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Hi all,

The holidays are moving closer-which means that next week will be the last Friday link review of the year!
Unfortunately, as we take a look this week at Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka as well as at localization, research partnerships & UN issues, the news are mainly bleak...so perhaps read the post in more than one session & have time + space for recharging your positive #globaldev spirit!

My quotes of the week
I had to be the bank of information that colleagues could withdraw helpful data from at any given time. My job was to know everything, to be able to find out anything, to remain abreast of any relevant updates on the stories we were following and to have the contact details of everyone on all sides. (Why I Stopped Writing About Syria)

In a country that has seen widespread displacement and contention over land since the beginning of the civil war, deciding on who is ‘local’ means intervening in tough political issues – issues aid agencies often neglect. (Don’t apply here: Why NGO hiring practices are sparking protests in South Sudan)

Development news
Why I Stopped Writing About Syria
My background and experiences in Syria, my network of contacts on all sides and my ability to speak and write in more than one language made me a highly desired addition to bureaus of news organizations covering Syria, but only in a supplementary capacity to others. At the same time, being Syrian did not encourage editors to promote me to a Syria correspondent role, perhaps thinking that I would be too biased for it.
I played that supplementary role for five years, mostly as a “news assistant,” an underwhelming position with little pay and recognition, given to local journalists to function as a bridge between foreign reporters who come and go to the places and people they cover in the news.
During those five years, I had to be the bank of information that colleagues could withdraw helpful data from at any given time. My job was to know everything, to be able to find out anything, to remain abreast of any relevant updates on the stories we were following and to have the contact details of everyone on all sides.
Asser Khattab for New Lines Magazine on global news media, local knowledge & being an information ATM.

Don’t apply here: Why NGO hiring practices are sparking protests in South Sudan
In a country that has seen widespread displacement and contention over land since the beginning of the civil war, deciding on who is ‘local’ means intervening in tough political issues – issues aid agencies often neglect.
(...)
Aid agencies remain hesitant to see themselves as employers and don’t provide working environments predicated on the long-term contracts, health benefits, and strong union protection that their foreign employees might expect in their countries of origin.
Ultimately, despite recent measures put in place by aid agencies, youth protests are unlikely to end. In a situation of economic collapse, the unions are asking humanitarians to provide jobs that will enable South Sudan’s youth to imagine a better future. In a situation of funding shortfalls, it’s not a demand that humanitarian agencies can answer.
Joshua Craze for the New Humanitarian with some great insights from the 'localization-it's complicated' frontlines in South Sudan.

USAID chief Samantha Power details localization push
Power mentioned that USAID intends to staff up, which was well received in the room, and that the agency will grant permanent authorities to foreign service nationals so they can serve as contracting officers, both moves she announced last month — the first of which will require additional appropriations from Congress. USAID will also work with Congress to review its “risk posture, our reporting requirements, and to push for the patience required to work with local partners,” she said.
Adva Saldinger for DevEx with more on localiztion...and before you are getting too worried: Rest assured, Chemonics & the likes are still in the picture, for example promoting the Moldovan wine industry...

Afghan mothers forced to sell their children to survive as starvation threatens millions
Aid groups say one million children are on the brink of death from malnutrition in the coming winter months - a figure greater than the total number of civilian casualties from the 20-year war.
A crippling drought exacerbated by an economic crisis following international sanctions against the new Taliban government has left more than half of Afghanistan’s population facing acute hunger.
Rashida Yosufzai for SBS News; words fail me to express how perplexed I am that 20 years of Western occupation made such a small impact that the country is facing this situation the first winter Americans et al. left the country...

Iraqi wars' deadly legacy: unexploded ordnance
Across Iraq, about 100 children were killed or injured between January and September as a result of remnants of conflict, according to the UN.
In a country that has one of the world's highest UXO "contamination rates", almost one in four people is exposed to risk from unexploded ordnance, say non-governmental groups.
Iraq's successive conflicts have left a deadly legacy, from the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, to the US-led invasion of 2003 and the defeat of IS in late 2017.
Mohammed Salim for AFP reporting from Iraq, the other country in the region "we" have failed for 2 decades now...

Rohingya refugees sue Facebook for $150 billion over Myanmar violence
A U.S. class-action complaint (...) argues that the company's failures to police content and its platform's design contributed to real-world violence faced by the Rohingya community.
Elizabeth Culliford for Reuters on an unlikely successful, but interesting new law suit failed against Facebook.

The UK’s kleptocracy problem
Based on extensive research on the laundering of money and reputations by elites from the post-Soviet successor states, this paper details how the UK is ill-equipped to assess the risk of corruption from transnational kleptocracy, which has undermined the integrity of important domestic institutions and weakened the rule of law. It concludes by calling for the UK government to adopt a new approach to this problem focused on creating a hostile environment for the world’s kleptocrats.
John Heathershaw, Alexander Cooley, Thomas Mayne, Casey Michel, Tena Prelec, Jason Sharman & Ricardo Soares de Oliveira for Chatham House (a bit heavy on the male side...) with a powerful new report on corruption 'at home'...

Floods are going to get worse: we need to start preparing for them now
No matter how much rain falls, flood disasters happen because of decisions that put people and places in harm’s way – and they can be averted.
For example, the southern part of the province of British Columbia in Canada has a lengthy history of floods and landslides. Deluges in November killed at least four people, washed away highways and forced towns to evacuate.
The excessive rain that caused this was most likely exacerbated by human-driven climate change, but its effects were made far worse by widespread deforestation, as well as the building of infrastructure on floodplains and even in a drained lake.
Ilan Kelman for the Conversation on the complex interplay between disasters, (lack of) preparation and (not) building back better.

Nurdles: the worst toxic waste you’ve probably never heard of
Meanwhile, the cleanup continues in Sri Lanka. Some of the 470 turtles, 46 dolphins and eight whales washing ashore have had nurdles in their bodies, says Withanage. While there is no proof the nurdles were responsible, he says: “I’ve seen some of the dolphins and they had plastic particles inside. There are 20,000 families who have had to stop fishing.
“The fishermen say when they dip [themselves] into the water, the pellets get into their ears. It’s affected tourism, everything.”
Karen McVeigh for the Guardian on environmental issue that is currently affecting Sri Lankan shores.

The Astonishing Success of Peacekeeping
Decades of academic research has demonstrated that peacekeeping not only works at stopping conflicts but works better than anything else experts know. Peacekeeping is effective at resolving civil wars, reducing violence during wars, preventing wars from recurring, and rebuilding state institutions. It succeeds at protecting civilian lives and reducing sexual and gender-based violence. And it does all this at a very low cost, especially compared to counterinsurgency campaigns—peacekeeping’s closest cousin among forms of intervention.
Barbara F. Walter, Lise Morjé Howard & V. Page Fortna for Foreign Policy; I would really like to share more content from Foreign Affairs, but their paywall & expensive subscription option make it a difficult source beside a lot great content!

Eighty years of uninterrupted male leadership at the UN is not an accident or a coincidence; it is intentional.
We need a conceptual change in language. I remember during the negotiations when talking about women candidates, we were starting to add adjectives: she must be competent, she must be capable, speak several languages, she must be this and that. The bar for women, I believe, is always higher. It is not only higher for the Secretary-General position but higher for any woman representative at the United Nations. We must be technically and politically stronger. Infallibly capable. We cannot make mistakes.
Moreover, the language in peace and security is soaked with masculinity despite more women entering the peace and security sector. Even I get comments: ‘you are so passionate,’ or at times, ‘you are not ready’. But women are ready. We always have been.
Maritza Chan talks to Annika Östmann for the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation; really great example of feminist foreign policy in action!
Choose Love cutting back Calais funding shows the limits of celebrity philanthropy
But its decision tells us something broader about the limits of this type of humanitarian activism, which seeks to mobilise the might of branding and celebrity endorsements. It can be a powerful way to raise money and distribute resources in targeted ways – but what happens when the attention moves elsewhere, leaving a political problem unsolved?
(...)
Choose Love was the product of a moment when thousands of ordinary people intervened in a situation they found unjust. Its priorities might have shifted but that situation persists. Calais is not the site of a natural disaster, but a place where governments have deliberately created scarcity for political ends. It goes right to the heart of a debate about how states police migration, which itself is a proxy for the wider issues of war, global inequality and – increasingly – the climate crisis. In that context, the simple but urgent act of providing aid to others takes on a potentially greater significance, because it is a challenge to the established way of doing things.
Daniel Trilling for the Guardian with a *shocking* revelation that there are limits to celebrity philanthropy-especially regarding tackling root causes & political complexities of inequalities ;)!

No Dollar Signs This Time
I have seen economists focus on the costs of change-making efforts (reduction in property values or decreased business activity from protests, for example), but the immediate and knock-on benefits of humanitarian speech and compassionate action rarely get mentioned. While many of the returns — confidence, insight, and empathy, for example — are difficult to measure, many others — such as improved health outcomes — are not. Maybe someday someone will shine a quantitative spotlight on some of these, or find new ways of capturing their impact.
Mackenzie Scott should blog more regularly!

Seen but not heard
This perception of being left out has made participants even more skeptical of researchers, rightly so. As researchers, we need to think more critically about how we approach research in developing countries. We believe that in order to achieve meaningful development, it is critical to understand the linkages between the phenomena under study, and the local context. We must decolonize the purpose of research and build knowledge infrastructure that reflects the voices of those being researched, and which communicates to policy practitioners in the Global South. This means expanding our focus from just protecting participants, to including their voice at each stage of the research ecosystem. Going beyond the contextualization of interventions from the Global North, and spending more time thinking through the values and principles of the people we hope to serve.
Joel Mumo for the Busara Center on how to do more & better ethical research.

At the Bath House
These moments between my mother and me, of our washing together in warm, scarce water, were a rarefied pocket tucked within the vast tundra of loneliness that was my life with her. Sometimes we talked like ordinary people while washing. Sometimes we would remain quiet and just wash, slowly, methodically, thoughtfully sloughing all that ttae off each other’s backs with the kind of care we’d learned from visiting the bath house together. In those moments, our silence reminded me of that between me and my grandmother, a kind of an unquantifiable understanding that exists between two humans with a difficult shared past. It was the lack — of readily available water and of my mother’s instinctive mothering — that made these things precious, and swelled my desire for them.
Jung Hae Chae's piece for Guernica is a just one of the many beautiful writings in their latest issue on 'Dirt'.

Academia
Some steps for decolonising international research-for-development partnerships
North-South partnerships are not an isolated issue – they are part of a complex and dynamic research-for-development system. For this reason, we propose approaching partnerships as a process, as opposed to simply a contract or institutional arrangement. This process starts with decentralised, inclusive, and democratic agenda setting, followed by resource allocation that acknowledges the indispensable and complementary contributions of all partners. Project governance needs to be democratic and fair and, finally, knowledge co-creation must be recognised as leading to both academic and non-academic outputs and impacts.
Katarzyna Cieslik, Shreya Sinha, Cees Leeuwis, Tania Eulalia Martínez-Cruz, Nivedita Narain & Bhaskar Vira for EADI with more great food for thought on better research (partnerships).
What we were reading 4 years ago
(Link review 218, 3 February 2017)

Now more than ever: Academic conferences need to embrace the digital age!
I think that every association should have a digital communication champion in their senior management. By clinging to an outdated, but relatively convenient model for a large group of mainstream academics, academic associations ultimately undermine key functions of their mandate.
Digital access should not be a bonus, but a strategic imperative so caregivers, parents, underprivileged academics or those who simply do not like to spend money on economy class flights will have opportunities to listen, contribute and participate in debates.
Me, ranting a bit about the academic-conferencing-industrial complex that will be back with an onsite vengeance from next autumn onwards at the latest...

As The Guns Fall Silent: Women And The War In Yemen
“I would insist on saying, and a lot of people would not agree with me, the definition of peace, for women at least, is not the stop of gunfire,” Sarah said. If Saleh and Hadi reached a settlement tomorrow, if the bullets stopped flying and the bombs stopped falling that would not meet Sarah’s idea of peace. Women would still be at war.
“It’s the absence of justice to me,” she said of war. “That’s my personal definition.”
To Sarah, if a woman does not have access to a hospital, if she doesn’t have access to electricity, if she doesn’t have access to shelter she does not live in peace. If Yemen’s constitution does not recognise women as a separate entity, with inseparable rights and if women can’t express themselves freely, they do not live in peace.
“To me the absence of justice is war,” she said.
Pat Griffiths for newmatilda.com with a fascinating feature on and from women in Yemen that is still as powerful & relevant as it was in 2017!

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