Links & Contents I Liked 397
I will keep it short this week: It's Friday & I survived another week reasonably well ;)!
As we are about to celebrate Women's Day on Monday, I want to highlight some of the posts that feature powerful women in the US, Zambia, Uganda & India making a difference as candidates for UN leadership, rideshare drivers or mental health counselors; important research on mental health & gender-based violence in humanitarian responses & great reporting from female journalists from West Africa to Canada round off this week's edition!
My quotes of the week
The deaths represent a huge loss of culture for indigenous communities, in which much traditional knowledge is passed down from generation to generation in conversations, indigenous representatives said.
"Our elders are guardians of traditions, custodians of wisdom, advisors and holders of unique spiritual knowledge," (...) "To see them go is, in a way, to witness another aspect of the destruction of our people."
(Lost 'libraries': Brazil's indigenous people lament COVID deaths of elders)
But my neighbors are very happy and proud of me. They love me so much. I’ve appeared on television and in the newspaper so many times, but my husband’s mentality is that I’m a woman, so I have to listen to him.
My next plan is to learn to drive a truck. I have this itch to sit behind a big steering wheel. I have never seen a woman in Kolkata drive a bus or a truck, and I want to learn it because it’s something only men do. (For Indian women, rideshare apps are a lifeline)
The Job of the World’s Top Humanitarian Official Is Open. Will a Briton Get the Post Again?
It is hard to argue from this history that successive British governments have always been motivated to put forward the best qualified of their nationals for the role in question, if they had a domestic personnel problem to be solved. Notably, only one of the six appointees since Urquhart has been a woman. All have come directly from careers in national government, as has been the case with the nominees of the other four permanent members. Whatever the qualities of politicians and government servants, they are hardly the only skills and experience required for senior professional posts in the world’s leading multilateral organization.The next UN humanitarian chief should be picked on merit
All sectors – from sport to business – are waking up to a revived decolonisation movement that recognises that the world has for too long privileged a powerful few. The UN should not perpetuate such injustice. If it is to reaffirm “the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small”, as stated in the UN Charter, it should lead the charge for a more just and equal world. And its member states must allow it to do so.Who Is Arora Akanksha, the 34-Year-Old Running for U.N. Secretary General?
Not widely known outside her workplace, Ms. Arora has committed a number of head-turning firsts.Ian Martin for PassBlue, the New Humanitarian & Rick Gladstone for the New York Times on various aspects of upcoming UN leadership discussions & need to re-think appointments of top positions within the UN system.
She is the first person known to officially challenge an incumbent seeking a second term, and the first millennial-generation candidate. And if she prevailed, Ms. Arora would be the first woman to lead the United Nations — a precedent nearly achieved in 2016, when seven prominent women were in the running with Mr. Guterres.
The biggest Yemen donor nobody has heard of
HELP! What words/expressions we use in the aid/humanitarian/development sector that are completely normalised but completely inappropriate? I am compiling a list. My examples include: beneficiaries, field, mission, deployment, etc.— Tammam Aloudat تمّام العودات (@Tammamo) February 28, 2021
Despite its anticipated spending power, there has been no public announcement about the Famine Relief Fund, and, according to emails seen by TNH, it has until recently been conducting business on the personal Gmail accounts of its management. The domain name faminerelieffund.org was set up on 16 February, but the website is not yet up and running. All of this makes the fund “a bit mysterious”, according to a senior UN official, who insisted on anonymity due to the ongoing negotiations.Ben Parker & Annie Slemrod for the New Humanitarian on the strange case of the intransparencies around the new Yemen Famine Relief Fund.
Several other humanitarian officials, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the fact that there are so many unknowns – including the fund’s structure, oversight, and who is on the staff beyond Collins, Ging, and Keny-Guyer – has made them wary.
"It's unclear why funding is being spent through such an elaborate construct instead of funding the [UN-coordinated] response directly,” said one senior NGO official.
Lost 'libraries': Brazil's indigenous people lament COVID deaths of elders
The deaths represent a huge loss of culture for indigenous communities, in which much traditional knowledge is passed down from generation to generation in conversations, indigenous representatives said.Fabio Teixeira for Thomson Reuters Foundation News; unfortunately, sacrificing indigenous elders seems more to be a feature rather than a bug in Brazil's non-existing Covid response...
"Our elders are guardians of traditions, custodians of wisdom, advisors and holders of unique spiritual knowledge," said Nara Baré, coordinator of COIAB, the largest umbrella group for Brazil's Amazon indigenous tribes.
"To see them go is, in a way, to witness another aspect of the destruction of our people."
British American Tobacco Fights Dirty In West Africa
Aaaaaaaand now with the spelling mistakes straightened out. Well done King Doofus here... pic.twitter.com/Lb1nHJG1WU— Jack Hurley (@loudribs) February 25, 2021
Stashed inside pickup trucks and guarded by armed militias and jihadists, every year billions of illicit cigarettes wind their way through the lawless deserts of northern Mali bound for the Sahel and North Africa.Aisha Kehoe Down, Gaston Sawadogo & Tom Stocks for OCCRP with a detailed investigation into the dirty business of global tobacco.
The profits from their long journey fuel north Mali’s many armed conflicts, lining the pockets of offshoots of al-Qaida and the so-called Islamic State (IS) group, as well as local militias, and corrupt state and military officials. This violence is now spilling out across West Africa, displacing more than two million people in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, and Niger.
Cigarettes made by one of the world’s largest tobacco companies, British American Tobacco (BAT) and distributed with the help of another major, Imperial Brands, through a company partially owned by the Malian state, dominate this dirty and dangerous trade.
Now an investigation by OCCRP can show this is no accident.
Trudeau government backpedals on investigating human rights complaints against mining companies
Human rights advocates say there are a number of communities, including Indigenous groups, around the world that allege they are suffering similar abuses linked to Canadian companies from sectors that include the mining and garment industries.Jasmine Pazzano for Global News with story on another deeply corrupted global industry...
But allegations of this nature rarely get formally investigated in Canada.
In 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government announced it would create a new watchdog that would have powers to investigate the overseas activities of Canadian companies, including the ability to force them to respond to questions and turn over evidence.
But it later scaled back those plans following an “onslaught of mining industry lobbying that got them to change their minds,” said Emily Dwyer, the coordinator of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (the CNCA), which represents a group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), churches, trade unions and other civil society organizations.
‘It's radical’: the Ugandan city built on solar, shea butter and people power
THE CROWN DECLASSIFIED --— Declassified UK (@declassifiedUK) February 27, 2021
Read @pmillerinfo's groundbreaking four-part series on how the UK royals have met the tyrannical monarchies in the Gulf 217 times since the Arab Spring, how they bolster them and help sell them arms.
Thread - please retweet https://t.co/YaOKLPeubK pic.twitter.com/B5y3soRmrh
Now, just outside Ojok Okello’s living-room door, final-year pupils at the early childhood centre are noisily breaking for recess and a market is clattering into life, as is the local craft brewery, as what has become Okere City begins a new day.Caleb Okereke for the Guardian on a different kind of 'model town' in Uganda.
“I think what I’m doing here is radical,” says Okello, who is behind an ambitious project to transform the destroyed village of 4,000 people into a thriving and sustainable town.
Okere City began in January 2019. Its 200 hectares (500 acres) feature a school, a health clinic, a village bank and a community hall that also serves as a cinema, a church and a nightclub.
Electricity is available to all, generated from solar energy – a rarity in the region – and far from the many outbreaks of cholera which were rampant years ago, there is now clean water from a borehole.
Pupils at the school pay half their fees in cash, and the rest in maize, beans, sugar and firewood. The clinic lets people pay their bills in instalments. The local security man wields a spear, an unusual sight in an area where many men idle around as women shoulder most of the paid and unpaid work.
‘Do-it-yourself development’: the world of citizen aid and what to do about it
A common theme of do-it-yourself development is what Fechter calls the ‘logic of the one’: if we can just change one person’s life, then it will all be worth it, etc. But what if we could just change two people’s lives with the same resources, if we were a bit more sensitive of the local community’s priorities, a bit better at measuring our impact, and collaborated a bit more with others working towards similar goals? Like it or not, citizen aid is not going to disappear but is rather growing in importance. The least that the development community can do is overcome our qualms, and at least try to engage and improve its impact on the people it is trying to help.Seb Rumsby for fp2p argues for better DIY #globaldev approaches.
Removing Obstacles to Mental Health Care — Over the Phone
The practice, in which patients talk with a counselor on the phone, is still in its infancy in Zambia. But if it takes hold, it could transform mental health treatment in this south-central African country by vastly broadening access to counseling and by allowing patients to get help without suffering stigma.Prudence Phiri for Global Press Journal with a great 'solution journalism' piece from Zambia.
Cashless cash: financial inclusion or surveillance humanitarianism?
Is it realistic or ethical to pause digital payments in humanitarian programmes? Can we really afford the human and financial cost of forgoing proven lifesaving assistance or of reverting to in-kind, which can be less effective? Do we need more regulation, or a plan B?Pierrick Devidal for ICRC Humanitarian Law & Policy with a good overview over the current 'to cash, or not to cash' humanitarian debate.
These are existential questions, because they relate to trust in humanitarian action. And the new oil is not data; it is trust. We invite our fellow humanitarians, States, the private sector and, most importantly, affected people, to join us in the conversation.
Is Hollywood ready to stop stereotyping Africa?
As well as spending more time in "Africa" than in the first film, Coming 2 America also boasts stronger female roles and actors native to the continent, such as Nomzamo Mbatha and Trevor Noah, who were both born in South Africa. Meanwhile the writing team (which this time includes an African-American writer, Black-ish creator Kenya Barris, alongside the original white screenwriters, Barry W Blaustein, and David Sheffield) have obviously tried to give Zamunda more depth by including more details of the African society and how it's governed. Unfortunately, these details paint the kingdom as a regressive one, in which women can't own businesses and male-only royalty is obligatory. "It sounds as though Zamunda could come to stand in for 'Africa' as a homogenous entity," says Dovey, "And I worry that such ideas will simply translate into the re-confirmation of stereotypes about the African continent that aren't true."David Jesudason for the BBC reviews the Prince of Zamunda sequel & asks some broader questions about Hollywood's relationship with 'Africa' which is slowly changing, but often falls victim to Hollywood's globalizing power of simplifications-not just of African countries & their peoples...
Africa on Africa
How do African media outlets portray politics, economics, and cultural life in their own countries and in the broader region? Aanu Adeoye (The Continent), Moky Makura (Africa No Filter), and Yinka Adegoke (Rest of World) join Judd Devermont for a lively discussion on how increased media coverage on Africa and a focus on human-interest stories can foster unity and drive continental potential.The latest podcast from the Center for Strategic & International Studies' Into Africa series sounds very interesting!
RINGO Project’s First Research Report – Voices From the South
The Re-imagining INGO (RINGO) initiative is designed to reassess the purpose, roles and delivery mechanisms of international NGOs and the impact on the global civil society ecosystem. The RINGO approach is dedicated to capturing the views and engaging civil society in the global south that have worked with international NGOs. The approach consists of three components: Research, Community Building and Prototype Design and Testing.The Rights CoLab report is also on my reading list.
Our digital lives
For Indian women, rideshare apps are a lifeline
Nothing makes me happier than driving, but my husband has a huge problem with it. He believes driving is a man’s job. Even after five years, he says, “The cooking work was better. We had less money, but I was happier with it.” Once, a female customer’s late-night flight was delayed, and I got home late. My husband started a fight; he accused me of cheating. He beat me up. He was arrested for it a few hours later. The police told him that he couldn’t take away my right to work just because he’s my husband.Chandni Doulatramani for Rest of World with a great, nuanced feature that should be part of your next #ICT4D reading list!
But my neighbors are very happy and proud of me. They love me so much. I’ve appeared on television and in the newspaper so many times, but my husband’s mentality is that I’m a woman, so I have to listen to him. My next plan is to learn to drive a truck. I have this itch to sit behind a big steering wheel. I have never seen a woman in Kolkata drive a bus or a truck, and I want to learn it because it’s something only men do.
Mayday: How the White Helmets and James Le Mesurier got pulled into a deadly battle for truth
James Le Mesurier was a man who lived several lives. He was a soldier, he was a Middle East traveller and an island dweller, a father and a husband and he was a humanitarian. And, like the people of Syria, he was a victim of disinformation.Chloe Hadjimatheou for BBC News with a long-read on the founder of Syria's 'White Helmets'.
Californians on universal basic income paid off debt and got full-time jobs
The researchers said that the extra $500 per month was enough for people with part-time jobs to take time off so they could interview for full-time jobs that offered better pay. They also said the money could have helped people who weren’t working at all find jobs by allowing them to pay for transportation to interviews.A universal basic income or higher minimum wages are not 'the solutions', but all the trials highlight that planning with a bit more money can change people's life quickly and sustainably...
After a year of getting the money, 62% of the people were paying off debt compared to 52% before the study. Researchers also said most people moved from being likely to have mild mental health disorders to “likely mental wellness”.
A key focus throughout this issue is on the need to move beyond thinking about gender as a ‘women’s’ issue to take account of the ways that gender is a structuring concept which impacts all and has complex and intersectional effects. The focus on sexual violence against men in two of the pieces is a timely reminder to think about the gendered nature of violence and the gendered nature of humanitarian responses to it. Catherine Akurut reviews the current literature on conflict-related sexual violence against men, importantly calling into question the ways in which the humanitarian sector has responded. She invites us to consider how programming designed for women who have experienced conflict-related sexual violence has been extended to men and what the limitations of this approach might be.Róisín Read introduces a great new issue of the open access Journal of Humanitarian Affairs.
Creative tensions in the framing of MHPSS
The tensions and challenges involved in the development over recent decades of the field of practice now known as mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) will continue to shape questions of implementation, prioritisation and impact.Alastair Ager introduces a new issue of the open access Forced Migration Review.
Water Conflicts and Cooperation: a Media Handbook
This handbook is for journalists, researchers and policy makers that are interested in working on science communication for water peace and cooperation and that are searching for ideas and inspiration. It features descriptions and reflections of the activities (action research, training modules, joint workshops, reporting grants, podcast, online photo campaign...) implemented by Open Water Diplomacy project in the Nile basin, and in the new international basins identified under the top-up activities on capacity development, as well as activities in the field of media and water diplomacy implemented by other actors.Rasha Dewedar for CABI with a new open access book.
Voices of the Land: Indigenous Design and Planning from the Prairies
Voices of the Land features 16 Indigenous students, representing a range of nations across Turtle Island, and spanning all four departments (Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Interior Design, and City Planning) from the Faculty of Architecture. In it, you will read profiles of our members, along with their artistic visions and designs.Naomi Ratte & Reanna Merasty for University of Manitoba News with a great new resource on indigenous design thinking & doing.
What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 186, 10 June 2016)
A job at UN HQ? Goodbye principles and philanthropy, hello power and privilege!
You learn to recruit people who will not threaten you: the mediocre, those who soon wise up to the rules of the game. Occasionally, you allow yourself the luxury of an original thinker, someone capable of shaking things up the little that is needed to make a couple of the older bosses fall out of their places, allowing you to get a higher post. Sometimes you pick on someone who is stepping out of line, who thinks things can be done differently – better – and make an example of her. Because you can. You’re a fear-maker, now. Unaccountable.This post from the Guardian is a bit of Schrödinger's view of the UN: It's totally correct, yet utterly wrong at the same time...
And you realise there was a higher plan all along: maintaining the status quo. It’s just you weren’t among the powerful ones who knew about it. But you are now, and nobody is going to move you off. There’s no retirement age for bosses at the UN, you know.