Links & Contents I Liked 376

Hi all, 

It was a very intensive week so I'm lacking the energy for a witty introduction right now...

Enjoy!

My quotes of the week
The real story is that places like Vietnam and Mongolia have completely kicked COVID-19’s ass. The real story is that places like Rwanda and Ghana have innovated and survived. There are countless stories like this — from Sri Lanka to Trinidad & Tobago, but you wouldn’t know because we’re not rich or white. But you should know. Because we’re right. This information could save your life.

(The Overwhelming Racism Of COVID Coverage)

Biometrics may close the gap between an ID and its holder, but it opens a gulf between streamlined bureaucracies and people’s messy lives, their constrained choices, their survival strategies, their hopes for a better future, none of which can be captured on a digital scanner or encoded into a database. (Machine-Readable Refugees)

“I have made countless decisions in this vein – from Iraq to Indonesia, from Italy to El Salvador. Individually, the impact was likely small in each case, but the world is a vast place. Although I made the best decision I could based on the knowledge available at the time, ultimately I was the one who made the decision not to push more or prioritize further in each case, and I know that I have blood on my hands by now.”
(“I Have Blood on My Hands”: A Whistleblower Says Facebook Ignored Global Political Manipulation) 

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Development news
The Overwhelming Racism Of COVID Coverage

The real story is that places like Vietnam and Mongolia have completely kicked COVID-19’s ass. The real story is that places like Rwanda and Ghana have innovated and survived. There are countless stories like this — from Sri Lanka to Trinidad & Tobago, but you wouldn’t know because we’re not rich or white. But you should know. Because we’re right. This information could save your life.
Instead, however, the western media anoints white Germany a COVID leader, despite having outbreak the size of Iraq’s. They should be looking at Vietnam. Vietnam has the same population, much less wealth and has had a dramatically better response. Nearly 10,000 people have died in Germany, compared to 35 in Vietnam. Every two days Germany has as many cases as Vietnam did total. What are you learning here? To feel good about your race while dying? Why not learn from the best?
Indi Samarajiva for Indica with a reminder that mainstream reporting has a hard time covering the 'global' in the times of 'global pandemic'...

A Global Health Star Under Fire

UNOPS and the World Health Organization, also an agency of the United Nations — and which oversaw Stop TB until 2014 — have investigated multiple complaints against Dr. Ditiu, but she does not seem to have been disciplined beyond having to enroll in classes and work with a behavioral coach.
The partnership departed the W.H.O. six years ago, and officials declined to comment on relations with Stop TB during its tenure.
UNOPS’s own investigation “did not identify wrongdoing or misconduct to the level requiring termination,” according to a spokesman.
But in June the organization was “informed of further details of historic incidents within the StopTB partnership which do not demonstrate the values of integrity, inclusion, respect and tolerance that are non-negotiable at UNOPS.”
Apoorva Mandavilli for the New York Times reporting on the developments at Stop TB & how the global health & #globaldev system is grappling with organizational culture, bullying & more...
Ethiopia has started clamping down on independent media again as tensions rise
Within days, the independent Oromia Media Network (OMN)’s Addis Ababa headquarters were ransacked by police and closed. Dozens of staff were arrested and charged with igniting communal violence. Among the staff rounded up was Guyo Wario, an OMN journalist who interviewed Hundessa weeks before his murder.
As the violence subsided, local press began investigating what had happened in conflict-ravaged areas. During the mayhem, Ethiopian government had shut down internet services, nearly halting the flow of information.
Zecharias Zelalem for Quartz; the mixture of clamping down on independent local media, internet shutdowns & creating a difficult climate for media freedom is not just a problem in Ethiopia.

Decolonizing the Commentariat Contact List

Here at DiA we get requests almost every day for @fromagehomme to give an interview or comment on a particular story from journalists around the world. We usually respond by saying that he is always happy to talk to the media, but have they first contacted researchers from the country concerned. Very often the response is “no”, and the most common reason given is that it is not easy to work out who to get in touch with. To put that right, we have created the Decolonizing the Commentariat Contact List.
Nic Cheeseman & Democracy in Africa with a great resource on finding the right local expertise on "Africa"/Africa.

Machine-Readable Refugees
Biometric identifiers promise to tie legal status directly to the body. They offer seductively easy solutions to the problems of administering large populations. But it is worth asking what (and who) gets lost when countries and international bodies turn to data-driven, automated solutions. Administrative failures, data gaps and clunky analogue systems had posed huge challenges for people at the mercy of dispassionate bureaucracies, but also provided others with room for manoeuvre.
Biometrics may close the gap between an ID and its holder, but it opens a gulf between streamlined bureaucracies and people’s messy lives, their constrained choices, their survival strategies, their hopes for a better future, none of which can be captured on a digital scanner or encoded into a database.
Keren Weitzberg for the London Review of Books with a thoughtful must-read on the governmentality of biometrics and digital IDs.

The Hidden Life of Theories of Change

A Theory of Change can therefore be seen as a formal rite of passage only loosely coupled to the competencies required for successful practice, or –and this is the path that worries us– the content that finds its way into a Theory of Change may be misread as capturing all that really matters.
This managerial approach to doing development has been the subject of withering criticism for many years. The rise of Theory of Change was, at least partly, motivated by these critiques, as it is more sensitive to complexity. However, the potential of Theory of Change is subverted when it is used to improve certainty and taking control.
Wenny Ho, Margit van Wessel & Peter Tamas for fp2p with an update on one of the latest #globaldev concepts between buzzword & tool for change...

How Corporate Tyranny Works

Chevron, which has more than $260 billion in assets, has hired an estimated 2,000 lawyers from 60 law firms to carry out its campaign, according to court documents.
(...)
“What’s shocking to a lot of people is that this is now happening in the United States,” Donziger said. “I don’t mean murder, but death by a thousand cuts. Chevron does not want me to be a lawyer anymore, at a minimum. They don’t want me advocating even as a nonlawyer. They want to silence me. They want to kill every story they can. They’d rather have no story about this case than even a positive story about their side. They don’t want people to know about it. They want to erase it from people’s thought process.
“I cannot get a fair trial with a judge appointed by Judge Kaplan rather than though the random assignment process,” he lamented. “I cannot get a fair trial with a prosecutor whose law firm [has worked] for Chevron. These are egregious conflicts of interest. It’s misconduct on a grand scale. I’ve been locked up four times as long as the longest sentence ever imposed on a lawyer for criminal contempt in New York. Anyone who cares about the rule of law should be appalled.”
Chris Hedges for Scheerpost with your (almost) weekly reminder that large corporations, responsible for most of the environmental damages around the globe will fight with whatever resources it takes to block social change, equity & doing anything even close to what they promise in glossy PR & CSR statements!

When Quotas Come Up Short

Many champions of women’s political representation and gender quotas will acknowledge the limitations of such initiatives, but will dismiss our argument on the grounds that such interventions are stepping-stones on the path to more equitable gender representation—essential first steps in constrained sociopolitical and economic contexts. We are sympathetic to this perspective but contend that only movements rooted in the communities of the most marginalized can generate a genuinely transformative reallocation of power. Any political project that does not look first to those most excluded promises to guard hierarchical structures of power and entrench existing privilege. And gender innovations that reinforce interlocking forms of market, class, and ethnic dominance will only ever serve to preserve rather than undermine patriarchal power.
Marie E. Berry & Milli Lake for the Boston Review with important food for thought on the gender quota & the complexities of 'empowering' women.

A Short History of the Idea of Ending Poverty

My new paper, “On the Origins of the Idea of Ending Poverty,” provides a short history of the idea of ending poverty as a motivational goal, and tries to draw some lessons from that history. (This blog post is little more than a summary to hopefully stimulate reading the paper.)
Martin Ravallion for Economics & Poverty with more food for thought if you are interested in the history of #globaldev ideas.
Our digital lives
“I Have Blood on My Hands”: A Whistleblower Says Facebook Ignored Global Political Manipulation
The same happened in Ecuador, according to Zhang, who “found inauthentic activity supporting the ruling government… and made the decision not to prioritize it.” The former Facebook employee then wondered how her decision led to downstream effects on how Ecuador’s government handled the COVID-19 pandemic — which has devastated the country — and if that would have been different if she'd acted.
“I have made countless decisions in this vein – from Iraq to Indonesia, from Italy to El Salvador. Individually, the impact was likely small in each case, but the world is a vast place. Although I made the best decision I could based on the knowledge available at the time, ultimately I was the one who made the decision not to push more or prioritize further in each case, and I know that I have blood on my hands by now.”
Zhang also uncovered issues in India, Facebook’s largest market, in the lead up to the local Delhi elections in February 2020. “I worked through sickness to take down a politically-sophisticated network of more than a thousand actors working to influence the election,” she wrote.
Last month, Facebook’s Indian operation came under scrutiny after reports in the Wall Street Journal revealed a top policy executive in the country had stopped local staffers from applying the company’s hate speech policies to ruling party politicians who posted anti-Muslim hate speech.
Craig Silverman, Ryan Mac & Pranav Dixit for Buzzfeed News with a terrifying look into Facebook's role in enabling global election interfering & the spread of misinformation.

Death decreed over Zoom

But lawyer and human rights advocate Ayo Sogunro is wary of the presumption that public access to a virtual trial or ruling guarantees fairness, or is essentially the same thing. “While the interests of the public in seeing justice done and the interests of the accused in having a fair trial should coincide, this is not always the case,” he told Rest of World. Nigeria’s decision to transition to virtual courts is not the problem in Olalekan Hameed’s case, Sogunro pointed out; the death penalty ruling is. “This is just one more example of how a process that could work for any other kind of punishment becomes perceived as unfair when the death penalty is involved.”
Kechi Nomu for Rest of World reporting from Nigeria on how Zoom is shifting what we understand by 'open to the public'.

Publications
How do we know the world? Collective engagements with the (de)coloniality of development research and teaching.
The latest issue of Acta Academica contains the Special Focus: How do we know the world? Collective engagements with the (de)coloniality of development research and teaching.
The Special Focus was guest edited by the Convivial Thinking Writing Collective. Convivial Thinking (www.convivialthinking.org) is a collective platform seeking to surpass boundaries of origin, ethnicity, professional affiliation and academic disciplines in order to give space to inclusive, interdisciplinary and alternative approaches to mainstream methods of knowledge production, especially in the context of “development”. The articles in the Special Focus reflect these concerns.
Acta Academica with a great open access special section on the
de)coloniality of #globaldev research and teaching!

Academia
How postdevelopment can transform EU (‘Development’) Studies
Given the current political and social-economic challenges in Europe and the US, the calls for racial justice by the Black Lives Matter movement, the multipolar world, the growing assertiveness of African countries, the increasing inequality within and between countries, the climate crisis, and pressures on our health systems, the pressure for a more existential questioning of the western growth model is high. Therefore, it would seem wise for the EU and for EU Studies to engage in a more existential reflection on what ‘development’ and ‘development policy’ mean, inside and outside Europe, and on whether the assumptions of the previous decades should still be valuable.
Sarah Delputte, Jan Orbie & Julia Schöneberg for Convivial Thinking continue the discussions on decolonizing #globaldev studies with a view on European 'development studies'...

What we were reading 5 years ago

(Link review 165, 4 December 2015)
A Mighty Purpose (book review)
Adam Fifield’s expose of Jim Grant is a remarkable achievement. It may not provide straightforward ‘answers’ to contemporary development challenges and yet it should be seen as a lighthouse that regularly sends rays of humility and humanity through these dark autumn days.
Remembering Jim Grant as that lighthouse keeper hopefully does justice to his life and achievement which Adam Fifield captured diligently.
My review of UNICEF's Jim Grant's biography-still a great contribution to the UN memoir/biography genre!

The Role of Staff Welfare in Improving Humanitarian Practice
Instead, both managers and staff need to be asking themselves, how can they break down the stigmatisation around seeking help? How can they open up the space to allow for people to share their vulnerabilities and their personal insecurities? A major element that drives humanitarian work is compassion – compassion for the community in crisis. That same compassion can be lost when it comes to individual staff members looking after themselves or their colleagues. So a change in culture means cultivating an environment where staff can reflect on their emotional challenges and those of their colleagues, where they can realise they are not alone in the difficulties they face with this work, and where their personal problems are met with sensitivity and understanding.
The discussions around staff well-being have gained momentum since Gemma Houldey's post at the end of the year that really put the issue on the aid industry's agenda.

Can computers be racist? Big data, inequality, and discrimination
We often hear the Internet spoken about as a “great equalizer.” But while it certainly has the potential to transform governance and connect communities, it can also perpetuate inequality. As Professor Bedoya argues, “Across the board, vulnerable communities, the unpopular, the weak, lose when powerful entities decide what is and isn’t okay about their data.” Understanding the biases inherent in data and digital spaces makes it possible for us to push back, and to shape an Internet that reflects our ideals.
Michael Brennan with an interesting reminder that many of the discussions we around bias/racism/inequality in the context of AI were already present in 2015...

7 essential sourcebooks for development communications professionals
Now, if you want to delve much deeper into developing communication strategies, here are seven essential sourcebooks that will help you hone your skills.
Sanjib Chaudhary's collection is still a good starting point to read & think about ComDev strategies.

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Links & Contents I Liked 378

Links & Contents I Liked 379

Links & Contents I Liked 380