Links & Contents I Liked 425
Happy Friday, weekend & reading!
From India's farmers to Beijing Olympics, unequal partnerships between 'North' & 'South' and Singapore's surveillance state we have another week of looking at an unequal planet, trying not to lose hope...
My quotes of the week
Chinese aid increases GDP growth, household consumption, and employment in recipient countries. So, contrary to conventional wisdom, the benefits of Chinese foreign aid spill over to ordinary citizens. (The Case for Chinese Foreign Aid)
Despite these positive signs, some local activists and practitioners are worried. They argue that this is all smoke and mirrors; that we have seen all of this before and it came to nothing. Others are concerned that the definition of ‘local’ will be distorted to encompass international organisations registered in-country in order to maintain the status quo. (Dear USAID; let’s make sure that "local" really means "local")
Indian PM Narendra Modi to repeal farm laws after year of protests
Narendra Modi has announced he will repeal three contentious farm laws that prompted a year of protests and unrest in India, in one of the most significant concessions made by his government.Hannah Ellis-Petersen for the Guardian; this fairly 'dry' report probably doesn't capture the full extend of this social movement & the high price many farmers have paid participating in the protests.
In a huge victory for India’s farmers, who had fought hard for the repeal of what they called the “black laws’, the prime minister announced in an address on Friday morning that “we have taken the laws back”.
Interactive: The European approach to stopping Libya migration
Every day this year, around four people on average have died attempting to cross the central Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe, and more than 90 have been intercepted by theEric Reidy for the New Humanitarian with a great interactive feature on the dramatic human rights situation around the Libyan migration crisis.
EU-supported Libyan Coast Guard – returned to detention centres where they face a cycle of torture, extortion, and sexual abuse.
Thought Zoom Would Save Local Democracy? It Hasn’t.
Relative to all voters in the community, online participants in local hearings in Massachusetts during the pandemic were whiter (by a 13 percent margin), older (22 percent likelier to be over the age of 50) and more likely to be homeowners than renters (a 25 percent gap). These gaps are roughly the same as Einstein and her co-authors observed with in-person housing meetings pre-pandemic. The only difference is that partisanship went up on Zoom: Republicans were less likely to participate in local meetings online.Michael Hendrix for Governing; even though the research behind the article is based on US local government, I believe it has important lessons for #globaldev & ICT4D as well: Even during a global pandemic 'fixing' inequalities through a tool does not work-no matter how much we think & wish that 'everybody' could easily attend a Zoom meeting...
Dear USAID; let’s make sure that "local" really means "local"
Despite these positive signs, some local activists and practitioners are worried. They argue that this is all smoke and mirrors; that we have seen all of this before and it came to nothing. Others are concerned that the definition of ‘local’ will be distorted to encompass international organisations registered in-country in order to maintain the status quo.Dylan Mathews for Bond comments on USAID's recent announcement to distribute significant parts of their funds through 'local' organizations.
They are right to be worried. There have already been successful efforts to water down such definitions and targets, for example during the Grand Bargain agreement in 2016, where a commitment to funding local organisations ‘as directly as possible’ was edited to include funding INGOs.
Isolated in Uganda: How Covid-19 evacuations highlight unfairness of global health partnerships
Although evacuations can be justifiable in situations of targeted risk, such as instances of rebel insurgency or abductions of foreign workers, pathogens like Covid-19 affect all susceptible hosts regardless of nationality — visitor or local — and can spread to populations everywhere if not quickly addressed. We call on global health practitioners to more clearly identify opportunities to respond to such situations in partnership and to be transparent about conditions that would render impossible in-person support from visiting staff.Stephen Asiimwe, Edith Nakku-Joloba and Aggrey Semeere for Stat News on how the international Covid response in Uganda has exposed some of the structural inequalities of many North-South 'partnerships'.
Clinicians and public health experts from the Global North have remarkable expertise in responding to infectious diseases, but outbreak response teams in the Global South need to know whether they can rely on them in their moments of greatest need.
The Case for Chinese Foreign Aid
Politically, therefore, aid is a win-win for China. Aid money helps to reduce domestic unemployment, which presumably eases social tensions, and the recipient country is grateful for the financial assistance. US food aid operates on a similar principle: the US government buys up wheat in boom production years to provide a secure price floor for American farmers, and then sends the excess food to poor countries as bilateral aid.Nancy Qian for Project Syndicate continues the complicated debates around aid, China & Chinese aid.
But the most important revelation from recent economic studies is that Chinese aid increases GDP growth, household consumption, and employment in recipient countries. So, contrary to conventional wisdom, the benefits of Chinese foreign aid spill over to ordinary citizens.
Indigenous Papuan women and the struggle for land
Rika, works as a teacher in a local elementary school. She is also the only woman in the Ampera Village Government, as a member of the Bamuskam (Village Consultative Body). Despite her influential position, she still feels that women have greater challenges in a public space, especially in the decision-making process.Rassela Malinda for new mandala with an interesting insight into the complexities of land, traditions & the looming impact of 'development' trough palm oil.
She says “I am the only one woman in this structural position. But I think, it is only to fulfil the quota, in fact I am never involved in some important meetings regarding the village. It seems like I am invisible.”
She also experiences these challenges in her own family and marga (sub-tribe). As the eldest in her family, she has no rights to ownership of adat land. All the decisions regarding the land are the business of her father and younger brother. Luckily, her father also opposes the plantations, at least up to this day. However, some members of the Maa sub-tribe have different positions on the investment. They continue to try to influence her father to reconsider his stance.
Policing the colony
The twin harms of law and police: let’s decriminalize and defund. Instead of reformist reforms intended to capacitate police, we can limit advocacy to radical reforms, which reduce their capacity to harm. Defunding is not just the removal of police funding; it is the diverting of funding from policing to actual social goods like housing, food security, healthcare, and education. These can help everyone and avoid the reproduction of the conditions that make people feel we need police. Together with that, we should start with the decriminalization of poverty generally, and the removal of the harmful socioeconomic effect of related harassment, fines, and imprisonment of the marginalized. In this way, we can begin the path to completely changing the way that we relate to accountability.Caroline Velli for Africa is a Country with a vision on what 'defunding the police' could mean in South Africa.
Friday Notes, November 12, 2021
1/ So today I returned to The Corner Cafe in Kloof Street. The building was built in 1920. I wanted to meet the current shopkeepers/owners and have a conversation with them. I sat opposite and waited for it to open. Hoping it would open. It did. At 8am. pic.twitter.com/MQYY93s1MQ— Lorenzo Davids (@UrbanLo) November 18, 2021
Leaders need to explain themselves, often and clearly: At a team meeting in Lusaka last week, I offered remarks about how I see much of my job as making tradeoffs between what would be optimal for an individual team member, project team, region, or function, on the one hand, and what is best for the organization as a whole, on the other. Considering tradeoffs, weighing costs and benefits, and thinking across levels and over time is easiest to understand through specific examples, so I walked through my thinking about several types of decisions that affect the work-life in the Zambia office.Ruth Levine shares reflections on managing IDInsight in her weekly newsletter-a really interesting way to enhance transparency and communication in an organization.
Our digital livesThe Long History of the Olympic Industry and Totalitarian Regimes
What make the 2022 Beijing Olympics so utterly indefensible is that we’ve been here before. Not even two full decades have passed since the last PRC-IOC festival of human rights violations, yet the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) of the world are lining up to participate. Back in 2008, IOC President Jacques Rogge claimed the Olympics would improve the human rights situation in the PRC. The opposite happened. In fact, things are now so bad that current IOC President Thomas Bach won’t utter a word about the state of human rights in the PRC. It’s game over.
Singapore’s tech-utopia dream is turning into a surveillance state nightmare
He, like activists and academics who spoke to Rest of World, believe the environment for dissenters is getting worse. Although it’s hard to measure, there’s a sense of growing nervousness in public life. Academics warn of greater interference into their research; previously loquacious commentators on the state of the nation politely decline requests to speak. For every academic quoted in this article, several others asked only to speak on background—even about their own research.Peter Guest for Rest of World with an interesting long-read on Singapore and the growing power of an Orwellian society.
Navigating the violent process of decolonisation in global health research: a guideline
Violent, marginalising behaviours can include continual questioning of the ability and technical skills of the staff from low-income countries. Other behaviours that undermine equitable collaboration include critical decisions being made about the study by high-income country researchers or travelling to the site without prior communication with the low-income country's principal investigator; publishing papers or deciding authorship without the knowledge of the low-income country's principal investigator; directly communicating with the field staff undermining the site principal investigator, and communicating unsubstantiated allegations against the principal investigator to the low-income country's university leadership as a means of coercive influence. I have come to understand the power dynamics that influence decision making from my position as a marginalised player in the system.Muneera A. Rashed for the Lancet Global Health with a new open access article.
All of this is happening against a backdrop in which academic institutions, increasingly run like businesses in search of large investors, find it hard to ignore the financial and reputational advantages that tech partnerships and funding bring. This dynamic is compounded by the increasing precariousness of academic jobs, in which fewer and fewer academic workers have the job security or union solidarity necessary to safely contest policies that might compromise academic freedom. This gives tech companies increasing leverage not simply over research they fund directly but also over decisions about which work is included and excluded at the university overall.Meredith Whittaker for ACM Interactions on the digital-AI-big-tech-military-industrial complex and the role of universities & research.
What we were reading 4 years ago
(Link review 215, 13 January 2017)
The poor state of development journalism: Daily Mail, BBC & 'Ethiopian Spice Girls'
We have come full-circle. Despite the fact that no petition was signed, no Internet ‘shitstorm’ emerged and no real public outrage took place, Daily Mail front page journalism and the willing Conservative executioners of cutting the foreign aid budget work hand in hand.Me, unhappy about UK #globaldev journalism-again...
This is a powerful reminder that post-factual journalism is not just a ‘thing’, but has real consequences for public spending-usually affecting those who do not have access to the powerful lobbying arsenal of the establishment.
Welcome to the global war on aid
Despite being unelected, unaccountable and uninformed about the aid industry, the Daily Mail (and its sibling Mail on Sunday) loves to attack anything that looks like poor people getting hold of UK taxpayers' money. It doesn't matter who those poor people are – the Mail is an equal opportunity Scrooge, willing to snatch coins from the hand of anybody it doesn't like the look of.Paul Currion for the New Humanitarian is also not happy with the Daily Mail...
‘Doing good’ in an age of parody
Alongside this changing labor landscape, millennials have only really known a world characterized by neoliberal policies. They value above much else individual empowerment and are skeptical of a governments’ capacity to provide social good. Such subjectivity allows young millennials to understand their own voluntourism, not in terms of the unequal geopolitical relationships that they critique, but as an appropriate form for them to develop their own skills base, including something that could be called global empathy.Kathryn Mathers & Elsa Gunnarsdottir for Africa is a Country with a short post on voluntourism that is still a useful primer for discussing the topic with different audiences.