Links & Contents I Liked 388
One thing I realized this week was how our sector likes to talk about reforms of the #globaldev & humanitarian system...and then you come across an investigation into the UN's Ebola response & all the talk about 'coordination saves lives' seems just that...this week there's even more on language, jargon & visual representations, the strange case of Portuguese returnees from Angola in 1975 & much more!
My quotes of the week
Australia will spend nearly $1.2bn on offshore processing this financial year, even though fewer than 300 people remain in detention in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. That’s roughly $4m for each person.
(Budget blowouts: offshore processing costs $1.2bn for fewer than 300 people)
“We need to move away from the world of people sitting behind desks, moving bits of paper around, to making the real heroes of the project the person that is really delivering the school … Strangely we've created a world where too often all the plaudits and promotions go to those in head office,” he said.
(Ditch the jargon to save development, says Rory Stewart)
People are savvy, they know who journalists are, they know what we’re doing, so I don’t think it's fair for someone who sees that photo to say you took advantage of that person. Actually, I find that offensive – you’re taking away the right of that person to make the decision to be photographed. Why would you know what’s best for that person more than [they] themselves [do]? I do think that those photos that are controversial need to be taken. If I’m given permission to shoot something, I will shoot it in the most dignified way I can, but that’s not to say I’ll publish it.
(A war photographer turns her lens back home: In conversation with Lynsey Addario)
In the last session of 2020 of the Decolonising Europe Lecture Series @PollyWilkins discussed with @aidnography and @Prof_FSultana decolonising in humanitarianism.— ACES - Amsterdam Centre for European Studies (@aces_for) December 7, 2020
You can watch the lively and highly interesting session now on YouTube! https://t.co/vRo9zxxVjO
Budget blowouts: offshore processing costs $1.2bn for fewer than 300 people
Australia will spend nearly $1.2bn on offshore processing this financial year, even though fewer than 300 people remain in detention in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. That’s roughly $4m for each person.Michael Green for the Guardian with yet another reminder that governments always lie when they claim that they don't have money for #globaldev & other social spending...and whenever it involves the security-migration complex someone tends to make a tidy profit from these efforts...$12bn have been wasted on this in 8 years!
The government has spent more than $12bn on offshore processing in the past eight financial years, figures in home affairs department annual reports show.
Ditch the jargon to save development, says Rory Stewart
“We need to move away from the world of people sitting behind desks, moving bits of paper around, to making the real heroes of the project the person that is really delivering the school … Strangely we've created a world where too often all the plaudits and promotions go to those in head office,” he said.William Worley for DevEx; it's complicated to find a balance between communicating #globaldev well and not move into depoliticized slogans or white savior heroism on the 'front lines'.
But Stewart admitted it was “very, very complicated, solving this problem of how we communicate to people.”
Taking British politics, jargon and colonialism out of our language
How can we live our values through our work, policies, and how we communicate and treat others?Maryam Mohsin for BOND continues the discussion on #globaldev jargon and rhetoric; her careful, diplomatic wording is probably an indication of how much the sector is currently struggling to remain relevant in the UK under the new FCDO, Tory governance & Brexit in addition to the global discussions on NGOs & localization...
However, how these political phrases translate into action is out of our hands and can’t be controlled. Can we really be confident that by using similar language, mirroring the language of power, we can change the rhetoric?
It’s also impossible to ignore that some of these phrases, intentionally or unintentionally, hark back to colonialism and tied aid. They do not reflect the present or future, where the British public and NGOs want to see development assistance going to the people who need it the most rather than towards the UK’s short term political or economic endeavours.
UN criticised for holding back review of troubled Congo Ebola response
Despite a decision to activate a pre-prepared concept of operations, the review describes an unwieldy set-up that led to “confusion” and a “total disconnect” with established coordination groups. The UN’s dedicated humanitarian coordination body, OCHA, was “side-lined”, leading to gaps in coordination, liaison with the military, and information management.Philip Kleinfeld & Ben Parker for the New Humanitarian on the sad irony of the infamous 'coordination saves lives' mantra meeting UN realities...
The report found that the adoption of the protocol in May 2019 did spur a bigger and broader response, by involving more NGOs and considering needs beyond healthcare. But sidelining the established coordination mechanisms went against the protocol. The dual leadership arrangement was “very challenging and hampered the response”, and led to “a lack of coordination and cohesion”, the review states.
It’s time to invest for the 21st century and repurpose humanitarian bureaucracies
So im just putting this out there. After 25 years of slogging it out in this profession, ive realized the simplest form of addressing inequalities in #globaldev is also the most complex. I present, "The Practitioner's Model of Development" (because no one listens to us). 1/ pic.twitter.com/HHao00jsNM— Themrise Khan (@themrise) December 10, 2020
It is clear this Christmas that the OECD’s priority should be to finance a global humanitarian network for the 21st century and repurpose the great humanitarian bureaucracies of the past. The ODA of OECD governments should start this process in this new funding round. They must break their co-dependency with the large humanitarian bureaucracies, insist on repurposing and find new partners that are more genuinely embedded in the world. This is a big change. It will take a decade but it needs to start now. Humanitarian financiers need to raise their eyes above and beyond their old partners to find new ones, and their old partners need to find better ways to partner their old financiers and the many new 21st century humanitarian organizations we need to vaccinate the world and survive the climate crisis.Hugo Slim for ODI also contributing to the debate around the future of the #globaldev & humanitarian infrastructure.
Are Bill Gates’s Billions Distorting Public Health Data?
Follow @sophietholstrup for great live summary of #HumanitarianReset webinar @hpg_odi is hosting rn. I can’t hold back my depression at hearing the same crap all the time where humanitarians are STILL putting themselves at center of every single narrative while saying they aren’t https://t.co/U8qAUJEH6k— Zehra Rizvi (@zehrarizvi) December 4, 2020
The institute’s uncanny resilience, unconventional methods, and media savvy have long made it controversial in the global health community, where scholars have watched its meteoric rise over the past decade with a mix of awe and concern. Years before Covid, the IHME gained outsize influence by tracking hundreds of diseases across the planet and producing some of the most cited studies in all of science. But it has also spawned a legion of detractors who call the IHME a monopoly and a juggernaut and charge the group has surrounded itself with a constellation of high-profile allies that have made it too big to peer review, the traditional method of self-regulation in science. Fueled by more than $600 million in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—a virtually unheard-of sum for an academic research institute—the IHME has outgrown and overwhelmed its peers, most notably the World Health Organization (WHO), which previously acted as the global authority for health estimates.Tim Schwab for the Nation with a great long-read investigation into the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation rise in global health debates.
What happens to sexual abuse survivors after the headlines fade?
Titilope Ajayi for the New Humanitarian; really interesting discussion and I was glad to attend the seminar, but many complicated questions still remain.
For many, justice has remained elusive, with cases either dismissed or still pending years later. For others, the stigma associated with the abuse, legal hurdles, and organisational lethargy has stood in the way of women seeking reparations. What can be done to help women find justice – however they define it? Can there be justice with continued impunity?
Our dark land has one and a half billion inhabitants. We rule over them and no one gets in the way much. Well... almost no one. There are some marauders such as Médecins Sans Frontières, but they can’t do much alone. They call us neglected diseases. Because the world doesn’t care about us. We thrive the most in poor regions, where the people we infect don’t have the money for treatment. There is nothing to treat some of us, as pharmaceutical companies would not turn a profit if they developed new medications. Our enemies have weak weapons – often old-fashioned medication that was discovered decades ago. What to say? Keep it up. Neglect us. We like it.Czech MSF teamed up with a graphic artist for their latest advocacy campaign and the results are...interesting; I wish this would have been a more participatory process with local artists and I am not 100% I understand who the target audience is and what actions they are supposed to take, but definitely food for campaign discussions! (The website produced a 404 error just before the review went live...)
The Bukavu expo
The Bukavu Series online exhibition explores the power dynamics between researchers from the Global North and the Global South. The Series is a visual extension of the Silent Voices Blog: Bukavu Series, which discusses how knowledge is produced across academia and the ethical issues that arise from conducting research in conflict sites.Another interesting communications project/exhibition at the end of a research project featuring Congolese, British & Belgium partners.
A war photographer turns her lens back home: In conversation with Lynsey Addario
I think it’s important as a photographer to go in a respectful way, to make sure the family is ok, to ensure that the parents understand. People are savvy, they know who journalists are, they know what we’re doing, so I don’t think it's fair for someone who sees that photo to say you took advantage of that person. Actually, I find that offensive – you’re taking away the right of that person to make the decision to be photographed. Why would you know what’s best for that person more than [they] themselves [do]? I do think that those photos that are controversial need to be taken. If I’m given permission to shoot something, I will shoot it in the most dignified way I can, but that’s not to say I’ll publish it.Jessica Alexander talks to Lynsey Addario for the New Humanitarian.
The strange case of Portugal’s returnees
Many migrants, however, rebutted the label attached to them. While they were happy to receive the aid offered by state bureaucracies and NGOs like the Portuguese Red Cross, they insisted that they were refugees (refugiados), not returnees. One in three of them, as they pointed out, had been born in Africa. Far from returning to Portugal, they were coming for the first time, and often did not feel welcome there. Most felt that they had not freely decided to leave, that their departure had been chaotic, that they had had no choice but to give up their prosperous and happy lives in the tropics. (At the time, they never publicly reflected on the fact that theirs was the happiness of a settler minority, and that prosperity was premised on the exploitation of the colonized.) Many were convinced they would return to their homelands one day, and many of them proudly identified as “Angolans” or “Africans” rather than as Portuguese. All in all, they claimed that they had been forcibly uprooted, and that now they were discriminated against and living precariously in the receiving society—in short, that they shared the predicaments we typically associate with the condition of the refugee.Christoph Kalter for Africa is a Country with a really intriguing case study on migration from Africa to Europe...
Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ policy had real consequences on birth outcomes, a new study shows
Now, research suggests that the stress associated with the travel ban increased preterm births for women from those seven countries. A study from the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found that women from the impacted countries living in the United States saw an almost 7 percent increase in their chances of delivering preterm from September 2017 to August 2018. White women born in the United States saw no change in their odds of having a preterm birth during the same period, which started eight months after the ban.Abigail Higgins for the Lily highlights a new study that highlights just one more aspect of the emotional toll the outgoing US President caused for many people-often women and marginalized communities.
The best books of 2020 – picked by our acclaimed guest authors
Plenty of 'end of year' lists to chose from, but the Guardian's list seems really diverse & offers far too much choice for already bending bookshelves ;)!
Forget “Building Back Better” — Technology Needs to Be Built Differently
The power asymmetries that are entrenched in today’s digital infrastructure realm are stark. Finally, civic technology policy can shape markets to diversify business models — to move away from surveillance capitalism that treats data as a commodity and shift attention toward (and place value on) different business models for software and systems. Tools designed to operate from a different set of instincts. Governments can use public procurement to create demand for civic tech products that are well poised to succeed in the large global market for public sector technology.Bianca Wylie for the Centre for International Governance Innovation; I appreciate her positive vision, but from my ICT4D experience I just don't see a positive future and I struggle to see how and why governments would buy into such a vision if continuing on current trajectories will maintain short-term power and control.
The truth about much ‘casual’ work: it’s really about permanent insecurity
They show:David Peetz for the Conversation with powerful, unsurprising findings from Australian labor statistics.
about 33% of “casuals” worked full-time hours
about 53% had the same working hours from week to week, and were not on standby
about 56% could not choose the days on which they worked
almost 60% had been with their employer for more than a year
about 80% expected to be with the same employer in a year’s time.
Very few (6% of “casuals”) work varying hours or are on standby, have been with their employer for a short time, and expect to be there for a short time.
There are many reasons to question whether an employee without leave entitlements could really be defined as a genuinely flexible casual worker. It’s better to just call them “leave-deprived” employees.
The year of TikTok
Aside from the world’s biggest superpowers, TikTok will need to navigate thorny relationships with leaders from a slew of other nations where it’s quickly gaining millions of new users. Its stated values will likely be tested. Two years ago in Indonesia, for example, the government reportedly unblocked TikTok only after the platform agreed to remove “all negative content.” The company will need to decide whether it’s willing to make similar sacrifices in the future. In many countries, the people joining TikTok look a lot like Khamees, the woman from Egypt: fearless, young, and eager to use a powerful new medium for free expression. The question is whether TikTok can fairly and adequately support them.Louise Matsakis for Rest of World with an interesting, perhaps too positive, review of and outlook on TikTok.
‘Who Can Sing the Song of MSF?’ The Politics of ‘Proximity’ and Performing Humanitarianism in Eastern DRC
This article explores the complexities of the brokerage work conducted by Congolese MSF staff working in a ‘field’ that is not a distant, liminal space, but their country (and region) of origin. They have complicated and heterogeneous political and social histories, networks and perceived identities in the areas where MSF works. This ‘proximity’ is a double-edged sword: local staff are essential to networking with armed actors and political authorities, as well as translating the meanings of policies and principles into practice, yet they find themselves either at risk, or perceived as a risk, or both. They mediate ambiguous, overlapping social positions and competing demands and pressures in a context of cyclical violence. Because of their social and political embeddedness, they are perceived by their foreign colleagues as a potential risk to MSF’s performance of neutrality and impartiality. Consequently, Congolese staff’s position in MSF is circumscribed both to ‘protect’ them and to prevent any behaviour which might jeopardise the organisation’s image. Instead, MSF’s security praxis relies on a model of supposed ‘complementarity’: the presence of temporary foreign staff is seen as a counterweight to the embeddedness of locals. In short, ‘proximity’ both defines, and circumvents, local staff’s role.Myfanwy James with an open access article for the Journal of Humanitarian Affairs.
What we were reading 4 years ago
(Link review 177, 25 March 2016)
Opportunities and challenges of the European refugee situation for Communication for Development
Be an exemplary teacher, researcher & outreacher in your area & communitySome of my reflections from 2016...I'm sometimes surprised what I find in my own archive ;) !
When we development people talk about ‘strengthening health systems’, ‘multi-sector approaches’, the role of small enterprises or mobile phones, many colleagues pull out their development bullshit bingo cards…but the truth behind the jargon is that ‘development’ has always come with a ‘boring’ backbone of logistics, infrastructure, long-term planning or investments in education.
The debates around professionalism in aid work are very often debates that the web editor or data analyst are more than just paper- or byte-pushers.
In short, you can contribute to the refugee situation in many ways and doing a good job, communicating in your organization or workplace is equally important than rescuing people from small boats.
You ask if NGOs have a right to exist, but some of us are already devolving power
ActionAid is not the only organisation to have become introspective in recent years. Bodies like Smart Civil Society Organisations and Common Cause are helping to stoke up some reality checks internally to INGOs. They are reminding us that we will never achieve bigger social change externally unless we get our houses in order internally. That means working in bigger alliances across sectors: why do environmental and rights NGOs work separately when the same dam breach, the same oil spillage the same contamination of water destroys the planet and people’s lives.Action Aid's Laura Sullivan on devolving power, reminding us about the discussion the sector had before 'localization' became the focus of the aid sector.
Angola’s Wikipedia Pirates Are Exposing the Problems With Digital Colonialism
Angolan's pirates are learning how to organize online, they're learning how to cover their tracks, they are learning how to direct people toward information and how to hide and share files. Many of these skills are the same ones that would come in handy for a dissident or a protestor or an activist. Considering that Angola has had an autocratic leader in power for more than 35 years, well, those are skills that might come in handy one day.Jason Koebler for Vice with a discussion from Angola that also seems very timely for 2020...