Links & Contents I Liked 347

Hi all,

Many readers are enjoying their Thanksgiving week & I will enjoy a week in Armenia next week!
In the meantime, some food for thought & discussions at the dinner table ;)!

My quotes of the week
If there is a single ideological glue to (current revolutions), it is, I think, desire to have one’s voice heard. At the time of tectonic political shifts where politicians and old ideologies have lost much of their credibility, a thing which has not lost its credibility is the desire and the right to be heard and counted
(Revolution Number 9. Why the world is in uproar right now)

(T)he “marketplace of ideas” works similarly to the idea of “meritocracy”, in that it stresses you get what you deserve, and if you have got it is deserved. The discourse, then, works to reinforce the status quo and serves to hide deep power and resource inequalities within society by stressing that the playing field is level when it is anything but.

(Don’t Buy the “Marketplace of Ideas”)

These kinds of stories act as a glimmer of hope in a sea of societal hardship, and, simultaneously, are indicative of total systemic failures that make children feel like they must take care of adults, make workers feel indebted to their bosses, and make audiences feel that we are all but a “stroke of good economic fortune away from wealth and abundance,” (...). We are living in the era of depressing, capitalist content packaged as mind-numbing uplift.
(Beware of the feel-good news story)

Development news
African refugees in Rwanda do not want to stay

Refugees now living in the transit center told DW that life in Rwanda is much better than the horrors they experienced in Libya and said they were integrating well with their host community.
But they also said they had left their home countries and families in search of a better life. Being in a camp with better living conditions in Rwanda doesn't mean they will abandon their dream of living in the West.
Alex Ngarambe for Deutsche Welle with an update on the story of refugee settlement in Rwanda which is...complicated...

Refugees being 'starved out' of UN facility in Tripoli

Internal documents seen by the Guardian show that the UNHCR is also planning to withdraw food from 600 other refugees and migrants in the centre – who include survivors of bombings, torture, forced labour and other human rights abuses. The majority have already tried to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean, but were returned to Libya by the EU-backed Libyan coastguard.
In a document circulated among UN staff on Tuesday, and seen by the Guardian, the agency said it would “phase out” food catering from 31 December. The document said the information should not be made public before mid-December, when 230 more refugees have been evacuated to other countries, in order to prevent disruption. After that, the facility will no longer be used as a transit centre, the document said, until the remaining refugees and migrants “vacate voluntarily”.
In the document, the UNHCR said that it would continue to finance cleaning in the centre after the withdrawal of food, partly to “prevent the reputational risk of having deficient/broken toilets and showers”. It also said a healthcare clinic on the site would continue to operate.
Sally Hayden for the Guardian with an update on her continuous reporting from inside's Libya's messy refugee situation.

Central Africa: Sahel Crisis Escalates as World Looks Away

Conflict and hunger are leading to sharp levels of displacement in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger as people flee their homes in search of safety and something to eat.
The U.N. World Food Program reports more than 860,000 people are internally displaced across the three Sahelian countries, while they are hosting more than 270,000 refugees from other countries.
Lisa Schlein for Voice of America on the ongoing and under reported crisis/crises in the Sahel.

Revolution Number 9. Why the world is in uproar right now

Revolutions of 2019, I think, presage a new breed of globalist revolutions. They are not part of the same and easily recognizable ideological pattern. They respond to local causes, but have a global element in the ability of communicate with each other (Catalan protesters imitated blockade of public infrastructure started by the Hong Kong protesters). Perhaps more importantly, they encourage each other: if Chileans are able to stand up, why not Colombians? If there is a single ideological glue to them, it is, I think, desire to have one’s voice heard. At the time of tectonic political shifts where politicians and old ideologies have lost much of their credibility, a thing which has not lost its credibility is the desire and the right to be heard and counted.
I really like that Branko Milanovic maintains his simple blog as a platform to share his thoughts!

Welcome to the Global Rebellion Against Neoliberalism

First, that any attempt to tackle the climate crisis that does not also take on the basic needs of the overwhelming majority of the earth’s inhabitants will catastrophically fail. And second, that those basic needs include not just food, health care, and housing, but also dignity and forms of solidarity that the current system does everything it can to destroy.
Ben Ehrenreich for the Nation with a longer piece that touches on similar issues as Milanovic's.

How World Bank Arbitrators Mugged Pakistan

Thanks to the World Bank’s arbitrators, the rich are making a fortune at the expense of poor countries. Multinational companies are feasting on unapproved, non-existent projects. Fixing the broken arbitration system should start with a reversal of the outrageous ruling against Pakistan and a thorough investigation of the flawed and corrupt process that made it possible.
Jeffrey Sachs for Project Syndicate with a really interesting piece on how the World Bank system continuous to rip poor nations off...

Liberia’s peacekeeper deficit: What happens to an economy when the blue helmets go?

The difficulties in finding new employment encountered by UNMIL’s Liberian former staff – many of whom are above average in terms of professional skills and educational background – are symptomatic of Liberia’s broader economic distress.
But experts say this can’t all be blamed on the mission’s departure and the removal of the “peacekeeping economy”.
Wreh, the ministry analyst, also attributed dwindling foreign investment to the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak and a fall in global rubber and iron ore prices – Liberia’s primary exports.
And Samuel Thompson, who authored a 2018 study on the economic impact of UNMIL’s withdrawal, suggested the biggest hit from the drawdown should have been felt more than a decade ago.
“The proportional importance of peacekeeping expenditure [to Liberia’s economy] began to decline once peace had been established and FDI [foreign direct investment] kicked in,” he said.
Lucinda Rouse for the New Humanitarian on the complex present in Liberia after the disappearance of the peacekeeping economy.

DR Congo: Development Banks Linked to Palm Oil Abuses
Four European development banks are financing a palm oil company in the Democratic Republic of Congo that is violating workers’ rights and dumping untreated waste, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The company, Feronia, will hold a shareholders meeting with the four banks in London on November 25, 2019 to discuss the company’s environmental and social track record. The 95-page report, A Dirty Investment: European Development Banks’ Link to Abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Palm Oil Industry, documents that investment banks owned by Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom are failing to protect the rights of people working and living on three plantations they finance.
Human Rights Watch with a new report that confirms what we already knew: When it comes to 'natural resources' there really isn't a 'sustainable' way of doing global business...

Buy Good, Do Good, Be Good? Ethical Consumption as Neoliberal Governmentality

This tandem of corporate practice and individual conduct positions EC as neoliberal governmentality. Here the wider normative framework of ethical-capital practices has, through EC, acted to create subjects that accord to the responsible-economic logic of neoliberalism. Furthermore, not only do subjects buy products that are framed as ethically good, allowing them to do good to others but in turn they become good themselves. Conceptualising EC in this way provides an important starting point to not only assess the role of ethics in the validation of neoliberalism but, importantly, it can be used to initiate a discussion on the how the discursive power of neoliberal capitalism can be challenged. Moreover, whilst ethical capitalism acts to revalidate neoliberal economism it can also be used to begin a conversation concerning how a neoliberal power can be challenged on a discursive as well as practical level.
Ruby Agatha Utting for E-International Relations Students with a longer, more academic engagement of the pitfalls of 'ethical consumption'.

Don’t Buy the “Marketplace of Ideas”

The deep problem with the concept of the marketplace of ideas is that it requires an aseptic world without hierarchy, without authority, and without power. When placed in the context of a world with all of these things, the marketplace of ideas becomes nothing more than a complacent moral discourse that offers smug reassurance that dominant ideas are simply the most convincing and evidenced. In this manner, the “marketplace of ideas” works similarly to the idea of “meritocracy”, in that it stresses you get what you deserve, and if you have got it is deserved. The discourse, then, works to reinforce the status quo and serves to hide deep power and resource inequalities within society by stressing that the playing field is level when it is anything but. If the competitive destruction of weaker ideas was actually the case, the marketplace of ideas would be a smoking ruin.
Terry Hathaway for Developing Economics-another traditional blog project with great content regularly!

Beware of the feel-good news story

These kinds of stories act as a glimmer of hope in a sea of societal hardship, and, simultaneously, are indicative of total systemic failures that make children feel like they must take care of adults, make workers feel indebted to their bosses, and make audiences feel that we are all but a “stroke of good economic fortune away from wealth and abundance,” labor historian Max Fraser, a current fellow at Dartmouth College, notes. We are living in the era of depressing, capitalist content packaged as mind-numbing uplift.
Despite the inadequate portrayal of these feel-good stories, Fraser questioned whether the general existence of inspirationally framed coverage of working-class people is necessarily worse than when the mainstream media skipped coverage of the working class altogether. Nonetheless, this coverage is inadequate. Murphy, who is writing a book about class mobility, said that mainstream press often portray these stories as pseudo-inspiration because they’re writing for their comfortable middle-class audience. She said when we see these stories as “inspirational,” we have to question who the story is inspirational for.
Samantha Grasso for Vox with a reminder that feel-good stories often mask systemic inequalities; as it's almost 'CNN Hero of the Year' time again, I'm reminded of my post from 2015:
CNN Hero of the Year event offers a glimpse into today’s depoliticized charity industry

The trips before TripAdvisor

We persuaded outdoor adventure clothing companies to shoot mail order catalogues along Himalayan trekking trails or draped over jeeps, and gained gratuitous editorial by winning awards from travel publications. Luxury names such as Tiffany, Cartier and Louis Vuitton brought their exquisite collections to be photographed amidst the bamboo and thatch of our wildlife camps, resulting in glamorous printed advertisements and coffee table books presenting their brands to a target audience we sought to attract to Nepal.
Lisa Choegyal for the Nepali Times with an interesting story about (eco-) tourism & global marketing in pre-digital times. The risk, however, is that some of these images are quite persistent and may create a long-lasting imaginary of bamboo and thatch huts romanticism that feeds into our, Western discourses of how 'Nepal' is supposed to look like...

Are we seeing the rise of bullsh*t jobs in the aid sector?
The humanitarian sector is full of incredibly hardworking, dedicated, capable people who continue to sacrifice so much — deploying in insecure locations, living far away from loved ones, and often risking their own lives — for a very worthy cause. I’m sure even the bullshit-iest jobs in our line of work is likely less bullshit-y than in others.
But with so many in need, and so little funding, there is an argument to be made for peeling back the bureaucracy, scaling down instead of up, and re-scoping our mandates to focus on what matters most.
Aid Re-Imagined with an interesting take on David Graeber's famous concept of 'bullshit jobs'. For me, 'bullshit jobs' in #globaldev exist everywhere were 'innovation' is supposed to be happening inside large organizations, also, 'knowledge management' (in the way the World Bank wanted to re-invent itself as the 'knowledge bank' in the late 1990s) has potential for such jobs.

Our digital lives

An Agenda for Decolonizing Data Science

(T)he longue durée of datafication suggests that knowledge-making, especially about the Other, is never innocent or incidental. Rather, when historicised, it reveals careful ways of constructing and maintaining power over the datafied. These historical imperial and colonial legacies are global in scope and as much sedimented in institutions as in the technics and logics of data science. If so, merely repurposing the master’s tools may not dismantle the master’s house. The second part of my response takes up the questions of non-human as well as distributed agency in complex data infrastructure and the problems it may pose if we want to bring databases to the table as social agents and locate interests, ownership and responsibility within data science work.
Noopur Raval for the Spheres Journal for Digital Cultures with a short, concise introduction to further debates on decolonizing data (science).  

To secure a safer future for AI, we need the benefit of a female perspective
the three experts were all women. One, Daphne Koller, is a co-founder of the online education company Coursera; another, Olga Russakovsky, is a Princeton professor who is working to reduce bias in ImageNet, the data set that powered the current machine-learning boom; the third, Timnit Gebru, is a research scientist at Google in the company’s ethical AI team. Reading the observations of these three women brought to the surface a thought that’s been lurking at the back of my mind for years. It is that the most trenchant and perceptive critiques of digital technology – and particularly of the ways in which it has been exploited by tech companies – have come from female commentators.
I'm sure John Naughton for the Guardian means well and he really highlights some great female experts, and yet he sounds a *little bit* surprised about their expertise??


UNHCR’s Engagement in Humanitarian-Development Cooperation

Despite these indications of positive effects, current experience also suggests that the potential of UNHCR’s engagement in humanitarian-development cooperation is less transformational than may have been expected. First, UNHCR’s leverage in influencing the strategic orientation of key development actors towards forced displacement may be limited or dependent on the broader operational and policy context. Second, even where development actors engage, refugees and other persons of concern will require continued operational support from UNHCR for many areas. Thus, in cases in which service integration has been achieved, handing over implementation to development actors has not meant handing over financial responsibilities. Third, some of UNHCR’s internal obstacles to maximizing cooperation with development actors are difficult to address and/or entail trade-offs. In particular, this concerns the internal system for allocating resources as well as the effects of short planning cycles on effective alignment with longer-term planning processes. Finally, there are open questions as to the level of advocacy commitment of international development actors, as well as on whether their early engagement represents a fundamental shift in their ways of working.
Julia Steets, Julian Lehmann & Urban Reichhold with a new UNHCR think piece.

Interview – Anne-Kathrin Kreft

Fieldwork on a sensitive topic can be mentally and psychologically taxing in different ways, both because of the subject matter itself and because of the overall conditions of carrying out fieldwork in a conflict-affected or fragile context. I think everyone can imagine that spending a considerable chunk of your time reading about CRSV, speaking with victims and activists working closely with victims, and then engaging in depth with the interview transcripts has an effect on you. Add all the revelations coming to light during the peak of the MeToo movement on top of that, and it may become difficult to get your brain to process anything beyond stories of sexual violence and assault. There were periods during my PhD research when 90% of what I engaged with on a daily basis related to sexual and gender-based violence. Unsurprisingly, that was when my mental wellbeing reached a low point. That means, it was not necessarily during fieldwork that it hit me hardest, but when I was closely reading secondary research or my interview material over extended periods of time back home.
Anne-Kathrin Kreft talks to E-International Relations Students; Anne-Kathrin is a great digital friend and this longer interview provides some important insights into her research on conflict-related sexual violence.

Decolonizing African Scholarship

The longstanding emphasis on colonial borders, usually at the expense of traditional ethnic groups, continues to inform policies and international relations to this day. Multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the United Nations often think and act within the confines of colonial borders. The same is true of economic governance and cross-border coordination: all decisions are based on “national” interests, which themselves are based on colonial legacies and affiliations. Despite their shared ethnic identities, the Anglophones and Francophones of West Africa frequently clash over economic and political matters.
Kenneth Amaeshi for Project Syndicate with a reminder that 'decolonizing' academia means questioning the borders, institutions and measurement that were often created through colonial practices in the first place!

Anxiety: a playlist to calm the mind from a music therapist

In my work as a music therapist, I’ve noticed the impact music can have on anxiety. For example, in guided imagery sessions, the therapist uses specially selected music and the client is invited to describe what they are feeling and what images the music conjures up. It’s amazing what insights can be gained from simply allowing yourself time to listen and talk about what you see in your mind’s eye.
Elizabeth Coombes' piece for the Conversation sounds like a great inspiration to calm down over the weekend...

What we were reading 4 years ago

(Link review 136, 2 February 2015)

A journey to the dark heart of nameless unspeakable evil (book review)

This is one of the strangest books I have come across so far reading and reviewing expat-written accounts on work and live ‘in development’ in the broadest sense.
Unfortunately, by ‘strange' I don’t mean ‘strangely entertaining’, I mean ‘not good’.
In some ways still one of my favorite book reviews...

Do critiques of representation make a real difference?

As much as we enjoy watching SAIH’s clips and sympathise with their attempts of changing the image of Africa and development, their critique does not go deep enough to address the quintessential questions of inequality and power in the North-South context.
Daniel Bendix on the Rusty Radiators & more!

Developing effective technology tools: less shiny, more useful

Too often, these tech solutions are developed for the wrong reasons, for example to “match” competitors or similar organisations in the space, like the increasing trend of various UN agencies having their own, distinct and incompatible data portals. Or, to meet a standard or certain level; like organisations wanting to demonstrate their commitment to transparency for example. Or simply, to demonstrate that an organisation is up to date, modern, capable of employing the right buzzwords that people (funders?) are looking for, and using technology in their work, whether it is the correct solution or not.
Zara Rahman in 2015-and more than enough 'shiny' tools & platforms have emerged since...

Why I Am Not a Maker

Rather, I want to see us recognize the work of the educators, those that analyze and characterize and critique, everyone who fixes things, all the other people who do valuable work with and for others—above all, the caregivers—whose work isn’t about something you can put in a box and sell
Debbie Chachra with a critique that is also still very relevant at the end of 2019!


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