Links & Contents I Liked 235

Hi all,

We are currently examining and discussing about 20 excellent MA thesis projects which is always a great way to wrap up the teaching term!
I wish I had a bit more time for blogging these days, but at least there are some great readings to explore this Friday!

Development news: Is the World Bank in trouble? Collecting data in India; Humanitarians at the WEF; Sri Lankan peacekeeping scandal; new film on the ‘madness’ of war in Sri Lanka; bad health clinics hurt developing countries; would Haiti be better off without aid? A rare insight into Eritrea’s political leadership; Timorese migrant workers in Northern Ireland; Digital India is no place for women; the world’s most watched soap; the boy & the starfish-a tale about #globaldev; alternatives to growth; the pdf graveyard; long-read on photography & conflict; the privatization of US armed forces; Bono visits an old pal.

Our digital lives: Creating a ‘social enterprise’-it’s complicated; precarity as freedom in Japan.

Publications: Changing social norms, attitudes & behaviors; Africa’s youth employment challenge.

Political science journals are biased against women; cancer, care & hope-a medical ethnography of a Tanzanian hospital.


Development news

The World Bank Has Bigger Problems Than Bad Writing

From an outside perspective, it certainly looks as if the World Bank is an institution in need of great change. And the problem goes far beyond poor communication.
Morris and Gleave suggest a number of other roles the Bank could step into, including disease response, funding scientific research, making municipal loans or simply acting as a think tank. But this isn’t very encouraging -- it paints the picture of an organization shambling onward out of sheer momentum, an expensive bureaucracy looking for a purpose.
Noah Smith for Bloomberg continues last week's debate about trouble at the Bank...but predicting the end of the World Bank is a bit like betting on an end of expat-driven aid work: It's unlikely to happen any time soon!

India’s ‘successful’ toilet campaign may be missing its mark

“Looking at the list, we found a large number of duplicate entries – so the same household being mentioned multiple times,” Avani Kapur, Accountability Initiative’s lead researcher in public finance, told Humanosphere. “We also found households and even villages misclassified – a household that’s supposedly in this village is actually in another village.”
Because the reporting system is bottom-up – households reporting to local leaders, who report to national ministries – Accountability Initiative found a “big disconnect” between the number of villages that have been declared open-defecation free and those that have been verified as such.
Joanne Lu for Humanosphere with yet another reminder of how difficult it (still) is to collect reliable data on a large scale in developing countries. We often tend to overestimate the quality of data, collection tools and analysis.

Princes and bankers and aid! Oh my!

She agreed there’s an argument for humanitarians having a seat at the table where the power brokers are – including those who play a part in causing the crises. However, her concern is that major international NGOs “are not really there to shine a light on the political deadlock and how it is negatively impacting the humanitarian situation, and it just becomes hobnobbing with the elites. It doesn’t become a space where we are the conscience of what’s happening.”
Far from “holding power accountable”, she worries that nobody is even discussing how to prevent protracted crises from starting in the first place.
Annie Slemrod for IRIN with a piece on humanitarian participation at the WEF-which highlights some broader questions of how the humanitarians can 'speak truth to power'...

UN Peacekeepers: How a Haiti child sex ring was whitewashed

The alleged abuses committed by its troops abroad stem from a culture of impunity that arose during Sri Lanka's civil war and has seeped into its peacekeeping missions. The government has consistently refused calls for independent investigations into its generation-long civil war, marked by widespread reports of rape camps, torture, mass killings and other alleged war crimes by its troops.
Katy Daigle & Paisley Dodds continue AP's closer look at UN peacekeeping operations and how impunity 'at home' is damaging peacekeeping missions abroad.

Film breaks silence on ‘madness’ of Sri Lanka civil war

Demons in Paradise, which is premiering at the Cannes film festival, tells of the bloodbath that drove some Tamils to take up arms in the three decade-long insurgency that tore the island apart.
But the documentary also shatters a taboo by insisting that some of most horrific violence the minority endured was at the hands of their supposed defenders, the Tamil Tigers.
And the “hard truth” comes from the mouths of former Tamil fighters themselves.
“By making this film I know that I will have to face harsh, perhaps even hateful criticism from both communities,” Ratnam said.
The Hindustan Times with a new documentary film project that seems very much linked to the previous story on 'rogue' peacekeepers.

Too Many Health Clinics Hurt Developing Countries

Local councils, seeking to grab the biggest possible slice of the pie, began to push forward new projects, leading to rapid and uncontrolled expansion of the health system.
Rather than continuing to pursue the uncontrolled proliferation of poorly equipped and operated health-care facilities, policymakers should consider a more measured approach. Of course, people living in remote areas need access to quality health care, without having to navigate rough and dangerous roads that can become virtually inaccessible during some periods of the year. But outreach services and community health workers could cover these areas much more effectively. The value of such an approach has recently been demonstrated in Ethiopia, where health outcomes have improved.
Samuel Kargbo for Project Syndicate with a reminder that building any kind of 'simple' infrastructure like school buildings or health facilities comes with the high cost of running them properly.

Development expert: ‘Haiti would be better off without international aid’

Haiti would be better off without aid. Or at least, without the bad kind of aid that allows the administration and the elites to continue without changing. It would be better to create the conditions in which change could happen. If we get involved, we should do so in an intelligent way, even if that is less visible in terms of the value it brings. I am not saying that all aid is bad. For example, the international presence should allow us to put pressure on the corrupt state.
Rather than funding road building, which is very expensive in Haiti, we should ensure the laws are in place to look after the roads that are built using international aid. That is even more important than building the road itself.
Cécile Barbière talks to Joel Boutroue for Euractiv on the limits of aid in Haiti and how difficult it is to do development differently.

Take me to your leader: Eritrea’s Isaias Afwerki

Afwerki enjoys and never misses the endless commemorations of major battles that the nation celebrates with great fervor. All top government officials are expected to suspend their work and leave town for days to accompany him. During these junkets, in the midst of his endless jokes and ridicule/praise, officials get a feel for their current status with the president.
In addition to the routine public ridicule and humiliation most officials undergo, President Afwerki is known for physically assaulting top government officials including ministers or national figures, such as journalists. His character is taken as the model and it trickles down the lowest ranks.
Having effectively demolished all public institutions and structures, Afwerki’s character and his legacy will take a generation to fix. As he frequently utters in some private occasions, however, is unfazed. The “country is his sole creation whose existence depends on his personal whim.”
Abraham T. Zere for Africa Is a Country with some rare insights into Eritrean political leadership.

Transitional livelihoods: Timorese migrant workers in the UK

Among those who have returned to Timor-Leste there is an overwhelming sense of having achieved a better place or status in life than they had before they went to the UK. That is because the money they earned in the UK enabled them to improve their conditions in Timor-Leste, either through starting or improving a business, or by earning the cash required to get married and/or build a house. Not only did this improve their family’s economic circumstances but often increased their status in the community as well. Those that have become fluent in English and achieved a greater understanding of western workplace culture have an advantage in obtaining higher paid work in offices with international links when they return home.
Ann Wigglesworth for the DevPolicy Blog with a reminder of positive aspects of remittances and labor migration and the familiar challenge of finding a place between Timor-Leste and Northern Ireland.

Digital India Is No Country for Women. Here’s Why

The digital divide is thus not simply a question of access to digital technologies but about the capacity to make meaningful use of the access to technology. In Madhya Pradesh, as in many parts of rural and semi-rural India, this capacity is directly shaped by gender biased belief and value systems that impose restrictions on the education and free mobility of women.
While digital economy allows opportunities for ‘flexi-work’ and diminishes the reliance on physical workspaces, digital literacy must not aid in reinforcing the traditional gendered segregation of private and public. Unless accompanied by broader shifts in social and cultural belief systems, it can lead to further restrictions on the mobility and autonomy of women. Therefore, unless these digital skilling programs are grounded within a broader education curricula, they will create a generation of young people that are essentially only application operators, capable of specific tasks
Urvashi Aneja & Vidisha Mishra for The Wire with an excellent piece on the gendered complexities and inequalities of ICT4D in India.

Indian soap tackles taboos to become one of world's most watched

An Indian soap opera whose themes include acid attacks, domestic violence and high rates of abortion of female foetuses has quietly become one of the most-watched programmes on the planet.
India’s public broadcaster announced in April that the audience for Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon – I, a woman, can achieve anything – had, in two seasons, exceeded 400 million viewers “and counting”.
Michael Safi for The Guardian with an interesting case study on the impact of 'edutainment'-I'm expecting a range of research papers and PhDs coming out of this ;)!

This story about a small boy and starfish explains global development

At its very core, this story can help us unpack ethical, practical and theoretical issues of humanitarian assistance and global development. At the same time, it is an accurate reflection of the current state of these industries. Simply solutions are continually offered to complex challenges, girls and women are largely excluded and so-called beneficiaries are seen and treated as powerless, uneducated and poor.
Brendan Rigby for WhyDev unpacks the seemingly simple story of 'doing something is always better than doing nothing' when a young boy want to help a stranded starfish washed ashore a beach. Great summary of a discussion we had on facebook!

Growth is dying as the silver bullet for success. Why this may be good thing

This is a disastrous prospect for our economies, which have been designed to grow – or perish. But it is also a window of opportunity for change. With the disappearance of growth as the silver bullet to success, political leaders and their societies desperately need a new vision: a new narrative to engage with an uncertain future.
In my new book, I argue that as we begin to recognize the madness behind growth, we start exploring new paths. These include: forms of business that reconcile human needs with natural equilibria; production processes that emancipate people from the passive role of consumers; systems of social organisation at the local level that reconnect individuals with their communities and their ecosystems, while allowing them participate in a global network of active change makers.
Lorenzo Fioramonti for The Conversation on how to challenge economic growth as the core measurement of 'development'.

Please Stop Publishing to PDF Graveyards

And I am willing to be crazy and say that a poor farmer, pregnant mother, or caring parent couldn’t care less about yet another peer-reviewed journal article, or its citation.
Sadly, too many research organizations fail to connect their research to actual impact. They consider impact the work of others, even thinking of it as less important than their scientific discovery.
Wayan Vota for ICTworks with, well, a bit of a rant perhaps ;)...I agree that research findings should at the very least be presented in an open, accessible and shareable way (Don’t post direct links to your new journal article!). There is a growing pdf graveyards-often hidden behind academic journal paywalls. However, academia does more than wanting to help 'poor farmers'. Teaching students a critical understanding of ICT4D or reflecting on broader, theoretical issues are core things I do-and sometimes a round-table, policy note or blog post will not do the trick. We need to communicate better with each other-and sending each other 20 page journal articles or a full 52 page report will not be enough...

Photography and Modern Conflict

More recent, and complicated, revolutions have not been as clear cut, as Stallabrass exemplified with Tim Hetherington’s coverage of the civil war in the Congo. He explains that in situations like this: “the ideological issues at play are far murkier, if they are drivers of war at all. The competing sides are generally composed of small, informal militia forces, which may suddenly shift allegiance, and what these forces want from photojournalism is far from certain. These militia groups usually avoid direct combat with each other, preferring to conquer and hold territory by terrorising civilians, and then exploiting their captive populations and land to the hilt. The resulting wars divide people by ethnicity, tribe or religion as groupings from which to loot an area of diamonds, gold or coltan, funding continuing warfare and enriching militia leaders. Violence is often extravagant and put on display—a dismembered and tortured body is dumped in the street, for example—to frighten people into compliance or drive them away. Usually, a wider display of that violence in the media is unwelcome.”
Jérôme Sessini, Thomas Dworzak & Julian Stallabrass discuss the changing nature of war, violence and conflict and the role of photography in covering it for Magnum Photos.

The Creeping Privatization of America’s Armed Forces

In other words, about half of our armed forces is outsourced to private military contractors. These contractors, to include the company formerly known as Blackwater, are now increasingly owned by private equity firms. Thus, American and international security is largely in the hands of private equity partners.
Bryan Stinchfield for Newsweek with an important reminder about the size of the military-industrial complex; also a good reminder when stories about 'UN bureaucrat flew business class' rants emerge: Nothing beats the waste of money when it comes to U.S. military...

Our digital lives

Get real: Bessi Graham on the pitfalls and promises of ‘social enterprise’
“I speak with a lot of nonprofits in the sector and it’s very easy for them to be swept up in all the hype and think, ‘Great! We’ll set up a social enterprise or a business and within months it’ll be generating income.’ But that’s not the reality—there’s no business that does that, much less a business that’s trying to grapple with a tough social or environmental problem. “Potential to fail is going to be part of the game. It’s just part of what you have to cope with. We don’t do ourselves any favours when we’re not being honest about that.”
Nicole Richards talks to Bessi Graham for Generosity Mag on the complexities of starting a social enterprise to quickly make money, do good and be happy...

Precarity as Freedom? Youth, Neoliberalism and the Dissolution of ‘Japan, Inc.’

Subject to increasing levels of economic competition coupled with hierarchical control, office workers are increasingly choosing to withdraw from their corporate ‘cages’ in pursuit of a new autonomy as independent neoliberal subjects. Psychologically and morally detached from their companies, more and more young employees are increasingly willing to take on the financial risk and losses they may incur in leaving their companies; picking precarity over corporate constraint in a determinedly self-motivated (if not quite positive) manner.
Shuto Fukuoka for Culture and Capitalism with some reflections on how capitalism is changing in Japan-and how precarious career paths are actively pursuit by today's younger workers.

Hot off the digital press

Changing gender and social norms, attitudes and behaviours

This annotated bibliography presents studies of programmes that aim to bring about changes in gender and social norms, and changes in wider attitudes and behaviours. Much of the literature and some programme designs recognise the need to change social norms in order to change behaviours, such as HIV/AIDs prevention and better sanitation and hygiene.
Huma Haider for GSDRC with an interesting literature review for the C4D community.

Africa’s Youth Employment Challenge: New Perspectives

Who are the youth and what is the problem? Are entrepreneurship and self-employment the solution? And what about youth aspirations? Such questions are addressed in this issue of the IDS Bulletin, drawing from the literature on how development research affects policy and noting that it says little about how young researchers move into policy engagement. Articles consider the evidence on youth employment policy and interventions, the politics of youth policy, the changing nature of young people’s work, and the promotion of entrepreneurship.
The latest open-access IDS Bulletin.


Some of the top political science journals are biased against women. Here’s the evidence.
The data shows that they publish a lower proportion of articles written by women than there are women in the discipline as a whole.
Here’s the general pattern we observed: The journals that publish a larger share of qualitative work also publish a larger share of female authors. Conversely, the more a journal focuses on statistical work, the lower its share of female authors.
Dawn Langan Teele & Kathleen Thelen for the Washington Post with not really surprising findings; as always, 'excellence' and 'impact' are much more complicated to assess than simply looking for the latest quantitative study in a high-impact journal.

Cancer, Care and Hope – A Hospital Ethnography on Palliative Care in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Hospital spaces exist because of the significance of medical advances, experience and achievements, and their relationship to the environment. Street and Coleman use the notion of Foucault’s heterotopia to describe the complex character of the hospital space. Hospitals are places with inscribed meanings, still part of society, but also detached. Places where people are sheltered away because they are – due to their illness and being in need of support – ‘off the norm’. By looking at the example of the ORCI, we find a largely well-equipped hospital which is infused by local and global health politics, international donor practices, developments in health service provision, lay knowledge, and adapted to local conditions.
Andrea Buhl for Medizinethnologie. This is definitely a long read-but a read well worth your time! The author shares insights from her PhD research in Tanzania and highlights the wonderful nature of ethnography to combine global discourses with local culture(s)!


Popular posts from this blog

Dear white middle class British women: Please don't send used bras (or anything, really) to Africa

Should I consider a PhD in International Development Studies?

Happy retirement Duncan Green!

Links & Contents I Liked 500

Artificial Intelligence (AI) & ChatGPT in development and humanitarian work-a curated collection