Links & Contents I Liked 404
From Argentina to Zimbabwe & from Bangladesh to the Philippines this week's review also covers stories from India, Myanmar, Germany, UK and the US.
Stay safe & well and enjoy your reading!
My quotes of the week
The system has not collapsed. The “system” barely existed. The government – this one, as well as the Congress government that preceded it – deliberately dismantled what little medical infrastructure there was. This is what happens when a pandemic hits a country with an almost nonexistent public healthcare system. (...). The resources that remain in the public sector are systematically siphoned into the private sector by a nexus of corrupt administrators and medical practitioners, corrupt referrals and insurance rackets. (‘We are witnessing a crime against humanity’: Arundhati Roy on India’s Covid catastrophe)
Most participants said they did not feel engaged in consultations and decision-making processes. Some said only Mahjis or volunteers are consulted, while others said that they were sometimes consulted but their opinions were not taken into consideration. (...). Participants also noted that literate people, people with specific roles (imams), and older males are consulted, while illiterate people, younger people, and women and girls are not. (Our Thoughts-Rohingya share their experiences and recommendations)
my four years in the industry, I could not count the number of new call
center employees who broke down when they were called names and shouted
at by Westerners on the phone. Veterans consoled them by telling them
to pull themselves together, to not take it personally. The queue was
too long; there was no time for drama. Some stuck around and grew immune
to verbal abuse over time. Others just quit before their second shift. (The everyday racism of offshore call centers)
‘We are witnessing a crime against humanity’: Arundhati Roy on India’s Covid catastrophe
The system has not collapsed. The “system” barely existed. The government – this one, as well as the Congress government that preceded it – deliberately dismantled what little medical infrastructure there was. This is what happens when a pandemic hits a country with an almost nonexistent public healthcare system. India spends about 1.25% of its gross domestic product on health, far lower than most countries in the world, even the poorest ones. Even that figure is thought to be inflated, because things that are important but do not strictly qualify as healthcare have been slipped into it. So the real figure is estimated to be more like 0.34%. The tragedy is that in this devastatingly poor country, as a 2016 Lancet study shows, 78% of the healthcare in urban areas and 71% in rural areas is now handled by the private sector. The resources that remain in the public sector are systematically siphoned into the private sector by a nexus of corrupt administrators and medical practitioners, corrupt referrals and insurance rackets.Arundhati Roy with her long-read for the Guardian.
Healthcare is a fundamental right. The private sector will not cater to starving, sick, dying people who don’t have money. This massive privatisation of India’s healthcare is a crime.The system hasn’t collapsed. The government has failed.
‘Devastating for women and girls’: UK cuts 85% in aid to UN family planning
The agency confirmed on Wednesday that the UK, its largest donor, is cutting funding for contraceptives and reproductive health supplies by 85% this year – from £154m to £23m – and cutting core funding from £20m to £8m.Liz Ford for the Guardian; more bad news on UK's #globaldev cuts even though I'm always a bit uneasy with translating them directly into numbers such a unintended pregnancies.
UNFPA said the £130m that has been withheld would have helped prevent a quarter of a million child and maternal deaths, 14.6 million unintended pregnancies and 4.3 million unsafe abortions.
Germany first to hand back Benin bronzes looted by British
Jürgen Zimmerer, a historian of colonialism at Hamburg University, was more critical, saying the government’s announcement amounted to a face-saving exercise rather than an emphatic gesture appropriate to the historic context.Philip Oltermann for the Guardian with an update on Germany's engagement with stolen artefacts.
“Instead of unconditionally committing itself to returning all looted art, there is only vague talk of a substantial part”, said Zimmerer. “How this part is determined, and by whom, is left unsaid.”
Oxfam misconduct allegations don't mean we're not taking action: CEO
For me, the development sector at its best has been at the vanguard of social change. But if we are to make a real and lasting difference in a world in which poverty and inequality are on the rise – in which injustice and insecurity run rife – then we cannot shy away from turning the spotlight on ourselves.Danny Sriskandarajah for the New Humanitarian; as much as Oxfam is rightly in the spotlight at the moment, the question remains whether 'the sector' is focusing too much on one organization and perhaps not always for the right reasons (to improve #globaldev accountability, but to weaken a critical civil society organization...).
At Oxfam, we will listen to those who are critical of our performance as well as those who recognise the progress we have made.
We have learned much about how to make our lifesaving work safer in the last few years. But we know that despite significant progress we will always have more to learn and more to do.
Drought-hit California moves to halt Nestlé from taking millions of gallons of water
California water officials have moved to stop Nestlé from siphoning millions of gallons of water out of California’s San Bernardino forest, which it bottles and sells as Arrowhead brand water, as drought conditions worsen across the state.Maanvi Singh for the Guardian with this week's story on 'don't trust large multinationals or fall for their CSR efforts'...
The draft cease-and-desist order, which still requires approval from the California Water Resources Control Board, is the latest development in a protracted battle between the bottled water company and local environmentalists, who for years have accused Nestlé of draining water supplies at the expense of local communities and ecosystems.
Nestlé has maintained that its rights to California spring water date back to 1865. But a 2017 investigation found that Nestlé was taking far more than its share. Last year the company drew out about 58m gallons, far surpassing the 2.3m gallons a year it could validly claim, according to the report.
When Naomi Hossain and Ismail Ferdous collaborated onIsmail Ferdous & Naomi Hossain for Prothom Alo combine visual communication and academic #globaldev analysis for an excellent photo essay on the aftermath of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013.
an essay about the photography of Rana Plaza, they raised questions about the horrors of poverty and suffering, but also poignantly brought forward the bravery, solidarity, and incredible kindness, amid the pain and suffering
A New Front in the Fight for Reproductive Rights
Women who use the mental health system are also sometimes forced to use birth control pills or contraceptive implants, says Macarena Sabin Paz, a psychologist and coordinator of the mental health team at the Center for Legal and Social Studies, a human rights organization.Lucila Pellettieri for Global Press Journal with a report from Argentina.
“Sexual rights, reproductive rights and the right to not reproduce are still a utopia inside of mental health institutions,” she says.
China Says It Has Ended Poverty. Is That True?
But a central issue in Qixingguan and other rural regions remains the lack of high-paying jobs, which are still overwhelmingly concentrated in China's coastal cities. Authorities are prioritizing rural employment and say this year, they are aiming to employ 30 million of the 100 million people they say they've newly brought out of poverty.Emily Feng for NPR Goats & Soda with some much-needed nuanced on the complexities of the simplified 'China has lifted X million people out of poverty' narratives.
"Shifting poor people into cities can also be a way of reducing rural poverty, but it can come at the cost of increased urban poverty," says John Donaldson, an assistant professor at Singapore Management University who has written a book on anti-poverty efforts in Guizhou.
Then and Now: 25 years of aid accountability
Once defined as “the responsible use of power”, accountability still skews heavily towards those who pay. While aid agencies have to be answerable to donors, they rarely are – at least in any meaningful way – to their end clients: the so-called “beneficiaries” of their services.Jessica Alexander for the New Humanitarian continues the excellent 'Then and Now' series.
But momentum for change is building, and this timeline charts the progress of initiatives both on the ground and in policy spheres to put “people at the centre of aid” – one of several slogans in the ever-changing terminology. We also track the limitations of accountability efforts, which to some, appear to have achieved “rhetorical rather than real results”.
Why is internal advocacy within our own organizations so hard?
Organise lunchtime talks and webinars: even with little attendance, they give your topic visibility, and allow engaging with those asking questions.Duncan Green for fp2p on how to pull off internal momentum for a new/interesting/important topic.
Create curiosity: “People don’t like to be told”. Curiosity is highest for something we don’t already know (too obvious), but that is linked to something you already know (you feel that you ought to know about it) – find some gaps in knowledge.
With people in more senior positions: they have to feel like “it was their idea all along” (true that, I once got Save the Kids to fund me to write a book on Latin America by convincing the relevant budget holder it was their idea – it was surprisingly easy!)
Don’t copy bosses in emails: building trust is more important than exerting pressure.
Capturing Dambudzo Marechera: A review of Flora Veit-Wild’s memoir
For all their interest in Marxism and decolonisation, when the Wilds visit the colossal estate of a white Zimbabwean farmer and friend, they remain silent about “the unethical conditions under which his labourers lived.” Rather than grappling with how her silence sustains racial inequality, Veit-Wild projects guilt onto Black people themselves, arguing that “those freedom fighters whom we had supported had some of the historical guilt on their side.” Uneasy in a Black-majority country by Veit-Wild’s own admission, the Wilds move around all-white friendship circles. Black people enter their home only as servants — that is, until Veit-Wild meets Marechera.Marzia Milazzo's book review for the Mail & Guardian turned out to be a great essay on historical legacies of 'white saviorism' in Zimbabwe.
Voices from around the World
Carnegie Corporation of New York and its grantees have been part of this growth, with the Corporation’s International Peace and Security program in recent years steering additional support toward podcasts that highlight important voices and topics on international peace and security.Carnegie Corporation with an overview over their numerous podcast projects.
Our digital lives
The everyday racism of offshore call centers
During my four years in the industry, I could not count the number of new call center employees who broke down when they were called names and shouted at by Westerners on the phone. Veterans consoled them by telling them to pull themselves together, to not take it personally. The queue was too long; there was no time for drama. Some stuck around and grew immune to verbal abuse over time. Others just quit before their second shift. Colloquially, call center agents are called bagong bayaning puyat, which translates to “tired modern Filipino heroes.” We are also called zombies because of our hours. I would leave the house for work just as my family was getting ready to go to bed. When my shift ended, I’d walk outside and be blinded by the sun. Then, I would go home to sleep, only to wake up, bathe, and return to the call center. My life revolved around sleeping and working.Arnel F. Murga for Rest of World with powerful insights into the call center industry in the Philippines which reminded me of similar traumatic experiences in the platform content moderation industry.
The War over Work
The most vivid moments in this book come from this: from the cleaner reminded by an employer and ‘friend’ mid-way through an argument ‘you clean my toilet!’ to the tube workers told by concession operators to write an inspirational quote on the board by the ticket gates every day – something they’d previously done of their own volition for fun. These are snapshots of ‘the jobification of everyday life’, where the divide between paid labour and leisure is forcibly erased.Owen Hatherley for Tribune with a great book review essay!
Evaluation of the prevention, response and victim support efforts against sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations Secretariat staff and related personnel
Efforts to ensure criminal accountability for crimes of sexual exploitation and abuse (e.g. rape) for officials and experts on mission through referral by the United Nations were mostly unsuccessful. For uniformed personnel, sanctions were imposed by troop-and police-contributing countries in 10 out of 22 cases; these ranged from 40 days to five years of imprisonment. Regarding non-United Nations forces, none of the national proceedings for the 23 reported cases led to any sanctions.The victims’ rights approach in addressing sexual exploitation and abuse was regarded as highly relevant by stakeholders, and made progress in one mission, but was yet to be fully operationalized. Support provided to victims was generally insufficient. The impact of projects funded by the trust fund in support of victims of sexual exploitation and abuse was visible in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, although most projects funded were delayed, focused largely on community outreach and were not directly related to the “individual needs” of victims of sexual exploitation and abuse. A $600,000 payment withheld from troop-and police-contributing countries for substantiated allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse was yet to be transferred to the trust fund.A new report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services is well-hidden in the UN's document archives...
Our Thoughts-Rohingya share their experiences and recommendations
Most participants said they did not feel engaged in consultations and decision-making processes. Some said only Mahjis or volunteers are consulted, while others said that they were sometimes consulted but their opinions were not taken into consideration. People may feel this way because they do not receive follow-up about the impact of the consultations they engaged in. Participants also noted that literate people, people with specific roles (imams), and older males are consulted, while illiterate people, younger people, and women and girls are not.ACAPS with another excellent report both in terms of the participatory methodology & important findings!
Taxing the Informal Economy is not a Silver Bullet for Financing Development – or the Covid-19 Recovery
In this context ‘taxing the informal economy’, or ‘broadening the tax net’, have become popular talking points. This brief explores why attempts to tax the informal economy typically result in only limited revenue, with the cost of collection often being higher than revenue raised.Max Gallien, Vanessa van den Boogaard & Mick Moore for the International Centre for Tax & Development with a new report.
Aesthetics of Gentrification
how do contemporary creative practices in art, architecture, and related fields help to produce or resist gentrification? What does gentrification look and feel like in specific sites and communities around the globe, and how is that appearance or feeling implicated in promoting stylized renewal to a privileged public? In what ways do the aesthetics of gentrification express contested conditions of migration and mobility? Addressing these questions, this book examines the relationship between aesthetics and gentrification in contemporary cities from multiple, comparative, global, and transnational perspectives.Christoph Lindner & Gerard Sandoval with a new edited collection open access collection for Amsterdam University Press.
Open letter to international funders of science and development in Africa
Recently there was an announcement of a US$30 million grant awarded to the nonprofit health organization PATH by the US government’s President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI). The grant funded a consortium of seven institutions in the USA, the UK and Australia to support African countries in the improved use of data for decision-making in malaria control and elimination.Ngozi A. Erondu, Ifeyinwa Aniebo, Catherine Kyobutungi, Janet Midega, Emelda Okiro & Fredros Okumu for Nature with a reminder that besides all the good news about the progress towards a malaria vaccine the old scientific dynamics of how gets to line up for the Nobel prize still persist...
Not one African institution was named in the press release. The past year has been full of calls from staff and collaborators of various public-health entities for equality and inclusion, so one might imagine that such a partnership to support Africa should be led from Africa by African scientists, partnering with Western institutions where appropriate, especially where capacity has been demonstrated.
A Foucauldian Reading of the Global Compact for Migration
Overall, this chapter does not pretend to be an exhaustive analysis of the GCM, but an attempt to use governmentality to underline the power dynamics disguised by the human rights discourse of protection. It wants to problematize the assumed neutrality of the process of naming and bring to the foreground the political agenda behind labelling and the use of categories such as ‘migrant’ or ‘refugee’, which the compact assumes to be state-dependent. In other words, through the GCM, the state emerges as legitimate to make claims about who gets to be named what and how. Using both Foucault and contemporary scholarship that finds in his work a productive point of inquiry, this chapter unpacks the ways in which, in the GCM, migration re-emerges as a problem to be managed.Anna Closas Casasampera for E-International Relations with an excerpt from a forthcoming book.
What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 193, 29 July 2016)
As the Rio 2016 Olympic Games kick off-12 suggestions for stereotypical global media stories
As the Olympic Games in Rio are about to kick off, global media will once again have an opportunity to combine fairly apolitical reporting with some of the usually stories that are supposed to bring the host city closer to their home audience.I had already forgotten about this post and this year's Olympics will be all about the pandemic, of course, but some of the stereotypical ways of reporting from 'the South' are still very much alive...
If companies profit by doing good, why aren't they all doing it?
There is indeed evidence that sometimes, maybe even often, the right thing is also the profitable thing. But often, cutting corners, ignoring standards, trampling on communities, polluting, screwing the consumer and working staff into the ground can be profitable too. I am beginning to wonder how useful it is to keep repeating the mantra that it is in a company’s interests to do the right thing. It displays a certain naivety.Jonathan Glennie for the Guardian with one of those 'things haven't really changed in 5 years' posts...
Nearby, but far away: Why aid doesn't make it from Baghdad to refugee camp
While the United States is the biggest donor to chronically underfunded UN humanitarian agencies, other countries have called on it to dramatically increase the contribution to reflect its role in the war in Iraq and the subsequent fighting that has displaced millions of Iraqis.Jane Arraf for the Christian Science Monitor; if you replace 'Iraq' with 'Yemen' or 'Syria' the article would still be fairly accurate today, unfortunately...
Grande says the humanitarian assistance plan for Mosul, the IS stronghold in northern Iraq, could be the biggest humanitarian effort in the world this year. Depending on the severity of fighting and length of the battle for the city, planners are expected between 300,000 and one million people to be displaced by the fighting.