Links & Contents I Liked 225

Hi all,

Long week, but lots to read for you over the weekend ;)!

Development news:
US peacekeeping cuts; celebrities helping Somalia; celebrities (different ones…) romanticizing poverty; localizing aid in Syria; gold mine misery in Liberia; India’s suicides; where did the HONY money go in Pakistan? ICT4D in Nepal; teachers, refugees and mobile phones; talking back to Gates.

Our digital lives:
Karen Attiah and diversity; romanticizing the gig economy.

Publications: Besieged universities in Egypt, aid data graveyards (and how to avoid them…). 

Academia: Time-sucking job applications; breaking the shackles of medical journal publishing.


New from aidnography
Academic conferences as neoliberal commodities (book review)

Nicolson’s book is a short new book that addresses one of the favorite academic products researchers love to hate.
As academic conferences have both been an aspect of my research and my blogging, I want to take this opportunity to add a few aspects from my ethnographic and media and communication background.
Development news
Trump Administration Eyes $1 Billion in Cuts to U.N. Peacekeeping

The paper, which was reviewed by Foreign Policy, urged Security Council members to “consider whether current peacekeeping operations continue to be the best-suited mechanisms for meeting the need of those on the ground and achieving the council’s political objectives, or if changes are needed. That is, are current missions ‘still fit for purpose’?”
The proposed U.N. cuts, which were drafted by the White House Office of Budget and Management, show that the Trump administration is seeking far deeper cuts to the U.N. in the international affairs budget than to the State Department or USAID. Last week, the White House released a preliminary budget projection — known as the skinny budget — that called for cuts of 28 percent to international organizations in the 2018 budget.
Colum Lynch for Foreign Policy with more bad news from the US.

Why there’s no need to panic on UN peacekeeping cuts

Some Security Council diplomats say there is room to make missions work better, and that could mean some cuts in funding – though such efforts may now be associated with the White House, where top officials have shown contempt for the UN as an institution. "There is an opportunity to have a tougher approach with the UN on where they spend their money, using money as an incentive for reform,” insisted one non-American Security Council diplomat. If the US approves deep funding cuts without a parallel re-assessment at the UN, diplomats may be less sympathetic.
US reviews of peacekeeping missions, noted de Coning, “will probably prompt the UN Secretariat to also do its own internal reviews, and other member states, especially those in the Security Council, will also need to form their own opinions, and have a basis for doing so.”
“This is not necessarily a bad thing. It is always good to be under pressure to review your goals, objectives, effectiveness, and efficiencies,” he added. “The proposed cut to 25 percent will be politically symbolically important for the US, but the real reduction in costs would come from pressure to bring down the overall $8 billion budget.”
Samuel Oakford for IRIN with more details on the proposed American peacekeeping budget cuts and a reminder that these things are, well, complicated and tend to take more time than some politicians hopefully staying in office...

Social Media Star Has A 'Crazy Idea' To Help Somalia

And the specialists are glad to hear about the campaign's change of plans: "More and more as opposed to flying in goods, we're looking for local areas" to get food, said Paul Spiegel, a professor and the director of the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response at Johns Hopkins. What's more, transport by truck is less costly than by plane and so would be a better long-term model if the Love Army campaign continues.
But the source of the food is just one issue. There's also the matter of protecting food before it is handed out so it isn't looted, says Challiss McDonough, a World Food Programme senior regional spokesperson based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Natalie Jacewicz for NPR Goats and Soda with another 'celebrities trying to save the world' story from the social media age; while some learning and reflection seems to be going on, there's a strong risk that this will end up as yet another celebrity-saving-Africa story-just this time new celebrities replace Sean Penn, George Clooney and Madonna...

Kim Kardashian And ‘Poor-nography’: The Dangers Of Celebrities Romanticizing Poverty

The glorification of poverty is intrinsic to the wider perception that this generation’s trendmakers have never actually endured any kind of palpable struggle. Taylor Swift’s girl squad and the Kardashian family’s Instagram photos are too clean and neat, and all celebrities can do to earn “authenticity” is to co-opt the visual signifiers of struggle — a yellow stained wall, blurry photos, ripped jeans and dirty hair. Essentially, the socioeconomic barriers that preclude people like Kardashian from being viewed as “genuine” or “empathetic” can’t be dismantled. The best she and her peers can do is to attempt to appear like the every person.But the rich acting poor isn’t emulation or flattery. Indeed, the aesthetic Kardashian is glamorizing is a daily reality for many — often born out of cyclical patterns of institutional bias, social stigma, cultural abuse, and a whole system that is rigged to ensure that those poor stay poor, while the rich jealously guard their privilege.
Kat George for The Establishment with an excellent essay on celebrity, poverty and false empathy-obviously very much at the heart of any celebrity #globaldev engagement!

Aid Inside Syria: Time to Go Small in a Bigger Way

As a result of their ability to enter places that were off-limits to non-Syrian organizations -- including besieged and hard-to-reach areas —these Syrian groups were often taken on by the UN agencies and INGOs as partners that would do the actual delivery of goods and services and implementation of programs. With very few exceptions, these groups could not receive funding directly from international donors or the United Nations because they did not have the organizational and operational history that would make them eligible. In fact, for the first several years of the conflict, many of these groups survived primarily on private donations from their own networks, which allowed them to deliver aid to locations that the bigger groups could not reach.
These operational Syrian groups were--and still are—taking on risks to life and limb in order to provide assistance to their own communities. They are daily witnesses to events inside Syria and to the humanitarian needs of the people they serve. But for several years, few international partners engaged with these groups as a way to learn about what was happening on the ground within Syria on a daily basis. Instead, INGOs often demanded the implementation of projects that donors insisted upon but that were not always useful to the population they purported to help.
Daryl Grisgraber for Refugees International with insights on what 'localization' and 'working on the ground' really means for Syrian NGOs and the 'international (donor) community.

How a gold mine has brought only misery in Liberia
It’s difficult to pin responsibility for the mine’s failures on any individual because it’s hard to identify the successive true owners of New Liberty Gold. Aureus is part of a long list of shell companies named in the Panama Papers leak, many of them registered in opaque jurisdictions.
Emmanuel Freudenthal and Alloycious David for IRIN with a case study on how tax evasion and offshore legislation ultimately hurts vulnerable people and that international organizations cannot and probably do not want to do much about it when the 'resource curse' strikes yet again...

Why A Rich, Orderly Himalayan State Has India’s Highest Suicide Rate

While there are similarities between Sikkim and other states with high suicide rates and drug abuse, said Nancy Palmu Chankapa, a clinical psychologist in Gangtok, stressing it wasn’t possible, yet, to pin a single reason for the state’s high suicide rate. Several cases that she has dealt with have been related to family problems, alcohol abuse, mental illness, and extra-marital affairs. My investigations–focussed on the link between drug abuse and suicide–across South and East Sikkim districts show that suicide and drug abuse were indeed linked.
Sarita Santoshini for India Spend with an important reminder that 'first world problems' and lifestyle changes in emerging economies are global issues with complex local impacts.

Remember Pakistan’s ‘Harriet Tubman’ who got $2.3 million from Humans of New York? This is what she has done with it

Brandon Stanton, as well as all the donors who donated this money, had placed their absolute trust in this NGO as well as “Pakistan’s Harriet Tubman”, Syeda Ghulam Fatima. It would be a tragedy if it turns out that they have betrayed this trust.
In Pakistan, NGOs receive hefty donations with little or no oversight, with the result that very few projects exist beyond documents and photographs. Neither the government nor the press follows up on these grand projects, and foreign donors are shown lengthy but misleading reports or fabricated photos, in attempts to satisfy them. When some donors insist, they are fobbed off with excuses of “security situation”, and those who swindle these foreign donors are easily let off the hook. It is shameful that, despite the best of intentions, a great campaign and a huge fundraiser, HONY has been unable to put a dent in the slavery situation in Pakistan.
Hamza Rao for Daily Pakistan follows up on the fundraising campaign for one of the projects in Pakistan featured by Humans in New York. As we always say in #globaldev: It's complicated...

NGOs in Kathmandu and Mountain Cell Towers in Ramechhap: ICT4D Projects in Nepal

We saw cell towers high in the mountain passes ostensibly to facilitate the overseas remittances that these communities so depend on, but also facilitating digital communication amongst the villages themselves. Although the gender digital divide in Nepal is high (as it is throughout most of South Asia), there is a urban/rural divide at work there: women in Kathmandu are much more likely to own and use a phone regularly than those in the rural districts of Ramechhap, for example.
But the economic situation has potentially paved the way for an educational or development one. These remittances have fostered greater infrastructure investment for mobile, which in turn can be used to create entrepreneurial activities, educational opportunities and more. Some went so far as to make mobile repair the focus of their efforts creating women entrepreneurs along the way. The point is ultimately that if we can spot these underlying developments in other fields (remittances and finance, for example), we should be able to track a parallel path to some sort of development opportunity as well.
Michael Gallagher for Panoply Digital shares impressions from recent ICT4D work in Nepal.

How teachers use mobile phones as education tools in refugee camps

Teachers of refugees demonstrate the fine and crucial balance between actively harnessing innovative technology to support refugee education and leveraging what is already in use in refugee communities. In particular, our research finds that relationships are at the core of how teachers of refugees use technology for support both in and out of the classrooms. Teachers for Teachers is an exciting new model that reflects this idea. Peer supported learning and a mobile mentoring component of the program assist teachers in Kakuma to strengthen their relationships among teacher cohorts locally and to expand their relationships globally; these networks offer an exchange of experiences to develop new pedagogies and approaches to curriculum in multicultural and transnational refugee settings.
Sarah Dryden-Peterson, Negin Dahya, and Dacia Douhaibi for Brookings with a detailed assessment of mobile phones as teaching tools.

Gates Foundation’s rose-colored world view not supported by evidence

The letter focuses so unwaveringly on foreign aid that you’d be forgiven for believing that charity is all that’s needed to address poverty. We hear nothing of the systemic forces that drive poverty and inequality in the first place, such as – to name just two relevant examples – tax evasion and avoidance, and intellectual property rights.
Martin Kirk and Jason Hickel for Humanosphere with some feedback to Bill Gates and the Gates foundation.

Our digital lives

Karen Attiah Is the ‘Warrior of Diversity’ Channeling Journalism Into Activism

Though Attiah says that sometimes it can be toxic to be a women of color in online news (because internet trolls), as a mentor, she still encourages young women from the continent and diaspora to assume the role of “warriors for diversity” in the global media landscape. For her, it comes down to this, “It’s my purpose and who else is going to counter that flat, one-dimensional narrative that I don’t like?”
Eunice Onwona for okayafrica. Many years ago I responded to one of Karen's blog posts about development graduate studies and the role of criticism and I have been following her great writing since!

The Gig Economy Celebrates Working Yourself to Death

A Fiverr press release about “In Doers We Trust” states, “The campaign positions Fiverr to seize today’s emerging zeitgeist of entrepreneurial flexibility, rapid experimentation, and doing more with less. It pushes against bureaucratic overthinking, analysis-paralysis, and excessive whiteboarding.” This is the jargon through which the essentially cannibalistic nature of the gig economy is dressed up as an aesthetic. No one wants to eat coffee for lunch or go on a bender of sleep deprivation—or answer a call from a client while having sex, as recommended in the video. It’s a stretch to feel cheerful at all about the Fiverr marketplace, perusing the thousands of listings of people who will record any song, make any happy-birthday video, or design any book cover for five dollars. I’d guess that plenty of the people who advertise services on Fiverr would accept some “whiteboarding” in exchange for employer-sponsored health insurance.
Jia Tolentino for the New Yorker with yet another reminder about the detrimental side effects of the gig economy and platform capitalism.

Hot off the digital press

Besieged Universities: on student rights in Egyptian public universities post 2013

The report titled “Besieged Universities: A Report on the Rights and Freedoms of Students in Egyptian Universities from the Academic Years 2013-2014 to 2015-2016”, documents and analyses cases of violations that pertain to students’ right to assembly, organisation, education and freedom of expression. We were able to monitor legislative and security violations committed by the Egyptian state, as well as administrative violations committed by university administrations in the form of disciplinary sanctions against students.
Additionally, the report analyses the effect such violations had and continues to have on the Egyptian student movement.
New report from The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, AFTE, jointly published with the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund, SAIH (the good people from the Rusty Radiator award...).

Avoiding Data Graveyards: Insights from Data Producers & Users in Three Countries

Using a theory of change, we identify nine barriers to the use of data and corresponding operating principles for funders and producers to make demand-driven investments in the next generation of development data and statistics.
Samantha Custer and Tanya Sethi for AidData with a new report.

Time-sucking academic job applications don't know enormity of what they ask

These requests are now not just part of tenure-track job ads, but applications for visiting assistant professorships, postdoctoral fellowships, and (gasp) sessional positions. When search committees ask for more documents -- for more time-consuming, carefully constructed, well-proofread expressions of one's commitment to the academy -- they are asking for more unpaid, unseen academic labour that yet again falls more heavily on those already bearing the burden of disability, responsibility and precarity.
Alana Cattapan for The Rabble. The piece is written from the perspective of contingent faculty who have to put in a lot of free/unpaid time to apply for positions. But applying for any academic 'thing' (job, fellowship, grant,...) is time-consuming and tiresome. It usually starts with the fact that no one accepts a CV, but only their own forms.
I also wonder what the purpose is to ask 100+ applicants to submit syllabi right away-do committees simply use this as a cheap opportunity to source material for their own syllabi? Do they even read them? Why not ask short-listed candidates only for a full application (my guess in North America: Overly bureaucratic HR is afraid of lawsuits...)? Especially for teaching "gigs", you probably only need a CV and a good Skype call to figure out whether a candidate can teach the course...

The shackles of scientific journals

Finally, science needs to stop relying so much on journal publication as the only recognised credential for researchers and the only path to career progression. Tools exist that report how often a preprint has been viewed, for example, or whether a clinical data set has been cited in guidelines for doctors. A handful of firms are using artificial intelligence to assess the scientific importance of research, irrespective of how it has been disseminated. Such approaches need encouragement. Journals may lose out, but science itself will benefit.
The Economist discusses changes in (medical) journal publishing and argues for an end of the journal impact factor fetishism.

In other news, Elsevier desperately tries to defend its business follow...explore the #acrl2017 hashtag for more discussion around open access publishing


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