Links & Contents I Liked 326

Hi all, 

A slightly belated link review-again due to travel.

This week I spent some fantastic days in Odessa with colleagues of our internationalization project.
It's a fantastic city and I'm really happy that my job allows for these fantastic opportunities, networks & encounters of beautiful places!

However, the #globaldev universe did not stand still and there are stories about humanitarian challenges in Yemen, WHO travel, returning & new blogging voices as well as a Senegalese soap opera & 'McMindfulness'!

My quotes of the week
On Jared Diamond's new book:

Until recently, in much of American life, and American writing, the default setting of human being was white and/or male. Today so much writing shatters this default, complicates the point of view. And “Upheaval” reminds us why that matters (Anand Giridharadas).
On the challenges of collaboratibe research projects in dangerous environments:
(M)any Western universities have strict protocols and insurance guidelines about how to assess and avoid risks when the research is conducted internationally, i.e., what type of vehicle to travel in and where not to go. Conversely, research assistants and collaborators based in those regions are rarely protected by the insurance policies. Depending on the context, researchers there are often exposed to varying degrees of risk when conducting the research. The very networks they have and leverage for these projects can be challenging to navigate when resource-rich Western researchers are in the picture (Yolande Bouka).

Development news
Correction: WHO Travel story

While overall spending on travel has fallen at WHO, abuses continue. External WHO auditors analyzed 116 randomly selected travel claims that were flagged as “emergency” requests and therefore exempt from stricter U.N. travel controls. They found proof that in more than half the claims, the travel was instead for regular duties like attending workshops or speaking engagements.
“We see therefore a culture of non-compliance by staff involved in emergency operations,” the report authors said. “Raising a (travel request) as emergency, even if it is not compliant with the criteria for emergency travel, shows a breakdown in controls and results (in a) waste of resources.”
WHO’s auditors said when some staffers flew business class even though they didn’t meet the U.N. criteria to do so, they failed to submit paperwork justifying the exception.
“Based on the difference in ticket costs for business class and economy class, savings could have been realized by the organization,” the report said, citing more than 500 travel requests last year that may have broken the rules.
Maria Cheng for AP; this story has been updated (bonus points for AP's transparency!), but my comments from my Tweet below are still very valid.

Amin’s regime comes to life in photo exhibition
Uganda Broadcasting Corporations in conjunction with the Uganda Museum launched an exhibition that is showcasing unpublished pictures from the Amin regime.
Many of these had been recorded films and photo negatives that had been archived at UBC for nearly 40 years.
During his regime, Amin is said to have had one of the most advanced media industries on the continent, he had seen the national broadcaster move from black and white to colour and boosted Radio Uganda.
Because of that relationship Amin tried to build with the media, keeping photographers around him, much of the exhibition that is aptly titled “The Unseen Archive of Idi Amin” is from the media’s point of view.
The showcase is a collection of photos describing different stages of the regime such as the expulsion of Asians, the economic war,
Andrew Kaggwa for the Daily Monitor about a great new exhibition in Kampala that a) needs a catalogue and/or b) a tour outside Uganda!

CNN exposes systematic abuse of aid in Yemen

With food not getting to the right people but instead used to buy support, feed fighters or sold for funds, CNN asked the UN's Grande if she was worried that the aid programs could actually be prolonging Yemen's devastating war.
"Certainly, humanitarians are not political. We're here to keep people alive," she replied, notably not saying no.
"The responsibility for ending the conflict is in the hands of the people who are driving that conflict," Grande said. "It is the responsibility of the humanitarians to say to the people who are responsible for the war, these are the consequences of your actions, this is the impact of the decision to take up arms and to bring this country to war."
Sam Kiley, Sarah El Sirgany & Brice Lainé for CNN. See the link below as well...humanitarian aid is bloody complicated to do well!

Time to let go
It is time for the humanitarian sector to let go of some of the fundamental – but outdated – assumptions, structures and behaviours that prevent it from adapting to meet the needs of people in crises.
This is a proposal for radical change to create a humanitarian system that is fit to respond to the challenges of both today and tomorrow. It calls for:
letting go of power and control;
letting go of perverse incentives; and
letting go of divisions to embrace differences
UN agencies and large INGOs should reorient their activities away from direct implementation, taking on a more enabling role. Such a shift would support national and local organisations to undertake crisis response roles on their own. This requires channelling funds to and rewarding staff for collaborating with local organisations.
The Inter-Agency Standing Committee, the humanitarian system’s high-level coordination body, should enlarge its membership to include non-traditional organisations and decentralise leadership and strategic-level decision-making to those closer to crises.
ODI is calling for radical change of the humanitarian system-and is communicating it with a great website!

Masculinity and humanitarianism

Perhaps we should think of what movements that advocate extreme violence offer their members as manhood-on-the-cheap. The groups preaching ethnic, racial, or religious war offer the role of self-sacrificial protector of their community through violence. The content of the group’s ideology is largely irrelevant to the members. It is the masculine role that is appealing, not the ideology. Most young men that join these movements do not do so based on a rational embrace of the group’s doctrines. Rather, they join merely to be manly warriors. This frees violent movements from the expectation that their agenda be driven by reasonable evidence or accurate historical understanding or sensible moral values. As long as they provide manhood to their members, they can largely stand for whatever they want.
What this means is that combating the appeal of extreme violence will require confronting the nature of masculinity. We need to collectively reassess how we raise boys. We need to provide more space for boys to find their identities affirmed in ways other than through self-sacrificial military labor. And for those men already enculturated into warrior masculinity, we need to find opportunities for them to have their masculinity affirmed in constructive ways.
Graham Parsons for Humanitarian Law & Policy with some food for thought on men, masculinities & wars.
How a Senegalese soap opera went viral across Africa by giving women an authentic voice
The show revolves around the lives of four modern urban women based in Dakar. First there is Marème, the unapologetic mistress of Cheikh. Cheikh is married to Lalla—another key character. She’s his devoted wife but is in the dark about his other life. Then there is the reclusive Racky, with a managerial position in the male-dominated construction industry. Lastly there is Dialika a successful professional who is married to Birame, an abusive, narcissistic alcoholic. Other strong female characters include Mamy, a go-getter career woman who still struggles to get over being made fun of as a child for her weight and Dior, a single independent-minded woman.
Ciku Kimeria for Quartz with an update on a communication for social change favorite, the soap opera ;)!

Cate Blanchett co-creates and stars in refugee detention TV drama ‘Stateless’

Originally inspired by the life of Cornelia Rau, the story intertwines complex personal stories to reveal a system struggling with the the contradictions of immigration and border protection.
Rau, a German-Australian woman and former air hostess, attracted attention in 2005 after she escaped a controversial sect known as Kenja, only to be held at the Baxter detention centre in South Australia as a suspected illegal immigrant.
Blanchett said that while the story was focused on Australia, it explored global themes: “The desire for personal freedom, the need for social stability, an escalating lack of faith in the political process and the deeply unsettling impact this has on individual lives.”
Women in the World with an interesting project to keep an eye on...

#PowerShifts Resources: Reclaiming Representation

This week, I’ve focused the resources on reclaiming representation, tackling a very sticky blindspot that covers the ways in which we choose to communicate, and which knowledge(s) is/are privileged in this process.
Maria Faciolince for fp2p gets an important discussion going with some great case studies on how to tell #globaldev stories differently.

Resources to share on communicating social change
Jennifer Lentfer started this useful Google Doc.

Can Twitter help drive policy change?

With support from Oxfam Intermón and other allies, they launched the digital action on Twitter. It lasted barely a few hours, yet generated significant engagement and reach. The strategy proved to be successful, because just a short while later, political representatives from Barcelona Municipality, Barcelona Diputación, and Cataluña Autonomous government contacted L’associació asking to discuss and respond to the allegations raised on social media.
After a few days, a proposal was approved to oblige Barcelona’s City Hall to report and prove that it was not financing fundamentalist groups. In the Catalonian Parliament, a question was publicly addressed to the Social Affairs Counselor, asking for explanations. And thirdly, the Barcelona Diputació approved a resolution committing not to finance these kind of groups.
The digital advocacy action was successful in putting the issue on the political agenda, and opening a door for policy change in defense of human rights.
Rodrigo Barahona, Virginia Vaquera & Patricia Corcuera for Oxfam Views & Voices. Interesting case study-but the 7 building blocks for success also sound quite generic. With many aspects of viral social media success we will never quite know why they worked out-nothing new since the days of #Kony2012 ;)!

Celebrating Independence Day May 20th

Dates, stats, facts. Things that you now know. What I would most like to share with you though is the experience of children EVERYWHERE, so many pregnant women, and babies and young people. They swarm out of the schools and work in the markets and hang about on the streets, the Mall in Dili is heaving with them at the mobile phone shops. And in the village this weekend a huddle of 10 very small boys traipsed us through the bush to a waterfall where they promptly stripped naked and swam with us in the pool at its base. One offered to carry a bag, another held my hand over the roughest bits. We asked how old they were…10, 12, 14. Not one of them was as big as our 5-year-old grandson. Genetics yes, malnutrition, definitely.
It has become more & more difficult to discover new #globaldev blogs-so I'm glad I stumbled across Ruth Mackenzie's writing from Timor Leste on Adventure Awaits!

On Ending Chapters and Starting New Ones

Individual and collective wellbeing in the aid sector nevertheless remains my passion, after having spent over four years studying stress among aid workers in Kenya, and having worked in many organisations where lack of attention to staff care has had negative implications for my health and the health of my colleagues. So although I’m in the transition phase of finishing my Phd, waking each day with some inertia and indeed some emotion as I let go of this last chapter of my life, I also know there is much work to be done in challenging organisational cultures and practices that not only damage staff but the very humanitarian ethos and caring aspirations of the aid sector. I am thus striking a delicate balance between resting, enjoying a life that goes beyond the mental angst and solitude of academia, and of connecting my ideas and values with meaningful action.
Gemma Houldey for Life in Crisis. Not only did Gemma recently finish her amazing PhD, she is also back at blogging!

Why We Need To Rethink Charity.
Nas Daily watched Poverty, Inc and now he wants to rethink charity...he's focusing a lot on donations and hand-outs-the kind of discussion the #globaldev industry seemed to have had ten years ago-and in the end he leaves on a cliff-hanger to listen to his forthcoming podcast which I'm suspecting will have a lot of AMAZING local female social entrepreneurs that do so much good in (POOR COUNTRY) without Western donations...some readers may remember Nas Daily from his expedition to PNG...

Our digital lives
What to Do When You’re a Country in Crisis

A remaining problem with “Upheaval” is one that cannot be fact-checked away, but, happily, is already being fixed across the world of letters. Until recently, in much of American life, and American writing, the default setting of human being was white and/or male. Today so much writing shatters this default, complicates the point of view. And “Upheaval” reminds us why that matters.
When Diamond describes “highly egalitarian social values” as an ethos that has “remained unchanged” in Australia, despite having written a chapter about the country’s history of legalized racism, he is using a definition of egalitarian that applies only to white people. When he says, “Social status in Japan depends more on education than on heredity and family connection,” he is ignoring what it means to be born a woman. “Of course, my list of U.S. problems isn’t exhaustive,” he admits. “Problems that I don’t discuss include race relations and the role of women.” You know, the problems affecting the vast majority of Americans.
Anand Giridharadas for the New York Times takes apart Jared Diamond's latest book in one of this week's must read!

The faux revolution of mindfulness
This present momentism appears, at least on the surface, as a therapeutic solvent for all our problems, making our present situation more bearable. But this bearability of the status quo amounts to a permanent retreat to the psychic bomb shelter of now, a kind of bury-your-head in the sand mindfulness which acts as a sanitized palliative for neoliberal subjects who have lost hope for alternatives to capitalism.
The faux mindfulness revolution provides a way of endlessly coping with the problems of capitalism by taking refuge in the fragility of the present moment; the new chronic leaves us mindfully maintaining the status quo. This is a cruel optimism that encourages settling for a resigned political passivity. Mindfulness then becomes a way of managing, naturalizing and enduring toxic systems, rather than turning personal change towards a critical questioning of the historical, cultural, and political conditions that are responsible for social suffering.
Robert Purser for Open Democracy on his new book 'McMindfulness'.

Airbnb teams up with 23andMe to recommend heritage travel destinations

"We empower 23andMe customers to learn about themselves and their ancestry through their unique genetic code,” said 23andMe CEO and cofounder Anne Wojcicki. “Working with Airbnb, a leader who is reimagining travel, provides an exciting opportunity for our customers to connect with their heritage through deeply personal cultural and travel experiences."
Kyle Wiggers for Venture Beat with this week's edition of 'what could possibly go wrong when two data capitalist platforms join forces' ?!?

Moderating a group on Facebook

In so doing, I have discovered enormous differences in cultural practices on Facebook, and have been particularly struck by how blatant the use of sexual innuendo and imagery can often be. I’m afraid that this is one of the main reasons why I choose not to add people to the Group.
Tim Unwin's hands-on reflections and advice are certainly not just limited to ICT4D groups...


Interview – Abbey Steele

Institutionally, I think again the challenges that conflict studies faces are not very different from other fields, and I do think there is a long way to go. I think women are leading the way on some of the most interesting trends in conflict scholarship: on in-depth fieldwork, mixed methods, ethical considerations, big questions, and rich and analytically clear theories. But do I see women earning awards, grants, invited talks and promotions at rates that reflect these contributions? I don’t know. I think it’s hard to account for the gender gap at the top of our profession without taking sexism into account. Another problem is a gender gap in citations, which has been documented by IR scholars. I recently read an article that of 40 citations, 2 were women – on a topic where there is fantastic, cutting edge work by junior women scholars. That’s why I believe that practices in journals to encourage or require authors to check the gender balance on their citations is important.
Abbey Steele for E-International Relations with a lot of great #highered food for thought on conflict studies, gender, Columbia,...

Considering power imbalances in collaborative research

Doing research in conflict-affected settings can be dangerous. Consequently, many Western universities have strict protocols and insurance guidelines about how to assess and avoid risks when the research is conducted internationally, i.e., what type of vehicle to travel in and where not to go. Conversely, research assistants and collaborators based in those regions are rarely protected by the insurance policies. Depending on the context, researchers there are often exposed to varying degrees of risk when conducting the research. The very networks they have and leverage for these projects can be challenging to navigate when resource-rich Western researchers are in the picture.
When issues of gender, race or citizenship make traveling or conducting specific types of research in some regions, accompanied by a Western researcher, more dangerous, so-called local researchers may be sent to the field alone. Or after preliminary fieldwork is done and Western researchers return to their teaching obligations, local researchers may be tasked with gathering the remainder of data on their own. When these researchers are excluded from the development of research and security protocols it can lead to failures to accurately assess risks. Unfortunately, the precarity of many researchers in the Global South often leads them not to push back when faced with requests they believe can be dangerous. Instead, they navigate risks as best they can, making use of their social capital and personal resources.
Yolande Bouka for the Rift Valley Institute with important questions about how mainstream academia re-creates power imbalances in many of our research interactions.

Reviewing Course Evaluations: The Drinking Game

Drink if students compare you to a pop culture figure who has a vaguely similar ethnicity.
If your department or college emailed you to discuss your evaluations, which were “below departmental average,” call out sick and head to the liquor store for a re-stock. Because at Lake Woebegone University, everyone should teach above average.
Drink if students recommended a study guide. By “study guide,” they mean “the exact questions you will ask on the exam.”
Steph Jeffries for McSweeney's with a great new edition of buzzword bingo/academic drinking game!


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