuous excellent reflections on academia, fieldwork and knowledge production that this project has been known for!

What we were reading 5 years ago

(Link review 150, 14 July 2015)

150 link reviews anniversary post :)!

Why the #HackingTeam hack should be a wake-up call for the #globaldev community

Most development organizations need to become much more serious, politically-aware and tech-savvy rather than simply repeating some catchy lines about social enterprises, innovation, the power ‘the Internet’ for economic development or transparency and accountability through some open data website.
Me, on persistent challenges of 'ICT4Bad', cybersecurity & the unease relationship between big tech & #globaldev...

WHO incapable of reacting to crises such as Ebola, says report

Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said: “The recommendations outlined by the independent panel should give WHO the mandate it needs to lead the global response to future health crises. The proposal to establish a WHO centre for emergency preparedness and response is encouraging.
“It’s essential that this new body is accountable and can show leadership in the face of emerging health threats, with the authority and independence to act quickly when needed. The support of the global community is also crucial if we are to avert another catastrophe on the scale of Ebola.”
Fast forward to 2020...

Can philanthropy ever reduce inequality?

Past philanthropic efforts to address inequality have favored individualistic approaches over programs that directly confront entrenched systems of power, failing to advance any real structural change as a result. Why should Ford’s new mission be any different? Along with many other American foundations, they have failed to deliver on their promises at many previous points in recent history.
This question remains as complex & open for discussion as it was in 2015...

Boom in 'voluntourism' sparks concerns over whether the industry is doing good

Rapid growth in the multi-billion dollar volunteer tourism industry has prompted calls for tighter controls with concerns over exposing vulnerable communities to unskilled foreign labor and dodgy operators exploiting foreigners for profit.
Sigh...see the long-read on Renee Bach above...

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