Links & Contents I Liked 307

Hi all,

Happy New Year!

The 2019 blogging year is already in full swing and my first link review is not even attempting to 'catch up' with stuff from the holidays; I included a few interesting pieces from December for good measure, but essentially we are celebrating a new year!


New from aidnography

My development blogging year 2018 in review

I looked at the top blog posts and book reviews for 2018 and I think that they quite nicely represent some of the bigger debates the #globaldev community grappled with last year.
From Hollywood to Holy Wars (book review)
In the end, From Hollywood to Holy Wars (despite the slightly cheesy title…) delivers a well-balanced memoir in which Cherie Hart finds a really nice balance between critical reflection on her UN work without descending into snark and sharing an aid worker life with the right dose of work-life balance. Hopefully her easy-going book will inspire more women to write about their experiences ‘in development’ and add more nuances to more traditional accounts of how the aid industry really worked and the challenges on personal relationships and families while ‘saving the world’.
Development news

2018 in Review: Humanitarian policy and practice
In this week-long series, IRIN’s editors highlight five themes from across our reporting that will continue to inform our coverage of the humanitarian sector in the new year: local aid; women and girls; returns and rebuilding; policy and practice; and migration.
What's Coming In 2019? Global Thinkers Make Big, Bold Predictions
So what should we expect in 2019? We reached out to pundits in global health and development and they came up with nine bold predictions.
NPR's Goats & Soda officially called me 'global thinker' and 'pundit' and once I reached the status of an 'evangelist' I will have to charge money ;)!

How an emerging African megacity cut commutes by two hours a day

The Dart system boasts bus lanes separated from other traffic, mostly in the middle of the road to reduce stoppages. Ticket payment and control takes place at stations rather than on board, while step-free stations and boarding mean the entire route is accessible to people in wheelchairs or with buggies.
We get on the first bus fine, but for the return journey have to wait for three buses before there is space to board. You should have seen how bad it was before, says Navarro.
Nick van Mead for the Guardian with a good news story about public transport from Dar Es Salaam.

Another UN Harassment Case Quietly Disappears

Amid a busy December, when the United Nations was focusing on important conferences on climate change and migration and year-end holidays loomed, a case of harassment that never got the traction it arguably deserved ended in a traditional UN way: it disappeared.
On Dec. 14, the chairman of the International Civil Service Commission, which regulates salaries and working conditions for staff members across the vast UN system, quietly resigned, after a year of dodging allegations that he had created a hostile and “unhealthy” environment for women who rejected his sexual advances.
Barbara Crossette for PassBlue with a reminder that UN culture change is slow-and perhaps bureaucratic, diplomatic organizations can't really adapt to a post-#AidToo world?!?

Misery and Human Suffering in Central & West Africa 'Don't Sell'​

Many aid workers arrive in these countries full of hope and good intentions (especially the young ones). They leave, winded, after two or three years trying hard. For those who choose a career in this sector by pure altruism with the aim to serve and help people in need, this might be hard to swallow. On the other hand, the aid sector is also filled with complacent staff who are here for the paycheck and the R&Rs (rest and recuperation) and who prefer to stay away from thorny issues. Isn't it time for us, aid workers, to question our methods and approaches to protracted crises in Central and West Africa? Haven't we also taken an active part in allowing these crises to go unnoticed and unresolved for too long? Shouldn't we opt for bolder advocacies that rise these crises on the international agenda, and take proactive steps to shape the public debate and perceptions ? In fact, too many aid agencies in Central and West Africa, including NRC, invest in programmatic staff while overlooking the importance of investing in experienced and skilled advocacy and communications staff. A balance of both is critical because while we provide relief, these crises can be only brought to the public and stakeholders' attention through advocacy and communications efforts.
Hajer Naili with some great reflections on her communications work for the Norwegian Refugee Council and the challenges of not 'forgetting' protracted conflicts.

Who Are the World’s Poor? New overview from CGD

So where do the numbers take us? If many of the world’s poor are outside of agriculture, and the urban poor experience malnutrition and child mortality despite better economic opportunities in principle, then what is going on?
First, the good news: most of the world’s multidimensional poor live in countries with good growth history. In fact, three-quarters of global multidimensional poverty is in fast-growing countries (see table below).
So, no need to worry as growth will take care of poverty in due course? You’d think growth was always good for the poor, right?
Gisela Robles & Andy Sumner for fp2p with excellent food for thought on poverty and the ongoing complexities that will not simply be solved by a 'growth is good' mantra...

Who Controls Cultural Heritage?
We shouldn’t protect everything. If we protect everything we are preventing other cultures from emerging. We need to create breathing room. The question is how we select. It’s something to be left to democratic processes, what people call dialogical democracy based on hybrid forums. It’s not just experts and governments that are in the room as the representatives of democracy but people who live in the areas as well, and people from different parts of the population. Something that happens is that people use the idea of heritage value to prevent development and, for instance, put pressure on access to housing.
Bhavya Dore talks to Lucas Lixinski for Hyperallergic. Debates around 'heritage' have very interesting entry-points for talking about de-colonization etc.

The global poor go online for the same reasons you do

News flash: Internet users in the developing world have the same motivations you do. They go online, as digital anthropologist Payal Arora explains in her new book, because they’re hungry, horny, happy, lonely, or bored.
Aimee Ortiz talks to Payal Arora for the Boston Globe about her forthcoming book.

Why smartphones are skewing young Indians’ ideas of sex

"We have not grown up being given sex education or having normal adult conversations about these things," says filmmaker and writer Paromita Vohra. She runs the website Agents of Ishq (Romance), which encourages open discussions about sex.
"When people only watch violent sexual content, it is very desensitising because they start believing that violence is the only way to get pleasure and that female consent is unimportant."
India has 400 million smartphone users, and more than half of them use WhatsApp, which is the medium often used to share such videos.
BBC News with a story of 'ICT4Bad' from India and the huge amount of (digital) work that is still necessary to create a safe environment for women and girls as digital tools are spreading in the 'global South'.

Migrant Caravan Teens Talk About What It's Like to Get Your Period

While supply was not such an issue for menstruators on the caravan, finding clean bathrooms and a private place to change were another story — a challenge displaced people often face. Dr. Marni Sommer, DrPH, who has worked with the International Rescue Committee to see how organizations can better manage menstrual hygiene in emergency situations, spoke to displaced women and girls in Myanmar and Lebanon for research. Afterwards, she wrote in The Conversation: “What we found was that the main difficulties women and girls faced went beyond a need for materials and included a lack of privacy and facilities to manage their menstruation.”
Annette Lin with more 'development'-related journalism for Teen Vogue!

Humanitarianism is in crisis. Digital innovation won’t fix it
As global connectivity has deepened, the number of fences, walls, border controls, visa restrictions, and nationality derogations has exploded. International space has physically striated into fast, slow, and stopped lanes. The positivity of techno-populism is a function of the ability of connectivity to leap across such barriers and, at the same time, effectively disregard the growing anger and ground friction associated with them.
Rather than understand the age of anger politically and historically through face-to-face engagement on the ground, techno-populism is complicit containment and late-capitalism's expanding off-grid wild. If technology is to play a useful humanitarian role we have to make a choice. The easy road is to do nothing and submit to ever deepening automation, remote management, and the robotisation of behaviour. The more difficult task – and one that will define progressive politics for years to come – is to bring the oligarchic electronic atmosphere under democratic control.
Mark Duffield for IRIN with an important essay that adds important theoretical depth to current debates on humanitarian technology and digital saviorism.

The Ghost Statistic That Haunts Women’s Empowerment

Yet the ghost statistic should be a cautionary tale. Even when quantitative data are valid, they often produce very limited understandings of the complex realities of girls and women’s lives and the conditions that produce poverty and inequality. These simply cannot be captured by a trial or a survey alone. The Gates Foundation spokesperson, for example, sent me recent studies showing that investing in women is a highly effective development intervention. Among them was Duncan Thomas’s paper demonstrating that, as the spokesperson put it, “maternal income increased family nutrition by 4-7 times more than the income of fathers,” and that “child survival had a highly positive relation to unearned income of mothers, and that the effect is 20 times larger compared to fathers.” Unlike the ghost statistic, these results are reliable. But they don’t simply reveal that “when women have access and control over the household income, they are more likely than men to invest in the health and welfare of their families,” as the spokesperson wrote me. They reveal a shocking depth of gender inequality at the level of the household.
Kathryn Moeller for the New Yorker on why data alone is not enough to communicate 'development' and that quant almost always need qual to make sense of nuances & complexities before the become 'ghost statistics'.

Beyond the Myth of the War Photographer
The psychiatrist Anthony Feinstein explores this complexity in his book, “Shooting War” (Glitterati Editions). Starting with a single, striking image from each photographer, Dr. Feinstein profiles 18 conflict photographers, including Don McCullin, Tim Hetherington and Corinne Dufka, and examines their motivations, traumas, and, most important, their resilience.
So why do photographers risk being beaten, jailed, tortured, held for ransom, and even maimed or killed? And how do they cope? By Dr. Feinstein’s reckoning, they are both driven and bolstered by their convictions and principles. These act as a kind of emotional armor and a source of resilience.
Finbarr O’Reilly reviews Anthony Feinstein's book for the New York Times.

My year of reading African women, by Gary Younge

Faced with an array of choices and limited time, when it comes to literature, there’s a part of me that I’m not particularly proud of that chooses not to make the effort, even when there is little to no translation necessary. Somewhere deep in my subconscious I must have decided that books by African women would be harder than those by some other demographics. They weren’t. On some level I must have had reading African women down as self-improving but not necessarily enjoyable, when in fact it was mostly the latter and often both.
Gary Younge for the Guardian with an excellent list of books & thoughtful reflections!

Our digital lives

Doctors are asking Silicon Valley engineers to spend more time in the hospital before building apps

Brandon Ballinger, a former Google engineer, spent months working with doctors, and even watched a heart procedure at the University of California, San Francisco, before starting his company, Cardiogram, which looks for signs of common medical conditions in data generated by consumer wearables. That experience gave him a sense of how to gain the approval and trust of physicians when Cardiogram embarked on studies of its own.
"Brandon volunteered with us at about full-time for a year, sat in on research meetings and helped us in return with data science projects," said Greg Marcus, a cardiologist at UCSF. "Frequently entrepreneurs without clinical expertise, without adequate consultation might be misled in thinking their flashy tech by itself is sufficient, without thinking about how it will actually aid us. I'm a strong advocate for entrepreneurs reaching out, and I think many physicians would want to help."
Christina Farr for CNBC. Sounds like a great idea for ICT4D and much of development when it comes to new tools, apps etc...

Big Business Has a New Scam: The ‘Purpose Paradigm’

These polls and surveys about millennial anti-capitalist angst are the foundation of the corporate-purpose zeitgeist, which seeks to win the trust of the millennial and channel her radical energies along market friendly lines.
Contrary to its purported aim, the point of purpose isn’t to drive change. It’s to make sure any change stays within the tightly bound comfort zone of the world’s most powerful executives.
Neither Unilever and Polman weighed in on the proposed treaty; Unilever did not answer four e-mails inviting the company to share its views. But the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), which Polman chairs, has actively lobbied against the treaty. Why? Because the purpose of the treaty is to turn unenforceable, voluntary self-regulatory initiatives of corporations into legally binding obligations.
A fast-growing body of reports, analyses, and research, including reports from Amnesty International, shows how self-regulating business initiatives, including the palm-oil certification scheme of Unilever, make no real impact or worse, inhibit real change with a false illusion of progress. “One of the systemic problems that Unilever’s ‘sustainable’ palm-oil scheme refuses to acknowledge,” says Eric Gottwald from the International Labor Rights Forum, “is that workers on plantations need independent trade unions to improve their working conditions, not corporate-sponsored “certifiers.”
Maria Hengeveld for the Nation calls out corporate BS for what it is and reminds us once again that business will not ultimately be a driver for radical social change!

The rise of international nonprofit news

But when it comes to international news — including about some of the defining issues of our era — we haven’t seen the same surge in quality, nonprofit journalism — yet. This, despite the fact that readers want more international news — and may be willing to pay for it.
Heba Aly for the Nieman Lab kicks off the 2019 debates around #globaldev journalism!

How nonprofit newsrooms have featured in a ‘comeback’ year for investigative journalism

That kind of support by foundations, some would argue, distorts editorial decision-making by nonprofit editors. However, without such funding important issues of public interest would go unreported. It needs to be recognized that the nonprofit sector’s business model differs from that of the commercial media.
What may seem questionable at a newspaper – such as advertisers suggesting story topics – may not be so at a nonprofit site because foundations do not have a commercial incentive. Foundation funding of broad topic areas creates more quality journalism that is good for an informed citizenry as long as the funding is transparent and funders do not determine the actual stories or the content of the stories. That is an ethical line that should never be crossed.
Hamish Boland-Rudder talks to Bill Birnbauer for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists about his latest book and the links between US investigative journalism and non-profit funding.


The gentrification of African studies

The gentrification of African studies has altered the social character of its community and generated a new set of problems such as visa issues, academic hipsterism, and restricted access to critical research, which risks to permanently exclude continent-based scholars, undermine their crucial contributions, and eventually converts African studies into another impotent, banal field.
Haythem Guesmi for Africa Is a Country kicks of 2019 with lots of food for thought for us academics working on, in and with the global South!


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