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Hi all,

I'm wrapping up a fantastic week of teaching at a summer academy in Northern Germany! Lots of great discussions about the past, present & future of development and aid work!
I even managed to get a new book review on the blog, but since I spent a bit less time online there are also fewer links in this week's review. Nonetheless, they are still worth exploring and provide ample food for thought as always!

Development news:
The ultimate guide to the cash-based aid debate; South Sudan's bleak humanitarian situation; a neat overview over the economic cost of accepting refugees; how feminist is Canada's new foreign policy really? Why do UN peacekeepers rape? the value of spiritual lives of aid workers; MUST-READS: A charter school travels to Thailand; the preservation of privilege in social activism.

Our digital lives:
UN Social 500; an archive on the history of the chemical-industrial complex. 

Publications: New insights into participatory video; challenging the 'any work is better than no work' orthodoxy.


New from aidnography

Reporting the Retreat (book review)

Philip Woods’ book about ‘the six-month, one thousand-mile retreat of the British and Chinese armies from Burma in the first half of 1942’ is a very well researched historical case study of journalism, news media and the work of foreign correspondents. The book looks at a group of twenty-six correspondents who reported from Burma for newspapers and weekly newsreel broadcasts and, equally important, about half of the group wrote memoirs shortly after their assignment in South Asia.
The discrepancies between their daily work, always impeded by military censorship, and their frank book-length accounts are a vivid reminder that there never were ‘good old days’ when it comes to war reporting and that many of today’s challenges have remained through time, new (digital) media and many different war theaters.
Development news

If celebrities like Jenna Fischer get educated by the recent NPR Goats & Soda series on cash-based aid by Nurith Aizenman this must be good ;)!

South Sudan: Time for humanitarians to get tough

The humanitarian situation in South Sudan is the worst I’ve known in two decades, and unless assistance can be predictably and safely delivered, the return of famine cannot be discounted.
However, the insecurity of the operating environment, coupled with the direct targeting of humanitarian action, and predatory bureaucratic processes, compromises the pace, scale and effectiveness of the overall response.
This is of course entirely unacceptable. Humanitarian partners deserve the protection and support of those they are seeking to assist, and government and opposition forces have responsibilities under International Humanitarian Law to both protect civilians, and facilitate the delivery of lifesaving assistance.
Simon Little for IRIN with a stark reminder about the situation and South Sudan-and some of the looming challenges for humanitarians around the globe.

The Real Economic Cost of Accepting Refugees

The economic effects of the new wave of asylum seekers and other migrants will be complex. The International Monetary Fund projects that this wave will raise economic growth over the long term by providing Europe with young and energetic workers. The labor market effects and fiscal effects are likely to be negative and small in the near future for some countries but more positive in countries with more flexible labor market regulations.
But the greatest determinant of these effects will be the extent to which continuing flows are shunted to just a few destinations or broadly shared. This depends less on migrants’ decisions than on the policy decisions of the recipient countries and their allies.
Michael Clemens for Refugees Deeply with good overview over key debates around refugees and labor market integration-it will be complicated and a lot depends on good policy-making...

Canada’s international aid policy is now ‘feminist’. It still won’t help women

That recipe of top-down, foreign-funded feminism did not work, because while the funds position women as benefactors, they have been unable to produce the grassroots-level changes that are required for crimes to stop and girls’ schools to flourish. Instead, local women, those cherished allies of foreign funders, have been deemed traitors by local populations who see them as having colluded with invaders. Shuttering shelters and closing schools in turn has become political theatre, a reclamation of pre-intervention authenticity.
Feminist foreign aid, however, does not only fail because of conflict-related resentment and an inability to engender grassroots moral change. It also fails because development aid in general continues to be administered and disbursed along colonial-era models. Decision-making around programmes is largely, if not exclusively, in the hands of donor governments and grant-makers rather than recipients; expat staff sometimes make 900% more than locals with identical jobs.
Rafia Zakaria for the Guardian does not mince words in her critique of Canada's 'feminist' foreign policy and the broader inequalities that underline the aid industry.

Why do some UN peacekeepers rape?

"When it comes to the UN, justice is extremely rare," she adds.
"The UN's gut reaction is always to cover up, to handle in-house, to make the problem go away," Lindstrom says.
"Yes, of course, rape happens everywhere, but there is no system where you have this type of legal protection for such crimes. These are people being sent to protect others, after all."
But Stephane Dujarric, a spokesperson for the UN secretary-general, disagrees, saying: "I don't think anyone is trying to bury these cases and trying to make them go away."
The spokesperson for the UN's peacekeeping operations, Olivier Salgado, describes the fight against sexual exploitation and abuse as "a top priority of the secretary-general and the entire leadership of the organisation".
Azad Essa for Al-Jazeera with a multi-part series on UN peacekeeping and sexual violence around those missions.

Understanding the Spiritual Lives of Aid Workers

As I have said before, there can be no ‘one size fits all’ approach to staff care. But at least acknowledging and working with these alternative forms of healing and self-care could serve two related purposes: of understanding better the spiritual lives of aid workers – as multi-faceted human beings rather than mere aid delivery robots – and of providing them with support that is grounded in their own cultures and belief systems.
Gemma Houldey continues the debates on aid worker well-being and providing holistic support in the context of aid work.

‘Black People Don’t Fly’: School Convinces Families to Try a Personalized Study-Abroad Charter
She spent the entire summer recruiting, but convincing parents to let their kids be a part of her school’s unique and unfamiliar model—which includes flying the students to Thailand and Laos for several months for a study-abroad program—is more difficult than it seems.
“I had one girl who was like, ‘black people don’t fly,’ so yeah, it's has been the struggle,” Hui says, “but I am getting through to families.”
“My objective is to build qualities of a leader, so when the student goes back to their home-based school, they will be successful,” says Hui. "One of the qualities we are teaching them is to be self-directed learners."
Students who went through Thrival World Academies’ pilot program in Oakland, California last year say that both traveling abroad and being encouraged to direct their own learning online made them more independent, a change their parents also noticed.
Jenny Abamu for EdSurge; there is A LOT going on in this article-charter schools, Chromebooks, disadvantaged students studying abroad, Thailand,...I guess this deserves a blog post on its own and it will remain a very complicated story about education and change.

Neither Radical nor Revolutionary: The Preservation of Privilege in Social Justice Activism

Why do folks on the margins need money and multiple college degrees in order to be taken seriously as an authority on their own lived experience within their own community? Because it makes the privileged folks who make the rules feel more comfortable with the idea of us having a voice? Probably. We’ve jumped through their hoops and they give us a treat and a pat on the head. These nonprofit organizations need to be made accountable not just for making more opportunities available to folks on the margins, but also for re-thinking how we choose to value voice and authority both on and within marginalized communities. It is the difference between talking ABOUT social justice and BEING about social justice. There needs to be effort made by these organizations to acquire more funds. Additionally, these organizations need to actually seek out hidden voices- voices who have not had the chance to be heard, let alone made popular. I know so many brilliant fellow trafficking survivors and sex workers who have immensely valuable things to say but because they are homeless, transient, destitute and barely surviving — they don’t get these opportunities.
Laura LeMoon on the privileges of the aid industry - in the US and in some ways everywhere where 'we' decide to 'help'.

Our digital lives

The UN Social 500 is a success tracking program that recognises current UN staff and contractors who are promoting the work of the United Nations via their personal social media accounts, so helping to connect the work of the UN with the general public.
The UN Social 500 list of UN social media champions.

Monsanto sold banned chemicals for years despite known health risks, archives reveal

“Monsanto continued to produce and sell toxic industrial chemicals known as PCBs for eight years after learning that they posed hazards to public health and the environment, according to legal analysis of documents put online in a vast searchable archive.”
The Poison Papers archive has been analyzed by Bill Sherman, the assistant attorney general for the US state of Washington. Washington state and various west coast cities are suing Monsanto for PCB contamination. Sherman is quoted as saying that Poison Paper documents provide “damning evidence” that was previously unknown to the state.
Allison Wilson for the Poison Papers; this looks like a super-fascinating project and excellent example of how to digitalize and share important historical data!

Pathways to accountability from the margins: reflections on participatory video practice

Two of the central challenges in building accountability for marginalised people are how to reach and meaningfully involve the most excluded, and how to establish the kinds of relationships that mean they can achieve, influence and expect government responsiveness. This report explores how participatory video – an existing methodology for engaging marginalised people – can be adapted and strengthened to inclusively engage citizens and foster responses from decision-makers. It presents four propositions for achieving this.
Proposition 1:
Ensure inclusive engagement during group-forming and building.
Proposition 2:
Develop shared purpose and group agency through video exploration and sense-making.
Proposition 3:
Enable horizontal scaling through community-level videoing action.
Proposition 4:
Support the performance of vertical influence through video-mediated communication.
Jackie Shaw with a new report for IDS.

Re-employment, job quality, health and allostatic load biomarkers: prospective evidence from the UK Household Longitudinal Study

Formerly unemployed adults who transitioned into poor quality work had greater adverse levels of biomarkers compared with their peers who remained unemployed. The selection of healthier unemployed adults into these poor quality or stressful jobs was unlikely to explain their elevated levels of chronic stress-related biomarkers. Job quality cannot be disregarded from the employment success of the unemployed, and may have important implications for their health and well-being.
Tarani Chandola and Nan Zhang with an open access article for the International Journal of Epidemiology; interesting research with even more interesting implications for development when it comes to 'any job is a good job'...


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