Links & Contents I Liked 293

Hi all,

Welcome to a fresh link review from stormy and rainy Sweden!

Development news: Commitment to development (Sweden is #1!); Rwanda's cash transfer program everybody is talking about; Canada's OECD-DAC peer review; UN Women staff sacked over #AidToo; is the UNSG under siege? Citizens United Against Inhumanity; is pessimism a privilege? Positive thinking & poverty; edutainment meets behavioral science; CARE's humanitarian imaginary; Africa is always portrayed as a passive woman; accepting charity with dignity; challenging white drones; the radical history of Jean-Jacques Dessalines.

Our digital lives: Excuses are like...white male panel edition; Mo' cryptocurrencies, mo' opportunities for tax havens!

Publications: Investigative journalism in Africa; ending extreme poverty; medical brain drain? Not so fast!

Academia: Caribbean hurricane vulnerability & British colonial plantations.


Development news

Commitment to Development Index 2018

The Commitment to Development Index ranks 27 of the world’s richest countries on policies that affect more than five billion people living in poorer nations. Because development is about more than foreign aid, the Index covers seven distinct policy areas: Aid, Finance, Technology, Environment, Trade, Security & Migration.
Ian Mitchell, Anita Käppeli, Lee Robinson, Caitlin McKee & Arthur Baker for CDG with all the details about the Commitment to Development Index.

The Countries That Give The Most In Aid Aren’t Necessarily Helping
April Zhu for Bright Magazine with more background on the index in an interview with Anita Käppeli.

A/B Testing Foreign Aid
On Thursday, USAID released the results of this innovative A/B test. As it turns out, neither the holistic intervention nor the smaller cash transfers moved the needle much on nutrition. The tailored program did increase savings, while the small cash transfer allowed individuals to repay debt and accumulate assets. Larger cash transfers (about $530 per household), however, had substantial effects. Households increased their productive assets by 76 percent, saved 60 percent more, and were able to consume 32 percent more than in the past. They were able to buy more varied food for their families. Children in these households were taller, weighed more, and were less likely to die early.
Michael Faye and Paul Niehaus for the Atlantic...looks like everybody showed in interest in the Rwanda cash transfer program.

What do Canada’s peers say about Canadian development cooperation?
The report raises concerns regarding Canada’s relationships with civil society, noting the government’s reliance on project-based funding, and refusal to provide program or core funding as was its practice in the past, preferring to use these organizations as service providers or contractors rather than treating them as development actors in their own right. Similarly, it recommended that Canada provide multilateral development organizations with more unearmarked, core funding. Also highlighted was the government’s continued lack of a clear strategy for engaging with the private sector, including measures to ensure that Canadian companies respect human rights abroad.
The McLeod Group also takes on Canada's DAC peer review report.

Senior UN gender and youth official sacked over sexual misconduct

Kanikkannan said questions remained unanswered regarding the Karkara case, including the issue of why UN Women had declined to name him, why a copy of the report would not be shared with victims, and why the adviser had not been referred to police earlier in the process.
She said: “Firing a staff member is not a punishment proportionate to the severity of the crime. It remains to be seen if the UN follows through on its obligation to cooperate with the authorities. Its system-wide policy of jumping the line ahead of police action has undoubtedly already jeopardised the justice process.”
The investigation into Karkara was carried out by the UN Development Programme’s Office of Audit and Investigation, which delivered a report to UN Women at the end of August.
Hannah Summers for the Guardian on another #AidToo impact story.

Trump Administration Plans U.N. Meeting to Ramp Up the International Drug War

The Trump administration will open a week of high-level meetings at the United Nations General Assembly in New York with a drug policy event featuring President Donald Trump. Invites to the event are being doled out only to those countries that have signed on to a controversial, nonnegotiable action plan, according to documents obtained by The Intercept — among them the countries with the world’s most draconian drug laws.
Samuel Oakford for the Intercept is getting all of us in the mood for UNGA week ;)!

The UN Is Under Siege, So Where Is the Secretary-General?

Guterres is fully aware of the UN’s political flaws as well as structural and staffing shortcomings. We must hope that he finds the fortitude not to shy away from the Sisyphean task of transforming — and that is the word — how the UN does business. Could he use the Trump administration’s tightening of financial screws — including its nearsighted, heartless halt of funding to the UN’s Population Fund (Unfpa) and the Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (Unrwa) and the Green Climate Fund, which supports the Paris Agreement — to do what long has needed doing?
Thomas G. Weiss for PassBlue shares his reflections on the tenure of the current UNSG.

IHSA Conference 2018 | A failing UN and the prospects of world citizenship by Antonio Donini

And this brings us to United Against Inhumanity (UAI), an emerging global movement of citizens and civil society who are outraged by the inability and unwillingness of the formal international system to address the causes and consequences of armed conflict. One of the goals of UAI is to work with citizen and civil society organisations and to put the citizen at the centre of efforts to combat the inhumanity of warfare and the abomination of measures that deny those in need of refuge the right to seek asylum. It aims to increase the political and reputational damage to perpetrators and to support civil society mobilisation actions on the inhumanity of war and the erosion of asylum.
Antonio Donini for the International Humanitarian Studies Association shares his vision of a future with new forms of civil society activism.

New Yorker’s Ariel Levy Reflects on Ophelia Dahl, and Optimism as a “Moral Choice”
Ophelia told me that pessimism is the worst possible expression of privilege. Because then you're basically writing off millions of people who simply can't afford to think that way: they can't look at the statistics and conclude, "You know, it doesn't look so good for my family. I think we'll just give up." I try to hang on to that idea when I feel hopeless, that optimism is a moral choice. That the alternative is a failure of not just empathy, but imagination.
Partners in Health talk to Ariel Levy about her experiences in Sierra Leone. Pessimism as privilege...interesting food for discussion...

Why positive thinking won’t get you out of poverty

As a consequence, this approach individualises the ‘problem’ of poverty whilst failing to acknowledge, contextualize, highlight or analyse the structures, institutions and actors that actually make and keep some people poor. For example, the idea that role models can be effective in changing people’s behaviour, emotions and self-concepts isn’t new; what’s new is the belief that these aspirations can lift people out of poverty without broader changes in politics, social structures and institutions. Returning to the brothels of Kolkata, advocating for the removal of psychological barriers may not be effective if the working conditions of sex workers and the structures on which their material deprivation stands continue to go unchallenged.
Farwa Sial & Carolina Alves for Open Democracy take on the original New York Times piece of how positive thinking may help to end poverty.

Bringing Behavioral Science to “Edutainment”

Behavioral scientists can keep demonstrating value to edutainment and social and behavioral change communication, in part through future deployments of this method and increasing the base of evidence. They can do so through much more research about the psychological mechanisms of edutainment, which we have little understanding of yet. In everything from peace building to fertilizer use, edutainment has been used, and behavioral science should be used too.
What is certain is that we must keep working together. Edutainment is the best-funded, best-evidenced approach to behavior change communication at scale. It is vital, and it is not as good as it could be. Behavioral science has much to offer in maximizing its impact.
Tom Wein for the Behavioral Scientist. Tom is a graduate of our ComDev MA program and asks important questions in his essay on how the impact of 'edutainment' can become more scientific.

Gender in Humanitarian Imagery: The Case of CARE International

The analysis of CARE International’s visual communication on Twitter demonstrates that CARE’s imagery has shifted to portray a greater representation of empowered women. Yet, images of women vastly outnumber those of men, and women are portrayed as victims more often than men. As such, CARE’s communication can be characterized by a lack of gender as well as contextual variability. Thus, CARE’s communication reflects a greater entrenchment in, and perpetuation of, a victim paradigm that inadequately represents the needs and capabilities of both genders.
In moral and ethical terms, the emotions of compassion and empathy should be unconstrained by gender. Though women do suffer disproportionately as a result of humanitarian crises, their over-utilization as a means of eliciting compassion and empathy points to an unequal sublimation of who may be deserving of an assistive response. This delineates who can and cannot be a victim, elevating gender roles and dichotomies and marginalizing the agency of both.
The Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy with a well-referenced case study on visual representations of beneficiaries in the context of CARE's communication.

Why is Africa always portrayed as a passive woman?

It’s too easy for even people who know better to describe Africa in relation to its position in Western and now Eastern commodity chains, to accept that the challenge is in finding a suitor rather than emphasising the agency of African people. We pick up the discourse uncritically and in so doing reinforce it. Africa represents “a new economic frontier” and not, for example, a home. “What’s Trump’s position on Africa?” we scramble to answer as if Africa cannot exist without Trump expressing an opinion on it. Yes, it’s in the nature of international economic and political discourse to unsee people, but shouldn’t we resist this dehumanising language?
There’s certainly truth in that African political leaders are so eager to drop everything and traipse around the world, begging bowls in hand, at the beck and call of leaders from other parts of the world. In 2014, rather than visit various African countries, for example, Obama simply summoned them all for a meeting in Washington DC. And they came. Tony Blair did the same thing in 2004. Our presidents scurry off to Brussels and Paris, and China every three years.
Nanjala Nyabola for African Arguments taking on the visual language and rhetoric of 'Africa' displayed at international gatherings and in politics for generally.

'Accepting charity is an ugly business': my return to the refugee camps, 30 years on

“Because people want every hour and dollar they give to be stretched thin.” Hutchings told me that his biggest problem was the volunteers, donors, and their lofty expectations. Many donors want to assign criteria to how their food is given out. They want their money feeding as many as possible, to make sure you spend it only on eggs and bread. They want to police. They don’t care about the “how”. Even the most good-hearted volunteers want to feel thanked. Refugee Support began its work in April 2016 at Alexandreia camp near Thessaloniki, Greece. They set out to open a food store, then a clothing store, a well-designed, peaceful marketplace stocked with donations, where a person of note wouldn’t be ashamed to shop. When Hutchings showed me photographs, I thought: my mother, an Iranian doctor, would shop there. My grandfather, a landowner, would be proud to run into a neighbour there. It was a far cry from the item-specific trucks.
At first, residents made appointments and collected prepared baskets of food, thoughtfully arranged with necessities for each family. Everyone received the same thing, regardless of allergies, habits or taste. But people didn’t have the same needs, and soon there were grumblings, barter, waste.
Hutchings and Sloan decided to display the goods and give people the respect of choosing for themselves. The store’s currency would be points distributed weekly like income – 100 points per adult, 50 per child, 150 for pregnant women. Store prices would be pegged to market prices (20 points per euro). Sanitary items would be free. If residents wanted to spend all their points on chocolate spread, they had that right.
Dina Nayeri for the Guardian on charity, dignity & treating refugees right. 

White drones — white pigeons
The Guyana case offers clues to help the move towards structural change, as it highlights issues UNICEF Innovation ignores: the relevance of attitudes and values that frame projects/programs, the need to collaborate with people as equals and the role hardware plays in this, the need to identify and tackle power imbalances in every intervention, the need for knowledge equity, capabilities, and autonomy for adequate impact and sustainability, the need to understand change is a long term thing, not the result of a technology transfer scheme (the tribes and Digital Democracy have been partnering for more than 10 years).
Paz Bernaldo with a long and detailed critique of UNICEF Innovation's approach to innovation & challenging neo-/post-colonial narratives around drones in Guyana.

Meet Haiti's Founding Father, Whose Black Revolution Was Too Radical for Thomas Jefferson

Dessalines’ vision of an autonomous black state – a nation founded by enslaved people who killed their colonial masters – alarmed the patrician Virginia plantation owner, Jefferson’s letters show. The U.S. was also being pressured by southern slave states and French and British diplomats to shun Haiti.
Rather than reckoning with the ills of racial oppression and colonialism, most prominent thinkers across the Americas and Europe interpreted Dessalines’ war as an example of African barbarity.
Julia Gaffield for the Conversation on the re-emergence of a black Caribbean figure that deserves more space in history-making & anti-slavery lectures.

Our digital lives

All White Male Panel Topics

I Don’t Have Experience Here, But My Take Is

I Realize We’re Out of Time, But If I Could Just

As I Wrote In My Free Ebook

I’m Sorry I Missed The First Part of This, But I Think

Let’s Hear More From The Same Voices

A Few Problematic Generalizations to Illustrate My Point
Chris Hardie for McSweeney's.

The Tiny Nations Plotting to Become Tax Havens for Cryptocurrencies

Binance, the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency exchange, has moved from China, where it was founded in 2017, to Malta, where it is creating a blockchain-based bank called the Founders Bank. Yanislav Malahov, one of the creators of Ethereum — the second-most popular cryptocurrency after bitcoin — has chosen Liechtenstein as his base to build a new blockchain called Aeternity. And companies like remittance firm eXlama decided to set up shop in Gibraltar, because it was “one of the first” territories to “answer to the demand” for a legal framework for blockchain, cryptocurrencies
Eric Czuleger for Ozy on the next frontier in 'financial services' & tax havenism...


The Plantation’s role in enhancing hurricane vulnerability in the nineteenth-century British Caribbean

Despite all of its attendant vulnerabilities, the plantation remained the centre of British Caribbean society into the late nineteenth century. The fact that the British vision for the region developed so little meant that the plantation continually exposed the region’s inhabitants to increased risk. A hurricane in 1898 that hit Barbados and St. Vincent caused landslips that rendered many homeless and necessitated the rapid importation of provisions and timber. This system, as unsustainable and ill-suited to the region’s environment as it was, remained because it primarily benefitted a select group of people who were far removed from its consequences. Such a conclusion should cause us to reflect on present day developments in the Caribbean.
Oscar Webber for Alternautas with a great historical essay and a reminder that 'natural disasters' are rarely simply 'natural' and often come with a baggage of history, exploitation, vulnerabilities and marginalization as seen in from a British colonial perspective in the Caribbean.


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