Links & Contents I Liked 449

Hi all,

This final post before the traditional summer break until early August is filled with interesting stories from around the #globaldev world again! UN whistleblowers, MSF visual communication, racism in UK aid, modern slavery in Haiti, economic collapse in Lebanon & Sri Lanka, digital scams in Myanmar, SDG-bashing, border regimes & the racist roots of Japanese IR-on a lighter note, the archive section features Louise Linton & the worst aid worker biography that was ever written ;) !

Happy Midsomer from Southern Sweden, have a great July & see you back in August with more #globaldev!!

New from 
Writing the “perfect” application letter for our MA in Communication for Development–insights from the first 2000 letters
As part of our application process for our MA in Communication for Development program we encourage applicants to submit a short application letter together with all the other application documents since 2016.
There is probably a bigger lesson to learn here as I think some of the issues not just apply to our document, but to other application letters as well-especially those written by applicants at earlier stages of their lives and careers.
Me, looking at application letters and a little bit into the engine room of our MA program.

Development news
The first 2 links are follow-ups from last week's review:

Explaining Oxfam’s Projections for Extreme Poverty in 2022
I hope we have convinced you that we are not in the business of making up numbers, that we work with the World Bank, The FAO, Forbes, Credit Suisse and others to use the best data available, and we share these findings with external stakeholders before we publish them.
We definitely agree that the citations in this paper were not up to the standard of our usual papers and the reference to the World Bank dataset and where it comes from are as clear as they could be.
As I said we welcome scrutiny, and debate, and indeed take your blog in this spirit. You have my email and please do get in touch anytime with any questions or concerns about our calculations.
Oxfam's Max Lawson responds to Noah Smith's critique about poverty numbers.

The Whistleblowers: Inside the UN review – a horrific tale of misogyny, rape and 10,000 deaths
Reilly, Wasserstrom and O’Brien all separately allege that once they spoke out, the UN went after them. O’Brien was suddenly accused of solicitation and viewing nude photographs on his phone at work (O’Brien sees the allegations as vexatious). Wasserstrom was promised whistleblower protection, then had his identity leaked to the very people he had accused. Reilly has footage of Swiss police entering her flat and refusing to leave: she says the UN had sent them, and had told them Reilly was a suicide risk. “Effectively,” she recalls, “the UN tried to have me sectioned.” By the time she’d convinced them it was a false alarm, she had missed an online meeting at which she had planned to raise the disclosure of activists’ identities – it so happened that the cops arrived just as the meeting was beginning.
Jack Seale for the Guardian with a review of the the BBC documentary on UN whistleblowers.

MSF Heads of Communications commit to tackle problematic imagery
We are now working across multiple fronts to better manage the collection, use, dissemination, and storage of photographs and video taken at our medical projects. This includes visual material commissioned by MSF as well as content gathered by news organisations and independent photographers. We have a clear duty to protect the safety and wellbeing of patients in our care.
MSF with an update on reviewing processes around the production & use of images, a story that was featured on the blog before as well.
MPs say aid sector must address racism
The report made a series of recommendations, including:the FCDO should facilitate sector-wide initiatives on improving diversity, equity and inclusion as well as undertake a full audit of pay structures in its own aid contracts;
aid organisations should ban all-White recruitment boards and implement other policies to build inclusive cultures and encourage diverse talent to apply for senior roles; and
fundraising publicity should stop using pictures of degrading stereotypes. Instead of simply seeking donations, publicity should also tell realistic stories which educate audiences about the drivers of poverty.
The UK parliament's International Development Committee with a new report on the impact of racism on #globaldev.

Sex for a job: the scandal of Haiti’s exploited US garment workers
In recent years, Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, has promoted itself as a cheap and available destination for US clothing brands seeking low-cost suppliers that can take advantage of 2006 legislation that allows duty-free entry for goods made there by US companies.
Yet activists say conditions at the factories are akin to prison camps, with non-existent labour rights and where sexual abuse is rife.
Sophie Cousins for the Guardian about modern slavery in Haiti.

Starving civilians is an ancient military tactic, but today it’s a war crime in Ukraine, Yemen, Tigray and elsewhere
Despite these legal advances, starvation crimes have been evident in recent or current conflicts in Ethiopia, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and now Ukraine.
Warring parties have attacked humanitarian aid workers and farmers; stolen or slaughtered livestock; and destroyed or rendered unusable crops, farmland and other food sources.
Herders have been blocked from moving freely with their livestock, farmers from working on their land and hungry people from foraging for wild berries and grasses.
The effects have been devastating. From 2020 to 2022 the number of people who urgently require food assistance in situations of armed conflict rose from 99 million to 166 million.
Tom Dannenbaum, Alex De Waal & Daniel Maxwell for the Conversation but starving civilians in conflict and war into a historical perspective with contemporary ramifications.

Defence Agencies ‘Accelerating’ Risk of ‘Hothouse Earth’
But it is now clear that this very system, which military and security strategies are designed to support, is the primary driver of global insecurity.
The continued expansion of traditional military strategy threatens to accelerate the hyperthreat. Resources and extractive methods once regarded as ‘good’ – critical for the functioning and maintenance of the global system – now threaten all forms of planetary life.
“By applying economic, diplomatic, military, and other tools of force and power to participate in the ‘race for what’s left’ of Earth’s resources, humanity is unwittingly aiding the hyperthreat,” the study warns.
This is perhaps the first time that a US military institution has published research so outspokenly
Nafeez Ahmed for Byline Times; the military-security-intelligence-industrial complex plays an important part in accelerating the climate catastrophe-hard to imagine when you look at how sustainable the US military is (/irony)...

Scam City: How the coup brought Shwe Kokko back to life
Despite this possibility, evidence for online gambling at Shwe Kokko has so far been only circumstantial. However, investigations by Frontier have found what appears to be a growing industry of online scams operating from the new city, of which gambling may only be a part.
Ma Su*, an accountant at a Chinese firm in Shwe Kokko, said companies there were recruiting people to work as online scammers, often under false pretences. “Workers recruited online are told they will earn a good salary at a casino, but [on arrival] are ordered to work as scammers instead,” she told Frontier.
Frontier Myanmar with some fascinating, scary insights into the underworld of Internet-facilitated scams & online gambling bring wealth to Myanmar's military junta.

A world apart, Lebanon and Sri Lanka share economic collapse
Lebanon and Sri Lanka may be a world apart, but they share a history of political turmoil and violence that led to the collapse of once-prosperous economies bedeviled by corruption, patronage, nepotism and incompetence.
The toxic combinations led to disaster for both: Currency collapse, shortages, triple-digit inflation and growing hunger. Snaking queues for gas. A decimated middle class. An exodus of professionals who might have helped rebuild.
There usually isn’t one moment that marks the catastrophic breaking point of an economic collapse, although telltale signs can be there for months — if not years.
When it happens, the hardship unleashed is all-consuming, transforming everyday life so profoundly that the country may never return to what it was.
Experts say a dozen countries — including Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, Afghanistan and Pakistan — could suffer the same fate as Lebanon and Sri Lanka, as the post-pandemic recovery and war in Ukraine spark global food shortages and a surge in prices.
Zeina Karam & David Rising for AP News on Lebanon, Sri Lanka & larger looming crises for many more millions of people...

The world is no longer making progress on the UN Sustainable Development Goals
First, governments integrate the SDGs into official speeches and data systems more than they integrate the SDGs into “hard” public management tools such as budgets. Few countries have also used the SDGs explicitly as a cornerstone for their COVID-19 recovery plans and packages.
Guillaume Lafortune, Christian Kroll, Finn Woelm & Grayson Fuller for Apolitical; the fact that this is written by 4 Northern men raises my eyebrow a bit, but it's worth thinking about this piece in connection with the following one:

Scientific evidence on the political impact of the Sustainable Development Goals
Our findings suggests that the goals have had some political impact on institutions and policies, from local to global governance. This impact has been largely discursive, affecting the way actors understand and communicate about sustainable development. More profound normative and institutional impact, from legislative action to changing resource allocation, remains rare. We conclude that the scientific evidence suggests only limited transformative political impact of the Sustainable Development Goals thus far.
Frank Biermann et al. (sorry, there are 18 authors in total...) for Nature Sustainability; I really wonder whether this is a feature rather than a bug. The UN needs to miss the SDGs so they can start a new discursive regime soon that will follow for the next decade or so after 2030. Everybody likes the SDGs so they cannot be transformative by definition...

Land grabs and conservation propaganda
An overlooked yet critical perspective of protected areas is their primitive accumulation function to transfer wealth and immaterial values of nature from colonies to colonizers. They start with the violent dispossession of Indigenous communities, followed by militarized control over the territory, and commodification of lands and wildlife resources by the corporate imperialists. The 2022 book, The Violence of Conservation in Africa: State, Militarization and Alternatives, demonstrates why dehumanization and violence against Africans are permanent features of conservation in Africa, and how Western conservation agencies wield power to assault African states’ sovereignty, in order to gain political and economic control over vast areas rich in biodiversity.
Aby L. Sène for Africa is a Country on colonial power & conversation.

Of Borders and Hypocrisy: The Very Thin Line Between Protection and Expulsion
The contemporary experiences of refugees remind us how borders can abruptly emerge, expand, and subvert the established human rights and refugee protection standards. This reveals the inherent hypocrisy of borders. It demonstrates how permeable borders are not permeable for some refugees, and how this impermeability is justified by states. By virtue of borders, there is a paradox entrenched in asylum systems; a very thin line between ‘(temporary) protection’ and ‘protection elsewhere’. The latter is used for justifying the responses of states against irregular migrants. In the situation concerning Ukraine, the response of EU and Member States to refugees at their doorsteps has been more welcoming than ever. By contrast, the expulsion of some undesired protection seekers deemed as irregular migrants to the so-called safe third countries and back home is rendered legal with references to the very fundamentals of international refugee law. As a result, populations deemed worthy of exclusion are thrown into the black hole of ‘irregularity’ upon which any legal and political decision taken by states are justified.
Berfin Nur Osso for the Refugee Law Initiative on borders, discourses & real implications of 'worthy' refugees.
Our digital lives
To infinity and back: Inside Axie’s disastrous year
Before the hack, Axie Infinity had cemented its position as the poster-child for the booming crypto-gaming industry. The game, in which players raise and battle cute-looking digital monsters called Axies, uses a “play-to-earn” model, in which players are rewarded for their efforts with cryptocurrency tokens, which they can then exchange for real money. By the summer of 2021, some players in low- and middle-income countries were earning so much playing Axie that they gave up their jobs to invest more time into the game. In the Philippines, where the game was particularly popular, some players reported making as much as $2,000 a month. “Axie pays better, and it’s more safe to stay at home,” one player told Rest of World at the time. An influx of gamers led to massive revenue for the company, which then led to investor interest — in August, Bloomberg called the confluence of attention around the game an “Axie frenzy.”
Darren Loucaides for Rest of World looks at the spectacular rise & probably violent fall of a crypto-gaming giant, popular with players in the many Southern countries.


Protection from sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment in humanitarian action
The theme of this edition of Humanitarian Exchange is protection from sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment (PSEAH) in humanitarian action, co-edited with Wendy Cue, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Senior Coordinator on PSEAH. It has been 20 years since the shocking West African sex- for-food scandal came to light. Since then, humanitarians have made considerable efforts to address such abuses and support victims and survivors by creating policies, tools and guidance, including codes of conduct and complaint channels, and improving investigative approaches and procedures. But have we made as much progress as we should have and what more needs to be done? Contributors to this edition critically reflect on measures taken so far, what other changes are necessary, and share country-level experience of how principles and policies are being interpreted and implemented in practice.
The Humanitarian Exchange issue for June is a almost 100 pages of jam-packed critical humanitarian discussions & reflections!

The many faces of Post-Development: alternatives to development in Tanzania, Iran and Haiti
In analysing practices of resistance, contestation and subversion in Tanzania, Iran and Haiti we investigate in what ways various forms of peasant and community organising can be considered transformative and non-hegemonic. In exploring their common ground, we attempt to examine in what ways strategies of reciprocity, solidarity and commoning in different geographical locations and contexts can be understood as means of survival and/or as efforts to provide alternative pathways for societal and economic transformation.
Julia Schöneberg, Daniel Haudenschild, Hadi Darvishi, Somayeh Momeni & Aram Ziai with an open access article for Sustainability Science.

A caution in exploring non-Western International Relations
I show that the important origins of Japanese IR, as much as Western IR, lie in an imperial frontier, colonial rule, and racism. This can serve as a lesson for those seeking an alternative in non-Western IR. At least under the geographical division of West and non-West, non-Western IR may not totally be immune from the same pitfall as Western IR; the de-Westernization of IR may not necessarily lead to de-imperializing and decolonizing it. If we try to square an epistemic partiality, it will be necessary to think carefully about what non-Western means.
Tomohito Baji for the OUP Blog on analyzing 'non-Western' approaches to IR rigorously & critically.

What we were reading 5 years ago

(Link review 239, 30 June 2017)

Two cheers for UN transparency
From buying vaccines to leasing helicopters, the UN agreed more than 30,000 contracts worth a total of $17.7 billion last year. But if you want to know more – which pharmaceutical companies sell most to which UN agency, for example – you have some work to do. That’s because, to the annoyance of open data advocates, the information is public but not machine-readable: The tables in the UN’s annual procurement report run over 387 pages of a 739-page PDF.
Ben Parker for the New Humanitarian on UN 'transparency'...

A “white savior” memoirist widely mocked in Africa has married Trump’s treasury secretary
What happens if you write a questionable memoir about Africa, vigorously disputed by the locals you claim to have saved?
Lynsey Chutel for Quartz; the headline never gets old-and it's still one of my favorite book reviews ever ;) !


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