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Hi all,

This week's debate about MSF's use of images in their communication is a important reminder that the industry has barely started to engage with the past, present & future of visual communication-but also that blanked accusations that humanitarian organizations just do it for the fundraising brushes over so many nuances & important work on the ground.
Compassion, humanitarian instinct, upstream vs downstream #globaldev, white supremacy & social capital are some of the other big words that we are tackling in this week's post from Romania to Yemen.
As I already mentioned in Tuesday's newsletter, it's thesis examination time so there won't be a newsletter next Friday as we are celebrating our students in real life with a Syrian dinner in Malmö!

My quotes of the week
This research serves as a reminder that Yemenis are interested in more than just the satisfaction of their essential needs (such as water, food, and shelter). It highlights the diversity of households and the creative ways people adapt to economic challenges and accommodate long term strategic needs. Yemenis continue to participate in life-cycle events, celebrations, and social obligations. Having a social life maintains and creates networks and connections that build social capital, enhance the quality of life, and form the support network people can rely on when they most need it.
(Life goes on in Yemen: Conversations with Yemeni families as the war nears its eighth year)

It is not a mistake that the Global North is obsessed with funding downstream development. The system has been designed that way with neo-colonial aims.
It stems from a subconscious belief in the immorality and incompetence of people in the Global South. This belief justifies the white saviour complex in the Global North, where ‘well intentioned’ white people step in to save people in the Global South from their circumstances by building their houses, digging their wells and saving their children. (The Trojan Horse of Development)

Development news
UNAIDS tells Davos that economic recovery and health security will fail unless leaders tackle inequality
“When people in low- and middle- income countries are excluded from life-saving health technologies for HIV, COVID-19 or other pandemics, let’s be clear that this also causes deaths in rich countries, perpetuates pandemics, and undermines the global economy.”
A successful economic recovery must be inclusive. Debt servicing for all the world’s poorest countries debt represented 171% of all spending on healthcare, education and social protection combined for low-income countries in 2021. Health, education and social protection needs require an urgent cancellation of debts.
Oxfam's Winnie Byanyima with one of the more notable speeches at the WEF in Davos.

Médecins Sans Frontières condemned for ‘profiting from exploitative images’
Other images include a portrait of a west African boy crying while suffering from cholera at an MSF clinic, available as a fine-art canvas wall print.
The letter comes after MSF, which provides medical services to people in developing countries and conflict zones, removed two photos of a teenage rape survivor from the Democratic Republic of the Congo from its website, following criticism that the images were unethical and racist.
(...)
Zahid, a former MSF worker in Karachi, Pakistan, added: “The whole business model of MSF is based on selling human misery, which is a part of its colonial heritage. As long as this business model remains the same, we will continue to steal the dignity from patients in the name of funding operations.”
David Batty for the Guardian.

MSF International President responds to photo ethics concerns
This incident has revealed inadequacies in our guidelines on the gathering and use of images, and inconsistencies in how those are implemented across MSF. We are working to remedy this problem and are grateful to those who have raised it.
As an immediate action, we have added clearer language to our production guidelines to protect minors, defined as anyone under 18. The revised section requires that we change the name and obscure the visual identity of minors who are victims of abuse, exploitation, or who are suffering from a highly stigmatised condition. The rules impose additional restrictions on any content featuring minors. They also clarify that minors cannot provide informed consent on their own.
MSF International's response; the business model of MSF is not selling human misery and reducing the communication of a global organization like MSF to 'colonial heritage' is overlooking some of today's complexities of corporate communications of an organization with 65K staff in a mediatized world. Every large organization needs to review their archived material (as MSF is currently doing) & talk about safeguarding + ethical communication, but a blanket suspicion that humanitarians & their organizations are in this industry to do fundraising on the backs of vulnerable people is not acknowledging the discussions and changes that have been happening.

Millions Dying Globally Because of Unabated Pollution
According to the study, at least nine million deaths were attributable to pollution in 2019, of which 92 percent occurred in low-income and middle-income countries. Of those, 6.67 million were attributable to air pollution.
Water pollution was responsible for another 1.36 million premature deaths, the report also found. Exposure to lead, a heavy metal highly toxic to humans when ingested or inhaled, contributed to 900,000 premature deaths, while toxic occupational hazards followed with 870,000 deaths. The figures are broadly consistent with The Lancet’s previous findings in 2018, concerning evidence of a lack of progress.
Luciana Téllez Chávez & Felix Horne for Human Rights Watch introduce a new report from the Lancet about the under-reported topic of pollution deaths that disproportionally affect the Global South.

Mandates of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls
we would like to bring to your attention information we have received concerning the inadequate response by the World Health Organization (WHO) to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuses during the 10th Ebola response in North Kivu and Ituri, the Democratic Republic of the Congo from August 2018 to June 2020 that may have prevented a fair and thorough investigation of crimes of sexual harassment, exploitation, and abuse, allegedly committed by persons who are WHO personnel and contractors and may have weakened the accountability for these crimes allowing perpetrators of these crimes to go unpunished.
The Special Rapporteur on violence against women on WHO's shortcomings during the Ebola response in DRC.

Treat all refugees with the same compassion

Now, I watch people across Europe welcoming Ukrainians fleeing the war into their homes. And I can’t help but wonder, how come no one showed me the same compassion? How come no one offered me a place to stay so that I wouldn’t be stuck in a refugee camp for a decade?
(...)
South Sudanese activist and writer Nhial Deng explains why he believes the war in Ukraine can be an opportunity for the world to learn to treat all refugees the same, no matter where they come from.
Nhial Deng talks to Al Jazeera about different receptions of refugees in Europe.

New report: Decades of US military aid has been a disaster for Nigerians
The United States has heavily invested in a security partnership with Nigeria over the last 20 years, supplying that country with warplanes, weapons, and training to support its fight against terrorist groups and foster military professionalism among its troops. But a new report finds that despite the assistance, the Nigerian armed forces have not only failed to defeat militants but routinely commit grave human rights abuses in the name of counterterrorism without repercussions from the United States.
Nick Turse for Responsible Statecraft with perhaps not entirely surprising findings that US military aid has never brought 'peace' to local civilians...

The Trojan Horse of Development
It is not a mistake that the Global North is obsessed with funding downstream development. The system has been designed that way with neo-colonial aims.
It stems from a subconscious belief in the immorality and incompetence of people in the Global South. This belief justifies the white saviour complex in the Global North, where ‘well intentioned’ white people step in to save people in the Global South from their circumstances by building their houses, digging their wells and saving their children.
The Global North encourages white saviourism by offering valuable reputational rewards, or even just by fuelling individual altruistic feelings, for white people who try to save people from the Global South. White saviours are (erroneously) viewed as morally superior to other white people or view themselves as morally superior.
(...)
The one challenge we face with the Village Hive pilot is that donors in the Global North are reluctant to fund upstream work due to concerns over the lack of control when local stakeholders lead development work. This lack of trust is corrosive to sustainable development as it traps the Global South in the cycle of colonial dependency and blocks the best pathway that we know of to eradicate poverty.
Tara Winkler for Humanists Australia with great food for thought on 'downstream' vs. 'upstream' development.

How to find out if your intervention supports developmental leadership or undermines it
Firstly, the research reminds us that all development interventions cannot avoid having political consequences. Menschen für Menschen explicitly characterised itself as a ‘non-political’ organisation and yet, simply by distributing resources to certain people and not to others, and by bringing in and modifying discourses, it had effects on power relations at the local level. The effects of interventions which set out to have political consequences – implicitly or explicitly – are likely to be even more significant.
Secondly, if the intention is for interventions to support developmental leadership, aid agencies need to do much more to track the kinds of effects on power relations that their interventions are having in practice. The framework above can help agencies and researchers to do this. It can be used in the design phase to anticipate which individuals and groups might be strengthened, and in monitoring, evaluation and research to assess who has in practice received the most support – whether in terms of resources, social status or political ideas.
Justin Williams for the Birmingham University's Developmental Leadership Program with new research & insights in to empowerment & power relations.

Humanitarian instinct against humanitarian bureaucracy
Romanians responded instinctively as local authorities, organisations and volunteers swung into action without anyone telling them what to do and how to do it. This was the ‘humanitarian instinct’ at its best, guiding good Samaritans to do what felt right and natural.
And then it got complicated as national authorities sought to control and coordinate, and international aid agencies drove into town. Providing humanitarian succour was suddenly big business with at least US$1.7 billion sought to help at least 12 million refugees and displaced. That is not an unreasonable ‘ask’ considering the magnitude of the needs but, inevitably it is accompanied by ‘humanitarian bureaucracy’.
Mukesh Kapila returns from Romania with some interesting reflections on the 'humanitarian instinct' (can we professionalize it somehow without going full on humanitarian bureaucracy?).

The many in one: A review of Amartya Sen’s “Home in the world: A memoir”
Trying to be nice to everybody is a wrong approach in a memoir by one of the foremost intellectuals of our time. A memoir is not a letter of recommendation that one writes for his friends. Neither us, nor future readers, will be interested in the names of the multitudes who have met Sen. We, and they, are interested in Sen’s comments on the times and important people.
(...)
The non-Indian part of the book seems rather flat, offering less of original thinking than we get from Sen’s reflections on India and his life there. Perhaps Sen himself, by being not just an economist, but a historian and a philosopher, is “guilty” of having made us expect a uniformly high level of insight. But even with these minor flaws, “Home in the world” is an extraordinary book written by an extraordinary person.
Branko Milanovic reviews Amartya Sen's memoir.

Would the World Be Better Off Without Philanthropists?
Skeptics of philanthropy, even those as thoughtful as Saunders-Hastings, tend to have an incomplete sense of the world’s imperfections. Surely most recipients of philanthropy are aware of the aspects of philanthropy that have attracted Saunders-Hastings’s disapproving attention—circumstances of relational inequality that are practically universal inside and outside philanthropy—but are thankful that they at least get to work for a cause they believe in. That makes the deference their work requires worth putting up with; Saunders-Hastings’s zeal to protect us from paternalism can itself acquire a paternalistic air. Still, concerns about political equity—bearing in mind that philanthropy is only one of the ways in which capital can be converted into power—deserve systematic and rigorous investigation. Several universities have created centers for the research. It’s either apt or ironic that philanthropy pays for this, too
Nicholas Lemann for the New Yorker with a longer literature review that focuses on Emma Saunders-Hastings new book.

Publications
Eliminating the White Supremacy Mindset from Global Health Education
The term “decolonization” has been increasingly used to refer to the elimination of the colonial experience and its legacy. However, the use of this overarching term masks the real root of the problem. European countries, whose populations are majority white, used their assumed supremacy as justification for the colonization of current low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) where the majority of non-white people live. This clear overlap between geographic and skin color differences explains how the white supremacy ideology triggered European colonization. Therefore, calls to decolonize global health education must focus on the roots of colonization and fight for the elimination of white supremacy ideology that is one of the pillars of the current ills of our global health architecture.
Agnes Binagwaho, Brianna Ngarambe & Kedest Mathewos with an open access article for the Annals of Global Health.

Life goes on in Yemen: Conversations with Yemeni families as the war nears its eighth year
This research serves as a reminder that Yemenis are interested in more than just the satisfaction of their essential needs (such as water, food, and shelter). It highlights the diversity of households and the creative ways people adapt to economic challenges and accommodate long term strategic needs. Yemenis continue to participate in life-cycle events, celebrations, and social obligations. Having a social life maintains and creates networks and connections that build social capital, enhance the quality of life, and form the support network people can rely on when they most need it. Understanding the key role social capital plays in Yemeni life highlights that social capital is something built, maintained, stored, and used in a continuous cycle. Connections are important, but social capital is the glue that keeps these connections alive. When Yemenis keep celebrations modest by inviting fewer guests or keeping events shorter, they build less social capital. Similarly, they lose social capital when they hold fewer gatherings or visit extended family in their ancestral villages less.
I'm already a big fan of ACAPS's reports-well researched, concise, but still giving local people a 'voice' & visually appealing!

Academia
Rwandan researchers are finally being centred in scholarship about their own country
The highly talented Rwandan social science research community is beginning to gain the global platform it deserves. This shift is vital for Rwandan researchers. It benefits others, too, by producing fresh insights and challenging the structures that for years stymied these critical voices. More initiatives of this kind are essential if calls to decolonise knowledge are to become more than comforting blandishments.
Felix Mukwiza Ndahinda, Jason Mosley, Nicola Palmer, Phil Clark & Sandra Shenge for the Conversation; I find that the article focuses a little too much on metrics & quantitative indicators which we need to overcome as well if we a) want to 'decolonize' academia & b) don't want to replicate a publication & research system that has taken a high toll on many researchers around the globe already.

What we were reading 5 years ago

(Link review 236, 9 June 2017)

Kenneth Warren and the Great Neglected Diseases of Mankind Programme (book review)
Research, philanthropy and development have certainly changed. His self-promotion must seem tame in an age of TED-talk celebrities, his all-male events would not go uncriticized and his work at Rockefeller appears to be traditional in an age of disruptive billionaires.
And yet some of his traits, his enthusiasm and vision to think big for a better world can still inspire in our age of micro-management, impact factors and uber-professionalization in many aspects of our work and life.
Me, with a book review.

The development workers’ guide to talking to other people about development

They say: “Wasn’t there some book written by some African lady who said that aid didn’t work anyway? What do you think about that?”
What they mean: “Please help me to confirm my long standing confirmation bias that donating to aid programs doesn’t actually have any long lasting effects. After all, the iPhone 5 is coming out and the idea of playing Words with Friends HD on a screen with pixels so small that they can be barely considered individual particles has me in ecstasy.”
You should say: “Personally, I don’t think we should gather all our information about a very complex topic from just one source. It’s far too simplistic a view to take and doing so would be a far too lazy response about a topic that deserves much more attention. You cannot try and pick up all the nuances of aid and development from just one person. Anyway, I just read Peter Singer’s The Life You Can Save, and he said the exact opposite, so there.”
Weh Yeoh's guide is still remarkably accurate when it comes to talking #globaldev with 'civilians'...

The West Spreading New Wave of Feel-Good Movies and False Hopes
The West is busy manufacturing ‘pseudo reality’. And in this grotesque pseudo-reality, several deprived individuals like starving chess players, street vendors and slum dwellers are suddenly becoming rich, successful and fulfilled. Millions of others, all around them, continue to suffer. But somehow, they don’t seem to matter much.
There is a new celebrity group in making – let’s call them the ‘glamorous poor’. Those ‘exceptional individuals’, the glamorous poor, are easy to digest, and even to celebrate in the West. They are swiftly and cheerfully integrating into the ‘mainstream’ club of the global ‘go getters’ and narcissist rich.
Andre Vltchek for Off Guardian; interesting question whether this dynamic has changed since then with more local content, stories & narratives being adopted by Netflix and the likes...

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