Links & Contents I Liked 421
Sometimes it happens that my weekly #globaldev review aligns along a certain theme & this week it is borders-border regimes, surveillance, migration control & various aspects of surveillance & oppression that are similar, yet different whether they concern EU's Frontex, the US border regime or China's policies in Xinjiang; this topic is extended with pieces on ad trackers on non-profit sites & surveillance law across Africa.
My quotes of the week
Direct attacks on and degradation of energy infrastructure, lack of maintenance, and failing environmental governance capture the conflict-linked pollution in a microcosm.
(Syria’s coast becoming a conflict-pollution hotspot)
But the toughest part is to see how much this world is still exactly the same as it was when I started in 1990. Instead of gender mainstreaming, we now obsess over intersectionality. Instead of aid effectiveness, we pander to localization. Instead of evaluation we now have impact investment. Instead of donor dependency, we are completely obsessed with decolonization. Its old wine packed in old bottles frankly.
(Why I Left Development - Or Rather, Why Development Left Me)
Funders, especially left-leaning ones, love commissions, white papers, summits, logic models, surveys. This is a self-reinforcing cycle where commissions lead to surveys and focus groups, which lead to white papers, which lead to summits, which lead to commissions. And we all just accept this as par for the course, a best practice. This is a destructive habit, harmful in the best of times, but now we are in the worst of times.
(Democracy is Dying. Philanthropy Needs to Stop Its Toxic Intellectualizing)
Matt Hancock's United Nations role withdrawn
Mr Hancock announced this week that he had been given a role helping Africa's economy recover from Covid.Pretty much the day after I posted last week's #globaldev review it emerged that Hancock will not become a UN envoy.
The UN said he would bring valuable experience - but Mr Hancock now says a rule has come to light that prevents him from taking the job while an MP.
Leading figures across Africa and UK opposition parties had criticised the UN's choice of the MP for the role.
Moves at UN Signal That the Search for a New Tech Envoy May Be Underway
Guterres recently spoke with a European Union executive about the possibility of filling the post before the end of the year, according to several sources who formerly worked for the UN. Funding for the tech job is extrabudgetary, so right now it is being paid primarily through donations from European countries and foundations.Laura E. Kirkpatrick for PassBlue; days after the Matt Hancock disaster the UN system struggles with another senior appointment & seems to have a hard time finding the right, diverse & well-qualified candidates for top jobs...
Hochschild’s appointment drew criticism from member states not only because of the complaints against him but also because of his minimal tech experience and the lack of transparency surrounding the appointment.
Syria’s coast becoming a conflict-pollution hotspot
This story only emerged thanks to the bravery of two junior staff who were willing to stand up to a (very) senior manager and then to Bank management as a whole. The @WorldBank response not only failed them, but deserves further investigation.https://t.co/JFMmnhwseA— Charles Kenny (@charlesjkenny) October 18, 2021
A decade of armed conflict continues to pose growing threats to the environment as well as the people depending on it. Direct attacks on and degradation of energy infrastructure, lack of maintenance, and failing environmental governance capture the conflict-linked pollution in a microcosm. This has continued to amass into a wide array of problems, often leading to grave incidents that reached a critical point with the August 2021 spill. Syria’s coastal areas are an important source of livelihoods for fisheries and tourism while also hosting many unique yet fragile marine ecosystems. Lack of equipment and expertise in regime-held areas impedes capacities to rapidly respond to these threats, leading to transboundary pollution in the Mediterranean region.PAX with a new investigation that is yet another reminder how war, conflict & fragility can cause further environmental damage.
Frontex: An EU agency gone rogue?
Citing the need to protect "ongoing investigations" and "internal decision-making", the agency's transparency office deems these phrases not to be fit for public consumption. In a Kafka-esque irony, then, Frontex is withholding public access to documents pertaining to the response of a public institution to a protest by members of the public on grounds that this would violate the "public interest".Ludek Stavinoha for eu observer.
The inhumane futility of border policing
In an effort to deter migration, countries in the Global North, at the border with the Global South, including Greece and the United States, are increasingly deploying violent policing tactics, including racial profiling, pushbacks at the border and incarceration. However, these violent measures do little to deter people who have nowhere else to go and nothing left to lose. Instead, this brutal, inhumane and expensive approach to tackling immigration only exacerbates the problem of displacement and causes suffering and death.Heba Gowayed for AlJazeera.
A nurse’s journey from treating Covid in Brazil to death in the US desert
She never returned. Five weeks later and more than 4,000 miles north, US border patrol agents found Lenilda’s body in the desert near the town of Deming, New Mexico. She was curled up by a mesquite bush, wearing light brown tactical boots and army fatigues, and had little with her but a blue Brazilian passport tucked into a waist bag.Tom Phillips for the Guardian; all 3 articles are linked & they show the destruction that our current border regimes are causing & how little accountability there is even if rules & regulations are violated.
The architecture of repression
This project maps and analyses the governance mechanisms employed by the Chinese party-state in Xinjiang from 2014 to 2021 within the context of the region’s ongoing human rights crisis. To that end, the authors have located and scrutinised thousands of Chinese-language sources, including leaked police records and government budget documents never before published. This archive of sources is made publicly available for the use of others.The Australian Strategic Policy Institute with a new report on China; some of the aspects of surveillance & oppression are very similar whether they concern Frontex, the US border regime or China's policies in Xinjiang.
For policymakers, this report will provide an evidence base to inform policy responses including possible sanctions. For the general public and anyone whose interests are linked to Xinjiang and China more broadly, this project can inform risk analysis and ethical considerations.
Calling out workplace sexual harassment in Ugandan markets
The emerging findings from the project show that most women working in markets in Uganda have no platforms for power and their voices are usually not included at the management level when decisions are made.The IDS-based 'Gendered price of precarity' project with some insights from their Uganda project.
This lack of representation means women struggle to address issues they face during their day-to-day life at work, including workplace sexual harassment. After hearing the stories shared by market workers, the project’s youth research team have produced the video below to raise awareness of workplace sexual harassment.
Democracy is Dying. Philanthropy Needs to Stop Its Toxic Intellectualizing.
Funders, especially left-leaning ones, love commissions, white papers, summits, logic models, surveys. This is a self-reinforcing cycle where commissions lead to surveys and focus groups, which lead to white papers, which lead to summits, which lead to commissions. And we all just accept this as par for the course, a best practice. This is a destructive habit, harmful in the best of times, but now we are in the worst of times.Vu Le for Nonprofit AF; 'Toxic intellectualizing' is also a speciality of academia...
Instead of working to address these critical issues, we see left-leaning institutional philanthropy, who for better or usually for worse sets the tone and strategies for our sector, continuing to engage in its delusional, out-of-touch practices. It still rationalizes foundations existing in perpetuity by protecting endowments for the future instead of spending out to solve issues now. It still refuses to engage in crucial battles, thinking that protecting basic and vital civic rights like voting are too “political.” It still wastes nonprofits’ time and energy through archaic, burdensome grantmaking practices. It still opposes efforts to advance even the mildest of reforms, like the ACE Act. It still remains a vehicle for corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid taxes and hoard wealth, while funding commissions to spend years studying why poor people haven’t been giving as much to nonprofits.
Why I Left Development - Or Rather, Why Development Left Me
But the toughest part is to see how much this world is still exactly the same as it was when I started in 1990. Instead of gender mainstreaming, we now obsess over intersectionality. Instead of aid effectiveness, we pander to localization. Instead of evaluation we now have impact investment. Instead of donor dependency, we are completely obsessed with decolonization. Its old wine packed in old bottles frankly.Themrise Khan with a 3-part blog series reflection on (the end of) her #globaldev career.
This current phase of “reckoning” in international development which sees itself as more self-aware (its not), still insists that there is real good to be done. That’s why there is such a desperate thrust to try and rethink it, reimagine it, redesign it or all the other “re’s” that are floating about these days. But the fact remains, that at the end of the day, its not your development to do. Its OURS. Our futures are at stake. Not yours.
Our digital lives
Q&A: Sean Jacobs on Africa Is A Country
It doesn’t do much theorizing, its work has to do with police brutality, housing––very local struggles––but around them they have young intellectuals emerging, people who are thinking about how they are living. They set up a little team and made this proposal to us called “Capitalism In My City” to make videos showing things like pollution, and unemployment.Feven Merid talks to the founder of Africa is a Country for the Columbia Journalism Review.
The way we’re going to write about capitalism can’t be like the New Left Review or some obscure leftist journal type thing. It has to be in line with regular people and also people who are not necessarily interested in Kenya or might think the life somebody lives in Nairobi is not like theirs in New York.
Nonprofit Websites Are Riddled With Ad Trackers
Tracy Plevel, the vice president of development and community relations at Gateway Rehab, one of the nonprofits with session recorders on its site, said that the nonprofit uses trackers and session recorders because it needs to stay competitive with its larger, for-profit counterparts.Alfred Ng & Maddy Varner for the Markup on the ongoing challenges around data, privacy & digital activities of non-profits, including #globaldev.
“They rely on this kind of problematic ecosystem to achieve their work, and as a result, they share number lists, email addresses, or browsing behavior with third-party advertising companies and subject their members to risk,” Soltani said.
Surveillance Law in Africa: a review of six countries
An expansion of state surveillance is underway that involves violations of citizens’ privacy rights. This is happening despite explicit guarantees of these privacy rights in African constitutions, international human rights conventions and domestic laws. Governments are making large investments in new surveillance technologies, passing laws that expand their legal surveillance powers, and conducting illegal surveillance of journalists, judges, business rivals and opposition leadersTony Roberts, Abrar Mohamed Ali, Mohamed Farahat, Ridwan Oloyede & Grace Mutung’u with a new report published by IDS.
Special Issue:Combined Special Issues on ‘Indigenous Theory’ and ‘Digital Platforms for Development’
Robert M. Davison, Brian Nicholson, Petter Nielsen & Johan Saebo with a special issue of Information Systems Journal that contains quite a few interesting open access articles.
What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 211, 9 December 2016)
Books I Liked 01 (short book reviews)
Wesley Lowery’s book is based on his experiences as a Washington Post correspondent who has been covering police brutality in the USA and community responses beyond #blacklivesmatter.Me, with 2 short book reviews of books that are still very timely & readable!
Nicole Dennis-Benn’s novel takes us to Jamaica, following the lives of three women and their struggles with social change and society’s expectations.
#BlackLivesMatter and the Power and Limits of Social Media
Black Lives Matter also faces the challenges of decentralization. There are different chapters and arguments over who represents the movement. But decentralization also helps ensure that killing the leaders won’t kill the movement. Yates describes the old style of organization as “the singular- figure model of black liberation — which was often a man in a suit, at the top, and having him be the microphone for people.” Yates explains, “we didn’t realize it didn’t work until we saw what happened, and they repeatedly killed that leader. It took the wind out from under a movement.”Emily Parker & charlton mcilwain with some early reflections on the Black Lives Matter movement & the chances & limitations of digital activism.
One Story, Many Countries: Why Does The Media (Still) Stereotype Africa?
So instead of falling into the old Afro-pessimism stereotype, media reporting needs to guard against being limited to the latest ‘positive’ narrative. Simple binaries are not sufficient in telling the news of such a vast and multifaceted area. The rising African middle classes and the economic elites are only one dimension. Despite all the stories of booming success, of which there are many, we need to remind audiences of other narratives.Suzanne Franks for the European Journalism Observatory on the changing narratives & insufficient binaries of reporting on 'Africa'-interesting to think what has (not) changed in those 5 years...