Links & Contents I Liked 396
This week I virtually attended a doctoral school hosted by Fatima Jinnah Women University in Rawalpindi, Pakistan and the inspiring discussions and great research proposals of my health communication colleagues were such an uplifting experience! It was a powerful reminder how privileged and fortunate I am to be part of global academia which is working hard at the moment to continue her work for positive social change!
But the #globaldev world never stands still, so here's your weekend & beyond list of news, great reporting on development, digital + more, new publications & poetic reflections that have caught my eyes!
My quotes of the week
In real life, contrary to the Hollywood tale, kids are more likely to achieve the American dream in Denmark than in America. America is not a beacon to the world on how to run an economy. Scandinavia has a much more impressive economic record than the US and is much more innovative. Sorry, my American friends — we’re not just fairer than you. We’re doing better by being so. (The American dream is now in Denmark)
As a feminist who once believed in the work of UN Women, I was disturbed by the training manual and its contents. The vast ambit of the War on Terror and its capacity to infect everything is well-known, but this manual proves that even women’s empowerment must be defined in the securitized lingo of this never-ending conflict. Then there is the racism woven into the content; despite the fact that this report is produced by UN Women Europe and Central Asia, there is no mention at all of the white supremacist terror that is growing at an alarming rate. (Women's Work)
The UK’s aid cuts: where will they fall? And how big the implications for global aid flows?
The ultimate question (beyond the potential legal challenge to these cuts, which presumably will have a low chance of success) is what the UK’s strategy in the ‘post-Brexit’ world will be. The UK’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy by the Ministry of Defence, is due to set out such a strategy, which may determine the likely future scenarios for UK aid and engagement in international development. The degree to which aid will become a quid pro quo for the island’s pursuit of new or improved trade deals for example, or how it will fit with other geopolitical positioning. The strategic review is long-awaited and likely to be imminent, but regardless of the criteria used, there is no doubt that this is a retreat for the UK from its ambitious engagement with so many countries, so many sectors, and such a range of programming, bilaterally and multilaterally, which DFID forged.Joseph Holden takes a very detailed look at proposed cuts in UK Aid.
Audit finds nepotism, corruption, and worse at the African Union Commission
Nepotism, unverified qualifications, recruitment, and contract anomalies: These are some of the damning findings of an independent forensic and performance audit carried out last year at the African Union Commission.Rumbi Chakamda for DevEx with a story from a lesser known international governance institution...
The report, which Devex has seen, also found anomalies in staff remuneration and allowances — including irregular issuance of spousal allowances and double housing allowances issued to spouses working at AUC.
Eritrea’s Silent War
The brute reality is that Eritrea’s war isn’t a sidebar to Ethiopia’s crisis in Tigray: it is the center of gravity. If Eritrea withdraws its troops, the federal forces will lose control of much of Tigray and PM Abiy will need to recognize that he is fighting a civil war and pursue the standard measures in these circumstances: a ceasefire and mediation leading to a political settlement.Alex DeWaal for Reinventing Peace with more analysis on the situation in Tigray and beyond.
The longer this reality isn’t faced, the more likely it is that Ethiopia will face famine, a wider and more intractable armed conflict, deeper economic crisis, relapse into populist autocracy, and far-reaching investigations of war crimes. Isseyas’s silent war is bringing this closer. He is comfortable with that.
The case against cash
Maybe cash rules everything around me, but cash shouldn’t rule me; and the only way to achieve that is to change the business model of surveillance capitalism. This might seem to be a task far beyond the scope of humanitarian organisations; but who better to ring the alarm about the dangers of extending permanent surveillance to vulnerable communities than those organisations who claim to work on their behalf?As you can see from the Tweets below, Paul Currion's piece for the New Humanitarian has sparked a great discussion on Twitter-which has actually become a bit of a rarity on #ICT4D/#globaldev Twitter...
Financial surveillance is dangerous fully agreeed. But it is paternalistic to decide on behalf of vulnerable people whether they should participate in the global financial system or not. You and I get to decide. Why shouldn’t they? Focus on consent not on making choices for them— Paula Gil Baizan (@chicledeuva) February 24, 2021
Are we really having a debate about whether concern over putative digital harms justifies (a) cutting off lifesaving assistance to millions of people and (b) denying vulnerable people access something we all choose for ourselves on a daily basis "for their own good"? Yuck https://t.co/J8hiQ79fVk— Sophie Tholstrup (@sophietholstrup) February 24, 2021
During Lockdown, a Failure to Protect the Vulnerable Young
I don’t think sector is taking it seriously enough at all. We are taking it more seriously than we did five years ago, let alone ten. I rate current progress as MOSTLY SERIOUS. TRULY SERIOUS would look like the following (Thread Alert 🚨): 1) Minimum technical standards for ICTs https://t.co/qPq5gznR57— Nathaniel Raymond (@nattyray11) February 24, 2021
Claire’s trauma came indirectly from the lockdown’s economic impact. Like many Ugandans during the pandemic, her family struggled. Her mother had no work, and the family barely had enough food, Claire says.Patricia Lindiro with more excellent, important reporting for Global Press Journal, this time from Uganda.
To help with expenses, Claire sold water from a neighborhood tap. One afternoon, her boss, who also owned a bar, told Claire to serve beer to a man who was a stranger to the girl. The boss left the two alone.
“What if?” Questions with answers for a paradigm shift in the Aid System
Self-sufficiency and sovereignty would be the focus of humanitarian and development work. Northern and southern practitioners would work together and combine their strength and resources to build stronger ecosystems and a more balanced and sustainable global environment as they broke age-old cycles of aid dependency. Global North institutions would draw out exit plans that would include progressive transfers of power and resources to Global South institutions. Mutual accountability and transparency would be the norm in all initiatives.Marie-Rose Romain Murphy for the CDA Collective.
And Aid, Aid… would (finally!) be about ending Aid…
Why United Nations peace operations cannot ignore climate change
The UN Security Council cannot ignore climate change and its impacts on UN peace operations. Not only do operations need to better inform the Security Council about the climate-related security risks they face, but the Security Council needs urgently to identify what additional measures, authorities or partnerships are required in order to properly plan for and address climate-related security risks in mission contexts.Florian Krampe for SIPRI on how the climate crisis will impact many more (all?) aspects of UN work.
As a feminist who once believed in the work of UN Women, I was disturbed by the training manual and its contents. The vast ambit of the War on Terror and its capacity to infect everything is well-known, but this manual proves that even women’s empowerment must be defined in the securitized lingo of this never-ending conflict. Then there is the racism woven into the content; despite the fact that this report is produced by UN Women Europe and Central Asia, there is no mention at all of the white supremacist terror that is growing at an alarming rate. Aligning women’s empowerment with a security-state agenda connected to fighting terror ignores the latter’s political dimensions. Opposition to that agenda immediately becomes opposition to women’s empowerment.Rafia Zakaria for the Baffler UN Women's training manual Women in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism.
The Whiteness Conference
Christine Mungai for Adi Magazine with a powerful, poetic essay.
The courage to write
We recall a conversation with a good friend working on an aid project recently who said “we are always walking a tightrope, trying not to offend the host country or the ‘development partner’ we are working for….development work is a gig economy and you can’t afford to burn bridges.”Gordon Peake & Julia Bergin for DevPolicy Blog introduce the latest issue of their podcast and talk about aid worker writing, a genre close to my heart & research.
One of the ‘cutting room floor’ conversations we had with Tom sought to probe just why aid workers were so reticent to put thoughts down on paper. Gordon began by asking him whether he’d been marched into the aid-equivalent of the principal’s office and given a ticking off.
‘Right now I’m into Libyan reggae’: the music label delving into the Arab world's back catalogue
Since 2015, the label has put out a stream of fascinating releases that fit Stürtz’s loose definition of “organic sounds we like” – “local influences brought together with something coming from outside” – including Sudanese jazz, Algerian soundtrack music, Tunisian disco, Arabic funk and, in the case of its forthcoming release by Rogér Fakhr, what sounds like a Lebanese take on yacht rock.Alexis Petridis for the Guardian with a great project that delves into lesser known musical archives...
Our digital lives
LAUNCH: Decoding #DigitalDemocracy in Africa
The issue deals with shift from techno-optimism to the techno-pessimism, as what was once thought of as “liberation technology” proved to be remarkably compatible with the maintenance of the status quo.Nic Cheeseman & Lisa Garbe with a fantastic collection of blog posts & articles for Democracy in Africa!
Many of the articles demonstrate that disappointment at the lack of the revolutionary change masks a set of more subtle transformations – but also highlight how much more we need to know about the impact of digital technology on the continent … and vice versa.
The American dream is now in Denmark
In real life, contrary to the Hollywood tale, kids are more likely to achieve the American dream in Denmark than in America. America is not a beacon to the world on how to run an economy. Scandinavia has a much more impressive economic record than the US and is much more innovative. Sorry, my American friends — we’re not just fairer than you. We’re doing better by being so.Anand Giridharadas talks to Djaffar Shalchi for his Substack newsletter.
I still do philanthropy, but I know that it is no solution. You know, the thrill of seeing your nameplate on one school or a hundred schools is pretty empty in the end, compared to the thrill that we will all feel when every child in the world goes to a good school. Philanthropy is just so unambitious.
Four countries, one Clubhouse
Joey Akan, a Nigerian culture journalist and the founder of the music newsletter Afrobeats Intelligence, used Clubhouse to start a club with the same name that now has almost 4,000 followers. “The focus has been trying to create an audio experience for people who love music by bringing celebrities into the house, educating participants, having fan-based conversations, getting takes on the music they are listening to, and reviews on old projects,” said Akan. “It is just bringing the community together.”Andrew Deck & Sultan Quadri for Rest of World; you can still be skeptical about Clubhouse, but this article gives you a hint of diverse discussions are around the world.
Other Nigerians are using Clubhouse to talk about issues that are rarely brought up anywhere elsewhere. Queer Nigeria, for example is a club for LGBTQ+ people in the country that has over 1,000 followers.
Why Transparency Won’t Save Us
the real bottleneck is not information or technology, but power: the legal, political and economic pressure necessary to compel companies like Facebook to produce information and to act on it. We see this all too clearly when ordinary people do take up this labour of transparency, and attempt to hold technological systems accountable.Sun-ha Hong for the Centre for International Governance Innovation; I really like the tagline of the article: "The public is burdened with duties it cannot possibly fulfill: to read every terms of service, understand every complex case of algorithmic harm, fact-check every piece of news".
When transparency is compromised by the concentration of power, it is often the vulnerable who are asked to make up the difference — and then to pay the price.
Knowing Women-Same-Sex Intimacy, Gender, and Identity in Postcolonial Ghana
Based on in-depth research of the life histories of women in the region, Serena O. Dankwa highlights the vibrancy of everyday same-sex intimacies that have not been captured in a globally pervasive language of sexual identity. Paying close attention to the women's practices of self-reference, Dankwa refers to them as 'knowing women' in a way that both distinguishes them from, and relates them to categories such as lesbian or supi, a Ghanaian term for female friend.Serena Owusua Dankwa with a fantastic new open access book from Cambridge University Press!
Knowledge and Science Advice during and after COVID-19: Re-Imagining Notions of ‘Expertise’ for Postnormal Times
The paper argues that this narrowness has wider consequences for addressing global challenges. In this context we assert that the COVID-19 pandemic as most immediate and urgent crisis is merely the most recent manifestation of historic, continuous and contiguous crises of modernity that are now becoming ever more extreme. This raises urgent challenges for questioning whose knowledge counts, who gets to speak, who is spoken for, and with what consequences, in the creation and implementation of expert-driven ‘evidence-based policy’.Maru Mormina, Julia Schoeneberg & Lata Narayanaswamy with a new open access paper on SSRN.
Strengthening Women’s Inclusion in Social Accountability Initiatives
This Policy Briefing focuses on how and what factors prove effective in strengthening women’s voice in processes holding public service providers accountable. We argue that initiatives must: (a) build technical and other forms of capacity amongst women; (b) change formal rules on women’s inclusion; (c) apply political economy analysis to unpack power dynamics, identify actors in favour of gender equality, and build a network in support of women; and (d) make long-term funding commitments for sustainable change in gender-biased norms.Sohela Nazneen & Maria Fernanda Silva Olivares with a new IDS paper.
What a COST Action Network on ‘Decolonising Development’ can (and cannot) achieve
In terms of ‘development’ research, we will scrutinize the geopolitics of ‘development’ knowledge and ask whose knowledge is seen as relevant concerning solutions to pressing global problems. Why are we at all making the distinction between local and global knowledges? And why are Development Studies still concerned with poverty only in certain parts of the world? What can we learn from Non-Western concepts, epistemologies, even ontologies?Julia Schöneberg & Juan Telleria introduce a new project on decolonizing development (studies).
In the area of ‘development’ teaching it seems urgent to unveil how (development studies) curricula and teaching remains dominated by Eurocentric perspectives and narratives. What does ‘decolonising’ practically mean in Western institutions of Higher Education and beyond tokenistic diversification of syllabi? Most importantly, how can we integrate the question of positionality in teaching without resorting to paralysis or deterministic conceptions of identity?
What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 185, 03 June 2016)
How to avoid awful panel discussions? Organize and attend fewer events!
Why not curate five great recorded presentations, blog posts or op-eds on the topic on your website instead-and being explicit about not wanting to organize a new event for the sake of it?Me on one of my pet peeves, the global academic-industrial conferencing industry which I'm pretty sure will be back with a vengeance in 2022...
In the meantime, the academic conference summer season is about to start and thousands of people will spend millions of dollars traveling around the globe because of the rituals of academic self-affirmation: I present, therefore I am...
Surprise! Fishermen Using Mobile Phones for Market Prices is the Largest Lie in ICT4D
A Critique of the Claims About Mobile Phones and Kerala Fisherman shows that the fisherman using mobile phones for market prices myth must be buried and forgotten – except to serve as an example of how research in complex social systems should not be conducted.Wayan Vota on one of those persistent ICT4D myths...