Links & Contents I Liked 283

Hi all,

Another great, sunny Friday! So keep the readings for the weekend and enjoy the start of your weekend outside :) !

Development news: Gender Equality Top 100; Opioid crisis in Nigeria; Addis' light rail project; the conflict in Yemen explained through humanitarian logistics; Syrian refugees in Jordan; Red Nose Day & shallow consumerism; how not to photograph Nigerian women; a female WOC encounters an 'important' white man; U.S. environmental organizations are very white; the challenges of localization for human rights NGOs

Our digital lives: Sexpat journalists in Asia; Google & the military-industrial complex; the missing workplace data discussion; the oxygen of amplification; new Barbara Ehrenreich book.

The false equivalent of academic freedom & free speech; how digital interventions influence girls' offline interactions.

Academia: MOOCs have failed-at least in India; the Pamir region & the anthropology of Muslim humanitarianism.


Development news

Gender Equality Top 100-The Most Influential People in Global Policy

Our thinking in compiling this list is what underpins everything we do at Apolitical: that public servants deserve recognition, and that celebrating the best encourages the spread of good ideas. And that if you give public servants authoritative information and access to their colleagues’ help, you can change the world.
Apolitical presents an interesting group of people and lots of food for thought and discussion.

The Opioid Crisis Is Not Just An American Epidemic

Less than a decade ago, beds at NDLEA facilities were filled almost exclusively with working-class people struggling to wean themselves off locally brewed alcohol, heroin, and cannabis. Those using tramadol — a synthetic opioid and cousin of powerful prescription painkillers like morphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl — were rare cases, almost entirely confined to young men doing hard labor or people who’d become addicted through medical prescriptions. “Eight years ago, I’d be surprised to see a few tramadol cases [a year],” said Audu Moses, a psychiatrist whose work with the NDLEA and a UN-sponsored clinic makes him one of a handful of addiction specialists in Nigeria. “Now, I’ll see around 10 patients in a month, and every year it’s going up.”
Today, Nigeria stands on the brink of a catastrophic epidemic. BuzzFeed News has found Nigerians of all ages are popping millions of pills daily, washing them down with codeine, another drug based on opium poppies, or as part of a cocktail that includes “purple lean” and Rohypnol, the date-rape drug. Senior military officials told BuzzFeed News that stashes of tramadol recovered from Islamist militants like Boko Haram often outnumber bullets found in their hideouts. Aid workers say it is circulating in refugee camps. College students use it as an aphrodisiac. In the rural north of the country, subsistence farmers say it keeps them going for hours on end, a phrase echoed by sex workers in southern urban centers.
Monica Mark for Buzzfeed News with a long-read on Nigeria's looming drug epidemic.

The Future Train

But the ruthlessness with which the government is removing obstacles to progress is alarming. Tens of thousands of people have already been moved from the center to the city's periphery, where they have largely been left to their own devices.
And soon, many others will no longer be able to afford to live in the affected areas. Rents for apartment buildings rose by an average of 61 percent between 2012 and 2016 and as high as 100 percent in some neighborhoods along the tram lines.
It's urgent that more be done to help the people who have been left behind by these changes.
Overall, mobility can clearly hold the key to greater prosperity - also in other sub-Saharan countries. But the cities affected by these changes need more international money and know-how.
Bernhard Riedmann & Stefan Schultz for Spiegel Online with a great piece of multi-media journalism about Addis Ababa's new light rail project.

PODCAST: How Shipping Containers Explain the Conflict in Yemen

The politics and the basic logistics of getting goods into these two ports offers key insights into the dynamics of the conflict in Yemen and can explain why Yemen is experiencing such a profound humanitarian crisis.
Mark Leon Goldberg talks to Scott Paul, humanitarian policy lead at Oxfam America for UN Dispatch.

Gender, disability and displacement: Reflections from research on Syrian refugees in Jordan

I’ve spoken to male refugees who say that the widespread perception that only disabled female refugees are vulnerable left them invisible to aid agencies – abandoned by the humanitarian system. It’s important to emphasise that the intersection of gender, disability and displacement can have a marginalising impact on both men and women.
Ultimately, all this suggests that if we are sincerely committed to ‘Leaving No One Behind’, it is imperative that we understand the diversity of experiences of the most vulnerable groups in society. We must also appreciate that when applying an intersectionality lens to our work on a practical level, we must recognise that the relationship between disability, gender and displacement is complex, multifaceted and the ways in which power is distributed can change across contexts and situations. Humanitarian actors must, therefore, step away from narrow definitions of gender, disability and displacement and work towards more rigorously planned humanitarian responses that appreciate each aspect of human difference.
Bushra Rehman for From Poverty to Power with more nuances to the emerging research on the complexities of refugee lives around Syria.

There Are Better Ways To Fight Poverty Than Giving Money To Corporations

Red Nose Day is typical of “brand aid” initiatives that engage consumers in low-cost heroism as a way to channel good intentions into politically unquestioning and commercially lucrative options. Red Nose Day’s branding is about making companies look good while also encouraging consumers to spend. Only 50¢ of that $1 Red Nose purchase goes toward the Red Nose Day Fund. The remainder goes to the manufacturer.
Several studies show this kind of charity branding works, for companies. Consumers prefer companies that support charitable causes, so corporations get involved to improve brand awareness and sales. One study demonstrated that tying branding to a cause increased profits and “increased sales for the entire line of products connected to the brand.”
Noelle Sullivan & Lisa Ann Richey for Huffington Post with a critical assessment of the American Red Nose Day.

How to not photograph Nigerian women… again

But these are flattened out by this choice to photograph women with such complex lives through the medium of a single portrait and possibly because photographing 83 portraits in a single day perforce flattens out personality, movement, life, history. The photographs freeze these women in positions of suffering and victimhood more than any repetition of their story might have done. It is, though, astonishing that the New York Times would juxtapose such a collection of images with the story of a journalist’s tough road to capture them. It is quite literally a ludicrous juxtaposition between the extreme trauma and violence all of the photographs’ subjects have experienced and the pathetic struggles of an American writer in search of a particular image. It is, too, this image that beggars belief. The reams of film, paper and audio out there on the problems of the single story, especially about Africa, especially about African women, should have surely given Searcey and Ferguson pause.
Kathryn Mathers for Africa is a Country with a detailed visual and political analysis take-down of a New York Times feature of 'Portraits of Dignity'.

The encounter

I will remember also what the environmental rights defender on the panel reminded our audience — including Steve and myself — that day. He, who has escaped many attempts on his life for his convictions in Nigeria, reminded us: once you are hooked to the struggle for justice, there’s no going back!
I am hooked, I admit. I am hooked to not being another brown woman who internalizes her own oppression, who exercises complicity through collegiality, who vents to her own community but remains compartmentalized at work. I refuse to be fragmented as a human and as a woman.
By Rajasvini Bhansali for Thousand Currents shares powerful reflections on being a female leader in the charity sector who has been encountering 'important', 'powerful 'white men throughout her career.

U.S. environmental groups are largely white. Here’s what some are — and some aren’t — doing about it.

“If you don’t do it authentically,” says Gonz├ílez, “just don’t do it.”
Inauthentic gestures — for example, promoting diverse faces on an organization’s website without concomitant shifts in outreach or recruitment — are a common misstep. Another is focusing too much on increasing the number of people of color hired, instead of investigating why the numbers are so low and addressing the root causes, says Charles “Chas” Lopez, vice president for diversity and inclusion at Earthjustice, a San Francisco–based environmental law nonprofit.
Mary Scoonover, executive vice president of the California-based conservation non-profit Resources Legacy Fund, says her organization has, since inception, focused on broadening, ethnically and economically, the groups and leaders who advocate for conservation. But they decided 10 years ago they needed to do more to diversify their board and staff.
Virginia Gewin for Sixdegrees on how environmental civil society is struggling to diversify.

The hazards of international NGOs going local

First and foremost, Northern internationalization must address local human rights priorities, not Northern priorities for the South. All human rights are equal, but they are not equally resonant or strategic in every context. Thus, when selecting issues to tackle, Northern groups must take the lead from the South. The costs of getting it wrong are greatest there and Southern advocates are more likely to look well beyond narrow, issue-specific and short-term successes to the larger and longer-term political, economic and social transformations. Southern rights advocates’ earlier attention to economic and social rights and strategic alliances with domestic social change movements—of the poor, landless, indigenous peoples, labor, environmental activists, to name a few—are evidence of this.
Mona Younis for Open Global Rights on how 'localization' is often easier said than done...


The Signal Code: Ethical Obligations for Humanitarian Information Activities translates and applies the foundational sources of ethical humanitarian practice to humanitarian information activities, such as mobile devices, WiFi provision, data collection, storage and analysis, and biometric registration tools. This document represents the first effort to provide humanitarian practitioners and researchers with comprehensive ethical guidance for this increasingly commonplace and critical area of humanitarian practice.
The Signal Code publishes its latest installment on human rights and information during crisis.

Our digital lives

Sexpat Journalists Are Ruining Asia Coverage

The problems are worsened by the unequal power dynamics in the offices of multinational media that employ “local staff” to provide translation, conduct research, and navigate complex bureaucracies, but pay them a fraction of what their foreign colleagues earn. In China, these “news assistants” are mostly young women. This pattern is mirrored in other countries, where the pool of those with the English-language skills needed for the job often skew female. “Many people, especially those with real regional and local knowledge, are not hired on proper terms and have little or no recourse to the law or to union support, or even just commonsense support and mentoring,” says Didi Kirsten Tatlow, a Hong Kong-born journalist.
Joanna Chiu for Foreign Policy with an important contribution to local-expat debates that sound familiar in the context of #globaldev and #AidToo.

The Line Between Big Tech and Defense Work

Maciej Ceglowski, who runs a grassroots group called Tech Solidarity that has organized events with tech workers around the country, doubts the possibility of a worker-driven uprising. “Getting from griping to organizing seems to be an insurmountable step,” he says. “I feel like the closest we came was around the travel ban, when people were really agitated and it was their coworkers and families on the line.”
Without a realistic chance to effect change, “It's superhuman to ask people to organize around high ethical principles at the risk of their livelihood,” Ceglowski says. Big tech poses other roadblocks. “These organizations are big enough that people can rationalize they are working for a good subgroup of it,” Ceglowski says.
Nitasha Tiku for Wired with an important reminder that the military-industrial complex is deeply embedded in Silicon Valley.

Not Just a Facebook Problem: Ethical data collection must be employed at work

We also provide data as workers, and this data has value. Our CVs, biometric data such as fingerprints or iris scans, geographical locations, interpersonal networks – as well as the abundant data mined from us as employers monitor our workflows and even our keystrokes – can be sold and analysed for use in marketing, advertising and HR. For example, U.S. call centre employees at an international banking giant have reported that analytics software monitored their every word and scored them on the friendliness of their tone. The bank used this information to judge workers' performance, and a bad score could cause financial harm, discipline or even termination. Workers said there was little to no recourse to correct mis-scorings, even though it was the software that had failed to recognise certain speech patterns
Christina J. Colclough for the OECD Forum with an important reminder that the debate on the power of big data and algorithms has so far not reached many digitalized workplaces...

The Oxygen of Amplification

Offering extremely candid comments from mainstream journalists, the report provides a snapshot of an industry caught between the pressure to deliver page views, the impulse to cover manipulators and “trolls,” and the disgust (expressed in interviewees’ own words) of accidentally propagating extremist ideology.
As social and digital media are leveraged to reconfigure the information landscape, Phillips argues that this new domain requires journalists to take what they know about abuses of power and media manipulation in traditional information ecosystems; and apply and adapt that knowledge to networked actors, such as white nationalist networks online.
Whitney Phillips for Data & Society with a new report on how (not) to report and engage with groups that could do with far less digital oxygen...

Mind Control

Ehrenreich contemplates with some satisfaction not just the approach of her own death but also the passing of her generation. As the boomers have aged, denial of death, she argues, has moved to the center of American culture, and a vast industrial ecosystem has bloomed to capitalize on it. Across twelve chapters, Ehrenreich surveys the health care system, the culture of old age, the world of “mindfulness,” and the interior workings of the body itself, and finds a fixation on controlling the body, encouraged by cynical and self-interested professionals in the name of “wellness.” Without opposing reasonable, routine maintenance, Ehrenreich observes that the care of the self has become a coercive and exploitative obligation: a string of endless medical tests, drugs, wellness practices, and exercise fads that threaten to become the point of life rather than its sustenance. Someone, obviously, is profiting from all this.
Gabriel Winant for New Republic on Barbara Ehrenreich's new book.


The false equivalence of academic freedom and free speech

These new threats have arisen because there are increasing attempts to provide a ‘scholarly’ veneer to what are otherwise hateful ideologies. At a time when there are concerted efforts to decolonize academia, there is concurrent rise of colonial nostalgia and white supremacy among some academics, who are supported by and end up lending support to the escalating far-right movements globally who misuse notions of free speech and academic freedom to further their agendas and attack higher education. Critical scholars thus need to hold accountable fellow academics, academic publishers, and universities in order to protect academic integrity and scholarship in an era when free speech is misused to silence the pursuit of scholarly rigor and ethical engagement.
Farhana Sultana with an open-access article for ACME-An International Journal for Critical Geographies which includes a critical discussion of the TWQ affair that has played a major role in how things have evolved.

From browsing to behaviour change: How digital interventions influence offline change amongst adolescent girls
Girl Effect unearthed numerous insights into how digital interventions work and what works best, along with more surprising findings such as the impact on silent users or ‘lurkers’, and how avatars and profile photos can prompt change.
Girl Effect's new report mentioned in my Tweet above.

Human Capital Round-up - May 2018 Edition

Here are 30+ studies on the economics of education and health that I've encountered and found interesting recently.
David Evans for the World Bank reads and digests a lot of new studies!


MOOCs: Udacity to focus on individual student projects
“Moocs are a failed product, at least for the goals we had set for ourselves,” said Shen, who was in India earlier this month. “Our mission is to bring relevant education which advances people in careers and socio-economic activities, and MOOCs aren't the way."
Varuni Khosla for the Economic Times India on how Udacity is admitting the failure of MOOCs and aiming at a new, smaller and more individual student market.

Till Mostowlansky on Muslim Humanitarianism

As anthropological research suggests the unintended afterlives of their projects, too, are related to broader issues in international development. In my view, this is less about these organizations’ alternative ethical foundations – the genealogies of their visions for development – but about systemic inequality in the development sector, the rise of development bureaucracy and the continuous expansion of neoliberal managerial practices.
Allegra Lab talks to Till Mostowlansky on the Pamir region and how Western development and Muslim lives and organization became his anthropological research focus.


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