Links & Contents I Liked 323

Hi all,

Happy Friday! Enjoy your #globaldev readings!

Development news: Mozambique, DRC, Shell, World Bank, Zambia, Sudan, Blockchain, UNHCR, Inequality, Walter Rodney, Participatory budgeting, Slavery @ Cambridge.

Our digital lives: Slack.

Academia: Blogs, Airlines.


P.S.: I'll be in Ottawa next week.

Development news
'Visual Chaos': A Photographer's View Of Cyclone Kenneth

Imagine your house is gone. And yet the TV is still standing.
That's one of the scenes that photojournalist Tommy Trenchard documented as he visited parts of Mozambique hit by Cyclone Kenneth on Thursday.
Marc Silver & Tommy Trenchard for NPR Goats & Soda. Tommy Trenchard's pictures complement reporting from Mozambique and the aerial shots often shared by UN and other humanitarian agencies. I'm not sure I like the word 'angry' in the URL in reference to the storm.

Cliches Can Kill in Congo

If there is anything Congolese and international analysts agree on, it is that most attacks are not the work of armed groups, but of local networks involving politicians, local leaders and other powerbrokers. The suggestion that armed groups funded by conflict minerals are involved in the killings of Ebola responders is not only mistaken, it is also dangerous. This framing of the problem could inadvertently ramp up a heavy-handed militarization of the Ebola response. Given the violence that has punctuated the region’s recent history, increased militarization is likely to heighten people’s fears and deepen the divide between people in eastern Congo and those working to stop them from getting Ebola.
Linking Ebola to conflict minerals distracts from the real challenges in eastern Congo. The international Ebola response should be based on an accurate analysis of the perceptions and interests that are driving negative reactions to Ebola interventions. This includes developing an understanding of the complicated ways in which local power struggles intersect and overlap with national political dynamics and regional geopolitics. Reaching that understanding requires careful efforts from journalists, scholars, and humanitarians.
Christoph Vogel, Gillian Mathys, Judith Verweijen, Adia Benton, Rachel Sweet & Esther Marijnenfor Foreign Policy with an excellent piece on the complexities of Congo and the trouble with the 'conflict mineral' discourse.

Ebola responders in Congo confront fake news and social media chatter

But while great strides have been made since the West Africa epidemic in learning how to trace contacts and vaccinate infected people, and in how to treat patients better and more humanely, like ALIMA does, winning the information war has proved far harder in North Kivu.
In addition to Facebook, groups have ballooned on platforms such as WhatsApp and other chat rooms, distrusting the Ebola response – and worse – urging people who think they might have the disease to stay away from treatment centres.
“These communities have never seen this kind of mass mobilisation before,” concluded Segoni. “And they’re wondering why now?”
Vittoria Elliott for the New Humanitarian with a powerful reminder that digital tools also play a role in the complicated discourse around Ebola and the (lack of) response in DRC.

Too good to be true: Shell’s sweet deal
While Shell and Eni claimed their deal was only with the Nigerian Government, the money was in fact destined for former Oil Minister and convicted money launderer Dan Etete, who, according to prosecutors, used the cash to pay massive bribes to people including former Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan.
That’s right – Shell and Eni used Nigeria’s share of oil to fund an alleged bribery scheme, which saw money flow from the companies to shady individuals, instead of the Nigerian state and ultimately the Nigerian people.
Global Witness with your regular reminder that oil is dirty in every sense of the way-and that multinationals continue doing business the 'bad old way'...

New Report Shows How World Bank Enables Corporate Land Grabs

As part of the project, the World Bank has developed a contentious new land indicator. Initiated as a pilot program in 38 countries in 2017, the indicator is expected to be expanded to 80 countries this year. The purpose of the indicator is to get countries to transform customary land tenure arrangements into formal titles, so as to render land a “transferrable asset” and therefore make it easier for corporations to acquire it from small-scale farmers.
Alnoor Ladha for TruthOut with a reminder that large-scale World Bank initiatives often have (un)intended long-term side-effects even if formal land titles may not be an entirely bad idea...

Corporate Responsibility for Human Rights Violations: UK Supreme Court Allows Zambian Communities to Pursue Civil Suit Against UK Domiciled Parent Company

On 10 April 2019, the UK Supreme Court held unanimously (...) that Vedanta Resources, a UK company, arguably owes a duty of care to villagers living in the vicinity of its Zambian subsidiary, Konkola Copper Mines Plc (KCM). Ruling on a procedural appeal, by upholding the jurisdiction of the UK courts, this landmark judgment allows the claimants, 1826 Zambian villagers, to pursue their case against both the parent and subsidiary companies in the UK. The core legal question, whether a parent company can be held accountable under civil law for human rights violations and environmental harm caused by its foreign subsidiary, is central to the ability of many victims of corporate human rights violations worldwide to access justice.
Laura Green & David Hamer for EJIL: Talk! with an important legal verdict that hopefully helps more than any CSR-voluntary-code-blablabla-initiative...

After the ‘euphoria’: The humanitarian backdrop to Sudan’s protests
Sudan has had three military leaders in the last week. However the political upheaval ends, the backdrop to this crisis includes multiple conflicts, displacement, and an economic crunch affecting the living standards of millions – humanitarian issues that won’t be resolved soon
Ben Parker for the New Humanitarian with a reminder that getting rid of a dictator is the beginning, rather than the end, of a long journey towards sustainable development...

Humanitarian blockchain: Are we there yet?

In addition to taking into consideration the ethical, intellectual property, environmental, sustainability, ownership, and consent aspects mentioned above and being guided by the Digital Principles, it was suggested that donors make sure they do their homework and conduct thorough due diligence on potential partners and grantees. “The vetting process needs to be heightened with blockchain because of all the hype around it. Companies come and go. They are here one day and disappear the next.” There was deep suspicion in the room because of the many blockchain outfits that are hyped up and do not actually have the staff to truly do blockchain for humanitarian purposes and use this angle just to get investments.
Linda Raftree for Wait...What? with some excellent reflections around the blockchain for development hype.

#Sharing the Success: Melissa Fleming, Head of Global Communications and Spokesperson for the High Commissioner, UNHCR

Strategic communications is essential to help UNHCR meet its operational objectives – whether it is to influence decision-makers in opening their borders or whether it is to build empathy when large numbers of people are seeking refuge and need help. Communications is also key when we try to mobilize action, like donations to UNHCR or volunteering, even to take refugees into one’s home. These are small actions, but they can make a world of difference for individual refugees.
Emily Robinson for UN Social 500. There's a relatively thin layer of corporate comms speak woven into the piece, but beyond that layer Melissa Fleming makes some interesting points about communicating UNHCR.

How Inequality Statistics Can Mislead You

We live in an extremely unequal world. But we also live in a world where it’s easy to bury the truth by manipulating the scale on your charts or failing to use the appropriate measurements. Do not believe the defenders of capitalism when they talk about how “rising tides are lifting all boats.” The question is: How much are they lifting your boat, versus how much are they lifting my boat? “Oh, well, your boat and my boat are both being lifted by 20 percent…” None of that bullshit, thank you very much. Be honest: Capitalism is delivering windfalls to the rich and crumbs to the poor. Yes, “extreme” poverty is declining, thank God. It should be! But most people still have nearly nothing, and some people have everything they could ever dream of 1000 times over.
Nathan J. Robinson for Current Affairs jumps into the recent debate around poverty/wealth statistics and a important reminder that #globaldev should not focus on Pinker, Milanovic or Hickel, but about a deeply unequal and unsustainable world...

‘To develop Africa, break with capitalism’

While national independence was easier for postcolonial powers to circumvent, the class struggle remained their nightmare, and any African leader who put it on his agenda was immediately taken out — from Patrice Lumumba to Thomas Sankara. Even apartheid’s end in South Africa was stipulated on the fatal compromise whereby gold and diamond mines were not nationalised (as Mandela’s African National Congress had demanded) as a concession to the white ruling class that owned them. The failure to achieve social justice resulted in a deeply polarised country where, aside from a small black bourgeoisie, class and racial divisions still run deep into South African society. It is precisely in this regard that Rodney’s analysis remains as relevant as it was when first published — a call to arms in the class struggle for racial equality.
Giovanni Vimercati for New Frame with an encouragement to read more Walter Rodney...

Trust the process? Participatory budgeting and how it can be improved

There was pride from council staff around how they had ensured venues were physically accessible, had provided transport for rural or isolated citizens, and had seen more than the ‘usual suspects’ participate in bidding, and voting, for PB projects. Yet there were clear tensions around these conceptualisations of access and the perception of PB being an accessible process. People may feel excluded by PB due to historical conflicts and disagreements with public institutions or other community members, or if there is a perceived lack of support for people with certain communication abilities or cognitive impairments, or if the times for marketplace events and voting make it impossible to attend. Furthermore, some people clearly still see PB, and the types of projects that are funded, as ‘not for them’; perceptions that are reinforced when they see groups associated with well-resourced institutions or national charities succeed to the detriment of smaller or more marginalized groups.
Catherine Wilkinson, Emma Flynn, John Vines, Jo Briggs & Karen Salt for LSE British Politics & Policy. Even though this is about the UK I think the research shows the complexities of anything 'participatory' or engaging with citizens in a 'just add good governance and voting and stir' fashion...

Cambridge university to study how it profited from colonial slavery

“We cannot know at this stage what exactly it will find but it is reasonable to assume that, like many large British institutions during the colonial era, the university will have benefited directly or indirectly from, and contributed to, the practices of the time.
“The benefits may have been financial or through other gifts. But the panel is just as interested in the way scholars at the university helped shape public and political opinion, supporting, reinforcing and sometimes contesting racial attitudes which are repugnant in the 21st century.”
Sally Weale for the Guardian. Great! Next on the list should be Oxford-I'm sure their alumni, including in the UK government, would support such an inquire wholeheartedly!

Our digital lives

The productivity pit: how Slack is ruining work
Workplace software companies seem to think that more time on their platforms — and less time switching to others’ — is a solution. They accomplish this by integrating other common workplace tools like Office or Google Drive within their platforms.
Information workers switch windows on average 373 times per day or around every 40 seconds while completing their tasks, according to a Microsoft study.
The idea is that if you’re able to do more of your tasks under one roof, you’ll waste less time clicking in and out of different programs. But if the platforms themselves are riddled with distractions, these efforts are moot.
To be more useful, workplace software will have to get much better at getting us the info we need — surfacing conversations on the same topic that may have happened months ago or helping you find the appropriate channels for your specific needs, for example — without us having to find it.
“We don’t have a technology problem, we have a boundary problem,” Peck said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s email or a text message, we really suck at boundaries and suck even more at communicating them.”
We have to figure out what those boundaries are, define them, and stick to them.
“My strategy is personal accountability: taking personal responsibility of my own job performance and looking at my personal effectiveness,” Foroux told Recode. “I’m constantly asking if my actions contribute to my overall goals at my job. Talking to coworkers an hour a day on Slack is not bringing me closer to my goals.”
Rani Molla for Vox on digital enslavement at work.

Interview 6: Roxani Krystalli - Stories of Conflict and Love blog

I do not think of the blog (or of myself, for that matter) as strictly academic. I often return to Laura Shepherd's beautiful essay on what it means to identify as an academic and a feminist--and a feminist academic--how those identities co-exist alongside others. I also reflect on the politics of knowledge production in academia and the ways in which our writing sometimes obscures the lives of the people we write about. There is often a silent process of translation in producing academic writing, whereby in order to make people's lives 'theoretically legible', we obscure their humanity, their humor, their emotions, their own language for how they experience the world. Like some of the scholars and writers I admire, from bell hooks to Cynthia Enloe, and from Sara Ahmed to Valeria Luiselli, I am committed to resisting that translation, where possible, both in my academic writing and in other publications.
Jamie J. Hagen & Roxani Krystalli for ISA Short-Term Release. Among many other things, a great reminder that academics need to blog more/write less journal articles...

What universities can learn from airlines
At the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the division of the World Bank Group that invests in the private sectors of emerging markets, we have an active portfolio of about US$1 billion in private education. Jobs-oriented higher education is a top priority for us. Some loyalty-and-rewards-type alliance could be quite relevant in this context.
We are already taking steps to support this broader agenda, notably with the launch last year of the IFC Employability Tool, an advisory service recently launched in Ghana and South Africa to help educational institutions in emerging markets improve their employability practices.
Alejandro Caballero for University World News. Perhaps staff members of the IFC do not fly economy class regularly, but right from the headline this article rubbed me the wrong way. Why would anybody want to copy the aviation industry?!?
Maybe unintentionally, the article provides interesting insights into how the IFC thinks about #highered...privatized, focus on employability & with a need of a loyalty alliance...neoliberalism is very much alive and the World Bank group is still at the forefront of the movement...


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