Links & Contents I Liked 285

Hi all,

We are in the process of examining 20+ MA projects at the moment-so without much of an introduction enjoy this week's link review from sunny Sweden!

Development news: Was the answer to #OxfamScandal out of proportion? Worsening situation in Central African Republic; do the SDGs undermine democracy?
Poverty porn-Ellen DeGeneres edition; ICT4D bullshit Bingo-Accenture edition; learning from slum dwellers in Ghana; ultra-rich kids in Nigeria; Uganda through the lens of a young photographer; failed missionaries; new books.

Our digital lives:
YouTube producers burning out; healthy travel should be an employer's concern, too.


New from aidnography
A Destiny in the Making (book review)

I really enjoyed reading Mohr’s memoir precisely because of his insights into regular UNICEF work that keeps the organization going. Partly because of his extensive diary keeping he manages to go back to small details and daily routines within the bigger picture of UNICEF under Jim Grant’s leadership and the monumental global changes that happened at the turn of the new millennium.
A Destiny in the Making also confirms the importance of memoirs and storytelling as important avenues in writing about international development differently, personally and historically.
Mohr’s memoir is another reminder of what a powerful and lasting impression UNICEF work has made on many people-inside the organization and its impact on children around the globe.
Development news
Oxfam sexual abuse scandal fallout was 'out of proportion', says Clare Short

“I think if you went to the Times newspaper there would be people who misused their power. Certainly in my time in DfID there was an ambassador who was having affairs with lots of different people,” said Short, adding that the whole of government needed to have better codes of conduct.
Pressed by Pauline Latham MP, who said that exploitation by charity workers often involved the most vulnerable people in the world, Short added she was not suggesting such cases should not be taken seriously.
“I think probably people quite rightly expect more of people working in development than they do of people working in other fields. I’m not in any way trying too belittle taking it seriously, but I did think the hysterical response to the Times reporting – as though everyone working in development was morally disgusting and everyone was sexually abusing everyone – was way exaggerated and disproportionate,” she said.
Short, who was secretary of international development for six years, said she had not considered herself responsible for the management of NGOs, which received less funding from the UK government at that time. “I always had a sense of responsibility for funding and management of the money but I didn’t know much about the internal management of those organisations, which I think is normal,” she said.
Rebecca Radcliffe for the Guardian with foot for thought and critique as Clare Shorts comments on the Oxfam scandal and the role of Times' journalism.

Looters Steal From Aid Groups, Including Doctors Without Borders

At least nine humanitarian compounds have been looted in recent weeks amid a new wave of violence in the Central African Republic's second-largest city of Bambari – prompting many NGOs to temporarily suspend or curtail assistance to an already-struggling civilian population.
"We reduced hugely the operations," said Baptiste Hanquart, spokesman for a coalition of international NGOs in CAR. "The situation is really bad."
The retreat of humanitarian aid risks creating further deprivation and hardship for one of the world's poorest countries.
Cassandra Vinograd for NPR Goats & Soda on the worsening humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic.

At what cost? A second reflection on the crisis at Save the Children UK

The funding context is complex and difficult, as increasingly charities are encouraged to bid against each other for limited funds, and to compete on the doorstep. The struggle to survive and demonstrate impact tends to harm rather than help attempts to act in the interests of staff and beneficiaries. The temptation to focus on superficial gloss rather than profound challenges is one to which no charity is immune, and most have, on occasion, fallen.
Jonathan Glennie for Open Democracy with the second part of his reflections on Save The Children UK in the post-#AidToo world. His first post was included in last week's round-up.

How the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals undermine democracy
There is one glaring problem: the SDGs are pushing an agenda carefully calibrated to avoid upsetting the world’s dictators, kleptocrats, and this century’s worst human rights offenders.
Today, dictatorships like Algeria, Belarus, China, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe are part of the Open Working Group tasked with implementing and monitoring SDG progress. Make no mistake: the future that these regimes and their backers want is one where repression and blatant looting is permitted so long as superficial “development” gains are made and quantified, and so long as pesky issues like respect for democratic rights and the holding of free and fair elections are sidestepped entirely.
Jeffrey Smith & Alex Gladstein for Quartz. I'm not sure whether this is the best headline for this piece-but the SDGs certainly don't encourage democratic social trannsformations as such; but I wonder whether the UN would respond by pointing out that achieving the SDGs will lead to more empowered citizens who then demand democracy and social change?

Ellen DeGeneres is being accused of spreading 'poverty porn' after tweeting a photo with children during her recent trip to Africa

The photo in question shows DeGeneres posing with 14 African children, and was tweeted by the talk show host with the caption, "Thank you to all of the amazing people I met on my trip, who helped make it so special."
Delaney Strunk for Insider. I'm a bit disappointed in Ellen that she fell for one of the most cliche photo opportunities in 'Africa'...

The Case Against Branding Development Aid in Fragile States

So, when is it appropriate for donors to brand their aid? In response to large-scale humanitarian crises it makes sense for donors to brand aid to improve their reputations and increase domestic support. In these situations, it matters more that donor countries feel confident that they have the support of their people to provide substantial aid and that they need not worry about political blowback.
Surveys and reports measuring local governance, like Demographic and Health Surveys, also benefit from outside branding because such branding lends credibility that the outcomes of these surveys and reports are not controlled by the government.
Outside of these two narrow circumstances, and others determined exclusively by context, development aid should be deployed for systemic impact—to provide the tangible benefits to the local people and the intangible benefit of strengthening the social compact between the state and its people.
W. Gyude Moore for the Center for Global Development on the complexities of branding aid.

Why we should be cautious about the 'game-changer' Ebola vaccine

Informed consent by research participants requires a complex negotiation under any circumstances, but the history of experimentation Pailey and others describe too often intensify community concerns and negative responses to certain medical interventions.
How will the questions about its efficacy be properly explained? Under what conditions can an "Ebola contact" refuse the vaccine? Under what conditions will the vaccine be contraindicated for people who have been close contacts with Ebola sufferers, and how will this be explained?
They starkly contrast with the messages that need to be communicated to the communities facing an imminent threat from Ebola. That is: this vaccine is likely highly effective in the current formulation, but this element is still under investigation; only close contacts will receive the vaccination; and it is possible that some people will fall ill after they have been vaccinated.
But these do not make for catchy, succinct press releases. They do not fit neatly into an outbreak narrative of heroic rescue and scientific progress.
Adia Benton for Al-Jazeera criticizes the hype around the Ebola vaccine from a health anthropological approach.

Digital disruption: Development unleashed

Market-expanding digital ecosystems are the “anti-silos.” By integrating efforts, all partners share in and derive value. They enjoy wide access to resources, talent and innovation, which lowers individual investments. And connecting more people means creating more ways to scale single solutions.
F. Roger Ford & Ian Lobo for Accenture invite you to join them for a game of good, old-fashioned ICT4D bullshit Bingo...those consultancies really are worth their money, eh?

Policymakers have a lot to learn from slum dwellers: an Accra case study
Many authorities are realising that initiatives like this are producing positive outcomes. But they need to translate this into practical local support.
The first step is for authorities to recognise the value of what slum residents are doing in their neighbourhoods. The next step would be to build on these collective activities rather than supplanting them.
Seth Asare Okyere, Matthew Abunyewah & Michael Odei Erdiaw-Kwasie for The Conversation with a reminder from Ghana that putting the last first is still an important parameter for participatory development work!

Neoliberalism’s children

The romance between the ultra-rich and the domain of popular culture is hardly new. But the recent dance of ultra-rich kids in this domain gives pause. It provides a rare glimpse into the ways that a new generation of ultra-rich kids might increasingly marshal popular forms to advance subtle but dangerous conceptions of power and privilege. These “babies of neoliberalism” give gloss, poetry and cuteness to a deadly ideology. This cuteness is especially pernicious when one takes into account the fact that one of their parents became associated with the mysterious “cabal,” a niche group of oil importers who wield enormous political power because they determine the price of fuel.
Dotun Ayobade for Africa is a Country with an interesting piece from Nigeria and how 'Africa Rising' also means a new class of 'rich kids' joining the cultural sphere.

A 23-Year-Old Ugandan Photographer Documents Youth in Her Country

For Ms. Mbabazi, the teenage years are a time for people to “live their lives and do whatever they wish.” But young people face great difficulty finding work in Uganda.
“The country is in trouble because you have all of these young people looking for work with too few jobs,” she said. “It’s going to be hard for the young people to actually be young in Uganda.”
But young people do not have to be a “burden” to the country, she said: Their energy can help solve problems. For her part, Ms. Mbabazi is not waiting for opportunities to come to her.
“I will start something for myself,” she said. “I will use my brain. I will use my talent. I will use my hands. I will go out and do something for myself. I will not wait for some company to create a job that will receive 700 applicants for that one job.”
James Estrin for the New York Times with an interesting photographic feature from Uganda.

Soldiers of Fortune

But whereas mercenary campaigns in Rhodesia and Angola had been haphazard affairs, managed by a loose network of like-minded individuals and undertaken without clear profit motives, PMFs grew into sizable corporations with hundreds of employees serving lucrative contracts in several countries at the same time. They raked in billions of dollars, often with little oversight or accountability. Once mercenaries had decamped to fulfill quixotic dreams. Now they fueled a hyper-efficient, privatized war machine.
Kyle Burke for Jacobin on the rise of private military firms starting with the war in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe in the 1970s.

The Gospel According to “Failed Missionaries”

I have lots of issues with short-term missions, but one of the biggest is the damage it causes. You have people come in and they’re intoxicated with this new environment and there’s so much poverty around them that they’ve never seen before because they’ve never left their own backyards. They feel like they can help and they make all these empty promises and then they leave and forget. They put their pictures on the wall and pat themselves on the back, and it creates a real systemic issue. Especially where I live, which is in East Africa, where it’s now normal for Christians to come over for a few weeks and just give out candy and money and whatever and then peace out. It’s not helping anyone except themselves.
Failed Missionary for Bright Magazine on the Christian missionary industrial complex.

Writing stories otherwise untold

As you will see, deciding to publish the book, to distribute it, to make it a completed story for other people to read made content choices very difficult for me. Writing for ourselves can be powerful and healing, but it’s private, it stays inside. Publishing and inviting an audience can tear us down with self-doubt, wondering what “they” will think of our lives put on a page. Will they judge me? Will they understand my actions? My inactions?
Trayle Kulshan for Missing in the Mission introduces her aid work(er) memoir based on 99- word poems and reflections.

Our digital lives
YouTube’s top creators are burning out and breaking down en masse

Soon after, Mills announced on Twitter that she was taking a break from YouTube and social media. She couldn’t keep up with the pressure, and told her fans that while she was safe, and in good hands, she needed time to recuperate and remember why she loved making videos in the first place.
Not knowing how YouTube’s monetization system works, while also battling fears of videos being suppressed and less frequent uploads hindering their careers, are major anxieties. And like most anxieties that go untreated, they build up to a breaking point.
Julia Alexander for Polygon on the toxic mix of algorithmic remuneration, YouTube culture and how young talent suffers from digital culture...

The negative health effects of business travel are your employer’s problem, too

The new study’s lead researcher, Andrew Rundle, said that responsibility for staying healthy can’t just fall to the employee. He argues that employers have a responsibility to both inform their employees that frequent business travel could lead to poorer health, and offer reasonable policies to mitigate this. These include stress-management programs, cognitive behavioral therapy, and ensuring accommodations come with well-equipped fitness facilities and healthy food options.
Rosie Sprinks for Quartz introduces a new study that should also raise some interesting questions for frequently traveling aid workers or researchers.



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