Links & Contents I Liked 424

Hi all,

This week's review features insights from Uganda, Madagascar, North Africa, Afghanistan, Mexico, India, Brazil, Australia, UK, the UN system & the World Bank! So enjoy your critical #globaldev readings!

My quotes of the week
Hunger is everywhere in southern Madagascar. Those who have livestock or land will sell it to buy food but they are taken advantage of because they are so desperate. Then there are others who have nothing. They eat cactus leaves mixed with ashes, just to not be hungry, to get rid of that empty feeling. (Madagascar is drying out – there’s no harvest, only hunger)

It’s also important to take into account that the line that divides government and organized crime is often nonexistent. This needs to inform the discussion about whether it’s wise to create a centralized database of all people in Mexico with biometrics, where that information can be weaponized against its citizens. Because, obviously, the Mexican institutions are infiltrated by organized crime. The problem with crime in Mexico is not that we don’t have enough data from people.
(“The power to surveil, control, and punish”: The dystopian danger of a mandatory biometric database in Mexico)

New on aidnography
This school and cultural institution in rural Uganda will level the playing field for women and girls
I first heard about InteRoots' work in Uganda through recent articles that featured their work in connection with decolonizing philanthropy and ethical storytelling, so I happily agreed to share their guest post on how they work with/in communities!
Development news
Madagascar is drying out – there’s no harvest, only hunger
We try to help: sometimes I buy cactus fruit and give it to the women while they wait. This is only a small thing but I feel it’s important. Hunger is everywhere in southern Madagascar. Those who have livestock or land will sell it to buy food but they are taken advantage of because they are so desperate. Then there are others who have nothing. They eat cactus leaves mixed with ashes, just to not be hungry, to get rid of that empty feeling.
An anonymous submission to the Guardian on the situation in Madagascar.

The Fragile State of Food Security in the Maghreb: Implication of the 2021 Cereal Grains Crisis in Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco
North Africa has entered a food security crisis. Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco are witnessing food inflation levels not seen since the civil unrest of the Arab Spring a decade ago. Then, soaring food costs, particularly skyrocketing bread prices, helped fuel the popular protest movements against corruption and injustice that ousted Tunisia's long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and toppled other autocratic regimes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). In Morocco and other MENA countries, the social unrest prompted significant political and socio-economic reform. Although the Maghreb's current food crisis was precipitated by the local and global economic shocks brought on by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and its 2021 aftermath, the structural fragility of the food systems in Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco is responsible for severity of the problem. At the core of this fragility is the failure to implement adequate measures to address the impact of increased water scarcity and debilitating climate change.
Michaël Tanchum for the Middle East Institute introduces some really interesting new research that poses complex questions around social change, the climate crisis & food insecurities.
World Bank aims to replace canceled 'Doing Business' report in two years
"It's important that the metrics of credibility are not personality-based, that they're systems based," she said, adding that the bank had instituted "a lot of safeguards" over the past year after reviewing several external reports.
"Nothing in life is failsafe but it reduces ... the capacity for misuse and abuse," she said. "Hopefully credibility will follow. You know, credibility is one thing that is difficult to establish and easy to lose. But time will tell."
Andrea Shalal for Reuters on how the Bank is planning to revive their Doing Business project, but problems with rankings and quantitative data will continue to provide food for discussion.

The Obscure Organization Powering a Race to Mine the Bottom of the Seas
Critics balk at the organization’s lack of transparency and worry that the humanitarian intentions behind the Law of the Sea treaty aren’t enough to ensure that the monetary benefits of the minerals on the seafloor will reach everyone. Some critics see an inherent contradiction in the Authority’s dual mandate to promote the development of deep-sea minerals while also protecting the environment.
The relationship between Lodge, the secretary-general of the Authority, and the Metals Company, the Canadian company that holds three of the 31 current exploration licenses, especially concerns critics of the ISA.
Anna Bianca Roach for PassBlue; when a leading project that focuses on the UN system & its politics introduces an 'obscure organization' you can be sure that we are in a a bit of trouble...

A love letter to Kabul
Kabul’s magnetism resides in the rhythms of this city. But busy streets are teeming with ever more children, including girls of all ages, as well as old men, white-bearded and bent by the merciless war - all begging, living hand-to-mouth.
The city’s stubborn traffic snarls are infuriating. But they’re fertile ground for a growing league of street kids, weaving around vehicles, waving rusted tin cans. Wisps of incense smoke - Spandi - wafting through windows, promise the power of good spirits, for a tiny price. It buys bread to feed a family, and elicits an impish grin. Who could - and should - resist?
Lyse Doucet, Mahfouz Zubaide & Esmatullah Kohsar for the BBC; 'love letters' to places in the global South can often go a bit wrong, but I think Lyse Doucet's strikes the right tone to explore 'her' city, between normalcy & resilience and a looming crisis surrounding daily lives.

“The power to surveil, control, and punish”: The dystopian danger of a mandatory biometric database in Mexico
Many people, particularly those with a security lens, genuinely believe universal surveillance will solve corruption and crime. This is a very naïve way of looking at Mexican institutions, which are very weak. Its databases are often breached and accessible freely on the internet.
It’s also important to take into account that the line that divides government and organized crime is often nonexistent. This needs to inform the discussion about whether it’s wise to create a centralized database of all people in Mexico with biometrics, where that information can be weaponized against its citizens. Because, obviously, the Mexican institutions are infiltrated by organized crime. The problem with crime in Mexico is not that we don’t have enough data from people.
Leo Swartz talks to Luis Fernando García for Rest of World about the dangers of biometric databases in Mexico-and the role the World Bank has been playing to adopt it.

Meet the ‘inactivists’, tangling up the climate crisis in culture wars
But there is now an even more powerful weapon in the inactivist armoury. It comes in the form of an appeal to social justice: one that casts environmentalists as an aloof, out-of-touch establishment, and the inactivists as insurgents, defending the values and livelihoods of ordinary people. “The biggest single threat to the net zero transition is a culture war-style backlash that heavily politicises this agenda and spooks governments into moving more slowly,” says Murray. “At present, it’s on the periphery. But as the past few years have taught us, ideas that were on the periphery can become very influential, very quickly.”
Attempts to mobilise anti-elite sentiments against climate activists are nothing new.
Thanet’s story so far – of long-term decline and uneven restoration – is familiar to great swathes of Britain, and beyond. If its next chapter is to prove more hopeful, it must be written collaboratively, and carry an entire community along with it.
Jack Shenker's long-read for the Guardian focuses on the UK, but I believe that some of the strategies of the 'inactivists' are already undermining social change elsewhere.
Guest Contribution by Tiffany Fairey: Participatory, Community and Citizen Photography as Peace Photography
Undertaking research into arts-based peacebuilding I noted how research to date has focused on the performative arts such as theatre and music. There has been a distinct neglect of the visual. I am working with photographic practitioners and organisations in 6-7 countries to research photographic initiatives, collectives, and archives to build grounded theory on visual peace work in action. At the core of these projects is an expanded sense of what photography involves. It is an understanding of photography, as sketched out by Ariella Azoulay and others, as an ongoing, multi-participated activity, linked to political imaginaries and that invents new forms of being with others.
Tiffany Fairey for Image & Peace introduces her research project & initial findings on expanding arts-based peacebuilding.

The Invisible Women of Colonial India's Textile Industry
Moreover, in colonial India, women’s work was not just devalued through ideologies of domesticity, the collective power of male trade unions or the economic logic of employers. It was sometimes also devalued through emerging narratives of elite female education. Elite educational debates focused on how socially well-off Indian women should be educated, often assuming the question was irrelevant to working-class women. But these debates may have also contributed to the diminishment, in the popular understanding, of the economic value of women’s labour.
Amanda Lanzillo & Arun Kumar the Wire, linking historical insights into India's labor relations to contemporary challenges for women in the workplace.

Britain's Hidden Hand in Brazil's 1964 Coup D'Etat
The Information Research Department (IRD), a unit of the Foreign Office that acted as Britain’s secret propaganda arm during the Cold War, was also active in Brazil. Though the US clearly played a more prominent role, recently declassified files reveal Britain’s hidden hand in the coup through its support of key agitators.
“This work reinforces that the IRD was covertly active in Brazil for many years, joining forces with the US anti-communist crusade and with the anti-communist propaganda engineered by Brazilian institutions.”
He added: “It is now possible to restate that this combined effort contributed to the destabilisation of President Goulart’s government, paving the way for a military regime that changed the course of Brazil’s recent history”.
John McEvoy for DeclassifiedUK continues with their excellent coverage on Britain's historical & contemporary involvement in the darker corners for foreign policy, diplomacy & military engagement.

Multilateralism in Action
Multilateralism in Action provides a platform for think-pieces on cutting-edge issues regarding multilateralism and global governance written by leading experts in both practice and research.
My colleague & friend Daniel Naujoks at Columbia University launched a new blog project around SIPA's engagement with the UN system & global governance.

Our digital lives
Meet Australia's Batshit Insane Mining Billionaires
Besides stopping global slavery and ending deaths from cancer through his network of charities, one of Forrest’s more modest goals is to close the gap in employment rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. In 2014, Forrest wrote and published a report to the Australian government proposing how to do this. His main recommendation, which has since been rolled out in many remote Aboriginal communities, involves a special form of debit card that restricts what Aboriginal people can spend welfare money on, including alcohol and gambling.
Amazingly, this has not worked. Besides being humiliating for many people, the card took away peoples’ ability to buy groceries and other basic items from many stores, as well as making it harder for women to escape domestic violence. In some communities, the card has been nicknamed “the White card”.
Whenever he's questioned about the card’s failure, all the Aboriginal sacred sites and cultural heritage that Fortescue Metals has destroyed, or on his lack of actual expertise on subjects beyond digging up iron ore, Forrest points to the fact that he had Aboriginal friends when he was a child.
Alex McKinnon for Gawker; the headline is no overstatement...billionaires should not exist-especially if their wealth is funded by actively worsening the climate catastrophe!

Evaluation in the time of COVID – lessons from digital SBCC programmes
While the evidence base and use cases related to digital SBCC are growing and becoming more robust, there is a need for more theory-based approaches and for on-going research and evidence building to better understand the complex nuances of this space. The rapid shift to using digital monitoring and evaluation tools that COVID has required may provide additional insights and learning to build on.
Linda Raftree for imediate Associates with a great new paper on evaluating Social & Behavior Change Communication initiatives in a digital, pandemic environment.

P.S.: More open access reading recommendations can be found in my weekly #globaldev newsletter.

Rethinking academic conferencing for a carbon-constrained world
Moreover, we are still only beginning to stretch beyond “replicating” in-person conferencing experiences to explore how online spaces might allow us to do totally new things that may expand the purpose of conference participation in the first place. Moving beyond the linear transmission of information towards engagement in network-building and technology-enhanced modes of co-producing knowledge are ways that we can engage with a wider range of participant motivations.
With support from the International Development Research Centre, we will spend the next two years gathering and sharing insights from academics, practitioners, and policy makers about how online conferences can best meet their needs, compiling a repository of effective practices from the past 18 months, and building these into a costed design that includes dedicated capacity and networking support for participants joining from the global South. Our hope in doing so is to not only redesign a conference based on the best new evidence we can obtain, but to kickstart a conversation about the future of low-carbon global knowledge exchange in academia. We see this current moment in time as a unique opportunity to revisit questions of purpose and inclusion in academic conferencing, and hope that this conversation can play a part.
Blane Harvey, Alain Bourque, Ying Syuan Huang & Anne Debrabandere for University Affairs introduce an new, #globaldev-related research project on the 'new normal' for conferencing & what needs to change to future-proof the idea & ideals of bringing people together in a meaningful way.
Decolonising Development Research: Why it is urgently needed and what steps must be taken
there are three basic principles for the process of academic knowledge production can be taken serious by all researchers:
Giving credit: we can counter academic imperialism by specifically acknowledging contributions of Southern researchers in the literature, or of Southern co-producers of knowledge (as interviewees, informants or otherwise), or of Southern concepts and knowledge systems in general.
Giving back: all those who spent a part of their valuable time with the researcher providing information or answering questions or supporting them in practical ways and thus made it possible in the first place have the right to get to know the results of the research. This needs to happen in a form and language which is easily accessible to them.
Giving space: Any time we do research, write a paper or give a public talk, we can ask ourselves: does this have to be done by me or could it equally be done by someone else less privileged, by more marginalised persons, maybe by someone located in the South?
Aram Ziai for Convivial Thinking with some first steps towards decolonizing #globaldev research.

What we were reading 4 years ago
(Link review 214, 6 January 2017)

My development blogging & communication review 2016
In some ways, the 6th annual review (yes, this was a regular post in all previous years, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 & 2015!) is the second half of reflections that started in September when I shared What I learned from curating thousands of #globaldev articles on the occasion of my 200th Links & Contents I Liked post.
As many of my readers are returning from holidays and students are commencing new semesters this is still a very good starting point for many resources that provide an overview over debates pertinent to the contemporary aid industry.
Me, reviewing the #globaldev year of 2016.

Our favourite global development stories of 2016
From refugees to aid worker safety, leaving no one behind to localising aid, it’s been a busy year for humanitarians and development folk.
Rachel Banning-Lover for the Guardian also reviews another year with familiar topics...

Trying to break into international development? My 5 tips learned the hard way
You can make a career in international development. But forget the traditional path. Accept the world as it is and adapt your approach.
Thomas Park with some interesting career advice that is at the same time still relevant, but is has also changed since he shared his reflections in 2016.


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