Links & Contents I Liked 405

Hi all, 

When I was compiling this week's post I deleted/excluded more articles than I usually do; a long read on the terrible impact of Assad's air force on civilians, an essay on racism that call center workers in the Philippines encounter & all the notes on the impact that the cuts of the UK's #globaldev budget will have. And there are Colombia, Myanmar or India, of course. I am not ignoring these stories, but I opted for a mix between critical insights, positive stories & including other formats, including architecture from Senegal, a poem from South Sudan & a literary essay focusing on Kenya. There is still space for more musings on decolonization, but also great open access book recommendations on Bulgaria, Finland & global education!

Enjoy!

My quotes of the week
Write that crime novel. Write that romance novel. Write that weird ‘Amos Tutuola-style’ epic that weaves sheng’ or pidgin in with English or French and takes the reader on a fantastic journey. Write it.
Your stories are important just as they are. Me, I’m a huge nerd—the biggest. I love ideas. So, I write nerdy African books and articles about ideas because it’s what I know, and it has never steered me wrong. Write as yourself and write what you know.

(‘Write As Yourself and Write What You Know.’)

I was wondering: how can people who had lived such boring lives, mostly in one or two countries, with the knowledge of at most two languages, having read only the literature in one language, having travelled only from one campus to another, and perhaps from one hiking resort to another, have meaningful things to say about social sciences with all their fights, corruption, struggles, wars, betrayals and cheating. Had they been physicists or chemists, it would not matter. You do not have to lead an interesting life in order to understand how atoms move, but perhaps you do need it to understand what moves humans
(Non-exemplary lives)

Development news

UK cuts grants for small aid charities to save ‘less than cost of No 10 press room’

Neil Heslop, the chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said: “Small UK charities stepped up brilliantly to support British values at home and abroad in the face of the pandemic. Aid cuts at this level risk permanent damage to dozens of international development charities and their delivery of life-saving programmes for the poorest … Without support, vital services will go and lives will be lost.”
An FCDO spokesperson said: “The seismic impact of the pandemic on the UK economy has forced us to take tough but necessary decisions, including temporarily reducing the overall amount we spend on aid.
Jo Griffin for the Guardian; as I wrote before, the cuts in #globaldev funding are happening because of ideology & spite, not because of any real budgetary issues...

Child marriage traps girls in an inescapable legal hell. But it is still legal in 46 US states.

"This didn't happen to me in a far-off country," said Patricia Abatemarco, 55, who was 14 and pregnant when her parents married her off to the 28-year-old Bible study counselor who had been raping her for two years. "I was raised in an upper-middle-class, suburban home in Minnesota."
Fraidy Reiss for Business Insider; I really don't like to use the term 'Third World America', but sometimes it captures the persistence of harmful social norms & oudates cultural + legal practices in the US quite adequately...

The U.N. Takes Aim At A 'Silent Epidemic' — Drowning
Drowning deaths are disproportionately distributed around the globe. According to the "Global Report on Drowning," issued by the World Health Organization in 2014, over 90% of drowning deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. The report also states that the drowning rates in low- and middle-income countries are nearly 3.5 times higher than in high-income countries.
Emily Vaughn for NPR Goats & Soda; this reminds me of the discussions around road safety & traffic accidents that also kill a lot of people disproportionally around the globe.

Plunging Dollar Pushes Education Out of Reach
A lanky, reserved 15-year-old, Mardochée should be in ninth grade. He used to attend a private school, like most Haitian children do, and his godmother on the Caribbean island of St. Martin sent money to help with tuition. But in November, when schools reopened after a hiatus, he couldn’t afford to go back. The pandemic had eroded his godmother’s income – and the United States dollars she could send were suddenly worth less.
Much of the Haitian economy runs on dollars. That’s partly because Haiti depends more than almost any other nation on money sent from overseas. Remittances constitute about one-third of the country’s gross domestic product, and the vast majority come from the U.S.
Anne Myriam Bolivar for Global Press Journal with a story from Haiti & a glimpse into the post-pandemic inequalities that will push many people back into poverty...

These female African content creators are using TikTok for more than just dance videos

Although meant to elicit laughter, Esther’s skits are veiled in satire, exposing how lawmakers reduce serious sessions meant to deliberate issues affecting citizens into “sleepiest” and trivialized small talk inundated by sideshows.
(...)
These women are perhaps the pioneers in showing another side of TikTok that most of us don’t get to see. They are demonstrating that this platform can and might become the Twitter of its generation – a medium for discussion about pertinent issues, in ways that prompt real-life action and change.
Njeri Wangari for GlobalVoices; whenever there is a new social media platform there is a window for new forms of digital activism-and TikTok is no exception...but after many failed 'Twitter revolutions' we need to be careful about the power for social change that comes through these platforms (especially if they are based in China...).

At this elegant new hospital, the doctors were the designers

One of the designers invited to participate was Manuel Herz, who has worked in Africa for years. “When I started to participate in the competition, I had my doubts, to be frank,” Herz says. “Is it correct for me as an architect based in Basel or any of the other architects participating in this competition to provide a design quote-unquote-solution for a region they had never really been to, for doctors and patients they had never spoken to, for a context that they are very unfamiliar with?”
Instead of proposing a design, Herz proposed a design process. He and Weber traveled to Tambacounda so that Herz could speak directly with the doctors, medical staff, patients, and local officials. After a few weeks of research he returned to his studio. A few months later, he returned to the hospital to present his plans, and the local governor held a meeting with the entire staff to review Herz’s design.
Nate Berg for Fast Company with a good example of how deeply ingrained colonial power dynamics still are in the art & design world & how even little changes in perspectives can create more participatory & inclusive outcomes.

More ticking of boxes won’t make aid more accountable

Pivoting programmes in response to feedback remains difficult. Humanitarian actors often say they can’t adjust their services to fit what they learn from people, because their headquarters and donors don’t easily allow them to. As well as listening to the communities in need, aid agencies should listen carefully to humanitarian colleagues on the ground and trust them to adapt programmes to people’s priority needs.
National and local agencies can’t afford to put proper accountability systems in place because donors and intermediary agencies strip overhead costs from budgets. They usually only want to pay direct costs of service delivery. Let national and local agencies develop their own accountability capacities.
Dorothea Hilhorst for the New Humanitarian on humanitarian accountability.

Decolonisation and localisation: new dawn or old history?

But how deep do the current changes go? The reality is that despite all the new activities, the essential structure of the international humanitarian system is unchanging. Indeed, the architecture has been largely unchanged for decades and many people take the view that power and control is securely locked into its very structure. The lion’s share of traceable funding comes from about ten bilateral and multi-lateral donors, and half of this goes to UN agencies. Most of the rest is shared between the large international NGOs and the Red Cross/Crescent Movement. Despite aspirations at the World Humanitarian Summit, direct funding to local agencies remains low.
(...)
All of this adds up to a complicated and partly contradictory picture. Locally-led initiatives are happening in the gaps created by external shocks, but the essential architecture is inherently locked with few incentives to modify or adapt. Although the system continues to save many lives, it can be characterised by a kind of ‘functioning inertia’ which is resistant to transformative improvements.
John Mitchell for ALNAP with a sobering look at current humanitarian debates...

‘Write As Yourself and Write What You Know.’
But I’ve found that if you put aside the desire to be seen and just write from an authentic place of wanting to tell stories you know and that you think the world might profit from hearing, it will take you a long way, even in nonfiction.
Write that crime novel. Write that romance novel. Write that weird ‘Amos Tutuola-style’ epic that weaves sheng’ or pidgin in with English or French and takes the reader on a fantastic journey. Write it.
Your stories are important just as they are. Me, I’m a huge nerd—the biggest. I love ideas. So, I write nerdy African books and articles about ideas because it’s what I know, and it has never steered me wrong. Write as yourself and write what you know.
Nanjala Nyabola talks to the Republic & it is immensily entertaining :)

Perspectives on Feminist Peace

Go back
I knew she’d say so
Though I hoped she would embrace me and say
Enough is enough
Go back for he paid 300 cows
Go back for your family’s reputation
Go back for your child’s sake
Go back for you cannot be unmarried
300 cows is my Freedom
Freedom!
Did I ever have that in the first place?
The only difference in my father’s house and husband’s house is
I am My Mother now
My mother who is the first to wake and last to sleep
My mother whose body toils from doing ‘Nothing’My mother who gets a slap for a thank you
My mother whose bed is cold for the younger is Ideal
My mother who defines love as my father beating her
My mother who is to be seen and not heard
My mother who never realized she holds the key to unlock the chain that binds her.
My mother
You, I cannot be
For being you is my daughter cursing the day her menses start
For being you is my daughter dropping out of school one day
For being you is my daughter in fear of being married off to a rich old man
For being you is my daughter being concerned for only having daughters?
For being you is my daughter wishing she was a boy
300 cows
They made Freedom So Cheap


This first edition of the Feminist Peace Series provides various understanding of Feminist Peace with perspectives from practitioners, partners and colleagues in the field of peace building.

Women's International Peace Centre with a great new magazine/publication!

Publications

Socially Responsible Higher Education

Is the university contributing to our global crises or does it offer stories of hope? Much recent debate about higher education has focussed upon rankings, quality, financing and student mobility. The COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, the calls for decolonisation, the persistence of gender violence, the rise of authoritarian nationalism, and the challenge of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals have taken on new urgency and given rise to larger questions about the social relevance of higher education.
Budd L. Hall & Rajesh Tandon with a new edited open access book from Brill.

The Institutional Context of Humanitarian Helping in Contemporary Italy

Today, the interface for “helping”brings together government legislation, state bodies, for-profit organizations, nonprofit organizations, the church,and individuals.To begin to understand the interface of humanitarian helping and the trends in Italy today,this working paper documents and explains the history of Italian cooperation for development and humanitarian helping.
Adriano Pedrana, Lisa Ann Richey & Maha Rafi Atal with new working paper for the Centre for Business and Development Studies.

Kingdom of Nokia
Nokia became a global player in mobile communications in the 1990s, and helped establish Anglo-Saxon capitalism in Finland. Through its success and strong lobbying, the company managed to capture the attention of Finnish politicians, civil servants, and journalists nationwide. With concrete detailed examples, Kingdom of Nokia illustrates how Nokia organised lavishing trips to journalists and paid direct campaign funding to politicians to establish its role at the core of Finnish decision-making. As a result, the company influenced important political decisions such as joining the European Union and adopting the euro, and further, Nokia even drafted its own law to serve its special interests.
Carl-Gustav Lindén for Helsinki University Press with a new open access book.

The Cold War from the Margins
In The Cold War from the Margins, Theodora K. Dragostinova reappraises the global 1970s from the perspective of a small socialist state—Bulgaria—and its cultural engagements with the Balkans, the West, and the Third World. During this anxious decade, Bulgaria's communist leadership invested heavily in cultural diplomacy to bolster its legitimacy at home and promote its agendas abroad. Bulgarians traveled the world to open museum exhibitions, show films, perform music, and showcase the cultural heritage and future aspirations of their "ancient yet modern" country.
Theodora K. Dragostinova for Cornell University Press with the final open access book recommendation for this week!

From Gatekeeper to Gate-opener: Open-Source Spaces in Investigative Journalism

The up-and-coming phenomenon of open source in journalism lead by non-journalistic actors like Airwars, Bellingcat, Forensic Architecture and Syrian Archive has brought an entirely new dynamic to investigative journalism. These actors share and rely heavily on an open-source ideology. With novel methods and tools, they integrate a new set of actors, competencies, and technology into journalistic practice, renegotiating and transcending professional boundaries. For the genre of investigative journalism, they can in many ways be leading the development of methodology as well as ideology; but how? This article addresses this question based on in-depth interviews with an exclusive selection of key informants from these networks.
Nina Mueller & Jenny Wiik with a new open access article in Journalism Practice.

Academia

Decolonizing Political Science: Context, Concepts and Imaginations
The purpose of this course is therefore to decolonize the academic study of politics, not politics per se. That said, we’ll probably grapple with the prospect that the academy cannot be so easily delinked from other institutions and structures of colonial power. In any case, after we’ve started by recasting Aristotle as a critical thinker of settler colonialism and imperial rule, we’ll recontextualize, reconceptualize, and reimagine four popular subfields of political science: political theory, political behavior, comparative politics, and international relations.
Robbie Shilliam with a great course syllabus!

Non-exemplary lives
I was wondering: how can people who had lived such boring lives, mostly in one or two countries, with the knowledge of at most two languages, having read only the literature in one language, having travelled only from one campus to another, and perhaps from one hiking resort to another, have meaningful things to say about social sciences with all their fights, corruption, struggles, wars, betrayals and cheating. Had they been physicists or chemists, it would not matter. You do not have to lead an interesting life in order to understand how atoms move, but perhaps you do need it to understand what moves humans
Branko Milanovic on Substack on academic/economist's CVs.

What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 194, 5 August 2016)

Expat Etiquette (book review)
One of the key reasons why I recommend the book and happily add it to the supplementary reading list of our courses is that it provides a nice contrast to an increasingly professionalized and securitized environment in which aid ‘takes place’. Do not get me wrong: I am all for well-trained, well-paid and mentally stable professionals who do not simply board a plane to see how things work out for them in a refugee camp in Sudan. But I also want and aid community that attracts caring, maybe even quirky, individuals who sometimes drink a bit too much at an expat club and on rare occasions take a taxi even when this may violate the security protocol of the organization.
Expat etiquette is an important reminder that aid happens in real life and with real people-and at the end of the day a phrase in Spanish and vague knowledge of a British football team can be more useful than remembering the step-by-step protocol of your de-escalation workshop.
I still like the book ;)!

What’s to be done with Oxfam?
Too small to influence economics, too bureaucratic to be social movements, banned from politics and removed from the societies they’re trying to change, where do NGOs go next?
Michael Edwards for OpenDemocracy; this was 2 years before the Oxfam scandal & the subsequent troubles for the organization...

How to sabotage an independent evaluation: 8 steps for undermining learning and accountability in humanitarian and development work
Eighth and lastly, in the event that the final (or near final) evaluation report includes critical points regarding your organization and its work, you have only two options. Either decry the evaluation process and the methodology employed by the evaluators—which runs the risk of making you appear defensive and fearful of criticism—or, alternatively, push the evaluation team to lengthen the report and include so many tables, charts, figures, and annexes that anyone who opens the file will be scared off by the fact that it is 140 pages long. All you need to do is browbeat the evaluator into writing a bland and semi-positive executive summary, which is the only thing anyone will read.
Steven Zyck's post is, perhaps not entirely surprisingly, still very accurate...

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