Links & Contents I Liked 31

Hello all,

A good week for interesting links, photos and documentaries!
Football is about to start, so I suggest you just sit back, relax and scroll the links in the meantime!


New on aidnography
How peacebuilding has become a ritualised space-Summary of my PhD project
To make rather unexciting PhD research a bit more exciting, there's already an interesting development since I published the post on Tuesday:
The full version of the thesis is no longer available from the University of Sussex website and this is unlikely to change any time soon. One of the organisations from Germany is concerned with my research approach and I am currently working with the university on ways to keep the thesis accessible in the public domain.


Nothing invokes the good old days of air travel like a PanAm Boeing 747 at JFK Airport...The year is 1973 amd 'volountourism' wasn't even invented yet ;)!
Actually, there is a more appropriate reason why the picture and the link to Arthur Tress' photography at the National Archive are included this week:
Arthur Tress' photographs of the general New York Harbor area, including Staten Island, include some of the most startling images of unchecked pollution and environmental decay in and around urban areas during the early 1970s.
Increasing numbers of tourists including well-intentioned volunteers keen to help war-torn Cambodia are volunteering in the country's orphanages. Volumes of research around the world have shown that orphanage care is associated with long-term psychological concerns. People & Power investigates the concept of "voluntourism" which is inadvertently doing more harm than good to Cambodian children, as well as the disturbing trend of exploitation by some companies that organise volunteers or run orphanages.
Talking about voluntourism: I totally missed the Al-Jazeera documentary on orphanage tourism in Camboadia when it came out in May and I'm glad Saundra Schimmelpfennig (re-)posted it!

UN tribunal finds ethics office failed to protect whistleblower
In its ruling last week, the UN dispute tribunal was scathing about the OIOS and the ethics office's performance. In particular, the judge Goolam Meeran upbraided the UN, "the principal agency promoting the observance of human rights norms and practices and respect for the rule of law", for having "condoned such humiliating and degrading treatment of a member of its own staff".
"I think this ruling could lead to the reopening of the claims of the other more than 200 whistleblowers who had their retaliation cases rejected, because there is a very good chance that these were turned down on the same specious grounds," Wasserstrom said. "They could be swamped by people coming forward."
Large (aid) organisations and whistleblowers...even in the 21st century the initial reactions are almost always the same: Deny, hide, go after the whistleblower, not those who may have misbehaved...

Anthony Shadid said to have blamed death on New York Times

Anthony Shadid, the Pulitzer prize-winning New York Times reporter who died in Syria this year, had heated arguments with his editors just prior to his final trip into the country, a cousin of Shadid's says, and told his wife that were he to die the New York Times would be to blame.
We may never be able to establish a definite 'truth' in this case, but the bigger issue here, and also relevant for aidworkers and humanitarian organisations, is how much you can and should demand from people operating in dangerous environments. If a Pulitzer-prize winning NYT journalist feels the pressure to 'deliver' ever more exciting news, I am left wondering how other professionals in other areas feel, if short-term contract, field credentials and operational survival are at stake.

Part 2: Understanding Illiberal Peacebuilding Models: Government Responses to Ending Mass Violence in Indonesia
An issue requiring further research is the question of which of these models produces the best long-term chances of securing peace. To date, Sri Lanka has achieved a highly illiberal but relatively stable peace; whereas Timor Leste’s peace is fragile and erratic, and persists only with Australia’s continued military presence. Is Indonesia somewhere in between these two? Furthermore, what are the consequences of these models for achieving other democratic goals at the local level, such as political reform and reduced corruption? Does one form of peace undermine another? These are some of the questions I will explore in my further research on endings to mass violence in Indonesia.

The internationally prescribed neo-liberal peacebuilding model is premised on the assumption that it presents the best prospects for ending violence. But post-war violence has escalated following the introduction of the neo-liberal peace in many countries, including Timor Leste. Illiberal methods may undermine democracy, but they may also reduce violence: a significant goal in a post-war setting.

Many questions remain: Are illiberal, or hybrid, peacebuilding models sometimes better at securing post-war peace, even at the cost of other liberal values? Under what conditions is this true? What are the costs of illiberal or hybrid peacebuilding models, and are they worth it? These questions lie at the heart of my wider research project on endings to mass violence in Indonesia.
Claire Smith's excellent post on Indonesia's conflicts and liberal/illiberal peacebuilding models is a great post on the highly recommended 'Reinventing Peace' blog hosted by Alex De Waal at the Fletcher School.

Mining Gold, Undermining Democracy
Neither foreign investors nor unelected tribunals deserve the power to trump democratically elected leaders.
A tribunal in Washington, D.C. that nobody elected recently issued a verdict that potentially hinders the democratic rights of millions of people. Its three members ruled that a foreign company may continue to sue El Salvador for not letting the company mine gold there. The impoverished Central American country could potentially be forced to pay a Canadian mining company called Pacific Rim $77 million or more in damages.
I'm sure Pacific Rim has a great Social Responsibility program...all cynical jokes aside: It's moments like this when multinational companies show their true face and how much they really care about host countries and/or democracy!

The Importance of Implementation Gaps

In most cases, the right place for an INGO is behind the scenes, supporting local civil society with funding, capacity building, access to information etc. Where civil society is particularly weak, INGOs may have to be more of an actor (as in the Vietnam case). I guess this is an example of what I meant when I wrote recently about the potential progressive interpretation of the political economists’ insistence on ‘going with the grain’ of local contexts, rather than seeking to impose outside blueprints.
Talking about organisations in Washington ;)...A very interesting post by Duncan Green.

Deflating the SOCCKET ball
To use Laura Freschi’s language when talking about the PlayPump, I suspect the SOCCKET will for a time “represent the triumph of bad but photogenic solutions in a broken aid marketplace” and be shown to be another “donor-pleasing, top-down solution that simply [doesn't] fit many of the target communities.” To use Owen Scott’s language when talking about the PlayPump, I think the SOCCKET illustrates well the “triumph of rich-country whimsy over poor-country relevance. It illustrates how standards, like basic cost-benefit analysis, that are routinely applied to public expenditure in developed countries, aren’t applied to our foreign aid spending.” It is the quintessential donor-driven development intervention. It is a solution dreamt up by innovators in the rich world, marketed and sold to donors in the rich world, and dumped into needy communities. Because it’s free, there’s no incentive for communities to even bring up the opportunity costs involved. I guess that’s where we, the snarky development bloggers come in.
'Staying for Tea' deflates the socket ball and manages, sort of in passing, to score many goals on the 'explaining the bigger picture' front, unmasking the emperor of donor-driven development. Love it!

Participatory Needs Assessment in Uganda
We expect to learn a great deal from our local partners through this assessment. We approach our new partners with respect, humility and a shared belief in the power of education. We recognize that learning is most powerful and beneficial when we appreciate the process itself. This respect for each other and for the process provides the foundation of participatory learning. We embark on this assessment trip equipped with these ideals and open minds. In short, we are here to learn.
DevEd prepares for a needs assessment in Uganda-and is transparent and reflective about the process right from the start.

New report: Who Cares? Challenges and opportunities in communicating distant suffering
Whereas the other reports focus on various aspects of how the public sees charity, development and foreign aid, the Polis report gives a window into the debates and challenges of those working in advocacy, marketing, campaigning, fundraising and communication departments at INGOs
The ‘Who Cares’ report notes in the conclusion that:

transparency, accountability, ‘value for money,’ and impact are becoming more important to the donor public

public trust is a central concern for NGOs in their work and their communications

the sector needs to assume more collective responsibility for ethically appropriate portrayal of disaster victims (eg, in compliance with Article 10 of the Red Cross Red Crescent Code of Conduct)

new technologies and competition mean that fundraisers are seeking supporters outside of their traditional constituencies

traditional gatekeepers of aid are being challenged by new media’s ability to put donors and ‘beneficiaries’ in more direct contact

As INGO institutional leadership space opens up to more people from ‘the global South’, diaspora communities grow, social media allows for commercials and fundraising appeals to reach global audiences (including people in the countries where INGOs implement their programs), attention is paid to the ‘new bottom billion‘ and new fundraising mechanisms arise (for example, INGOs raising funds within countries where they are implementing programs), it will be interesting to see how the conversations and approaches shift and change — or if they remain the same with new actors taking on the same challenges.
I haven't read the full report yet, but I am a bit skeptical about the speed and depths of change when it comes to marketing and development communication. Traditional media are still a primary resource to get information about 'development' (see my earlier post Influencing policy, or: Why nobody in Germany will be reading this about a study that Linda also mentions in her post) and the impact of social media to connect donors and beneficiaries is still small.
This year my experience of Holi was similarly marred by uncomfortable encounters with groups of young men. As a volunteer at Seva Mandir – a rural development NGO based in Southern Rajasthan – I decided to spend Holi in Udaipur city; a beautiful lakeside setting for the most picturesque event of the year. Around 10am I made my way through the unusually quiet streets, acquiring along the way half-ravaged bags of paint that had been lost in the throes of early-morning battle. Besides the odd gaggle of screaming young children, I couldn’t help but notice that there were no Indian women in sight and the majority of people out celebrating were young men. The only females I could spot were foreigners, like me. By mid-morning I had become more than uncomfortable with the large groups of young men parading around and asking for ‘hugs’, something which struck me as highly out of place in this part of India. Even with my boyfriend next to me, these groups managed to somehow distract and overpower me, copping a grope before running off smugly to join their roaming pack. It was during one encounter under a dimly-lit archway that we gave up on trying to enjoy Holi and learned to follow the example of Indian women by waiting indoors until the bhang-fuelled fervour had died down.
Interesting reflections from India on Holi, the changing culture around it and experiences from an expat woman.

Why women leave academia and why universities should be worried
Young women scientists leave academia in far greater numbers than men for three reasons. During their time as PhD candidates, large numbers of women conclude that (i) the characteristics of academic careers are unappealing, (ii) the impediments they will encounter are disproportionate, and (iii) the sacrifices they will have to make are great.
The article focuses on science subjects, but as many commentators point out, the gender issue is only one important aspect when too many qualified people fight over too few jobs...


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