Links & Contents I Liked 383

Hi all, 

This week's link review is guaranteed free from the other topic that has been dominating this week's news...we are focusing on changing power dynamics in #globaldev, overlooked crises & much more!


My quotes of the week
Making decisions about how to support marginalised groups without their input also means that we are holding up – rather than challenging - the power hierarchies that enable inequality and oppression. When financial support is flowing primarily from the Global North to the Global South, for example, it’s still actors in the Global North deciding where the money goes and often, how it is spent.
(Sharing Power)

Indeed, before the word “desertification” was coined in the 1920s by a French colonial forester, western imperial powers had executed many different programs to try to curtail the perceived spread of deserts and also to try to “restore” the drylands to productivity. Underlying these attempts was a complex, long-standing, and primarily Anglo-European understanding of deserts which equated them with ruined forests much of the time. The assumption that the world’s drylands are worthless, deforested, and overgrazed landscapes has led, since the colonial period, to programs and policies that have often systematically damaged dryland environments and marginalized large numbers of indigenous peoples, many of whom had been using the land sustainably.
(Of Deserts and Decolonization: Dispelling Myths About Drylands)

New from aidnography
Understanding Libya Since Gaddafi (book review)

In the end, Understanding Libya Since Gaddafi is a sobering read that shows how little international actors are willing or able to contribute to a peaceful, positive future of the country. As new security challenges from migration flows to Russian mercenaries meet a failed state, we should pay more attention to Libya and try to outline a vision for 21st century peacebuilding fit not only for Libya, but also states like Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria that deserve more and better support from the proverbial ‘international community’.

Comm4Change Mini-Fest: Life stories, Dis/Connections and the Postcolonial
This second edition of the Communication for Change miniFest investigates production of, but notably also challenges to, ‘echo chambers’ and polarization through various media and inventions in art, journalism, and community work.
You are very welcome to join my wonderful colleagues for a great event on Thursday 12 November!
Development news
At least 54 killed in Ethiopia massacre, says Amnesty
At least 54 people were killed in a rebel attack in Ethiopia’s restive Oromia region at the weekend, according to Amnesty International.
From the Guardian; while the world is looking elsewhere, very bad news from Ethiopia is emerging...

Inside the childhood hunger ‘emergency’ in Syria’s Idlib
“When the currency collapse happened, the prices of fruits, vegetables, and meats made them very difficult to buy,” says al-Qassem. “People are now unable to buy all the nutrients they need for their children. Some people are only able to provide starches such as pasta.”
The hunger is exacerbated by how widespread the poverty problem has become, according to Save the Children’s Yammine. “What makes [food insecurity] a lot worse now is that it is happening across [communities],” he explains. “Previously, people could rely on their neighbours, or if their families were doing well, they’d help each other.”
These days in Syria’s northwest, fewer and fewer people have the money to help themselves, let alone others.
Muhammad Al Hosse & Madeline Edwards for the New Humanitarian with an update from another unfolding, long-term crisis.

On the 10th Anniversary of Haiti’s Cholera Outbreak, What Has the UN Learned?
A key lesson from the last four years is that voluntary funding is unlikely to be forthcoming unless the UN accepts legal responsibility and answers to Haitian victims on that basis. Without more principled leadership from Guterres and powerful member states, the anniversary should remind countries that care about rule of law at the UN to act in this corner of the Western Hemisphere. Haiti and the UN need them to stand up for ensuring that human rights are truly meant to be respected for all.
Beatrice Lindstrom & Joey Bui for PassBlue commemorate one of the UN's darkest chapters in recent history and the not-quite-learned lessons from it.

Half aid workers report racism at work in past year - poll
An online survey of 286 aid workers in 63 countries found 143 people had experienced racism at work in the past year, ranging from having contributions overlooked, to pay disparities and overt racist comments, but fewer than half reported it.
Sonia Elks for Thomson Reuters Foundation News; yes, racism is clearly a problem in #globaldev, but a really small, unrepresentative survey should not be guiding the discussion, especially if the survey was conducted by an organization that also 'sells' solutions to the problem. I think Thomson Reuters can do better!

Life Was Improving For 'No Sex For Fish.' Then Came The Flood
The women told the agent they very much want to go back and pick up their fishing trade. But they need financial support to do so, they said. And they worry that more flooding is in the future.
So they are trying to think of other ways to earn their living. If fishing isn't in the near future, the Nduru Beach refugees wonder about a dairy goats project — or growing rice on the flooded terrain.
There are "many hurdles to jump," says Higdon. But "the ideas and energy are there as ever." As is the hope for better days to come.
Viola Kosome, Rebecca Davis & Marc Silver for NPR Goats & Soda revisit the site of a previous story and discuss the changing environment 6 struggles to adapt to them.
Decolonising medicines and global health: We need genuine and lasting reforms that put patients in the driving seat
However, we in MSF also need to take a long deep look at ourselves. Before we rage against the machine, we must look in the mirror and determine to rid ourselves from our own remnants of a colonial past. We have, to be honest to our aims, to become a decolonised and decolonising idea and organisation that takes its legitimacy from the engagement and power of the people on the receiving end of our services rather than from only those at the top of our hierarchy. Being a global health practitioner, as an organisation or individual, should be a radical act of rebellion against the system of power.
Tammam Aloudat for MSF; the discussions on how to 'decolonize' the aid system continue & shifting power relations has never been an easy task...

The shadow government
The Assessment (for short) is one of many reports I’ve come across where it is clear that UNICEF was calling the shots, decided what needed attention, got a report written, arranged funding (in this case from USAID), then turned over the ready-to-print files to a government agency which slapped its name on the cover. This gives the impression that the government is running the country, when actually, in this case at least, it’s just following the priorities and publishing the opinions of U.N. agencies and foreign NGOs. UNICEF contributes to the deception. It makes the report available on its website, where it says “Author: The Government of the Republic of Zambia Ministry of Community Development and Social Services.”
I just discovered Sasha Alyson's Karma Colonialism blog; don't get me wrong: I don't mind some 'aid does not work' polemic (see my Lords of Poverty review) and Sasha's writing deserves a more thorough discussion and I would like to learn more about him and his journey in #globaldev.
The death (and life) of the international NGO
We have improved our operations and effectiveness. We have grown big. We have developed business models that work, but that increasingly rely on large bureaucracies with high overheads and professional, specialized staff. We have grown laterally to take on more and more problems. We have grown geographically to span the globe. We have grown vertically with more and more layers of management, oversight, quality control, finance. Our quality has improved, but so have our costs and complexity. We deliver “products” that people value, but our customers have grown very familiar — too familiar with our brands, which are not fresh or exciting.
Gareth Wall continues the discussions on what future there really is for INGOs.

Adapting aid to end poverty: Delivering the commitment to leave no one behind in the context of Covid-19
Our analysis of the data shows that despite warm words from donors and pledges to focus on the poorest people and places, patterns in ODA allocation have shifted little over time. Now is an opportune moment to reflect on how ODA might refocus to ensure it is most responsive to the immense harm caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, in both the short and long term, and reaches those that need it most.
The Covid-19 pandemic has increased the incidence of extreme income poverty in both low-income and middle-income countries. However, as the data shows, it is the poorest countries and fragile states that have fewer financial resources to emerge from this crisis quickly. ODA resources will be more important than ever before, and it is incumbent on the international donor community to ensure that ODA does not decline as a consequence of the crisis.
Gail Hurley, Amy Dodd , Duncan Knox & Zach Christensen for Development Initiatives with a new report.

Sharing Power
As a result of our internal design process, we developed a two step model for participatory grantmaking at Mama Cash. In the first step, our applicants will provide input and guidance on which issues to prioritise. Then, a committee reflecting the communities we aim to serve (also selected with the participation of our network) will make the final decisions on who our new grantee-partners will be.
Mama Cash on how the organization is changing their grant-making process.

The puzzle of equitable senior leadership in global development and how your skills can get you there

As a group of senior women in development, our experience has shown that there are key traits that lead women to rise to leadership and how women might change their career narrative to highlight them
Jacqui De Lacy, Anna Winoto, Esther McIntosh, Lena Kolyada, Priya Chattier & Leisa Gibson for the Governance & Development Soapbox share great advice on how to create a (better) pipeline for senior female leadership in #globaldev.

I’m Not Superman

This is also the time for old Black male leadership to not be intimidated by young leadership. Since the beginning of slavery, Black men have faced an insidious complex—the magic Negro—being the “onlyest” one that white people and the Powers That Be turn to. This complex has worked its way into how nonprofits, foundations, and philanthropy are designed, when you only see two or three Black men in an organization at a time. While some have used those positions to help, historically many in those positions have oppressed the rise of young Black male leadership by sticking around too long. I get it, you’ve arrived, but what about those who are coming after you?
Nathaniel Smith for Nonprofit Quarterly on some of the challenges of black male leadership in the nonprofit sector.

On the Right Track

We saw the future of aid as decentralised, in which local actors are properly resourced, and transparent, in which public money can be tracked more accurately. Our ambition was to be an agent of that change, to help aid organisations to update their entire business model, and to provide the infrastructure necessary to support that model.
Paul Currion on why is aid venture failed and the radical transparency that makes it such a powerful case study for #globaldev learning.

Recent trends in Humanitarian thinking–celebrating 30 humanitarian blog selections

Now is the time to catch up & discover the great blog archive that the International Humanitarian Studies Association has been compiling-and don't forget to subscribe to their newsletter!

Give A Dalit Man A Pair Of Scissors, And He’ll Show You What Freedom Is
Amma made a fuss, not on behalf of my ambitions but because she had put her life on hold to build this house. The vaulted ceiling was her final touch. I have now spent 13 years under it and for 13 years no matter where I was in life and how many ambitions I had and how often they cut me, the Tabebuia tree dropped pink flowers every February.
Vijeta Kumar for Huffington Post with some much needed poetry.
Our digital lives
How Nepalese Engineers Used A Single Phantom Drone to Map 138km of Roads
This project showed that the stereotyping of smaller drones changes as they can also perform large scale substantial tasks. This also showed the data processing capacity of new generation analysts that can work with 100k high-resolution images.
The project was full of several challenges, and the team applied different strategies to overcome it.
Biplav Pangeni, Uttam Pudasaini, Bibek Singh & Darpan Pudasaini of Nepal Flying Labs for WeRobotics; this case story was already posted in June, but it's still a great, practical, positive example of how you can use a drone.

Security to go: a risk management toolkit for humanitarian aid agencies
Security to go: a risk management toolkit for humanitarian aid agencies (2020) is intended to provide a simple, easy-to-use guide for non-security experts to quickly set up basic safety, security and risk management systems in new contexts or rapid onset emergency response situations. This guide is applicable to both international organisations and national agencies moving into new regions and/or setting up new programmes. It is especially applicable to environments where the risk levels have changed due to human or natural causes.
The Global Interagency Security Forum with an interesting new resource.

Of Deserts and Decolonization: Dispelling Myths About Drylands
Indeed, before the word “desertification” was coined in the 1920s by a French colonial forester, western imperial powers had executed many different programs to try to curtail the perceived spread of deserts and also to try to “restore” the drylands to productivity. Underlying these attempts was a complex, long-standing, and primarily Anglo-European understanding of deserts which equated them with ruined forests much of the time. The assumption that the world’s drylands are worthless, deforested, and overgrazed landscapes has led, since the colonial period, to programs and policies that have often systematically damaged dryland environments and marginalized large numbers of indigenous peoples, many of whom had been using the land sustainably
Diana K. Davis for Pastres adds a fascinating nuance to the 'decolonization' discussion in her long essay.

What Interventions Deliver the Most Quality Years of Education? And at What Price?
Here are the top three performing classes of interventions.
Providing information on education benefits, costs, and quality (such as giving secondary school students better information on the returns to education in the Dominican Republic). This leads to modest gains in LAYS but it’s cheap, so the value-for-money is high.
Targeting instruction by learning level rather than grade (such as “Teaching at the Right Level” and other targeting and tracking interventions). A targeted instruction program in India yielded upwards of four additional LAYS for $100.
Improving pedagogy through the use of structured lesson plans, monitoring, teacher professional development, and student learning materials (like the Tusome national literacy program in Kenya).
On the other hand, simply providing additional inputs like textbooks or computers or sending teachers to a general skills training course don’t deliver gains in LAYS.
Noam Angrist, David Evans & Shwetlena Sabarwal for the Center for Global Development summarize their recent paper; perhaps it's just me, but I had a hard time understanding the findings and I wonder how best to translate research into other discourses and practices...

What we were reading 4 years ago
(Link review 172, 6 February 2016)
Today’s challenges, tomorrow’s solutions: improving humanitarian effectiveness
And finally, the report highlights the importance of being more connected to those outside of the traditional humanitarian circles who are, or could be, core contributors to humanitarian results. This is also referred to as a more “interoperable” approach or “leveraging comparative advantage”. Given the scale of humanitarian need today, expanding the pool of engagement is essential. That means finding common ground with business, military, diaspora communities and others to understand what each of us can uniquely deliver for people in crisis. It also implies a level of humility on the part of international humanitarian actors to better understand existing capacities and assets outside of our system, and to understand where we truly add the most value.
If you repost Lilian Barajas & Lesley Bourns's post for UN OCHA now it would still read quite accurately, indicating the glacial changes that happen in the #globaldev industry...

The militant philosopher of Third World liberation
On the threshold of victory Fanon said be warned of your leaders, ‘No leader, however valuable he may be, can substitute himself for the popular will; and the national government … ought first to give back their dignity to all citizens, fill their minds and feast their eyes with human things, and create a prospect that is human because conscious and sovereign men dwell therein.’ Fanon’s final act was to the revolutionary movement that he devoted the last and most important years of his life, but he was also subversive of that revolution.
Leo Zeilig for Africa is a Country...there's never a bad time for a little Frantz Fanon...


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Dear white middle class British women: Please don't send used bras (or anything, really) to Africa