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Hi all, 

I hope everybody is still OK. I think this week's review is nicely balanced between watching Netflix' 'Sergio', food for thought on a (post-) Coronavirus world, growing up in Dadaab, social movements in Hong Kong & anthropological research on the ICRC.


My quotes of the week

We had fun like kids anywhere do. Celebrities visited Dadaab, although we only heard about it on the radio. We felt the pity visitors felt for us, and hated it. To the world, Dadaab was a garden where people, mostly white, came to plant trees and watch crowds of us squash each other in line for porridge. My father was the muezzin at the mosque, and every morning I woke up to his call to prayer. My mother promised she would kill me with her own two hands if my photo ever appeared on the pamphlets passed around the refugee camp to remind us of our own destitution.
(Chasing the Mirage, from Nairobi to New York City)

We are making a mistake by continuing to explore war in terms of formal periods of peace, war, and post-war periods. War stays with us long after the cessation of hostilities, even when we consider ourselves at peace. Maybe if we spent more time studying war as experience,we would measure the cost of war beyond battle deaths and military equipment and expenditures. Maybe if we studied war as a continuum and took the long-term consequences of war and political violence seriously, we would be able to consider the United States, like Congo, as a conflict-affected society. Maybe we would truly understand the meaning of violence begets violence. (Of Bodies, Violence, and Time)

New from aidnography
Sergio (movie review)

In the end, this is not the kind of movie I need to arrange a special screening for our students-it is a Netflix movie that will provide close to two hours of global diplomacy escapism and plenty of food for reflections and the odd snarky comment when you watch it in the guesthouse or with friends during lockdown in Geneva or New York…and if you really want to engage properly with Sergio De Mello there is always Samantha Power’s memoir and the 2009 documentary.
COVID-19 & #globaldev
How is coronavirus changing aid work?

My worry is that the “duty of care” that humanitarian employers often think about has been turned on its head – in a country where tests are scarce, can we guarantee to employees that develop symptoms that they will have access? At a time when borders are shut almost globally, can agencies rely on the old approach of 'med-evacs', and will any countries accept such cases? I feel, unfortunately, there may be an underlying inequality in much of this – how can we support staff (both local and international) whose countries either don't have the resources or don't want to come to terms with COVID-19?
The New Humanitarian collected feedback from humanitarians on their worries, hopes and coping strategies.

COVID-19: An open letter from African intellectuals to Africa’s leaders

The challenge for Africa is no less than the restoration of its intellectual freedom and a capacity to create – without which no sovereignty is conceivable. It is to break with the outsourcing of our sovereign prerogatives, to reconnect with local configurations, to break with sterile imitation, to adapt science, technology and research to our context, to elaborate institutions on the basis of our specificities and our resources, to adopt an inclusive governance framework and endogenous development, to create value in Africa in order to reduce our systemic dependence. More crucially, it is essential to remember that Africa has sufficient material and human resources to build a shared prosperity on an egalitarian basis and in respect of the dignity of each and everyone. The dearth of political will and the extractive practices of external actors can no longer be used as excuse for inaction.
African Arguments with a powerful open letter from African intellectuals.

Quebec snubs doctor who helped lead fight against Ebola

Dr. Joanne Liu, the former president of Doctors Without Borders who steered the organization through its Ebola response and has 25 years of experience in pandemic preparedness, says the Quebec government refused her offer to help with its planning.
Liu says she has been part of a team of volunteer doctors advising the federal government in its fight against the spread of COVID-19, but that her proposals to assist the provincial one have gone unheeded.
Liu says she also put her name in the hat of doctors the government requested to step in at the province's beleaguered long-term care homes.
Finally, Friday evening, Health Minister Danielle McCann tweeted that her department would reach out to Liu so that she could help in the CHSLDs.
Verity Stevenson for CBC with a bigger issue around taking #globaldev & humanitarian expertise seriously 'at home' as well.

Let’s Decolonize the Coronavirus

We found the lack of solidarity-based language in the media all the more puzzling in a context where the coronavirus epidemic has amply demonstrated the fragile, if not failing, nature of healthcare systems in many ‘rich’ countries. On that note, perhaps it is not just African countries that might apply lessons learned from recent ebola outbreaks in some parts of the continent, as some outlets have suggested; maybe the world outside of Africa could also heed some lessons from African countries for once?
Andrea Filipi & Katrin Wittig for the Review of African Political Economy on emerging media discourses on COVID-19 and Africa.

Jeffrey Sachs on the Catastrophic American Response to the Coronavirus

I think one point to emphasize about aid, which maybe is not understood, and the reason I’m not so interested in talking about it in this context, is the following: aid from the U.S. to developing countries is 0.16 per cent of G.D.P. It’s tiny. It’s a shocking level of ignorance and nastiness that it’s not higher. We’re talking about tiny amounts compared with all the other numbers that we are using these days. So think about the three hundred and fifty billion for the small-business program that quickly got exhausted and will now be another three hundred billion. The total cost of controlling malaria in the world per year is probably about three to five billion maximum, only a small fraction of which comes from the United States. We’re talking about incommensurate quantities in general. The aid is limited, not because we can’t afford it but primarily because our political system pays no attention to these issues.
Isaac Chotiner talks to Jeff Sachs-another #globaldev long-read in the New Yorker after last week's feature on Renee Bach. It's an interesting interview and I'm still amazed how much Jeff Sachs seems to have changed throughout the years (see my review of The Strange Case of Dr Shock and Mr Aid from 2015).

Post-pandemic change? Humanitarian action and multilateralism in transnational times

The humanitarian ecosystem is ill-equipped for the post-pandemic world. Serious questions must be asked of a system that is so heavily dependent on the goodwill of OECD donors and the vagaries of international finance. Much of the funding for humanitarian action that does not come from states is generated by profits from largely unaccountable private companies including the likes of Microsoft and other multinationals (...). The business model of INGOs (except for MSF and a few others that rely on direct contributions from the public) is very vulnerable and so very colonial in its operating procedures. It is part and parcel of the neo-liberal agenda and still functions as a top-down conveyor belt for western policies, ideas, values. Is this model sustainable in the post-pandemic era? The politics of humanitarian action needs to be re-thought.
Antonio Donini for United Against Inhumanity with more food for thought on how to challenge the political economy of humanitarianism beyond the current crisis response.

PHOTOS: Lockdown In The World's Most Unequal Country

South Africa has so far registered some 3,300 cases of COVID-19. Yet in the townships, fear of the virus is outstripped by the fear of running out of money, as the lockdown has brought the economy to a grinding halt. Few Khayelitsha residents had much in the way of savings when the virus struck, and many are increasingly worried about how they'll continue to feed their families if the lockdown continues. Last week, riots erupted in the township of Mitchells Plain after rumors of a food distribution turned out to be false, and a string of shops and food trucks have been looted.
Asked what she thinks might happen if the lockdown restrictions are extended, Qezo's reply is stark: "People will die. We'll die because of hunger."
Tommy Trenchard for NPR Goats & Soda with a photo essay from Cape Town.

Thoughts on radical care in African feminist praxis
African feminist collectives have also developed forms of care praxis, often in response to crisis. As I have explored previously, one of the most compelling models of radical care in African activist communities emerged at the height of the HIV and AIDS epidemic in Africa, with women’s support groups coming together to respond the practical and existential needs around staying alive. Support groups affirmed HIV+ women’s right to exist in contexts where sexist stigma placed the blame on women for the spread of the epidemic and isolated positive women from the sense of belonging in society. Along with food, income generation and basic health information, these groups formed the emotional anchor for a political movement across the continent of women demanding the right to health and reform in policy, state response, and social discourses.
Although Jessica Horns post for the Sociological Review is not directly related to COVID-19, her reflections outline a lot of food for thought on how to respond and think beyond 'the crisis'.

Development news
The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: why there is no ‘silver bullet’

Despite new vaccines, therapeutics, and the extensive lessons learned from the West African Ebola outbreak, the DRC’s 2018–2020 outbreak has taken nearly 20 months to bring under control. This Comment explores some of the factors that have made this outbreak so complex.
Hana Rohan & Gillian McKay for Nature Immunology provide an interesting segue between the COVID-19 section & broader #globaldev questions.

Reinventing NGO Campaigning

Designing ethical NGO campaigns is not easy. The challenge requires the rebalancing of power at a time when those societies and institutions called on to give aid simply haven’t encountered crises on the same scale as those currently threatened with disaster. It’s difficult to imagine a campaign that works around this power imbalance, and which does not place the power solely in the hands of the donor, whereby lives and livelihoods then depend precariously on a donation.
Katrine Sif Vestereng, Anne-Sofie Linn Christensen, Christine H. Toft & Selina Bischler for Development Compass review a few fundraising campaigns; it will be interesting to see whether the current crisis will actually change traditional power imbalances, solidarity and global dynamics now that many Northern countries are experiencing failing health systems & economies.

Chasing the Mirage, from Nairobi to New York City

Small as it was, I still loved Dadaab. It was supposed to be hell, and even as kids we knew how the world saw it. All we had was dust and heat. To outsiders there was nothing of interest there. We had fun like kids anywhere do. Celebrities visited Dadaab, although we only heard about it on the radio. We felt the pity visitors felt for us, and hated it. To the world, Dadaab was a garden where people, mostly white, came to plant trees and watch crowds of us squash each other in line for porridge.
My father was the muezzin at the mosque, and every morning I woke up to his call to prayer. My mother promised she would kill me with her own two hands if my photo ever appeared on the pamphlets passed around the refugee camp to remind us of our own destitution. As long as I avoided the opportunistic photojournalists, she said, I could do what I wanted. The prospect of such freedom delighted me and I vowed to stay away from any group where my photo might be taken. My whole childhood was spent between the library in our city’s only secondary school, the nearby pool table, and the shop at the marketplace where my friend filled in for his mother on the weekends.
As the summer neared its end, accounts of ICE raids across the country reached us. We began to teach the students about Miranda rights. The carefree nature of the city dissipated and the terror of the police came back to me. I was not yet home.
Asad Hussein for the New York Review of Books with a beautiful essay and life and, among many other things, the mirage that the US has become to migrants.

A conversation with Peace Medie about gender and conflict in Africa, writing research and fiction, and more

During a conversation we recorded at the African Studies Association annual meeting, we talk about campaigns to end gender-based violence, writing both academic research and fiction, the ethics of research in African politics, and more.
Kim Yi Dionne talks to Peace Medie for another great podcast from Ufahamu Africa.

Our digital lives

“Whether you call us Hongkongers or not – we are part of Hong Kong”

On March 1, 2020, the migrant domestic worker and citizen journalist Yuli Riswati talked to Ralf Ruckus and Alina Kornfeldt about the (Indonesian) migrant domestic workers’ visible and invisible involvement in the Hong Kong opposition movement. Economic and social life in Hong Kong would not function without migrant domestic workers. Their labor also sustained the persistence of Hong Kong’s opposition movement, but their concerns hardly play any role in its demands for more democracy.
In my opinion, the movement should build up a common movement that includes ethnic minorities and migrant domestic workers from the grassroots. This would overcome the gap between the demand for justice and the discrimination of non-citizens and ignorance towards people who are actually living among those who are going onto the streets. If you want your movement to be successful, don’t disregard that migrant domestic workers contribute to the persistence of the movement: We make sure of everything at your homes, make sure that your families are well. Don’t forget that we could just say that this is not part of our duties – our duties are doing household chores, and not establishing emotional bonds with you.
Yuli Riswati talks to Ralf Ruckus & Alina Kornfeldt for [nau̯ tɕʰiŋ ʈʂʰu] on the multi-faceted and -cultural aspects of what we usually perceive as a unified 'pro democracy movement' in Hong Kong.
Contextualizing Platform Labor

If there is a diversity of platforms, there is also a heterogeneity of workers who are at risk of being invisible under the same label “digital labor”. There are markers of race, gender and class at work on digital platforms, which means that platformization does not affect everyone in the same way.
Rafael Grohmann & Jack Qiu with an overview over the special open access issue of Contracampo, the Brazilian Journal of Communication.

Of Bodies, Violence, and Time

The Old Boma of Bagamoyo is but one example of how violence and its byproducts alter landscapes, soil composition, and the path of water streams around the world. In places where the ground was rocked by shelling and bombs, people move through and navigate conflict-affected geographies. Indeed, in Cambodia, decades after the end of the war, land mines continue to maim people. Favorite shortcuts, young lovers’ secret places, and large patches of land where children could have played carelessly remain tainted by the echoes of war.
Yolande Bouka on impacts of conflict & war that only now emerge on the agenda of peace- and conflict research.

“Masters of disorder”? ICRC delegates between utopia and bureaucracy

In this article, I was interested in the actors (delegates) who are directly responsible for implementing the mandate of the ICRC as “guardian of the Geneva Conventions”. What I had learned from my fieldwork at the ICRC was that far from being cynically detached, delegates were often passionately involved in trying to make the world a better place. Even though their work involved often burdensome technocratic work (such as writing reports or updating databases), delegates in charge of monitoring the conduct of hostilities sought to manoeuvre between the humanitarian principle of neutrality, international humanitarian law, and the increasingly bureaucratic logic of “confidential dialogue” in order to persuade parties to a conflict to restrain their use of force. In spite of the many political, logistic and administrative constraints they faced, they remained firmly committed to the minimalist utopian ideal of “humanising war”.
Julie Billaud talks about her anthropological research and writing.

What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 151, 20 July 2015)
What the German government thinks a “Strategic Partnership for a ‘Digital Africa’” should look like

I don’t know whether the fact that the document’s generic language could be used for pretty much any development topic, the one-sided embracement of ‘the private sector’ or the blatant ignorance of ‘digital development’ in Africa are the most striking aspects of this policy document, but it is a very revealing example of how a traditional bilateral agency thinks about ICT4D.
Me on German development policy; to be fair, their work and communication around ICT4D ha become a bit better since 2015...

The downside of Sean Parker's "hacker philanthropy"

Namely, we have no way of knowing whether the massive tax breaks these charities get are actually value for money. They've emerged in a lax regulatory environment with little oversight and accountability — except to themselves — and a disproportionate influence on public policy in the countries and fields they give to.
Julia Belluz' article for Vox is very timely for debates around COVID debates these days...

Resilience Is Futile: How Well-Meaning Nonprofits Perpetuate Poverty

I thought of my past a lot during the Belong Campaign. At one of our meetings, about three months into my tenure, I looked across the table at the people in nice suits, drinking coffee and eating bagels, talking about solving this poverty problem by increasing these community members’ sense of belonging. These people, my colleagues, traveled the world—Australia, Africa, and throughout the U.S.—speaking on panels and at conferences about their innovative new approaches to increasing resilience. Making money off poverty was their vocation. They were compensated for these studies, creating a career out of their ludicrous idea of “resilience,” that the circumstances of these people’s lives were somehow a result of their poor choices or ill behaviors.
Melissa Chadburn for Jezebel on her encounters with the resilience discourse.


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