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Hi all,

This week contains a few deja vu moments about aid cuts (UK), conflict & the periphery (Sudan), revolutions & digital tools (Myanmar), child sponsorship (has impact, still not the stuff for 21st century #globaldev...) & even Louise Linton makes a re-appearance...plus lots of food for thought for debates on decolonization & more!

Enjoy!

My quotes of the week

Amid the heartbreak, the sight of a tall, silent man carrying a grimy pink bassinet slung around his neck with tiny twin girls would still bring out the kindness of strangers, even from the ethnicity targeting them.

(
'Look after my babies': In Ethiopia, a Tigray family's quest)

What I was unpacking in actuality, was the notion of decoloniality — an aspiration to restore, renew, elevate, rediscover, acknowledge and validate the multiplicity of lives, lived-experiences, culture and knowledge of indigenous people, people of colour, and colonised people as well as to decenter hetere/cis-normativity, gender hierarchies and racial privilege.
(Decolonial Humanitarian Digital Governance)

In hindsight, looking back at our PhD journeys, we wish we could have more overtly challenged the structures that produced and implemented inequalities and injustices, the apparatus that was ‘doing the developing’ – both in academia and in ‘the field’ – and the historical traces on which it was built.

(Why Positionalities Matter and What They Have to do with Knowledge Production)


Development news
NGOs dismiss 'shocking' UK claim that 'no one is going hungry' over aid cuts

NGOs have dismissed a claim made Thursday by U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab that “no one is going hungry because we haven’t signed checks” as “shocking” and “simply not true.”
Aid organizations are still grappling with funding uncertainty — despite being weeks into a new financial year — and have said they are gravely concerned about the impact their programs will feel from U.K. aid cuts, including in Syria, Yemen, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Will Worley for DevEx with updates about the #globaldev debates in UK politics.
Humanitarian system not listening to people in crises, says UN aid chief
In the speech, seen by the Guardian, he will call for increased funding for vital UN services that are overstretched and argue that millions of people are still being helped despite the severe funding shortages.
However, he will also call for the appointment of an independent commission to make aid agencies accountable. The commission would be tasked with listening to people in crisis and grading the quality of agencies’ work.
Patrick Wintour for the Guardian; humanitarian aid is underfunded, of course, but if 'listening to people' is such a neglected aspect of aid work then why didn't Lowcock do more during his 4 year-long tenure?

'Look after my babies': In Ethiopia, a Tigray family's quest

Five months after it began, the armed conflict in Ethiopia has turned into what witnesses describe as a campaign to destroy the Tigrayan minority. Thousands of families have been shattered, fleeing their homes, starved, murdered or still searching for each other across a region of some 6 million people.
Amid the heartbreak, the sight of a tall, silent man carrying a grimy pink bassinet slung around his neck with tiny twin girls would still bring out the kindness of strangers, even from the ethnicity targeting them.

Cara Anna for AP with a long-read from Ethiopia that puts names and stories on yet another 'humanitarian crisis'...

In Darfur’s rebel-held mountains, the war is far from over
While aid groups have traditionally focused their activities on the dozens of sprawling displacement camps dotted across urban areas in Darfur, “more now needs to go to places that have no services at all”, Spalton said.
In recent months, aid groups including UNICEF have stepped up assessments and relief work in the mountains – reaching some villages for the first time in over a decade – but “there is masses to do”, Spalton added.
(...)
Travelling to villages, Spalton said he was also “shocked” by the number of people suffering from spina bifida, a spinal birth defect that could be significantly reduced if pregnant women had access to basic supplements.
Assistance is also needed for the thousands of Jebel Marra residents who continue to flee violence in the mountains – much of it caused by dissident SLA-AW commanders opposed to Abdul Wahid’s and Gaddura’s controversial leadership.
Philip Kleinfeld & Mohammed Amin for the New Humanitarian travel to the periphery of Sudan and return with difficult, nuanced insights into the meaning of 'war' and 'peace'...

The battle for Myanmar plays out on Twitter, TikTok and Telegram
However, the constant threat of military surveillance of internet data and social media content has led many people to use tools like Virtual Private Network (VPN) apps, encrypted messaging services and anonymous browsers in order to communicate and post content without fear of detection or arrest.
Ole Tangen Jr. for Deutsche Welle; I'm not entirely happy with the headline given that a real battle with real dead people takes place in the streets. The article is a bit more nuanced with some insights into media development work supporting activists, but I'm always a bit hesitant when images of an 'Myanmar spring' are invoked. The military regime will not step down because of TikTok pressure!

Humanitarian resistance and military dictatorship
Either they can hold firm to principled humanitarian action and engage with the junta as classical humanitarians to try to save as many lives as they can during the military dictatorship. This will earn the scorn of many people in Myanmar’s democratic movement but may be understood, and even respected, if these agencies can genuinely deliver practical support and save lives. But principled humanitarian action will see these agencies pressured into rotten compromises and thwarted in their mandates and ambitions, made to endure the usual ‘race to the bottom’ of what is possible under the control of a dictatorship with very different principles.
Alternatively, Western humanitarians can adopt a strategy of humanitarian resistance which takes sides against repression, actively supports the democratic movement and tries to save as many lives as possible through the non-state networks that will develop in the months and years ahead. This will, of course, make them the outright enemies of the junta and its allies, and involve a largely clandestine and subversive approach that challenges the power of dictatorship.
Hugo Slim for the Humanitarian Practice Network with additional insights into difficult humanitarian approaches in Myanmar.

Nauru: riches to rags to riches

Nauru is still very vulnerable, however. Today, the country faces two main economic risks: one, a fall in tuna prices; the other, a decision by Australia to stop funding its little-used RPC. Although Nauru does now have a trust fund to provide a risk buffer, you can see from Figure 3 that it has spent most of its boom-time revenue. The savings accumulated in Nauru’s trust fund so far will only fund about one-third of one year’s budget.
Nauru needs to save more, and in the meantime hope that fish prices stay high and that Australia keeps paying for its largely empty Regional Processing Centre. Otherwise, Nauru’s second stint as a high-income country may be, like the first, only temporary.
Stephen Howes & Sherman Surandiran for the DevPolicy Blog with the fascinating #globaldev (hi)story of a small island...

It’s time to end aid agency child sponsorship schemes
It is within the power of INGOs who run such programmes to vigorously explore new fundraising initiatives to connect and support wide-ranging locally led programmes developed in the Global South. It is time for the computer clicks on that vulnerable little boy behind the “Choose Me” slogan to fade into the history of a former time.
Carol Sherman for the New Humanitarian review one of the most problematic forms of contemporary #globaldev engagement: Child sponsorship. Child sponsorship does have a positive impact, as new (but paywalled) research confirms (Developing educational and vocational aspirations through international child sponsorship: Evidence from Kenya, Indonesia, and Mexico); the authors also published an earlier paper (also paywalled) with positive results. But despite these positive effects, the model is more questionable than ever as we are discussing 'decolonization', localization & undoing traditional power relations + representations in #globaldev.
Amnesty International has culture of white privilege, report finds
Amnesty International has a culture of white privilege with incidents of overt racism including senior staff using the N-word and micro-aggressive behaviour such as the touching of black colleagues’ hair, according to an internal review into its secretariat. It came as eight current and former employees of Amnesty International UK (AIUK) described their own experiences of racial discrimination and issued a statement calling on senior figures to stand down.
Nazia Parveen for the Guardian on Amnesty International UK's toxic culture.

Decolonial Humanitarian Digital Governance

What I was unpacking in actuality, was the notion of decoloniality — an aspiration to restore, renew, elevate, rediscover, acknowledge and validate the multiplicity of lives, lived-experiences, culture and knowledge of indigenous people, people of colour, and colonised people as well as to decenter hetere/cis-normativity, gender hierarchies and racial privilege. I think of this as how do we exist in plurality — in a multiverse so to speak. And to include this in governance, not as a tokenistic or virtue-signalling flag, but rather to help us consider different lenses, perspectives, sources of truth in even how we think about what is right, what is fair and what is just.
Aarathi Krishnan for Berkman Klein Center with excellent food for thought on what 'decolonization' can mean in humanitarian contexts.

When well-meaning white women refuse to call out white supremacy
Not only do we want to avoid offending him, we want to avoid offending anyone. We don’t want to draw the ire of social media, nor do we want to make a White Mistake™ in public. So, we default to private conversations, such as the one my boss had with the board chair, where all parties remain unaccountable to the people the behavior really damages.
Now, there are certainly places for private conversations, and lord knows I’ve benefitted from people walking me through racism in private. But private conversations have their limits, because it requires the perpetrator’s express permission to occur. This means anything, or anyone, deemed too challenging by him can be shut out of the conversation. It’s honestly a pretty weak way to make change, if that’s even what you’re after.
Allison Carney on LinkedIn on what anti-racist work should mean in the realities of the US philanthropical sector, but with implications far beyond that.

Decolonising Development: Putting Life at the Centre
Once contexts and groups are marked as ‘fragile’ within the development discourse, those groups and contexts become reified as definitionally ‘fragile,’ fixed in a political position of powerlessness and lack of agency and designated as ‘in need of protection’ or ‘empowerment’. All the power belongs to the state, international development agencies and their experts that are now supposed to offer them protection and advocacy. Such paternalistic and colonial moves tend to underestimate, or actively efface, modes of political agency and resistance that emerge within ‘fragile’ contexts. Further, these moves also expand biopolitical forms of regulation and control. When such development strategies abound, development (western) interventions and experts posit themselves as not fragile, self-sufficient, immune, invulnerable, if not impermeable, and without any such needs of protection. Therefore, when fragility is understood as something to be defeated, overcome, characterizes a form of thinking that models itself on mastery. In order to counter this untenable framework, the duality fragile and stability have to be understood as politically produced, unequally distributed through and by a differential operation of power.
Gisela Carrasco-Miró for E-International Relations; this long essay-a transcript of her lecture-also has a lot to offer on challenging #globaldev discourses...

Understanding development in a Global Value Chain World: Comparative Advantage or Monopoly Capital Theory?

Trading for Development in the Age of Global Value Chains’ political bias disables serious analysis of the anti-developmental dynamics generated by and through GVCs. However, it provides empirical evidence that contradicts the confident predictions derived from its ideological position. In a way, WDR2020 makes it easier to argue what many critical GVC theorists have been asserting for the last two decades – that the GVC world concentrates wealth, represses supplier firm incomes, and creates many bad jobs.
Benjamin Selwyn & Dara Leyden for Developing Economics read the World Development Report 2020 & turned it on its head/feet...

Our digital lives
“I wanted to buy a marine aquarium”: Why people around the world are flocking to OnlyFans
Ris now makes more than enough to live comfortably from OnlyFans, but getting there required a great deal of time and investment. At first, when she was living at home with her parents and siblings, the most she could provide subscribers was often the equivalent of a bathroom selfie. “As my platform grew, I finally saved enough money to move out,” she said. “I was able to take more videos, more pictures, and I was able to make noise.” Ris said she now makes five figures every month but declined to specify an exact amount.
Vittoria Elliott for Rest of World with a global look at OnlyFans & the opportunities for female creators and complexities of being part of a glocal platform economy that knows very few winners...
App-Based Jobs Emerge as Battleground for Workplace Safety in Georgia
Human Rights Watch has documented elsewhere how some app-based employers fail to pay living wages, a trend that may now be emerging in Georgia. The strikers also raised a concern that the combination of shrinking perorder fees and ambitious bonus targets impacts workplace safety, an issue Georgian workers have long struggled with, outside the app-based economy.
Jeff Vize for Human Rights Watch continues the critical discussion on platform-/app-economies that find new markets everywhere, e.g. Georgia...

Publications
Coronavirus Politics: The Comparative Politics and Policy of COVID-19
(The) Editors bring together over 30 authors versed in politics and the health issues in order to understand the health policy decisions, the public health interventions, the social policy decisions, their interactions, and the reasons. The book's coverage is global, with a wide range of key and exemplary countries, and contains a mixture of comparative, thematic, and templated country studies. All go beyond reporting and monitoring to develop explanations that draw on the authors' expertise while engaging in structured conversations across the book.
Scott L. Greer, Elizabeth J. King, Elize Massard da Fonseca & André Peralta-Santos with new edited open access volume for University of Michigan Press.

Academia

Why Positionalities Matter and What They Have to do with Knowledge Production
In hindsight, looking back at our PhD journeys, we wish we could have more overtly challenged the structures that produced and implemented inequalities and injustices, the apparatus that was ‘doing the developing’ – both in academia and in ‘the field’ – and the historical traces on which it was built.
Julia Schöneberg, Arda Bilgen & Aftab Nasir for EADI with great reflections on the challenges of decolonizing the PhD experience; I recently blogged about this issue here as well: The difficult path to meaningful & decolonized PhDs in Development Studies

What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 192, 22 July 2016)
In Congo’s Shadow (book review)
Welcome to Africa a place of ‘local opportunists’, ‘primitive’ countries and ‘pigeon-like’ people who are ready for ‘snatching and stealing’ (and we are only on page 45).
My review of Louise Linton's book remains one of my all-time favorite endeavors on this blog...

Where are the ladies, Didier Fassin? #EASA2016 Keynote
Evidently I have further entirely overlooked other forms of discrimination that our scholarly community undoubtedly embodies, importantly among them issues of race. Suffice it to say that, as the participant profiles of EASA2016 testify, at present we hold a dangerously close resemblance to the loathed imperial project that our discipline once embodied…
Miia Halme-Tuomisaari for AllegraLab; at least on the discursive level, debates on female scholarship, feminism & all sorts of 'decolonization' have gained some momentum in academia during the last 5 years...

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