Links & Contents I Liked 341

Hi all,

Unfortunately, this week features a lot of difficult reads: Mercy Corps is involved in a long-term abuse scandal, the de-facto prostitution of Iraqi child brides, the limits of ICT4D techno-solutionism or intransparency at the UN pension fund cover a whole spectrum of #globaldev issues with similar themes of abuse of trust, persistent power inequalities and those in charge violating the principles of their organizations.
But Carmen Carcelan's open arms to Venezuelan refugees in Ecuador, Petina Gappah's inspiring thoughts on the state of African literature or Emma Edward's reflection on a great internship in India show 'the other side' of #globaldev and positive ways to engage, learn & empower people!

My quotes of the week

I'm constantly on the move and always feel like I'm visiting wherever I stay, as all the places where I work are several kilometers away from the office. I do not have a support system and I'm unable to create one with my constant movement. But I get to travel around the country anyway.

When I get deeply moved by things or stressed and just need to rest, it comes off more as a sign of someone who is used to living in luxury. I should be fine with just a little discomfort especially since I'm African anyway. (Anyway...)

The co-operative movement suggested four steps to address the crisis: decreasing the debt stock through a moratorium on loan payments or debt write off; an interest rate cap to end the exponential increase in debt; alternative avenues for affordable rural credit including through the co-operatives; and policies to increase income streams through collective production as opposed to self-employment.
Microfinance has been a nightmare for the Global South. Sri Lanka shows that there is an alternative)


Development news
No Mercy

Executives of Portland-based Mercy Corps knew co-founder Ellsworth Culver had been credibly accused by his daughter of serial sexual abuse but allowed him to continue at the renowned international relief agency in a top role for more than a decade.
The $471-million-a-year charity twice rebuffed Culver’s daughter, Tania Culver Humphrey — 25 years ago when she first detailed her allegations to Mercy Corps officials and then again last year when she asked them to reexamine how they handled the initial review.
Noelle Crombie, Kale Williams & Beth Nakamura for the Oregonian with a powerful #AidToo story.

The teenager married too many times to count

A BBC investigation has uncovered a secret world of sexual exploitation of children and young women by religious figures.
Clerics are grooming vulnerable girls in Iraq and offering them for sex, using a controversial religious practice known as “pleasure marriage”.
Nawal al-Maghafi for BBC with an investigation from Iraq.

The $67 Billion UN Pension Fund: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Board members’ resentment against the board’s UN participant representatives, who represent 85,000 active UN staff members and include the whistleblowers who raised awareness about problems in the fund’s secretariat under the ex-chief executive, Sergio Arvizù, drives board dynamics.
Additional tensions come from smaller UN specialized agencies on the board who fear reforms, particularly those in which they could lose their voting weights if adjustments are made to the board’s composition, based on relative numbers of members and size of contributions.
When the board tried to block the whistleblowers from taking their seats as elected members of the body, the UN Appeals Tribunal found in their favor and pronounced the board’s actions “unlawful” and “egregious.”
I don't like to highlight UN bureaucracy and its shortcomings all the time, but Loraine Rickard-Martin's piece for PassBlue sheds some important light on an important institution that doesn't seem to operate by the UN's rules & values...

Popular U.N. Food Agency Roiled by Internal Problems, Survey Finds

The survey of more than 8,000 WFP staffers, which was commissioned by the agency’s executive director, David Beasley, did not identify the names of the food agency’s leaders responsible for misconduct. But its findings portrayed work-life at the U.N.’s premier food agency as demoralizing, with some staffers characterizing their bosses as “repressive, authoritarian,” and self-dealing.
Colum Lynch for Foreign Policy with some highlights (or lowlights, really) from a recent WFP staff survey. The findings seem consistent with other UN staff reviews, unfortunately, but at least organizations have started to ask tougher questions on misconduct-let's see whether actions will follow...

Why we must reform the IMF – before it’s too late

We are still living in an incomplete recovery and a fragile situation that could easily dip into economic, social and political crisis. This is made worse by the growing right-wing backlash fuelled by decades of structural adjustment and austerity. This backlash threatens to throw away the good with the bad, destroying the entire apparatus of international cooperation.
We should act to rescue the multilateral system from the policy capture that has prevailed since the 1980s. The progress on tackling rising inequality at the IMF must be accelerated as part of a broader set of reforms that reclaim its purpose in the name of a new social contract. Instead of the destructive role played in the last decades, the IMF can help build a global economy based on shared prosperity and a just transition to a zero-poverty, zero-carbon future.
Doing so will require challenging both the right-wing opponents of internationalism and those who have mismanaged the multilateral financial system into its current state of disrepair.
Leo Baunach & Lara Merling for openDemocracy with food for thought on how to transform the IMF.

Papua unrest: Social media bots 'skewing the narrative'

The company pushed out content on Facebook with paid ads targeting users in the US, UK and Europe.
"The risk of a campaign like this, in a place with so little access to truly independent media, is it skews the perceptions and understanding of the international community in a way that doesn't reflect reality," says ASPI cyber researcher Elise Thomas.
"That appears to be the goal, one which someone is willing to spend hundreds of dollars and many months to achieve."
Benjamin Strick & Famega Syavira for BBC News with another 'ICT4Bad' example from Indonesia.

Solving the Last Mile Problem for Global Development

Similarly, “Community Pass,” a digital platform Mastercard is developing, brings many different entities under one proverbial roof to serve individuals. By signing in with a universal ID, people can access multiple services through one platform. A smallholder farmer has at her fingertips the ability to check in to her health care clinic and the health providers can match her information to vaccine records. She can connect her produce to more buyers or pay her children’s school fees remotely. Bringing additional services in one system dramatically lowers the marginal costs of the individual services and interventions.
Arturo Franco, Joseph Wong, Ali Schmidt-Fellner & Aditya Rau for the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. A picture of a drone, an embedded TED talk, the 'Center for Inclusive Growth'-lots of ICT4D spin and technosolutionism from the global North...

Microfinance has been a nightmare for the Global South. Sri Lanka shows that there is an alternative
The co-operative movement suggested four steps to address the crisis: decreasing the debt stock through a moratorium on loan payments or debt write off; an interest rate cap to end the exponential increase in debt; alternative avenues for affordable rural credit including through the co-operatives; and policies to increase income streams through collective production as opposed to self-employment.
Ahilan Kadirgamar & Niyanthini Kadirgamar for From Poverty to Power with a story from Sri Lanka on how to tackle the microloan and -finance crisis.

In Ecuador, one woman has given shelter to over 8,500 Venezuelans

At this same time, up to 300 people a day were arriving at Carcelen's doorstep, triple the amount from six months ago when the daily average was 100 people. While she gave everyone meals, she was only able to give beds to about 150 people a night, prioritising families with children, she said.
"Where are they expected to go?" said Carcelen, criticising the new visa restrictions, "they don't have wings, they can't just hover around in the sky."
Kimberley Brown for Al-Jazeera with a different 'refugees welcome' story from Ecuador.

The nightmares of the dead, the weeping and the wounded haunt me still

Often I was asked, after a particularly awful story, how I was taking care of myself. I would brush off the questions with a joke but I struggled with crippling anxiety and burnout. Perhaps depression as well – I don’t know because I never bothered to go to a therapist or to get diagnosed. Partly, I didn’t see it as a major problem. I was high-functioning and this came with the territory of the work I did. What kind of journalist complains about his mental health when people are dying from sieges and barrel bombs, when paramedics are killed doing their duty, when children are suffocating to death by poison gas, and people risk their lives in choppy Mediterranean waters to escape certain death and totalitarian states?
But I realised I needed help when the stories stopped coming to me.
The biggest culture shock I had when we moved to Canada was the fact that the last eight years there had been relatively normal for citizens, compared to the lives of those in the Middle East. The mundanity of the problems I now faced from day to day struck me as almost frivolous, a betrayal even, of the people whose stories I had helped tell.
Kareem Shaheen for the National shares his reflections on his mental health journey as a local journalist from the Middle East who moved to Canada.

Whale Song

I don’t suppose you have Ben & Jerry’s here, do you? Oh, well. Allison met her Harvey when she was a teenager. The melting Arctic attracted a mining company to her town, the mining company brought in a bunch of workers—mostly men—and that became a breeding ground for Harveys. Because what else is there to do up there but to prey on young women and sell them to your friends? By the time Allison migrated to Alaska, her Harvey had made enough money off of her to buy a fancy sports car.
Chantal Bilodeau for Understorey Magazine with an excerpt from her play that indirectly touches on many aspects of #globaldev lives and work...

The 9th Malmö Arab Film Festival (MAFF) cancels a Virtual Reality film about child refugee experiences, and screens Assad-propaganda, angering Syrians in exile in Sweden.

Many Syrians protested against the screening of “The Cord” but there was no response from the management of MAFF, nor explanation why they had the audacity to accept this Assad propaganda to its programme in the first place. When I asked one of the responsible board members to answer the Syrians, there was a silence. No answer. According to award-winning Syrian filmmaker Ziad Kalthoum it is an absolute disgrace if festivals screen Assad-supported films: “It is very shameful to see Arab film festivals in Europe celebrating and receiving films that glorify the killer and shine his image of war crimes in which thousands of people died, tortured and killed thousands in their prisons. To allow this, makes these festivals involved in the crime. The most sad and painful thing is the silence of Arab directors from Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia and other Arab countries on the behavior of these festivals. Instead they give a warm clap and they are waiting to walk on the red carpet as a cheap trade in the social media machine. To be a film director, you are a messenger in the time of the revolution, to transfer the reality and concerns of society in all its details and its truth. Not to be a slave of the commercial industry and its spotlights.”
At the same time, the MAFF Board decided to pull a Virtual Reality experience “Escape from Sweden”, supported by Malmö Stad, Boost Hbg and Film i Skåne, after myself, as director of the film, and our crew, had voiced our critique on the programming of another Assad-propaganda film.
In news closer to home, my colleague Joshka Wessels on how Syrian politics affects one of the largest Arab film festivals in Europe.

My Summer Internship: Gardens for Gender Engagement in India

After extensive scoping in the field and consultation with agronomists, we conducted a phone survey that asked 131 female farmers about their kitchen gardens – what crops they grew, when they planted their crops, etc. Using the findings from the field, a base of knowledge, and the survey results, a team of agronomists developed a kitchen garden information package specifically tailored to women farmers’ needs and local agricultural practices. PAD will begin calling 15,000 women to provide this information on a weekly basis. We are hoping that women will find this content relevant to their needs and will thus answer the PAD weekly calls and listen to them at a higher rate than they have in the past.
One of the most innovative aspects of the PAD service is that in addition to the outbound calls that users receive, users can also call the PAD team: the record any question that they may have about agriculture, and a team of agronomists will research the answer and get back to them within two days. This feature empowers women to have a direct information source they can access—one that does not require literacy or a smartphone. The goal is for women to feel self-reliant and that they do not need to rely on their spouse or others for information or to consult when making a decision.
Emma Edwards for Georgetown University's Global Human Development Program shares insights from her internship with Precision Agriculture for Development India-a great example of what responsible interning/volunteering can look like!

Rewriting the historical epic: African women writers go big

“This is a generation [of African writers] that isn’t just writing about colonialism and postcolonialism, or just looking at African governance and its failures,” says Ms. Gappah. “We write history. We write romance. We write science fiction. In this generation we have gained the freedom to write about the things that American and European authors write about, which is to say anything we choose.”
Ryan Lenora Brown for Christian Science Monitor. As the Nobel prizes disappointed, a great reminder of how many African writers a changing contemporary (global) literature.


I'm constantly on the move and always feel like I'm visiting wherever I stay, as all the places where I work are several kilometers away from the office. I do not have a support system and I'm unable to create one with my constant movement. But I get to travel around the country anyway.
When I get deeply moved by things or stressed and just need to rest, it comes off more as a sign of someone who is used to living in luxury. I should be fine with just a little discomfort especially since I'm African anyway.
Ene Abah with some short reflections from the 'field' of #globaldev.

Our digital lives
In its insatiable pursuit of power, Silicon Valley is fuelling the climate crisis

“TNCs have added 5.7 billion miles of driving annually in the Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC metro areas.” In the San Francisco Bay Area, many of the Lyft and Uber drivers live in poorer regions and drive long distances in order to chauffer the more affluent around in increasingly car-clogged metropolises. The dystopia that is Silicon Valley, as it annexes more and more of the Bay Area, shows that the tech overlords have little interest in a better world, as opposed to a more profitable one for themselves.
Rebecca Solnit for the Guardian on how tech companies will not save us...

Meet America’s newest military giant: Amazon

I asked him if he has any concerns about Amazon’s rapid expansion into national security. “We seem to be racing toward a new configuration of government and industry without having fully thought through all of the implications. And some of those implications may not be entirely foreseeable,” he wrote in an email. “But any time you establish a new concentration of power and influence, you also need to create some countervailing structure that will have the authority and the ability to perform effective oversight. Up to now, that oversight structure doesn’t seem to [be] getting the attention it deserves.”
Sharon Weinberger for MIT Technology Review on the insatiable US military-industrial complex-one of the largest polluters in the world.

The not-so-secret life of a TikTok-famous teen 

Haley is on her way to getting the thing she wants, the thing all of her friends want. To be a very online young person in 2019 is to share the same goal: have the kind of social media following wherein performing your life online becomes a paying job. Haley and her friends, and their friends, and their friends, want to be stars in the constellation of professionally watchable influencers who rack up millions of views and considerable livelihoods by simply hanging out on their couch. They don’t want a boring day job, because who does? Why would you choose to eat sad desk salads when you could meet screaming fans and get paid by brands just for being yourself?
Haley has gotten a small taste of this, and like everybody else who has, she wants more.
Rebecca Jennings for Vox. Her long-read is essentially a mini-course in mediatization of society, digital communication & how teenage lives merge with platform capitalism.


The Shifting Politics of Representations of the Himalaya: From Colonial Authority to Open Access

I remain suspicious about the seductiveness of overly celebratory narratives of open access publishing that do not address the real costs of academic publishing or gloss over the labour involved. The Politics of Language Contact in the Himalaya is still steeped in the privileged resources of Western academia, and the orientalist cover by the great Victorian artist, illustrator, musician, author and poet, Edward Lear—these days known mostly for his literary nonsense poetry and especially for his memorable limericks—at first appears to reinscribe that privilege. Our choice of Lear’s painting for the cover art to this volume was in fact intended rather to disrupt his authority and create space for communities in and from the Himalayan region to engage with colonial representations of their homeland.
Mark Turin for Open Book Publishers Blog on open access publishing and decolonizing knowledge production and storage!

Denial, Delay, Diversion-Tackling Access Challenges in an Evolving Humanitarian Landscape

Today’s global access crisis is a symptom of broader, connected trends, including the massive increase in humanitarian needs, a collective failure to find political solutions to end armed conflicts, and the rapid erosion of norms governing armed conflict and humanitarian action. In this complex geopolitical environment, complying with the regulatory and legal burden imposed by donors and the actual security risks fall on humanitarian actors at the frontlines of humanitarian response. Meanwhile, the humanitarian agencies they represent struggle to deal with increased costs and the reputational, legal, and security risks that access delays and denial impose.
Jacob D. Kurtzer with a new paper for the Center for Strategic & International Studies.

Highly Cited Articles

OUP has granted free access to a selection of ten highly cited articles from recent years. These articles are just a sample of the impressive body of research from African Affairs.
Good news from African Affairs!

Impact, Innovation, and Inclusion of Civil Society Organizations in Polio Eradication: The Core Group Polio Project Story
The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene with an interesting open access supplement.


Ruth First Lecture 2019 | Achille Mbembe
Sorrowing over the treatment of migrants, Achille Mbembe calls for Africa to adopt a pro-migration stance, phase out colonial borders and become ‘a vast space of circulation’.
New frame with a transcript of yet another inspiring lecture by Achille Mbembe!

What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 130, 6 November 2014)
The future of expats in a globalized development industry-Reflections on the Devex Career Forum

At the same time, and related to the previous themes, is an increased focus on mental and physical well-being. Even is the development industry is essentially global, new challenges are likely to emerge when ‘local’ staff experiences stress, ‘regional’ aid workers return to their own challenging environment or ‘international’ staff experience stress because of lower salaries or fewer perks such as R&R and home vacations are cut back.
Me, on some future trends of the #globaldev industry.

Notes on PopTech

So once again, tons of learning at PopTech and above all, great people and connections. I hope I can make it back sooner than in another 5 years!
*and this will all probably sound incredibly naive when I read it in 2019…
I think Linda Raftree's reflections on attending large tech conferences have aged well ;)!

International adoption made me a commodity, not a daughter

International adoption is built upon a foundation of lies and cultural misunderstandings. Better regulation would help, but the power is concentrated in the hands of a powerful adoption agency lobby and adoptive parents, who have legal rights adoptees lack. Adoptive parents’ desires become instantly more important that the child or the child’s homeland, culture, and first family. Adoptees’ histories are erased when their birth certificates are changed to reflect only the names of their adoptive parents – and those parents can change adoptees’ names against the children’s wishes. Adoptee voices are rarely heard in policy discussions and, when they are, they are often dismissed as “angry” or “ungrateful”.
Perhaps today we would write that Tarikuwa Lemma argues for 'decolonization' of international adoption.


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