Links & Contents I Liked 461
I enjoyed my short break in Berlin, including a first meeting with the advisory board of Engineers Without Borders Germany.
I'm keeping this review #COP27 free, because there is already so much going on in the #globaldev-osphere...
Sweden, Norway, UK, Somalia, Myanmar, Namibia & India made it into this review & there's also a substantial academic reading list from Danish businesses & the SDGs to the discourse of the 'Global South'!
My quotes of the week
Twitter is where you can get perspectives on events and issues in African countries without the filters and gatekeeping lenses of Western media or academia. Its potency on the continent isn't so much in the number of its users, but its ability to reverberate across ecosystems. (Chris Olaoluwa Ògúnmọ́dẹdé on Twitter)
The analysis finds that most companies view the SDGs as a platform for achieving rather conventional business goals such as mitigating risk, saving costs, and differentiating products and services.
The paper concludes that companies overwhelmingly view the SDGs as a business opportunity rather than as a business responsibility
(The Business Case for the Sustainable Development Goals: An Empirical Analysis of 21 Danish Companies' Engagement with the SDGs)
I caused indelible harm to donors and fundraisers by bringing up tactless and insensitive points such as that significant wealth has been built on slavery, stolen Indigenous land, worker exploitation, environmental degradation, and tax avoidance, and that nonprofit and philanthropy often serve as a conscience-laundering mechanism for the very inequity and injustice we are raising money to fight. I can imagine donors, each as pure and fragile as a newborn baby bird, hearing these cruel words and weeping for days.
(An apology to everyone I harmed with my insensitive words regarding donors and philanthropy)
Sweden cuts international aid budget but raises overall spending
Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said Sweden planned to reduce the country's international aid by 7.3 billion kronor ($673 million) in 2023, and by another 2.2 billion kronor in 2024.Simon Rushton for the National News...I'm a bit surprised that this announcement is not discussed more widely on how quickly traditional #globaldev donors abandon their responsibilities.
It means Sweden will abandon its foreign aid target of 1 per cent of gross national income — which is above the UN suggested 0.7 per cent.
Aid v Global Public Goods; the fear in the system and multi-dimensional poverty: A conversation with Norway’s Development Agency
‘There’s a lot of fear in the system’: Aid is pretty uncontroversial in Norway (at least compared to the levels of polarization in the UK), but even so there’s a striking asymmetry between success (nobody notices) and failure (banner headlines), that makes aid people highly risk averse. Attempts to persuade those in charge using the language of the private sector, where taking sensible/inspired risks is portrayed as entrepreneurial rather than political suicide, have failed to gain traction.Duncan Green for From Poverty to Power; the examples of Denmark & Sweden make me a bit more cautious of how uncontested #globaldev spending is in Nordic countries...it is part of their nation-branding until it is no longer...let's see whether Norway with its incredible wealth is willing to go an extra mile for #globaldev...
Somalis Are Going Hungry. Their Government Isn’t Calling It a Famine.
And they are concerned that a declaration of famine would deter investors and shift international aid money toward the emergency response — instead of long-term development money to fund health care, education and climate resilience programs.Abdi Latif Dahir for the New York Times on the political economy of #globaldev that in the end only knows loose-loose scenarios for ordinary people...
The president acknowledged the dilemma in September, saying, “The risk is very high to announce a famine.”
Such a declaration, he said, “does not affect the famine victims only, but halts the development and changes the perspectives and everything.”
Over the past several weeks, frustrated aid workers have insisted the threshold for famine has already been reached in some areas and have pushed the government in several meetings to declare a famine to bring attention to the crisis.
Myanmar could face aid ‘catastrophe’, experts warn, after junta law change
Related to my previous tweet saying that talk of the Great Twitter Exodus is mostly a "Global North" phenomenon is the idea that this place is basically the only real avenue for many in the West to come across people and perspectives from the "Global South" they may never have.— Chris O. Ògúnmọ́dẹdé (@Illustrious_Cee) November 10, 2022
Myanmar’s junta has passed a law that grants it sweeping powers over aid delivery, prompting warnings of a “catastrophic” effect on services to those in need in the crisis-hit nationEmanuel Stoakes for the Guardian reporting from another 'forgotten' crises.
Sources inside aid agencies in Yangon, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Guardian that the new rules would severely impact their ability to reach vulnerable communities, likely resulting in wholesale shutdowns of some programmes.
Who is really to blame for British aid not reaching poorer countries?
The DAC first allowed “in-donor” refugee costs to score as aid back in the 1980s, and it has recently added numerous other dubious rules that exaggerate donors’ generosity at every turn.Steve Cutts for the Guardian on OECD-DAC rules that allow donors to include a lot of non-#globaldev arithmetics into their ODA spending.
They hide profits made on aid investments (only counting the losses); over-count the cost to the donors of providing aid loans; double-count the non-repayment risk; and allow donors to score ODA for forgiving export credits, even though exporters and developing country governments have funded these costs by paying insurance fees or other charges.
As a result, poorer countries are being starved of the aid they were promised, including the climate finance grants and truly concessional loans they need.
UK aid funding for refugees in the UK
The use of international aid to fund expenses related to hosting refugees and asylum seekers within donor countries – referred to as ‘in-donor refugee support’ – has become a significant part of aid spending, amounting to billions of dollars globally every year.The Independent Commission for Aid Impact is also interested in the topic of spending UK #globaldev on refugees.
In-donor refugee support costs have risen sharply in the UK since 2014 and made up more than 8% of all UK aid in 2021 – approximately £891 million. A further large increase in this type of spend is expected in 2022.
There is no cap on how much of the UK aid budget can be spent on in-donor refugee support. The mechanism for calculating the proportion of costs that can be counted as aid was not reduced when the aid spending target was reduced to 0.5% gross national income. As such this spending has continued to increase, unaffected by the budget reductions imposed across most of the UK’s aid programming. It is therefore important that ICAI scrutinises this significant and growing proportion of UK aid.
Namibia Continues Seeking Justice for Germany's Colonial-Era Genocide
The pain comes on suddenly, says Kambanda Nokokure Veii. It comes when she is driving through the steppe of central Namibia, past the trees where German soldiers hanged Veii’s ancestors. It comes when she is in the capital city of Windhoek and sees compatriots with lighter skin, many of whom are descendants of rape victims. Or when she, as on this afternoon, visits a memorial site on the edge of the Kalahari Desert in the Omaheke region, one of the few places that recalls the genocide committed by the German Empire against the Herero and Nama from 1904 to 1908.Maximilian Popp & Bernhard Riedmann for Spiegel International with a powerful multi-media essay on the legacy of the German genocide in Namibia.
Women-only customary courts in Pakistan and Afghanistan: inspiration for Melanesia?
Necessarily, initiatives such as women-only jirgas raise questions about whether patriarchal non-state institutions can ever be utilised to truly support women; whether any reforms can be anything more than short-lived and superficial; whether they merely provide women with substandard and inferior systems of justice; and even whether they put women advocates in danger from reprisals. It is important to note also that woman-only jirgas remain very much an exception in the male-dominated justice domain in the Pukhtoon area.Miranda Forsyth for DevPolicy Blog with interesting reflections on women-led customary courts across continents & cultures.
These are important questions. But a race to scepticism should not cloud our abilities to be inspired to imagine a better future, including reforms and new structures that are audacious in their innovativeness and challenge to the status quo. For me anyway, the women of Garhi Habibullah have provided at least a glimpse of a vision of such a possibility. What might such an approach look like in PNG or Vanuatu or Solomon Islands, with women-only versions of customary courts, local urban komitis and peace and justice mediation initiatives?
Digital wallets for all?
The promise of a “cashless economy” still resonates through national politics. What such an economy has effected for Anil, and for sellers whose ecosystem does not support a digital transition, is however further exclusion from an economy based on new, uniquely digital means of transaction. In 2017 I asked if a new digital divide – between the haves and have-not of digital transactions – was emerging in post-demonetisation India. Narratives from Bengaluru street sellers keep that question open, and invite to think of the real impact of a cashless transition on informal businesses.Silvia Masiero continues her reflections on India's 'cashless economy' on her great blog!
Aid profiles: The head of CARE on her decolonisation ‘journey’
Another area she found problematic was capacity building – training up partners with skills and expertise. The whole approach, Sprechmann Sineiro explained, was one of transferring resources – knowledge, money, technology – from the Global North to the Global South: “The South was always on the receiving end. That was the flavour of every dialogue.”Jessica Alexander talks with Sofia Sprechmann Sineiro for the New Humanitarian.
She watched the excitement of her Cambodian colleagues when presented with an opportunity to be sent to headquarters in the Global North to be trained. She couldn’t help but notice how few believed in their own voices. “The idea was, there’s greater wisdom there. That’s where I will learn and develop,” Sprechmann Sineiro said, recalling their clear sentiments. “That’s how it [was] manifested every day, and it prevails in our system.”
Aid conferences and panels are – on the whole – more diverse now, and translation buttons ensure that people can speak in their native tongue. But, for Sprechmann Sineiro, some bad habits – like who is listened to, and who has influence – are still hard to shake.
“The dynamic [is one where] the idea that is presented that everyone latches onto is the one that is more eloquently presented in English,“ she said. She finds there’s a lower tolerance and patience for communication or expression that don't follow three-minute talking points.
“In some parts of the world, people want to tell you a story that takes longer,” she said. “You have to learn to synthesise, and you have to present it concretely and succinctly.”
Like it or not - the press release is on its way out'
So how can humanitarian organisations get journalists’ attention when so much of the world is in turmoil?Helena Humphrey on LinkedIn; interesting post, yet I feel a bit ambivalent about the 'instrumental' approach towards communication & wonder how effective it really is in an ever-increasing spiral of short-term attention gaining...but I really don't have better answers right now...
An apology to everyone I harmed with my insensitive words regarding donors and philanthropy
I caused indelible harm to donors and fundraisers by bringing up tactless and insensitive points such as that significant wealth has been built on slavery, stolen Indigenous land, worker exploitation, environmental degradation, and tax avoidance, and that nonprofit and philanthropy often serve as a conscience-laundering mechanism for the very inequity and injustice we are raising money to fight. I can imagine donors, each as pure and fragile as a newborn baby bird, hearing these cruel words and weeping for days.Vu Le for NonprofitAF speaking truth, as always.
The Business Case for the Sustainable Development Goals: An Empirical Analysis of 21 Danish Companies' Engagement with the SDGs
The analysis finds that most companies view the SDGs as a platform for achieving rather conventional business goals such as mitigating risk, saving costs, and differentiating products and services.Michael W. Hansen, Henrik Gundelach & Erik Thomas Johnson with a new working paper for the Copenhagen Business School.
The paper concludes that companies overwhelmingly view the SDGs as a business opportunity rather than as a business responsibility, something that fundamentally may distinguish the SDG agenda from previous responsibility agendas.
Southern Discomfort: Interrogating the Category of the Global South
The conclusion revisits the ‘stickiness’ of ‘the South’. It is argued that the South as a territorial, relational, structural and political construct is fundamentally about the distribution of power in the global system. While some uses of the concept enhance power asymmetries, others contribute to reducing them. This article concludes that a critical understanding of the contradictory meanings and uses of the concept within development studies is more important than discursive attempts to replace it.Nikita Sud & Diego Sánchez-Ancochea with an open access article for Development and Change.
Standing in the way of rigor? Economics’ meeting with the decolonization agenda
Based on the survey findings, the article concludes that the field’s emphasis on advancing economics as an objective social science free from political contestations, based on narrow theoretical and methodological frameworks and a privileging of technical training associated with a limited understanding of rigor, likely stands in the way of the decolonization of economics. Indeed, key concepts of the decolonization agenda—centering structural power relations, critically examining the vantage point from which theorization takes place and unpacking the politics of knowledge production—stand in sharp contrast to the current priorities of the economics field as well as key strands of IPE.Ingrid Harvold Kvangraven & Surbhi Kesar with an open access article for Review of International Political Economy.
Too Good to Be True: Bots and Bad Data From Mechanical Turk
In 2015, up to an estimated 45% of articles published in the top behavioral and social science journals included at least one study conducted on MTurk. In this article, I summarize my own experience with MTurk and how I deduced that my sample was—at best—only 2.6% valid, by my estimate. I share these results as a warning and call for caution. Recently, I conducted an online study via Amazon’s MTurk, eager and excited to collect my own data for the first time as a doctoral student. What resulted has prompted me to write this as a warning: it is indeed too good to be true. This is a summary of how I determined that, at best, I had gathered valid data from 14 human beings—2.6% of my participant sample (N = 529).Margaret A. Webb & June P. Tangney with a new article for Perspectives on Psychological Sciences-unfortunately not open access, but still very interesting + important!
Critical Ignoring as a Core Competence for Digital Citizens
Low-quality and misleading information online can hijack people’s attention, often by evoking curiosity, outrage, or anger. Resisting certain types of information and actors online requires people to adopt new mental habits that help them avoid being tempted by attention-grabbing and potentially harmful content. We argue that digital information literacy must include the competence of critical ignoring—choosing what to ignore and where to invest one’s limited attentional capacities.Anastasia Kozyreva, Sam Wineburg, Stephan Lewandowsky & Ralph Hertwig with a new open access article for Current Directions in Psychological Science.
What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 251, 22 September 2017)
8 reasons to think digital communication in development
Digital communication is more engaging and meaningful to the individual. It allows communication participants to effortlessly be part of and influence the dialogue, and to contribute and be recognized through co-creation and visibility. This explains the rapid growth of social media users worldwide.Tomas Jensen with 8 important aspects of communicating development in the digital age-definitely food for thought! I wonder whether you could play devil's advocate and outline examples of how these 8 aspects can create exactly the opposite, negative effect...
How the international Red Cross turned a PR disaster into DLC
It is that presentation that inspired the Laws of War DLC. In it, players take on the role of an international humanitarian aid worker. They are tasked with clearing unexploded ordinance from the same battlefields which they fought over in Arma 3’s base game. In the roughly five-hour mini-campaign, players see that fictional conflict from all sides, including from the perspective of civilians caught in the crossfire.Charlie Hall for Polygon with an interesting case study on gamifying humanitarian aid and the complexities for serious discussions between a billion dollar industry and traditional organizations like the ICRC. I wonder a bit what has happened to the debate around computer games & globaldev in the past 5 years...
By creating prohibited cluster munitions as an in-game asset, and by also teaching the controversies surrounding their use, Rouffaer believes that gamers have a more complete picture of modern warfare for the first time. “Everyone on the forums says, ‘Yes! Thank you! Give us civilians and humanitarian workers and cluster munitions and we will use these new guns to eradicate as many of the first group as possible,” Rouffaer said. “But by saying that, it means that they will have consciously been saying, ‘We are going to break the law.’