Links & Contents I Liked 234

Hi all,

This is actually blog post #502!
Wow…and it’s actually still one of the fun parts of the work week :)

This week features a lot of international organizations-and mostly it’s not good news…

But my quote of the week comes from Clelia O. Rodríguez and it addresses many issues both in #globaldev and #highered:
The corridors of the hallways in the institution where I currently work embodies this faux-solidarity in posters about conferences, colloquiums, and trips in the Global South or about the Global South that cost an arm and a leg. As long as you have money to pay for your airfare, hotel, meals and transportation, you too could add two lines in the CV and speak about the new social movement and their radical strategies to dismantle the system. You too can participate in academic dialogues about poverty and labor rights as you pass by an undocumented cleaner who will make your bed while you go to the main conference room to talk about her struggles.

Development news: The debate around the 2 UN experts killed in Congo; the WHO is spending a lot of money on travel; the World Bank has an internal clash over language and writing culture; is the world ‘plundering’ Africa? Being young & unemployed in Sierra Leone.

Our digital lives:
Speech by New Orleans Mayor on confederate monuments and memory; smart slums: Good or bad? No ‘big bets’ for Hewlett foundation; big data & the distancing from politics.

NGOs in the 21 century; cities as humanitarian actors; emerging providers in #globaldev; 50 years of Asian Development Bank.

Fasting & fieldwork; academia, poverty & ‘intellectual masturbation’; academic engagement in the digital age.


Development news
For 2 Experts Killed in Congo, U.N. Provided Little Training and No Protection

The killings have also stirred a sharp debate over the United Nations’ responsibility to prepare and protect the people it hires to investigate wrongdoing around the world. Ms. Catalán and Mr. Sharp belonged to a panel of six experts authorized by the Security Council to investigate rapes, massacres and the exploitation of Congo’s vast natural resources.
Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura and Somini Sengupta for the New York Times with the piece that sparked a lot of discussions this week. The case is complicated-but among many other things it is a reminder that we project a lot on the UN system: Today we suggest 'health insurance for consultants'-and tomorrow there will be 'the UN system is wasting X million dollars on a cushy safety net for external experts' headline somewhere. And a lot of UN work is (still) actually dangerous, requires a lot of dedication and can quickly become a plaything for various political interests...

Families of 2 U.N. Investigators Slain in Congo Speak Out

There is abundant evidence that these murders were premeditated and that no amount of training could have altered the outcome.
No member of the United Nations Group of Experts on Congo had been killed before, and there was no reason to expect abduction or murder. For this reason, we are pressing the secretary general to appoint an independent international criminal investigation team to identify the perpetrators and their chain of command and to help ensure that those responsible face justice.
A letter from the families in response to the New York Times article.

Who is to blame for the murders of Michael and Zaida?

There is no doubt that the United Nations can do a much better job supporting the various groups of experts and panels that are in charge of monitoring the sanctions regimes (North Korea, Somalia/Eritrea, Sudan, Central African Republic, etc.). When I was coordinator of the DRC group in 2008, we never received any security or investigative training, we had to use our private Yahoo! and Gmail email addresses, and we didn’t have any analytical software to organize our notes or do network analysis.
On the other hand, the Times article takes some pot shots. Yes, we did not have health insurance––but the experts have the status of consultants and as consultants anywhere are expected to purchase their own health care, and all of the current members are insured. Yes, we did not have security escorts, but the UN peacekeeping mission in the Congo is perceived as a party to the conflict (they conduct joint operations with the Congolese army) and the experts would not be able to access many of the armed groups if they went with a UN escort. And yes, better training on many issues would be great, but the current members of the group of experts do have considerable experience and are not “woefully unprepared.”
Jason Stearns from The Congo Research Group at NYU

AP Exclusive: UN health agency slammed for high travel costs

WHO said Sunday that nearly 60 percent of its travel costs were spent on sending outside experts to affected countries and for national representatives to attend WHO meetings.
During the Ebola disaster in West Africa, WHO’s travel costs spiked to $234 million. Although experts say on-the-ground help was critical, some question whether the agency couldn’t have shaved its costs so more funds went to West Africa . The three countries that bore the brunt of the outbreak couldn’t even afford basics such as protective boots, gloves and soap for endangered medical workers.
Dr. Bruce Aylward, who directed WHO’s outbreak response, racked up nearly $400,000 in travel expenses during the Ebola crisis, sometimes flying by helicopter to visit clinics instead of traveling by jeep over muddy roads, according to trip reports he filed.
Maria Cheng for AP News with another story from inside the UN system. I am pretty sure that some managerial aspects can be improved-but the WHO also has a mandate to bring policy makers together or respond in crisis situations, balancing long-term and short-term goals of visibility, planning and being an inclusive global organization.

World Bank's Star Economist Is Sidelined in War Over Words

Romer asked for shorter emails and insisted presentations get straight to the point, cutting staff off if they talked too long, said another person familiar with the matter. He canceled a regular publication that didn’t have a clear purpose, one of the people said.
But researchers didn’t like the curt way Romer often conveyed his message, said two people familiar with the matter. Staff were upset by what they saw as his abrasive emails, and they didn’t feel Romer listened to their concerns, these people said. Researchers were flummoxed by some of his stylistic hangups, including a distaste for the conjunction “and.”
Romer was frustrated with what some see as the dense, convoluted style of many of the department’s reports. He pushed researchers to write more clearly, using the active voice to be more direct.
Andrew Mayeda for Bloomberg. And another international organization made it into the news this week! The world of words and discourses of economic writing at the Bank have become part of a leadership conflict-development research gold ;)!

World is plundering Africa's wealth of 'billions of dollars a year'
Forstater said: “There are 1.2 billion people in Africa. This report seems to view these people and their institutions as an inert bucket into which money is poured or stolen away, rather than as part of dynamic and growing economies. The $41bn headline they come up with needs to be put into context that the overall GDP of Africa is some $7.7tn. Economies do not grow by stockpiling inflows and preventing outflows but by enabling people to invest and learn, adapt technologies and access markets.
“Some of the issues that the report raises – such as illegal logging, fishing and the cost of adapting to climate change – are important, but adding together all apparent inflows and outflows is meaningless.”
Karen McVeigh for The Guardian with the piece that goes along with some of the tweets above.
The topic always ensure a good amount of sharing and traffic, but it is good to see Maya Forstater given space to challenge underlying research at the same time!

As More Aid Flows to Fragile States, a Call for a Better Approach

The findings show differences in general donor behavior in fragile and stable countries. Donors are more likely to provide aid through another organization in fragile states rather than directly, but are less likely to work jointly with other donors in fragile states. And fragile states receive less aid from multilateral donors, like the United Nations or World Bank, than stable states, but receive more “multi-bi” aid, a mechanism wherein individual donors can pool funds in a trust which are then administered by a multilateral agency.
Sreya Panunganti for New Security Beat with a slightly technical overview over how aid flows to fragile states.

A Young World - Sierra Leone

How do young people in Sierra Leone cope faced with staggering rates of youth unemployment of over 50%? Umaru Fofana talks to young people in the capital, Freetown, as they struggle to make a living.
Umaru Fofana for BBC World Service on one of the big issues around the world: Un- and under-employed young people who cannot simply entrepreneur their way into the labor market...

Ayahuasca Shaman Dreading Another Week Of Guiding Tech CEOs To Spiritual Oneness
“These days, I can’t even look at my calendar without cringing—it’s pretty much all tech execs,” said Salazar, adding that he had thought the developed world’s interest in the ayahuasca tea ceremony was generally a positive until it became his full-time job to provide celestial guidance to Bay Area venture capitalists and app founders who had learned about the practice through a Viceland special. “I believe this source of healing should be available to everyone, but lately it seems like the people I guide toward a vision of cosmic wholeness are all 32-year-old billionaires hoping to gain a deeper insight into their SEO strategy or whatever.”
Don't worry-this is literally from The Onion! :)

Our digital lives
Transcript of New Orleans Mayor Landrieu’s address on Confederate monuments

America was the place where nearly 4,000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined ‘separate but equal’; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp.
So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.
And it immediately begs the questions: why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame … all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans.
So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission.
Derek Cosson for The Pulse with a transcript of an outstanding speech by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Smart slums: utopian or dystopian vision of the future?

The smart slum is still a peripheral idea, but we can speculate on the likely impact of extending this ‘smartness’ to slums and make two competing claims. Firstly, that development professionals should be wary of smart slums repeating some of the negative impacts of ICT4D; and secondly, that a push for smart slums could be appropriated for social justice.
It may also be that sensors and smartness paradoxically limit citizenship rather than extending it, if citizens just participate by generating data and real resource decisions are made elsewhere. This is a dystopian version of smart slums as a way to subdue and control.
Dan McQuillan for Goldsmiths with interesting reflections on ICT4D, urban living and the challenges of connecting slums in the digital age.

Against “Big Bets”

The sort of philanthropy required to make progress on challenges like these is very nearly the opposite of that being pushed by big bet enthusiasts. It takes money, to be sure. But it also takes time and patience—a great deal of both, in fact—and a commitment of human as much as financial resources. It takes willingness to learn from others and to develop real partnerships with grantees, while hearing from (and listening to) intended beneficiaries.
It is not about pushing lots of cash out the door while looking for speedy results, but about becoming part of and helping to nurture an ecosystem of grantees, beneficiaries, and other funders whose efforts, cumulatively and over time, help make progress. It is about coming to understand a problem deeply, developing a thoughtful approach to address it, observing what happens, changing one’s understanding based on evidence and experience, and—most important—being willing, if need be, to take these same steps over and over again.
Larry Kramer for SSIR on why the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is not betting on 'big bets' investments.

Persuasion and the other thing: A critique of big data methodologies in politics

In political deployments of big data analytics and inferential modeling, what is at stake is the ability of the powerful to see and meaningfully engage with a consenting electorate. A claim could be made that if current trends continue, and big data psychographic methodologies become a primary means of electioneering and governance, actively attempting to reduce the effectiveness of that dataset would be an unethical move. But there are other ways for governments and campaigns to encounter their electorates, to figure out how best to represent their constituents. A town hall may have the potential to be messy, loud, and unpredictable, but it allows an encounter between the people and their elected representatives. Referendums on specific issues, given to the public for a direct vote, can’t reveal private information: your vote on medical marijuana legalization won’t reveal if you’re gay.
As a modern democracy, the US excels in developing new mechanisms to distance the individual from the power of their vote. Big data methodologies and the inferential analytics they power as deployed in elections present yet another move to push people, in all their loud, messy, demanding changeability, out of politics. But unlike gerrymandering or the electoral college, this move can be actively resisted on the individual level.
Molly Sauter for Ethnography Matters with a long essay that rightfully demands the reader's attention. She provides some excellent links between the superficial 'companies are manipulating elections online' claims and broader reflections on how such processes further distance people from politics.

Hot off the digital press

NGOs in the 21st Century - The Opportunities Presented by Digitalization and Globalization

The question is whether current organizations and structures that are called to solve these gigantic tasks are truly equipped to do so, or whether it might be necessary to restructure them. Why is this vitally important?
- In charitable organizations, “business models” based on donations are often no longer competitive and are thus no longer viable.
- In recent years, while many organizations have rapidly grown and have often multiplied their “business volume,” their capacity has not kept pace, nor have they been able to keep up with the trends of digitalization and networking.
- Internal / external reporting and evaluation systems designed to meet the requirements of financial institutions have ballooned into administrational “monsters” – with many organizations now expending more energy on producing reports than on fulfilling their mission statements and thus impacting the world around them.
Successfully transforming NGOs to meet the needs of the 21st century means developing up-to-date and cooperative networks, adopting the Internet-of-things (IoT) as a concept, enabling decentralized and direct collaboration with units of competence, and developing synergies with partners.
Daniel Emmrich and Kilian Kleinschmidt with a new report for Wieselhuber Consulting.

Cities as Humanitarian Actors in Contexts of Displacement

Taking a range of examples from across the world, this report will examine how new arrivals are received and integrated into cities within formal and informal spaces; how cities address everyday issues relating to housing and shelter, health and education; how urban citizens build socio-cultural communities of solidarity in periods of uncertainty and transition; and the role of civil society in these processes to support and engage with displaced populations. It examines the idea of cities as humanitarian actors, highlighting good practices and initiatives in different urban contexts that address current humanitarian challenges relating to migration and forced displacement.
Megha Amrit for the UNU Institute of Globalization, Culture and Mobility.

Emerging providers’ international co-operation for development

This paper shows that development co-operation from emerging providers – i.e. countries beyond the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) – significantly increased in recent years, reaching 17% of total global development co-operation in 2014. It also presents a rough estimate, of USD 300 billion, of broader international co-operation by emerging providers and it sets out what types of instruments are used to provide this broader international co-operation.
Julia Benn and Willem Luijkx for the OECD. For some inexplicable reason there is a smiley face next to the title on the official OECD page...

Banking on the Future of Asia and the Pacific: 50 Years of the Asian Development Bank

Focusing on the region’s economic development, the evolution of the international development agenda, and the story of ADB itself, Banking on the Future of Asia and the Pacific raises several key questions: What are the outstanding features of regional development to which ADB had to respond? How has the bank grown and evolved in changing circumstances? How did ADB’s successive leaders promote reforms while preserving continuity with the efforts of their predecessors?
The ADB celebrates its 50th anniversary with this new official publication.


The Fast and The Curious

Can I justify eating or drinking during Ramadan to protect the integrity of my research process? Will this make me a lesser Muslim? Maybe. Probably. To most — definitely.
I struggle with how to reconcile these thoughts in my head. The goal of my work is to uncover hidden truths, latent needs, and undiscovered barriers that percolate through people’s lives. But I can only do that work if I’m perceived as neutral, objective, and unassuming — or at the very least, worthy of trust and respect.
I choose to abide by the things I admire about my faith and that align with my values. Fasting, at its core, is about understanding those who have to live day in and day out on an empty stomach. And the ultimate goal of my research is aligned to that same goal — of understanding how people live, think, and survive. This is my workaround. It is not the neatest workaround. But if my ultimate goal is understanding, for that I can choose to eat.
As Ramadan is about to start Sarah Fathallah shares her reflections on academic fieldwork under the conditions of fasting and cultural expectations of food and drink.

How academia uses poverty, oppression, and pain for intellectual masturbation

The corridors of the hallways in the institution where I currently work embodies this faux-solidarity in posters about conferences, colloquiums, and trips in the Global South or about the Global South that cost an arm and a leg. As long as you have money to pay for your airfare, hotel, meals and transportation, you too could add two lines in the CV and speak about the new social movement and their radical strategies to dismantle the system. You too can participate in academic dialogues about poverty and labor rights as you pass by an undocumented cleaner who will make your bed while you go to the main conference room to talk about her struggles.
Clelia O. Rodríguez for RaceBaitR with excellent food for thought on privilege, neoliberalism and existing in academia.

Rules of engagement: seven lessons from communicating above and below the line

So it can work. Productive engagement online is possible. But be acutely aware of the many pitfalls and pratfalls that can befall you, not least those listed above. To engage as productively as possible, follow Wendig’s advice and regularly tend to those weeds.
And don’t be surprised if many of those who publicly “critique” your efforts don’t even read past the title of your post/video/article before they vent their spleen. You’ll find that nothing is quite as irritating as those who want to engage without engaging.
Philip Moriarty for LSE Impact Blog on academic engagement in the digital age.


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