Links & Contents I Liked 407
From the UK, Germany & Sweden we are venturing further afield to the DRC, Myanmar/India, Brunei Durassalam & even Australia!
We are also continuing debates on sexual abuse in the aid sector, what is means to be a humanitarian, better research practices & being good travellers!
My quotes of the week
UK civil servants were given five to seven working days to prepare 30% cuts in the overseas aid budget last summer, including a £730m cut to bilateral aid that it later emerged was unnecessary.
(UK civil servants given just days to prepare £2.9bn aid cuts in 2020)
There's a lot of cost to being a humanitarian. You pay for it in terms of your mental health, your physical health, broken relationships, missed occasions with family and loved ones. I have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of my early experiences in difficult, brutal civil wars. But the way I deal with that is through something very joyous actually. I choose to be intentionally hopeful for humanity.
(Why do aid workers risk their lives to help others?)
Co-production is seen as representing a change in practice: a way of conducting research that challenges dominant approaches to decision making, communication, capacity strengthening and being participatory during research processes.
(The co-production of research between academics, NGOs and communities in humanitarian response: a practice guide)
UK civil servants given just days to prepare £2.9bn aid cuts in 2020
UK civil servants were given five to seven working days to prepare 30% cuts in the overseas aid budget last summer, including a £730m cut to bilateral aid that it later emerged was unnecessary.Patrick Wintour for the Guardian; ideology, not evidence, has been driving UK #globaldev cuts...rushed political decisions uprooted years of research, programming & relationship building.
The cuts were agreed in July 2020 on the basis of a single forecast reduction in the size of the UK economy, which was shown to be too pessimistic five days after the cuts package was signed off.
Campaigning NGOs face 'challenging,’ 'antagonistic' UK environment
This was a jaw-dropping moment in tonight’s @Channel4News report - PPE already bought will be binned rather than be sent to India, for fear of having to attribute it to the aid budget and risk exceeding 0.5% of GNI. https://t.co/wXI48ODnA8— Al Russell (@awjrussell) May 19, 2021
Campaigning NGOs in the United Kingdom face “a challenging and at times antagonistic political environment,” according to a new report from organizations across civil society, which also highlighted fears of further restrictions on campaigning.Will Worley for DevEx with another important aspect of the changing climate for UK #globaldev.
Campaigners called for a “reset” on the relationship with the U.K. government, and warned that a hampered environment for campaigning “undermines democratic values.”
Australian aid cuts at odds with changing public opinion
What’s more, public sentiment seems to be changing. The appetite for cuts is waning, and the small group of Australians who think their country should be doing more appears to be growing. You can see this if you compare the 2018 results with the 2021 results. More people now think Australia gives too little aid: 22% compared to 17%. Fewer people think Australia gives too much aid: 32% compared to 41%. (Both of these differences are statistically significant.)Terence Wood & Ryan Edwards for the DevPolicy Blog with interesting data on #globaldev public opinion...enough with the 'taxpayer don't like aid' and 'we don't have the budget for it' nonsense!
Internal emails reveal WHO knew of sex abuse claims in Congo
Internal emails from November 2019 show WHO directors were alarmed enough by the abuse complaints that they drafted a strategy to prevent sexual exploitation and appointed two “focal points” to liaise with colleagues in Congo and elsewhere. Directors also ordered confidential probes into sexual abuse problems more broadly and U.N training on how to prevent sexual harassment, along with the independent investigation announced last year.
But staffers remain concerned that not enough has been done. At a WHO meeting in January to address sex abuse, Dr. Renee Van de Weerdt, chief of emergency management and support, told colleagues that the risk “remains high across our operations” and that “more robust supervision” was needed.
Dr. Gaya Gamhewage, head of WHO’s learning and capacity development, said at an internal WHO discussion on sex abuse that “the impunity with which we have operated is leading to this.” She warned, “Training is not going to solve this problem.”
Maria Cheng & Al-Hadji Kudra Maliro for AP with more reporting on the difficulties of creating more accountability to act on sexual abuse within UN structures.
We exposed aid worker sex abuse during the Ebola outbreak. Now what?
But our role is also to protect the privacy of the women who request it – for reasons ranging from personal safety to the risk of stigma within their communities – and to respect the women’s agency to decide for themselves.Paisley Dodds for the New Humanitarian with great reflections on what happens before, during & after a story on sexual violence takes shape.
It is not our job as journalists to strong-arm women into sharing their details with others, especially when we can’t tell them what they could expect in terms of justice or assistance, or how the investigations will be conducted.
We do, however, make sure they know how to make formal reports and put them in touch with local human rights groups that can make that happen. We also make sure they know we stand ready to help them should they want us to share their contact details.
Germany rules out financial reparations for Namibia genocide
The talks are nearing completion, with broadcaster Deutschlandfunk reporting this week on plans for the president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to ask for forgiveness for the genocide in front of the Namibian parliament.Philip Oltermann for the Guardian with an important update on Germany's negotiations with Namibia regarding the Herero & Nama genocide.
As part of the reconciliation agreement, which has been submitted to both governments, Germany is also to make additional aid payments towards infrastructure, healthcare and job-training programmes in areas of Namibia populated by the descendants of the Herero and Nama tribes.
But in an internal progress report on the negotiations, circulated to German parliamentarians this week and seen by the Guardian, the foreign office strains to clarify that such payments do not amount to reparations in the legal definition of the word.
Why do aid workers risk their lives to help others?
There's a lot of cost to being a humanitarian. You pay for it in terms of your mental health, your physical health, broken relationships, missed occasions with family and loved ones. I have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of my early experiences in difficult, brutal civil wars. But the way I deal with that is through something very joyous actually. I choose to be intentionally hopeful for humanity. What I've gained is this innate appreciation for the joy of humanity in all its forms all over the world.Lyse Doucet for BBC with a great short video in which 3 humanitarians talk about their work.
Pangs of guilt: Exiles in India torn between safety and resistance
Khar Te said he is now having second thoughts about continuing his education, even if it were possible to obtain a visa to travel abroad. He and some friends have discussed assembling a medical team to respond if full-scale armed conflict breaks out in Chin State. “If I get a chance to go to university, what will happen if there is a civil war [in Chin State]? I don’t want to feel guilty about the decision I’ve made,” he said.Emily Fishbein & Nu Nu Lusan for Frontier Myanmar with a powerful essay on the difficulties of Burmese refugees in India & their engagement in the current conflict.
What does poverty mean in Brunei Darussalam?
Not much is known about what poverty means or who the poor people in Brunei are. Given the country’s socio-economic status, however, it is assumed that poverty in Brunei is unique and relative. Asked the question “What does poverty mean in Brunei”, some Bruneians responded:Blessing Gweshengwe shares some really great research findings on understandings of poverty from a corner of the world that is rather under represented in #globaldev discussions!
“When we say someone is poor [in Brunei], we always have this assumption on our mind: that someone does not live like other people…we really do not know who actual poor people are … we make a lot of assumptions, let us find out what poverty means…”
Aid agency security is a disaster waiting to happen
Too often forgotten are the rights and treatment of the guards themselves. How many times have we heard accusations of “lazy” guards, sleeping on the job? How often do we have to witness staff and visitors speak to security guards in a dismissive and disrespectful tone?Jamie Williamson for the New Humanitarian with an interesting article on how aid agency security deserves more attention in the context of professionalizing, localizing & decolonizing #globaldev.
Unscrupulous security companies can offer lower prices. But the knock-on effects are that their guards will be paid very low wages while having to pay for their own uniforms, or that they’ll be poorly equipped and have received little training.
The working conditions of local security guards frequently fall well below those of the staff of the hiring aid agencies, and may fail to meet recommended international labour standards. Aid agencies will argue that they prescribe a maximum of eight-hour shifts. But the reality is that security guards are regularly on duty for 12 hours, which excludes travel time from their homes, working six days a week.
Are country offices preventing us from decolonising development?
Country offices have been known to open and close at short notice as a result of changes in INGO strategies or shortfalls in INGO funding. Some INGO country offices operate like a neo-colonialist outpost, staffed by white western expatriates, dominating the funding for development, humanitarian and peacebuilding work. Some implement programmes directly, with little local input, thereby competing with – and displacing – local organisations. Even the most well-intentioned country offices, for example, those that only fund and support local organisations, unwittingly reinforce structurally racist norms. This includes participating in INGO-dominated (and sometimes INGO-exclusive) coordination mechanisms, and becoming part of a close knit and exclusive expatriate network, where who you know can be the key to securing the next grant.Dylan Mathews for Bond; I shared the full report Time to Decolonise Aid in last week's review & this is an important excerpt from their recommendations.
Who benefits from data for good?
As efforts to show the applicability of big data analytics to public problems continue to grow, we must keep in mind that behind the enthusiasm of scientists and policy-makers there is a tech sector suffering from an image problem. The “data for good” formulation was envisioned as an opportunity to maintain current data collection infrastructure and keep end-users engaged by highlighting the social value that data philanthropy can produce. Attempts to frame big data as necessary evidence for policy-making can shift attention away from well-founded anxieties over current data collection practices and towards justifications of more data collection. Data for good also runs the risk of reducing our commitment to strong and lasting climate action. While big data that contributes towards climate action is welcome, achieving this goal ultimately depends on our political will. Climate action is not just about data or individual empowerment; it’s about collectively committing to an environmentally safe future.Melissa Aronczyk & Maria Isabel Espinoza for LSE Impact of Science; long story short: tech solutionism will not save the planet ;)!
The Instruments of Public Health
the COVID-19 punditry you encounter in mass media is not presented to you by value-free, objectively neutral data miners. More often than not, you are being influenced by competent health professionals who curate data in a manner that furthers dominant ideologies. In this way, they also serve the racist status quo.Eugene Richardson for Wilson Quarterly; I already featured an article about his book in February which is on my always too long summer reading list...
Dear Western Digital Nomads: What I Really Want To Tell You About Southeast Asia
Imagine you’re visiting a friend’s home – you sit where they indicate you should sit, you greet other household members, you take off your shoes. You don’t complain on Instagram that this house has no peanut butter (when it does), tweet out instructions to break into your friend’s home, and overstay your welcome. You don’t exoticise or generalise the culture and customs around you. You’re polite and kind, even if you don’t agree with everything you see.Nicole Kow for Zafigo; the article is from February 2021, but still a powerful reminder to 'decolonize' the 'digital nomad' discourse!
Finally, if you belong to a digital nomad community or regularly engage people in that sphere, it’s time to decolonise that space. Bring diversity into your imagery and representation in your rhetoric. You and I, as global citizens, have a role to play to ensure that this incredibly wild opportunity to see the world doesn’t perpetuate false narratives or water down the rich culture and variety of Southeast Asia.
Just five days until TREAD BRIGHTLY is out! We wrestle with questions like, "Instead of mindlessly checking items off bucket lists, are there ways we can make travel an active exchange? Are there ways to think more ethically about travel?"— Sarika Bansal (@sarika008) May 19, 2021
Visit https://t.co/MN7p0D7ZrT to order! pic.twitter.com/s4uQWEXMGy
Tech for disabled people is booming around the world. So where’s the funding?
Amy Gaeta, a researcher in disability studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, noted that big companies often shroud their accessibility initiatives in a rhetoric of pity. Their main motivation, Gaeta said, is “the social capital they get from looking woke. You don’t see that as much in non-Western countries.” Having a small project meant to keep engineers happy and maintain a sense of “doing good” is a different design motivation than, say, one driven by the necessity of making tech more accessible from its inception, said Gaeta. In many cases, she says, disability becomes an add-on to existing technologies rather than something integrated at the very start.Devi Lockwood for Rest of World with a critical look at global funding for inclusive technologies.
Findings Of Investigation Into The Actions Of Ellsworth Culver Related To Sexual Abuse And The Actions Of the 1990s Mercy Corps Board Of Directors Related To The Handling Of Reports Of Sexual Abuse
In the years following his 1994 reassignment and up until his death in 2005, Mr. Culver received a promotion to Senior Vice President for International Relations, multiple salary increases and bonuses, and continued to travel the globe on behalf of Mercy Corps without penalty or enhanced scrutiny.The report has quite a title, but it provides a powerful and important insight into the organizational culture around abuse & how Mercy Corps and survivors are dealing with it.
The co-production of research between academics, NGOs and communities in humanitarian response: a practice guide
Co-production is seen as representing a change in practice: a way of conducting research that challenges dominant approaches to decision making, communication, capacity strengthening and being participatory during research processes. In this guide, we suggest that co-production holds potential for addressing some of the entrenched power hierarchies within research collaborations that have been identified within the humanitarian sector.Michelle Lokot & Caitlin Wake with a great new report from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine!
Doing research ethically
The Case for Better Governance of Children’s Data: A Manifesto. https://t.co/V4TKBBpAEU— Linda Raftree (@meowtree) May 20, 2021
Hot off the presses. I'm so happy to see this out in the world. It was a huge pleasure to work with @unicef and @Jasmina_Byrne
and every one of the brilliant members of the experts group!
This guide and toolkit help NGO staff, partners and consultants to conduct research and evaluation in an ethical way.Christian Aid also published an interesting resource guide + toolkit on #globaldev research & ethics!
“My Flight Arrives at 5 am, Can You Pick Me Up?”: The Gatekeeping Burden of the African Academic
The purpose of this discussion is to look at the other side of this dynamic: the gatekeeping burden of African scholars in facilitating Northern fieldwork within the African continent. We argue that this burden further exacerbates inherent inequalities within North–South relationships. By way of conclusion, we offer a number of practical steps that Northern researchers can take when engaging African academics which will contribute to more ethical collaboration, and a more positive and lasting impact within African institutions.Elizabeth Tilley & Marc Kallna with a new open access article in the Journal of African Cultural Studies!
What have garment companies done to deliver upon #CSR commitments to #livingwage in #supplychains? 💵— Genevieve LeBaron (@GLeBaron) May 18, 2021
We surveyed 20 garment companies and found that very little meaningful progress has been made.
Our new article in @NPEjournal 🤓📝: https://t.co/B1tmlN8dsM pic.twitter.com/CrVx55Dryu
Cold War Heritage in Sweden: Pastime Threats, Cosy Cavers and Gendered Nostalgia
Despite Sweden,’s image spread both internally and externally, as the anthesis of military conflicts and war, the Cold War period in Sweden was characterized by a total defence strategy resulting in a deeply militarized society. While rhetorically framing the welfare state as a way to create an inclusive ‘people’s home’, the Swedish geopolitics of neutrality nurtured investments in the weapons industry and exports. The mandatory conscription system, including all male citizens, gendered the experience of being the protector of the nation, reinforcing a gender binarity of citizenship. After the downsizing of the Swedish military defence organization after the Cold War, which left innumerable military provisions without care or purpose, a manifold of actors re-interpreted the remnants as heritage. Analysing the nostalgically driven bunkerolog movement, this essay has shown how abandoned bunkers and shelters from the Cold War today serve as arenas for the production of a protective masculinity.Mattias Frihammar for E-International Relations with a great essay & much-needed myth-dispelling about Sweden's role in war & peace...
What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 196, 19 August 2016)
Today We Drop Bombs, Tomorrow We Build Bridges (book review)
Gill’s very good blend of journalistic insights, reflections on the past and present of the humanitarian system and a measured appeal for a sustainable future of aid round off a book I can recommend highly as in introduction into the complexities of modern conflict and the growing repertoire to respond to the need of suffering human beings.Still a good introduction to some of contemporary humanitarian paradoxes.
Can Participation ‘Fix’ Inequality?
While we know we should address intersecting inequalities, our work on strengthened political voice often ignores the economic sphere, and work on building inclusive economies often fails to think about strategies for more inclusive politics. Yet, in the face of extreme economic inequality, work on one without the other fails to break the vicious circle.Now more than ever is a good time to review some of the pre-pandemic thinking on building inclusive societies & economies-John Gaventa's work for IDS is always worth re-discovering!
Female Economists and the Blogosphere – Do We Dare Mention Sexism?
As a blogger herself, as someone who is active on Twitter, and as a follower of approximately eighty blogs, she states with no hesitation: “It’s true, very few female economists blog. Period.” For her, three hypotheses may explain this absence: women with opinions are not well received, women are busy with other forms of service, and women underestimate what they would contribute by blogging. But aren’t these actually manifestations of a deeper issue?Carolina Alves is one of my favorite economists on Twitter! The situation may have improves somewhat in the last few years, but of course there are still all sorts of deep-rooted gendered issues around the (economist) blogosphere...