Links & Contents I Liked 305

Hi all,

We are moving closer to a short, but well-deserved break (next week's review will be the last for 2018), but in the meantime, there's some interesting, eyebrow-raising, thought-provoking and inspiring reading around #globaldev!


Development news
Sweden freezes support to UNAIDS until leader removed

Sweden said Wednesday it was freezing its support to UNAIDS until its executive director is removed, after an expert report blasted the agency's leadership for systematically failing to address bullying, abuse and sexual harassment.
The Swedish government has no confidence in Michel Sidibe to lead the organisation, a spokesman for the ministry for international development cooperation told AFP, confirming reports in local media.
"We have no confidence in him. He has to resign now," International Development Cooperation Minister Isabella Lovin told daily Svenska Dagbladet, adding "I've even told him so personally".
That's the AFP on Wednesday.

UNAIDS head to quit post early following scathing report
A statement from the UN agency on Thursday made no reference to last week's report, simply saying that Sidibe wants to "have an orderly transition of leadership at UNAIDS" and would resign the end of June.
Critics pounced. Paula Donovan, co-director of AIDS-Free World and its Code Blue Campaign, which works to end impunity for sexual abuse by UN personnel, said Sidibe "doesn't deserve to leave on his terms and on his timeline."
"A leader of any other major institution who was accused of the wrongdoing described in ... the report would have been summarily fired," she said, criticizing a "failure of leadership" by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres -- who can fire Sidibe -- and the UNAIDS board.
"This is the culmination of the abuse of power and authority that has marked Sidibe's tenure," Donovan said. "The culture of impunity remains intact. Zero tolerance is ... nothing more than empty slogan."
Jamey Keaten for Associated Press on Thursday. 2018, the year of #AidToo, is coming to close and the UN system sticks to diplomatic and bureaucratic routines rather than using the opportunity to deal with toxic management differently.

The Crisis of Peacekeeping

In many cases, calling on the blue helmets has become merely a convenient substitute for a serious grappling with what it would take to bring peace. The same story thus repeats itself, whether in Bosnia, Congo, East Timor, Kosovo, Rwanda, Somalia, or South Sudan. After the outbreak of war, donor countries pledge millions of dollars in aid and ask the UN for help. Eventually, the warring parties call for cease-fires, sign agreements, and hold elections. But soon, sometimes just days later, violence flares up again. Often, it has never actually ended; in many cases, it lasts for years.
The international community’s preferred strategy for dealing with conflict simply isn’t working: peacekeeping as currently practiced is a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. The good news is that there is a way to rethink the current strategy so that it has a better shot at establishing lasting peace: rely more on the very people it is ostensibly trying to protect.
Séverine Autesserre for Foreign Affairs with a long-read on the past, present and uncertain future of UN peacekeeping.

OPINION: We need to talk about racism in the aid sector

No one is blatantly racist to your face. It isn’t overt. But the careless treatment of professional black aid workers by humanitarian aid organisations suggests a hierarchy of worth, with workers from the Global South, especially if they are black, valued the least.
We came to this work naively thinking everyone would be treated equally regardless of race, gender or religious affiliation. It didn’t take us long to discover that equality is a charade in this sector.
The realities:
Hazardous conditions — black workers more likely to be put in harm’s way.
Housing conditions — better for whites than for black colleagues.
Promotions — white workers promoted over more competent black colleagues with years more experience.
Complaints about these and other injustices — ignored and dismissed.
There is still a touch of well-meaning, missionary zeal in the attitude of the northern aid workers towards the developing world. We need to see the talent among local workers, not imagine dependency. The ultimate aim must be to hand over control to local agencies. This would involve setting in place exit strategies for ex-pats and implementing transparent career ladders for local workers.
Tindyebwa Agaba & Anonymous for openDemocracy with lots of food for thought on racial biases, localization and a post-#AidToo #globaldev sector.

DFID doesn’t fully accept all findings from aid abuse report
DFID has today published its response to the findings of the IDC’s report and, in doing so, has sought to shift much of the responsibility onto the the wider international development sector.
Amongst the recommendations the government took slight umbrage with was conducting an audit of the accessibility to whistleblowing systems and protections for the people who use them.
Hugh Radojev for CivilSociety on how #AidToo is becoming de-/re-/politicized as more structural challenges emerge.

Pakistan Ousts 18 Aid Agencies. Human Rights Minister Tweets 'They Must Leave'

"Combine that with what's happening to journalists and media outlets, and what you have is a dramatically shrinking space for civil society."
"In the absence of real financial pressure over this issue, the Pakistani state can withstand Western criticism," the former senior staffer wrote to NPR, particularly in a global environment of rising nationalism and a backlash against liberal institutions.
Kugelman, the senior associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center, said Pakistan would only change course if it was concerned with its reputation.
"For Pakistan, a country that already has an image problem, the optics of expelling charitable organizations are not good, to say the least. With Islamabad trying to capitalize on an improved security situation and attract more foreign investment, it may come to realize that now's not the right time to act in ways that cause its global image to take more hits," he wrote.
Diaa Hadid for NPR Goats & Soda on shrinking civil society space-this time in Pakistan.

UNESCO Chair in ICT4D’s response to the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation call for contributions

Unfortunately the questions in this consultation are somewhat broad and repetitive. Most have already been answered in the very extensive literature that exists, some of which we list below in Section V. We wonder how much time panel members actually have to read some of the most important texts on the subject? The answers to most of the questions herein are well-known; the challenge is to act upon this knowledge. It is a challenge of “will”.
We also noted above our concerns about the role of the High-Level Panel on Digital Co-operation, and remain unconvinced that it is the appropriate vehicle through which real change can be delivered. There are already UN bodies and structures that could readily have fulfilled this role. Why was there the need to create yet another high-level body? The structure of the Panel is also problematic if it intends to understand and deliver on the key issues noted above. Whilst efforts have clearly been made to get reasonable gender and regional balances, the panel is heavily made up of elite people, and has a strong private sector emphasis. Few members are from very poor or marginalised backgrounds, and although many might claim to know about poverty and marginalisation, few have really experienced it.
Tim Unwin's critique of the new UNSG's High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation is interesting in its detailed response, but also raising important broader questions about the role of 'high-level panels' (similar to the need for 'flagship reports').

How can the UN become a Thought Leader again?

I made a nostalgic visit to the UN in Geneva last week to help the TDR team chew this over (about 20 people, Chatham House Rule, so no names/institutions, sorry). As prep, I went back to take a look at the most recent TDRs – they are beautifully written. Here’s a sample para from the latest one, on Power Platforms and the Free Trade Delusion:
‘The paradox of twenty-first century globalization is that – despite an endless stream of talk about its flexibility, efficiency and competitiveness – advanced and developing economies are becoming increasingly brittle, sluggish and fractured. As inequality continues to rise and indebtedness mounts, with financial chicanery back in the economic driving seat and political systems drained of trust, what could possibly go wrong?’
But that’s taken from a 27 page overview, with no accompanying blog, infographic or any of the other modern accoutrements. It’s like an elegantly crafted essay from a bygone era.
UNCTAD staff’s frustration is tangible
Duncan Green for fp2p shares reflections about a recent visit to UNCTAD, the role of 'flagship reports' and how the UN system can become more of a #globaldev thought leader again.

Why there is a need for mission-driven communities in humanitarian work

Forgive me, colleagues, but international development and humanitarian response — hungry for innovation — is driven by a fad. Everyone is an “AI”, everyone is a “blockchain’, yet we operate in a much more complex environment for implementation of tech solutions on the ground. Who is to sort things out? How to ensure, those social startups — the aspirational private sector effort in reality of humanitarian crisis — do what the private sector does best… ‘compete’ to create the best-fit solutions, yet support and multiply each others’ efforts for a unified social mission.
Karina Grosheva for TaQadam on rhetoric and reality in #globaldev's innovation discussions.

New Research Critiques Instagrammable Humanitarianism and Emotion Tourism

The author argues that instagrammable humanitarianism depends on “gestural images” such as selfies: Medina’s pictures “invite her followers into the sociability of her imaginary as celebrity humanitarian.” Yet, crucially, Møhring Reestorff writes that “while the youth might be interested in celebrities, they are not necessarily interested in charity work. In fact older groups tend to approve of associations between charities and celebrities more than younger groups.” Additionally, because of the ubiquity of social media, this type of campaign blurs the target group involving networks and platforms which pick up, repurpose and comment on both celebrity and social media engagement.
Paradoxically therefore, the reaction to Medina’s collaboration with Act Alliance creates further compassion fatigue in the audience, in an example of the “crisis of humanitarianism” which refuses to accept “‘common humanity’ as the motivation for our actions,” a tendency already singled out by Chouliaraki.
Caroline Are for the Humanitarian News Research Network summarizes new research on humanitarian communication (you are subscribed to their newsletter, right?!?)

Africa’s must-read books of 2018
This year was full of spectacular fiction, spine-tingling poetry and hard-hitting non-fiction from Africa. Here is some of the best.
Samira Sawlani for African Arguments with a great to-read list! 

Our digital lives
Why was Iraqi influencer Tara Fares executed in Baghdad?

“She defined in her own terms the way she wanted to live in the public space; the image she wanted to have,” says human rights lawyer Sherizaan Minwalla, who has worked extensively across Iraq. “She was making her own choices about the way she lived and travelled. Why shouldn’t she go to Baghdad? Violence serves to restrict women’s public role in society. Who wouldn’t be terrified? When women are killed, others will think twice before taking part in a public demonstration, or stepping outside of traditional roles.”
“The message the violence sends is that women don’t get to be political unless it’s on [society’s] terms. We don’t always analyse violence against women in political terms, but standing up to traditional power structures and patriarchal norms is inherently political, because it challenges the status quo. It is political that Fares got up and said no to this and then set out on her own path.”
Cathy Otten for Stylist with sobering piece on the murder of an outspoken young woman in Iraq part of the endemic violence many women experience in Iraq and the region.

T.M. Landry and the Tragedy of Viral Success Stories

That disease stems, in part, from political choices that have rotted the social safety net and made access to a good education the birthright of only a tiny elite. But the disease is also, more perniciously, the legacy of the demand that black children be raised as John Henrys, no matter if it kills them in the process.
We need to stop substituting hopeful stories for justice. We must ensure that all children have a true opportunity to realize their potential. We ought to subscribe to a new vision of success, where the goal is not just great kids, but free and whole ones too.
Casey Gerald for the New York Times with your weekly reminder that philanthrocapitalists, individual success stories and inspiration will not lead to systemic social change in the US!

'They don't care': Facebook factchecking in disarray as journalists push to cut ties

Current and former Facebook factcheckers told the Guardian that the tech platform’s collaboration with outside reporters has produced minimal results and that they’ve lost trust in Facebook, which has repeatedly refused to release meaningful data about the impacts of their work. Some said Facebook’s hiring of a PR firm that used an antisemitic narrative to discredit critics – fueling the same kind of propaganda factcheckers regularly debunk – should be a deal-breaker.
“They’ve essentially used us for crisis PR,” said Brooke Binkowski, former managing editor of Snopes, a factchecking site that has partnered with Facebook for two years. “They’re not taking anything seriously. They are more interested in making themselves look good and passing the buck … They clearly don’t care.”
Sam Levin for the Guardian. People who thought that Facebook would care about journalistic ethics are probably also the people who continue to call an advertising platform a 'social network'...

I was a contract worker in Google’s caste system—and it wasn’t pretty

So, ideally, Google would take the high road. If it wants to “do the right thing,” as its motto goes, it can hire most workers full-time. But that’s admittedly costly in terms of administration, benefits, compensation, and potential liability. And what it’s doing isn’t unique—many Silicon Valley corporations rely on contractors for a bulk of their core work. Microsoft did this too, until it settled a massive class action lawsuit in 2000 with “permatemps” for $97 million.
Someday, perhaps Google will also end up paying out to those who work for less just to be at “the best” workplace in the world. For now, however, it seems that until labor laws change to reflect the current employment reality and incentivize full-time hiring, inequality will persist—even as the company appears sweet on the outside.
Ephrat Livni for Quartz...why should Google be better than the rest of the corporate world...

Taylor Swift’s Security Used Facial Recognition Technology to Monitor Concert Crowds for Stalkers. Is That Allowed?

Advocacy groups are concerned about the little that we do know about the use of the technology at the Swift concert. “Companies have a responsibility to respect human rights, and they need to make sure any monitoring that they do is really limited to what is strictly necessary to achieve a legitimate aim,” says Sarah St. Vincent, a researcher and advocate for Human Rights Watch. “If this company is learning that this person is attending a Taylor Swift concert and maybe stood next to certain other people or went to the bar to get a drink or engaged in other things, that’s data that’s valuable for them to sell.” This makes it all the more important, argues St. Vincent, for companies to notify people when facial recognition is in use and give them the chance to opt out.
Aaron Mak for Slate. More crowd control-coming to a opposition rally, refugee camp or #globaldev summit near you soon!


Human AI for Human Development

A human AI also requires developing incentives and means for civil society organizations, researchers, regulators, and others, to demand that public policies and programs be evaluated systematically using the best available data and methodologies, to adjust future iterations and contribute to a body of evidence on what yields which results.
Data for transparency and rational compassion are a recipe for dealing with fake news and demagoguery.
Emmanuel Letouzé and Alex Pentland for ITU.
It's an interesting paper, but perhaps the ITU (another big international organization) could spend more time on summarizing papers right on their website rather than featuring extensive bios of the authors...

The State of the Humanitarian System 2018
An independent study compiling the latest statistics and analysis on the size,
shape and scope of the humanitarian system and assessing
overall performance and progress.
ALNAP with its annual overview over humanitarian issues-a great format for a non-flagship report!

Communication for Development Case Study Compendium

This compendium of 15 SBCC cases presents results and learning from the Communication for Development (C4D) cross-sectoral interventions from 15 states of India – all implemented during the country programme 2013- 2017. Additionally, a national level C4D Results Report ‘Resonating Change’ has also been compiled.
UNICEF India with a 206 page pdf document (sigh...); interesting content, presented in a typical UN publication way where less could have been more...


It’s time to rethink letters of recommendation

So, what can be done? We could start by requesting fewer letters. In most situations it is more effective to simply ask for names of referees and their contact information. This would limit the letter writing to only those who are being seriously considered, saving countless hours of work for everyone. Or why not simply stop asking for letters altogether?
Rima Wilkes and Howard Ramos for University Affairs. Like many other academic traditions, reference letters are a 20th century practice that is yet to be 'disrupted' 19 years into the 21st century...

Ghent University is changing course with a new career model for professorial staff
A predominantly quantitative and output-driven academic evaluation process makes way for talent development and growth, prioritizing vision development and strategy – at the personal as well as the group level. Quality prevails over quantity. Needless to say, we are confident that the intrinsic motivation of each ZAP member ensures that no one needs a priori objectives in order to perform well in the core tasks of our university: education, research and institutional or social engagement.
Belgian Ghent University is introducing a new model to evaluate career and 'success' at the university.

A Poem About Your University’s New and Totally Not Time-Wasting Review Process for Tenure and Promotion
In conclusion, we would like to remind you
That these changes won’t affect
Too many faculty members as
No one is really on
The tenure track anymore.
Indeed, the tenure track is
Sort of like a creepy and abandoned
High-school running track
In a poorly-produced horror film.
But the happy few who are on this track
Can rest assured that
We will be checking up on you.
Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
We’ll be watching you.
Susan Harlan with some McSweeney's poetry...


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