Links & Contents I Liked 402
It feels good to be back after a short break (actually, I managed to write two new posts since my last review); the decolonized, diversified & localized 'future of aid' has not happened in the meantime as this week's articles remind us...but we are working on it :) !
My quotes of the week
When I look at the work of the UNDP I no longer see a project aimed at changing the world and ending underdevelopment. Instead, I now see a political project aimed at perpetuating an evolutionist, Eurocentric and liberal way of understanding the world, showing as natural and universal something that is rooted in British liberal thought of the apogee of the colonial period. (Looking at the UNDP with different eyes)
Amid all these flaws in efforts to promote governance, the result is something like “governance theater”. Tellingly, “governance” is always someone else’s problem to solve, never the speaker’s responsibility. The elites in Paris, Washington, Niamey, Ouagadougou, and Bamako may or may not be fooling each other – but when Western governments harp on “good governance” and “the return of the state” while pouring money into counterterrorism and rejecting accountability even for their own abuses and mistakes, and when Sahelian governments lament “mauvaise gouvernance” while appointing their own children to top posts and locking up journalists, much of the governance discourse begins to seem meaningless.
(The Hollowness of “Governance Talk” in and about the Sahel)
We need a Localization Index that puts homegrown initiatives in charge of evaluating localization efforts – and forces international donors to put their money where their mouth is. National NGOs should define the benchmarks of localization success based on what they see as priorities, and they should anonymously rate how individual international organizations are doing in meeting them. Donors should only fund international NGOs or UN organizations with a good-enough rating. At the very least, there should be an automated mechanism that pegs international organizations’ overhead percentages to their Localization Index ratings. (Sharing the keys to the localization house)
New from aidnography
Celebrating the International Humanitarian Studies Association's first newsletter anniversary-A few reflections on curating humanitarian content
A few reflections on curating humanitarian content & the limits of virtual knowledge repositoriesWhat a comedian in blackface says about German media, prevailing racism & ignoring colonial histories
My colleagues of the International Humanitarian Studies Association (IHSA) encouraged me to share a few thoughts on the occasion of their first anniversary of IHSA's curated newsletter.
On the surface this is just another incident of “satire” gone wrong: Helmut Schleich, a German comedian with a monthly show on Bavarian public broadcaster BR (part of the ARD network of publicly funded broadcaster in Germany) recently showed up in blackface.Development news
As his alter ego Maxwell Strauss he portrayed the illegitimate son of Franz Josef Strauss who had turned into an African dictator of the fictitious “People's Republic of Mbongalo”. So far, so bad.
Whistleblowers detail new Oxfam misconduct allegations in Iraq
The Iraq claims, coming hot on the heels of misconduct allegations in Congo earlier this month, point to persistent and enduring questions around the transparency of Oxfam’s dealings with its staff, the whistleblowers said.Paisley Dodds for the New Humanitarian with more bad news for Oxfam...
“What happens in Iraq, stays in Iraq,” one whistleblower who spoke with The New Humanitarian recalled a senior manager saying on learning that misconduct allegations had been raised. The former Oxfam worker alleged that the aid charity turned a blind eye to the manager’s behaviour for years because the person had been successful at raising donor funds. Two others said they also heard the manager use the same phrase.
Aid agencies can be harmful, says Somaliland tycoon
Aid agencies are hindering development and undermining efforts to attract investment in Somaliland, according to a former World Bank and UN official turned entrepreneur.Sarah Johnson for the Guardian; perhaps this time it will be different, but a philanthrocapitalist promising to eradicate #globaldev with an app sounds all too familiar...
“Thanks to technology, we can now do something that was unthinkable in the past. With our app, someone can reach functional literacy in 50 to 100 hours.”
Young Burmese activists are broadcasting anti-coup messages on pirate radio
Federal FM Radio is planning for that scenario. Its low-tech approach has the great advantage that it is hard to block without physically locating the equipment. They are currently raising money from donors to try to acquire more transmitters so that they can set up alternative sites around the country, increasing the range of their broadcasts and making the organization harder to dismantle.Peter Guest for Rest of World with a great story of resistance broadcasting from Myanmar.
Could COVAX be used as a test case to demand more aid accountability in South Sudan?
A more accountable vaccine distribution programme won’t cure all aid ills, but it could be a start in shifting expectations. If a government is unwilling to meet accountability requirements or fails to do so in practice, vaccine supplies can be redirected to somewhere that will.Elizabeth Shackelford for the New Humanitarian; I don't want to say 'No', but I'm a natural skeptic when it comes to 'this time things will really change in #globaldev'...
If the international community fails to start taking small but meaningful steps to improve accountability in aid, many target countries will remain on the hamster wheel of aid dependence.
As the international community factors in various criteria in the COVAX distribution plan, prioritising accountability could not only help prevent unnecessary waste of a precious resource, but it could also play a small part in reimagining aid.
One reasonable criticism of this approach could be that it simply might not work, that leverage won’t be effective against corrupt governments that have long since ignored the pleas to instill accountability in the absence of effective checks on corruption.
How has Covid changed the picture on Aid/Development Jobs?
Students’ positionalities will continue to be the biggest determinant of their career prospects. Early career opportunities are concentrated in the global north. This is not to say one cannot find a way in elsewhere, but the competition is arguably fiercer and the paths opaquer. My knowledge of routes in is also largely limited to my own and immediate colleagues’ experiences.Tom Kirk for fp2p; the post re-shares a lot of relevant, interesting, but also well-discussed aspects of #globaldev careers (Me in 2017: The privilege of giving career advice in international development). I also understand the political economy aspect that you can't really tell LSE students who paid a ton of money for their degree that it won't work out...
The sector’s swing towards fragile and conflict affected states will likely endure, as will debates over what to do about poverty in middle-income countries, the localisation agenda, #AidToo and the political causes of underdevelopment. There are also two ongoing blurrings: firstly, between humanitarian and development activities, sometimes called the ‘nexus’; secondly, between the types of ‘developmental’ activities and programmes implemented by states and civil society organisations in their own back yards, and those implemented elsewhere. Here, I’m thinking of everything from cash transfer and digital ID programmes to participatory democracy and accountability and transparency initiatives. Across all of this, evidence, results, and value for money will continue to be championed by aid donors and generate jobs for geeky graduates.
Ethical shoe brand Toms hopes to find its footing with Gen Z
Ethical shoe brand Toms hit the big time by making shoppers feel good about buying shoes as it donated a pair of its canvas espadrilles every time it banked a sale. But then consumers stopped buying.Zoe Wood for the Guardian; I don't want to bash a brand for the sake of it, but in the TOMS didn't exactly change the world and the quotes from the CEO are very much PR plastic speak...I guess shopping/consuming will not lead to social change after all...
Now the US brand is on the comeback trail with a different profit-sharing setup and a new image. A chunky soled version of its slip-ons, aimed at Gen Z-ers cool enough to wear them with their socks pulled up, will hit thshops this summer.Toms’ “one-for-one” shoe-giving promise, where it worked with humanitarian organisations to give a pair to children in poverty, has been replaced with a commitment to give a third of its profits to non-profit grassroots organisations
The Hollowness of “Governance Talk” in and about the Sahel
Amid all these flaws in efforts to promote governance, the result is something like “governance theater”. Tellingly, “governance” is always someone else’s problem to solve, never the speaker’s responsibility. The elites in Paris, Washington, Niamey, Ouagadougou, and Bamako may or may not be fooling each other – but when Western governments harp on “good governance” and “the return of the state” while pouring money into counterterrorism and rejecting accountability even for their own abuses and mistakes, and when Sahelian governments lament “mauvaise gouvernance” while appointing their own children to top posts and locking up journalists, much of the governance discourse begins to seem meaningless. When actors talk about a “crisis of governance”, then the first questions to ask are what they mean, and how they benefit from the vagueness of that slogan.Alex Thurston for ISPI takes on the 'good governance' discourse.
Looking at the UNDP with different eyes
Personally, I was very surprised to see how clearly the UNDP’s proposals were linked to the social evolutionism of the period of the rise of the British Empire and to the modernisation theories of almost a century ago. That is why, as I explained at the beginning, I often remember that moment when, reading Geertz, something changed the way I conceptualise human beings. Thanks to that moment, when I look at the work of the UNDP I no longer see a project aimed at changing the world and ending underdevelopment. Instead, I now see a political project aimed at perpetuating an evolutionist, Eurocentric and liberal way of understanding the world, showing as natural and universal something that is rooted in British liberal thought of the apogee of the colonial period.Juan Telleria for Convivial Thinking with a great preview into his book on how to deconstruct the human development 2030 discourse.
Sharing the keys to the localization house
We need a Localization Index that puts homegrown initiatives in charge of evaluating localization efforts – and forces international donors to put their money where their mouth is. National NGOs should define the benchmarks of localization success based on what they see as priorities, and they should anonymously rate how individual international organizations are doing in meeting them. Donors should only fund international NGOs or UN organizations with a good-enough rating. At the very least, there should be an automated mechanism that pegs international organizations’ overhead percentages to their Localization Index ratings.Oheneba Boateng & Claudia Meier for the CDA Collaborative introduce a great idea to develop an aid localization index.
#globaldev practitioners in the Global South! We are looking for testimonials/experiences in white saviourism for a book co-edited with my colleagues @MaikaSondarjee and @KanaDixon. Please circulate to your local networks esp in Latin America, South Asia, MENA and Asia-Pacific. pic.twitter.com/q3U6Uc3YcA— Themrise Khan (@themrise) April 15, 2021
CharitySoWhite: The charity sector needs an urgent spring clean of its hollow anti-racism work
These sector-wide problems are created by those with power, and leaders must confront their own culpability.#CharitySoWhite for Third Sector & the ongoing discussion on how to decolonize #globaldev.
There is no audit or investigation that could identify just one point of failure, as organisational cultures are reinforced over years. Upper and middle management only have eyes on these issues when oppressed groups quit –– leaving behind their unacknowledged and unpaid critical work.
If organisations truly believe their racial equity statements, they need to face, embrace and heal from these failings.
When chief executives step down amid allegations of racism, discrimination, misconduct, or abuse, those headhunted to step up often share similar leadership styles.
Recruiting agencies must recognise their complicity in ushering toxic leaders between organisations, and prioritise the safety and wellbeing of staff by ending this practice.
Diversity and Humanitarian Negotiation
As the interview and survey results suggest, a negotiator’s profile—including identityReem Alsalem & Rob Grace for Deakin University's Humanitarian Leader with a great new paper that adds another important dimension to the diversity debates.
characteristics and past professional experiences—can shape counterparts’
perceptions of humanitarian negotiators; fuel humanitarians’ own biases and stereotypes of their interlocutors; and feed into challenging internal organisational dynamics, as humanitarian organisations seek to promote diversity and foster inclusion and belonging among staff.
The Development Impact Blog turns 10: we celebrate with a new logo!
One of my favorite World Bank projects is turning 10 & is still a great platform for communicating #globaldev!
Storytelling for Impact
Storytelling for Impact is the podcast about people who tell stories that change the world. Every month, we hear from remarkable people who tell stories to drive social and environmental change, from humanitarian photographers to war correspondents, investigative journalists to NGO storytellers.Susannah Birkwood hosts another interesting podcast for the #globaldev community.
How the British Empire Built the Food System that Is Destroying the Planet
The linking of high-status food to high status individuals took gendered as well as racialised forms by the early twentieth century. Otter shows that the common notion that women needed less protein and therefore less meat than men was justified by a repeated misunderstanding of the backbreaking intensiveness of unpaid domestic labour. Our global food system emerged in the British imperial world of the nineteenth century and continues to reproduce its inequalities with terrible consequences for the environment. Modern food production is, of course, not the only driver of the climate crisis, but its damage is undeniable.Sam Wetherell for Tribune with a great review essay on British imperialism, food & the climate crisis!
Entertainment-Education Behind the Scenes
The realities of working in the field and the rigid structures of scholarly evaluation often act as barriers to honest accounts of entertainment-education practice. In this collection of essays, experienced practitioners offer unique insight into how entertainment-education works and present a balanced view of its potential pitfalls.Lauren B. Frank & Paul Falzone with a new edited open access book for Palgrave.
What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 191, 15 July 2016)
The academic obsession to write about #Brexit
First of all, once it has become clear that the UK will not actually leave the EU we may ask ourselves how we should/could react (differently) to events in a mediatized, viral world. We are caught between a rock and a hard place-doomed if we buy into the media machinery too quickly, doomed if we leave digital space all too easily to ‘the other side’.Yep, a blog archive is also a good reminder about the things you got wrong over time...sadly very wrong indeed...
Girls of the global South can’t fix the world alone
In the case of Pakistan, for instance, we can begin by acknowledging the political and economic conditions that make the lives of girls and their families precarious. This would include advocating for living wages rather than simply ‘jobs’. It would involve protesting the exploitation of the country’s natural resources and its people by transnational capital. It would call for legal measures to provide safe working environments, and holding the Pakistani state accountable for re-investing in the enervated social service sectors. Ending the rampant corruption among the political elite, as demonstrated by the recent charges of money-laundering against the prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s family, would also help girls because it would help Pakistan. Not coincidentally, it is Sharif’s daughter who is leading USAID’s Let Girls Learn project in the country. As long as attention remains on girls, instead of elite corruption and exploitation, the revenue streams for the Sharif family remain open.Shenila Khoja-Moolji for Aeon with a powerful reminder that focusing #globaldev on girls is often not addressing root causes of inequalities...
Slave to the algorithm
Algorithmic humanitarianism doesn't have to be apocalyptic for the humanitarian sector, but only if we invest in ensuring that our algorithms reflect our values. That means that rather than be overtaken by software companies, we may need to become software companies – otherwise our lack of computer literacy means that the coding is going to be left to the hyperactive imagination of the hackathon.Paul Currion for the New Humanitarian...who you wish was wrong as well, I guess...
The end result could be much worse than just overhyped, underperforming, and outright bullshit mobile apps; it could be a hollow humanitarianism, its essential humanity discounted by machines of loving grace.
Life-Hacks of the Poor and Aimless
The ideology of wellbeing may be exploitative, and the tendency of the left to fetishize despair is understandable, but it is not acceptable—and if we waste energy hating ourselves, nothing’s ever going to change. If hope is too hard to manage, the least we can do is take basic care of ourselves. On my greyest days, I remind myself of the words of the poet and activist Audre Lorde, who knew a thing or two about survival in an inhuman world, and wrote that self care “is not self-indulgence—it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”Laurie Penny for the Baffler; her article also still rings very true these days...