Links & Contents I Liked 328

Hi all, 

This is in many ways a #globaldev link review that captures the essence of why I started this project some years ago: Lots of different, personal reflections in many different formats, insights into very different 'development' organizations & introductions to important research of great colleagues!


My quotes of the week:
Frontex is turning into an information hub, (...) Its new powers on data processing and sharing can have a major impact on the rights of persons, beyond the protection of personal data. (Biometrics: The new frontier of EU migration policy in Niger)

Are big people – the ‘heroes’ as they have been called, of ‘epic narratives’ – flattered and misled by the deference with which they are treated, and by the way their misbehaviours are tolerated because they are adulated as gurus? Do their charisma, ego, power and personal dominance combine to inflict on them awesome learning disabilities? Can this be researched and documented, and can future generations be warned of these dangers? (Personal reflections on the Green Revolutions narrative and myths)

Study on academic air travel shows
1) flying & polluting is related to increased salary, not to increased productivity
2) senior scholars fly & pollute significantly more than junior scholars
3) male scholars fly & pollute significantly more than female scholars (Saskia Bonjour, Tweet)
Development news
Amnesty International to make almost 100 staff redundant

“The problems of wellbeing and the financial crisis are symptoms of a leadership that continuously made decisions that it could not afford, in terms of budget, workload and responsibility of care.”
The cuts, which will be finalised in September, come during a change of direction at the organisation that has led some staff to express concern that in-depth research on key issues such as the death penalty, torture and the arms trade could be compromised.
Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty’s recently appointed secretary general and a former head of Greenpeace International, will make the climate crisis and economic rights a central focus of the organisation’s work.
One insider told the Guardian of concerns that vital areas of Amnesty’s work such as research, law and policy may be disproportionately affected by the cuts.
Karen McVeigh for the Guardian. I have the feeling that the downfall of Amnesty will provide a backdrop for future novels, documentaries and PhDs in various subjects...still many unanswered questions of how a leading NGO brand made such a turn for the worse...

Biometrics: The new frontier of EU migration policy in Niger

The Commission is shifting to “informal arrangements [that] keep readmission deals largely out of sight” – serving to ease the domestic pressure on governments who cooperate on returns, according to European law researcher, Jonathan Slagter.
The new Frontex regulation provides a much broader mandate for border surveillance, returns, and cooperation with third countries.
It contains provisions to “significantly step up the effective and sustainable return of irregular migrants”. Among the mechanisms is the “operation and maintenance of a platform for the exchange of data”, as a tool to reinforce the return system “in cooperation with the authorities of the relevant third countries”. That includes access to MIDAS and PISCES.
“Given the extent of data sharing, the regulation does not put in place the necessary human rights safeguards and could be perceived as giving a green light for a blanket sharing with the third country of all information that may be considered relevant for returns,” she told TNH.
“Frontex is turning into an information hub,” Gkliati added. “Its new powers on data processing and sharing can have a major impact on the rights of persons, beyond the protection of personal data.”
Giacomo Zandonini for the New Humanitarian with my story of the week. As with many new technologies before, the security-industrial complex is one of the earliest adopters. While 'we' (in academia, #globaldev orgs) still discuss, Frontex et al. are implementing new areas of ICT4Control in the worst Foucauldian governmentality way...

Digital ID systems: Will they support or control us?

A final question raised about Digital ID systems was who should be implementing and managing them: UN agencies? Governments? Private Sector? Start-ups? At the moment the ecosystem includes all sorts of actors and feels a bit “Wild Wild West” due to insufficient control and regulation. At the same time, there are fears (as noted above) about a “one system to rule them all approach.” “So,” asked one person, “what should we be doing then? Should UN agencies be building in-house expertise? Should we be partnering better with the private sector? We debate this all the time internally and we can never agree.” Questions also remain about what happens with the biometric and other data that failed start-ups or discontinued digital ID systems hold? And is it a good idea to support government-controlled ID systems in countries with corrupt or failed governments, or those who will use these systems to persecute or exercise undue control over their populations?
As one person asked, “Why are we doing this? Why are we even creating these digital ID systems?”
Linda Raftree's reflections from a recent Technology Salon are highlighting my aforementioned concern that 'talk' and 'action' sometimes do no correspond when the security apparatus is taking charge...

The world’s most neglected displacement crises

This neglect can be a result of a lack of geopolitical interest. Or the people affected may seem too far away and too difficult to identify with. Neglect can also be a result of competing political priorities and a lack of willingness to compromise, creating a protracted crisis and growing donor fatigue.
Our goal, in issuing this list, is to focus on the plight of people whose suffering rarely makes international headlines. People whom politicians have forgotten or disregarded. People who currently do not receive the support and protection they deserve and need.
World’s Displacement Crises Worsened by Lack of Funds, Political Will or Media Attention
“What’s needed is a clear-headed assessment of why these displacement crises receive so little coverage. Partly, it’s a reflection of the broken business models of most international journalism – which means news outlets often struggle to provide consistent coverage of real public value,” he argued.
But it is also a reflection of the political priorities of powerful countries – which news outlets often reflect, Dr Scott added.
These reports, he pointed out, also draw attention to what’s not working, in general, within international journalism.
“But there are news outlets which do, regularly, report on crises like these – such as Devex, News Deeply, The New Humanitarian and Inter Press Service (IPS),” he noted.
“It is important to highlight their work – so that audiences know there is coverage of these crises out there,” he declared.
It's worth having a look at NRC's original post and then read Thalif Deen's piece for Inter Press Service for some context, including the role of media and journalism provided by Martin Scott.

India heatwave kills ‘dozens’ of people as temperatures hit 50C
Of the 15 hottest places in the world on Sunday-Monday, eight were in India and the others in neighbouring Pakistan, according to weather monitoring website El Dorado.
The intense heat could be another manifestation of an extreme weather event, say experts from the Indian research organisation Centre for Science and Environment. Scientists worldwide have long warned that rising global temperatures from climate change will intensify heatwaves.
Jane Dalton for the Independent with a reminder about the realities of climate change.

In Senegal, Climate Change Is A Fact

A lot of the fishermen are seeing weather patterns change, and thus have to change their fishing practices. There has been salination of the soil and as a result, a lot of farmers are not only [dealing with] lack of rains, but they’re also struggling because their soil and their wells — which are important water sources — are salty. Little changes like rain coming too early or too late, or it being a day short, means the difference between being able to sustain yourself or not.
Marion Durand & Greta Rybus for Bright Magazine report from another climate change frontline in West Africa.

In Lagos, finding a home to rent is an impossible mission

Lagos is home to 22 million people and counting, more than double New York and London's tally.
The city's population grows by 77 people every hour as Nigerians from less industrialised regions seek jobs. And as the city grows, so too does demand for housing.
In a country where the minimum wage is about $80 a month and where graduates earn an average of 80,000 naira ($222) a month, renting in Lagos is an expensive exercise.
Odili got lucky. Her employer offered her a housing loan and she was ready to move in with a friend.
Aanu Adeoye for Al-Jazeera. I'm always intrigued by stories of urban change-especially in a city that has more than twice as many inhabitants than Sweden...

Everyone Must Contribute to End Orphanage Tourism

Philanthropy has evolved from the time-worn model of traditional giving to now include supporting social enterprise, impact investment, and direct giving, resulting in better outcomes for communities. The concept of individuals giving back while travelling must also evolve. Individuals must be equipped with the knowledge and critical thinking skills they need to make informed decisions about their capacity, ability, and best means to help. Volunteer placement organizations and companies must ensure their partnerships are independently assessed and evaluated, and that impact is measured and reported. Increased transparency around partnerships, financial reports, and impact reporting is also required.
There are many ways to give back—and we need to recognize that volunteering when travelling is not always the best way. Sometimes it is simply better to travel, pay for carbon offsets, stay in eco-friendly accommodation, support ethical local businesses, and make a contribution to an organization that is working to address development issues in an ethical and sustainable way. Unless you have specific, relevant, specialist skills, in most cases development work should be left to the professionals.
Leigh Mathews for the Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs. This is an excellent primer/overview over the well-discussed topic of volunteering, voluntourism and orphanage volunteering that you should send to any concerned friend, family member or student who sets out on such a mission...

How many Americans live on $2 a day? The biggest debate in poverty research, explained.

This can be a confusing dispute to follow, not least because of the political stakes. Edin, Shaefer, and Meyer are all highly respected researchers, but Edin and Shaefer make no secret of being left of center and supporting a more generous safety net, while Meyer is affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute and receives funding from the Charles Koch Institute. I think Meyer does extremely good, careful work, but there’s obviously a reason that the Charles Koch Institute wants to fund this line of research, and by the same token there’s a reason supporters of a bigger safety net would be drawn to research suggesting that extreme poverty is widespread. There’s a broader political debate outside the narrower methodological debate.
The two major debates on which this evidence weighs are, in brief: (a) did welfare reform increase extreme poverty and (b) how bad is deep poverty in America?
The Meyer paper shows pretty definitively that welfare reform did not increase extreme poverty as defined as “the share of households with children consuming less than $2 per person per day.” That phenomenon appears to be extraordinarily rare in the United States, thankfully.
Dylan Matthews for Vox deserves credit for providing some context of a fairly technical and methodological debate that few outside academia are probably really interested in. At the end of the day, even though the numbers of people living in 'deep poverty' are not substantial many tougher questions about inequalities, poverty and the role of the state remain on the US's agenda and are strictly divided across partisan lines.

Power and vulnerability in the charity-funder relationship

Let’s talk about ‘evidence of outcomes’. I’m going to be blunt. I have never, in nearly two decades of fundraising been asked for the raw data or evidence that the claims we are making are true (for example, around employment). I could honestly have made the whole thing up – and I sometimes wonder whether other organisations do.
Why do you ask us to mark our own homework? Where is the sense in every separate organisation in each sector having their own evaluation processes? It renders meaningful comparison impossible.
While we’re on the topic of evaluation, are your staff well enough versed in the reality of operations to recognise how organisations can hand pick ‘beneficiaries’ and how that can skew outcomes data?
With those of you that relish your power, I play humble, careful not to upset the rules of patronage by exposing myself as an upstart. With those of you steeped in (usually) white and (almost invariably) upper middle class guilt about both your personal and professional privilege, I play along. I nod when you ask rhetorical questions such as “How can I possibly know what it’s like to be them?” My hidden truth however is somewhat more combative – you can know. You can enquire deeper into your own experience of being human, face your wounds and fears, your childhood trauma (however comparatively benign they may seem compared to the ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences’ (ACE) criteria). You can look at how you construct the world, how you hold yourself back and get in your own way and realise just how hard it is to change habits of body and mind that do not serve you. To get an experience of what it’s like to try and intervene in a complex system, you can start trying to shift the way your family, friendship group or own organisation operates.
Personal reflections on the Green Revolutions narrative and myths
Are big people – the ‘heroes’ as they have been called, of ‘epic narratives’ – flattered and misled by the deference with which they are treated, and by the way their misbehaviours are tolerated because they are adulated as gurus? Do their charisma, ego, power and personal dominance combine to inflict on them awesome learning disabilities? Can this be researched and documented, and can future generations be warned of these dangers? Can personal critical reflexivity be part of the self-correcting compass of those with personal and professional power?
Framing and Reframing Memory
Days later the Chief Nurse, Mr Sousa, told me that they were more than 300 on his counts. Mr Sousa, had a list of those cases he thought needed my immediate attention. I had to decide who to take to the theatre and who to leave waiting, perhaps to die. Those were agonising decisions, made with little diagnostic support and no colleagues to share the burden. The anxious eyes of the severely wounded, as they were looking at that undefined line between life and death, their faces showing shock and fear under the hospital dim lights, have been with me all these years to haunt me. I think I’ll never forget and always remember them, feeling at the same time intense emotions. The harrowing experiences of that time left me with indelible marks and haunting, sometimes intrusive, images and thoughts.
All these years, I wanted to go back to Chokwe to find closure. I strongly felt that I needed to see the places and the surviving staff who had worked with me. My recent getting into photography, gave me the necessary will, motivation and perhaps the therapeutic tool to embark in such a project, to frame and reframe deeply rooted and unresolved emotional aspects.
In Memoriam: Ambassador John W. McDonald
McDonald received his first diplomatic posting to Berlin in 1946 and eventually held positions throughout Western Europe and the Middle East. In 1974, McDonald was appointed deputy director general of the U.N.’s International Labor Organization, where he managed the ILO’s Secretariat of 3,200 staff.
After his time at the U.N., McDonald was appointed an ambassador on four occasions—twice by President Carter and twice by President Reagan—to lead multilateral diplomatic efforts around the world. He then joined the State Department’s Center for the Study of Foreign Affairs as the coordinator for Multilateral Affairs.
He retired from the Foreign Service in 1987 after 40 years and subsequently became a professor of law at George Washington University.
On motherhood and leading with compassion, our new Executive Director explains it all
You’re a woman, a single mom, and at 42 you’re young for an executive director at time when the average CEO age is 58 and women make up less than 1 in 5 of Canadian CEOs. How do you hope to help promote women’s leadership and increase diversity in the environmental movement?
This is going to sound pretty corny, but one thing I’ve learned is that by being yourself, you allow other people to be themselves. Part of encouraging different kinds of people to take on leadership roles is showing that leadership doesn’t take one form. It doesn’t have one personality. It doesn’t have one background or education.
I’m soft spoken and I don’t love being the centre of attention. I’m more collaborative than controlling. I tell bad jokes. I love teen TV. I’m not the traditional picture of senior leadership. And that’s not just my own preconceptions talking! Coming up in this movement, I was told many times (most often by men in senior roles) that I would need to become someone else to succeed: louder, more forceful, more self-important. But I didn’t have it in me to change in that way. I didn’t want to. And I’m glad, because with the support and mentorship of some incredible, unconventional leaders I’ve been able to cultivate a style of leadership that’s open, empowering, and true to who I am as a person. And in the end, those qualities that some saw as liabilities turned out to be some of my greatest strengths.
The Belgrave Trust, Robert Chambers for IDS, Gianni Murzi, the United States Institute of Peace and Jessi Firempong & Christy Ferguson for Greenpeace Canada with five completely different reflections on #globaldev, leadership, working in 'the field' and much more!

Our digital lives

Canadian Yoga Instructor Andreita Levin Draws Ire In Thailand For Posing At Sacred Sites

A Mexican-born yoga teacher from Canada is being lambasted for photos posted to Instagram that show her executing yoga poses in sacred sites in Thailand.
Levin told HuffPost Canada via email that when she visited these sacred spots, she would always ask for permission to shoot her poses and said she often recruited the assistance of onsite staff to help her with her photos.
“While in Thailand, a tour company contacted me asking me to collaborate on photos of sites ― they would show me around the city in exchange for a few pictures on my feed in different main temples,” Levin said from Thailand.
Charmaine Noronha for Huffington Post on how the global Yoga-industrial-media complex advances...

Listening to/with Technology: Meditation Apps as the New Voice of Mental Health
While technology companies often frame personalization through AI as an inevitable result of market trends that will surely benefit society, the meditation app users I have interviewed express deep skepticism about AI’s ability to facilitate a meditation practice. Using aggregated data to help individuals on their path to personal growth assumes that a person’s deepest problem is a lack of relevant information. This assumption has been the subject of STS critiques of the technology industry for decades (Winner 1984), yet it continues to undergird popular discourse and drive technological design and innovation. Contrary to this informatic model of learning espoused by many members of the technology industry, app users and meditators I have encountered throughout my fieldwork have articulated a different basis for a meaningful teacher-student relationship—one that is characterized by forms of presence and care that a digital assistant might not be able to provide. By listening to someone they can relate to, seeing and hearing a calm, centered person, and feeling that this person cares about them, they are able to persist in the otherwise arduous, confusing practice of meditation.
Rebecca Jablonsky for Platypus on her PhD research around digital technology and meditation.

Stalinism in a British Accent
Could it be that Soviet authoritarianism feels so eerily perfect when spoke in an English accent because British people spend their lives in bureaucracies that, in some very abstract level, resemble those of the Soviet Union? Britain in 2019, with its decaying infrastructure networks, its stalling growth, its creeping environmental dread, its dysfunctional political caste and its maddening bureaucratic networks, orientated towards symbols of achievement rather than achievement itself, does not feel as remote from 1980s Soviet Ukraine as it maybe once did.
Sam Wetherell for Verso on why the characters in in the HBO series Chernobyl are well suited to speak English.

The 22 Rules of Storytelling as per Pixar
Emma Coats with some interesting food for thought on how to our stories...


Interview – Sophie Harman
The motivation for Pili came from a combination of that frustration, mixed with how we can do it in a co-produced way, and also audience. We write academic texts, we talk about these issues in policy forums, and I try to get my work out there as much as possible, but nothing really changes. The more I visit these communities in Tanzania – and I have been since 2005 – I do see change, but the stories of being a left one, of it not just being about the drugs but everything around it e.g. the health system, all of this keeps coming out, so I thought let’s change the medium and the method, and keep the message. You don’t want to keep doing the same thing. Coming back to one of your first questions about influence and exciting things in the discipline, you go to conferences such as ISA and BISA and you sit on feminist panels about making women visible and issues that need more attention, but we don’t ever change our methods of how we do that. We talk about how important these issues are, and we have exciting pieces of research, but I was getting frustrated that nobody was actually doing anything about this, so that’s why we tried something different. This isn’t to criticise people who work in these forms or do really great research, I’m very clear to say that I don’t think all academics should become filmmakers, but for me I couldn’t keep going to these meetings again and again without anything changing.
Sophie Harman talks to E-International Relations. There is an almost overwhelming amount of food for thought in her interview!


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