Links & Contents I Liked 370

Happy Midsummer from Sweden!

It has been an intense week, listening to two exceptional events on racism, #globaldev, becoming #AntiRacistinAid and compiling a new resource on that topic.

This week's 'normal' review focuses on a variety of organizations that face different challenges to remain relevant, to adapt & to continue working under rapidly changing global frameworks-from DfID and Women Deliver to Voice of America, USAID, WHO, WFP & Oxfam.

And before I'll log off for the weekend here's a young Max von Sydow, born just next to Malmö in Lund, teaching us how to drink Swedish Schnapps properly ;)!


New from Aidnography
Racism in the aid industry and international development-a curated collection
In addition to my weekly curated #globaldev link collections, I set up special curated collections on Oxfam, Haiti & the aid industry's #MeToo moment and hurricanes Harvey and Maria before.
The current debate about racism in the aid industry is another milestone into how 'development' is perceived, discussed, challenged, dismissed and encouraged to transform.
Below is an ongoing collection of media articles and op-eds that I have come across in my digital networks in the last two weeks or so.
Development news
Compassion, Uncertainty, Anxiety—and Hope: Africa in the Time of Coronavirus
Our compassion is stirred at witnessing Africa scourged by a global crisis to which its poverty makes it even more vulnerable. It is already clear that many more Africans are at risk of dying from the economic crisis than from the public health crisis that preceded it, serious as the latter is.
Uncertainty arises from the awareness that, whatever Africa’s responsibility in this crisis, one cannot count on today’s dysfunctional global governance system to recognize its. The chains of mutual responsibility that link nations today are global, but nations themselves are trending nationalistic. Already the lack of better governance and more responsible collective action has cost many lives, in Africa and elsewhere.
Anxiety is aroused by the prospect that the rest of the world will fail to realize Africa’s strategic position in the fight against both the pandemic and the economic crisis, with its implications for the macroeconomic and international debt strategies of the industrial countries and China. But, as at the bottom of Pandora’s box, hope still remains, as we remember that the lessons of the structural adjustment programs of the 1980s and 1990s were in fact learned. Today these programs are making a comeback, to address the new macroeconomic crisis that afflicts the continent.
Jean-Michel Severino for the Center for Global Development with a long-read on the bigger picture emerging from African countries.

Precarity and the pandemic-COVID-19 and poverty incidence, intensity, and severity in developing countries
Further, the global income shortfall below each poverty line could expand by up to 60 per cent; the daily income losses could amount to $350m among those living under $1.90 per day and almost $200 million among the group of people newly pushed into extreme poverty. Finally, we present country-level poverty estimates that show the location of global poverty is likely to shift towards middle-income countries and South Asia and East Asia.
Our estimates are indication of the range of potential outcomes. If anything, our estimates show the extent of precarity in developing countries and the fragility of much poverty reduction to any economic shock.
Andy Sumner, Eduardo Ortiz-Juarez & Chris Hoy with a new UNU-Wider Working Paper.

Why I decided to stay in Liberia to fight COVID-19
I have only been here just over two months on what is essentially a volunteer position, funded by the European Union. The airport, just outside the capital of Monrovia, is closed - just like others in the rest of the country. So, last Sunday was probably my last chance to leave this beautiful, but incredibly poor, country.
However, I couldn’t do it.
I rang my parents to explain that I am probably going to be stuck here for the duration of the outbreak. I asked them not to worry and they supported my decision. We keep in regular contact. I know they are concerned, but also proud.
I’ve worked overseas with other NGOs before in Uganda and in India so they know I have experience and I am with an incredible team who take safety first. We adhere to all the guidelines and I am lucky to be living in a secure and clean apartment block – but I am, of course, aware that so many here are not.
Concern Worldwide shared this post from one of their volunteers and I wasn't sure whether to include it or not. The post starts with the volunteer's name and exposing a person to online critique is usually not the greatest idea. On the other hand, the post touches upon a range of important issues from the EU's volunteering program to relatively unskilled Northern volunteers exposing themselves to risk. At the very minimum the case provides food for thought about the kind of engagement we as European taxpayers and development experts would like young citizens to have with a country like Liberia-it's complicated and goes far beyond the experiences of an individual volunteer.

Top women's rights group probes claims of racism by staff

The head of leading rights group Women Deliver has apologised and pledged an independent investigation after current and former staff said she ruled over a "toxic" culture of racism.
Experts said the problems at New York-based Women Deliver were endemic in the NGO world, with widespread complaints of racial inequality in a sector already under fire for sexual abuse of vulnerable women.
President Katja Iversen, who has previously worked at the United Nations, said she would go on leave until the investigation was complete.
Sonia Elks for the Thomson Reuters Foundation; the story of the DfID-FCO merger dominated institutional #globaldev news this week, but another prominent organization is grappling with an uncertain future as well...

Top Executives At VOA Resign As Trump Ally Prepares To Take Over

The Voice of America's two top executives stepped down Monday following Senate confirmation of President Trump's pick to run the agency that oversees the international broadcaster.
The resignation of Director Amanda Bennett and Deputy Director Sandy Sugawara was announced as Michael Pack, a conservative filmmaker and supporter of the president, was set to take over as head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM).
In a farewell message, Bennett thanked staff members for their "dedication to our mission" but also alluded to potential concerns about editorial independence at VOA under the new Trump appointee.
Scott Neuman for NPR with bad news from US's well-known global media organization.

‘A very anxious time’: USAID staff fear motives of top aides
Given the broader context — the coronavirus pandemic, an ongoing reorganization at USAID and the arrival of a new leader — the tensions are palpable, several current and former USAID staffers told POLITICO, nearly all on condition of anonymity.
"There's a lot of angst and a lot of confusion, a feeling that there's floundering and no leadership," said Dave Harden, a former senior USAID official. He added that some of the new political appointees could hurt the agency's integrity. "We work in a very diverse world, and we have to be able to have credibility and effectiveness with diverse audiences,” he said.
“It’s a very anxious time, and it’s overwhelming,” added one senior USAID official.
Nahal Toosi for Politico wraps up this small section on turmoil within the US-based #globaldev community.

Farewell DFID … a personal obituary
Every survey of British public perceptions of aid reveals that aid is most commonly thought to consist largely of humanitarian activity after a disaster or physical building – of water pumps or rural health centres – which are the symptoms of under-development. DFID’s venture into the more abstract realm of development, the internal systems that need to operate properly, the ‘governance’ of the means to make things work was a vital shift, albeit producing perhaps less visible outcomes, and asking for greater understanding of what development is about, and greater patience for the results.
DFID’s death was a long time coming, but it seems an inevitable outcome of the trends since 2010 – the increasing toxicity of aid, the increasing weight of justification required to get any aid activity moving, the dilution of focus from causes to more easily visible, and thereby ‘sellable’, outcomes.
The sad aspect is that it has come not from any cogent re-thinking of the problem – the decision to abolish has come in advance of the strategic foreign policy review, not as a result – but from less high-minded and far-sighted calculations.
For a short while, DFID lifted the UK’s eyes above pure national interest and showed the best ambitions for the greater good. It never lost sight of its main constituency – poor people – even if by the end it had become horribly convoluted in how to do it. For that fixity of vision, I cherish all the years I served there.
Phil Mason on LinkedIn.

At this time of global crisis, Britain's development work is more vital than ever

It is remarkable that at a time when the pandemic must be halted everywhere, and when the global economic downturn is going to throw hundreds of millions into poverty, Johnson is abolishing the authority of DfiD. And, just as the Black Lives Matter campaign has drawn attention to the UK’s history of slave trading and colonial plunder, the government’s capacity to work on a basis of partnership with the countries that still suffer some of the effects of that history is to be severely undermined. The prime minister thought it funny to call the UK aid budget a “cash point in the sky”. For a few short-term political gains, the reputation and influence of this country is going to deteriorate accordingly.
Clare Short for the Guardian.

Development Leadership in the UK’s New Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Looking at previous cases of similar mergers in other countries, it’s hard to see this move as strengthening Britain’s role in development. But, if the department is serious about development, there are important steps it could take to demonstrate that commitment. The government has given itself three months to implement the merger. What should Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan prioritise to make the new department the best possible asset for Britain and its development partners? I set out seven components below.
Ian Mitchell for the Center for Global Development.
I selected three different views on the DfID merger out of the many that have appeared online this week and perhaps deserve another special post next week...the bottom line is clear: It's a bad decision, Boris Johnson has no clue about #globaldev and experience from Canada, Australia and even Norway suggests that it will weaken British global standing...

No “Back to Normal” for the WHO
There is no other way: if we want a strong WHO that can do its coordination, normative, standard-setting and emergency work independently, then we must give it power and we must pay for it. But the emotive appeal by President Emmanuel Macron of France last October “to deliver the next generation a better and healthier world, fighting inequality and strengthening social justice” was made on the occasion of the replenishment of the Global Fund to fight other epidemics — AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria — not in the context of budget discussions at the WHO.
If the United States leaves, there will need to be an emergency response by an alliance of countries and other stakeholders to cover the financial gap. But an even higher priority for all countries is to start anew together by agreeing to doubling — at least — the assessed contributions, so that all key WHO functions are sufficiently financed. Three additional actions are slightly longer term: introducing a new, more balanced approach to assessment; finding a way to address the fragmentation and competition in global health financing; and reflecting on how common goods are to be financed reliably. These agendas go far beyond health ministers.
Ilona Kickbusch for the Centre for International Governance Innovation on the future of the WHO and the multilateral system of global governance.

Oxfam’s Transformation and the Future of International NGOs: A Conversation with Danny Sriskandarajah
Oxfam was founded long before aid was defined as a term. We were founded on the basis of solidarity – in this case to fight famine in Greece – not just by delivering life-saving assistance but by speaking truth to power – lobbying the British government to change its policy on the blockade of Nazi-held Europe.
That approach I think is timeless. We’ve got to work within the aid system, to make sure that we shift power and resources as best we can. But also, I hope that we are here long after aid is no longer needed, because there’s another need, which is to have strong, vibrant, internationalist civil society formations, global networks, that bring people together, that build from below and beyond borders, on what look increasingly like universal struggles against poverty, inequality and injustice.
And finally in our '#globaldev institutions under pressure' special section Duncan Green talks to Danny Sriskandarajah about Oxfam for From Poverty to Power.
How ‘Ebola business’ threatens aid operations in Congo
“WHO did not initially have the field-level administrative capability to sufficiently manage that volume of money in that kind of challenging environment,” Konyndyk said.
“The donors – and certainly the World Bank – should probably have done more due diligence at the outset to compare WHO’s in-country financial management capacity to the contextual risks and the volumes of money they were putting in.”
Harris noted that financial management capacity has already increased for the team dealing with the COVID-19 response – for which the WHO is requesting $1.7 billion.
In the draft review, UN agencies were singled out for a litany of problematic practices in aid operations across Congo, but a separate section on the Ebola response warned that some practices “represent serious risks to the integrity – not only for the Ebola response – but for all humanitarian responses in North Kivu”.
But Konyndyk was hopeful for the WHO's capacity to learn from any mistakes in the Ebola response. “I think they recognise the problem and are making adjustments,” he said. “This is largely the growing pains of building out an ability to work at scale in really tough places.”
Emmanuel Freudenthal for the New Humanitarian continues their investigations into #globaldev in the Congo.

No clean up, no justice: Shell's oil pollution in the Niger Delta
Nearly 10 years after a clean-up was urged for areas polluted by Shell and other oil companies in the Niger Delta, work has begun on only 11% of planned sites while vast areas remain heavily contaminated, according to a new investigation by four NGOs.
Work has begun on only 11% of polluted sites identified by UNEP, with only a further 5% included in current clean-up efforts, and no site has been entirely cleaned up;
Actions classified by UNEP as “emergency measures” - immediate action on drinking water and health protection - have not been implemented properly; there are still communities without access to clean water supplies; • Health and environmental monitoring has not been carried out;
There has not been any public accounting for how the 31 million USD funding provided since 2018 has been spent;
11 of 16 companies contracted for the clean-up are reported to have no registered expertise in oil pollution remediation or related areas;
Amnesty International with a sobering update from Nigeria.
Mutual aid is sweeping the world. Here’s how we make this anarchist way of organising last
Despite these challenges, Sitrin describes the endurance of Argentina’s mutual aid groups as “remarkable”, pointing out that even when specific collectives no longer exist, their way of organising has remained. The land rights movements, as well as struggles against femicide, anti-abortion laws and now, action being taken in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, are all adopting a horizontalist approach.
Besides, “it’s not from one day to the next that you take over the state and make something new,” Sitrin reminds me. “It’s a long process of forging new relationships that are the basis of the new society. It is filled with contradictions and there is still a lot of inequality in Argentina.”
Everett, who has six decades of experience on the frontline of self-directed organising, is also remarkably sanguine. He is optimistic that those who have become involved in mutual aid as a result of this pandemic will have come to see that there is a different way of organising society, and of relating to one another.
Zoe Smith for the Correspondent with a great essay on the global rise of mutual aid initiatives!
Our digital lives
Undress or fail: Instagram’s algorithm strong-arms users into showing skin
But on Instagram, which is heavily oriented towards photos and videos, she felt that her pictures did not reach many of her 53,000 followers unless she posed in swimwear. Indeed, four of her seven most-liked posts of the last few months showed her in a bikini. Ely Killeuse, a book author with 132,000 followers on Instagram who agreed to speak on the record, said that “almost all” of her most liked pictures showed her in underwear or bathing suits.
It could be the case that their audiences massively prefer to see Sarah and Ely in bathing suits. But since early 2016, Instagram arranges the pictures in a user’s newsfeed so that the photos a user “cares about most will appear towards the top of the feed”. If the other pictures Sarah and Ely post are less popular, it could be that they are not shown to their followers as much.
Which photos are shown and which are not is not just a matter of taste. Entrepreneurs who rely on Instagram to acquire clients must adopt the norms the service encourages to reach their followers. Even if these norms do not reflect the values they built their businesses on, or those of their core audience and clients.
Judith Duportail, Nicolas Kayser-Bril, Kira Schacht & Édouard Richard for Algorithm Watch with an interesting case study on Instagram, algorithms & the globalization of visualizing 'desirable' human bodies...

Modernity + Coloniality
This course will be run as a reading seminar and survey course looking into the constitution, scale, and many dimensions of the modern\colonial world-system. The texts here are merely a tiny fraction of the work done by non-Anglo-European, non-white scholars and activists in articulating the origins, development, and hegemony of the modern world-system, and yet my hope is that these will act as sparks for curious minds and a place within which to situate oneself and start from. This course was created keeping design students in mind, so, yes, we will have a few choice readings connecting coloniality to technology, but really, anyone can and should take this!
Ahmed Ansari with a great educational offering for the summer!

What we were reading 5 years ago

(Link review 159, 9 October 2015)
Research report: Humanitarian broadcasting in emergencies - A synthesis of evaluation findings
First, that while mass media is effective at reaching large numbers of people with potentially life-saving information across a range of topics, it is less effective at providing more context-specific, localised information that people also need. A combination of mass media and local partnerships is needed to address this. Second, information needs to be practical to be useful, and mass media is most effective at providing practical information that can be universally applied, such as information about the situation, what to do and how to protect yourself and your family, rather than more specific details of what to do in any given context or situation. More localised, context-specific information provision is also important. Third, mass-scale broadcasts are particularly effective at achieving psychosocial impacts, such as helping people feel more connected with others going through the same experience and providing confidence to act in the face of crisis. Finally, crisis exacerbates and heightens existing issues and people make choices about where to get their information based on access, quality, trust and relevance of content. People in crisis place an especially high value on information they can trust, and trust can be lost or gained very quickly. Verifying the trustworthiness of information, which normally involves having strong relationships with local actors and humanitarian responders, is paramount.
Theodora Hannides for BBC Media Action with a report from 2015 that essentially addresses the same challenges we are grappling with during the current crisis situation.

The Algorithm and the Watchtower
Snowden hopes that the world “says no to surveillance.” Most advocates of privacy and critics of governmental and corporate tracking agree with him. But what if saying no to the watchtower does not yet amount to saying no to the algorithm? We have a sense of what is involved in saying no to surveillance. But who among us really knows how to say no to information ubiquity? And who among us would be audacious enough to stop churning out the data that increasingly defines our very selfhood?
Colin Koopman for the New Inquiry; again, the questions asked in the immediate post-Snowden area are basically the same questions we are dealing with today...


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