Links & Contents I Liked 394
I usually don't start my review with a warning, but this week's edition contains a lot of important readings on sexual violence & the aid industry; this is also why my quotes of the week feature powerful women who can inspire us & remind us of the positive change we want to see!
My quotes of the week
“I think something we have to realize is half of the world population is under 30 right now,” she said. “So you would want a leader who knows what it’s like to be in that age group to be suffering, not having the economic freedom to do everything you want, not having the ability to get the opportunities that you deserve. If you want to see different results, you have to do things differently.” (A Millennial UN Staffer Who Is Daring to Run Against Secretary-General António Guterres)
My vision is that social movements led by women, peasant, and Indigenous and Afro Descendant communities in Latin America continue advancing the struggle against climate change, the struggle to end economic and political structural violence, and the assault on Mother Earth, so that land, human rights, and food for all can thrive.
(Meet Jamie San Andrés: A Q&A with Our New Latin America Program Manager)
The way we become “modern” is not by negating our past and severing ourselves from all that has made us with flashy Dubai and Hong Kong-inspired aesthetics. There is much to learn from traditional architecture and design, which reflects culture and patterns of collective behaviour, in informing how we build communities.
(Can Addis Ababa stop its architectural gems being hidden under high-rises?)
Ethiopia: “If seriously ill people can’t get to hospital, you can imagine the consequences”
We are very concerned about what may be happening in rural areas. We still haven’t been able to go to many places, because access is still difficult, either because of insecurity or because it is hard to obtain authorisation. But we know, because community elders and traditional authorities have told us, that the situation in these places is very bad.MSF with an update from Tigray & the dire humanitarian situation in a country led by a Nobel peace prize winner...
Now, almost three months after the start of the conflict, other organisations are beginning to appear, little by little, in some areas. I am struck by how difficult it has been – and continues to be – to access people in great need in such a densely populated area. Considering the means and capacity for analysis possessed by international organisations and the UN, the fact that this is happening is a failure of the humanitarian world.
Ethiopia confirms widespread rape in conflict-hit north
The Rights Commission said many rapes were likely to have gone unreported.Reuters also reports from Tigray-so we don't need to justify inaction with the classic 'we didn't know what was going on' tropes
“The war and the dismantling of the regional administration have led to a rise in gender-based violence in the region. Local structures such as police and health facilities where victims of sexual violence would normally turn to report such crimes are no longer in place,” it said.
A Millennial UN Staffer Who Is Daring to Run Against Secretary-General António Guterres
She also thinks her age will play to her advantage. “I think something we have to realize is half of the world population is under 30 right now,” she said. “So you would want a leader who knows what it’s like to be in that age group to be suffering, not having the economic freedom to do everything you want, not having the ability to get the opportunities that you deserve. If you want to see different results, you have to do things differently.”Stéphanie Fillion for PassBlue; good for her! While states are debating which Brit 'has to' follow as new head of OCHA, this sends an important signal that many (young) people are fed up with the system of 'electing' people for key roles in global governance!
Top UN humanitarian official to step down
If Guterres does consider giving the role to a national of another country, it will likely lead to intense lobbying from London and might trigger a wider reshuffle. “I think the Brits will fight to keep it, especially after Brexit,” said one senior UN official in Geneva, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject.Ben Parker for the New Humanitarian with a summary of Lowcock's tenure at OCHA the search for his predecessor.
Top UN positions like Lowcock’s are filled by individuals proposed by the member states, typically political allies of the party in power. Lowcock was an exception, being the top civil servant at the UK’s now-folded aid ministry, the Department for International Development, DFID.
With Lowcock’s department – and the UN as a whole – facing calls to improve gender balance and widen diversity at senior levels, many observers are asking: Will the UK put forward another white male?
Experts criticize new DNA project designed to track sex offenders
The head of my large, global organization is carefully selected based on his nationality & a consensus of powerful states that reflect the world order of 1947— Tobias Denskus (@aidnography) February 12, 2021
Westendorf also doubted that “holding a small number of perpetrators accountable” would put off potential offenders in future. What is needed for deterrence, Westendorf said, is “more coherent and integrated prevention” training, organizational dynamics and culture changes, and reporting, investigation, accountability, and reparations mechanisms.William Worley for DevEx with great article on a controversial project that wants to use DNA analysis to bring alleged 'sex offenders' in developing countries to justice.
“This project will do little to improve our understanding of the nature and scale of sexual misconduct by aid workers,” Westendorf concluded. These factors are “critical” to improve responses and investigations into sexual misconduct in the development sector and to help remedy reporting and accountability challenges, she said.
The UN pledged to tackle sexual harassment. The work remains incomplete, experts say
“The reality is the investigators often don’t pursue it, because if no one is willing to put a name on the complaint, they have nothing ultimately to conduct an investigation with evidence that can be presented to the accused, who has a right to know what he or she is accused of and, more importantly by whom (when the charge is harassment or abuse of power),” the staffer wrote to Devex.Amy Lieberman also for DevEx on the complexities of dealing with sexualized violence in the UN system.
“You cannot announce this big change and not say what the implications are of being anonymous. You mislead people,” the staffer continued.
The total number of complaints received by WFP’s Office of the Inspector General rose from 186 in 2017 to 584 in 2019. Anonymous reporting also rose during this time period.
“While I feel we have the capacity to deal with the volume of complaints that we receive, I don’t know how long that’s going to remain the case, where we are easily accepting an excess of 600, 650 complaints a year,” said Callum Weeks, director of inspections and investigations in WFP’s Office of the Inspector General.
Then and Now: 25 years of sexual exploitation and abuse
Despite new policies and commitments, some of these areas don’t look all that different today than they did decades ago. We begin by exploring how the sector has dealt with sexual exploitation and abuse over the past 25 years.Jessica Alexander & Hannah Stoddard for the New Humanitarian conclude this important, albeit discouraging section on sexual violence & the aid industry.
Disability Debrief: "We are not the Disability Police" Interview with Stefan Tromel
The other important thing to remember was that people are extremely busy with their own many things. So if you just go there and say you have to do something, well, nothing will happen. The moment you go there saying you should do something but, by the way, here we have identified some statistics on the wage gap of persons with disabilities, here we have this information, sometimes what we do is we connect different parts of the organization with each other on disability, because sometimes there is some information on the statistics department on disability which we know, but the people working on that topic might not know that this... So, but these are some of the strategy or tactics that we use to influence our colleagues.In addition to recommending Peter Torres Fremlin's Substack newsletter, this interview with ILO disability expert Stefan Tromel is particularly interesting to get a good idea about how a large UN organization works 'behind the scenes'.
Why Read the Human Development Reports of the UNDP?
“Because they are a sheer example of the essentialist ontological assumptions that, for more than seven decades, conditioned and limited our understanding of development and global issues. In other words, because detecting and understanding these limitations could help in escaping ‘the Procrustean bed of development’ and in casting a new critical light on the MDGs and the SDGs”Juan Telleria for the EADI blog with a summary of his forthcoming book. I am also an avid reader of “flagship reports”, e.g. the World Bank’s World Development Report or the OECD’s Development Co-Operation Report.
We may need more humanitarian bureaucracy, not less
Within aid organizations, efforts to standardize, professionalize, and become ever more bureaucratic can threaten the agility necessary for rapid response to a crisis. But many severe problems stem from an underdeveloped rather than overdeveloped humanitarian bureaucracy.Aaron Clark-Ginsberg & Mary Kate Adgie for RAND/Humanitarian Law & Policy blog; my take-away from this article is that you need proper systems in place, well-trained staff & resources (those dreaded 'overheads') to govern your organization well.
More importantly, bureaucratic and humanitarian impulses can conflict. Bureaucracy is about depersonalized processes and formal systems. While this can result in aid that save lives, alleviate suffering, and protect the dignity of populations in need, its rote procedures can seem to undermine the compassion that underlies humanitarian action. A bureaucracy that works for humanitarian action will be both strong enough to protect those who need it, but also flexible in the right situations to encourage human interaction and compassion.
Humanitarians need to pick up the pace
The results of the HAR 2020 are disappointing, to say the least. They show that CHS-verified organisations, and the aid sector as a whole, have failed to put in place the essential elements of principled, accountable, high-quality aid. None of the nine commitments outlined in the Standard have been met by all of the organisations (although many organisations are meeting some). This suggests that there is still a substantial way to go before the system puts the basics in place.Paul Knox Clarke for ALNAP with an interesting overview over the annual Humanitarian Accountability Report.
Overall, CHS-verified organisations are closer to meeting some commitments than others. The one that comes closest to being fulfilled (as illustrated by the average verification score) is Commitment 6, on coordination and complementarity. This may reflect the significant investment in humanitarian coordination over the past decade. At the other end of the scale, Commitment 5, which states that complaints should be welcomed and addressed, scores lowest.
Inside Nigeria’s illegal backstreet abortion clinics
Aishat*, a 26-year-old radio presenter in Lagos, experienced something similar. It was October 2020 and after finding out that she was pregnant, she called a laboratory in Lagos to ask if they carried out abortions.Ope Adetayo for Al-Jazeera with a reminder that safe abortions should always be an essential part of women's rights agendas.
“The first thing the person that spoke to me on the phone asked me was if I was married. I said no. He asked if I was a Christian or Muslim. I said no. He asked if I had talked to the person that impregnated me and I was like … I am only asking you for a medical opinion, why are you asking me all of these questions?” Aisha recalled.
“And the speaker was like, do you know God is against abortion? I told him if I needed judgement, I would go to a priest. Then he hung up on me.”
Can Addis Ababa stop its architectural gems being hidden under high-rises?
The way we become “modern” is not by negating our past and severing ourselves from all that has made us with flashy Dubai and Hong Kong-inspired aesthetics. There is much to learn from traditional architecture and design, which reflects culture and patterns of collective behaviour, in informing how we build communities.Seble Samuel & Biruk Terrefe for the Guardian with a great piece on Ethiopia's urban development challenges.
Some within the city administration understand the importance of maintaining collective memories. Heritage buildings in the neighbourhoods of Arada and Beherawi are being refurbished to become public spaces for urban tourism, showing development and conservation need not be in conflict.
“It is not to say that development should stop,” says Giorghis. “It is to say that we have a different kind of development. A development that gives some respect and consideration to the existing urban fabric.”
Memorandum of Understanding
From the Development Policy Centre. The podcast that peers behind the bureaucratic curtain to tell the stories of the people, policy and politics of international development.Tapestry 2030: Multimedia Storytelling Initiative
Tapestry 2030 is a new OCIC podcast and illustration series focused on the future of international cooperation and global solidarity, and the partnerships needed for gender transformative, sustainable development.2 very different &very interesting #globaldev podcasting projects are taking shape that deserve your attention & ears :) !
Meet Jamie San Andrés: A Q&A with Our New Latin America Program Manager.
As an Ecuadorian-American, however, I also felt a huge responsibility to learn about the struggles that forced my family and others to migrate, and get involved. I knew that many of the problems that Latin America faces are intertwined with a history of imperialism, racism, capitalism, and patriarchy and I was committed to use my privileges to change these systems. When I moved to Ecuador in 2011, I worked with Afrodescendant youth in Esmeraldas and became a human rights observer in a mining conflict zone and a 15-day long nationwide march led by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE). My hope is that my journey, experiences, and commitment to social justice will inform my contributions at Thousand Currents and relationships with partners in Latin America.This staff announcement from Thousand Currents is a good news item to wrap up this week's rather discouraging #globaldev section...
Our digital lives
Ride to nowhere
Thousands of ride-hailing workers in Indonesia have formed their own unions and independent mutual-aid groups to lobby the government and companies for stronger rights and better conditions. Around the same time that drivers demonstrated against Grab in Vietnam, a group of Indonesian unions issued their own warning to the company and to Gojek: If merger talks went ahead without their concerns being heard, they would organize nationwide protests.Peter Guest, Sen Nguyen & Randy Mulyanto for Rest of World on the bleak future of gig work in Asia.
Conditions for drivers had already been worsening in Indonesia, according to Ariel, from the Online Drivers’ Association. When competition between Gojek and Grab was at its height, both offered bonuses incentivizing drivers to work at peak times and maximize the number of trips they took. That practice has now been suspended, significantly reducing their overall income.
How Instagram Celebrities Promote Dubai's Underground Animal Trade
Apart from potential legal issues and the well-being of the animals themselves, the trade in exotic animals puts already threatened wildlife populations at risk of poaching. Even when bred in captivity, experts warn, the use of such animals as status items fuels the trade. By pointing out the connections between Instagram photoshoots and this trade, fans and followers may make such posts less attractive, and help protect threatened wildlife populations.Foeke Postma for Bellingcat with an interesting case study on citizen-driven open source journalism.
“Our team has recognised a change in behaviour online; more people are calling out exotic pet owners and more are aware of the negative impacts of owning a dangerous animal, to the individual keeping it, the community around it and the wild where the animal comes from”, explained Elsayed Mohamed, Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). In an emailed statement to Bellingcat, Mohamed praised the UAE for adopting strong legislation on animal welfare in recent years.
Humanitarian Learning Resource Guide
This guide is designed to provide FCDO staff and other interested parties with information about free online courses and materials they can use to develop or refresh their humanitarian technical competencies.Brigitte Rohwerder for IDS with a handy online learning resource guide.
Marx and Digital Machines
This book explores the fundamental contradiction at the heart of the digital environment: technology offers all manner of promises, yet habitually fails to deliver. This failure often arises from numerous problems: the proficiency of the technology or end-user, policy failure at various levels, or a combination of these. Solutions such as better technology and more effective end-user education are often put into place to solve these failures.Mike Healy with a new open access book with University of Westminster Press...there should always be some space for Marxist readings in your busy lives ;)!
Flexibility, Generosity, and Community in the Time of COVID
This project would be almost exclusively archival, drawing on materials I had been collecting in Ghana and the UK as well as digitized newspapers. When it became clear that I had missed some files, I reached out to colleagues who also did research on the history of Accra and asked if they would be willing to share their notes and photos. I publicly offered to do the same for anyone who needed them – not everyone has the same access to digitized research materials and we should do whatever we can to expand access during this moment. Other opportunities also presented themselves – Instagram takeovers that expanded the reach of my research and brought me into conversation with new groups of people; virtual talks that allowed me to be in conversation with colleagues in Ghana and around the world; collaborative writing with young scholars, geared toward both academic and public audiences. It’s different. It’s not worse. In fact, it may be better – it forced me to grapple with archival sources in a way that I would not have done otherwise.Jennifer Hart with very nuanced, not-one-size-fits-all reflections on how to do fieldwork during the pandemic.
Standard evaluations of teaching (SETs) are problematic bc of known measurement & equity bias. In this new pub, @jenniesweetcush & I provide a comprehensive but nuanced overview of the literature. We make recommendations on how to use SETs responsibly. https://t.co/bW5BErZeBL pic.twitter.com/MzJH1sSgYK— Dr. Rebecca Kreitzer (@rebeccakreitzer) February 9, 2021
The focus on promoting entrepreneurialism above the expansion of waged employment is intimately linked with other economic topics, for example industrialisation, that are also no longer in vogue in the new behavioural world. If fragile and uncertain livelihoods are to be improved, discussions about formal employment cannot be ignored, and this needs to be reflected in the curriculum.Kevin Deane for the Mint with a good, concise overview over some of the key debates in how Economics should be used in the 21st century.
What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 183, 20 May 2016)
Development tourism without adult supervision-Reflections on Aftenposten’s Sweatshop documentary
As I said in the beginning, I am trying to be constructive in my criticism. If re-enacting a policy paper becomes a way to introduce a younger demographic to development advocacy work we have to think more carefully on how this could be done and when to exit the stage of a MTV-style reality show and introduce investigative journalism or more ‘academic’ expert commentary. And as much as I am hesitant to advocate for ‘experience tourism’ I know that the human story and humane connections matter in development communication.Me on how (not) to communicate issues around global inequalities through documentaries...
Maybe watching the documentary with students or young people and then discussing the broader issues could be a first step rather than letting pictures ‘speak for themselves’ which they rarely do in our mediatized world…
'There was so much stuff': the 'second disaster' of unwanted donations
In some situations, donations of goods are specifically requested by aid agencies, or families amidst disaster. But when unsolicited goods are sent, they can do more harm than good.This CBC article needs to be reposted every time people get ready to send unwanted stuff to 'help' after a disaster; always, always send money/make a donation!
I went to Afghanistan to save the world. The world had other plans.
Michael Bear Kleinman for Vox with another timeless classic, this time about volunteering & setting up your NGO abroad.
To do this work, you have to distance yourself from the illusion of control, from the illusion that your work will lead to the outcomes you wish to see. And you have to be willing to continue nonetheless.