Links & Contents I Liked 454

Hi all,

A solid #globaldev round-up this week tackling Pakistan, climate change & lack of accountability, the forthcoming UNGA, bitcoin failure in El Salvador, Bill Gates bashing, the humanitarian system, ending capacity building, UNDP's 'flagship report' + Swedish elections & the positive thinking industry!

My quotes of the week
The world’s rich countries (...) have deprived Pakistan of the long-term climatic conditions on which it has built its economy, homes, farms, and infrastructure. If there was a global climate court, Pakistan’s government would have a strong case against the US and other high-income countries for failing to limit climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions (GHGs). (Pakistan and the Fight for Climate Justice)

“Capacity building is the consolation prize money that foundations offer when they are willing to pay for us to get advice, but they aren’t willing to resource us to help our people get free.” The second quote resonated with most of the folks we interviewed: “When I think of capacity building, the first thing I think is that capacity is the wrong word.” Capacity is a tepid word. Once an organization’s capacity is built, what does it become? Capable? Sufficient? Competent? Capacity building is a process without a tangible aspiration. It is an investment with an unambitious return. (Should We Cancel Capacity Building?)

Development news
Ten Challenges for the UN in 2022-2023
(A)lthough the UN system may have shown unexpected resilience in 2022, it has also demonstrated severe and worsening vulnerabilities. While diplomats in New York have concentrated on Ukraine, UN peacekeepers in Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo have struggled to deal with escalating violence and deteriorating politics. UN humanitarian agencies are under enormous strain, attempting to respond to emergencies such as economic collapse in Afghanistan, while also juggling long-running challenges like assisting civilians in non-government-controlled north-western Syria. The global economic downturn and potential cuts in Western aid allotments in light of the Ukraine war are likely to impinge on UN budgets in the years ahead, perhaps also tipping poorer states into deep recession. Taking a longer view, diplomats and UN officials are conscious that threats ranging from climate change to the weakening of the global non-proliferation regime also promise to increase international instability.
UN whisperer-in-chief Richard Gowan for the Crisis Group as UNGA is kicking off.

One year on, El Salvador’s Bitcoin experiment has proven a spectacular failure
Now, a year on, there’s more than enough evidence to conclude Bukele – who has also called himself “the world’s coolest dictator” in response to criticisms of his creeping authoritarianism – had no idea what he was doing.
This bold financial experiment has proven to be an almost complete failure.
John Hawkins for the Conversation with a devastating analysis of El Salvador's bursting bitcoin bubble.

Pakistanis Donated $40M to Build a Dam. Their Government Spent $63M On Its Ads.
Despite the controversy and scandal surrounding Saqib Nisar’s dam fund, it is unlikely that Pakistan’s “fetish” for dams would go away soon. The country is in the midst of devastating floods caused by climate change, with millions left homeless and damage to homes and livelihoods amounting to tens of billions of dollars. Alam said that dams “are offered up as a solution to all our problems. And so as long as damned fools persist in our midst, we will continue to hear (support for dams).”
Ahmer Naqvi for VICE; why would a chief justice of the Supreme Court set up a crowdfunding campaign for a dam is just one of the many questions I have...it's also a powerful reminder how climate change, poor planning & not-so-good governance go hand in hand to turn a crisis into a disaster...

Pakistan and the Fight for Climate Justice
The world’s rich countries are like that polluting factory. They have deprived Pakistan of the long-term climatic conditions on which it has built its economy, homes, farms, and infrastructure. If there was a global climate court, Pakistan’s government would have a strong case against the US and other high-income countries for failing to limit climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions (GHGs). But since there is no global climate court (yet), governments should act like one and allocate the attributable climate losses and damages to those countries that are historically responsible for them. Pakistan (and its neighbors in the Himalayas) would of course have the core responsibility for sustainable management of the land, including reforestation and climate-safe infrastructure.
Jeff Sachs for Project Syndicate & the case for climate reparations.

How Bill Gates and partners used their clout to control the global Covid response — with little oversight
Without governments stepping in to take the lead on pandemic preparedness, the four organizations, along with their partners in the global health community, are the only entities that are in a position to lead in the world’s response to a devastating outbreak — again.
“They’re funded by their own capabilities and or endowments and trusts. But when they step into multilateral affairs, then who keeps watch over them?” a former senior U.S. official said. “I don’t know the answer to that. That’s quite provocative.”
Erin Banco, Ashleigh Furlong & Lennart Pfahler for Politico; as with other high-profile investigations or 'leaks' I'm missing a little bit the 'smoking gun' in this long-read which I only managed to read once. The article highlights some well-known challenges around global governance accountability & lack of health systems strengthening, but given the amount of money wasted in the US, UK or Germany on shady mask or equipment purchases I would be a bit more hesitant to trust 'more government control'. A few revolving leadership doors, again, not a new problem in the international organizational system, but I'm left with the feeling that the authors really wanted to write a piece with 'Bill Gates', 'control' & 'oversight' in the title...

Key takeaways from the latest snapshot of the humanitarian system
The humanitarian system is ballooning in cost, size, and scope, but funding is even more concentrated in the hands of a few donors, countries, and aid groups.
The number of aid groups has grown by about 10 percent over a decade: There are now some 5,000 humanitarian agencies, according to UK-based research outfit Humanitarian Outcomes.
And the aid sector now includes at least 630,000 staff – a 40-percent jump since 2013.
Irwin Loy for the New Humanitarian comments on the State of the Humanitarian System report that was already mentioned in last week's review.

Should We Cancel Capacity Building?

All of this to say that the term capacity building is jargon. Its origins are as removed from local communities as its applications are often confounding to them. We’ve found that Black and Brown nonprofits are unfamiliar with the term at best and deeply suspicious of it at worst. In an informal and anonymous survey, I asked folks at 11 Black-led community-based nonprofits that are current or former Frontline clients, “What do you think of when you hear the word capacity building?”
Their responses were rich and varied, but two stood out. The first: “Capacity building is the consolation prize money that foundations offer when they are willing to pay for us to get advice, but they aren’t willing to resource us to help our people get free.” The second quote resonated with most of the folks we interviewed: “When I think of capacity building, the first thing I think is that capacity is the wrong word.”
Capacity is a tepid word. Once an organization’s capacity is built, what does it become? Capable? Sufficient? Competent? Capacity building is a process without a tangible aspiration. It is an investment with an unambitious return.
Marcus Littles for Nonprofit Quarterly with a clear YES to the question in the headline.

People in need don’t want your pity
It has long been a pattern. Low-income communities and communities of colour are often disproportionately affected by tragedy. Nearly every time, donations and volunteers pour into the neighbourhood after the fact.
These intentions are good. The resources are needed. But people in need do not want pity.We need solidarity, respect, and loving support. We need to rethink how we think about charity. Because when you share your time and resources you are not simply helping the less fortunate—you are nurturing the powerful.
Kyria Stephens for Thomson Reuters Foundation News reflects on the 'charity' that black communities receive after a 'tragedy'.

Episode 6: Luck and the Privilege to Choose: What Reproductive Rights Have Meant for Me, in Two Parts
I have been lucky not only to have been “born in America,” but as a woman, to be born just in time (in the fifth week of the US 16-year baby boom) to benefit from the wide availability of the new contraceptive pill in the mid-to-late 1960s, and the Roe decision in 1973. It is a luck shared with my baby boomer sisters in the US. It is the reproductive rights I enjoyed in the first several decades of my adult that made it possible for me to enjoy the choices that most men still take for granted: choices that enabled an empowering combination of career and parenting. My luck is in disturbing contrast to the great majority of women around the world for whom reproductive rights and reproductive justice are still elusive and where they do exist, still fragile—now, again, even in America.
Nancy Birdsall blogging her autobiography for the Center for Global Development is one of the greatest discoveries in #globaldev this year!

Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World
Wars and pandemics threaten human development. The Anthropocene is driving new hazards to humans and deepening inequalities among people. Coping with these dynamics and reducing planetary pressures bring to the fore new kinds of challenges and uncertainties. Astonishing technological innovation offers promise but also presents unprecedented circumstances. Seen in isolation, today’s many challenges are not new but in their interaction present a new “uncertainty complex,” unsettling people’s lives. Indeed, anxieties are high: 6 of 7 people globally report feeling insecure about many aspects of their lives.
The new UNDP Human Development Report is out; I haven't read it properly yet, but I'm also not sure it's time well spend. Some parts of the introduction made me wonder whether some #globaldev AI had written parts of it, because they look interesting, but also pretty empty on actual meaning...I genuinely believe that the age of 'flagship reports' is over & that they have become rituals from a less global + digital past rather than inspiring reports to shape the future.

Groundbreaking ICT4Peace Mapping Study on the Use of ICTs in Security Services provided by Private Commercial Actors
the findings highlight that the capture, storage, analysis and utilisation of a multitude of data points or information is intrinsically intertwined with security services and security provision, and that this information acquisition and instrumentalisation in the information age in which we live impacts our enjoyment of human rights.
Anne-Marie Buzato for ICT4Peace with an interesting new report.
The Logic of Border Fortification in the Global South
Policymakers often justify border hardening as a response to insecurity. However, evidence for security-based explanations of border fortification is limited. Instead, research points to political economy drivers like cross-border income inequality, migration, and populism. I argue that these factors better characterize incentives for fortification in the Global North than in the Global South, where most border hardening has occurred. Among developing countries, two salient, security conditions help account for increasing fortification. First, countries harden their borders to interdict transnational militant networks, and particularly cross-border rebel sanctuaries. Second, the expansion of US aid and training programs for border security under the War on Terror has also spurred fortification. I find support for these hypotheses using new data on US border security assistance in an instrumental variables setting.
Christopher W. Blair with long research paper on SSRN with important findings.

3 other news

US States Fail to Protect Children’s Rights
United States state laws overwhelmingly fail to meet international child rights standards, with the vast majority failing to protect children from child marriage, hazardous child labor, extreme prison sentences, and violent treatment
Human Rights Watch with a new report on some of the 'developing country' level rights failures in the US...

The far right’s triumph in my country reveals a very Swedish brand of intolerance
What we are seeing in Sweden might, then, not be a newly awakened belligerence, but the result of a longstanding desire for conformity. For what triggers the authoritarian mindset is exactly the narrative that “we” have somehow lost “our unity”. This popular myth in Sweden, together with a widespread fear of difference, is what was most likely to have contributed to the worrying election results in my country.
Gina Gustavsson's analysis for the Guardian resonates with my experiences of living in Sweden and becoming a Swede (under very privileged circumstances...).
How Barbara Ehrenreich Exposed the ‘Positive Thinking’ Industry
She applied that idea to how positive thinking was obscuring questions of economic inequality. And she found that there was an entire industry built up to assure financially struggling Americans that their poverty stemmed from their own negative thinking and that they could turn things around if they simply visualized wealth, embraced a can-do attitude about their bleak futures and willed money to flow into their lives. Central to this industry are “the coaches, the motivational speakers, the inspirational posters to put up on the office walls,” and more, said Ehrenreich.
Sonali Kolhatktar for Counterpunch with a great obituary on Barbara Ehrenreich.

What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 244, 4 August 2017)

Climate change causing suicides in India as crops fail

Climate change has already caused more than 59,000 suicides in India over the last 30 years, according to estimates in a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that suggests failing harvests that push farmers into poverty are likely the key culprits.
Kathleen Maclay for Berkeley News with a timely reminder about climate change impacts in South Asia.

This Company's New Perk Is Sending Employees on International Trips
"Many of our employees are very passionate about giving back and making the world a better place," Mercier says. "This is a really unique way to give to our employees and fuel their passion for giving back to the world and building camaraderie."
Rose Leadem for Entrepreneur; hopefully the pandemic put a damper on such programs, but I'm sure they still exist...

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