Links & Contents I Liked 420

Hi all,

Do you remember when Ice Cube had a Good Day (yep, that was 1992...)?
Well, it hasn't been exactly a good week for the multilateral #globaldev system...a questionable UN appointment, trouble with Covax & refugees, peacekeeper abuse, the fallout from the World Bank ranking scandal plus continued debates around diversity & inclusion...the aid system is in trouble and there are no pumpkin-spiced pics from pet Twitter to ease our collective pain...

My quotes of the week

“Covax really was flawed in the beginning. I think it was naively ambitious.”
(How Covax failed on its promise to vaccinate the world)

The uncertainties and inconsistencies that mar our decisions about whom to protect tell us something about the broader task of refugee law. What if we began from a different, more radical formulation of ethical responsibility? To acknowledge another life as the source of an ethical obligation is not, I think, to examine empirical descriptions in order to see whether it measures up to some predetermined depiction of a life worth saving. (Whose Suffering Matters?)

If you’re poor, you will spend nearly every waking moment of your life trying to stay afloat, making trades for your children’s safety and your own you never imagined. (...) There are no truly “good” options, just piecemeal solutions—and the cycle is merciless and exhausting. (Think Netflix’s Maid Is Hard to Watch? Good: That’s the Point)

Development news
Matt Hancock appointed UN special envoy to help Covid recovery in Africa
The UN under secretary general, Vera Songwe, said Hancock’s “success” in handling the UK’s pandemic response was a testament to the strengths he would bring to the role.
(...)
Hancock’s appointment, which will be unpaid, comes as a damning report from MPs was published on how errors and delays by the UK government and scientific advisers cost lives during the pandemic.
'Haven't we suffered enough?!?' was one of the more polite responses from Twitter users across Africa as the UN appointed a blatantly under-qualified white British man almost literally on the day a damning report about the UK's Covid response was published...the UN system never seems to waste an opportunity to undermine its remaining legitimacy...

UN quizzed over role in prison-like island camp for Rohingya refugees
The UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) is facing questions over whether it is helping to detain Rohingya refugees in prison-like conditions by providing services on a controversial island camp.
Over the past year, Bangladesh has relocated almost 20,000 refugees to Bhasan Char, an island formed of silt deposits in the Bay of Bengal thought to be vulnerable to cyclones, which the refugees are unable to leave.
About 700 refugees have reportedly attempted to flee the island but Bangladesh hopes that the UNHCR’s cooperation will ensure better services for the refugees and is now planning to increase the island’s population by 80,000 over the next three months.
Kaamil Ahmed for the Guardian with more bad news for the UN system...

How Covax failed on its promise to vaccinate the world
As richer countries roll out booster shots, 98% of people in low-income countries remain unvaccinated. Covax, described as “naively ambitious” by one expert, has contributed just 5% of all vaccines administered globally and recently announced it would miss its 2 billion target for 2021.
(...)
“You can’t charity your way out of a pandemic,” Elder of MSF said. “This is why rebalancing between corporate interests and the public’s interest is so important.”
Rosa Furneaux & Olivia Goldhill for the Bureau of Investigative Journalism with an in-depth look into another multilateral effort that hasn't gone quiet as planned...

Circles of impunity: why sexual violence by humanitarians and peacekeepers keeps happening
The system has commendable intent but is set up to fail. The UN has little authority other than to send home the errant peacekeepers. Few get disciplined by their home authorities; often cases are simply not investigated or are closed for “lack of evidence”.
The UN is usually reluctant to offend its Member States on whom it depends for peacekeepers. Serial abusers can get recycled from operation to operation. Cash-strapped nations can get their ill-trained and ill-disciplined militaries subsidised through deployment fees from the massive UN peacekeeping budget. Fragile states may also prefer to keep their soldiers abroad rather than making coups at home.
Meanwhile, the victim is left high and dry, without even the consolation of seeing her abuser held to account. Fearing that it would open the floodgates, the UN does not compensate victims who have suffered at the hands of its agents. The injustice is self-evident. The irony is that she has more likelihood of redress from a domestic court in a poorly governed nation with a weak legal system, than in the zone of international operations governed by immunity and impunity.
Mukesh Kapila for the Conversation with an important reminder that the UN system is a) only as strong as member states want it to be & b) is chronically underfunded which increases the chances of not getting the best candidates for the job...

Aid agency actions on racial justice ‘inadequate’, aid workers say
But in a separate questionnaire that more than 150 aid workers filled in, two thirds said their organisation’s response to demands for greater racial justice has not been adequate; and 85 percent said the actions taken hadn’t resulted in any change in their personal work experience. The respondents do not necessarily work at the same organisations that filled out the institutional survey.
“Nothing has changed beyond rhetoric,” one aid worker wrote. “There is a lot of talk and internal consultation, but no real action (yet),” another wrote.
(...)
When asked what needs to happen, aid workers called for: hiring people to lead diversity, equity, and inclusion work internally; funding to enable organisations to engage DEI experts; meaningful pipeline and succession plans; and, above all, greater honesty.
“There needs to be a serious acknowledgement that to this point the organisation has been getting it wrong,” one wrote. Another was more direct: “Current leadership needs to step down. They have spent the past 15 years proving they are not interested in self-reflection.”
The New Humanitarian asked staff of leading #globaldev organizations for an update on racial justice & equality efforts.

What did The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings mean to a developing country citizen?
The stellar improvements in India’s EODB rankings have little to do with ‘ease of living’ that seems to be coming up as an occasional buzzword in government circles. PM Modi and his fanbase may have dreams of a country that looks like Singapore. However, the reality is that even in 2011-12, India had 27 crore people living below the poverty line, and crores more who were one catastrophe away from slipping below the poverty line. Sadly, GoI had a choice to make in how it would utilise its limited bureaucratic capacity, and it chose to focus on global rankings, rather than real pro-poor policy.
Suvojit Chattopadhyay with a reminder that global rankings can have real-life implications & are not just about bureaucrats in Washington, but eventually affect poor people.
Africa emerging as car making hub
Morocco is an emerging automotive manufacturing hub, while South Africa has a history of car making. But multinational vehicle manufacturers are also setting up production plants in Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria and Rwanda and locally owned African producers are starting out on this road less traveled. Africa has more than a billion people, 17% of the world's population, but accounts for only 1% of cars sold worldwide
Jo Harper for DW News; a typical #globaldev paradox: Great to see well-paid manufacturing jobs across Africa, but the impact of building/selling/driving more cars comes with huge ecological, mobility & consumer capitalist cost that dampen the 'growth is good' narrative...

Whose Suffering Matters?
The uncertainties and inconsistencies that mar our decisions about whom to protect tell us something about the broader task of refugee law. What if we began from a different, more radical formulation of ethical responsibility? To acknowledge another life as the source of an ethical obligation is not, I think, to examine empirical descriptions in order to see whether it measures up to some predetermined depiction of a life worth saving. Instead, it must begin with an acknowledgment of the unknowability of that person’s interior world, a sense of incomprehension of the other’s being—of all the other must have gone through, what we can scarcely imagine, and what inspires an sense of unfulfillable responsibility, rather than a desire for mastery and assessments of risk and calculation.
Paul Linden-Retek for the Boston Review with a great essay on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the UN Refugee Convention.
Addressing the inhumanity of internal displacement
But in a world that is characterized by a proliferation of actors that use violence with impunity, where armed conflict is rife, where international humanitarian and human rights law is routinely flouted and where there is a declining commitment to multilateralism and global governance, reducing IDP numbers, protecting the internally displaced and finding solutions to their plight could prove to be elusive goals.
Jeff Crisp for United Against Inhumanity on another aspect of people who are fleeing their home.

How to achieve full decolonization
Both of these routes are problematic. Extractivism is ecologically ruinous and socially destructive. And it’s a raw deal because low-income countries lack bargaining power in the world economy so have to sell their resources for extremely low prices. Meanwhile, relying on sweatshop exports means poverty wages and permanent exploitation. Plus, in order to please the barons of international capital and attract the investment required to get these projects off the ground, you have to cut environmental regulations, labour protections and corporate taxes in a brutal race to the bottom. Under these conditions, the yields of growth are mostly captured outside the country, and precious little trickles down to ordinary people.
Jason Hickel for the New Internationalist with an interesting log read that summarizes some of his key work for a more generalist audience.
Our digital lives
Think Netflix’s Maid Is Hard to Watch? Good: That’s the Point
The simulation and the show’s message are painfully clear: If you’re poor, you will spend nearly every waking moment of your life trying to stay afloat, making trades for your children’s safety and your own you never imagined. You might occasionally hit a victorious moment of a semi-full fridge, only to find yourself sucked back down by the undertow of a broken-down car or abusive relationship. There are no truly “good” options, just piecemeal solutions—and the cycle is merciless and exhausting.
Tracy Moore for Vanity Fair reviews a new Netflix show.

Publications
The slave demography of Statia, uncovering violence and terror on Dutch slave ships and the unknown history of São Tomé
This new collection of working papers presents original findings from the slave registers of St. Eustatius, a fresh look at the records of the Middelburg Trading Company (MCC) and revealing new insights on the WIC colony on São Tomé.
A new issue of the Working Papers on Slavery and its Afterlives by the Dutch Landelijk Netwerk Slavernijverleden.

What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 210, 2 December 2016)

Today's Technology Innovation Hubs Are Simply An Evolved Way Of Privatizing And Cashing On Societal Failures
But there’s a lot about them and the current ‘innovation’ hype on the continent that makes me really, really uncomfortable. The way we’re sold seductive, almost too beautiful images of people making it work ‘against all odds’, the images of the exceptions whose innovative ideas take off are presented as if they are the rule.
It almost feels like the way innovation hubs are currently set up signals a much deeper imposition, an evolved way of privatising societal failures, and ensuring this is internalised and reproduced. It’s a lovely thought to believe that all it takes to make it is discipline, ambition and positive thinking, but the reality is these aren’t going to undo deeply embedded structural injustices.
Koketso Moeti for iAfrikan on innovation hubs.

'Dear orphan, I'm sorry you are poor': the trouble with pen pals
But yesterday’s care package got me thinking: how can I better communicate our needs to the people who are so eager to help? How can we, non-profits, convey to donors the most effective ways to be supportive? Because at the end of the day, we both want the same thing: good outcomes for the vulnerable students we serve.
If you are thinking about engaging with an organisation serving vulnerable students, here are a few examples of popular trends that might not be as helpful as they seem, and some suggestions for how to redirect these efforts to truly benefit communities and organisations.
Virginia Fresne for the Guardian; we I revisited this piece I wondered whether pen-paling is still a thing in #globaldev comms?!?

'It was like being in a boys' club': female aid workers on sexual harassment at work
The women said the survey results suggested there were systemic failings within the industry when it came to dealing with sexually abusive behaviour, which could have an impact on the ability of the aid sector to protect vulnerable people in the countries where they worked.
“We need to get our house in order so that we can get to our core business of helping people,” they said.
Sandra Laville for the Guardian; even though you probably won't notice it, but this is not a piece from the original link review because the original link to this story was broken; but it is an reminder that research on sexual violence in the aid sector has a bit of a history by now...


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