Links & Contents I Liked 384
How are things? I know...but amidst all the 2020 craziness this week's #globaldev review features interesting, often uplifting and always status-quo-challenging stories from indigenous peoples in Tibet, New Zealand, Guatemala & power-ful women in Nigeria; stories about the outdated governance of the UN pension fund & the platform capitalism of HP printers just give you a glimpse at some of the stories you never saw coming as another week is wrapping up...
My quotes of the week
Many philanthropic endeavors are tainted with opportunistic people eager for career trajectories that eventually neglect or sideline the people whose pain is presented as scholarly or journalistic work. It is extremely disturbing to watch and is visible in half done projects, zinc toilets, humid torn tents,“empowerment” programs. As the new wave of rehabilitation in a post conflict region continues, there are many questions to ask all involved; why are you doing this work? Who will it benefit? How can we be inclusive of the local people who’s pain has become a business? (War Economy in the north east)
The narrative of exceptionalism is seductive. Though flattery will probably get you far in this world, it won’t make anyone buy in to the delusion that they are that exceptional. It will especially not make anyone believe that their only worthy counterparts for the conversation you’re organising are white (wo)men. Unless your event is representative across the board, asking one person to join with the aim of “diversifying” it is equal to instrumentalising them to enable a white conversation.
(On Diversity Washing)
So we see resistance to any initiatives that are challenging to those who are doing well in the current system — or that are challenging white privilege. Calls, for example, for a Māori Health Authority are resisted. There is no interest in making space for a separate or parallel structure where Māori would be planning and funding the health services to meet their needs. (Taking a sovereign stance)
The $75 Billion UN Pension Fund: Kicking Reforms Down the Road
On the 33-member tripartite board, composed of elected participant representatives, UN executive heads and governing bodies, the UN participant representatives are often isolated in their positions. They have been targets of intimidation and efforts to prevent some of them from taking their seat on the board. In addition, one person in the group was unlawfully suspended last year.(...)Loraine Rickard-Martin for PassBlue; perhaps not the most 'exciting' story to start my review, but an important reminder that UN governance has never been upgraded to the 21st century, regardless of where you look...
Symptomatic of the fund’s inability to change its culture and similar to the situation in the pension administration after the departure of the previous head, Sergio Arvizù, the participant representatives note that some senior personnel who had roles in constructing the failed policies — as revealed in the recent investment governance audit — still have their jobs.
Italian NGO pulls out of Somalia due to ‘systematic fraud’
INTERSOS, a UN-funded NGO that provides healthcare and other services to hundreds of thousands of people in Somalia, is pulling out of the country after an investigation uncovered “systematic fraud” that the Italian-based aid group deemed too dangerous to try to resolve.Ben Parker for the New Humanitarian on a different form of humanitarian accountability...
In an interview with The New Humanitarian, INTERSOS Director General Kostas Moschochoritis said it was a “hard decision” reached after “huge debate” within the NGO. “We realised we couldn’t fix it,” he said, adding that he was “really saddened”.
War Economy in the north east
Many philanthropic endeavors are tainted with opportunistic people eager for career trajectories that eventually neglect or sideline the people whose pain is presented as scholarly or journalistic work. It is extremely disturbing to watch and is visible in half done projects, zinc toilets, humid torn tents,“empowerment” programs. As the new wave of rehabilitation in a post conflict region continues, there are many questions to ask all involved; why are you doing this work? Who will it benefit? How can we be inclusive of the local people who’s pain has become a business? Another incredibly important question to ask for all of us in the aid industry (local and international); What can we do to ensure the future is not a continued war economy but a booming all inclusive industry for the displaced, reminiscent of old community based businesses?Fati Abubakar for the Daily Trust with local reporting from Nigeria.
Catalogue of failures behind growing humanitarian crisis in northern Mozambique
The Mozambique government has been unable to openly discuss the crisis and help those in need of support. It is also against updated displacement numbers being published, fearing it may damage the reputation of a province on which the country’s economic future is effectively mortgaged.Cristiano d'Orsi for the Conversation with an update from Mozambique.
A lack of information from the government has helped to create confusion. In addition, it is sticking to a military approach that has been marred by human rights abuses. One example has been the arrest of journalists working in the region.
Certainly one of the biggest mistakes the government made was allowing insurgents to occupy Mocímboa da Praia for a long period of time. New recruits are joining freely.
‘The Ixil helping the Ixil’: Indigenous people in Guatemala lead their own Hurricane Eta response
The section of Ethiopian society cheering for war is the section of society that does so everywhere in the world: uncompromising, right wing, nationalist, middle aged men who wouldn't send their own sons to battle. Meanwhile @AFP reports 5 dead, 105 injured in Friday's fighting. pic.twitter.com/tNgPJqCVaP— Zecharias Zelalem (@ZekuZelalem) November 8, 2020
“Nothing like this had ever happened in the Ixil region,” Ceto said. “We have had an earthquake, and we have had genocide, but never a storm like this.”Sandra Cuffe for the New Humanitarian with an important story about responses to the global climate crisis and its local impacts.
The Indigenous leader detailed examples of the emerging human cost of Hurricane Eta: In the Ixil village of Palop, an overflowing river washed away houses and people. Four bodies were recovered, two of them 20 kilometres downriver, while four people are still missing. In another community, Xeucalvitz, a landslide affected 80 of 220 families, damaging homes and burying four people.(...)
Initial rescue and support efforts in Nebaj, as in other rural parts of the country, were carried out by locals: Ixil villagers and townspeople. Those with trucks helped transport people along passable stretches of road to foot-only access points to send help in and get people out. Less affected villages took in evacuated and displaced families.
Yemen Matrix: Allies & Adversaries
To fresh eyes, the current conflict in Yemen may appear to have begun when a rebel group solidified its takeover of the capital in 2015, leaving the government to flee into exile and its regional neighbors scrambling to save it. Yet that story line only scratches the surface. Yemen is not a single story; instead, it is a complex web of stories. It is what some Yemenis call a soap opera (better known in Yemen as musalsal turki). Indeed, like a soap opera, the story of Yemen is defined by complex relationships, shocking events, ever-changing incentives, and unexpected partnerships—all of which have too often and for decades created instability and uncertainty for the Yemeni people.Elana De Lozier for the Washington Institute with an interesting overview of the conflict parties in Yemen.
What we learned from the FCDO chief's grilling by UK politicians
Barton was at times lost for words, as he was rebuked by politicians over alleged shortcomings in the FCDO strategy and the treatment of its staff. He has only been with FCDO since its opening in September, after being recalled from a brief stint as high commissioner to India to run the department, which was created via a merger between the Department for International Development and Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
William Worley for DevEx; the politics of plastic words & phrases...but after the initial discussions there's surprisingly little dissent on how the merger process has been going so far...
Partnerships in humanitarian action
Project and financial managementLizz Harrison for CDA; as much as I appreciate her suggestions I'm always left with a nagging feeling of surprise: a) organizations aren't doing most of this already? b) what is stopping you ??!!
Local and national actors design projects and budgets, or co-design with international actors who provide technical expertise on proposal writing and technical issues.
Local actors are treated as equal partners, not as sub-contractors presented with already agreed projects and budgets.
Partnership agreements include the roles and responsibilities of both partners.
International actors and donors are open to discussions on findings from local partner monitoring and allow flexibility to adapt programmes and budgets in response to evidence of changing needs and community feedback as much as is practicable.
Project budgets include funds for local partners, relevant to the context and needs for: running costs; assets vital for project implementation, safety and/or organisational financial sustainability; and organisational strengthening.
On Diversity Washing
To save myself the further emotional labour, I wrote this brief explainer on how not to communicate when inviting a “diverse” person to come speak at your event/join your club/represent in any other way and they ask questions about the wider context you are proposing to place them in. The below is written from my perspective as a woman of colour, but I can imagine some of it will also apply for others who generally don’t see themselves reflected in the usual composition of panels, conferences and the like.Great post by Nani Jansen Reventlow!
Rhys Jones: Taking a sovereign stance
Any move to try and assert mana motuhake, to achieve sovereignty in any field, immediately pushes up against the existing power structures. And, whenever those systems and structures are threatened, you get that pushback.Dale Husband talks to Rhys Jones for E-Tangata about Maori health & much more!
And, just to give a recent example, we’ve seen that pushback in the Ministry of Health’s response to the calls for the bowel screening programme to be extended for Māori to start at a younger age. The unwillingness to follow the expert advice on that issue is because it’s seen as “preferential treatment for Māori”. And there’s great reluctance on the part of mainstream organisations to support any action like that.
So we see resistance to any initiatives that are challenging to those who are doing well in the current system — or that are challenging white privilege. Calls, for example, for a Māori Health Authority are resisted. There is no interest in making space for a separate or parallel structure where Māori would be planning and funding the health services to meet their needs.
My research has revealed that the solution was often to photograph Tibetans outside Tibet. Through visual analysis, comparison with other photographs and archival research—coupled with knowledge of the relevant textual information and particular locations—I came to realize that many “genuine” pictures of Tibet had actually been taken in Darjeeling and other Himalayan areas that were readily accessible to the British in particular. For example, Tibetans in Darjeeling were photographed by Europeans for publications and postcards, as if the Tibetans were in Tibet itself.Ann Tashi Slater talks to Clare Harris for Tricycle about the past and present of Tibet's visual representations.
My body went viral twice. This is how it felt
Whoah! I’ve just discovered another brilliant artist, Johnson Mugabe who trades under Nosnhoj Art. This is his interpretation of CharweNehanda and GumboreshumbaKaguvi. I am reminded of an unforgettable Calvin Dondo exhibition I saw at Njelele Gallery some years ago. Zim artists🔥 pic.twitter.com/bsdVeS3Go9— Petina Gappah (@VascoDaGappah) November 13, 2020
Bodies like mine are often deemed undisciplined, lazy, unruly, shameful, lacking in self-control and steeped in low self-esteem, so even any compliments that allude to my level of confidence and assumed boldness are likely to be rooted in bias.Wana Udobang for CNN Style; I think her personal story is an interesting case of how our perceptions/discourses/(mis)representations of/from Africa and African women are changing right now.
This is also why me posting a photo of myself wearing a bathing suit automatically throws my body -- and all of me --into a "political" position, it's seen as me making a statement. But it also denies me the privilege of simply being vain, self-indulgent or just showing off my beach body, as smaller women might do.
Our digital lives
Border technologies largely fail to respect human rights
“This streaming tool took decades of institutionally racist practices, such as targeting particular nationalities for immigration raids, and turned them into software,” said Chai Patel, legal policy director at JCWI, at the time. “The immigration system needs to be rebuilt from the ground up to monitor for such bias and to root it out.”Sebastian Klovig Skelton for Computer Weekly; this probably a feature rather than a bug...
Autonomous surveillance drones, such as those used by European border and coast guard agency Frontex in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, are also increasingly used to facilitate interceptions and pushbacks of boats in defiance of international maritime law, which is forcing people to take ever more dangerous routes.
“These technologies can have drastic results,” said the report. “For example, border control policies that use new surveillance technologies along the US-Mexico border have actually doubled migrant deaths.”
Ink-Stained Wretches: The Battle for the Soul of Digital Freedom Taking Place Inside Your Printer
And when it comes to "razors and blades" business-model, embedded systems offer techno-dystopian possibilities that no shaving company ever dreamed of: the ability to use law and technology to prevent competitors from offering their own consumables. From coffee pods to juice packets, from kitty litter to light-bulbs, the printer-ink cartridge business-model has inspired many imitators.Cory Doctorow for the Electronic Frontier Foundation with great food for thought & range and how your HP printer has become a battleground of platform capitalism...
HP has come a long way since the 1930s, reinventing itself several times, pioneering personal computers and servers. But the company's latest reinvention as a wallet-siphoning ink grifter is a sad turn indeed, and the only thing worse than HP’s decline is the many imitators it has inspired.
Post-pandemic transformations: How and why COVID-19 requires us to rethink development
Melissa Leach, Hayley MacGregor, IanScoones & Annie Wilkinson with a new open access article in World Development.
NGO’s and advocacy communications on sexual and reproductive health and rights: from the North to the South
Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) thus continue to matter for the advancement of gender equality, whilst communications when strategically used can shape support for progressive policies. This project seeks to advance research on gender development and advocacy communications for social change. A core question asked here is how can communications be better used for advocacy on SRHR?Carolina Matos' new article in Feminist Media Studies is (currently) available for free.
Communicating with Unaccompanied Foreign Minors: How UN agencies engage with newly arrived migrant and refugee children in Italy
From the analysis of the information collected through this inquiry, the following short recommendations are useful for organisations that engage directly in communicating with UAMs:Valentina Bau with a new paper for the RESPOND project.
Allocate resources in the design of interventions that are tailored to the diverse circumstances of migrant children. Consider the different profiles from Giovannetti (2017; see above);
Engage in research around the use of specific media channels with UAMs, in order to identify and adopt those that are most effective in conveying the messages each intervention is built on. Consider children's experience and / or predisposition with media channels;
Strengthen competences around cultural mediation and ensure that trained staff members engage effectively with children at all stages. Consider developing a module on participatory communication for all staff working with UAMs;
Work with cultural mediators in developing more targeted media content. Consider assessing cultural mediators media literacy and enhancing their skills in this area;
Build a trustful collaboration with partners who are direct implementers of the activities that have been designed for minors. Consider co-developing a monitoring mechanism that staff from partner organisations feel ownership of and assist them in conducting accurate reporting of the activities implementation and outcome, including obstacles encountered
Timor-Leste Economic Report, October 2020 : Towards a Sustained Recovery
This report uses data on human mobility, online and social media, transport traffic and satellite imagery. These alternative sources of data provide a valuable complement to existing official statistics by offering additional insights on economic activity.New World Bank report features new, interesting data beyond official statistics on economic activity during Covid-19.
Colonial Dispossession and Extraction
Colonialism occupied land and turned people and nature into human and natural resources for a singular aim – the accumulation of capital. Historical processes of extraction, dispossession, replacement and extinction drove colonisation and ecological imperialism as structural imperatives of modern capitalism. Land-grabbing, wars and slavery connect with the extensive spread of commercial monocultures as economic structures displacing and threatening much of the world’s human biological and cultural life with extinction.Su-ming Khoo for Connected Sociologies with a great lecture & reading list!
What we were reading 4 years ago
Proctorio has charged some schools "roughly $500,000" for a year. That's enough to assemble a small department of higher education pedagogy. Any institution that thinks mass-surveillance is more effective than pedagogy should be ashamed of itself. https://t.co/mo7tU5FT4m— Jesse Stommel (@Jessifer) November 12, 2020
(Link review 173, 15 February 2016)
Bad news (book review)
Bad news is a timely addition to current debates academics, students and practitioners have on the importance of various media formats and their contributions to democratic expression and critical scrutiny of those in power. Equally important, in an age where open data, digital storytelling and various Internet tools are all too easily heralded as the ‘future’ of accountability, small, old-fashioned media development projects are still important.Me with a review of a book that's still timely & relevant when it comes to approaching Rwanda more critically.
A free press, good quality journalism and engaged and informed citizens are always facing open and subtle forms of suppression from those in power. Anjan Sundaram stands up for the last journalists in the Rwandan dictatorship, reminding us that we should have learned more lessons from the 20th century to counter oppression and support media freedom and civic engagement rather than just believing glossy statistics and prepared speeches on growth and poverty reduction.
Are You Really Listening?
We consulted over 2,700 people who had received aid in Somalia, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Syria. Only 400 of them said aid agencies had asked for their opinion.Lotte Ruppert & Elias Sagmeister for gppi with a study that also still seems timely and useful to keep in mind.
That’s just 15 in 100, which left us wondering what aid agencies had to say about this. In Somalia we found humanitarians have developed a range of relatively sophisticated feedback systems, such as hotlines, SMS platforms and formalized office visits, yet communities are often unaware of these or don’t know how to use them. Overall, the volume of feedback received was lower than agencies expected.
In Afghanistan, formal mechanisms are much less common. We found that most agencies collect feedback through phone or face-to-face conversations with local representatives or through local community monitors. In many cases, the information is not systematically used, and there is no clear division of responsibilities within agencies for addressing the issues raised by communities.
On our ability to forget
While Madaya continues to starve today, Taiz is hardly on the news even as the war in Yemen still rages . Bossangoa feels like a distant memory. Many other besieged or warring towns do not even have the meagre luxury of being heard of.Tammam Aloudat for HCRI Manchester on our disappearing empathy for human/humanitarian disasters.
Arthur Schopenhauer once wrote: “What distinguishes a moral virtue from a moral vice is whether the basic feeling towards others behind it is one of envy or one of pity  Envy reinforces the wall between Thou and I: pity makes it thin and transparent; indeed, it sometimes tears the wall down altogether, whereupon the distinction between I and Not-I disappears.”
When looking at Madaya, Taiz, Bossangoa, and many other places where the gods of war rule, one cannot but wonder what has led to our collective sense of indifference and inaction, the limbo between moral virtue and moral vice.