Links & Contents I Liked 385

Hi all,

Sitting down on Friday afternoons to compile my weekly #globaldev links has become part of my weekly routine without actually being a routine at all...but this fascinating mix of not-so-good news from the aid sector & the many creative, surprising, beautiful responses to all sorts of challenges seems very 2020.
From road death in Pakistan to fashion from old bags and the plight of delivery drivers-very often the topics here are re-cylcled, come back in different costumes & find new ways of often exploiting people.
385 link reviews in (almost exactly 9 years ago, on 17 September 2011 my very first post went up (I wonder what has happened to Crocheting for Peace...) and I'm pretty sure next week will be more of the same-yet different ;)!

Enjoy!

My quotes of the week

In Pakistan’s Balochistan province, thousands die on ‘killer roads’ each year
“Roads accidents kill between 6,000 to 8,000 people annually in Balochistan,” Balochistan’s Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Motorway Police, Ali Sher Jakhrani, told Arab News. “The highways of Balochistan are killing more people than terrorism has been killing in the entire country during its peak.”
(In Pakistan’s Balochistan province, thousands die on ‘killer roads’ each year)

It is crucial to note that competition and solidarity do not exclude but rather seem to complement each other as strategies for navigating pressure. This can be understood considering the social composition of the roadside women. Organized into sub-groups of roughly six to eight women they share the same ethnicity and often know each other from the places where they live. These sub-groups share gossip, give emotional comfort and their members sometimes share money with one another. Collectively keeping a secret about their real situation when going to the richer suburbs day by day, furthermore contributes to a feeling of complicity
(‘Life On These Stones Is Very Hard’ – House Helps in Covid-19 Nairobi)

To the extent that Substack fixes something in the journalism industry, it might be compared to GoFundMe—a survival mechanism whose resources are unevenly, arbitrarily distributed, laying bare systemic problems without directly tackling them. “GoFundMe can help us see things we’re not seeing and put money where it would not go,” Schneider said. “Of course, we don’t want a GoFundMe society.”

(The Substackerati)

Development news
FCDO to become 'reserved' department, will not be hiring foreign nationals
“In line with the Civil Service Nationality Rules, it has been agreed the FCDO will be a reserved department, meaning all roles in the department (both overseas and in the U.K.) are open to U.K. nationals only,” continued the statement. “All non-U.K. national staff employed by FCDO will keep their existing roles and will be able to apply for others so that they can progress in their careers.”
Will Worley's article for DevEx was definitely the most discussed one this week in my Twitter bubble; even if this new status will only refer to jobs in the UK it means that foreign nationals/graduates will no longer be able to join FCDO jobs & the ministry will loose out on enormous talent. I added the link to my DfID-FCO merger collection as well.

UK aid budget facing billions in cuts
The Treasury is planning to slash billions from the overseas aid budget despite the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, praising the government’s 0.7% aid target on Monday as representing UK values in front of aides to Joe Biden.
Patrick Wintour for the Guardian with more bad UK #globaldev news...

In storm-hit Honduras, a climate crisis drives needs and fuels migration
“Year by year, through the processes of industrialisation, especially in the southern part of the country where deforestation is worse, the droughts have gotten worse and worse,” Eder Benítez, who works for the Center for Human Development, a human rights organisation in the southern city of Choluteca, told TNH.
(...)
“It is really important that they don’t only bring food,” Benítez from the Center for Human Development said, regarding the aid sector in general. “The aid organisations help people with food, but not as much with, say, water collection systems that could help the farmers survive these droughts.”
Jared Olson for the New Humanitarian reporting from Honduras.

‘Within Seconds Everything Was Gone’: Devastating Floods Submerge the Philippines
Torrential rains and back-to-back typhoons ripped through the Philippines in the last two weeks, turning the once picturesque river into a sea of murky brown, killing dozens and setting off deadly landslides.
Jason Gutierrez for the New York Times with harrowing pictures from another climate crisis frontier.

Grand Theft Chaco
A new Earthsight investigation has linked the illegal clearance of South American forest inhabited by one of the world’s last uncontacted tribes with some of Europe’s biggest car manufacturers. The clearances occurred in the Gran Chaco, a precious bioregion home to jaguars and giant anteaters whose forests are being destroyed faster than any others on earth. This destruction is being driven by cattle ranching firms to meet international demand for beef and leather.
I listed to a German radio feature this week where a whistleblower from the Paraguayan ministry of the the environment who spoke about the lack of accountability within the government; Earthsight's report has more disturbing background information.

World disasters report 2020
ICRC with it's annual flagship report that despite the sobering content is visually well done and a great example on how to communicate humanitarian crises.

In Pakistan’s Balochistan province, thousands die on ‘killer roads’ each year
“Roads accidents kill between 6,000 to 8,000 people annually in Balochistan,” Balochistan’s Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Motorway Police, Ali Sher Jakhrani, told Arab News. “The highways of Balochistan are killing more people than terrorism has been killing in the entire country during its peak.”
(...)
Data collection was the most painstaking part of his job, Zehri said, and in the absence of a centralized data bank on road accidents in the province, he had to gather figures from several sources: newspapers, Edhi centers, local journalists, medical relief centers and hospitals.
Naimat Khan for ArabNews; the numbers are mind-bogging, but the fact that in this day and age there aren't even accurate numbers for casualties available is a powerful reminder of how much data is missing from the 'periphery'.

China blamed for Zambia’s debt, but the West’s banks and agencies enabled it
Zambia’s current debt situation is concerning and is largely a result of the careless stewardship of the nation’s finances by the government. But that is not the only lesson to draw from this situation. The country is being used as fodder in a geopolitical battle raging between the West and China. The West, worried about its waning influence on the African continent, is carefully spinning a narrative, with Zambia as ground zero, that doing business with China is fatal. The truth is much more complex than this narrative. And caught in the middle of it all are the lives of Zambians who have now become the proverbial grass in the big ideological tussle of our times.
Grieve Chelwa for the Mail & Guardian on the complexities, continuations & new iterations around 'debt'.

‘Life On These Stones Is Very Hard’ – House Helps in Covid-19 Nairobi
Squeezed within these neighbourhoods, around street corners and road junctions waits the “other” of Nairobi’s affluent neighbourhoods: people selling boiled eggs, sausages, small 2 kiosks offering biscuits, vegetables and sodas, open-air food joints, and car wash points. These businesses allow the well-off inhabitants of Nairobi’s West to obtain services and goods at their doorstep. At the same time, the stalls’ owners also sell goods and food to construction workers, commuters and, occasionally, one of the women who are the protagonists of our vignette. The latter are gathered in ethnically organized groups of five to twenty and between the ages of twenty and sixty. According to their own reports, their number has kept increasing since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. From early morning to late evening, they seem to idle around along the roads without being engaged in any productive work.
(...)
It is crucial to note that competition and solidarity do not exclude but rather seem to complement each other as strategies for navigating pressure. This can be understood considering the social composition of the roadside women. Organized into sub-groups of roughly six to eight women they share the same ethnicity and often know each other from the places where they live. These sub-groups share gossip, give emotional comfort and their members sometimes share money with one another. Collectively keeping a secret about their real situation when going to the richer suburbs day by day, furthermore contributes to a feeling of complicity
Mario Schmidt, Christiane Stephan, Kawikya Judith Musa & Eric M. Kioko for Developing Economics with insights into the everyday life of inequalities in Nairobi.

How Art Helped Propel Sudan’s Revolution

Sudan’s nonviolent revolution and the creativity that buoyed it are reasons for celebration. But the country faces a myriad of challenges during its transition, including a pandemic and a severe economic crisis that have led to renewed protests in the streets. Additionally, a prominent case where 11 Khartoum artists were jailed this past August has drawn broad condemnation, highlighting the need for legal and judicial reform during the transition to protect freedom of expression.
The work must continue, and there is still an important role for artists—in opening space for public conversations, expressing grievances and hopes, and helping to hold all bodies of the transitional government to account. And the transitional government can honor Sudan’s recent history by preserving revolutionary art for future generations and by nurturing the immense talent and creativity that helped to bring it to power.
Elizabeth Murray for the United States Institute of Peace on art and social change in Sudan.

In pictures: Turning the iconic Ghana Must Go bag into high fashion
Recognised around the world in either its blue-white and red-white varieties, this once-nameless bag in West Africa has long been especially popular in markets across the region.
But when in the 1980s hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants, most of them Ghanaians, hurriedly stuffed their belongings into them after being given short notice to leave Nigeria, it became known as Ghana Must Go.
Nduka Orjinmo for BBC News on putting new life into an old bag ;)!

African science fiction: rereading the classic Nigerian novel The Palm-wine Drinkard
Similarly, my reading of the novel explores how it is more suitably classified as a pioneering work of African science fiction than of fantasy. And a lot of that has to do with the way Tutuola uses language. Fantasy deals in the mythic and supernatural. Science fiction is an invention more grounded in reality. I suggest that the lazy appeal to African fantasy and folklore is in line with a longstanding dismissal of Africans as technological beings and, by extension, writers of science fiction.
Nedine Moonsamy for the Conversation on re-reading Africa literature.

Finding Selam: A gateway into Ethiopia’s complicated history
Finding Selam tells the incredible story of a 23-year-old woman from an upper-class family who became a communist rebel with the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party in the 1970s.
Idealistic and in love, Sally was caught up in her country’s revolutionary fervour and landed on the military government’s most wanted list. She went underground and her family never saw her again.
Four decades later, filmmaker Tamara Mariam Dawit investigates her aunt’s mysterious life. She revisits the Ethiopian revolution “Red Terror”, a period of violence, upheaval and mass killings that took aim at a generation of youth.
Tamara Mariam Dawit's documentary is still available on Al-Jazeera.
Stop Perpetuating White Supremacy Culture in the Race to ‘Provide Solutions’ to the Problems the Global Development Sector has Created.
The Racial Equity Index firmly rejects the rushed approach that international organisations are now practising — including the philanthropy sector — to (finally) ‘do something’ about the ‘problem’ of systemic racism within the global development sector. In our work, we have encountered many of these organisations and in this piece, include quotes from real conversations we have had with these groups as examples of white supremacy culture in action.
(...)
…thank you so much white people for taking the time to listen to us. Please sit down and send resources our way so we can lead the work that you want to unwisely rush through without thought or care.
The Racial Equity Index on the second stage of the current anti-racism discussion: How to challenge the notion of quick 'fixes', check-lists & 'frameworks'.

Creating better racial equity policies for development organizations
What could racial equity look like in international development? This is the question the webinar posed, along with an invitation to participants to move the global conversation around racism and inequality forward through tangible action items for the sector.
(...)
A study she was part of involving more than 100 NGOs in Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya revealed that most of them had similar complaints about the sector. These related firstly to the absence of systems for knowledge transfer. Many development organizations neglected to implement processes that ensured a solid way of transferring knowledge in order for indigenous institutions to continue the work.
Additionally, many organizations were accountable to their funders, rather than the communities they were operating in. “A lot of funders are looking for prescribed ways of addressing issues without having the people who – quote unquote – have these issues, at the heart of these consultations.” The sector needed to acknowledge that international development work was not a linear process and that metrics for impact didn’t necessarily work across borders.
“It’s messy and not a lot of funders are up for that complication – and for allowing solutions to be generated from communities and wholly-owned by communities.
The Accountability Lab hosted a great panel which I also included in my curated Racism in the aid industry and international development collection.
“Nothing needs ‘localising’. It already exists.”
A future humanitarian system will be led by actors indigenous to the region or community in crisis, while everyone else follows. Indigenous does not mean the local arm of an international NGO; it means values which are historically rooted in the country of origin and its people, such as philanthropy and volunteerism. These values must be acknowledged by the external system prior to its entry.
International aid agencies will then ask these indigenous groups: “What do you need from us?” and “How can we help you?” They will observe over time who these indigenous players are – and where and how they operate – instead of duplicating efforts simply for their own prominence.
Themrise Khan with her great contribution to the New Humanitarian's Future of Aid series.

Our digital lives

Delivery Workers, Trapped in the System
The sections “Scooters,” “Smiling Action,” “Five Star Ratings,” and “The Final Safety Net” investigate the systems that further push risks onto riders while ensuring that profits continue to accrue to the platforms. In “Smiling Action,” Renwu illuminates how the platforms’ attempts to defray public criticism regarding accidents involving delivery riders with random safety checks (given the Orwellian name “Smiling Action” by Meituan) further subject riders to heartless and inconsistent systems of control. Interviews with police officers in the section “Five Star Rating” demonstrate that government responses have further shifted blame and responsibility for threats to safety onto riders. Rather than constructing transportation infrastructure better suited to growing numbers of delivery riders, or enacting laws that address the algorithmic factors pushing riders to violate traffic laws, cities have instead opted to surveil and punish individual riders. Although the officers interviewed express sympathy for the riders’ plight, they continue to enforce these laws against riders. While punishing riders for infractions, these officers often take up the task of delivering food, ensuring that even though individual riders are punished by the legal system, the system itself remains unchallenged. The officers have ultimately become conscripts of the algorithm. “The Final Safety Net,” which covers the inadequacies and denials of insurance coverage by platforms further illustrates the vulnerability of riders in the absence of formal employment contracts.
The cost of convenience
Coupang’s revenue has been boosted by the pandemic, which some believe will bring it closer to profitability by the end of the year. But the business is caught in a bind of its own making, Jang, the labor expert, says. “Because the Coupang isn’t making a profit, it probably can’t afford to hire enough workers, so the only strategy they have at their disposal is to just squeeze the ones they have harder and harder.” Meanwhile, the company’s innovations have already taken on a life of their own. Same-day delivery has become the new and irreversible norm. Tech giants and brick-and-mortar retail conglomerates alike are jostling for space in an e-commerce market that continues to grow, with many eating huge losses of their own to compete with Coupang. Yet none of this seeming progress has felt like innovation to the company’s workers. “There is nothing sophisticated about this system,” Go says. “It’s just mixing in workers and grinding them up.”
Chuang & friends + Max Kim for Rest of World with long-reads from China and South Korea and the power of platform capitalism & impacts on delivery workers.

The Substackerati
“Substack is not the sort of thing that is going to create a sustainable next phase, but it can open the door to things that we don’t have doors for yet,” Nathan Schneider, a media studies professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, told me. To the extent that Substack fixes something in the journalism industry, it might be compared to GoFundMe—a survival mechanism whose resources are unevenly, arbitrarily distributed, laying bare systemic problems without directly tackling them. “GoFundMe can help us see things we’re not seeing and put money where it would not go,” Schneider said. “Of course, we don’t want a GoFundMe society.”
(...)
The guys at Substack aren’t sweating the loss, at least for now. Ultimately, they will be judged not by their creative output, but by how much money they can return for those who have invested in their company. The platform is new, but the metrics are not; financial concerns trump all others. When I asked Best and McKenzie about their plans post-pandemic (should that time ever come), they told me that they don’t foresee any changes to their fundamentals.
Clio Chang for the Columbia Journalism Review on the emergent trend of Substack newsletters.

Publications

Exploitation as innovation: research ethics and the governance of experimentation in the urban living lab
Two new practices suggest we should apply research ethics rules: first, that the experimentation taking place does not aim to test technology using people, but to test people using technology; and second, that such experimentation is explicitly designed to understand how the population outside the lab can be influenced and manipulated, and therefore has a political character that research ethics can give us some leverage over.
Linnet Taylor with a new open-access article for Regional Studies.
Academia
How Moving (Academic) Conferences Online Could Help Address Social Injustices
Whilst highlighting these gains, I am not oblivious of the other forms of injustices that virtual conferences also present. Here I refer to the loss of jobs in the hospitality industry that hosts conferences, or the outrageous financial gains these virtualizations rake in for owners of online communication platforms. Nevertheless, I am also persuaded by the campaigns led by some senior colleagues at my university to tone down the current climatically and financially unsustainable model of flying thousands of participants every year to conferences.
Already, deep voices within the scientific community are predicting that the ‘new normal’ is expected to stay. Yet I am concerned that perhaps these gains exemplified by the ECPR’s virtual general conference may not be consolidated, at least not in the immediate future. From the plenary address and the post-conference questionnaire, I can gather that the ECPR is already considering at least some physical meeting during next year’s general conference. Other conferences may possibly be considering doing the same.
Yet, it is my view that the failure to immediately entrench the above-highlighted Covid-19-induced shifts to improving social justice within the academe would be ‘one step forward, two steps backward’. I hope it won’t be.
Dennis Penu for EADI; I agree with Dennis' nuanced analysis that it's too early to talk about a 'new normal' for academic conferences; more hybrid models, yes, but will the 2022 conference schedule look similar to 2019 for many?

What we were reading 4 years ago
(Link review 174, 26 February 2016)
Aid work: an insult to the poor? - poem
What greater insult could there be
When a fellow man calls me just a beneficiary
When our pictures of desperation are used for marketing
When our dignity is insulted just for fundraising
When trainings and awareness are imposed on us
When the life of another is planned by another
When the gift we got is never disclosed
When overheads are deducted before we know
When we smile for pictures we never see
When our children seek to change our ways
When we waste our lives responding to assessments
Indeed an industry sorts – an insult to the poor
Was it wrong to get celebrities to pose wearing emergency blankets for refugees?
Seeing a glamorous elite enjoying a night out wrapped in flimsy sheets usually used by the most desperate people on the planet to stave off death was certainly jarring, but probably not in the way they intended.
The juxtaposition of smiles and the metallic shimmer made the crowd look facile, and an event meant to demonstrate solidarity came across more like a vain, empty publicity stunt.
Admiral Ncube's poem and Emma Graham-Harrison & Tim Finch's article for the Guardian are an excellent way to wrap up this week's discussion on how #globaldev is re-/mis-/under-represented!

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