Links & Contents I Liked 312

Hi all, 

A year after the Oxfam scandal broke & the #AidToo movement started it seems like a lot of business as usual in the #globaldev industry...

Development news: Erik Solheim & the well-known story of UN leadership problems; Angelina Jolie in meme territory; after the Oxfam scandal; some Tories want to cut UK #globaldev; Belgium's racist past & present; Congo's rigged elections; is Canada's feminist foreign policy a fraud? Miss Curvy Uganda & the objectivication of women; how UNHCR want to address gender imbalances in their innovation stories; Kenya's DNA-based ID system; UNICEF innovation; how to make extractive industries more accountable?  How aid disrupts local markets for journalism; DfID media development efforts; does aid benefit the rich? German museums & their colonial past.

Our digital lives: People liked the Gillette ad.

Lower vaccination rates in Pakistan thanks to CIA undercover mission to capture Bin Laden.

Academia: How to do 'excellent research' at a UK university with a negative 2 hour budget a week? The myth of meritocracy in American political science; caring for race horses-ethnographic insights.


From the aidnography archive
Oxfam, Haiti & the aid industry's #MeToo moment-a curated bibliography

There are now more than 120 resources featured in this bibliography!
After #oxfamscandal: Tough trade-offs ahead for the aid industry
For substantial and longer-term changes building up structures will require generous and patient donors, a nuanced media coverage and a general public willing to engage with complicated processes of social change. That’s a lot to ask for. Paying for experts, paying for capacity development, paying for time to get things right and paying for scaling up organizational structures is not what donors are keen to fund and Silicone Valley-type disruptors keep promising.
The risk is that for large organizations (e.g. UN organizations and large INGOs) it may become part of ‘bureaucratic capture’, of box-ticking and dodging hard decisions. For small organizations it could be expensive and time-consuming, possibly paralyzing their work.
Almost exactly a year ago the Oxfam scandal changed the aid industry

Development news

Erik Solheim: what he got right, what he got wrong, and what the new UN Environment chief should do next

Staff were also impressed by his many positive qualities. He is energetic, passionate and approachable. He insisted that the normally deferential UN staff call him by his first name. He encouraged people to dispense with their customary linguistic cloaks of acronyms and scientific jargon. He implored them to communicate their work in a way that was comprehensible to the average person on the street (his acid test was to ask whether a report would be understood by his 90-year-old mother). He pushed people to think outside the box.
In short, he was a welcome breath of fresh air in what often felt like a staid and unhurried bureaucracy.
But Erik has an unshakable belief in his own righteousness that is both an asset and major weakness. When the audit storm clouds were gathering, he doubled down, angrily rejecting much of the OIOS criticism of his travel schedule, lack of documentation and disregard of the HR rules. As a damning op-ed in Deutsche Welle concluded: “his actions paint a questionable picture of a corrupt politician using a position of privilege to his own advantage”.
After he left UN Environment, he gave an interview to a Norwegian newspaper in which he insinuated that he was fired because the UN simply wasn’t ready for his style of radical reform. The fact that he was willing to tarnish the organisation as part of a ‘burn the houses’ attempt to rehabilitate his reputation must have chipped away at any residual goodwill that staff may have felt.
Oli Brown reflects on UN Environment's Erik Solheim's tenure. Without going into detail it sounds pretty much like most leadership challenges within the UN bureaucracy regardless of era, person or UN organization.

U.N. envoy Angelina Jolie urges Myanmar to end violence against Rohingya Muslims

Jolie is visiting for three days before launching a global appeal for $920 million, chiefly to support the refugees’ needs for 2019. She met and talked with refugees, including children and rape victims.
“It was deeply upsetting to meet the families who have only known persecution and statelessness their whole lives, who speak of being treated like cattle,” she told reporters at the Kutupalong refugee camp.
AP/Japan Times featuring Angelina Jolie's latest efforts in Bangladesh. Nothing wrong with her engagement per se, but this appears to be a rather unfortunate picture of a white savior towering over refugee camps and 'poor children' tucked away behind a fence...

Rebecca Cooney: One year on from the Oxfam scandal

In some ways, Oxfam was unlucky. As the countless stories that have come out since have shown, the issue was much wider than one organisation.
For years, there had been concerns about "a certain type of man" who was attracted to the power afforded by working in front-line development, and about the ease with which perpetrators could move around organisations and avoid accountability.
Oxfam just happened to be the charity holding the bomb when it went off.
That’s not to excuse what happened in Haiti – quite the opposite.
The conversation about how the aid sector and charities as a whole respond to allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment and abuse has been protracted and painfully public. But it was one that needed to be had.
Charities are approaching a time of upheaval and uncertainty as global politics, global warming, technology and changing donor demands mean the charity sector will need to renegotiate its relationship with the public and, crucially, with beneficiaries.
Rebecca Cooney for Third Sector with a reminder about the long road ahead one year after Oxfam's Haiti scandal.

Boris Johnson backs call for multibillion cut to UK aid budget

Andrew Mitchell, a former Conservative international development secretary, said: “Boris is a bit like a medieval pirate whose eyes have alighted on this plump Spanish galleon loaded with bullion and he wants to board it and plunder it.”
Patrick Wintour for the Guardian on more bad ideas from the Tories...

UN: Belgium must apologize for colonialism, face its racism

“The root causes of present-day human rights violations lie in the lack of recognition of the true scope of the violence and injustice of colonization,” the U.N. Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent said in an interim report on Belgium.
Raf Casert for AP. Like Germany (see link below), Belgium is also challenged to deal with her colonial past.

Congo's election: a defeat for democracy, a disaster for the people

The international community has invested many billions of dollars in DRC over the past two decades to try to stabilise the country and the region, and to steer the republic towards a democratic, just and prosperous future. By passively accepting this fait accompli, all that investment will have been compromised.
Mo Ibrahim & Alan Doss for the Guardian with a reminder that (short-term) stability trumps complicated social change and calling out rigged elections for much of the international community...

Canada’s ‘Feminist’ Foreign Aid Is a Fraud

For those who had watched Canada disingenuously label its international-assistance policy as “feminist,” the summit was depressing. The perfect rhetoric and substantive emptiness was another indictment of women-empowerment efforts that tend to view “feminist” as a branding tool rather than a realignment of power relations.
Truly freeing women’s economic empowerment from the clutches of this exchange would require dissecting and dissipating the myth of its altruism and allowing empowerment programs to account for the complexity and flexibility that would emerge from grassroots actors instead of expatriate overlords. The word “feminist” is often reduced to a catchy adjective that flits then flops in front of whatever matters are du jour. When it comes to international aid, look past the branding and look at whose power it really builds.
Rafia Zakaria for the Nation criticized Oxfam Canada in particular on depoliticizing 'feminist foreign policy'.

#MissCurvyUganda: Here’s why we are cutting the tree and ignoring the root

The media and society continues to reinforce these contradictions. Today, you’ll read about “bummy” women causing “scrotal eruptions”, how “juicy woman” A is causing problems in the marriage of a “juicy-less” woman B, etc. The next day, the same media will body shame a woman for putting on weight; they’ll praise the slim and “portable” woman. In school, the slim, tall, light skinned girl will become Prom Queen while the short and chubby one will be called ugly. But there are also cases of small bodied students nicknamed “stick” and taunted for their “feather” weight. In music videos, including those titled African Queen or African Beauty, the “queen” is always a tall, light-skinned woman – perfect set of teeth, smooth skin, long neck, full lips, round glittering eyes.
Harriet Beranena for Journey's Within-capitalism has firmly arrived in Uganda and it does what has been doing elsewhere: Objectifying women/people, creating products around the female/human body and exploiting it for short-term gain...

We need to fix the gender imbalance in our stories on innovation

In a way, this is exactly the problem. In order for us to speak and write about women (or women as innovators), we needed to make a series on its own. And that really bothers me.
So, after completing our experiment, I’ve decided these are the actions I will take in my role to help bridge the gender balance gap in our stories:
Interview more women on humanitarian innovation. Interview them about their work, their impact and their opinions.
Track this. Be diligent and accountable to these statistics.
Encourage and mandate contributors to our blog to include women’s voices, ideas, opinions, and expertise in their stories.
Have an evolving list of women with expertise throughout the humanitarian innovation space that can be interviewed.
Hire more women writers. Hire more diverse writers in general. Purposely seek out and highlight these voices.
Lauren Parater for UNHCR Innovation Service on how include more female voices in ICT4D writing and practice.

Kenya Government mandates DNA-linked national ID, without data protection law

Last month, the Kenya Parliament passed a seriously concerning amendment to the country’s national ID law, making Kenya home to the most privacy-invasive national ID system in the world. The rebranded, National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS) now requires all Kenyans, immigrants, and refugees to turn over their DNA, GPS coordinates of their residential address, retina scans, iris pattern, voice waves, and earlobe geometry before being issued critical identification documents. NIIMS will consolidate information contained in other government agency databases and generate a unique identification number known as Huduma Namba.
Alice Munyua for Mozilla on the 'digital revolution' in Kenya and how quickly some countries move into intrusive ID systems without proper safeguarding.

Is UN Planning to Replace Humans with Machines & Robots?

In order to promote the sharing of these experiences and learn from each other’s successes and failures, UNICEF co-funded, together with the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Innovation Network — an informal, collaborative community of UN innovators interested in sharing their expertise and experience with others to promote and advance innovation within the UN System.
Similarly, frontier technologies and digitalization are one of the main priorities of the Secretary General. To strengthen digital cooperation and advance proposals among governments, the private sector, civil society, international organizations, academia, technical community and other relevant stakeholders in the digital space, the High-level Panel for Digital Cooperation was set.
Thalif Deen talks to UNICEF's Chris Fabian about innovation for Inter Press Service. The piece focuses a bit uncritically on UN innovation practices. It's interesting to compare the discourse on digital innovation with the piece on Erik Solheim and the old-school challenges of UN bureaucracy...

Can transparency make extractive industries more accountable?
Campaigns like PWYP and EITI have done a huge amount to gain greater transparency of revenues. Now they – and the donors who support them – can also do more help to convert information to action, support mobilisation from below, and help shape the larger political incentives that can give teeth to voice. In a time of increasing threats against those who use information to challenge powerful extractive companies, this work is more important than ever.
John Gaventa for IDS with a reminder that data, transparency and global initiatives are not enough to hold extractive industries accountable.

How Foreign Aid Fuels African Media’s Payola Problem

Ironically, aid agencies’ efforts to improve African media have only exacerbated the problem. That’s because today, a typical journalist in Africa is a professional workshop attendee. NGOs from every sector “train” journalists in their subject matter, often with content conceived in Western capitals by people with no experience in journalism or in the target countries. Journalists go from workshop to workshop, turning up long enough to collect their per diems and write a puff piece.
This approach is as costly as it is regrettable. In one African country, a media-development organization with which I have worked spent more than $1 million of taxpayer money to produce a one-hour program on governance, which was then aired on community radio, its content so sanitized to appease local officials that few people tuned in. But even more problematic was the distortion to the domestic media market. To produce the program, the NGO recruited ten top journalists from established outlets and paid them as much as ten times their normal salary. Once the project was over, most of the journalists quit their old jobs in search of better pay in the aid and government sectors.
Prue Clarke for Project Syndicate on challenges for local journalists in countries with substantial #globaldev budgets.

DFID's "transparency revolution" is welcome - but supporting independent media is urgent and challenging

To its credit, DFID’s strategy acknowledges this. “Too often, data is not presented in an understandable way that enables citizens to find, interpret and use it”, it argues. “Evidence must also be accessible to parliaments, audit offices, media and civil society organisations that can monitor and champion improvements in services.” But in many places media that can “monitor and champion” struggles to exist. Media needs support to develop the skills, systems and mindset to do this and to survive long term. We are witnessing a global assault on independent media especially in the fragile states that DFID prioritises for support. The closing of civic space by often authoritarian government is reinforced by increasing attempts to co-opt and capture independent media by multiple commercial, factional, religious, ethnic and other political interests. Independent media, especially in fragile states with weak economies, are simply not able to afford to able to resist such co-option.
James Deane for BBC Media Action. How can #globaldev media support work with local journalists (see above) to ensure value added beyond workshops and fancy PR pieces?

How aid helps the rich get richer

But it continues. “Working with elites is to a large extent deliberate policy,” comments an independent consultant with a 20 year track record in monitoring aid projects in southern and east Africa. “As a donor you need to incorporate partner countries in your political agenda -whether that is fighting ISIS or decreasing migration to the West. The higher up your partners are, the better. It is also easier for donors to give away big sums at the top. Small amounts need too much admin. But aid given in that way may have a counterproductive effect with regard to the poor.”
Selay Kouassi, Chief Bisong Etahoben, Eric Mwamba, Francis Mbala, Benon Herbert Oluka & Ken Opala for the African Investigative Publishing Collective. There's a lot going on in this piece (perhaps a bit too much?) about the age-old story of how (some) aid will help those in power...

Germany allocates €1.9m for museums to research colonial-era acquisitions

The German government says it has allocated €1.9m this year to provenance research for artefacts that entered museum collections during the colonial era, with the funds to be administered by the German Lost Art Foundation. An eight-member committee including Bénédicte Savoy, the co-writer of a report urging French museums to repatriate works taken without consent from African countries, will select grant recipients on the basis of applications from German museums, a statement from Culture Minister Monika Grütters said.
Grütters says that colonial history has for many decades been a “blind spot” in Germany. “Provenance research of items with a colonial context is an important contribution to a closer examination,” she said in the statement.
Catherine Hickly for the Art Newspaper with a reminder that it's not just Belgium that needs to do homework on their colonial past.

Bill Gates tweeted out a chart and sparked a huge debate about global poverty

Has global poverty declined dramatically?
That might seem like a straightforward question to answer, but it’s become the topic of fierce debate among development wonks, economists, and scholars.
Dylan Matthews for Vox summarized the recent Gates-Pinker-Hickel-Roser et al. debate.

Our digital lives
Turns out almost everyone loved that 'controversial' Gillette ad about toxic masculinity.

However, all that hollering on social media wasn’t indicative of how the average American thought about Gillette after seeing the ad. In fact, studies show that Americans are smart enough to know the difference between toxic masculinity and masculinity in-general and liked the ad.
“These results suggest that (once again) the naysayers on social media do not necessarily represent the majority opinion,” Ace Metrix wrote, “and that consumers overwhelmingly support and applaud the messaging in Gillette’s new ‘The Best Men Can Be’ creative.”
Tod Perry for Upworthy on why social media trends may not be the full picture (I know...shocking, right ?!?)

In Vaccines We Trust? The Effects of the CIA’sVaccine Ruse on Immunization in Pakistan

In July 2011, the Pakistani public unexpectedly learnt that the CIA had used a vaccination campaign as cover during the operations to locate and capture Osama Bin Laden. This episode lent credibility to conspiracy theories against vaccines that had been spread by the Taliban. We evaluate the effects of these events on immunization by implementing a Difference-in-Differences strategy across cohorts and regions. We find that vaccination rates declined 9 to 13% per standard deviation in support for Islamist parties. These results suggest that the disclosure of information discrediting vaccination campaigns can negatively affect trust in health services and demand for immunization.
Monica Martinez-Bravo & Andreas Stegmann with an interesting working paper that adds evidence to our #globaldev gut feeling.

Workload in HE: The broken reality

In the end, I have negative 2 hours per working week to conduct my world leading, 4* research during the teaching term. Under-performing in research can lead someone to not pass probation, to be placed under informal performance review measures, or even to be pressured to leave under a voluntary (or not) Staff Release Scheme. And yet: negative 2 hours.
UCU Sheffield with an all-too-familiar account of how academics really spent their work time.

Academic hierarchies in US political science

First, we can see a “core” of prestigious universities who are fairly closely connected with each other: Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, Princeton, Columbia, University of Chigago, Yale. In fact the top-5 granting institutions alone (Harvard, Berkeley, Michigan, Yale and Stanford) account for 40% of all the political scientists in the top-400. Harvard alone supplies 49 of the 400 top political scientists. The structures that comes out is indeed hierarchical: the “inner circle” of universities at the top mostly recruit from within the top-circle, other universities outside the circle recruit from the top, but there is fairly little “upward” mobility: few top universities recruit people from outside the top circle. Finally, access to the upper tier of US political science (and probably the whole field) is not very open to academics with a foreign PhD: only 22 (5.5%) of the top-400 have a PhD from a foreign institution.
Alexandre Afonso with some stunning data to refute academic meritocracy myths.

Skill and Care in Horse Racing’s Labor Hierarchy

Horse racing’s labor shows the tension of a system that relies on the skills of workers within an unequal labor structure. Rather than simply performing manual labor, grooms and others who work behind the scenes in the horse racing industry are using skills subtly based on touch and affective interaction with the animals. The skills on which the industry depends are acquired by equine workers and preferred by employers. At the same time, equine workers are towards the bottom of a labor hierarchy. Currently, immigrant workers are primarily the ones who view these jobs as opportunities, where they learn and practice important skills despite the poor work conditions and a lack of public acknowledgement of their skills.
Rebecca Richart for Anthropology News with some beautiful ethnographic insights into the capillary system of capitalism and exploitation!


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