Links & Contents I Liked 379
I don't want to pad myself too much on the back, but I like this week's mixture of content-serious #globaldev industry news, including long-form journalism from DRC, seemingly small stories about Uganda's construction sector that tell a much bigger story, research findings on cash-based aid + nudging the right way, culture & decolonization, podcast recommendations, open access academic readings & much more!
My quotes of the week
Not only did those who received the money spend fewer days homeless than those in the control group, they had also moved into stable housing after an average of three months, compared to those in the control group, who took an average of five months.
Those who received the money also managed it well over the course of a year.
(A B.C. research project gave homeless people $7,500 each — the results were 'beautifully surprising')
To what extent has social media exacerbated ethno-regional tensions? How much online content is actually produced by governments and the trolls that work for them? Who should be responsible for content moderation and how can ethno-linguistic diversity be accounted for? What are the political and socio-economy consequences of restricting internet access, and how can this be resisted? Does the finding that how an individual behaves online does not dramatically change their offline political activity in Uganda hold more broadly? And is social media reinforcing existing gender norms rather than challenging them? These questions should inspire the research agendas of the future.
(Digital democracy is still a long way off in Africa: it takes more than technology)
There I was, in a foreign country, without the support of family, subject to the vengeful wrath of a sexual predator. I had no confidante to whom I could go for counsel, and knew of no institutional mechanism to seek redressal. No one spoke openly of these things, though it was obvious enough that most people knew what went on and sustained the toxic climate by their omissions even more than by active collusion. It was the late 1950s and this was just how things were.
(The Story of an Unwelcome Advance by a Globally Renowned Economist at Oxford)
Calls for punishment, aid sector reform after sex abuse scandal in Congo
Nigel Marsh, a spokesperson for World Vision, said on Thursday that a team of investigators was already on the ground in Congo, while the World Health Organization said the UN agency would announce more details about its probe in the coming days.Inside Story: How we broke the Ebola sexual abuse scandal
“The alleged actions are unacceptable and will be robustly investigated,” said Farah Dakhlallah, a WHO spokesperson.
At least 30 women told reporters they were sexually abused or exploited by workers who identified themselves as being with the WHO, according to the joint investigation, which was widely reported by media in Congo and around the world.
The first woman shared her story with us in October 2019, when we were in Beni – the other main epicentre and response hub in Congo’s North Kivu province – reporting on how women and girls were faring more generally in the outbreak.Why the UN must set up an independent body to tackle sexual abuse
The woman already had a job, but said she was constantly harassed by aid workers. “They say, ‘you’re not making good money; if you have sex with me, I’ll promote you’,” she told reporter Sam Mednick, as Mednick looked into claims of exploitation and kept reporting on another story that focused on why women weren’t being warned of the risk of contracting Ebola through unprotected sex.
“Everyone appeared to know what was going on – from local and international aid workers to high-ranking officials, doctors, nurses, and community members,” Mednick said, recalling conversations during that trip, and that she had wondered why – if everyone knew – no one was reporting the abuse.
So, allow me to make a few suggestions for consideration by the United Nations:Philip Kleinfeldt, Paisley Dodds & Anders Kompass on the global impact, background and potential steps forward after the New Humanitarian broke the story of aid worker abuse last week.
1. Create an independent body in charge of accompanying any major humanitarian efforts anywhere in the world. Deploy them before the rest, keep them there throughout, and let them remain a reasonable time after the others have left.
2. Give it sufficient money to invest in prevention, prosecution, safe havens, and relocations.
3. Give it enough power over your staff to ensure they will be held accountable for what they do. Make the investigation and its results reliable, trustworthy, and transparent.
4. Build an organisation within which nobody – ever – shall feel afraid to report abuse. It is inconceivable to ask women to literally risk their lives by denouncing criminals, and to have staff who cannot work up the courage to cross the corridor to report to their supervisor or to the internal investigation office.
A B.C. research project gave homeless people $7,500 each — the results were 'beautifully surprising'
Not only did those who received the money spend fewer days homeless than those in the control group, they had also moved into stable housing after an average of three months, compared to those in the control group, who took an average of five months.Bridgette Watson for CBC on how Canada is discovering cash-based aid...
Those who received the money also managed it well over the course of a year.
Almost 70 per cent of people who received the payments were food secure after one month. In comparison, spending on alcohol, cigarettes and drugs went down, on average, by 39 per cent.
Too often people dismiss the idea of giving homeless people money because they assume it will be mismanaged, Williams said.
"It challenges stereotypes we have here in the West about how to help people living on the margins," she said.
USAID pauses all diversity and inclusion training
The guidance released by USAID on Wednesday night, and obtained by Devex, ordered the heads of all bureaus to “put a hold on upcoming diversity and inclusion trainings, seminars, and other related fora as we, in conjunction with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), conduct a review of the content of these programs.”Michael Igoe for DevEx; some #globaldev organization win the Noble Peace Prize, others risk whatever they have left of their reputation...
By kicking Amnesty out, India is betraying its founding ideals
India once prided itself on standing apart from the rest of the region, avowing a long tradition of tolerance and pluralism. This was a tradition not inspired by the west, but in defiance of it. It was evident in the freedom struggle against the British, when Indian activists like Mehta were imprisoned for their peaceful beliefs under draconian laws and protests were crushed with violent impunity. And it was a tradition that gave birth to a raucous free press and countless social movements, including trade unions, women’s rights groups, indigenous and Dalit rights activists, all vigorously holding the Indian state to account.Rajat Khosla for the Guardian; even though it's not necessarily under reported, the decline of the 'world's largest democracy' under the Modi regime is frightening.
These traditions now lie imperilled. Under the present administration, critical journalists have been squeezed out of their jobs while brash, pro-government voices dominate the airwaves. Minorities have been hunted down in the streets by mobs and demonised by the government. Students, academics, lawyers and activists have been arrested and detained under “anti-terrorism” laws for their entirely peaceful activities.
Do Papuan lives matter?
While responses to police brutality in the USA and subsequent PLM movement have helped focus attention on the plight of West Papuans, the COVID-19 pandemic might just prove to be yet another threat to West Papuan lives and another roadblock to self-determination. As the pandemic threatens to turn attention elsewhere, given ongoing human rights violations and a looming health crisis, it is now even more important that the international community and sympathetic Indonesians pressure the Indonesian government to help ensure Papuan lives really do matter.Arichika Okazaki & Grant Walton for DevPolicy Blog with a reminder that the BLM movement has a global reach that so far goes a bit unnoticed.
UN delays Libya rights investigation due to lack of funds
The Human Rights Council adopted the new resolution on Tuesday to postpone the implementation of several resolutions, including the one on Libya, until 2021.Middle East Eye with a reminder that the UN relies on member states' will & money to do its job properly...
"There are mandates that could not be carried out in full ... because they had not received the sufficient funds, mostly for staffing needs," rights council spokesperson Rolando Gomez told AFP.
The Rights Council's decision comes as the UN experiences a major financial crisis after several countries refused to pay their annual dues.
Dutch museums vow to return art looted by colonialists
“For the Rijksmuseum, this means that we will also continue to research the provenance of our collections from the former colonies and intensify international cooperation. The independent committee will ultimately deal with restitution.”Daniel Boffey for the Guardian with an update about decolonizing museums from the Netherlands.
Stijn Schoonderwoerd, the director of the Tropenmuseum, whose staff are said to have already been put on an active search for items to return to their former homes, told the Het Parool newspaper that the report was a “big step forward”.
“We hope that this advice will be converted into policy in the short term,” he said. “With this, the Netherlands is taking its responsibility by recognising the injustice and making it possible to return it. We welcome that.”
Digital democracy is still a long way off in Africa: it takes more than technology
Idayat Hassan and Jamie Hitchen’s analysis of WhatsApp and Facebook use ahead of elections in The Gambia shows that even in rural areas with limited connectivity, social media content contributes to offline political mobilisation.Nic Chesseman, Lisa Garbe & Idayat Hassan for the Conversation with a great overview over known knowns and known unknowns around ICT4D across Africa.
It is important not to lose sight of this more positive impact amid the growing focus on fake news and hate speech.
Sadly, though, further problems are on the horizon. Azeb Madebo reveals how the Ethiopian diaspora has fuelled the polarisation between the Oromo community on the one hand, and the Ethiopian government and Ethiopian nationalists on the other.
To what extent has social media exacerbated ethno-regional tensions? How much online content is actually produced by governments and the trolls that work for them? Who should be responsible for content moderation and how can ethno-linguistic diversity be accounted for? What are the political and socio-economy consequences of restricting internet access, and how can this be resisted? Does the finding that how an individual behaves online does not dramatically change their offline political activity in Uganda hold more broadly? And is social media reinforcing existing gender norms rather than challenging them?
These questions should inspire the research agendas of the future.
The Expat Model Is Broken
The caricature of the European sipping a gin and tonic under a shady tree with rent and school fees taken care of, pampered by maids, is woefully out of date. Relatively few employers these days pick up the tab for housing and tuition. Relocation company staff say the glory days of the expat packages ended with the global financial crisis. With economic warfare raging between China and the U.S., and fashionable talk about the world dividing into rival blocs, is an Asian experience still the resume booster it once was? A gig here feels no more secure than one at home.Daniel Moss for Bloomberg/Yahoo News; perhaps we also need to talk about the #globaldev expat experience-but not just along traditional North-South lines, but also along new lines of African or Asian professionals working abroad, e.g. in the Middle East.
I returned with a young family last year. We pay taxes, live in a middle-class neighborhood and, through our spending, try to support the economy. I hope the shatter zone of the pandemic isn’t the end of our journey together.
Uganda’s Construction Boom Carries a Brutal Cost for Workers
Builders and construction experts disagree on the reasons behind the high rate of accidents on Uganda’s building sites.Edna Namara for Global Press Journal with a a really interesting read on what 'Africa rising' means for Kampala's construction boom.
Musa Muwonge, a foreman with 16 years of experience, says he thinks most building collapses are caused by qualified engineers — those with a college degree.
“They come from university with lots of paperwork and they depend on us to mix and do all the measurements of the building,” he says. “They do not want to stain their clothes, so they won’t touch any sand. This makes them use eye measurements without feeling the mixture.”
But Stanley Bukenya, a lecturer in civil and building engineering at Kyambogo University, says the opposite is true. He blames laborers who pick up the trade on the job.
Developers are not willing to pay for proper engineers because they’re very expensive to hire and charge up to 12 million shillings ($3,234) per project, he says. An unqualified engineer will charge 4 million shillings ($1,078) or less for the same work.
“He reduces the materials by half and, in the end, the building has less mixture and will crack, crumble and fall,” Bukenya says. A shortage of qualified architects only makes things worse.
In DRC, a murder in the shadow of Ebola
On April 19, 2019, Richard Valery Mouzoko, a Cameroonian doctor working for WHO was assassinated in broad daylight during a meeting with his teams at a hospital in Butembo. A targeted murder, committed by three armed men in civilian clothes, who did not shoot anyone else in the room and left before the police arrived. In the months that followed, an investigation carried out by the Congolese military justice identified a group of men linked to militia movements, but also and more surprisingly, four Congolese doctors working for the “Riposte”, accused of being behind the murder. An inside job that complicates the narrative of a humanitarian response under the crossfire of hostile armed groups.Mélanie Gouby's multi-part report for Les Jours from DRC is now available in English and a fascinating long-read into the complexities of DRC, the Ebola response and the intersection of global & local politics.
For Les Jours, I went to DRC to look at what this singular event reveals about the management of the response to the epidemic. “Millions of dollars have been invested and yet the number of cases continued to rise and the disease continued to spread in the region,” observes Trish Newport, who coordinated Doctors Without Borders’s participation to the humanitarian response. “When this is over, the various organisations involved in the Riposte will congratulate themselves and say that the outbreak came to an end because of how they managed it, when in fact it was despite it.”
The Imperial Overreach of China’s Belt and Road Initiative
Belt and Road also suffers from a gross lack of transparency and accountability. China has no firm criteria for what qualifies as a project and keeps lending details secret. This allows Beijing to make friends in high places abroad, but it also raises the likelihood that commercially dubious projects will get the green light. And once Belt and Road projects are approved, China often struggles to monitor them.Jonathan E. Hillman for the Wall Street Journal takes a long, hard & critical look at China's 'new Silk Road'.
On the ground, China’s massive state-owned enterprises, which include seven of the world’s 10 largest construction companies, run the show. These bloated giants often have more personnel, technical expertise and local relationships than the government officials charged with supervising them. Desperate to find new work, these firms want to build projects as soon as possible, regardless of their commercial viability or strategic value.
China’s loans extend its influence into foreign capitals, and critics warn that Beijing is using “debt trap” diplomacy, lending so that it can seize the recipient countries’ strategic assets. They point to a Sri Lankan port that China financed and built, for which it now has a 99-year lease—the same length that Britain once secured for its control of Hong Kong. No one needs to draw this connection for Sri Lankans, who won their independence from British colonial rule seven decades ago.
Flint-Linked Veolia Merger Brings Water Privatization Closer to “Global Reality”
Activist group Food and Water Watch decried the deal. “Veolia’s global domination of public water services is becoming a terrifying reality,” wrote its Public Water for All Campaign Director Mary Grant, warning of a host of negative consequences for humanity at large.Alan MacLeod for Mint News looks at the emerging Veolia-Suez merger.
The merger of the world’s largest water corporations will erode any semblance of competition for water privatization deals. This lack of competition will lead to unaffordable costs for families, slack maintenance and safety procedures, loss of union jobs, and potentially rampant corruption. Water privatization has been a disaster for communities across the United States and around the world.”
What’s the best way to manage information overload on development? My favourite synthesizers and other tips.
"The UN's leading metric on sustainable development actually has nothing to do with sustainability at all. In fact, the countries with the highest scores on the SDG Index are some of the most environmentally unsustainable countries in the world." https://t.co/NdIfCQbmfi— Jason Hickel (@jasonhickel) October 2, 2020
How to cope with Information Overload – how much of the daily tide of opinion and research on aid, development, politics etc can you manage to surf, while still doing the day job (which may well involve adding to it)?Come for Duncan Green's post at fp2p, stay for the discussion & additional recommendations in the comments! #Globaldev blogging at its best!
how not to treat volunteers: another saga
In this podcast, I discuss the use of storytelling to create social change + impact, telling how I connect w/ individuals & communities in the field, & what drives me to tell these stories using my experiences w/ @NRC_Norway & @UNmigration https://t.co/p8b7LCzyqd— Hajer Naili (@H_NAILI) October 5, 2020
Don’t put volunteers in an awkward situation when you need more work done than they have agreed to do. Tell them your need for additional hours or for an additional task to be done and say, “if this is too much for you, please say so – we don’t want to overwhelm you, we value your service.” And mean that. If the volunteer says no, respect the no.Jayne Cravens shares more hands-on wisdom around volunteering-online or otherwise.
On feminism, anti-racism and our inner work
Part of my ongoing inner work is to pause in the midst of such tensions and consider what responsibility I may take for the emotions arising within me, and how I may heal. In that pause I can also reflect on the intentions behind my response: is it coming from a place of hurt, fear and separation or of love, connection and accountability?Gemma Houldey on the 'inner work' that's needed to contribute to transformative #globaldev work.
I have made many mistakes in this endeavour, and will continue to do so. But I will keep trying, remaining open to exploring my flaws and blind spots and maintaining a belief in and commitment to a more compassionate and inclusive future.
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi: 'Life is about making myth'
Much of your work has folklore at its heart.Anita Sethi for the Guardian with yet another reminder of all the amazing authors, books & projects that finding an audience and 'decolonize' minds in so many different ways.
As a child, I lived with my grandparents during holidays – they told stories in the evening, so I was introduced to storytelling early on. I decided that, even though my writing is literary, I’m going to focus on the idea of a story. That might be because I was introduced to storytelling from the oral traditions of folk tale and fairytale. The element of entertainment, of holding the reader, is as important as the message.
You introduce readers to indigenous feminism that predates western feminism.
This was a major intention on my part. It’s all recorded in our folk tales, our oral traditions. Feminism is failing to take hold in Uganda because of the discrepancy between middle-class and working-class women. If feminism isn’t making headway in Uganda, let’s go back and look at what our grandmothers left behind. In order to explore women’s oppression, I had to go back to the very beginning and explore how women had been repressed.
Our digital lives
Pupils start the new school year in Taez, Yemen pic.twitter.com/O52B5idWij— James Denselow (@jamesdenselow) October 8, 2020
The tech crisis that isn’t: China controls the world’s rare earth supply chains
"Those are the people," said Gholz, "who just go out, dig a hole in the ground, dump acid in the hole, wait for the acid to react with the soil and draw out the rare earths, which float to the top, then skim it off and leave pools of acid in the ground. . . Families go out, they do it over the course of a day or two at any given site. They dig a hole, they dump the acid, and they're gone before any enforcement people can show up."Scott Fulton III for ZDNet on rare earths, environmental damage & unsustainable global value chains.
"It's cheap," said Gholz, "if you're willing to put up with bad worker conditions, environmental devastation, buying from organized crime -- all of that other crap that goes with it."
In Medias Res: Decolonial Interventions
In MediasRes has emerged as a practice in pluriversality, offering of a space where, as the Zapatistas of Chiapas put it: “many worlds make us ... many worlds fit”. A pluriversal space hopes to “overcome[s] patriarchal attitudes, racism, casteism, and other forms of discrimination”, (Kothari et al, 2019) to bring forth an otherwise that is always-already there. Early in our conversation, we asked: Since decoloniality spans theory, praxis and everyday life in a system that continues to be dominated by patriarchal, colonial and capitalist powers, then how might transdisciplinary pedagogical practices open pluriversal spaces for being-with a decolonial otherwise? We have paid attention to, and hoped for, ways to inhabit a transdisciplinary ethics of care in trying to make space for “decolonial interventions”.Su-Ming Khoo & Sayan Dey edited an open access issue of the Journal of International Women's Studies with absolutely fantastic contributions to the 'decolonization' debate(s)!
Feminist Foreign Policy So White?!
I’m going to geek out on this thread more than normal b/c new Science paper is WTF bananas awesome, and I don’t want it to get lost in the news cycle. In criminal justice policy, there’s a bad habit of solving problems by increasing punishment. https://t.co/GSLhxVCDD8 1/ pic.twitter.com/CASGxdBCU2— Tage Rai (@tage_rai) October 8, 2020
Colonial legacies in Feminist Foreign Policy, must be tackled by white-led organisations. This demands an ongoing process of self-reflection and radical honesty - even when it hurts. Decolonisation is not intended to restrict discussion with opinion policing or “political correctness” but to open up dialogue, to stimulate critical thought and to reveal new and diverse forms of learning.These are some concretesteps white people working in the field can take in order to use their privilege to dismantle racialhierarchies:The Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy with a new briefing.
Refuse to cooperate with partner organisations that are racial gaslighting.Undermine colonial narratives that solely locate silence, powerlessness, and oppression in the Global South and in BIPoC communities.Bring people from marginalised communities in without patronising and tone policing them with your views on feminism.Challenge and remind institutions about their anti-racists commitments and diversity strategies.Continue to question, learn and grow - educate yourself and others.Start now!
The Story of an Unwelcome Advance by a Globally Renowned Economist at Oxford
There I was, in a foreign country, without the support of family, subject to the vengeful wrath of a sexual predator. I had no confidante to whom I could go for counsel, and knew of no institutional mechanism to seek redressal. No one spoke openly of these things, though it was obvious enough that most people knew what went on and sustained the toxic climate by their omissions even more than by active collusion. It was the late 1950s and this was just how things were.Devaki Jain for the Wire with an excerpt from her memoir I'd really like to put on my reading list.
Podcast S03 Ep01: Dismantling Race in Higher Education – Jason Arday & Heidi Mirza
When Fanon was talking abt "decolonization" he was talking abt land return, native sovereignty, wealth redistribution, etc, things that can only be achieved thru violent struggle— Radio Free Amanda 余美娜 (@catcontentonly) October 6, 2020
So, no, you can't "decolonize academia," "decolonize our English dept" or whatever. FIND A NEW WORD.
The authors powerfully argue, it is only by dismantling the invisible architecture of post-colonial white privilege that the 21st century struggle for a truly decolonised academy can begin.Great new podcast hosted by IDS!
In this episode of Between the Lines, IDS Director of Teaching and Learning, Linda Waldman, speaks with the book editors, Jason Arday and Heidi Mirza.
Unintended Consequences: The Perils of Publication and Citation Bias
The system of scientific communication appears to be more fragile than was once believed. It is impacted by researchers’ decisions of what to publish and what to cite. Decisions made by individuals — individuals with particular research goals, expertise, finite memories, and an innate propensity for error — can affect what others believe in ways we still do not quite understand.Gareth & Rhodri Leng for the MIT Press Reader with an excerpt from their new book with lots of food for thought on how science has been far less 'objective' than many would have liked us to believe...
If evidence goes unpublished, it may rob others of the opportunity to critique a position. If citation bias is common, then scientists are likely to be basing their understanding on only a partial selection of the evidence. But while we may point to the waste in research time and funding if existing evidence is not fully utilized, and the inherent problems for the validity of scientific claims, the solution is not obvious. While these problems seem to be increasing, this might, however, simply reflect greater recognition of them. That greater recognition may itself drive self-correction in the behavior of scientists.
What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 168, 30 December 2015)
My development blogging & communication review 2015
Does it 'add up' to anything?Me, reflecting on 2015.
Just in the latest and final link review for this year there are a number of pieces that are somehow indicative of core debates throughout this year, e.g. on power and 'evidence', the political nature of (big) data and more nuanced insights about online activism. Maybe there is an inherent wish for direction and a bigger picture in an end-of-year piece, but I have a hard time seeing one emerging. As the debate around Mark Zuckerberg's charity announcement clearly showed many not-so-great approaches to aid and charity get repeated regardless of evidence and profound discussions about harmful impact.
Swiss city buys Ikea shelters to house refugees, then ditches them over fire risk
The Swiss city of Zurich has announced it will not use the 62 Ikea refugee shelters it has purchased to house asylum-seekers after a test showed they constituted a fire hazard.2015 was also the year IKEA promised to change shelters forever (many more efforts have been come and gone since...).