Links & Contents I Liked 406

Hi all,

I think this week's highlight is the 'new reports' section with so many great new readings to discover!
There're also links to old men, Sean Penn & peacebuilding done right, but also mining in Kyrgyztan, contractors in Afghanistan & much more!


My quotes of the week
Reflect on your identity and motivations for working in the sector, and what privileges and ‘baggage’ you bring to your work.
Remain humble.
Shift access and power to those who don’t have it, in whatever ways you can.
Organise and connect to networks and groups that support this agenda.

(Time to Decolonise Aid)

humanitarian country missions are not required to understand the contexts they work in. They are required to implement. Understanding is a bonus. From a managers’ point of view, having a staff member whose job was to ask difficult questions about the mission was at best a curiosity, at worst a threat. (Not a priority: the lack of contextual understanding in humanitarian missions)

Universities are committed to keeping things as they are, while suggesting otherwise. And, even more importantly, most university administrations expect those of us who notice that change is not happening to keep quiet and be civil about the betrayal. Those requests to faculty to look after students in a moment of crisis belie a much deeper problem in the university: its own reluctance to adequately account for the violence it is party to.
(Diversity efforts in universities are nothing but façade painting)

Development news

Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths to take on top UN humanitarian job

There had been speculation the post might go to Sweden due to the UK’s cuts to its overseas aid programme, but Britain is a permanent member of the UN security council and remains one of the largest humanitarian donors.
Patrick Wintour for the Guardian; yep, a 66-year old white British man was the best candidate they could find for this job...

New sex abuse claims against Ebola aid workers exposed in Congo
Despite the UN’s “zero tolerance” policy towards sexual abuse and exploitation, the women in both Beni and Butembo told reporters they did not report the allegations.
Some said they were desperate to keep their jobs, while others feared being shamed by their family or community.
The women said the abuse took place in an area where jobs are scarce. Some 27 million people are facing acute hunger in the country.
Robert Flummerfelt & Ange Kasongo for the New Humanitarian continue their investigation into aid worker abuse in DRC.

Why is the UK slashing its international aid budget?
The impact around the world can barely be overestimated. It means the closure of whole programmes and will affect the lives of thousands of people living in poverty. Anushka hears from Alvaro Bermejo, IPPF’s director-general, Luka Nkhoma, the WISH program project director for the Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia and Yves Sassenrath, UNFPA Representative in Haiti.
This Guardian podcast provides a good overview over the debate and impact around UK's #globaldev cuts.

The UK Aid Cuts to UNFPA: Ripple Effects in Sexual and Reproductive Health Product Markets with Outsized Impacts for Women and Girls
International support has helped drive global progress on SRH—and plays a critical role in helping to address persistent gaps in achieving universal access. This is precisely why the UK government should stay the course, doubling down on support to help protect and advance the goals that underpin their long-standing contributions. At a time when the pandemic is having outsized impacts on women and girls globally, now is the time to step up—not step back.
Janeen Madan Keller & Prashant Yadav for the Center for Global Development; interesting post, but of course the UK's #globaldev cuts were not exactly influenced by evidence...

How a Nigerian scheme forged in war creates billionaires

Current unemployment data in Nigeria paints a dire picture - 33% of those looking for work cannot find any. Many of them are university graduates.
Mr Orie says his financial situation is better than many of his peers who went on to acquire a university education.
He has also started thinking of getting a young man from the village to learn the trade under him, an act that is at the heart of the system.
Many of his peers are now hiring sales assistants to run their shops, rather than using the Igba Boi system.
However Mr Ilo says the future of the system that produced him and millions of other businessmen is safe.
"As long as there are markets and Igbo traders, there will be apprentices," he says.
Chiagozie Nwonwu for BBC on an interesting apprenticeship scheme in Nigeria which also raises interesting questions about the value of (university) education in emerging economies.
Can Sean Penn prove his worth as a humanitarian hero?
Penn doesn’t seem preoccupied with coming off as the hero, reinforced in the scenes of his annual fundraising gala, in which he breaks his own cardinal rule to never bum the crowd out by adopting a tone between the hostile and the discomfiting.
The film ends with the Covid-19 pandemic, the latest challenge Core is meeting head-on. When the crisis hit Los Angeles, Penn sprang into action and mobilized his resources to accelerate testing and ultimately vaccination. Their operations led to another one of the dustups that follow Penn everywhere he goes; a handful of anonymous volunteers complained of substandard working conditions, which Penn emphatically rejected in a 2,200-word email leaked to the press.
“I haven’t had the opportunity to talk to Sean about it,” Hardy says, but it’s the same-old-same-old for a personality with headlines always at his heels. The film anticipates this latest dust-up, and allows his coarser side to coexist with his commitment to giving. Say what you will about Sean Penn – really, the documentary invites us, go right ahead – but his numbers have a way of speaking for themselves.
Charles Bramesco for the Guardian; I'm always skeptical when people claim that 'numbers speak for themselves', but I'm putting the documentary on my 'to watch' list.

The U.S. Is Leaving Afghanistan? Tell That to the Contractors.
Yet contractors who make up America’s largest force in Afghanistan are beefing up their presence just in time to plug the vacuum that will be left behind.
“So far, nothing is changing,” said a contractor working for a U.S. company based in Bagram. News from the Pentagon has yet to trickle down. “I am not aware of any changes to my job or of any contracts being passed to the Afghan government. These are American companies and these contracts will remain under private payroll.”
Lynzy Billing for New York Magazine; the military-industrial complex equivalent of 'the house always wins'...more money down the drain & with private contractors it means less accountability or scrutiny.

How migrant caravans are organized—and scammed—via Facebook and WhatsApp
No one ever asked the organizers to identify themselves. The possible presence of bad actors, combined with other factors — the ban on helping people traveling with caravans; the belief that state intelligence agencies infiltrate migrant WhatsApp groups — has made it an unwritten rule not to ask. Migrants, worried about kidnapping or extortion, advise their peers to avoid sharing personal information. This anonymity creates a climate of suspicion and lawlessness that is easily exploited. Xenophobes pop in and out of WhatsApp groups to insult and disparage Hondurans. Coyotes scout for new clients and advertise their services. Trolls harass female members and barrage chats with pornographic images and videos. A man in one group complained that, after changing his profile picture to an image of his wife, he began receiving direct messages from men trying to seduce her. But the desire to escape desperate conditions often outweighs all else. Some migrants are fleeing from the gangs and organized criminal groups that have made Honduras one of the most violent countries in the world.
Jeff Ernst for Rest of World which is celebrating its 1st anniversary of excellent reporting on digital culture & more from the, well, rest of the world...

Politics of the Kyrgyz mining sector: An Interview with Beril Ocaklı
At this point, resistance and contentions around gold mining are part of the political economy of resource extraction. The resistance and activism we observe challenges the expansion of mining projects, putting state and corporate actors under pressure to legitimize their agendas. As a result, strategies to make mining happen adapt and evolve, becoming increasingly subtle in their oppression.
These are all contradictory objectives based on strong modernist assumptions about what nature, resources, livelihoods, and life are, leaving little room for alternative grassroots imaginations of desirable futures. I hope to continue my research on the nature of extractivisms and resistance to them. One aspect that I am increasingly interested in is intersectional analyses of extractivism, and especially how women’s engagement shapes the emergence and endurance of struggles against extractive projects.
Nazik Imanbekova talks to Beril Ocaklı for Voices of Central Asia about her research in Kyrgyzstan.

What's stopping localization in the humanitarian sector?

To build the change needed within humanitarian organization to empower local actors, four objectives were identified for participants to create change: consider how they are complicit in injustices of power; redefine what it means to work in solidarity; ban harmful terminology in the sector; and commit to participating rather than waiting for others to lead.
Lisa Cornish for DevEx with a great overview about the many challenges that remain in 'localizing' #globaldev & humanitarian aid.

Not a priority: the lack of contextual understanding in humanitarian missions
humanitarian country missions are not required to understand the contexts they work in. They are required to implement. Understanding is a bonus. From a managers’ point of view, having a staff member whose job was to ask difficult questions about the mission was at best a curiosity, at worst a threat.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In one mission, the senior management team I worked under were committed to contextual understanding, learning from national staff and tailoring their programmes in response to research and analysis. I’m sure this happens throughout the sector – but it’s down to luck and personality, not to sectoral norms, and in my experience is by far the exception.
Dominic Naish for the Humanitarian Practice Network shares interesting reflections on how much/little context sometimes matters in humanitarian responses.

Building peace, from the bottom up: A Q&A with Séverine Autesserre
They know the local context well; they speak at least some of the local languages; and they have extensive local networks. They are in it for the long run; they stay on-site for years, sometimes decades. They don't put themselves at the forefront of peace efforts. They don’t put their logos everywhere. Instead, they maintain a low profile and they turn the spotlight on the achievements of their local partners: elites, local staff, ordinary people.
They are flexible. They keep adapting their strategies based on the results and feedback that they get and the way the situation evolves. They understand that sometimes there are hard choices, because all these things may not fit together so we may have to choose between worthy goals. The best interveners understand that they should not be the ones to make these choices: The people who have to live with the consequences of the decision should be the ones making it.
Jessica Alexander talks to Séverine Autesserre for the New Humanitarian about her new book & more!

Decolonising the use of imagery at IDS
The process of institutional decolonisation at IDS will likely be a lifelong commitment to address systemic bias and legacy thinking. However, as an immediate action, it prompted reappraisal of how the institute creates and uses imagery, video, and text in communications activity, including within the IDS building. This is particularly important because content development based on first-person stories are vital to raising awareness, building engagement and greater understanding of global development challenges.
James Andrews for IDS with an overview over a student-led initiative to challenge IDS to decolonize farther & further!

The power of private philanthropy in international development

US foundations have achieved their power by forging development technoscapes centred in purportedly scale–neutral technologies and techniques – from vaccines to ‘miracle seeds’ to management’s ‘one best way’. They have become increasingly sophisticated in their development of ideational and institutional platforms from which to influence, not only how their assets are deployed, but how, when and where public funds are channelled and towards what ends. This is accompanied by strategies for creating dense, interdigitate connections between key actors and imaginaries of the respective epoch. In the process, foundations have been able to influence debates about development financing itself; presenting its own ‘success stories’ as evidence for preferred financing mechanisms, allocating respective roles of public and private sector actors, and representing the most cost–effective way to resource development.
Arun Kumar & Sally Brooks for Developing Economics; don't get distracted by Bill's photo-this is a great journey through the history of philanthropical foundations in the US!

Time to Decolonise Aid
Reflect on your identity and motivations for working in the sector, and what privileges and ‘baggage’ you bring to your work.
Remain humble.
Shift access and power to those who don’t have it, in whatever ways you can.
Organise and connect to networks and groups that support this agenda.

In November 2020, Peace Direct, Adeso, the Alliance for Peacebuilding and Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security held a three-day online consultation with 158 activists, decision- makers, academics, journalists and practitioners across the globe. Participants and guest contributors exchanged insights and local experiences on the current power dynamics and imbalances that exist within the humanitarian, development and peacebuilding sectors.
Peace Direct with a must-read new report!

Racial Diversity in Global Health-From Rhetoric To Tangible Change

Global health inherently is contradictory. We want to reduce inequities but in practice global health was birthed in supremacy and it continues to be dominated by white supremacy.
Gisa Dang, Fifa Rahman & Nyasha Chingore-Munazvo for Matahari Global Solutions and AIDS & Rights Alliance of SouthernAfrica (ARASA) with a new report.

How close should we get? Media and conflict
Those working in media face plenty of challenges when it comes to handling issues around conflict more sensitively. In some countries, these difficulties could include forced or unsolicited loyalty, a lack of information, or physical and psychological threats. In others, challenges could arise from prejudice fostered by excessive homogeneity in newsrooms, or a lack of consciousness for the limits of certain views.
In DW Akademie’s publication How close should we get? Media and conflict, authors from around the world approach the question of how media workers can cover conflict better. This includes reflections on how to cope with the deluge of hatred online and on how to deal with trauma. Rather than academic, analytical texts, the publication is made up of thoughtfully written, carefully illustrated and often personal pieces.
The Deutsche Welle Akademie with a substantial & very interesting report on media, development & conflict!

Yemen Crisis Impact Overview
The overall humanitarian operating environment remains extremely challenging because of continuous restrictions imposed on humanitarian operations, as well as complications from the COVID-19 pandemic. The conflict has made humanitarian needs even harder to address, as people’s coping strategies and resources are stretched or depleted.
In addition to the content, I love the design of ACAPS publications!

Humanitarian Evidence Summary No.14
Luke Kelly's K4D Helpdesk Report is a less fancy publication, but full of interesting new reports, readings,...

From Biolegitimacy to Antihumanitarianism: Understanding People's Resistance to Ebola Responses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Our findings reveal that there is an underlying rationality explaining the attacks against ETCs, health workers, and humanitarians providing assistance, which often goes unnoticed yet should inform the management of disasters, including the different humanitarian responses to health crises in conflict-affected areas. Beyond local discourse on the origins and objectives of the response, local populations have taken advantage of the attention paid to this pandemic to demand an improvement of their overall living conditions. The Ebola health crisis was used as a space for protest and to express frustration with the setting of priorities as part of humanitarian responses. Echoing the idea of biolegitimacy (Fassin 2005), international interventions have been criticized for being selective and arbitrary in deciding which emergencies needed immediate action and which lives were worth saving. It is this selectivity and its arbitrariness that have led the population to be suspicious about the merits of the Ebola response.
Aymar Nyenyezi Bisoka, Koen Vlassenroot, and Lucien Ramazani for the Social Science Research Council with a great new report on Ebola in DRC.

University Rankings and Governance by Metrics and Algorithms
Multinational publishers such as Elsevier, with over 2,500 journals in its portfolio, has transitioned to become a data analytic firm. Rankings expand their abilities to monetize further their existing journal holdings, as there is a strong association between publication in high-impact journals and improvement in rankings. The global academic publishing industry has become highly oligopolistic, and a small handful of legacy multinational firms are now publishing the majority of the world’s research output (See Larivière et. al. 2015; Fyfe et. al. 2017; Posada & Chen, 2018). It is therefore crucial that their roles and enormous market power in influencing university rankings be more closely scrutinized. We suggest that due to a combination of a lack of transparency regarding, for example, Elsevier’s data services and products and their self-positioning as a key intermediary in the commercial rankings business, they have managed to evade the social responsibilities and scrutiny that come with occupying such a critical public function in university evaluation.
George Chen & Leslie Chan with with a new paper.

Diversity efforts in universities are nothing but façade painting

What these statements, and many others we read and heard over the years, do not account for is the violence inside the university. The violence of white colleagues using tenure review and other reviews as disciplinary and violent tools to keep faculty of colour in place. And the statements often do not account for racist white students’ opposition to faculty of colour, and their attempts to baselessly accuse us of offering illegitimate scholarship or untrusted pedagogical practices. In fact, when faced with such cases, the university often seeks to satisfy racist students by conducting investigations, monitoring teaching, and sometimes punishing or denying tenure to the targeted faculty.
Faculty of colour, who routinely experience that special brand of liberal institutional racism, can identify the layers of racism and gender biases in the harassment, bullying, and hostility we face. But our white colleagues, our administrators, and our human resources offices are adept at circumventing attempts to identify harassment and hostility for what they are. We carefully document each incident and ongoing case of harassment, just in case. That labour, too, has a cost.
M Neelika Jayawardane & Rinaldo Walcott for Al-Jazeera on depolitizing diversity efforts in #highered.

What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 195, 12 August 2016)

DRC’s largest mine was just sold. And DRC got nothing.

When asked about the government’s position on the transaction, Minister of Mines Martin Kabwelulu questioned the opacity of the sale, adding that there must be a tax on the sale of the Congolese asset and that they will push the tax authority to claim it. But this tax may be more difficult to claim than they think. And while billions of dollars transfer between the two companies’ bank accounts, the citizens of DRC may not see a penny from the two billion dollar sale.
Kathleen Brophy for Oxfam with an issue that certainly hasn't improved during the past 5 years.


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