Links & Contents I Liked 415

Hi all,

Just when I thought 'well, looks like one of those normal weeks featuring saving philanthropy, Australia being a dick, digital #globaldev being complicated & more staggering numbers of the cost of forever-wars', someone decided to launch an actual reality TV show where activists compete against each other for social media traffic so they can win a competition & attend a global summit...you can't even meme stuff like this anymore...


My quotes of the week
Activists go head-to-head in challenges to promote their causes, with their success measured via online engagement, social metrics, and hosts’ input. The three teams have one ultimate goal: to create impactful movements that amplify their message, drive action, and advance them to the G20 Summit in Rome, Italy. There, they will meet with world leaders in the hope of securing funding and awareness for their causes. (Usher, Priyanka Chopra & Julianne Hough Set For ‘The Activist’, CBS Competition Series From Global Citizen)

In other words, all our tools in epidemiology can be found at the local level by ordinary people. John Snow has become this sort of hero, and this story about Africa and Cape Verde gets pushed away. (Author Q&A: How Colonialism, Slavery, and War Changed Medicine)

Nearly 20 years after the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan, the cost of its global war on terror stands at $8 trillion and 900,000 deaths (Costs of the 20-year war on terror)

Development news
Usher, Priyanka Chopra & Julianne Hough Set For ‘The Activist’, CBS Competition Series From Global Citizen

Activists go head-to-head in challenges to promote their causes, with their success measured via online engagement, social metrics, and hosts’ input. The three teams have one ultimate goal: to create impactful movements that amplify their message, drive action, and advance them to the G20 Summit in Rome, Italy. There, they will meet with world leaders in the hope of securing funding and awareness for their causes. The team that receives the largest commitment is celebrated as the overall winner at the finale, which will also feature musical performances by some of the world’s most passionate artists.
Rosy Cordero for Deadline with the worst TV reality format of 2021 & probably since Kony2012:
Kony 2012 is not the last event where good intentions, old habits and 'development 2.0' will clash. All I can do is hoping that every event and its critical aftermath also adds a little bit to the global repertoire of knowledge and that the next project may think a bit longer before the 'doing' starts.
Me, in 2012 being optimistic...

Costs of the 20-year war on terror: $8 trillion and 900,000 deaths
Nearly 20 years after the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan, the cost of its global war on terror stands at $8 trillion and 900,000 deaths, according to a new report from the Costs of War project at Brown University.
(...)
The research team’s $8 trillion estimate accounts for all direct costs of the country’s post-9/11 wars, including Department of Defense Overseas Contingency Operations funding; State Department war expenditures and counterterror war-related costs, including war-related increases to the Pentagon’s base budget; care for veterans to date and in the future; Department of Homeland Security spending; and interest payments on borrowing for these wars. The total includes funds that the Biden administration requested in May 2021.
The death toll, standing at an estimated 897,000 to 929,000, includes U.S. military members, allied fighters, opposition fighters, civilians, journalists and humanitarian aid workers who were killed as a direct result of war, whether by bombs, bullets or fire. It does not, the researchers noted, include the many indirect deaths the war on terror has caused by way of disease, displacement and loss of access to food or clean drinking water.
The Cost of War project with a timely reminder for the 20th anniversary of 9/11...

Aboriginal group files U.N. complaint over heritage bill

However, the group said the draft bill contained insufficient protection of the right to culture, which prohibits states from destroying significant Aboriginal cultural heritage.
"Traditional Owners are unable to say 'no' to activities which will destroy significant cultural heritage," it added.
Without such protection, a risk remains of "a continuation of systemic and racial discrimination which has characterised the operation of the current legislation," it said.
Melanie Burton for Reuters with a reminder how settler colonialism and climate crisis ignorance are very much alive in Australia.
A Onetime Nomad Reflects On The Beauty And Harshness Of Life In The Somali Desert
"Instantly, I was standing in front of my desert hut, eyes fixed on the scorching terrain," she writes in her memoir, The Last Nomad: Coming of Age in the Somali Desert, recalling the incident. The book, published in August, chronicles Salh's journey from her childhood in Somalia — where she and her family lived as goat- and camel-herders — to her life as a nurse and mom of three in the U.S.
Lucy Sherriff talks to Shugri Said Salh for NPR's Goats & Soda; I like the 'normalcy' of her journey (unlike many of the 'from refugee camp to UN high-level speaker' narratives...) & will try to get hold of her book!

A Retiring Aid Worker Reflects On How To Repair The World — Without Wearing A Halo

What has helped you cope throughout these years of working in aid?
Humility and modesty. There's a martyr complex in the humanitarian sector. The people who burn out are the ones who tend to feel like if they don't work 15 hours a day today and tomorrow and next week and next month, someone is going to die.
You do everything you can within the boundaries of a working day, then you have dinner, you go to bed and you get up the next day and pick things up. If you do that consistently, you are going to make a difference — without doing harm to yourself or having delusions of grandeur.
Malaka Gharib talks to Joel Charny for NPR Goats & Soda about his 4 decades in humanitarian aid.

Lebanon as We Once Knew It Is Gone
This listing of privileges is not merely a conscience-clearing exercise. It’s how we all try to remind ourselves that things could always be more unbearable, so complaining is futile. The standards by which “normal” or “acceptable” living conditions are measured have long been discarded. People with the means to do so are leaving. Every week I say goodbye to a dear friend.
Lina Mounzer for the New York Times on a 'failed state' that doesn't fit the textbook definition of a 'failed state' & ads a dystopian, pandemic + climate crisis dimension to it.

The Future of International Development Programmes in the Digital Age
In many countries, the window of opportunity to influence positioning in the digital geopolitical conflict is closing. Increasing geopolitical competition for digital dominance is leading to a decoupling of technological platforms, norms, and standards.
As governments and technology companies align along geopolitical fault lines and competing national and regional data and digital ecosystem models emerge, development actors may face new limitations in their access, reach, and cooperation capacity.
Christopher Newman & Vera Kerber for ICTworks; some more, but also some less obvious reflections on ICT4D & digital #globaldev.

Biometric data and the Taliban: What are the risks?

Today, we can see certain impacts and side effects. I’m not totally against biometrics. But aid agencies have to learn that this kind of data is extremely important. It’s not just statistics. There is data that is linked to a person – through physical features like biometrics, for instance, but also others – that is so important that it needs special protection and measures, which have to be reviewed all the time because the situation is changing all the time. It’s not enough to pay lip service.
I believe that most agencies are paying lip service to data protection and data security issues. They can show you their manuals, they can show you their instructions, they can always say we follow GDPR rules. But then it is self-policing. None of these agencies submits itself to third-party evaluations or oversight. No beneficiary has access to his own data. So it’s just – it’s a mess. And these are the moments when we can see it.
Irwin Loy talks to Karl Steinacker & Katja Lindskov Jacobsen for the New Humanitarian about digital security.

Is MacKenzie Scott Going to Fix Strategic Philanthropy?
Scott has found a way to complement and obtain value from the practices of professionally staffed foundations. In doing so, her approach serves as an inspiration — to established foundations, new funders, and individual donors alike.
Rather than abandoning their current practices, foundations can reorient them to do the most good. Specifically, given that the value of foundations’ due diligence and strategy development is greatest when it’s available to others, foundations can engage in funder collaboratives that facilitate knowledge sharing, and they can look for opportunities to build on, rather than duplicate, others’ due diligence activities.
Ruth Levine for the Center for Effective Philanthrophy with more reflections on Mackenzie Scott's approach to philanthropy.

Author Q&A: How Colonialism, Slavery, and War Changed Medicine

I found 100 pages of these interviews, and I was blown away. What that meant was that our knowledge of epidemiology didn’t come from some guy in London, and it didn’t come from some laboratory; it came from talking to enslaved and colonized people.
When the infection broke out, these washerwomen who were enslaved and colonized were watching the symptoms. They knew that if you vomited, it was black vomit, and thought ‘this vomit doesn’t look right.’ This was yellow fever. They were timing the incubation; they were trying to trace the origins.
In other words, all our tools in epidemiology can be found at the local level by ordinary people. John Snow has become this sort of hero, and this story about Africa and Cape Verde gets pushed away.
Brian Mastroainni talks to Jim Downs about his new book for Healthline.

The rise and fall of Mike Sonko — Nairobi’s Matatu King
Kenya’s capital is now run by an unelected major general. He succeeds a taxi overlord, Mike Sonko, who used the power and profits from his blinged-out transports to buy and barter his way to the governorship. His dramatic rise to power challenged the vested interests of the country’s ruling elite. So they fought back. And won.
Isaac Otidi Amuke for the Mail & Guardian with a long-read investigation from Kenya.
Publications
Piloting Humanitarian Biometrics in Yemen
The issues pointed to in this brief cannot be solved with more effective data management or a new technology platform. They point to fundamental inequalities and hierarchies in knowledge and access to power. At the bottom of this hierarchy are the beneficiaries. While the dilemmas related to efficient and transparent aid distribution are complex, the introduction of biometrics should take care not to impose additional risks for those already most vulnerable.
Marie Louise Clausen for PRIO on another important biometric theater.

Can Jobs Programs Build Peace?
This study finds good theoretical reasons to believe that employment programs could contribute to peace. However, only very limited evidence exists on overall impacts on peace or on the pathways underlying the theories of change. At the program level, the review finds strong evidence that contributions to peace and stability are often simply assumed to have occurred. This provides a major challenge for the justification of continued spending on jobs for peace programs. Instead, systematic and rigorous learning on the impacts of jobs for peace programs needs to be scaled up urgently.
Tilman Brück, Neil T N Ferguson, Valeria Izzi & Wolfgang Stojetz for the World Bank Research Observer with a new open access article.

Women and the UN-A New History of Women's International Human Rights

In doing so it sheds new light on how these hidden historical narratives enrich theoretical studies in international relations and global agency today. In view of contemporary feminist and postmodern critiques of the origin of human rights, uncovering women’s history of the United Nations from both Southern and Western perspectives allows us to consider questions of feminism and agency in international relations afresh.
Rebecca Adami & Dan Plesch with a new edited open access collection for Routledge.

Critical Meme Reader: Global Mutations of the Viral Image
This Critical Meme Reader features an array of researchers, activists, and artists who address the following questions. What is the current state of the meme producer? What are the semiotics of memes? How are memes involved in platform capitalism and how do they operate within the context of different mediascapes? How are memes used for political counter-strategies? Are memes moving beyond the image? How can memes be used to design the future? Will there ever be a last meme in history? Together, the contributors to this reader combine their global perspectives on meme culture to discuss memetic subjectivities and communities, the work of art in the age of memetic production, the post meme, meme warfare, and meme magic – varying from reflections on real-life experiences to meta meme theory.
Chloë Arkenbout, Jack Wilson & Daniel de Zeeuw with a new edited open access volume for the Institute of Network Culture.

What we were reading 4 years ago
(Link review 205, 28 October 2016)

Aid Worker Voices (book review)

The book is still a very important contribution to ongoing efforts of ‘representing’ aid work and aid workers in new and different ways, using different tools and writing formats. In that sense Aid Worker Voices is also an experimental contribution
My book review which among other things has been the basis for a long collegial friendship with the author :).

UN chief calls security council's failure on Aleppo 'our generation's shame'
“There is no question today about whether you, members of this council, know what is going on – you clearly and tragically do. The question today is what you will do?” O’Brien asked. “If you don’t take action, there will be no Syrian peoples or Syria to save – that will be this council’s legacy, our generation’s shame.”
Julian Borger for the Guardian; 'there will be no Syria to save'...

Cars Entering and Leaving Mosul
This is the first time a war has been turned so directly into an object for public consumption, and the moral questions are obvious. Isn’t this repulsive? People are really dying in and around Mosul; surely it’s grotesque to turn the battle into a piece of entertainment. But the battle for Mosul isn’t at all entertaining. It’s something else.
Sam Kriss for the Baffler...scary how 'distant' the war in Syria feels only 4 years later without any 'solution' or option for lasting peace...

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