Links & Contents I Liked 344

Hi all,

I just returned from Batumi and Kotaisi in Georgia and in addition to meeting wonderful academic colleagues from Armenia, Moldova, Ukraine & Sweden again, I can wholeheartedly recommend Georgia as one of your next touristic destinations!
It means fewer links, but at least a glimpse into what I caught on my digital #globaldev radar!

My quotes of the week

Money was invested in global surveillance and response systems, but little attention was given to standards of care and the effects of the outbreak on families, communities, and health workers. The Ebola outbreak response was securitised and politicised. A security-based approach emphasised deterrence, compliance, and punishment, principles contrary to public health.

(The mistakes we made over Ebola)

The British public remains firmly behind efforts to support people in poorer countries, with almost two-thirds of people canvassed in a survey of EU citizens believing that maintaining overseas aid at its current level should be “a major priority”.
(Two-thirds of British people see overseas aid as 'a major priority')


Development news
EXCLUSIVE: Blunders in Central African Republic sex abuse probe detailed in internal UN review

The draft report details a litany of problems in the way investigators conducted interviews with the alleged victims – from the Burundians discrediting their testimony to the UN failing to ask crucial follow-up questions that could have corroborated their accounts. It also states that:
UNICEF failed to take accurate victim testimonies and waited weeks before informing the UN’s investigatory and oversight body of the allegations.
The UN failed to provide basic security for investigators.
The atmosphere for women and girls making the allegations was described as “threatening”, with one investigator reportedly asking a woman about her alleged perpetrator: “Did you love him?”
The system of DNA collection and storage allowed samples to decay – specimens that could have identified alleged perpetrators.
Philip Kleinfeld & Paisley Dodds for the New Humanitarian with another missed opportunity for the UN to shine in the #AidToo department...

Two-thirds of British people see overseas aid as 'a major priority'

The British public remains firmly behind efforts to support people in poorer countries, with almost two-thirds of people canvassed in a survey of EU citizens believing that maintaining overseas aid at its current level should be “a major priority”.
The results from Eurobarometer, the EU’s polling organisation, also found that almost 90% of people thought helping people in developing countries should be a priority of the EU and national governments.
Romilly Greenhill, UK director of the advocacy group the One Campaign, said it was “heartening” that the vast majority of British people believe that helping people in developing countries is the right thing to do.
Lucy Lamble for the Guardian shares some interesting findings from the Eurobarometer-and 200 engagements is in indication of how difficult it is to gain traction with this kind of data & news.

The trouble with indiscriminate tree-planting in Africa

Archibald’s frustration has been growing in recent years, as the idea of “reforesting” Africa has become more popular with her Western colleagues — and with global policymakers.
“It is true that you could store lots of carbon if you planted more trees. But when I engaged with European scientists about why you can’t plant trees in Europe, they say, ‘Well, we are using that land.’ There is a sense that land in Africa is available and can be used to fix global issues.”
Simon Allison for the Mail & Guardian on 'arboreal imperialism' & more!

Offline: The mistakes we made over Ebola

Systems were designed around the disease, not those affected. There was a surprising lack of urgency to deploy vaccines and treatments. Money was invested in global surveillance and response systems, but little attention was given to standards of care and the effects of the outbreak on families, communities, and health workers. The Ebola outbreak response was securitised and politicised. A security-based approach emphasised deterrence, compliance, and punishment, principles contrary to public health. Security concerns diverted attention from human-rights-based protections and violations. There were pervasive failures to apply best public health practices. Decision making was often slow. There was no continuity of care. Ebola responses were not integrated into existing health systems. Interventions, such as new vaccines, can never be substitutes for building trust and cooperation with local populations. Wider health and humanitarian needs were neglected. There was little transparency and almost no accountability regarding the massive financial resources mobilised to address Ebola.
Every sentence of Richard Horton's conference summary for the Lancet is worth your attention!

Compliance appraisal: Summary of results

However, CAO concludes that there are substantial concerns regarding the E&S outcomes of IFC’s investment in Bridgeconsidering: (a) the specific allegations of adverse impacts to teachers, parents and students raised in the complaints; (b) the E&S risk profile of the schools in light of their number, locationsand concerns regarding their constructionmethods; and (c)the registration status of the schools andadherence torelevant health and safety requirements. CAO’s initial review of the project documentation also raisesquestions astothe adequacy of IFC’s due diligence and supervision
The Office of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman is not happy with Bridge academies in Kenya-one of those never-ending #globaldev stories alongside 'worm wars', 'Millennium Village Project' and whether aid works ;)!

Is the UN Violating International Labour Standards?

What is clear from these rulings is that an increasing number of ‘unconventional’ workers are succeeding in establishing a de facto employment relationship and asserting their labour rights in domestic courtrooms. This is a clear indicator that the UNDT/UNAT’s threshold of access to the tribunals should be revisited. Until then, domestic courts might be the only legal recourse left for aggrieved UN non-staff personnel to improve their working conditions.
Maria Cecilia Herrera for EJIL: Talk! with a more legalistic update on whether the UN's treatment of 'non-staff personnel' violates labor standards. Perhaps the ILO could look into this further ;) ??!!

Strategic Planning Sucks the Life Out of Nonprofits

It’s time for some truth-telling. The nonprofit sector has created a culture in which strategic work is seen as a necessary evil, a process to endure, something to suffer through. Executives often enter the process begrudgingly. They may insist there is no time, money, or support. They may say that the board adds little value, that a bold and expensive vision will be hard to "sell" to a board that must raise money. It’s pretty easy to see how an executive director could have an attitude problem.
Joan Garry for the Chronicle of Philanthropy. I like the introduction, but feel a bit disappointed that 'managing better' is the main conclusion. The author works runs her own consultancy on the issue as well.

DIY Blog Training kit – Please Steal

It’s not just about blogging of course – this is really about writing clearly and accessibly, and would benefit a wider range of comms activities.
Duncan Green with a topic close to my heart & one that deserves proper engagement with his approach.

Bridging the empathy gap through graphic novels | Marc Ellison

We talk about the process of responsibly developing these stories; the importance of developing new approaches on these very complex issues; and the difficulty of finding a market in the traditional media landscape.
The common thread throughout is the empathy gap — the difficulty that people have in recognising part of themselves in the toughest times, and the hardest places.
Ian D. Quick for One Step Forward with another great discussion featuring journalist and graphic novelist Marc Ellison.

Our digital lives
Palantir’s big push into Canada

As Justin Ling writes, the data mining giant is branching out in Canada — now with a Trudeau ally heading its operations here. Should Canadians be concerned?
Justin Ling for Open Canada. The answer is 'Yes', of course...

The 2010s Broke Our Sense Of Time

This is why algorithmic time is so disorienting and why it bends your mind. Everything good, bad, and complicated flows through our phones, and for those not living some hippie Walden trip, we operate inside a technological experience that moves forward and back, and pulls you with it. Using a phone is tied up with the relentless, perpendicular feeling of living through the Trump presidency: the algorithms that are never quite with you in the moment, the imperishable supply of new Instagram stories, the scrolling through what you said six hours ago, the four new texts, the absence of texts, that text from three days ago that has warmed up your entire life, the four versions of the same news alert. You can find yourself wondering why you’re seeing this now — or knowing too well why it is so. You can feel amazing and awful — exult in and be repelled by life — in the space of seconds. The thing you must say, the thing you’ve been waiting for — it’s always there, pulling you back under again and again and again. Who can remember anything anymore?
Katherine Miller for Buzzfeed reflects on our digital condition.


Data Collection in Fragile States : Innovations from Africa and Beyond
Fragile countries face a triple data challenge. Up-to-date information is needed to deal with rapidly changing circumstances and to design adequate responses. Yet, fragile countries are among the most data deprived, while collecting new information in such circumstances is very challenging. This open access book presents innovations in data collection developed with decision makers in fragile countries in mind. Looking at innovations in Africa from mobile phone surveys monitoring the Ebola crisis, to tracking displaced people in Mali, this collection highlights the challenges in data collection researchers face and how they can be overcome.
Johannes Hoogeveen & Utz Pape with a new open access book published by the World Bank.

What hypocrisy, I think guiltily, as I jet off to academic conferences far and wide

Banning academic travel would cement existing hierarchies and privilege. If you are not located where it happens you’ll be isolated. It would reduce access to cutting-edge work, take the life-blood out of the academic community, and hold back research. But at the same time, our carbon use is huge and growing. What is to be done?
Jonathan Wolff for the Guardian-again, notice what a niche topic for digital engagement this is (and scroll down to the end to read a post from the 2014 archive that pretty much argues along similar lines...

What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 133, 21 December 2014)
Chasing Chaos: My decade in and out of humanitarian aid (book review)

If you are looking for a last-minute holiday gift for a non-development professional with an interest in ‘our’ industry, Jessica Alexander’s book is a very strong starting point for moral, practical and meta-reflections on what drives those who fill humanitarianism with life, passion and professional work ethics.
Me reviewing a great aid worker memoir that has stood the test of time very well.

11 of the best aid parodies

As another Band Aid single contends for Christmas number one, we turn the tables and look at some of the best aid campaign spoofs
Katherine Purvis for the Guardian with another #globaldev classic!

How TED (Really) Works

And my talk? Oh, it was about whether digital technology is helping social movements scale up without building deep organizations, and hence hitting the big time without the capacity to weather the challenges. So, yeah. Sometimes, the real magic is in the details, the specialization, and a division of labor you can rely on.
Zeynep Tufekci on her TED talk (in case anybody still remembers them ;)!

The Ethics of Conferences in the Age of Climate Change

But we should ask of ourselves: Is what is generated at every academic conference truly more valuable than the considerable emissions produced by thousands of scholars flying thousands of miles? (And consider who’s doing the valuing: current actors or the poor people, primarily in the Global South, who will suffer the worst consequences from our present actions?) This is an open question — I can see smart people disagreeing, and the answer depends on a bunch of factors — but many individual scholars I’ve talked to, mostly in the environmental humanities, have pondered it and decided to scale down their conference-going.
Matthew Schneider-Mayerson for the The Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (CENHS) on how academia discussed the climate crisis in 2014 and like everybody else did not act upon our knowledge.


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