Links & Contents I Liked 392
Inequality, #AidToo, China, UK Aid & climate change/resilience...lots of big-picture #globaldev stuff in this week's review; plus great new research articles on TikTok, WhatsApp & Pinterest!
My quotes of the week
Blending agriculture with human rights, “Shout A Lot About Democracy” (SALAD), is a flagship program designed to engage American youth in their own idiom, and will station more than 1,000 young African volunteers across America to plant vegetable gardens while teaching Black Lives Matters activists about the American justice system. (African Billionaires and Governments Have a Plan to Save America)
Over the past few months, an economic contraction and an increase in unemployment due to the Covid-19 pandemic have led to thousands of Indians turning to online loan apps to meet their day-to-day expenses. These apps often charge interest rates as high as 40% for sums as low as $70. Some are legitimate, regulated businesses, but with government oversight of the sector lax, illegal players — many of them operated by Chinese companies — have thrived. (Debt and shame via Google Play)
Why the Inequality Virus should be the talk of Davos this week
The world’s 10 richest billionaires – all men, unsurprisingly – have seen their wealth skyrocket by half a trillion dollars since March 2020. If you need help wrapping your head around this number, just think that if someone was to sit down and count those dollar bills, it would take them 143,000 years.Julie Seghers for fp2p summarizing Oxfam's annual Davos report.
Blending agriculture with human rights, “Shout A Lot About Democracy” (SALAD), is a flagship program designed to engage American youth in their own idiom, and will station more than 1,000 young African volunteers across America to plant vegetable gardens while teaching Black Lives Matters activists about the American justice system. With little or no policy or legal expertise—but plenty of passion—the youth volunteers will train communities on grassroots mowing and organizing, develop manuals on how to manage tension-filled meetings, and roll out workshops to help pastors of Black churches learn how to be more effective public speakers.Sisonke Msimang for Adi Magazine with a piece of brilliant #globaldev satire!
How a $13.5M US project imploded in Burkina Faso
While those involved with the Burkina Faso project agree that it didn’t go according to plan, they disagree over why. Some say the lack of true interagency cooperation and collaboration torpedoed the project even as some prevention activity still could have been possible, while others argue that the planning process was so slow that they ultimately missed the opportunity for a prevention project to be effective in Burkina Faso as conflict worsened there.Teresa Welsh for DevEx with USAID-funded project that, well, didn't exactly go according to plan...
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was the final nail in the coffin, still others say, further strapping a chronically understaffed embassy in Ouagadougou that had no capacity to divert resources to an additional project as a health crisis descended.
How advertisers defund crisis journalism
Hard news about humanitarian and social issues is being treated as toxic by overzealous ad technology, undermining corporate social responsibility and effectively punishing publishers for reporting on international crises, researchers say.Ben Parker for the New Humanitarian with an important piece on why we can't have nice things/good humanitarian journalism on the Internet...
Insights on China’s 2021 white paper on international development cooperation
Brands being shielded away from the messy, complicated, politicized realities of the world by technological fixes is not entirely surprising; they only care about their reputation & quick PR stunts, not long-term change that may require actual efforts https://t.co/QUZzq4cVD3— Tobias Denskus (@aidnography) January 27, 2021
China may be this century’s most prominent development partner. Increasingly, other development actors factor China’s activities into their own planning efforts. The white paper both satisfies and leaves us wanting more: more information on the process by which it was developed; more comprehensive data, disaggregated by country, to enable the collaboration and triangular partnerships that China desires; and more insight into the increasing diversity of China’s development actors.Anthea Mulakala & Hongbo Ji for DevPolicy Blog with a nuanced & optimistic overview of the new Chinese #globaldev white paper.
The New UN Tech Envoy Is Put on Leave, Pending an Investigation
Hochschild has been placed suddenly on leave by the UN, pending an investigation by the organization into several complaints by women who have worked with him on the UN-75 project over the last year or so, alleging instances of harassment and other inappropriate behavior.Laura E. Kirkpatrick for PassBlue with the latest news on the #AidToo front.
Some tech for development experts are ready for Loon's last flight
“Moonshot projects in connectivity can be effective in highlighting the challenge before us and spurring organizations and governments into discussing and focusing on the issue of billions of people unable to benefit from internet connectivity,” Garrity said in an email to Devex.Catherine Cheney for DevEx with a reminder why I really don't like the term 'moonshot'-especially in the #globaldev context...
“The problem is when moonshots are viewed as the panacea, and draw resources and attention away from what we know can improve the situation today, which is conducive policy and regulations for market entry, competition and investment with proven technologies and flexible business models.”
UK aid cuts of up to 70% a 'gut punch' to world's poorest, experts say
The British government’s decision to slash at least 50% in overseas aid within the next few weeks has been called a “gut punch” to the world’s poorest.Kate Hodal for the Guardian with a #globaldev update from the 'taking back control' UK.
Reacting to the news that diplomats had been ordered to cut billions in aid over the next six weeks, experts warned that many lives would be lost and the UK stood to lose its reputation as a global “force for good”.
“If these cuts are rushed through, inevitably poor decisions will result,” said Labour’s Sarah Champion, chair of the international development committee, which on Tuesday heard from Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) minister Dominic Raab.
What Next for UK Aid?
The cuts to the UK aid programme are savage and indefensible - a potential loss of over £20bn by the time of the next election in 2024. But there are other issues also at stake, to do with the overall purpose and direction of UK development policy.Simon Maxwell with a detailed post on future issues of #UKAid; I wonder whether he perhaps, like other observers, underestimates that the Tories are attacking #globaldev simply to piss off 'liberals' & one of their beloved policy fields, rather than looking for genuine engagement & creating 'better' policies...
Why projects to adapt to climate change backfire
The study identifies four key issues responsible for unintended negative consequences of climate-change adaptation projects:Oxford University with a summary of an important research project & recent article in World Development.
Not taking account of what drives vulnerability in specific locations, such as gender inequality, race relations or inequitable access to natural resources.
Not involving local people in design and implementation of projects.
Adapting existing development projects, without considering whether it actually address the drivers of vulnerability to climate change.
Insufficient understanding of what ‘successful’ adaptation looks like.
A new disease, a new island, and an uncertain future
The impact of the refugee settlement on the climate became evident within a few years of establishment. Maximum temperature in the region has increased by 0.021 degrees Celsius every year due to the reduction in green cover, according to a 2015 study.Monika Mandal for Asia Democracy Chronicles reporting on the environmental challenges in Cox's Bazar exacerbated through refugee settlements.
“We used to enjoy the shade of trees in the summer, but now temperatures are rising and there aren't as many trees as there used to be,” said Nurul Kabir, 62, another Cox’s Bazar refugee. He also rued the squalid condition of his surroundings, adding, “We live in a very tightly packed settlement.”
Other activities, like cutting into the slopes to construct streets and stairways, are gradually raising the potential for landslides and inland floods in the camps.
“In the rainy season, the mud is washed away by the water. Shelters are destroyed and people die. Also, it’s difficult to stay inside the camp at night as we don't have lights in these hilly areas,” explained Kabir. The Rohingya are mostly dependent on underground sources for water, which may cause land subsidence; and on forests for fuel, which increases the risk of landslides.
Worsening land quality becomes extremely hazardous for both hilly and coastal areas as it increases residents’ exposure to climate change impacts while decreasing community resilience and the capacity to adapt.
How development actors can help, not hurt, information ecosystems
The threat to information ecosystems in fragile countries is acute. But supporting media business building in a toxic marketplace is futile. By fixing the destructive dynamic between development actors and local media, we could go a long way to boosting the forces that will help quality journalism and democracy thrive.Prue Clarke for DW Akademie with an important discussion on what 'media development' can (and should not) look like in the future.
How the English Language Dominates Disaster Research and Practice
Our current norms serve to perpetuate power imbalances. They allow neoliberal agendas to flourish. Translation often lays bare the taken-for-granted assumptions and norms of both our own language and that of others. For disaster-related disciplines, the whole aim of which is to make the life of all people better, it is important to consider the complex interaction of cultures that is occurring when we practice and research. Our research points towards the need for deference to local origins of meaning. In doing this, we can appreciate the cultural and ideological ‘baggage’ of both English and the language into which words are translated and apply locally critical perspectives to enable translations that are more meaningful and relevant.Ksenia Chmutina, Jason von Meding, Neil Sadler & Amer Hamad Issa Abukhalaf for E-International Relations on the importance of linguistic grounding of #globaldev language.
To the end of aid?
Global public investment may not be for all countries of the world. But, it is something that we at the receiving end of aid, could use to develop our own specific models of financial self-sufficiency and cross-country collaboration. At least to meet some of the most pressing needs of our time.Themrise Khan review Jonathan Glennie's new book for the News on Sunday.
Our digital lives
Guyanese-American author celebrates Caribbean identity in new alphabet book
Producing Caribbean literature is one of my goals because I attended schools throughout my youth where children and families differed from me culturally, linguistically, and physically. Even though the United States of America is a melting pot, if you don’t live in a state that has a large population of people from a country you or your family are from … chances are you won’t be too open about your culture.Atiba Rogers for Global Voices with a great addition to diverse children literature!
First Nations artist explores ‘indigenous futurisms’ in his Woodland-style work
Woodland style art can be characterized by its colorful figures, dark black lines, and as one British Columbia art studio describes it, as “native art that blends traditional legends and myths with contemporary mediums.” It’s a style that 19-year-old artist, Tsista Kennedy, of the Anishnaabe and Onyota’aka Nations of London, Ontario, Canada has embraced, making a distinct mark by incorporating the traditional and the modern.
Eduardo Avila also for Global Voices features another interesting artistic endeavor.
Debt and shame via Google Play
Over the past few months, an economic contraction and an increase in unemployment due to the Covid-19 pandemic have led to thousands of Indians turning to online loan apps to meet their day-to-day expenses. These apps often charge interest rates as high as 40% for sums as low as $70. Some are legitimate, regulated businesses, but with government oversight of the sector lax, illegal players — many of them operated by Chinese companies — have thrived.Nilesh Christopher for Rest of World reporting from India on new forms of digital exploitation.
Some analysts say that Google, whose Android operating system is by far the most commonly used in the country, bears some responsibility for the rise of these predatory lenders. In the last year alone, more than 750 loan apps have been added to the Google Play store. Many seem to violate the company’s policy, which doesn’t allow personal lending apps to list if they ask users for repayment less than 60 days after a loan is issued.
New book: the informal economy in development-Evidence from German, British and Australian New Guinea
My account of this preparatory period examines both the government’s failed attempt to stimulate informal economic activity and the broader implications for economic welfare – played out for the rest of the twentieth century – of misguided wage and employment policies. An important subtheme is the contest of ideas in the 1970s between orthodox economists and Marxian analysts of economy and society. In his Foreword to the book, Ross Garnaut suggests ruefully that it may be too early to tell whether this contest has been finally resolved.John Conroy's open access book sounds like a remarkable read on #globaldev history, plus it's open access so no excuse not to dig in ;)!
Mapping Internet Celebrity on TikTok: Exploring Attention Economies and Visibility Labours
So happy to see my paper about the @UNESCO-@WorldBank relationship in education published after years of work and a scrutinizing review process:https://t.co/370dwKh9W0— Maren Elfert (@maren_elfert) January 25, 2021
I really poured my heart and soul into this paper.
(Free download until mid-March). Feedback most welcome!
this paper is an exploratory study into the makings of internet celebrity cultures on TikTok, focused on how attention economy and visibility labour practices have emerged as a result of the app’s features. With empirical data drawn from an extended period in-depth digital ethnography, and analyses and insights informed and supported by traditional anthropological participant observation and personal interviews with TikTok Influencers and agencies, this scoping paper offers a foundation for how celebrity, attention, and visibility are constituted across TikTok’s platform norms and features.Crystal Abindin with an open access article in the Cultural Science Journal.
Using WhatsApp for focus group discussions: ecological validity, inclusion and deliberation
WhatsApp also offers opportunities for creating more inclusive group discussions. Using discourse analysis of the WhatsApp focus group, the paper also finds that this familiarity and inclusivity affords the potential for group deliberation, which can be particularly valuable in participatory research.Anna Colom with an open access article in Qualitative Research.
Dreaming About Travel: A Pinterest Netnography
This paper uses a netnographic approach to explore travel-related Pinterest data. From a methodological perspective, it finds that the platform is suitable for informing ongoing travel information search research but points to potential methodological challenges. As a theoretical contribution, it highlights the popularity of capturing travel dreams through Pinterest boards and illustrates the affective labor users put into their collections of travel dreams.Ulrike Gretzel with an open access paper in Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism 2021.
The mismatch continues between PhD holders and their career prospects
The report draws no conclusions nor makes recommendations – and does not answer the big question of whether or not Canada graduates too many PhDs – but offers a data-driven picture of what’s going on. “The report, in one hub, pulls all this information together. It supports some really comprehensive conversations grounded in strong research and findings,” says Dr. Gopaul. “I think the report highlights how complex it all is, and highlights that there are so many factors.”Diane Peters for University Affairs; for me this new report is beating around the bush: Yes, there are too many PhD graduates-and, no, the famed private sector is not a solution. This myth implanted by the OECD many years ago that Western/Northern countries need to educate more PhD students is nonsense: Academia can't absorb them & 'the industry' could easily train MA/MSc graduates for many of their jobs/careers!
On PhDs (in ICT4D): the good, the bad and the ugly
I want to have a heart to heart talk with Global North scholars about decolonial research.— Chisomo Kalinga, PhD (@MissChisomo) January 27, 2021
1). Connect to what is being written in global south, Indigenous scholarship especially within settler colonies first. This is where the ideas began & where it keeps re-emerging.
This reflection is therefore in part a summary of how I see PhDs as having changed since I completed all 642 pages of my own thesis in 1979 (having started in 1976). I hope that the insights I have gained in the 41 years since then may be of value not only to those considering doing a PhD, but also more widely to others engaged in the supervision and management of doctoral research in universities.Talking about PhDs: Tim Unwin with a long (perhaps a bit too long for 1 post) post on some of the fundamental issues that you should keep in mind when embarking on a PhD journey.
Should I consider a PhD in International Development Studies?
What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 181, 6 May 2016)
Salesforce's Marc Benioff has not kicked off a 'new era of corporate social activism'
As the company moves into its new 'Zen-Heavy, Eco-Groovy, Starchitect-Designed' building we are once again told a story we have heard quite often by now: How the Silicon Valley discourse can produce profits and a better world at the same time and how we are entering a 'new era' of philanthrocapitalism that balances people, planet and profits.I'm still not entirely sure what Salesforce actually is & does, but the philanthrocapitalistic BS has remained stable since I wrote this post almost 5 years ago...
MSF pulls out of World Humanitarian Summit
In MSF’s view, there is a general shortage of operational emergency response capacity, particularly in conflicts and epidemics, and donor funding is too often driven by political and security considerations. Pointing to the Ebola outbreak, South Sudan and Central African Republic, Hawkins said there had been “a real failure of the humanitarian system… We don’t think the WHS is addressing that.”Ben Parker for IRIN (before it became the New Humanitarian) with some sobering words from MSF that unfortunately still ring very true...
Photojournalist Manu Brabo on Syria: 'If I take a picture here, am I hurting someone?'
“It was a terrible thing to see and a terrible moment for him; it had to have been the worst moment of his life. You think to yourself, ‘If I take a picture here, am I hurting someone?’ But there’s no other way to do this job: to take pictures, you have to be right there, right in front of someone. What I do is to take my pictures really fast, as fast as I can, and then I get out of the way. The truth is, that man probably didn’t even notice me; but I knew I was there, I didn’t want to make things even worse for him. This sort of photography isn’t something I do easily or lightly. When I was taking this picture I thought: this picture will tell a big story. Maybe this picture can say a lot about the Syrian war: I believe it does.”Joanna Moorhead for the Guardian with a reminder of how quickly we have become used to horrible pictures from Syria, at country that is still not a peace 5 years later...
What the refugee crisis tells us about journalism
Médecins Sans Frontières’s Polly Markandya summed it up with a remark that social media is changing the landscape of journalism fundamentally: front-line volunteers working with refugees in Europe have challenged traditional aid agencies and media organisations in the way they are flexible and responsive, and in the way they fundraise.Anita Makri for SciDev with some interesting questions as to how much journalism really has changed with the 'refugee crisis'.
They also challenge us to think differently about journalism practice and pathways to change. Who is now a journalist? How far should stories go past informing? What will change minds, get politicians to ask questions, fight xenophobia or protect human rights?
Stories by volunteers tend to directly appeal to sentiment or advocate support, and professional journalists shouldn’t abandon fundamental principles of balance and objectivity to follow that. But media organisations could take a step beyond the story by adding resources to each article where readers can learn more about the issues and organisations involved.