Links & Contents I Liked 371

Hi all,

Welcome to what is probably going to be the pen-ultimate #globaldev link review before a well-deserved summer break in July!
It has been a busy week on the blog, updating the racism resource post & adding more than 30 resources to a new post about the forthcoming DfID merger with the FCO.
And there's other news, of course, from Zanzibar, Congo, Nairobi, Japan and the Philippines, Malawi, the US, WHO and UN @ 75.
Important pieces on voluntourism, skin bleaching, gender-based violence, baby formula, philanthrocapitalism & decolonizing research relationships wrap this week's post up!

Enjoy!

My quotes of the week

With the Black Lives Matter movement in mind, I am writing to let you know that we, Zanzibaris, demand better. Leaving out the overwhelming efforts of locals in Zanzibar to combat this pandemic, promotes a white savior complex, whether or not that was the intention of your article. You knew about WAJAMAMA’s efforts. I know this because you spent two hours in my office after we met at an Infection Control and Hand Hygiene workshop we did for the staff of Permaculture & Design Company, VolksHouse and Fortitude Total Security, which took place in Fumba on March 16th, 2020. You interviewed me for two hours about WAJAMAMA and our efforts. This meeting happened long before “Zanzibar 2020”. I am therefore baffled that your article failed to represent WAJAMAMA’s efforts as well as the efforts of other locals
(Letter to the Fumba Times Editor)

In Industrial Area, Nairobi’s industrial zone, the workers, who are mostly women, working in the horticultural companies exporting flowers or vegetables are subjected to dehumanizing conditions. The companies have a biometric system to check in. The workers have to report at 9.20 am and leave at 4.29 pm using fingerprints as their ID. Any lateness, of even one-minute, means that an arbitrary amount will be deducted from the wages which are 663 Ksh per day in one of the companies. Overtime is not compensated, and when it is peak season in the UK, they have to work longer hours in freezing conditions. (...) The company bosses open accounts for the workers without consent and have access to the secret PIN numbers and can withdraw from the employees’ bank accounts at will.
(The breaking point)

It is no accident that GSD focuses on dramatic interventions such as parachuting into unknown dangers, and operating in the shadow of smoking volcanoes. “[We have to bring] things that spark [Brin’s] interests,” said Dawson. “We need to find those things that really are exciting for [him]. And that doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily doable. Trying to find projects that [he] gets excited about and wants to push forward is something we’re really keen to do. It needs to be things that inspire [him].”
(Google Founder Sergey Brin Has a Secret Disaster Relief Squad)

New from Aidnography

DfID-FCO Merger in the UK-a curated collection
Now with close to 30 resources
Racism in the aid industry and international development-a curated collection
Updated today with articles on USAID, Save The Children UK, MSF & more!
Development news
Letter to the Fumba Times Editor
With the Black Lives Matter movement in mind, I am writing to let you know that we, Zanzibaris, demand better. Leaving out the overwhelming efforts of locals in Zanzibar to combat this pandemic, promotes a white savior complex, whether or not that was the intention of your article. You knew about WAJAMAMA’s efforts. I know this because you spent two hours in my office after we met at an Infection Control and Hand Hygiene workshop we did for the staff of Permaculture & Design Company, VolksHouse and Fortitude Total Security, which took place in Fumba on March 16th, 2020. You interviewed me for two hours about WAJAMAMA and our efforts. This meeting happened long before “Zanzibar 2020”. I am therefore baffled that your article failed to represent WAJAMAMA’s efforts as well as the efforts of other locals such as Zanzibar Apparels, who have played a key role in producing masks for the community, and the Zanzibar Tourism and Local Development, who were the pioneers of the wooden hand-made no-touch hand washing system.
As of June 2020, we have set up more than 300 hand washing stations in both Unguja and Pemba, and distributed almost 10,000 cloth masks, 650 liters of soap, and 30 no-touch hand washing units. We also facilitated the delivery of ~$25,000 worth of PPE to health care workers on the frontlines, and provided 15 educational workshops as well as countless educational material to the community. Additionally, we have also produced 8 educational videos in English and Swahili that have been viewed more than 200,000 times. Disregarding and misrepresenting our efforts not only undermines our work, but also our donors’ generosity.
Nafisa Jiddawi for 7884 Miles on local efforts and media (re)presentations from Zanzibar.

Making the most of it: meet the Australian couple stranded in the Congo

Instead, they are living in a two-bedroom apartment in the centre of Kisangani in the north of the Congo. They have a housekeeper but no hot water and only intermittent electricity.
The couple decided early on in the pandemic to make the most of the situation and founded a non-government organisation.
Caitlin Fitzsimmons for the Sydney Morning Herald. The original article and the pictures that came with it sparked quite a lot of critique about 'white saviorism' of a couple stranded in Kisangani, DRC. I wrote a longer message to the journalist and she responded to my critique respectfully and also amended the article.

COVID-19 & Violence against Women and Children: What Have We Learned So Far?
Six months into the COVID-19 crisis, thousands of news stories have been published warning of the increased risks of violence against women and children (VAW/C). Research from previous health, economic, and political crises supports this dynamic, predicting increases in multiple risk factors for diverse forms of violence. Yet most press coverage relies on month-to-month statistics from highly volatile single sources from high-income countries like helplines, hospitalizations, and police records.
In this note, we review rigorous studies that have analyzed how COVID-19 and related policies are impacting rates of VAW/C and highlight more reliable methods, while acknowledging limitations of underlying data sources. We propose recommendations for how to both broaden and deepen our collective understanding of how COVID-19 is impacting these forms of violence, and what can be done in response.
Amber Peterman, Megan O'Donnell & Tia Palermo for the Center for Global Development with an excellent review of recent literature on violence against women and children and changes due to the COVID-19 crisis.

We need to end voluntourism – and the white saviour complex in which it is embedded
It makes no sense that untrained westerners come to Africa to build orphanages, while the violent, racist systems that create poverty in the first place remain intact. They remain unbothered by these systems even in their own immediate communities and countries where black lives continue to be disposable. If they really wanted to make a difference, would-be voluntourists would instead lobby their own governments to shut down the tax loopholes which enable billions of dollars to escape Africa through illicit financial flows, or to relieve the debt which is crippling the ability of African governments to fund and explore meaningful development pathways
Rosebell Kagumire for the Continent (pp.26-27) with a timely reminder about the links between ant-racist work and ending voluntourism.
Black Lives Matter puts focus on skin bleaching in Africa and Asia
The Black Lives Matter movement has raised awareness globally about all kinds of discrimination based on skin colour, including colourism, which involves prejudice against darker people within a certain racial grouping. It was in that context that last week Johnson & Johnson announced it would stop selling skin-lightening products in the Middle East and Asia.
“Conversations over the past few weeks highlighted that some product names or claims on our Neutrogena and Clean & Clear dark-spot reducer products represent fairness or white as better than your own unique skin tone,” the cosmetics giant said in a statement. “This was never our intention – healthy skin is beautiful skin.”
Sally Hayden for the Irish Times with another long-standing issue around global capitalism and structural inequalities that has received attention (and change).
The breaking point
When we, Gacheke and Lena, spoke with our other struggling comrades, we heard about many other difficult situations. In Industrial Area, Nairobi’s industrial zone, the workers, who are mostly women, working in the horticultural companies exporting flowers or vegetables are subjected to dehumanizing conditions. The companies have a biometric system to check in. The workers have to report at 9.20 am and leave at 4.29 pm using fingerprints as their ID. Any lateness, of even one-minute, means that an arbitrary amount will be deducted from the wages which are 663 Ksh per day in one of the companies. Overtime is not compensated, and when it is peak season in the UK, they have to work longer hours in freezing conditions. The horticultural industry in Kenya generated 153 billion Ksh in 2018, yet the employees of these companies work in freezers all day without warm protective clothing. If one of them happens to fall sick, they are fired rather than the company incur the expense of treating their employee. The company bosses open accounts for the workers without consent and have access to the secret PIN numbers and can withdraw from the employees’ bank accounts at will. The Constitution of Kenya 2010 and the Labor Relations Act of 2007 gives every worker the right to join a union, but the companies surveil the movements of their workers and any hint of association with a union makes them vulnerable to sacking. The unions on the other hand do little to improve the welfare of their members and instead exploit the workers through membership fees. They are an extension of the greedy corporations, and workers are bled dry by the companies they work for, and are bled dry by the unions, their landlords and the taxes by the government.
Gacheke Gachihi & Lena Grace Anyuolo for Africa is a Country about the state of capitalism in Nairobi.

Asylum Outsourced: McKinsey’s Secret Role in Europe’s Refugee Crisis

The language was more corporate boardroom than humanitarian crisis – promises of ‘targeted strategies’, ‘maximising productivity’ and a ‘streamlined end-to-end asylum process.’
But in 2016 this was precisely what the men and women of McKinsey&Company, the elite US management consultancy, were offering the European Union bureaucrats struggling to set in motion a pact with Turkey to stem the flow of asylum seekers to the continent’s shores.
In March of that year, the EU had agreed to pay Turkey six billion euros if it would take back asylum seekers who had reached Greece – many of them fleeing fighting in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan – and prevent others from trying to cross its borders.
The pact – which human rights groups said put at risk the very right to seek refuge – was deeply controversial, but so too is the previously unknown extent of McKinsey’s influence over its implementation, and the lengths some EU bodies went to conceal that role.
Luděk Stavinoha & Apostolis Fotiadis for Balkan Insight. An all too familiar story of politicians ignoring real expert advice and instead listening to the consultancy-industrial complex...

Google Founder Sergey Brin Has a Secret Disaster Relief Squad
For the past five years, GSD has been quietly using high-tech systems to rapidly deliver humanitarian assistance during high-profile disasters, including the COVID-19 pandemic. These range from drones and super-yachts to a gigantic new airship that the outfit apparently hopes will make it easier to get aid supplies into disaster zones.
(...)
It is no accident that GSD focuses on dramatic interventions such as parachuting into unknown dangers, and operating in the shadow of smoking volcanoes. “[We have to bring] things that spark [Brin’s] interests,” said Dawson. “We need to find those things that really are exciting for [him]. And that doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily doable. Trying to find projects that [he] gets excited about and wants to push forward is something we’re really keen to do. It needs to be things that inspire [him].”
(...)
Should governments come to rely more deeply on groups like GSD, the effectiveness of large relief efforts may prove just another aspect of modern life dictated by a secretive Silicon Valley billionaire.
Mark Harris for Daily Beast; it almost sounds like someone wanted to write a spoof/satirical piece and how billionaires try to 'save the world'...but this is a real story of unaccountable, intransparent 'humanitarian' missions that remind us of the craziness that is philanthrocapitalism...

Sweet Bananas, Bitter Work (1): Blood gushed from his mouth
Philippine-grown bananas — the proud centerpiece of every supermarket fruit section. But unknown to shoppers, beatings, harassment, arson, and gun violence hound those who produce and pack these bananas for Japan. In October 2018, a man was even murdered.
Hideaki Kimura for the Waseda Chronicle with an investigative piece on the banana trade between Japan and the Philippines.

Infant formula companies are ‘exploiting’ COVID-19 pandemic
Large global corporations are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to aggressively promote baby formula, playing on mothers’ fears of transmitting coronavirus through breastfeeding, the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) has warned.
Nestlé baby formula has been distributed as part of COVID-19 relief efforts in Pakistan and India, despite laws and global health rules restricting donations.
Other large companies have been running digital ads for baby formula across the world that draw on parents’ worries about “viruses” and promote industry-sponsored COVID-19 advice groups for parents, despite bans on direct marketing.
There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through breastfeeding, and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all women, including those infected with COVID-19, should breastfeed their babies.
A recent report from the WHO, Unicef and IBFAN warns that many countries are “failing to stop the harmful promotion of breast-milk substitutes”.
“The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for stronger legislation to protect families from false claims about the safety of breast-milk substitutes or aggressive marketing practices,” says the report.
Kerry Cullinan for open Democracy with an update on the 'classic' development debate around global companies and their promotion of infant formula.

Europeans working with U.S. to restructure WHO, top official says
The European health official, who spoke on condition of anonymity while discussing initiatives that are not public, said Britain, France, Germany and Italy were discussing WHO reforms with the United States at the technical level.
The aim, the official said, was to ensure WHO’s independence, an apparent reference to allegations that the body was too close to China during its initial response to the coronavirus crisis early this year.
“We are discussing ways to separate WHO’s emergency management mechanism from any single country influence,” said the official.
Reforms would involve changing the WHO’s funding system to make it more long-term, the official said. The WHO now operates on a two-year budget, which “could hurt WHO’s independence” if it has to raise funds from donor countries in the middle of an emergency, the official said.
Francesco Guarascio & Elvira Pollina for Reuters with a story that has gone a bit unnoticed this week.
Malawi: Navigating between natural disasters, economic vulnerability, and donor dependency
Foreign governments, churches and international organizations control most of the country’s infrastructural programs. There are big and small organizations, locally organized and internationally staffed, but the one thing they have in common is that they run on foreign money. Most of these organizations’ work is donor-driven, meaning that they do not always take into consideration local structures. The expectation is often that the same approach will work everywhere, even when countries and regions are completely different. Programs also usually focus on certain areas and leave out others completely, which becomes a problem when most of the country’s infrastructure runs on aid-money.
In addition, many of these development organizations compete for the same resources and funding opportunities and work separately on many of the same issues. For example, UNICEF, the World Food Programme, Save the Children and Feed the Children all have nutritional programmes targeting young children, albeit coming at it from slightly different angles.
Because the competition is becoming tougher and tougher, this inevitably means that more and more of the funding organizations get, is put towards securing future funding, which distracts both energy, money, and attention away from the actual causes and the people they are trying to help
Antonia Lilie & Lene Maren Krog for the Global South Development Magazine with a sobering overview over Malawi's historical dependency on #globaldev funding.

What are the expectations for the nation’s public global media channels?

The U.S. Agency for Global Media is not only reshaping these broadcasting arms into narrowly and explicitly defined political channels, but also is wasting taxpayer money. A variety of privately funded media agencies, along with citizen- and community-led productions and local public broadcasting, serve as resources. Instead, we should be funding programs that help to diversify the perspectives of those with access to media production, such as through podcasts and film with community resonance and social impact.
VOA is not the only agency being integrated into a structure defining a more explicitly political agenda. The U.S. Agency for International Development may be moving away from its more independently positioned structure into the Department of State, shifting then its humanitarian mission toward a more pronounced partisan stance. If the U.S. cares about its integrity and credibility in the world, then it should advocate to sustain its capacity to contribute to humanitarian concerns and social justice on a global scale.
Karen Wilkins for Miami University highlights an important academic challenge these days: Whether USAID leadership change, VoA appointments or DfID merger-how to you respond with evidence and arguments to governments and their leadership that happily ignore evidence or know full well that their partisan agendas will harm institutions and outcomes?

Publications
Can the United Nations deliver a feminist future?
Not only has progress in implementing it stalled, but the very notion that advances can be made in women’s rights through multilateral negotiation is in doubt because of the illiberal and anti-feminist agendas of some particularly influential countries. On top of this, the lack of an effective multilateral response to the current COVID-19 global crisis has put in question the continuing relevance of UN processes. Misogyny and homophobia also characterise the rhetoric and goals of some sectors of civil society that target multilateral processes, such as the annual Commission on the Status of Women. The sense of intensified polarisation on gender equality has informed a decision not to hold a fifth UN World Conference on Women, in spite of the fact that gender equality remains an urgent and under-actioned global priority. The 25th anniversary of the Beijing Conference will be marked instead by a collaboration between UN Women, Mexico, and France, with civil society input, to foster a global conversation for urgent action and accountability for gender equality, while avoiding the kind of multilateral review and consensus that fuelled action in the aftermath of 1995. This article asks whether the UN is still ‘fit for purpose’ as an engine driving women’s rights gains. It outlines four ways in which multilateralism and the UN’s unique convening and normative authority can be repurposed, with feminist civil society support, to drive feminist social justice agendas more effectively.
Joanne Sandler & Anne Marie Goetz with a new article in Gender & Development that is currently free to access.

On the time spent preparing grant proposals: an observational study of Australian researchers
Preparing a new proposal took an average of 38 working days of researcher time and a resubmitted proposal took 28 working days, an overall average of 34 days per proposal. An estimated 550 working years of researchers' time (...) was spent preparing the 3727 proposals, which translates into annual salary costs of AU$66 million. More time spent preparing a proposal did not increase the chances of success for the lead researcher
Danielle L Herbert, Adrian G Barnett, Philip Clarke & Nicholas Graves with an open-access article for BMJ Open.

African Economic Development-Evidence, Theory, Policy
African Economic Development: Evidence, Theory, and Policy highlights not only difference between countries, but also variation within countries. It focuses on issues relating to gender, class, and ethnic identity, such as neo-natal mortality, school dropout, and horticultural and agribusiness exports. Variations in these areas point to opportunities for changing perfomance, reducing reducing inequalities, learning from other policy experiences, and escaping the ties of structure and the legacies of a colonial past.
African Economic Development rejects teleological illusions and Eurocentric prejudice, criticizing a range of orthodox and heterodox economists for their cavalier attitude to evidence. Instead, it shows that seeing the contradictions of capitalism for what they are - fundamental and enduring - may help policy officials protect themselves against the misleading idea that development can be expected to be a smooth, linear process, or that it would be if certain impediments were removed.
Christopher Cramer, John Sender & Arkebe Oqubay with a new open-access textbook from Oxford University Press.

Academia

‘How Did it Feel to Ask those Questions?’ – An Email Exchange about Experiencing Research on Displacement.
During all those interviews, it was you who did most of the work: you introduced us, made small talk, created trust between the respondents and us and decided what to translate and what not. Oftentimes, you also shared your own life experiences and comforted people and sometimes, you could give advice. While you were doing all this work (and when I had given up on trying to interpret gestures and words), I had time to observe you and our respondents and to wonder how you perceived those interviews. How did it feel, as a Syrian, to ask other Syrians about their flight and their lives in Jordan over and over again? And how did it feel to be the ‘bridge’ between researchers, who do not speak Arabic and don’t know the culture, and their respondents?
(...)
Being the “bridge” is a fantastic cultural exchange, empowering, gives me leadership, self-respect and others’ respect. Being the bridge made me humbler, more humane, made me believe that authentic human connection can happen regardless of language boundaries. Being the bridge has changed my perspective a lot. I now see people as humans and (stories). It is true that the role of academics is to describe the world and not necessarily to change it. However, we have given the people we met a chance to be “heard”. We showed them that their voice matters and their participation in the research matters at least for us as humans meeting humans. We made them feel that they are being “seen” for who they are really.
Hanna Schneider & Israa Sadder for Southern Responses to Displacement. Interesting food for discussion-and yet, I wonder how much more transformational the PhD experience could and should be-is it enough if one partner gets a degree and the local partner becomes a 'bridge' between people and cultures?

Research by the developed on the developing – View from the “researched”.
Terms such as the “feminization of poverty” and “intersectionality”, currently rife in Northern literature on women’s economic and social behavior, were originally conceived by American researchers to study the racial and economic divide between American men and women.
Instead of contextualizing these terms in purely Southern scenarios, which would mean taking into account a range of different cultures, religions and patriarchal structures, they were instead, co-opted by international agencies, to distinguish the abnormal gap in rights and means between men and women in developing countries, largely as is. Another of of these terms is the “unpaid care economy”. The context in which such work exists in the North and South differs vastly. Yet, it is one of many terms the North imposes in its language when discussing gender in developing countries.
As a researcher from the Global South, it has been difficult to translate this term which has clearly been developed in the North for deployment the South, illustrating that the North considers this to be a “Southern issue”. But in the South, unpaid care work involves a range of activities from rural women walking miles to fetch water and firewood, to more privileged urban women who can access (low-cost) child-care assistance, but not rights to justice or social security.
(...)
Furthermore, in my context, what Western academics call an “economy”, is really the informal sector which includes women in low to no-income scenarios, who have no access to social services. It includes women as informally paid domestic household staff, home-based workers and seasonal agricultural labourers. Each of these women also carries the burden of domestic care work which is not compensated. But for the Global South, the recognition of women’s informal labour as formal labour, is the first step to recognizing and supporting their care burden at home.
These decisions about how we are represented and “studied”, have not been made by us in the South, though in many cases, including in my own, we blindly follow them. This in itself is a serious cause for concern and the reason why we in the South remain largely voiceless.

Themrise Khan for the Sociological Review with more food for thought on how to make 'decolonization' meaningful for #higherd.

What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 160, 19 October 2015)
Philanthrocapitalism: A Self-Love Story
Garry W. Jenkins, a professor of law at Ohio State University, has written: “With its emphasis on superrich hyperagents solving social problems, philanthrocapitalism” has amplified “the voice of those who already wield substantial influence, access, and power.” What this means is that, for the first time in modern history, it has become the conventional wisdom that private business—the most politically influential, undertaxed, and underregulated sector among those groups that dispose of real power and wealth in the world, as well as the least democratically accountable—should be entrusted with the welfare and fate of the powerless and the hungry. No revolution, not even Fidel’s, could be more radical, and no expectation, no matter how much it was the product of ceaseless promotion in both old and new media, could be more counterintuitive, more antihistorical, or require a greater leap of faith.
David Rieff for the Nation; if you compare the conclusions from this essay to Sergey Brin's secret humanitarian task force, it's fair to say that philanthrocapitalism has been doing well since 2015...

Massive open online courses haven't lived up to the hopes and the hype, professors say
Completion rates remain low. Even offering high-level online classes from major universities doesn't necessarily work; without a solid academic background, the classes may be too difficult for many students to follow.
As a result, most MOOC (massive open online course) students have been college-educated men from industrialized countries.
The researchers say it is frustrating that MOOCs can provide educators the technical ability to watch as online learners fail. "We see people struggling and there really isn't any mechanism to help them," said Mitchell, Stanford's vice provost for teaching and learning.
Helping people around the world learn is not a simple thing, he said, and getting there "is going to be much harder than simply putting these courses online."
Dan Stober for Phys.org; have you also noticed how MOOCs are a complete non-issue in the discussions of how university teaching should look like in the autumn ??!!

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