Links & Contents I Liked 266

Hi all,

Welcome to this week's link review!

Development news:
Aid agencies & holes; WFP's data handling problem; sexual harassment in the UN; the World Bank's 'Doing Business' ranking disaster; New Hollywood movie-old stereotypes; Africa & China-a complicated story of globalizations.

Our digital lives: The collaborative economy in 2018; wellbeing & female leadership; automation & racial inequalities.

Publications: New book on DigitalID for #globaldev; Fredoom Fund, women & girls.

Academia: Revisiting academic mega-conferences; science publishers turning into data platforms.


New from aidnography
Blaming the victim(s)? Is it the aid industry’s fault when places are labeled ‘holes’?

As imperfect as the offerings of the aid industry are, blaming them for a changing political climate where ‘holes’ become a topic for discussion seems unfair. Public and political perceptions are often rooted in long-term myths and short-term political discussion around ‘fixing’ a problem, a country or a complex issue like migration. At the same time the aid industry has become more self-reflective and self-critical and nuanced campaigns and advocacy by far outnumber alarmist stories or the denigration of people and places as a fundraising strategy.
Development news
We Asked, You Answered: What Shaped Trump's View Of Poor Countries?

"As a communications person working for a small global health NGO, this is a balance I'm constantly grappling with. We need to emphasize that it's the situation we are addressing that is problematic, not the people. We must portray those who receive our services with dignity, as whole people with whole lives, whole families, whole jobs, hobbies, hopes, challenges and joys. We must not reduce them to just a hopeless victim. We strive to weave all of this throughout our messaging."
Malaka Gharib for NPR's Goats & Soda with a summary of responses to the question whether the aid industry is in part responsible for shaping views of 'sh&thole' countries.

EXCLUSIVE: Audit exposes UN food agency’s poor data-handling

Data specialists contacted by IRIN were alarmed but not shocked at the report. “This set of findings screams ‘accident waiting to happen’, as well as a lack of understanding by senior [WFP] management of WTF is going on with their data at country level," said one.
Among the many issues, grouped under five high-risk and five medium-risk headings, the audit found that extraneous information was being gathered. In more than one case, WFP and its partner organisations collected more personal information than was needed, “without a specified and legitimate purpose”, and again, contrary to policy.
The report also said beneficiaries did not give their informed consent to the use of personal data, and data was routinely copied without encryption or password protection.
Ben Parker for IRIN continues the important debate about data for development and how the UN system seems to be overwhelmed by digital and big data. Yes, this is a case of 'told you so'-especially as the UN does not have the best track-record when it comes to data management, hard- and software and transforming into an agile 21st organizational environment.

Sexual harassment and assault rife at United Nations, staff claim

Alex Haines, a barrister, said the UN’s internal justice system routinely fails to protect against glaring conflicts of interest. He cited a 2015 case that took place in central Asia, where a man accused of sexual harassment was allowed to interview the woman who brought the complaint against him. Such practices are not uncommon, he said, adding that victims are also prevented from reading the final report produced by investigators.
The UN and its senior managers have the equivalent of complete diplomatic immunity, while many other UN managers have functional immunity, exempting them from legal process for acts performed in their official capacity. The UN said that when there are “credible allegations that acts of sexual harassment may amount to criminal conduct”, cases will be referred to national authorities.
A woman who works on a UN peacekeeping mission in the Middle East fears the situation facing victims has worsened. She pursued a complaint a decade ago, which resulted in the perpetrator being disciplined. She is unsure the same would happen today.
Rebecca Ratcliffe for The Guardian. As stated before, the UN system was primarily designed in the 1940s and 1950s and it requires resources and leadership to keep it a global organization that practices internally what it does 'for a living' around the globe.

Hypocrisy and Accountability in the Aid Sector

Not only this; experience has shown me, and I’m sure many others, that no matter how much we feel we are being mistreated in the sector, employers will carry on as they have done for years. We can feel like we are easily dispensable; we have to put up with what we are subjected to in the knowledge that someone would happily fill our role anyway, such is the attraction of working in a sector where people are viewed so heroically in the public eye. This allows organisations to get away with treating their staff in a way that is completely at odds with the ethics and ethos they loudly proclaim in their marketing material. The attitude is – if you don’t like it, get out and we’ll find another willing foot soldier.
Gemma Houldey reflects on the issue of abuse and exploitation in the aid industry based on the recent discussions, e.g. above.
France drops child sex abuse probe of soldiers in Africa

French news reports say the investigators concluded they didn’t have enough evidence to bring charges.
From AP News.

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

Chart of the Week #3: Why the World Bank Should Ditch the "Doing Business" Rankings—in One Embarrassing Chart

Regarding this latest scandal, it's kind of funny to think the Doing Business project was somehow exposed this week for secretly trying to undermine progressive governments. That ideology was baked into the design of Doing Business from the start. But now is a good time to change course. In response to the latest debacle, World Bank management has announced a new independent review of Doing Business. Hopefully they’ll use this opportunity to develop a more balanced and constructive stance on how developing countries should regulate markets—beyond a simplistic message of cutting red tape and letting the market rule.
Justin Sandefur for the Center for Global Development with a good round-up of the World Bank Doing Business indicator disaster. This whole story somehow reminded me of the critique of World Bank and IMF in the 'good old days' of the late 1980s and 1990s; equally important it is a manifestation that once and for all we need to treat indicators and rankings as political exercises that will never be solely based on 'objective' data. Those rankings are politically and socially constructed and the Bank should probably go back and revisit some of the social science and anthropological critique of its work and power to avoid such mistakes in a era of more (powerful) data!

The Trailer for Jon Hamm’s New Film ‘Beirut’ Was Released Today and It Looks Like A Stereotypical, Inaccurate Mess.

A dark and foggy Middle Eastern city? Check. A sad, white victim of this distant and dark city? Check. A bombing? Check. Little, brown kids running around with toy guns? Check. Sad music that apparently never stops playing on loud speakers across the Middle East? Check. A historically inaccurate portrayal of events that occurred? Check.
Walaa Chahine for Huffington Post on how Hollywood seems to get it wrong most of the time when it comes to do their job for communicating development issues...

The drone hype continues-even though this short video at least makes some critical comments about maintenance, pricing etc.

Africa is changing China as much as China is changing Africa

The China-Africa story isn’t just about saviors or oppressors, and framing it that way is a disservice to all the interesting and enterprising people that form these links. I’ve learned that the topic of China in Africa is fraught with questions of representation. These stories can easily reek of exoticism, essentialism, and at times, racism. Africa isn’t one thing. Neither is China.
To me, the most interesting part about these connections is that they form a new kind of globalization, one that a lot of the world isn’t paying attention to, what one researcher described as a form of “globalization from below.” In Guangzhou, in southern China, you find entrepreneurs from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Somalia running factories, logistic services, and other companies that are truly globally connected businesses.
Lily Kuo for Quartz continues her excellent work on covering the 'China in Africa' narrative and unearthing the many complexities of this topic!

Watch the full 10 minutes of a guy cycling through homeless camps outside of what appears to be Anaheim, California. Wow...USA in 2018, California in 2018.

Our digital lives
In 2018, collaborative economy workers will start truly collaborative organisations to disrupt the marketplace once again, say Alice Casey and Peter Baeck

The initial rapid growth of the giants in the collaborative platform economy was powered by billions in venture investment and enabled by regulatory environments that helped the disruptors to grow. Imagine what the models above would be like if they had received even a fraction of the billions in investment that have supported companies like Uber, Task Rabbit or AirBnB.
However, supporting this new wave of innovation is not just about investment in individual companies, it is about creating conditions for wider, distributed participation in the collaborative economy. We also need to ensure that regulatory frameworks anticipate such models, and that open licensing and a free and open web is maintained to allow the new wave of disruptors to grow and thrive, unfettered by incumbent interests.
Alice Casey and Peter Baeck for Nesta. I'm usually not the biggest fan of new year prediction posts, but Nesta makes a good job in bringing together current trends and linking them to broader developments that may gain more momentum this year.

Wellbeing & Women Working Internationally for Change: A Summary Report
A number of the women I spoke with, had, like me, experienced a ‘moment’ of burnout, or a recognition that, having invested very significant energy in their work in their teens and twenties, perhaps into their 30s, they began to reach a point where they knew that working so hard and pushing themselves so significantly was unsustainable for them, their health and if they had one, for their families. The women I spoke to tended to emerge from these “burnt moment’s” better equipped in some ways, having identified some strategies to manage this. I also noticed that they tended to emerge from them having side stepped in their career, so there was often a very real sacrifice implied in coping with these realisations. A sense of not being able to continue to do this kind of work, to this intensity, in this direction and that “something had to give”. This leads us to question whether things have to be this way. Is our sector setting women up for ‘burnout moments’ that they emerge from, while better equipped, less willing to progress in their leadership? What change do we need in our internal cultures to help us build a different kind of resilience, one that allows us to focus on structural change within ourselves that supports the structural change we are working towards in the world?
Mary Ann Clements on her work on women, leadership and well-being.

How Automation Could Worsen Racial Inequality

“Automation poses a disproportionate threat to the economic well-being of black America because this social group is predominately employed in low-skilled occupations that are vulnerable to workplace technological innovations—like those employed in the manufacturing, trucking, retail, and the telecommunications industries,” Davis said. “Now, workers employed by public transit authorities, their unions, and their patrons must contend with the introduction of driverless coaches.”
Alexis C. Madrigal for The Atlantic with an important reminder that the digital future often tends to replicate pre-digital inequalities and does not solve socio-economic problems with technology alone.

Identification Revolution: Can Digital ID be Harnessed for Development? A New Book from CGD

We wrote this book to provide a basis for discussion of this rapidly evolving area. We conclude that digital ID has the power to do both tremendous good and to inflict serious harm depending on how it is used. On the positive side, not only is “legal identity” now recognized as an SDG in its own right, but the ability to assert one’s identity is also important for the achievement of at least eight SDGs and 19 targets, from enabling access to economic resources to financial inclusion, gender equality and empowerment, social protection, and clean elections. Together, identification and enhanced payments systems, especially through mobiles, have the potential to greatly strengthen state capacity.
On the other hand, there are also examples that illustrate the potential downsides. Some of the systems in use today to help deliver social payments or underpin engagements between citizen and state have their origins in repressive or exclusionary policies; examples include Spain and South Africa.
Alan Gelb & Anna Diofasi Metz present their new book; looks really interesting-but I'm wondering why CGDev does not publish them open access right away for higher impact...

Her freedom, her voice: Insights from the Freedom Fund’s work with women and girls

Of the 40 million people trapped in modern slavery today, 70 percent of them are women and girls. Every day across the globe, millions of women and girls are used, controlled and exploited for commercial or personal gain. They are trafficked into the sex industry, kept in servitude as domestic workers in private homes, forced to work in exploitative conditions in factories and bonded into agricultural labour. They suffer terrible violence and are denied their basic rights and freedoms.
Our report, “Her freedom, her voice: Insights from the Freedom Fund’s work with women and girls“, draws on insights from our last four years working in countries with a high burden of slavery. The report identifies promising approaches to tackle this scourge, and highlights priorities for further research and investment.
The Freedom Fund with a new report.


In an era of climate change, our ethics code is clear: We need to end the AAA annual meeting

We as anthropologists – we as the AAA – have the opportunity to lead on this front, just as we led on anti-racism and anti-colonialism in the past. We can set an example that other disciplines and professional associations will follow. Climate scientists are already taking this step. We should be right behind them.
The ethical imperative is clear: it’s time to end the annual meetings in their present form and come up with a safe, just, and sustainable alternative. Paperless programs simply aren’t going to cut it – not in the face of climate emergency. I have no doubt that this shift would attract landslide support among anthropologists eager to help usher in a better world.
Jason Hickel for Anthrodendum revisits the debate about the value of global annual disciplinary conferences. I have never been a fan of mega-conferences and particularly dislike how these events often exclude digital tools and discourage virtual participation
(If you want more diverse conferences & panels, make technology part of your diversity strategy). I think Jason could have mentioned the political economy of such events-they are easy to organize and an easy source of income for associations whose value in the 21st century needs to be challenged more comprehensively.

To Be in Person, or Not to Be?

First-round interviews via Skype, Zoom or other videoconferencing services have been on the rise for some time, but they’ve become especially popular within the past several years. And they may have gotten an assist this month, with meetings of major disciplinary associations happening during the near-national deep freeze and accompanying storms.
Colleen Flaherty for Inside Higher Ed adds to Jason Hickel's critique of big global conferences as the primary site for disciplinary meetings in a digital age. Perhaps a good reminder of David Nichol's book about conferences as neoliberal commodities.

Richard Smith: A Big Brother future for science publishing?

But the leaders of Elsevier have now decided that the epoch of journals will soon be over. They are not buying or starting journals. They now describe the company as a “global information analytics business that helps institutions and professionals progress science, advance healthcare, and improve performance.” They are a “big data company.” Instead of buying journals they now buy software that scientists will need. They have, for example, bought Mendeley, “a free reference manager and an academic social network.”
The company recognises that science publishing will become a service that scientists will largely run themselves. In a sense, it always has been with scientists producing the science, editing the journals, peer reviewing the studies, and then reading the journals. But innovations like F1000Research and Wellcome Open Research have shown how the services can be provided much more cheaply—in part by dispensing with editors who make (often arbitrary and wrong) decisions on what’s important and what is not. Elsevier have recognised the importance of this trend and are creating their own software platforms to speed up and make cheaper the process of publishing science.
Richard Smith for bmj. The irony that after all their critical thinking and writing academics may be enslaved by data and algorithms-the ultimate neoliberal win of 'impact' over everything...


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