Links & Contents I Liked 236

Hi all,

I spent the last three days at a great conference! But I also managed to post a new book review and submit my link review on time-I'm definitely digitally exhausted right now...

Development news from Yemen, UK, Ethiopia, Syria, Bangladesh & Canada-plus much more #globaldev stuff!

Our digital lives
with Western 'poverty hero' narratives, investors in Kenya & calling out big data BS.

Publications on humanitarian challenges & impact of counter-terrorism measures on NGOs.

Academics 'out-dangering' each other; decolonising development knowledge & the dreaded 'Should'...


New from aidnography
Kenneth Warren and the Great Neglected Diseases of Mankind Programme (book review)

From my point of view the book was certainly an unexpected gem for my collection. A traditional biography which opens up some interesting reflections on how our (research, development, policy) world used to work, a glimpse into the life of a big man with big ideas and big impact-yet a subject to dominant discourses and existing power relations. A father who had little time for his children and maintained an impressive global network in the pre-digital age.
Research, philanthropy and development have certainly changed. His self-promotion must seem tame in an age of TED-talk celebrities, his all-male events would not go uncriticized and his work at Rockefeller appears to be traditional in an age of disruptive billionaires.
And yet some of his traits, his enthusiasm and vision to think big for a better world can still inspire in our age of micro-management, impact factors and uber-professionalization in many aspects of our work and life.
Development news
Tom Murphy reflects on the temporary hiatus of The Humanosphere and the difficult funding landscape for independent humanitarian and development journalism.

Aid Coordinator in Yemen Had Secret Job Overseeing U.S. Commando Shipments

Najwa Mekki, a spokeswoman for Unicef, said the organization had contracted with Transoceanic through September 2016 “to provide warehousing services in Yemen,” but was not aware that the company was also helping supply the military.
“We would not enter into contracts that would create risks for Unicef operations or our personnel,” Ms. Mekki said in a statement.
Adam Goldman and Eric Schmitt for the New York Times with a much-discussed article; many UN staff members attending #2017HHLConf were really unhappy about the reporting and accused NYT for ignoring importing nuances and complexities-it seems that even the NYT likes to go for the catchy headline...

'We've been giving for years and seen no benefit': why voters are losing faith in NGOs

lots of people do support development aid, and we should be listened to as well. But the first step to persuading those who are sceptical probably isn’t convincing them to care about people far away. Many of them do think that people everywhere matter. It’s probably got more to do with showing them that there are at least some big, far-away institutions which they can trust, and engaging them in conversations about global poverty that are deeper than the occasional appeal for famine relief.
Adam Ramsay for The Guardian. "Let me give you some examples, mostly from a conversation with a largish group of older women"- I am pretty sure that said group of old women would have responded in a very similar way in 2007, 1997, 1987, 1977, 1967 or 1957. So we have to be a bit careful when taking 'the voice of ordinary people' as a yardstick of a broader sentiment. It's Ok for journalism, but should not be confused with research.
Another important point comes is highlighted in the quote: That's exactly what many charities would like to do but find it difficult under current legislation: Explain inequalities and poverty in a politicized, structural way rather than appealing to 'saving children'. That's not necessarily NGOs' fault or expresses a lack of trust per se. There is value in communicating complexity, highlighting interdependencies and linking ordinary people across the globe-so I am much more hopeful than simply listening to the stereotypical woman on the street...

Why the money development charities spend in Britain is so vital to their work

The domestic programmes of large charities such as Islamic Relief and Oxfam GB offer new ways of seeing development and thinking about poverty. By working on poverty in the UK, they explode the myth that poverty is something that happens only “over there” and to other people. The reasons why people become and stay poor are present in British society too. Work to address these causes is inevitably political, in the same way that development work overseas is political in Uganda, Myanmar or Afghanistan.
Susannah Pickering-Saqqa for The Conversation with another piece on linking local and global development charity work in the UK.

LGBT, female aid workers at risk of sexual assault, report finds

Now a new report published on Tuesday by the Feinstein International Center, part of Tufts University, has confirmed both groups’ findings, but also put forward concrete recommendations for aid agencies and the United Nations to follow in order to prevent, and better respond to, cases of sexual harassment and assault against aid workers.
Furthermore, while the Tufts report states that the majority of the victims are women, it also points to troubling levels of sexual identity harassment, blackmail, threats and assaults against LGBT workers, which can be especially dangerous in countries where homosexuality is illegal, and even punishable by death.
Sophie Edwards for DevEx introduces the new STOP the Sexual Assault Against Humanitarian and Development Aid Workers report.

'Who Threatens You?' Researchers Asked Teen Girls Affected By Conflict

"Some of the lessons [from the study] are that maybe we need to think more about teaching girls about healthy relationships and dating," Stark says. Working with men and young boys is critical, she adds: "Boys grow up in their households observing how to be men and take on these hypermasculine personas. Girls grow up thinking that to be a good partner and a good wife is to do what your husband tells you."
Courtney Columbus for NPR Goats & Soda with new research study on girls in Ethiopia and the challenges around violence and abuse they are facing.

Long Read: How the Syrian War Changed How War Crimes Are Documented

While Syrian groups collecting evidence may help fill the gaps left by international mechanisms, political players and international accountability are the only way to solve the deadlock. For Alkatlaby, the message for international actors is simple: “We are doing our work. Please do something with it.”
Cristina Roca for News Deeply with a sobering long-read on the accountability gap in international politics.

Let’s build African research centers in Africa

Why is it seen as neutral and acceptable to build prominent centers of African studies outside of Africa, managed primarily by people who are not from Africa?
Rachel Strohm comments on the new LSE Centre for Africa in London.

Development is not a science and cannot be measured. That is not a bad thing

Our logframes are fictions – necessary fictions, but fictions nonetheless. This is, perhaps, the fundamental way in which development differs from the private sector and scientific endeavors. Both are artificially bounded systems, in which it is possible to trace causality with some degree of certainty. At the simplest level, for instance, company-level success is a function of profits and losses – can you sell goods and services for more than they cost to produce?
There’s no way to limit the variables in play when it comes to, say, improving education or health outcomes, or the attempt to end genocide. The closest approach that we have are randomized control trials, yet proving replicability across countries and time remains a significant – and prohibitively expensive – challenge.
Michael Kleinman for The Guardian weighs in on the challenge of measuring success in #globaldev.

The development workers’ guide to talking to other people about development

They say: “I wish I could be more like you, but I just don’t know if I have it in me.”
What they mean: “When I say have it in me, I mean, I’m not sure if I could give up my lifestyle of free boardroom drinks every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Plus, our company gave us free iPads last year. Have you seen this amazing app which can help predict your wife’s mood based upon the timing of tidal waves? Amazing…”
You should say: “Sure, I had a promising career as an accountant/brain surgeon/plumber once too, but then I started to realize that this is where I wanted to be. How does that app work again?”
Weh Yeoh with a reality-check on how to talk development to civilians ;)!

“If you don’t have food security what development can you have?” – Naomi Hossain

But Bangladesh is a very different society, it’s very fractious and competitive, people do resent the closing of the political space. Some say it is directly related to the rise of extremism and that’s been a bit of a shock in Bangladesh. I think that might be true but I don’t know. What is worrying is the closure of the space for civil society and the media could have a real impact on the government’s transparency and responsiveness. So for instance if we were to have a major food crisis somewhere remote now, it’s not entirely clear to me that the media would free to report it, and that the government would feel pressured to respond. It’s something we have to watch.
Naomi Hossain talk about her new book on Bangladesh for South Asia @ LSE .

The Canada most people don’t see
And you can be forgiven, I suppose, for not really caring about that other Canada. How can you? You don’t see it. You don’t know anyone who lives there. You rarely hear about it on the news, and when you do, the Prime Minister or some other politician is always there to reassure us they really care and they’re making things better. There will even be a few Hoop Dancers on the Canada Day stage, because we’re very inclusive and sensitive in this Canada. So sensitive, in fact, that when someone satirically proposes a cultural appropriation prize, we are collectively incensed. Things like that aren’t tolerated in our Canada.
Meanwhile, in the other Canada, Angela Cardinal was shot and killed seven months after her ordeal in the courthouse. In the other Canada there are 89 communities without safe drinking water. A child is more likely to be sexually assaulted than to graduate high school. The murder rate is worse than Somalia’s and the incarceration rate is the highest in the world. Imagine if that was your Canada. Imagine your rage if your children lived there.
Scott Gilmore for Maclean's with a reminder that inequalities and poverty still exist in the politically correct Canada of Justin Trudeau...

Our digital lives

The West Spreading New Wave of Feel-Good Movies and False Hopes
The West is busy manufacturing ‘pseudo reality’. And in this grotesque pseudo-reality, several deprived individuals like starving chess players, street vendors and slum dwellers are suddenly becoming rich, successful and fulfilled. Millions of others, all around them, continue to suffer. But somehow, they don’t seem to matter much.
There is a new celebrity group in making – let’s call them the ‘glamorous poor’. Those ‘exceptional individuals’, the glamorous poor, are easy to digest, and even to celebrate in the West. They are swiftly and cheerfully integrating into the ‘mainstream’ club of the global ‘go getters’ and narcissist rich.
Andre Vltchek for off Guardian examines recent pop-cultural (re)presentation of poverty and 'development' in mainstream movies.

It’s time to fix the startup funding landscape in Kenya
As things stand, capital is misallocated. Nepotism, racial bias, misplaced pattern matching, and so on, have a higher bearing on who gets capital than the quality and soundness of the idea. The local landscape is littered with such examples. Do local founders have to change and be more aggressive? Perhaps, but the investors also need to realise that when you come to Kenya, 48 million Kenyans will behave and act like Kenyans, so perhaps it’s a good idea to adapt to how they think and act and not expect them to behave like Americans (or Europeans) because, after all, the target market is Kenya/Africa.
Thomas Sankara with some sobering reflections on the start-up culture in Kenya-many of which sounds surprisingly like the development challenges of the bad old days that investors wanted to 'disrupt'...

How to Call B.S. on Big Data: A Practical Guide
Remember that if a data-based claim seems too good to be true, it probably is. Conclusions that dramatically confirm your personal opinions or experiences should be especially suspect.
Michelle Nijhuis for The New Yorker lists some of the common themes to keep a critical mind when faced with 'big data'-great classroom conversation starter!

Hot off the digital press

'Humanitarian action in disaster and conflict settings'
The report records the insights that were drawn from two rounds of an expert panel, in which 30 key humanitarian actors with great experience in the field participated.
The goal of the expert panel was to establish an informed, evidence-based study about some of the most pressing challenges that are currently hampering the effectiveness of aid, as well as to collect observations of highly experienced practitioners on trends and recent experiences in the field.
Roanne van Voorst and Dorothea Hilhorst with an interesting new report on humanitarian challenges for the Institute of Social Studies.

The impact of international counter-terrorism on civil society organisations
This report examines the impact of international counter-terrorism frameworks on the work of civil society organisations. In particular, it explains the role of the Financial Action Task Force in setting international standards that affect the way in which civil society organisations are regulated by nation-states, their access to financial services, and their obligations to avoid proscribed organisations
and other entities deemed to pose a ‘terrorism’ risk.
New report by Ben Hayes for Brot fuer die Welt.


The Ethics of Fieldwork Preparedness
Research in contentious environments often produces stories that wow search committees and make for entertaining conference presentations. But experienced field researchers often view the same stories that impress their colleagues with deep concern. We worry about an intellectual trend that increasingly rewards researchers for “out-dangering” one another (often with dubious scholarly gain). This doesn’t mean scholars should abandon fieldwork; it means that we should take the practical and ethical components of its planning and implementation more seriously. We can start by asking simple questions about first aid, check-ins, transport safety, and data protection.
Milli Lake and Sarah E. Parkinson for Political Violence @ a Glance share an important discussion on how to manage danger in an ethical way and not get carried away by 'out-dangering' each other.

Decolonising development: power dynamics in the knowledge sector
Evidence is not what you think. Ask a researcher what evidence is, and they’ll likely talk about methodological rigour, randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews. Ask a policymaker, and they’ll tell you about talking to a head teacher at a local school, or inviting an expert to testify before a committee. In order to see research feed meaningfully into policy in developing countries, we need to understand how policymakers in these countries view evidence and what their needs are. Our Evidence-Informed Policy Making Toolkit aims to contribute to this, in part by focusing on four types of evidence used for policy: statistical and administrative data, citizen knowledge, practical experience, and (last but not least) research.
Emily Hayter for INASP with a great overview over some of the issues around 'decolonising' development research and policy.

The Dreaded 'Should'
As a result, I find myself wondering how much of the right now people miss due to these patterns. What might academe be like if we were encouraged to celebrate the present moment instead of wishing for the future? What might it be like if we came together against the broader cultural patterns that create such conditions? Until those conditions can be changed, I also wonder what little things each of us can do in our own lives to ease the dreaded should we face and help to lessen the negative consequences of such patterns.
J.E. Sumerau for Inside Higher Ed with an important reminder to celebrate the here and now-and not always live for the future when funding, time and all the other good things will fall in place!


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