Links & Contents I Liked 368

Hi all,

Like everybody else, I have found it incredible difficult not to feel defeated, overloaded and exhausted this week.
But as I was collecting this week's readings I also felt proud, less defeated and to some extent excited about the critical thinking and practical advice that has appeared at the intersection of decolonizing #globaldev research, humanitarian/aid work and remaining a critical global citizen.

P.S.: We are also looking for 1-2 new colleagues to join our program and I'm more than happy to answer informal inquiries!

Enjoy!

My quotes of the week
But we are clearly still not trying hard enough, and this suggests a deeper reason. We can’t quite bear to share the system with ’them‘. We don’t really trust ‘them’ to get it right. Our colonial ancestors had misgivings about political independence, and so do we. And we like what we do and the rewards and reputation that it brings. Quite simply, we don’t want to give all this away.
(Is racism part of our reluctance to localise humanitarian action?)

Later, a young foreign girl and recent graduate of a course that specialises in such general matters as International Development, comes to your home to monitor and evaluate the assistance provided by the bank. She asks if you received all the food items you needed and explained that she would like to assess your eligibility for cash vouchers. You notice her glance at the packet of opened biscuits on the kitchen table, wondering if she needs to explain to you how to shop appropriately. You hope your quiet acknowledgement of her advice does not betray your humiliation.
(Re-Imagining Aid: Applying a Fresh Covid Tinted Lens to a Tired Critique)

This kind of active learning (as opposed to the passive reception of information) requires the trust, collectivity, and understanding of divergent experiences built through regular synchronous meetings in a shared physical space. This is hindered when classroom interaction is mediated through disembodied video images and temporally delayed chat functions.

(The academy’s neoliberal response to COVID-19: Why faculty should be wary and how we can push back)

New from Aidnography
Senior Lecturer in Communication for Development and Social Change (at least one position)
As senior lecturer in Communication for Development and Social Change you are expected to conduct research and be involved in different research networks. The position also involves independent teaching, course management, supervision and examination of master’s theses, educational development work, collaboration with external stakeholders, international research partners and the wider society. This specific position involves teaching primarily within the programme Communication for Development, an online master’s programme working with a global student group of around 100 students. As K3 is an interdisciplinary school, teaching within other programmes and courses may also occur.
As a senior lecturer, you are expected to participate in university-wide and departmental research development, education and collaboration, and to contribute to the development of knowledge and research – both independently and together with other researchers working at the department and university.
We are looking for at least one new full-time permanent colleague to join our ComDev team!

Lords of Poverty (book review)
Before we delve into Hancock’s narrative properly I want to share some preliminary conclusions and overall reflections that I would usually save for the end of my review: Besides a simple and often simplified narrative, Lords of Poverty manages throughout the book to highlight important structural flaws and practical shortcomings of the global aid system prior to the end of the Cold War, emerging globalization and digitalization at the turn of the century.
Sometimes it is a bit scary to think how contemporary challenges of unsuitable humanitarian aid, failed coordination or lack of localization still are that Hancock points out throughout his book. And sometimes examples of expat excess, NGO glorification and general lack of professionalism are actually indications of how much the aid system has changed in 30 years-often even for the better.
I finally read and reviewed one of the classics of aid (work) critique, originally published in 1989!
COVID-19 & #globaldev
Surgisphere: governments and WHO changed Covid-19 policy based on suspect data from tiny US company
A Guardian investigation can reveal the US-based company Surgisphere, whose handful of employees appear to include a science fiction writer and an adult-content model, has provided data for multiple studies on Covid-19 co-authored by its chief executive, but has so far failed to adequately explain its data or methodology.
Melissa Davey, Stephanie Kirchgaessner & Sarah Boseley for the Guardian; this is technically not #globaldev, but an important reminder for everyone working with data to be more skeptical about private companies offering data and the general craze for Covid data that is currently hitting academia and otehr industries.

Quarantine debates in Zanzibar conjure memories of colonial racial segregation
British colonial administrators in Zanzibar saw non-Europeans as vectors of disease and sought to ensure European health and wellbeing through racial segregation, according to William Cunningham Bissell in the book, “Urban Design, Chaos, and Colonial Power in Zanzibar.”
Colonial public health measures like quarantine were motivated by a fear that diseases like leprosy would endanger European life in Stone Town, writes Amina Ameir Issa, director of Zanzibar's department of museums and antiquities, in “From Stinkibar to Zanzibar: Disease, Medicine, and Public Health in Colonial Urban Zanzibar, 1870-1963.”
Jessica Ott for Global Voices with an important reminder about the roots of colonial governmentality around separating 'sick' and 'healthy' bodies...

Geneva NGOs face uncertain future due to Covid-19 funding impact
Beauvallet said the financial impact on Geneva-based NGOs seemed relatively marginal so far, but that people still had major long-term worries.
(...)
“The funding outlook is very bleak. There are big fears and uncertainties among NGOs about the donors. This includes any potential budgetary changes in next few years but also fears about the place of NGOs in International Geneva if the current interactions are not possible due to social distancing, travel restrictions and other Covid measures.”
Simon Bradley for SwissInfo; another potential impact of the crisis could be on the work- and lifestyles of traditional #globaldev cities such as Geneva...

How can Covid-19 be the catalyst to decolonise development research?
For those of us who work in international development think tanks, research that requires fieldwork has been paused and left us fully reliant on local researchers. That has helped us recognise that ‘normal was the problem’. The ways in which we used to work and conduct research in development reproduced colonial practices that silence our research partners and ultimately our participants. By disrupting traditional research and development practices, Covid-19 could offer us an opportunity to put that right.
Melanie Pinet & Carmen Leon-Himmelstine for fp2p with a great overview over the complementary debates around decolonizing #globaldev research, re-thinking traditional North-South relationships & working towards a 'new normal' post Covid-crisis!

Re-Imagining Aid: Applying a Fresh Covid Tinted Lens to a Tired Critique
Later, a young foreign girl and recent graduate of a course that specialises in such general matters as International Development, comes to your home to monitor and evaluate the assistance provided by the bank. She asks if you received all the food items you needed and explained that she would like to assess your eligibility for cash vouchers. You notice her glance at the packet of opened biscuits on the kitchen table, wondering if she needs to explain to you how to shop appropriately. You hope your quiet acknowledgement of her advice does not betray your humiliation.
Tina Mason with some great reflections on what it could look and feel like if #globadev came to your Northern home...

Self-Care Manual For Humanitarian Aid & Development Workers
This practical, fun and user-friendly manual was created to encourage a self-care culture in your work, at your home or anywhere you are. It is a tool made for those who believe in the importance of personal self-care and want to pay close and extra attention to their well-being.
Are you a meditating, guitar-playing aid worker hipster or want to become one ;) ?!? Than Plan International has something for you ;)!

Development news

Is racism part of our reluctance to localise humanitarian action?
I wonder if racism is at the root of why we can’t ‘let go‘ of our international power, as the HPG report urges us to do, and genuinely enable people and power in local organisations and national governments. I suspect it is. Promises that a quarter of international humanitarian finance should go directly to national and local organisations are nowhere near being realised by donor governments and their international intermediaries. This cannot simply be because it is difficult.
There are good reasons why localisation is risky and hard. Aid resources can be politically captured by anti-humanitarian powers. Societies are often genuinely overwhelmed, their institutions destroyed and their people dead, displaced or dispersed. Humanitarian money and resources can be diverted by local corruption and patronage that is damaging and abhorrent to our morality, even if the same patterns of corruption and patronage in the international system are just as open to moral criticism.
But we are clearly still not trying hard enough, and this suggests a deeper reason. We can’t quite bear to share the system with ’them‘. We don’t really trust ‘them’ to get it right. Our colonial ancestors had misgivings about political independence, and so do we. And we like what we do and the rewards and reputation that it brings. Quite simply, we don’t want to give all this away.
Hugo Slim for the Humanitarian Practice Network on some of the underlining causes on the slow realization of the localization promise.
Centering Racial Equity Throughout Data Integration
This body of work seeks to encourage shifts of awareness and practice, by centering racial equity and community voice within the context of data integration and use. Our vision is one of ethical data use with a racial equity lens, that supports power sharing and building across agencies and community members.
The Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy group at the University of Pennsylvania with a new resource that is not about #globaldev, but a very, very timely contribution to many ongoing discussions in the philanthropy, ICT4D and #globaldev sectors!

Akinwumi Adesina: Why the US is targeting a flamboyant Nigerian banker
Akinwumi Adesina is a sharp dresser known for his expensive tailored suits, immaculate white shirts and an endless supply of colourful bow ties.
But the clean public persona of the 60-year-old president of the African Development Bank (AfDB) is now being questioned after a string of corruption and abuse of office allegations from his own staff spilled into the open. Mr Adesina has denied all the allegations.
BBC News with a story from the African Development Bank.
Netflix blockbuster ‘Extraction’ draws criticism for portrayal of Bangladesh's capital
Although the movie takes place in Bangladesh for most of its duration, it was predominantly filmed in the Indian cities, Ahmedabad and Mumbai, and also in Ban Pong, Thailand. However, some real images of Dhaka were used in the film, as Hargrave shared on his Instagram account.
Bangladeshi film critics complained about the lack of research into the local culture and the yellow filter used to depict Dhaka as a sickly, exotic location. They also criticized the portrayal of Bangladesh as a failed state as the storyline involves a drug lord who makes a senior Bangladeshi law enforcement officer deploy his army against Hemsworth's character.
Rezwan for Global Voices with a good overview over the discussion about authenticity in move making and Netflix' missed opportunities.

Chinese NGOs in Africa are New and Making Some Mistakes but They’re Learning Fast
I’ll be the first to admit that not all of the charitable work that Chinese NGOs and their staffs are doing in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa is always very good. In fact, a lot of people would even say they’re not doing anywhere near enough. And, we should also be upfront about saying that not all of the work is even motivated about helping people in need but about putting a shine on China’s global image. So, yes, critics of some of China’s G-NGOs are partially correct.
But just as it was 30, 40, 50 years ago when Americans and Europeans ramped up their humanitarian programs and went out into the world, we too are just starting now to do the same. And just as they improved, we will too. But it will take time.
Huang Hongxiang for the China Africa Project with interesting food for thought on the role of Chinese NGOs and their emerging role in Africa.

Revealed: UK banks and investors' $2bn backing of meat firms linked to Amazon deforestation
British-based banks and finance houses have provided more than $2bn (£1.5bn) in financial backing in recent years to Brazilian beef companies which have been linked to Amazon deforestation, according to new research.
Thousands of hectares of Amazon are being felled every year to graze cattle and provide meat for world markets.
As well as providing financial backing for Minerva, Brazil’s second largest beef exporter, and Marfrig, its second largest meat processing company, UK-based financial institutions held tens of millions of dollars worth of shares in JBS, the world’s largest meat company.
All three meat companies have been linked to deforestation in their supply chains, though they say they are working to monitor their suppliers and mitigate risks.
Emma Howard, Andrew Wasley & Alexandra Heal for the Guardian with a sobering look at global meat supply chains and how broken they are beyond any CSR opportunity...

The U.S. Brags About Health Aid to Africa While Bombing Some of Its Most Vulnerable Nation
Since U.S. Africa Command became fully operational in 2008, American troops have seen combat in more than a dozen African countries and conducted more than 1,500 air attacks, commando raids, and other ground missions in Libya and Somalia alone. Yet these two countries, where U.S. forces have spent hundreds of millions on airstrikes, have fared especially poorly in terms of direct U.S. health assistance. Libya and Somalia are also the only two African countries where the U.S. stands accused of killing civilians and failing to take responsibility for their deaths. “This sends an appalling message to the citizens of those countries — namely, that the U.S. cares more about propping up their governments than about helping people suffering on the ground there,” said Daphne Eviatar, director of the Security with Human Rights program at Amnesty International USA.
Nick Turse for the Intercept with a reminder that the crisis does not seem to limit the reach of the U.S.'s military-industrial complex.

AS Investigates: A decade ago Ethiopian diplomats siphoned $640,000 from maids in Lebanon to pay off a US based lobby firm. What happened next?
Documents handed to Addis Standard by a whistleblower in late 2019 and our investigations that followed revealed that funds belonging to the Ethiopian expat community in Lebanon were misappropriated by the Ethiopian government and secretly used to pay $600,000 US worth of fees owed to an American lobby firm in 2019.
Zecharias Zelalem for the Addis Standard; among many other things this story shows the value of local investigative journalism which is more and more under thread across many countries in Africa.

Cook Off, the no-budget romcom that became the first Zimbabwean film on Netflix
A Zimbabwean film about a woman who enters a TV cooking show and which cost only $8,000 to make has become the first feature from the country to make it onto Netflix.
“Seeing myself on Netflix, I have to punch myself every day. Like, is that really me?” asked actress Tendaiishe Chitima, star of Cook Off, which has now been acquired by the streaming giant.
Cook Off was shot in 2017, just months before the fall of Zimbabwe’s despotic ex-president Robert Mugabe, whose iron-fisted rule brought the economy to its knees. The romantic comedy had a meagre starting budget of just $8,000.
The Guardian with a great story on how a local production from Zimbabwe met the global Netflix universe.

Our digital lives

Platform & dysfunction
In a country where an estimated 100 million people live without proper sewage services, favela residents use the group to share problems with sanitation, sewage, garbage collection, and recycling. “We cannot take matters into our own hands and unclog sewers or take garbage away,” says Siccos, but she says the group at least helps residents pressure local government into improving services.
Especially in favelas, the real-time nature of these community groups can mean the difference between life and death. Before smartphones, favela dwellers would use on-the-ground signals to warn of danger, such as clashes between police and gangsters.
Jacqueline Lafloufa & Jefferson Puff for Rest of World with a great story from Brazil on how to use digital platforms for positive community engagement.
Publications
-Humanitarian action is always stronger with local action.
-Effective and local humanitarian action is not a zero-sum game of reduced roles for international humanitarian organisations and increased roles for local actors.
-Power is both the greatest resource and greatest impediment to effective local humanitarian action: the power relations embedded in formal humanitarian structures must be confronted and transitioned to reflect new possibilities.
Larissa Fast & Christina Bennett for ODI with a new summary report of a 2-year local humanitarianism project.

State of Civil Society Report 2020
As the report’s overview section makes clear, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated, accelerated and further exposed crucial global challenges that came to the fore in 2019: restricted civic and democratic freedoms, economic policies that fail most people, widespread exclusion, limited international cooperation and a failure to follow the science and act on the global emergency of climate change.
Civicus just published their annual flagship report.

Academia

The academy’s neoliberal response to COVID-19: Why faculty should be wary and how we can push back
This kind of active learning (as opposed to the passive reception of information) requires the trust, collectivity, and understanding of divergent experiences built through regular synchronous meetings in a shared physical space. This is hindered when classroom interaction is mediated through disembodied video images and temporally delayed chat functions.
In the COVID-19 era neoliberal university, accommodations are not being made for faculty who engage in pedagogies that involve more than content delivery. Some institutions are even discouraging synchronous teaching altogether and are not scheduling set times for classes. Making these pedagogical methods impossible and expecting faculty to continue teaching without them constitutes a clear violation of academic freedom.
The administrative push for asynchronous teaching, hybrid online/in-person courses, and flexible evaluation methods tailored to each student are justified in the name of ensuring equitable access for students who face very real limitations during the COVID-19 crisis. However, there is a point at which we must ask what exactly students will be getting access to and if it is worthy of university credit and scholarly advancement, particularly if remote teaching continues in some form for several semesters.
Honor Brabazon for Academic Matters on how some of challenges that the 'neoliberal' university puts on staff and that can limit more engaging, critical learning for students (and teachers!).

Digitising critical pedagogies in higher education during Covid-19
As we face the Frankensteinian features of digital teaching during a pandemic, we find ourselves caught between the urgency of action and the wisdom of more deliberative and patient engagement. Critical pedagogists are dually challenged to make genuine efforts to teach well in unprecedented circumstances, and to push against the increasing exploitation of higher education workers. Our challenge is to use the insights and critical reflections of our moment to create critical, anti-racist and inclusive studying spaces, in ways that resist the neoliberal tendency towards policy standardisation and replicable models, and the job cuts that often come with it.
Amber Murrey, Steven Puttick & Farhana Sultana for the Corona Times with another great piece on linking several discussions from 'decolonization' to online teaching.

Institutionalized Racism: A Syllabus

Educators everywhere are asking how can we help students understand that this was not an isolated, tragic incident perpetrated by a few bad individuals, but part of a broader pattern of institutionalized racism. Institutional racism—a term coined by Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture) and Charles V. Hamilton in their 1967 book Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America—is what connects George Floyd and Breonna Taylor with Ahmaud Arbery, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Emmett Till, and the thousands of other people who have been killed because they were black in America.
Catherine Halley for JStor with excellent food for thought.

What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 157, 24 September 2015)
Trust.org’s Tom Esslemont and the pipe dream of overhead-free humanitarian aid
In short, charities reported that they have spent around 15% of the donations on ‘overheads’, work through local partners and have not spent all the money three months after the quake. But Tom Esslemont takes the opportunity for some general charity-bashing and mixes in some convenient UN-bashing as well
I'm actually a big fan of the Thomson Reuters Foundation's journalism, but this article about overheads rubbed me the wrong way...

Does the aid industry have a sexual violence problem?
According to campaigners like Nobert, sexual violence should not just be discussed and understood, it should be considered a core part of security work.
“You can’t send us to the worst places in the world without a bit of protection. It’s no different to preparing us for bombs or shooting. It’s just as important and as dangerous.”
Imogen Wall for IRIN/the New Humanitarian; one of *the* big questions in the aid industry throughout the past few years...

Ory Okolloh explains why Africa can’t entrepreneur itself out of its basic problems
I’m concerned about what I see is the fetishization around entrepreneurship in Africa. It’s almost like it’s the next new liberal thing. Like, don’t worry that there’s no power because hey, you’re going to do solar and innovate around that. Your schools suck, but hey there’s this new model of schooling. Your roads are terrible, but hey, Uber works in Nairobi and that’s innovation.
Lily Kuo and Ory Okolloh for Quartz; the fetish around entrepreneurism has certainly not waned since 2015...

Creative self-destruction: the climate crisis and the myth of ‘green’ capitalism
Such is the supremacy of our current capitalist imagery that it exacts a powerful grip on our thinking and actions. It is a grip strengthened by the promotion of every new “green” product, a grip tightened through the establishment of sustainability functions in business and government, a grip defended with every “offset” we purchase for a flight to a holiday destination.
Christopher Wright & Daniel Nyberg for the Conversation; as Europe is celebrating 'Green New Deals' in the aftermath of the first Covid wave, an important reminder that there is still no such thing as 'green' capitalism...

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