Links & Contents I Liked 24

Hello all,
Another week-another questionable development idea appears-or at least so it seems. Buy a girl her life back is the slogan of the Girl Store- a bit of virtual Barbie doll dressing with a 'development' twist to it...two well-known old men make an appearance, too.
And speaking of men, there's an interesting piece on men in the Indian construction industry that got me thinking about a large community that is rarely addressed in development debates.
10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won't Tell You speaks for itself and in yet another example of how great anthropologists are we are extending the 'multi-sited' lens to outer space (seriously!)...


The Girl Store-Buy A Girl Her Life Back

Even today there are chances of Indian girls being sold into marriage or sex slavery. But you can help. Simply purchase an Indian girl the items she desperately needs to attend school. Because the most effective way to break the cycle of exploitation is education
Let's not get into the details of 'it's more complicated than that' right now. What freaked me out a little is the fact that the girls are actually moving-as if they were put on display in a virtaul shop window and you can put them out of this misery by buying a pink bagpack right now! Sheena's sad face, Lavanya's look into the not-so-distant gloomy future if she doesn't get her backpack right now...development armchair marketing meets barbie doll and pet store discourses...girl empowerment? You are not doing it quite right, Mahindra Foundation!

Hunting for per diems

The line between misuse of per diems and fraud is sometimes thin. Many forms of misuse are not illegal, for example to organize more meetings than needed. Donor organisations have tried to harmonise their practices through the Paris-declaration, an international agreement defining harmonisation and alignment principles for allowances, but cultures of misuse have turned out to be difficult to change. The report recommends that development partners alter existing practices. Instead of cash per diem payment, they could reduce the problem by offering benefits in-kind (food and accommodation). It is also necessary to emphasize that misuse is unacceptable and that abuse is a criminal offense.
Great research and paper by CMI Norway on the political economy of meetings and workshops and per diems for participants.

Capacity building: straight from the lion’s mouth

The point I am trying to make is that when it comes to supporting think tanks in developing countries maybe the best way forward is to try to get people with experience in the things that the think tanks want to learn about to spend some time working there. It sounds expensive but the fact is that there are plenty of young yet experienced researchers, communicators, and managers who are actively looking for opportunities to work in developing countries. They may not know much about their contexts but they are sufficiently smart of understand them and adapt their approaches to match. By spending time with their hosts they will be able to learn about the nuances of the organisations, advice on new approaches and methods, introduce new attitudes (often think tank researchers tell me that what they need is someone to encourage them to ‘think less as academics’), and even links to global networks.
Researcher to researcher; communicator to communicator; manager to manager. Forget intermediaries (unless, of course, its to build the capacity of intermediaries).
I mostly agree with Enrique Mendizabal's observations. I also know that the type of secondment he has in mind can actually be very difficult and expensive, because it's not just about sending someone from organisation A to B. Long-term immersions sound like great learning opportunity-but there would still be a space for 'intermediaries'. Offering a training course in 'Think Tank Communication' may look like a good way to develop capacity but ultimately only add to a global education and training industry that may yield little organisational benefits in the medium-term. 'Learning intermediaries', organisations that can help with action research, power analysis or short-term trainings may actually be useful to facilitate such processes and knoledge brokering.

Do Aid Projects Work? Tiny Sensors Will Now Let Us Know In Real Time

SWEETLab is deploying latrine monitors to record door openings and motion, fire sensors to detect gas emissions and thermal efficiency and microbial water filters that ensure water stays safe. Each sensor is powered by a few AA batteries for up to a year. Mobile phone or WiFi signals send data to a web-based platform where the results can be analyzed and fed back into any programs or educational efforts on the ground. Portland State engineering students are analyzing the data. Although SWEETLab is deploying to Africa next year, its first client was MercyCorps who outfitted the sensors on latrines in Indonesia. A third generation of the sensors are now being installed to iron out bugs in relaying data and extending battery life.
This sounds like an interesting addition M&E efforts. So you can focus field visits on places where the data tells you that there may be a problem...I hope there's an anthropologist involved somewhere in the data analysis to give it some local grounding...

Stop Being Poor: U.S. Piracy Watch List Hits A New Low With 2012 Report

Note that the USTR is not criticizing Guatemala's laws nor enforcement efforts as the government has complied with repeated U.S. demands to shift resources toward IP enforcement. Indeed, there is no obvious reason for inclusion on the Special 301 list other than an attempt to lobby a country that ranks 123rd worldwide in per capita GDP to spend even more money enforcing US intellectual property rights rather than on education, health care or infrastructure, the sorts of expenditures that might improve the country's overall economy and ultimately lead to reduced rates of infringement.
The same tactic is employed against countries such as Costa Rica (81st per capita GDP with complaints that more resources should be allocated to enforcement) or Romania (77th per capita GDP with complaints about more resources on enforcement). Moreover, with repeated complaints against countries seeking to ensure adequate access to medicines for their citizens or access to books in schools, this year's report hits a new low. It demonstrates the failure of the enforcement agenda and stands as an embarrassment for one of the world's richest countries to prioritize its IP rights over human and economic rights in the developing world.
Law professor and Internet activist Michael Geist's comment on a new report released by the U.S. Trade Representative on potential links between poverty and copyright infringements.

Robert Chambers: Blogger, Poet and Provocateur

I also realised Robert was a blogger before any of us were (he just did his first formal one here, but as you can see from the book he has been doing them since the 70s).
He is also a poet. There are loads of poems in the book. One verse "Empowerment means having voice; You enjoy the right of choice; You are free in every way; To run your country as we say". And this is one of the less raucous ones.
But he is above all a provocateur, someone who can make you think about things that are outside your comfort zone.
I found his final entry in the book to be the most provocative.
When posed the question, "what would it take to eliminate poverty in the world?" Robert starts making his wish list of policy outcomes and other things... then he stops and says, yes, but this is just a wish list, and it is mostly a list of things others should do. What about us, the non-poor, the better off, the wealthy, the powerful? He then lays out 3 areas in which he is continuously learning to do better: around power and wealth, social relations and personal behaviours. It is a fascinating list.
Robert Chambers turned 80 this week! Happy birthday...and yes, I agree with the commentators that it's time for an ebook edition of Robert's works!

Johan Galtung's Bizarre Rant
Dan Nexon at Duck of Minerva raises the question of what has gotten into 82 year-old Johan Galtung and his strange comments along the lines of anti-semitic conspiracy theory he made in connection with the Breivik trial. He's still considered as one of the 'founding fathers' of academic peace research, but maybe he's getting old?!

Addendum: One reader pointed out that Johan Galtung published a long reply on his website yesterday that is worth reading as well: TRANSCEND International's Statement Concerning the Label of anti-Semitism Against Johan Galtung

India has no room for its wandering builders

Migrant workers in general constitute a vulnerable social category. With little capacity to bargain for their constitutional rights as workers, they are forced to work and live under conditions that are practically subhuman. Makeshift tents housing migrant families are a common sight in almost all big cities.
The construction industry — even in its globalised avatar — relies on archaic systems of operation, such as the use of contractors for the supply of labour. The Contractor Raj, if one may call it, was a prevalent feature of the colonial mode of labour recruitment and production. The Royal Commission on Labour in 1929 actually recommended the abolition of the institution of the contractor. In 1970, India passed the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act. However, this institution not only continues, but has actually deepened with the boom in the construction industry as contractors and sub-contractors are employed even in small projects. This multiple chain of operations creates its own problems of regulation. While there is little doubt that globalisation has contributed to increased business opportunities for the construction industry, things have not improved for the workers, who constitute the life and soul of the industry.
India, China or the Gulf states are all examples of countries with a vast, but mainly overlooked community of migrant workers who face many traditional 'development' problems-from education, to access to justice and poverty, of course. Maybe because they are not women or children (who rightly deserve attention, of course...) the development discourse has not 'discovered' migrant workers yet and their importance for the claims that 'working with men' is an important development issue on many topics.

In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid

Over the past 40 years, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has developed a reputation as an emergency medical humanitarian organization willing to go almost anywhere to deliver care to people in need. Yet when questioned about MSF, people in countries where it works had different perceptions. One thought MSF was from Saudi Arabia and financed by Muslim charities. Another thought it was a China-based corporation. And yet another believed MSF requires everyone who enters their medical facilities to be armed (quite the opposite, in fact).These are just some of the surprising revelations found in In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid. Co-published with Humanitarian Outcomes and NYU's Center on International Cooperation, the book is a result of MSF’s attempt to better understand how its work and principles of neutrality, impartiality, and independence are perceived by those who receive its emergency medical care. A variety of scholars, researchers, students and other humanitarians also contribute essays expanding on issues of perception and exploring the many facets of humanitarian action today.
Interesting new, free book by MSF. They continue to critically engage with humanitarian paradoxes and challenges and that deserves a download - and read, of course ;)!

Considering the Archaeology of Outer Space

It is incumbent on archaeologists and other anthropologists, I think, to support the work of Beth O’Leary and others in preserving lunar landing sites, recognizing the dangers of orbital debris, and stopping the trafficking in artifacts from government space programs. It may also be worthwhile to point out that the United Nations Outer Space Treaty stands in the way of the moon becoming the 51st state.
Behind the extraterrestrial headline is a serious anthropological and archaeological issue...multi-sited engagments just can't be limited to one planet!


Data and visualization blogs worth following

Today, I went through my feed reader again, and here's what came up. [...]. But this list is restricted to blogs that have updated in the past two months and are at least four months old.
If 'data' is your thing, there are some great resources out there!

Harvard vs. Yale: Open-Access Publishing Edition

So the faculty have to make this decisions along the way to publish in an open access journal and give up perhaps some of the prestige that's associated with one of the more established journals. So, sometimes what you'll see is some of the junior faculty who are less inclined to publish in open access journals because they are focused on the career path and tenure track process. But once they get tenure, they feel like they have more freedom in participating in the open access movements going around.
Yale librarian Susan Gibbons on the complex issue of open-acess publishing and the role of university libraries as a follow-up to last week's story about Harvard complaining that it couldn't afford access to an expensive academic journal anymore (the 'vs.' in the title was probably put in to create some attention...)

10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won't Tell You

You are smart and motivated and creative. Everyone will tell you that you can change the world. They are right, but remember that "changing the world" also can include things like skirting financial regulations and selling unhealthy foods to increasingly obese children. I am not asking you to cure cancer. I am just asking you not to spread it.
That's proably a very good piece of advice for development-related work, too...


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