Links & Contents I Liked 366

Hi all,

Oxfam's bombshell announcement this week to lay of 1450 staff is only the latest concrete development around bigger questions around the future of (I)NGOs & civil society which are reflected in quite a few postings this week. And from the Ukraine to Papua New Guinea (with stop-overs in Kenya, Nepal, India, Bangladesh, US + UK) there is plenty of food for thought from around the globe as well!

Enjoy!

My quotes of the week
In the scramble to piece together the scope and scale of the clearance operations against the Rohingya, the numerous groups who came to Cox’s Bazar neither coordinated in any meaningful sense, nor benefitted from each other’s knowledge. Unsurprisingly, this has led to significant duplication on one hand, and large gaps in the narrative of what happened in northern Rakhine state on the other.
(Capturing a Crisis: What lessons can we learn from the “overdocumentation” of the Rohingya crisis?)

To achieve their stated goals of abolishing poverty, curbing inequality, ending injustice and addressing the climate emergency, NGOs will have to accept a smaller role in a larger system, since that is the only way that enough pressure for change can be mobilized and exerted. For the same reason, power and resources must be shared widely and diffused throughout society, placing people, not intermediaries, at the center of decision-making. There will be a price to pay in terms of organizational change and downsizing which must be carefully prepared for and managed. But the benefits, in terms of the potential for deep-rooted social change, will be huge.
(Is there a role for NGOs in the transformation of society?)

I hope that freelancers will direct their very justified anger at FUNDERS – corporations, foundations, government agencies and individuals – who have whined that nonprofits need to “keep overhead low,” who have often refused outright to pay for anything they consider to be overhead, and who don’t believe nonprofits should ever spend money on expertise – not competitive salaries for employees and not decent salaries for consultants.
(Out-of-work professionals pushing back against volunteer engagement)

COVID-19 & #globaldev

Coronavirus volunteers aren’t just a source of free labour – don’t take advantage of them
As societies rebuild during and after COVID-19, emerging networks of solidarity and community-led volunteering must not be permanently undermined by governments and donors repurposing them to fill gaps in existing infrastructures. Some of these gaps are expected given the scale of the crisis, but some are of governments’ own making. Volunteers deserve to be celebrated, but this must not mask past failures to build more equal, fair and resilient societies better able to cope with a pandemic.
Out-of-work professionals pushing back against volunteer engagement

Once again, there is conflict between people who need paid work and the involvement of volunteers (unpaid labor). This time: many freelancers in the United Kingdom believe furloughed workers who are receiving 80% of their salary and are volunteering their time and professional expertise online (virtual volunteering) with charities via sites like Furlonteer.com are taking away much-needed paid work. (...)
My thoughts: I hope that freelancers will direct their very justified anger at FUNDERS – corporations, foundations, government agencies and individuals – who have whined that nonprofits need to “keep overhead low,” who have often refused outright to pay for anything they consider to be overhead, and who don’t believe nonprofits should ever spend money on expertise – not competitive salaries for employees and not decent salaries for consultants.
Matt Baillie Smith for the Conversation and Jayne Cravens with two important aspects of an emerging conversation around volunteers, volunteering and soon also about unemployed professionals and students who postponed their studies venturing out into the developing world to 'help'...as Oxfam is cutting jobs and governments may be tempted to cut back services (even more) be aware of both overqualified volunteers doing 'real' jobs and underqualified volunteers doing more harm than good...

How COVID-19 has Impacted M-PESA – The Mobile Payments Darling of East Africa
When a biashara takes a 50% hit in cash inflow and earnings due to a loss in liquidity, everybody arounds them feels the impact, including the mobile money agent.
Millicent from Eldoret, featured in Covid19diariesKenya by FSD Kenya, said theAmos, husband was no longer sending money home as remittances, a key use case for M-Pesa, because their matatu crew was now making 2,000 Ksh daily, down 70% from 9,000 Ksh.
Millicent herself is receiving less from her business and now from her husband, so the overall household has taken a similar shock. Amos visits the agents less often, has a lower average M-Pesa balance and the economies around Amos and their household in Eldoret and Nairobi take a hit by the same.
She used to send her mother money to help with daily expenses, but she hasn’t sent anything in about three months.
It all adds up when all the biashara people around a busy market take a hit, the M-Pesa agent gets a piece of the burden.
Using a sample of over 1000 users and 20 agents, Caribou data and Microsave this week concluded that business for some agents had reduced by as much as 50%, attributable to lower foot traffic due to restrictions and curfews, and newly passed policy by Central Bank on cashless transactions.
Michael Kimani for People of Color in Tech looks at the M-Pesa ecosystem and the complexities of the impact that the crisis already had along the transaction chain.

Examining the Longer-Term Effects of COVID-19 on UN Peacekeeping Operations
This means that almost all work is now being done electronically, including via video-teleconferencing, and this has forced the UN to adopt, or speed-up the implementation of digital approval and related processes. This will modernize the way the UN utilizes some civilian functions in future.
The shared challenge has also resulted in closer cooperation among peacekeeping missions and the rest of the UN system. UN agencies are relying on missions for medical treatment, protection, and evacuation, and missions and agencies are cooperating on the procurement and distribution of personal protection equipment and other COVID-19 related equipment.
Cedric de Coning for the IPI Global Observatory with a nuanced overview over how the crisis is impacting UN peacekeeping...given the current funding debates in various UN organizations I'm probably a bit less optimistic how the organization can move to a more 'digital' reality without major investments in infrastructure, including better home office strategies.

What is needed right now are things children can do alone at home, delivered through low-tech options like TV, radio, and feature phones. What will be needed in the future is software that can be used to complement existing teaching—for instance by supporting teachers with remote coaching. And more than that, for both parents and governments to be able to choose effective software, what will be needed (as we researchers are so fond of saying) is more research on which products actually work.
Lee Crawfurd for CGD with a interesting overview over #ICT4D in education and a reminder that so far no magic one-laptop-per-child-Facebook.org-MOOC bullet has solved problems of how to get (digital) education to children on scale.

Migrant Remittances Will Plummet. Here Is What That Means for Global Development

Simply because migration remains relatively rare, I found in research with David McKenzie, the fall in remittances by itself will likely have little effect on broader economic growth across the developing world. That growth will clearly be devastated, my colleagues Justin Sandefur and Arvind Subramanian have shown. But not greatly due to this year’s plummeting remittances. Instead, that grim work will be done mostly by the crisis within each country, along with the collapse of global trade and tourism.
And remittances are not going to vanish in a poof. Even the World Bank’s sharply lower prediction for this year leaves remittances as the heavyweight of development finance. Remittances will still be much larger than Foreign Direct Investment to developing countries, and still about 2.5 times the value of all foreign aid put together.
This global lifeline for poor families will remain. But it will be more vulnerable now than ever in our lifetimes.
Michael Clemens also for CGD (which does excellent work on various aspects of the crisis and it hurts to see so much of their good work goes unnoticed in the current political climate in the US...) with another looming challenge for developing countries and those sending remittances home.

Local radio stations in Africa prove resilient amid COVID-19
Jane Angom at Speak FM in Gulu, Uganda, was on her laptop, when we called, preoccupied with applying for grants related to public health information on coronavirus, but also said the station had received financial assistance from its local NGO backer, the Forum on Women in Democracy (FOWODE). Mbulo from Radio Mano defiantly told us: “We are surviving. It’s not the end of us, the coronavirus. We are surviving on half salary. We have never stopped working, operations are continuing. We should not stop because of this disease. We are writing proposals—three or four. We are doing business. You have to adjust and see what you can do.” And Musulwe from Phoenix FM even sees an opportunity in the COVID-19 crisis: “TV is highly politicised—online media pumps out propaganda—people are staying at home and listening to radio. We still remain one of the most trusted stations. We are maintaining confidence amongst our listeners and the general public, and the future is positive.”
Mary Myers, Nicola Harford, and Martin Ssemakula for the Center for International Media Assistance share some interesting impressions from local radio stations' responses to the crisis.

Ukrainian surrogate babies bound for U.S., Europe stranded by virus lockdown
The Hotel Venice is surrounded by a high fence with barbed wire. The building is usually where parents stay while picking up their babies. At BioTexCom, a surrogate mother receives about $15,000-$17,000.
Parents arrive from all over the world including the United States, China, Britain, Sweden and Ireland. The parents of sixteen of the babies have been able to travel to Ukraine so far.
“The children are all provided with food, a sufficient number of employees look after them, but there is no substitute for parental care,” said Denis Herman, BioTexCom’s lawyer.
Matthias Williams for Reuters; the image of the babies' room has been shared widely this week-food for thought to discuss the global market around surrogate parenting, peripheries-and whiteness...

'Home is my nightmare; where there’s always food and I'm alone with my negative thoughts'
There have been some positive outcomes that have come out of being stuck at home. Lockdown has forced me to confront my fears—I was scared of being around the fridge and pantry because I thought I’d binge eat, I was afraid of what would happen to my body if I didn’t exercise, and I was afraid of not having structure, which is important to people living with anorexia. I’m learning that this new routine is okay, even though it looks really different from my life pre-pandemic.
I’ve learned that I can break the unhealthy habits I’ve developed by enjoying other activities that give me joy, like reading or drawing. I’m hoping that in the long term, this experience will help me get better. I’m finding ways to control my fears, instead of letting them control me.
Marie Lamensch for MacLean's; I have been following Marie on Twitter and I appreciate her courage to write about her struggles during lockdown-struggles that will probably sound familiar to many others who work in humanitarian aid or #highered...


Humour Ignores Social Distancing: Postcolonial Irony and Covid-19 in Africa

While satire and social media both have positive and negative consequences, the (post)colonial irony of Covid’s transmission route is noteworthy and African satirists have certainly taken note. Africans are now not only fighting and commenting on the Covid epidemic, but on long-established colonial narratives – and part of this battle is through the medium of humour.
David Mwambari & Laura S. Martin for African Arguments; perhaps the segue from the previous post is not entirely ideal, but this is an excellent overview over the emergence of cartoons as a response to the crisis and humorous coping mechanism.

Development news
Exclusive: Oxfam to lay off 1,450 staff and withdraw from 18 countries
Oxfam International is withdrawing from 18 countries and laying off almost a third of its program staff amid financial pressures brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.More cost cutting is expected, as Oxfam — one of the world’s best-known development charities — conducts an organizational restructuring.
In the face of the announced restructuring, Chema Vera, interim executive director, Oxfam International, explains why, and why now.
A strategic review of the organization, made up of 20 affiliate members, began in late 2018 but its effects have been greatly accelerated by the economic turmoil brought about by the pandemic, which has seen fundraising events canceled and Oxfam stores closed.
Oxfam said the move will affect around 1,450 out of nearly 5,000 program staff, and 700 of its 1,900 partner organizations.

Opinion: In the face of COVID-19, a new direction for Oxfam
This is the beginning of our 10-year new strategic vision that will transform Oxfam to become a key actor and ally to fight inequalities, power, and privilege where it grows. It will help us to make even more impact, ensure safe programming with local actors, and be the best operator we can in responding to humanitarian crises.
We began work months ago to rethink where and how Oxfam should work because a rapidly changing world demanded that we change with it. Countries can no longer be neatly divided as either developed or developing. Political power is no longer so concentrated in North America and Europe.
'The issue now is surviving': countries react with shock to Oxfam withdrawal

“It’s most worrying because the type of work Oxfam has been doing improved livelihoods in rural areas where most others don’t reach, both aid groups and governments,” he said. “They have no other sources of incomes, just a little land, and face challenges getting healthcare, also education.”
(...)
In Jacmel, a city on the southern coast of Haiti, international NGOs have distorted the workforce, something that will be felt when they leave.
“People working for INGOs pay good money for their cars, homes, and other services, but now without employment, they won’t be able to keep it going,” said Huguens Saintil, who works with a small foundation in Jacmel. “Locals had the feeling that foreigners are the solution to their problems instead of fighting to resolve them.”
William Worley & Chema Vera for DevEx and Kaamil Ahmed, Karen McVeigh, Joe Parkin Daniels & William Costa for the Guardian.
This is obviously this week's top story in #globaldev. A lot of things coming together, including #AidToo & the #Oxfamscandal from 2018. Chema Vera sounds quite corporate in his statement & I don't think Oxfam is really in the driver's seat of the changes ahead, but responsive in how fundraising, NGO work and global INGO will be forced to change post-crisis.

Is there a role for NGOs in the transformation of society?
To achieve their stated goals of abolishing poverty, curbing inequality, ending injustice and addressing the climate emergency, NGOs will have to accept a smaller role in a larger system, since that is the only way that enough pressure for change can be mobilized and exerted. For the same reason, power and resources must be shared widely and diffused throughout society, placing people, not intermediaries, at the center of decision-making. There will be a price to pay in terms of organizational change and downsizing which must be carefully prepared for and managed. But the benefits, in terms of the potential for deep-rooted social change, will be huge.
However, is anybody beyond the critics interested in doing these things? To judge from current practice, not most NGOs themselves. CEOs and Board members come and go, often with much fanfare about their intentions, yet little changes where it matters most. A few tweaks here and there, more speeches, and lots of nodding heads when critiques like these are circulated internally, but that’s about as far as it goes.
Michael Edwards for openDemocracy; a great curated resource on the future of NGOs!

62,950 Complaints Have Been Filed. But Nepal’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission is Yet to Hear a Single One.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or TRC, has been plagued by delays since it started. It had no sitting members from April 2019 until January, when the government announced four new members and a chair. Each will serve a one-year contract.
“This took a long time because the committee wanted to make sure that the appointed members are not controversial and acceptable by all,” says Rishi Rajbhandari, the secretary of the commission.
But previous commission members say they faced consistent obstacles too, making it difficult for them to make any headway on the vast caseload.
Shree Krishna Subedi, a former member of the commission, served from 2015 until his contract ended in April last year. He says he and his colleagues faced constant challenges in carrying out their work.
He says they weren’t given an office to work from until eight months into their term. Once they were set up, testimony from conflict survivors began to pour in, but they had to wait another six months before the government created a way to process the claims. Subedi and his colleagues were unable to examine complaints during that time and could only visit districts to talk to claimants off the record. Subedi says he took all of that as a sign that the government didn’t support the commission’s work.
Shilu Manandhar for Global Press Journal on the failing Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Nepal.

Capturing a Crisis: What lessons can we learn from the “overdocumentation” of the Rohingya crisis?
In the scramble to piece together the scope and scale of the clearance operations against the Rohingya, the numerous groups who came to Cox’s Bazar neither coordinated in any meaningful sense, nor benefitted from each other’s knowledge. Unsurprisingly, this has led to significant duplication on one hand, and large gaps in the narrative of what happened in northern Rakhine state on the other.
(...)
groups came to the camps to investigate and document the alleged atrocities on short-term missions that invariably lasted between 7 and 14 days. A quick scan of the “Methodology” section of some of the reports show that groups were often conducting between three and five interviews each day. These short-term “parachute” missions which aim to obtain as much information as possible as quickly as possible, seem to have been the only model used by the teams. This model gave rise to a series problems.
Mark Kersten for Justice in Conflict with a fascinating post: 'We' think that the Rohingya crisis has been well documented in real-time in front of our eyes, but it's much more complicated...

Critics say that Maxland is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. According to a new report released this month by the human rights and environmental watchdog Global Witness, Maxland has not planted a single rubber tree, despite being two years into its five-year contract. Instead, the report claims that the company has prioritized illegal logging and exporting the island’s valuable hardwood timber, raking in millions of dollars in the process.
(...)
Global Witness discovered that the company is linked to some of the world’s most prominent financial institutions, including BlackRock — the planet’s largest asset manager — which announced in January that it would place sustainability at the center of its investment approach and divest from companies that present significant climate-related risks. The non-governmental organization’s investigation found that BlackRock is among the top 20 shareholders of the three banks financing Maxland’s “mother company,” the Joinland Group, a Malaysian conglomerate with a history of logging projects in Papua New Guinea.
Rachel Ramirez for Grist introduces a new Global Witness report that, not surprisingly, finds that global asset management is linked to environmental destruction-despite lip service to sustainability and CSR...

What makes the World Bank so influential—its money or its ideas?
Our results provide strong evidence that the analytical and advisory products of the World Bank consistently influence the design, direction, and implementation of government policy in low-income and middle-income client countries. By contrast, we did not find strong evidence that the World Bank’s development policy lending—or investment lending—services consistently influence government policy.
(...)
This reallocation of time, money, and effort may be appropriate, but there is a growing gap between the stated objectives of international development organizations and the metrics of success that they use to judge their own performance. Easily observable output and outcome measures—such as the amount of economic output generated, the number of children vaccinated, and the number of kilometers of roads constructed—are useful for measuring the success of direct service delivery activities. But most aid agencies and development banks lack credible ways of measuring their influence on the policy priorities of partner countries.
Bradley Parks, Ani Harutyunyan & Matt DiLorenzo for Brookings. So in the end the World Bank has really turned into the 'knowledge bank' that was envisioned in the early 1990s ??!!

The Re-imagined Aid model calls this Choosing to act carefully — and it entails three sequential steps: first, applying the precautionary principle (precaution); second, undertaking an ethical minimax (preparation); and third, exercising pragmatism.
(...)
Within an observable and measurable reality, we must act based on science, which underlies the logic of our endeavours.
Amid complexity, we must look at things through the lens of systems, which has far-reaching implications for the way we manage our actions.
And in tackling injustice, we cannot escape power and politics, and must examine the values behind what we do.
Arbie Baguios for Aid Re-imagined introduces his model on how aid can re-imagined...

How Black women are reshaping Afrofuturism
Each foray into creating a new world, no matter what the medium maybe—pen and paper, music, art, film, or design—is a personal endeavor for the writer. It’s a journey inward. Those inner lives and experiences of Black women are still largely uncharted for the entertainment public. For this reason, the popularity of Afrofuturist works by Black women are considered new and fresh stories.For Black women in the audience, it’s an opportunity to finally be seen and represented in mediums the way we feel inside. For others, it’s a new perspective on some staid tales that are long overdue. It was bound to break through whether Black Panther happened or not. Women are reshaping the genre, but it’s all for the best.
Jonita Davis for yes! reviews the emerging genre of Afrofuturism-great pictures included!

Rizwana Tabassum (1992-2020): Free, fearless, young feminist journalist gone too soon
In the last two years, when she started writing for other publications as a freelancer, she learned how to pitch stories, worked on her writing, and read voraciously. When asked about her routine, she said one day: “I mop and clean the house in the morning, then I leave for work. I come back in the evening and cook. After 10 pm, I sit down to study, no one disturbs me.”
(...)
To us, also independent journalists now, Riz was one of the most successful and tenacious freelance reporters. No assignment was too big for her, no editor was out of her reach, and no payment too little. She created a network of sources, seniors and peers she could depend on. She maintained a personal blog of poetry. On social media, she had acquired a sizeable audience with her sharp commentary. We cannot remember a day when Rizwana did not write.
Meera Jatav & Priyanka Kotamraju for Scroll.in with a beautiful obituary for their colleague.

Publications
Preventing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in the Aid Sector –Regulative Approach
Accountability, Awareness, Coverage, Donors, Evidence, Health services, Human resources, Immunity, Internal policy, legal advice, overview mechanisms, Prioritization, Reparations, Reputation, Resources, Revolving door, Transparency, Whistleblower protection.
The International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists' report is not the most reader-friendly document (one of my pet peeves...), but summarizes the debates very well, especially the overview on pages 14-17.

Prices for telecommunication services continue to decline but do not translate into rapidly increasing Internet penetration rates
On average, prices for mobile-voice, mobile-data and fixed-broadband services are decreasing steadily around the world, and in some countries even dramatically. The reduction in price relative to income is even more dramatic, suggesting that, globally, telecommunication and information and communication technology services are becoming more affordable. However, both trends do not translate into rapidly increasing Internet penetration rates which suggests that there are other barriers to Internet use
ITU with their latest new statistical report, Measuring Digital Development: ICT Price Trends 2019.

Smaller publishers and radical publishers, in many ways the cultural and intellectual lifeblood of the industry, face particularly increasingly uncertain times ahead. Often with tiny backlists, and little to no cash reserves, any halt to their distribution can be disastrous. While many of the major publishers have decided to delay the release of their big summer titles to later in the year, in the meantime hoping to ride out the uncertainty, for smaller houses the choice is far starker.
John Merrick for Tribune on the future of radical, independent publishing-so time to support Verso, Pluto Press, Hurst Publishers and Zed Books if you like me really enjoy their works and relevance for critical engagement with #globaldev!
What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 155, 30 April 2015)
New research on vocationalization in international development studies education
We review the ontological and pedagogical origins of International Development graduate education in the context of increasing pressures to 'professionalise' graduate curricula. We apply Giroux's concept of 'vocationalisation' to argue that professionalisation risks undermining the field's intellectual foundations in an elusive quest to equip students with functional rather than intellectual skills. Acknowledging ever-growing competition among graduates for gainful employment in this sector, we argue that instructors of International Development should recommit to the field's reflective tradition by creating spaces for transformative education and develop a repoliticised ethos that critically engages global capitalism.
To be honest, five years later I still think that the journal article Daniel Esser & I co-wrote on #globaldev studies education makes a relevant contribution to current debates on education and how 'development' should be taught in academia.

Against Charity
Rather than creating an individualized “culture of giving,” we should be challenging capitalism’s institutionalized taking.
Mathew Snow's article from Jacobin is as much of a must-read essay today than it was in 2015!

The main premise of this effort is the glaring inadequacy of much of the theories and methodologies developed in the North, as crystallised in the mainstream social sciences, to provide the required instruments for a sound understanding of the problems confronting the countries of the South. The Institute mobilises young scholars from across the three continents, involving them in discussion, critiques and adaptations of existing theories and the generation of alternative approaches.
This open access book published by the International Development Economics Association is tackling many themes that address 'decolonization' before the term became more popular.

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