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Hello all,

My own reflections on 'posh white blokes' in development kick off this week's review. But there is more, of course: On inequality & the World Bank, the new modern slavery index, slow peacebuilding & high housing prices in Nepal, Female Engagement Teams in Afghanistan (sigh...), talking to/with armed groups, gold smuggling in DRC, young girls & ICT, poor multinationals that need to kick out smallholder farmers & development-relevant reflections from Teaching for America; plus something on MOOCs along the lines of 'you have to spend money, to maybe save money later'...


New on aidnography
You (They) wanted an aid industry – you (they) got posh white blokes
So academia, journalism and the start-up sector - all under different pressures to perform well in the capitalist market place - are having similar problems that the current state of continuous transformations favors posh white professors, bloggers and IT gurus. And then there are those well-known debates about women and leadership in the ‘normal’ corporate sector, of course.
In my short post I will argue that ‘posh white blokes’ in development are an integral part of the move towards a more ‘professional’ aid industry, that PWBs come in many different shapes, sizes and colors and that development may be able to overcome some of the challenges as more middle-class diverse people are entering the industry.

World Development Report 2014: something old, new, borrowed and blue
There are areas of analysis, context and recommendations conspicuous by their absence however. For example, despite highlighting dynamic risk contexts there is precious little analysis of the future. Maybe the report team felt others had cornered this industry – McKinsey or the World Economic Forum for example – but, for the World Bank, an organisation so publicly focused on ending extreme poverty by 2030 and tacking climate change and disaster risks, this missing context and perspective is strange. Also, the excellent set of recommendations is rather light on prescriptions for the international community, mentioning risk sharing between countries and creation of ‘coalitions of the willing’ to tackle climate change, but entirely ignoring the post-2015 development goals. In this regard, I would have expected a clear recommendation that a goal on ending poverty by 2030 should include a set of targets on reducing risks, building resilience and minimising the drivers of impoverishment.
Leaving any discourse to McKinsey or the WEF is not a great idea-but that's rather a side-note. Tom Mitchell's overview is actually the first piece that I have come across on the latest Bank report-but then again, the official European launch date is in late November...

Why is the World Bank not walking their talk on inequality?
Talking about “Shared prosperity” is a big step for progress for the Bank, but it is not enough - just as pro-poor growth was not enough. Time and time again we have heard the story of all boats rising , but time and time again, the vessels of the poorest are left behind. The World Bank has provided solid analysis on why inequality is a massive development problem. So, why is the Bank reluctant to include inequality reduction as an objective? They know the facts and the arguments in favor of tackling growing disparities – they frequently generate them. It is time for the World Bank to go the final step and make the reduction of inequality an explicit goal.
Rising inequality is a growing problem-in the US and many parts of Europe as much as in the BRICS and developing countries. Obviously the Bank does not want to get involved in any ideological debate and is unlikely to 'walk the talk'...

Thirty million people worldwide living in 'modern slavery,' says new study
“A lot of governments won't like hearing what we have to say,” WFF chief executive Nick Grono told the French news agency Agence France-Presse.
“Those governments that want to engage with us, we will be very open to engaging and looking at ways in which we can better measure the issue of modern slavery.”
The report said the west-African nation of Mauritania had around 150,000 people living as slaves, out of a population of just 3.8 million.
In terms of proportionate rates, Haiti came second – with around one in 10 children used for child labour in an exploitative system.
Pakistan came third – in both the proportionate and total rankings – with 1.8 million people forced into bonded labour, out of a total 2.1 million people in slavery.
The new Global Slavery Ranking was published today. Interesting and relevant debate-plus Nick Grono from the Walk Free Foundation is a really good guy ;)!

Inclusive peacebuilding in Nepal: challenges and opportunities
Criticism of the role of NGOs and donors in the peacebuilding process in Nepal is widespread, including:
Most of the training and workshops are conducted in the capital, Kathmandu, and regional and district headquarters, and not at the all-important local level. Often the participants at these events are also the same set of people. Very few of these events are attended by the people who need it the most, from local communities;
Whilst a lot of money has been spent on peacebuilding training, advocacy, and campaigning, very little funding has gone to those most in need in conflict-affected areas and communities;
Very few medium and long-term peacebuilding initiatives have been implemented that can contribute to the socio-economic upliftment of victims of the violence, and;
Implementation of peacebuilding projects has been plagued by numerous cases of duplication and overlapping with regard to funding
Interesting-but also sad as this is a reality that I discussed in my PhD research based on the immediate post-conflict hype of 2006...'

High housing prices in Kathmandu (most can’t afford)
This is beyond the reach of most of the Nepalese people. The existing demand and price is likely fueled by easy bank credits to developers and prospective buyers. The prices are unsustainable and a further downward correction is warranted to ensure that the prices set during the ‘bubble’ time are not persistently sticky at a high level even during the slowdown in this particular sector. Hopes of rebounding of the real estate and housing prices, which are still high even after about 30% reduction from its peak level around 2010, are not reasonable as this point of time. A majority of Nepalese still cannot afford housing and apartment units prices beyond their lifetime income.
Chandan Sapkota on the housing bubble in Kathmandu-partly fueled by the post-conflict centralisation and 'development' boom...

What’s Wrong with FETs? Thoughts from Gendering Global Conflict
So what does that have to do with FETs? It means that FETs are not just a poorly calculated decision by people who do not understand gender politics. In fact, given the gender norms under which the US military operates, they might even be a well-calculated decision by people who understand how gender politics play out “on the ground.” Looking for the problems with FETs in the decision to make and deploy them, I argue, is short-sighted. All of the inaccurate assumptions about sex, gender, and war that go into that decision were always and already present in the militarist structure of the American state – and its not just the US.
That is why, whether it is the deployment of FETs or the phenomena of wartime rape, it is important to see the operation of gender norms and gender subordination in the logics of war, as well as in its practices.
Laura Sjoberg on the U.S. militaries Female Engagement Teams (FETs) in Afghanistan which are, how unsurprising (!), a bad idea. The logic and power of the military industrial complex are not suitable for any really critical engagement-regardless of how you dress up the 'conflict-sensitivity'.

Engaging armed groups: challenging preconceptions and expanding options
The internal dynamics of non-state armed groups are complex, and members may have differing and contradictory motives. Governments tend to lack in-house expertise in this area and, as a result, the official range of tools and options for engagement is limited.
Employing monetary incentives to encourage groups to turn away from violence is of questionable benefit as, rather than shifting positions, this can inspire cynicism and rent seeking in an armed group and offer a temporary fix rather than address an underlying issue.
The adoption of internal ‘good practice’ to guide official government approaches to engaging armed groups is therefore essential. Decisions – be they to arm, proscribe or engage – must be based at the very least on a full understanding of the realities of the conflict dynamics and the range of perspectives of actors within a conflict system.
Balanced reflections by Teresa Dumasy on the challenges of engaging with armed groups.

Gold to Bullets: How Armed Groups Profit from Gold Trafficking in Eastern Congo
According to The Enough Project, this transformed the area controlled by the M23 into a gold trading hub from where Ntaganda managed exports to neighboring Uganda and Burundi. In total, the advocacy group estimates that around $500 million worth of gold are now illegally exported from Eastern Congo by the M23 and other armed groups every year. Not bad for a small-time rebel group.
But Ntaganda wasn’t able to enjoy these profits for long.
Peter Dörrie on how conflict and valuable commodities are still very much linked in Congo and its neighboring countries.

Is there proof that “people talking to people” yields tangible results?
But thousands of people in aid recipient societies have said they need “both better information from and better communication with” those providing assistance. Too many times local people on the receiving end of these systems are not well informed and consequently “feel sidelined and are left with questions, suspicions, and disappointed expectations.”
Time to Listen, the book gathering the cumulative evidence from people living in societies that are recipients of international aid, closes with a question, and a challenge, “Can a field of change agents change itself”.
The problem is that the answer to the rhetorical (?) question that the post asked is a flat-out 'NO!'. I'm certainly not against the 'people talking to people' approach but you also need to think very carefully on how to frame it so that you don't sety yourself up for 'failure' when the outside evaluators come in. Big challenge, no simple answer.

Integrating ICTs into Communication for Development programs with adolescent girls
Social, cultural, economic and political traditions and systems that prevent girls, especially the most marginalized, from fully achieving their rights present a formidable challenge to development organizations. The integration of new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to the Communication for Development (C4D) toolbox offers an additional means for challenging unequal power relations and increasing participation of marginalized girls in social transformation.
Great new UNICEF paper by Linda Raftree and Keshet Bachan!

Push for traceable supply chains threatens smallholder farmers
It was fascinating. A constant theme from those on the corporate side was that they were often lone voices within their companies, and that they felt poorly armed. They badly needed case studies, data and “simple effective story telling” to take to their CEOs. But few among those NGOs who knew about the problems were willing to make the case for sustainability, and being good neighbours and employers, in ways that would work with corporate bosses and their investors.
Too many pitches from NGOs sounded to CEOs like “communism or new-age stuff,” said finance analyst Lou Munden. “Corporations need to be told about the risks of ignoring land rights in terms that they understand,” he said, “because in this day and age, no land is empty.”
So here we are into the world of perverse incentives. To achieve “100 per cent traceability” Unilever has decided to cut the number of smallholder farmers who supply its palm oil – by 80 per cent, according to Gavin Neath, senior vice-president for sustainability. He told a conference in London earlier this year that it was “a cull… to ensure standards”. It was not he said, that the smallholders were bad guys, but that for a large corporation they were untraceable and therefore a risk.
Klintworth admitted that the rest was “a trade-off” in which social concerns lost out to environmental ones. The result is a greater reliance on large palm oil plantations and a further turn of the land grabbing screw – all in the name of green ethics.
Oh, those poor multi-national companies! First, any educated person nowadays knows that NGOs rarely talk 'communism' and 'new age' stuff. If that's what you hear, you are just lazy! Second, poor Unilever doesn't necessarily cut the numbers of smallholder farmers. They could work on a system to ensure that they comply with standards...alas, this may mean extra time, extra work, extra effort-and potentially slightly smaller profits-so better not to start change in the first place!

I Almost Quit Teach for America
To sum up, I got lucky. Completing my two years of teaching depended on a lot of factors outside my control. If I hadn’t clicked so quickly and easily with my fellow teachers, if I’d been assigned elementary school math instead of high-school English, if I’d signed up for different professional development classes, I might not have made it through. I think the same was true for a lot of my fellow teachers: They joined Teach for America because they wanted to make a difference, but what sustained them through the two years were less lofty, more idiosyncratic satisfactions: coaching baseball, living in a beautiful house, tutoring a particularly endearing student, going out for Mexican food every Friday night with the other teachers in the area.
As for me, my time with Teach for America changed my life. It opened my eyes to the racism and inequality that persists in America. It made me a better journalist, by showing me how to connect with an audience and present important information accessibly without dumbing it down. But the most painful, crucial lesson I learned in my two years was a deep sense of my own limitations. Being well educated and well intentioned do not guarantee success in life. I am capable of repeated failure. And I cannot weather hardship without a tremendous amount of help.
Fair and balanced reflections on challenges of teaching in the U.S. with good points about self-care, learning and life outside the classroom.

Should Academics Write for Free?
Academics entering the media world tend to move from one exploitative arena (low-wage academic work) to another (unpaid freelance writing). But writing must never be an act of charity to a corporation. Ask for what you are worth—and do not accept that you are worth nothing. Insisting on payment for your labor is not a sign of entitlement. It is a right to which you are entitled.
Sarah Kendzior makes some very good points why academics should not write for free for for-profit outlets. I agree with her in principle, but the problem is that most academic writing happens for for-profit entities-be they journal or book publishers, mainstream news media or even the social media platforms they use. And there is definitely a prestige factor involved-even seasoned academic veterans get excited about a quote in the NYT or Economist or a piece published in the WaPo-so it will be difficult to break these structures like most other academic traditions...

Report by Faculty Group Questions Savings From MOOCs
“The bottom line for students? The push for more online courses has not made higher education cheaper for them. The promise has always been that it will—but that day always seems to be in the future,” the paper says.
MOOCs may also cost colleges money, the paper says, citing an agreement between Udacity and the Georgia Institute of Technology to offer an online master’s degree in computer science.
This report is written by a faculty lobby group, but the debate on MOOCs, higher education and cost has only begun..


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