Links & Contents I Liked 310

Hi all,

A good, rich, interesting #globaldev week is coming to its end!

Development news: IMF doesn't like global consultancies (no, really!); new humanitarians; DfID's privatization; don't believe the Gates & Pinkers of the world! UNDP reform, Vol. XXVI; Scammers target Finland's development funds; menstruation myths; Pakistan's doctor bride myths; women empowerment data myths; a private security company disappeared in Afghanistan; Senegal's new museum of black civilizations;
Cacao & blockchain; altruism meets voluntourism; Chiwetel Ejiofor in Malawi; humanitarian dogs; musicians in DRC.

Our digital lives: Facebook sell-outs.

Publications: How to be a good guest; UNDP & media engagement; a book on good data.

Academia: Sleep, exhausting & being a black woman in academia; MOOCs didn't disrupt much; an autoethnography of research application writing.


Development news

IMF chief tells poor countries to cut use of global consultancy firms

“I’m looking around to see whether there are any of the McKinseys and Boston Consulting Groups, and if there are please listen to me.
“I see many, many low-income countries and emerging-market economies spend millions of dollars commissioning consultants to build their strategy plan. I would recommend some saving be made by taking the 17 principles, the actionable items, and start with that.
“From there, the consultants can actually do their job of putting it into reality. But don’t reinvent it — it’s right there. So much is wasted. That’s part of the inefficient spending that can actually be saved.”
Tom Belger for Yahoo Lifestyle with a fascinating quote by Christine Lagarde criticizing global consultancies' involvement in #globaldev.

‘New humanitarians’ take a seat at the table

Jérôme Jarre: It doesn't take 20 years of humanitarianism to know how to help someone.… If your mom is starving, are you going to figure it out? What are you going to bring her, are you going to bring her a bag of rice? Are you going to bring her a restricted car? … Or are you going to ask her what she wants and really, really empower her?
IRIN's Davos panel highlights some of the issues with 'new humanitarians' between glossy PR, lack of verifiable impact & a desire to 'disrupt' the existing #globaldev system.

Penny Mordaunt criticised over call for aid to come from private sector

The international development secretary told cabinet ministers she would aim for her department to become a fundraising department rather than a spending department, telling them it was unsustainable to continue to meet the spending target with taxpayer cash.
Dan Carden, the shadow international development secretary, said it was a cynical attempt to undermine the target. “Suggesting that poverty be turned in to a profitable business opportunity will do nothing to tackle the root causes of poverty or inequality,” he said.
Jessica Elgot for the Guardian. Why would DfiD be the exception in an era of Tory political madness and tabloidization of politics ?!?

Bill Gates says poverty is decreasing. He couldn’t be more wrong

What Roser’s numbers actually reveal is that the world went from a situation where most of humanity had no need of money at all to one where today most of humanity struggles to survive on extremely small amounts of money. The graph casts this as a decline in poverty, but in reality what was going on was a process of dispossession that bulldozed people into the capitalist labour system, during the enclosure movements in Europe and the colonisation of the global south.
This is a ringing indictment of our global economic system, which is failing the vast majority of humanity. Our world is richer than ever before, but virtually all of it is being captured by a small elite. Only 5% of all new income from global growth trickles down to the poorest 60% – and yet they are the people who produce most of the food and goods that the world consumes, toiling away in those factories, plantations and mines to which they were condemned 200 years ago. It is madness – and no amount of mansplaining from billionaires will be adequate to justify it.
As post Davos high-fiving is going on, Jason Hickel for the Guardian takes on the billionaires & popular narrative that 'the world has gotten better''s more complicated.

Reform Clouds Darken the Future of the UN Development Program
In a speech to his executive board on Jan. 21, Steiner acknowledged that the new structure of UN development work will require significant staff changes. But he assured board members that “we made an extraordinary effort to re-staff UNDP’s leadership cadre at country level in minimal time. . . . This exercise marked one of the largest and most complex leadership recruitments in UNDP’s history.”
Steiner said he had recruited 140 candidates qualified to serve as resident representatives under UNDP control to compensate for the loss of those representatives who became resident coordinators, working for Mohammed. (Robert Piper of Australia is heading the transition team, reporting to Mohammed.)
Through all the reshuffling, Steiner reported, “Our RR [resident representative] candidate pool is now 50/50 gender balanced and equally geographically diverse.”
“With the rearrangement of the chairs,” she said, “my fear would be that there would be more politically motivated appointments as RCs [resident coordinators] and less ideas-driven entrepreneurial individuals committed to cosmopolitan values and knowledge of development.”
Barbara Crossette for PassBlue with an update from UNDP on the never-ending story that is 'UN reforms'...

Finland’s Foreign Ministry falls for €400K email scam

Scammers are suspected of duping the Finnish Foreign Ministry into handing over some 400,000 euros in development funds last February, according to the National Bureau of Investigation.
yle with a story from Finland-most of the money has been recovered but still an interesting new take on Internet-based scams...

New Book Busts Myths About Menstruation Spread By Public Health Groups

"Stigma compromises healthy engagement with one's body. It undermines self-care, critical thinking and informed decision-making. It also hurts self-esteem and social status," says Bobel.
In recent years, Bobel, an associate professor of women's, gender and sexuality studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, says a major movement has emerged to support these girls.
But some of the activists' efforts have been misguided, says Bobel. "While these [groups] are busting [some] myths about menstruation, they're perpetuating other myths," she says.
Malaka Gharib for NPR Goats & Soda introduces Chris Bobel's interesting new, albeit a bit expensive, book. As with most aspects of the #globaldev discourse this is an interesting case study about the power and shortcomings of catchy statistics, products to 'fix' problems & approaching deep-rooted local challenges from a Westernized perspective.

The Myth of 'Doctor Brides'

A female participant expressed that “most men do not want equal life partners and do not let their wives work” whereas a male participant added that while “every man wants his daughter to be a doctor, most men do not let their wives [practice].”
The solution lies in resolving the structural barriers within medicine for both women and men by improving the quality of training programs, increasing salaries for trainee physicians and providing facilities for women, such as flexible working hours and day-care centres, practical steps which have been taken by other countries.
Moreover, considering the embedded social norms of gender roles within the Pakistani society, it would seem to us that the Chief Justice’s suggestion to women to convince their families to work is unlikely to lead to practical results. Allowances and social changes must evolve from within the system with the hope that the society will evolve gradually, and thus break down strict gender roles that entrap men and women both.
However, in the short run, addressing some of the immediate issues the study highlights including poor and unstructured postgraduate training systems, and lack of basic facilities would pave the way in resolving the issue of physician shortages.
Sualeha Siddiq Shekhani & Farhat Moazam for Dawn on gender roles & expectations and medical education in Pakistan.

Spooked by a Ghost Statistic: Challenges to How We Approach Women’s Empowerment

If we are being honest, isn’t this why instrumentalist narratives persist even in organizations with transformative missions? CARE struggles to clearly explain the complexity of our work to an audience that is sometimes uncomfortable with and potentially hostile to the requirements of profound systemic change. So we offer simplified narratives, ghostly or not, and speak the incontrovertible language of investment returns as an alternative to deeply political concepts of gender justice and human dignity.
Hilary Mathews for CARE reflects on Kathryn Moeller's recent essay on women empowerment's ghost statistics (also featured in link review 307) & the challenges of communicating complex #globaldev topics in the framework of Care's work.

A Security Company Cashed In on America’s Wars—And Then Disappeared

To some extent, this kind of geographical slipperiness reflects wider trends in the corporate world. It’s never been easier to locate assets offshore or create a shell company. Private-security firms are particularly well suited to slip between jurisdictions, because they don’t typically have a fixed employee base.
“Like any organization, they’re looking for loopholes, tax advantages, opportunities,” Ori Swed, an expert on military contractors at Texas Tech University, explained to The Bureau. He continued, however, that in the case of this industry, “we’re talking about someone that replaced a police, that replaced a military—it’s not just like getting scammed on the price of coffee.” Swed argues that only binding international regulation will lead to the sector’s accountability, though there are few signs of the political will to push for this.
Abigail Fielding-Smith, Crofton Black & The Bureau of Investigative Journalism for the Atlantic with an update from the shady frontlines of the military-security-industrial complex in Afghanistan.

Dakar’s Museum of Black Civilizations is a vital step for a people reclaiming their history

“The restitution of Africa’s stolen assets should not be dependent on us having space to display it,” says Hamady, to explain the role the museum will play in the great debate on the restitution of Africa’s looted assets. “Those who stole our assets cannot dictate what we do with them. For example, if a community wants to restore their assets to sacred forests from which they were taken, that is their right!”
The museum never loses sight of its aim to educate and enlighten the visitor of the role of black African art and ingenuity in human civilization. This includes a display that focuses on the contribution of Africa to medicine, mathematics, architecture, which of course would not be complete without mentioning the work of Cheikh Anta Diop, the Senegalese historian, anthropologist and physicist who studied the human race’s origins and pre-colonial African culture.
Ciku Kimeria for Quartz Africa with an update from Dakar on how the 'decolonization' agenda is changing museum practices around the world.

DFID Names Top 10 ICT4D Trends for 2019

137 votes from 37 countries revealed these top 10 trends in ICT4D for DFID:
Big Data
Circular Economy
Financial Technology
AI & Machine Learning
Satellite Technology
Refugee Applications
Micro-Grid Batteries
3D Printing
Alternate Internet Delivery
Wayan Vota for ICTworks and the thin line of ICT4D innovation, buzzwords, real trends & terms we are likely to hear about never again...

How Blockchain Technology is Working to End Child Labour in the Cacao Industry

Choco4Peace is looking to mitigate child labour in not one, but two sectors. Using hyperledger blockchain technology can create a decentralized, integrated economic network to finance cacao entrepreneurs’ ventures. The use of blockchain creates an opportunity for investors to directly access farmers who would otherwise be deemed too high-risk to be worthy of investment, due to their lack of access to markets, insurance, technology, and their rural and remote location. The transparency and traceability that blockchain ensures will enable investors to trace the origin of the cacao, and keep the supply chain child- labour and cruelty-free.
Eva Oakes for See Change Magazine. As skeptical as I am when 'blockchain' is mentioned, I know some great people who work for Choco4Peace and I am looking forward to learning more about their work!

Altruism meets voluntourism
Hennings said the trip was beneficial because it helped her learn more about northern Canada, saying “many of the most striking features of the community could only be captured by visiting and creating connections [within it].”
Her only concern with the program was that, as an intern, her project was prirotized last, which isn’t an uncommon occurrence.
After leaving, Hennings felt she’d had an impact, albeit small, in the community. This isn’t a failure to her: she was aware the time frame couldn’t allow for a complete overhaul of the community’s waste management.
“We travelled to Arviat under no false assumptions that we would revitalize their waste management system, or change the community’s perspective on environmentalism in a summer,” Hennings said.
Hannah Stafl for QJ Journal.
I think that this article highlights some of the current paradoxes of teaching 'development' at universities: Traditionally, the North American notion of 'service learning' often leads to the "sending students to Ghana" experience which often ends up in voluntourism or typical power dynamics of Western students benefiting more than locals. So they are sending students to difficult areas in their own country (first nation communities in Canada) which sounds like a good idea on paper. Turns out, internships there are also problematic and similar questions of power dynamics, local impact etc arise. So what to do? Many universities are faced with the challenge that a) students like to study "development"-so they want to offer courses, b) they need to prove 'employability' (internships etc) c) they have difficulties telling a generation of young students that no matter what they are doing it's an internship with little long-term impact.
I think the article points out some of these challenges that are rooted in current 'neoliberal' higher education policies as much as in traditional notions of travel, volunteering abroad and voluntourism.

Humanitarian dogs and drones: non-human humanitarians

A research article by Dr. Benjamin Meiches examines how non-human actors are perceived in humanitarian literature, and the opportunities and questions their use raises. We picked two different case studies analysed in the article – dogs and drones – and summarised the research’s main views about them in this post.
Carolina Are for the Humanitarian News Research Network with a neat summary of research + cute pictures of dogs ;)!

Chiwetel Ejiofor Adds Authenticity to Directorial Debut by Shooting in Malawi

colleagues floated the idea of shooting the Malawi-set film in tried-and-tested locations like South Africa or Kenya.
Ejiofor demurred. “It just didn’t seem plausible to me,” says the director, who was captivated by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer’s story about a 13-year-old boy who builds a windmill to save his village from famine. “There was no way that we could shoot the film anywhere else. For me, it was really a question of diving in feet first and just seeing what happens.”
Christopher Vourlias for Variety on setting a movie with a story in Malawi in Malawi.

DRC musicians, patronage networks and the possibility of change

Popular musicians in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), like many of their compatriots, have often been forced to depend on political patronage networks for their livelihoods. It dates back to colonial times, but has lived on through the country’s nearly six decades of independence.
Thomas Salter for the Conversation with a brief, interesting historical overview over music, pop culture & politics in Zaire/Congo.

Our digital lives

Facebook just hired a handful of its toughest privacy critics
At a time when Facebook has been under increased public scrutiny like never before, the company is now hiring at least one of its fiercest antagonists.
On Tuesday, Facebook acknowledged that it had hired three veteran privacy law activists, including Nate Cardozo, an attorney formerly of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who has been very publicly critical of the company in recent years.
The announcement drew widespread praise from their colleagues
Cyrus Farivar for Ars Technica. Let me guess: They want to change organizational from within and believe that Facebook is really serious about privacy. First person will quit in about 6 weeks...

New Resource! How to Ally and Be a Good Guest

We hope that what we’ve shared will motivate you to have the courage to engage, to make mistakes and keep learning as you do the hard work of allyship. Better allies and guests in the world means that more women, people of color, LGBTQIA communities, indigenous peoples and others from the global South will have the support they deserve to continue their own fight to have their stories and knowledges recognized and valued.
Siko Bouterse & Adele Vrana for Whose Knowledge with a neat publication-I really like the notion of being a 'good guest'!

UNDP’s Engagement with the Media for Governance, Sustainable Development and Peace

New challenges and opportunities brought about by these transformations now intersect with longer-standing challenges to media pluralism, freedom and independence.
Get a proper landing page, UNDP, so I don't have to post such meaningless blurbs! It looks like an interesting publication, but please make at least a little effort to sell it to readers!

Good Data

Moving away from the strong body of critique of pervasive ‘bad data’ practices by both governments and private actors in the globalized digital economy, this book aims to paint an alternative, more optimistic but still pragmatic picture of the datafied future. The authors examine and propose ‘good data’ practices, values and principles from an interdisciplinary, international perspective. From ideas of data sovereignty and justice, to manifestos for change and calls for activism, this collection opens a multifaceted conversation on the kinds of futures we want to see, and presents concrete steps on how we can start realizing good data in practice.
Angela Daly, S. Kate Devitt & Monique Mann with a new edited book.

Better Sleep Habits Won't Save Me From the Exhaustion of Academia

The issue isn’t simply about the quality of daily sleep. What I need in order to finally, truly, rest is not just better sleep hygiene: I need agency and autonomy over what I do with and demand of my body. No number of good nights of sleep or nap scheduling can substitute for being able to fully dictate what kind of work you do, how you do it, and when you do it. It isn’t simply a lack of sleep that exhausts: I am exhausted by the way I am alienated from the work that I genuinely love—and, ultimately, my humanity. I am exhausted by the fact that, for reasons I can’t control, I must choose between either working until I can no longer stay awake or putting myself to sleep in order to be more efficient—never leisurely letting myself fall into slumber.
Zoé Samudzi for Vice Broadly on being a black academic & so much more than sleep...

MOOCs fail in their mission to disrupt higher education
The authors of the study, Justin Reich and José A Ruipérez-Valiente, say the promise of a disruptive transformation of post-secondary education heralded in 2012 – when it was first announced that video lectures from the world’s best professors could be broadcast to every corner of the world via MOOCs – has not been realised.
The hope of extending access in areas barely reached by traditional tertiary provision, with students being able to demonstrate their attainment online by using computer graded assessments, has not been fulfilled.
It also calls into question the ability of MOOCs to extend higher education participation into areas of the world that traditional provision doesn’t reach and predicts in future a greater concentration on those with the ability to pay.
Brendan O’Malley for University World News with research findings from the Captain Obvious project...

Dear SSHRC, What Do You Want? An Epistolary Narrative of Expertise, Identity, and Time in Grant Writing

This autoethnographic study provides an insider perspective on the intellectual, emotional, and physical experience of grant writing. A team of scholars document the production of a research grant for their major national funding agency, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The story is presented through epistolary narrative in the form of a series of unsent letters addressed to the funding agency. The letters foreground themes of expertise, identity, and time as they were shaped through the grant-writing process. The analysis draws attention to unnecessary complexities and challenges that could and should be eliminated from granting processes if the intention is to foster quality research and strengthen research capacity.
Michelle K. McGinn, Sandra Acker, Marie Vander Kloet & Anne Wagner with an open access article in FQS.


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