Links & Contents I Liked 289

Hi all,

Summer is over, the new semester around the corner - and your favorite weekly link review is back on the Internet!
I am not even trying to catch up; I sprinkled in a few articles and reports that I have come across in the past few weeks, but other than that we are reading fresh stuff!

Development news: The RCT debate continues; Oxfam might inherit 41 million pounds! The US military-industrial complex in Niger; Canada has its first poverty reduction strategy! Blockchain won't fix Kenya(n elections); the UN is looking at internship programs: Lithuanian celebrities in Ethiopia; what would inclusive photography really look like? EveryDay Mumbai changing perceptions; many NGO workers don't speak local language; RIP Samir Amin; how to write an aidworker autobiography; 'Dear White consultant'-a poem from Tonga.

Our digital lives: The 'facebook & right-wing violence in Germany' research revisited; unethical female journalists in the movies; Yoga & white women.

Publications: WFP & humanitarian principles; diverse humanitarian leadership; dignity & development; political bargains with unsavory elites.

Academia: A survey on young African scientists; looking at impact differently for research from the global South.


Development news
Foreign Aid Is Broken. Randomized Control Trials Won't Fix It.

If aid remains an independent part of government, the questions I was posing in answer to your previous question are relevant here. Always listen respectfully to progressive forces in the poorest countries who are willing and able to share their analyses and ideas. (But how do you find them?)
If I had a magic wand, the biggest ‘top-down’ question for reframing aid that I would wish for is to satisfy the urgent need for a low-carbon and employment-intensive transition.
Sarika Bansal talks to Barbara Harriss-White for Bright Magazine. Definitely one of the debates of the aid summer; the article mentions the now infamous letter in the Guardian (Buzzwords and tortuous impact studies won't fix a broken aid system), and there is also Martin Ravallion's recent paper for CGD (Should the Randomistas (Continue to) Rule?) as well as Rachel Strohm's comment (The curious case of the missing politics).

Multimillionaire leaves large sum of money to Oxfam

A multimillionaire has left a substantial sum of money to Oxfam after dying alongside his family in a plane crash, just months after the scandal-hit charity said it would have to cut jobs and aid programmes because of reduced funding.
Catering boss Richard Cousins was killed on New Year’s Eve with his fiancee, her daughter, and his two sons while on holiday in Australia. According to the Sun, his will specified that £41m of his money should go to the charity in the unlikely event that he and his sons died together.
Nadia Khomani for the Guardian with an unexpected turn for Oxfam's financial situation post Haiti-scandal.

The U.S. Is Building a Drone Base in Niger That Will Cost More Than $280 Million by 2024

A U.S. drone base in a remote part of West Africa has garnered attention for its $100 million construction price tag. But according to new projections from the Air Force, its initial cost will soon be dwarfed by the price of operating the facility — about $30 million a year. By 2024, when the 10-year agreement for use of the base in Agadez, Niger, ends, its construction and operating costs will top a quarter-billion dollars — or around $280 million, to be more precise.
Nick Turse for the Intercept with another 'classic' topic that has been featured regularly here: The US always has lots of fairly unaccountable money for the military-industrial complex-not so much for social development at home or global aid efforts...

What good is a poverty reduction strategy?

Mr. Duclos’s targets, although less lofty, are in a sense more powerful for being hard-nosed and tied to a measurable statistic. They are within reach, but still a stretch. Besides, he likely wants to curry international favour by lining them up with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
But a poverty reduction strategy cannot be just about whether Statistics Canada tells us that some figure took an uptick or a dip a year-and-a-half ago.
It’s about whether Canadians have the resources and capabilities to live life with dignity and to participate normally in society; about whether the young have a solid education that will open doors for them; about whether those doors are open free of discrimination so that everyone’s skills and talents are recognized; about whether families are confident in the future, knowing they can deal with the challenges that tomorrow will surely bring.
Miles Corak for the Globe & Mail on Canada's first poverty reduction strategy.

Blockchain won’t solve all of Kenya’s elections problems

The plan has kicked off an impassioned conversation about the role of technology in governance, the legality of the ledger framework, and how it can ensure a fair vote. It comes at a time when Kenya is looking favorably at blockchain, with companies using it to disrupt key industries like agriculture. In February, the government set up a task force to study the benefits and challenges of blockchain in the hope of using it to create foolproof land registries and tackle corruption.
Still, skepticism remains about its potential use in politics. Elections in the East African nation are a heated affair that draw upon tense tribal divides.
Abdi Latif Dahir for Quartz with an update from the 'blockchain will save us' front line.

Review of internship programmes in the United Nations system

Coherent management of the internship programmes for the entire system would have positive impacts, such as:
(a) reducing competition among organizations for talented candidates;
(b) reducing the burden for applicants, who currently submit several applications to each organization;
(c) reducing the burden on the administrations of the programmes, which would receive short-
listed candidates who have been pre-screened against the organization’s selection criteria;
and (d) avoiding “internship tourism”, which can occur when there are no records at the system level of the number of internships in which a candidate has enrolled.
The UN's Joint Inspection Unit has looked into internships.

How Lithuanian celebrities set off to 'save Africa'

In a document seen by NewsMavens on Tuesday, Unicef Ethiopia was asked by Ethiopian officials to explain themselves and pledge to review, from now on, the images that their partners from richer countries circulate in the media, as stereotypical narratives of poverty and helplessness flooded celebrity news sections in Lithuania.
Sob stories by the three Lithuanian celebrities made it look as if there was some secret 'white saviour's' textbook, which the participants dutifully copied to spread the message that 'saving' children is quite cheap -- a few euros donation is all it takes.
Daiva Repeckaite for Newsmavens with another story on a topic all-too familiar for link review readers-and one that did not disappear over summer...

What Would Photography Look Like If It Were Actually Inclusive?

DV: If you look at the images that are rewarded and recognized, they still tend to be violent, sensationalistic, often showing people of color in distressing situations. This needs to change. Again, adding more layers to the story — because life is layered — will help that change. We have to stop focusing only on the negative and, again, value everyday moments. This will give us a clearer understanding of all the world’s horrors and beauties.
NS: Stories on conflict have predominantly been told through the lens of white men. I haven’t seen a whole lot of other perspectives. Unless we have diverse perspectives, the narrative on conflict photography will lack nuance.
I hope photo editors assign native and women photographers to document conflicts in their backyards. Right now the narrative on conflict photography is somewhat monochromatic.
SD: Conflict coverage has fundamentally changed in the U.S. The images that make it to the public are generally the most dramatic, but also the most expected: those that fit our idea of what a war is supposed to look like — bombs, smoke, rubble guns, sad faces, dead bodies (but only brown bodies), and places that look “over there.” The nuanced and more everyday images are often trapped on a hard drive, to be pulled out and shown to editors who fall in love with the work and recognize their importance but can’t get them published.
April Zhu for Bright Magazine with tons of food for thought on 'decolonizing' photography!

Photography and Development – An interview with EveryDay Mumbai

I would like to think it can be used as a ‘model’ because it reaches an audience through a medium that is easily accessible to them so that they can understand or know a little more than they usually would. I would love to see communities self documenting to better understand for themselves as well as others. I’ve actually written a guide and put it up on the website so that someone who wants to start off a project like this would know how to go about it.
David Girling for Social Media for Development talks to Chirag Wakaskar about the photography project EveryDay Mumbai.

Many NGO workers on the ground don't speak the local language – new research

In fact, in all areas of their work, it is clear that NGOs need to include language as a key consideration when designing development projects. They should use local interpreters wherever possible, who will have a deep understanding of the culture. They need to make more effort to translate development jargon, and better support multilingual staff who undertake the informal work of language mediation outside of their agreed job descriptions. NGOs should also conduct regular assessments to determine whether communities and fieldworkers understand one another well. It’s not just NGOs that are problematic. We found that DfID also has a blind spot about the importance of languages. For example, it only accepts funding proposals in English. This prevents thousands of excellent local organisations in developing countries that are unable to speak or write English, but are worthy of financial support, from applying for funding.
Angela Crack, Hilary Footitt, and Wine Tesseur for The Conversation with new research on the dominance of English in development jargon/language...

Death of a Marxist

Amin, like others in his generation such as India’s Ashok Mitra and Brazil’s Celso Furtado, did not go immediately into the academy. He went home to Cairo, where he worked in Nasser’s Institute for Economic Management (1957-1960) and then to Bamako (Mali), where he worked as an adviser in the Ministry of Planning (1960-1963). Amin would talk fondly of these years, of the experience he had in trying to move an agenda for the development of his country and that of other African countries. The limitations set by the powerful countries of the world — the imperialist bloc led by the U.S. — and by the system of monopoly capitalism prevented any major breakthrough for states such as Egypt and Mali. Amin’s first book, published in the 1960s, was on the experience of development undertaken by Mali, Guinea and Ghana. It warned against any facile belief in progress. The unequal system in the world generated profits for the powerful and generated poverty for the weak.
Vijay Prashad for The Hindu with an obituary for Samir Amin.

The Extended Gratitude section

Asking for and getting feedback on my book was a way of making connections with people and building a community around myself when I was feeling lonely and isolated. I’d moved to a new city, I was a new mommy, I was not working, and I missed “my people.” Connecting with like-minded artsy-fartsy folks kept me sane. So while feedback served an important role for my book, it also played a bigger role in my life. The feedback mechanisms I talk about here don’t have to be used for a project. They can just be used.
Trayle Kulshan for Missing in the Mission shares some really interesting insights of the backstage of her poetic aid worker writing project.

Dear White Consultant by ‘Amelia Kami

Dear White Consultant,
You are not of the Pacific islands.
You are entranced by our grace,
in awe of our strength
so quick to judge our mistakes,
so quick to share your thoughts
on how to fix us,
how to better us
as if your ancestors had not tried before.
Mia Kami for Tonga Youth Leaders with a poem on the development industry and their white consultancy representatives.

Our digital lives

The Lazy Trope of the Unethical Female Journalist
Jokes aside, fictional tropes can have real-world consequences. In her New York story, Cogan pointed out that the trend of portraying women reporters as poisonous and promiscuous was creating a toxic environment for real journalists, whose professional overtures to sources were frequently mistaken for personal ones. And even though shows such as Sharp Objects aren’t intended to offer a serious critique of journalists and their methods—in Camille’s case, it’s to show how thoroughly she sabotages herself at every turn—these portrayals matter, especially in an environment where Americans trust journalists and their methods less than ever.
Sophie Gilbert for The Atlantic reviews 'Sharp Objects' and reminds us that media stereotypes often have real-life consequences into how groups, professions or people are portrayed.

Yoga and the Maintenance of White Womanhood

Ultimately, the colonization of yoga by White women is a shining example of what Coates identifies as an abiding principle of U.S. forms of White supremacy. To a large extent, this dynamic remains shielded from otherwise obvious critiques by the specious logic that yoga is spiritual, private, and therefore, beyond reproach. To this defense, I would argue that privacy and the right to privacy are also racialized and White supremacist concepts in the United States. But more importantly, what emerges from this analysis is that White women often need yoga to cultivate what Womanists like Hazel Carby identified long ago as the racialized “cult of true womanhood”—a sense of self that is built in contrast to non-White women through the qualities of piety, purity, and spirituality. Carby describes a relationship between White women and non-White women that endures through and by yoga, observing that, “ideologies of White womanhood [were] are the sites of racial and class struggle which enable[d] white women to negotiate their subordinate role in relation to patriarchy.”
Rumya Putcha for Namaste Nation with a serious 'disruption' of the yoga-wellness-industrial complex. This is from March 2018 and still well-worth a read!


Evaluation of WFP Policies on Humanitarian Principles and Access in Humanitarian Contexts
The report recommends that WFP pay more attention to humanitarian principles, including in situations where there are trade-offs between access and humanity on the one hand, and impartiality, neutrality, or operational independence on the other. It also recommends that WFP significantly increase its investment in the dissemination and implementation of the policies, including by strengthening staff competencies, designating responsibilities for humanitarian principles and access at the country level, prioritizing humanitarian principles when engaging with cooperating partners and commercial providers, investing in its use of needs assessment data and its security capacity, and strengthening dialogue and advocacy with donors.
Julia Steets, Claudia Meier, Adele Harmer, Abby Stoddard, Janika Spannagel, Alexander Gaus, Mark Bui for gppi with an interesting report on how humanitarian ethics work 'on the ground'.

Drawing on our Diversity: Humanitarian Leadership

This discussion paper summarises what is currently known about diversity and humanitarian leadership, and aims to identify how the two intersect in the international humanitarian system. It starts by unpacking what we mean by diversity – in gender, age, race, ethnicity and thinking. It explores the real and potential benefits of diversifying leadership identified across other sectors that could be applied to the humanitarian sector. It concludes with the proposition that humanitarian leadership does not currently draw on its diversity, to the detriment of humanitarian effectiveness, and suggests two hypotheses that could be tested in order to verify or refute this proposition.
The Humanitarian Advisory Group with a new report.

Development as Dignity: Frontline Stories from Development Experts in the Global South

What is development? What does it look like? Development means different things to different people and in an increasingly polarized world, voices from the Global South are urgently needed to provide a balance of perspectives, lest we hear mostly one side of a multifaceted story. The Aspen New Voices Fellows writing in this anthology all agree that fundamentally, development is about dignity. Dignity of people. Dignity of planet. Dignity of life.
Aspen Global Innovators Group also has some quality reading to offer.

Elite Bargains and Political Deals

It establishes a framework for analysing elite bargains and understanding how external diplomatic, security, economic and transitional justice interventions can affect them and pathways out of violent conflict. It describes the forms of violence that surround bargaining processes, and how resources and rents and degrees of inclusion and exclusion can affect the extent to which bargains ‘stick’. The paper concludes with a summary of the implications for policy and practice.
A substantial report from UK's Stabilisation Unit that is presented in the most inaccessible way possible. Patrick Wintour's article in the Guardian (Britain must strike deals with ‘unsavoury’ elites, says FCO report) is a better entry point to engage with this important research.


What’s stopping young African scientists from achieving their potential
Young African scientists face persistent barriers which cause them to leave their own countries, and even academia. This means the continent’s work force loses highly trained people who are crucial for scientific and technological advancement, and for economic development.
It’s estimated that 20,000 highly educated professionals leave the continent annually, with up to 30% of Africa’s scientists among them.
A number of factors contribute to this trend. The extreme factors include war and political instability. But the more common “pushes” are a desire for higher pay, better opportunities, and the search for a conducive research environment – one where infrastructure and management help drive careers and research potential.
Abidemi James Akindele, Badre Abdeslam, Fridah Kanana, and Mona Khoury-Kassabri for The Conversation share some preliminary findings from a large-scale survey on African scientists and their work situation in Africa.

Q&A: ‘Research in the global South is of higher quality’

The message we want to get across is precisely that it is important to go beyond conventional methods when evaluating the quality of development research. The research in Peru helped us gain a better understanding of climate change in the central region of the country and contributed to shaping policy and interventions in terms of adaptation in that area. It was rated highly by recourse to a more holistic evaluation process such as RQ+, particularly in terms of its integrity, legitimacy and positioning with a view to practical applications. It is valuable in spite of not being published in high-impact journals but rather disseminated in publications that use local languages, thus allowing its immediate use by local actors seeking to resolve urgent issues.
Julien Chongwang talks to IDRC's Jean Lebel for SciDevNet on alternative ways of assessing the quality and impact of local research in the global South.


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