Links & Contents I Liked 465

Hi all,

I'm looking forward to the weekend like anybody else & leave you with a fresh #globaldev review that features articles that are as absurd, shocking, unsurprising & smart like the sector & people that make it up as they go along every week ;)

My quotes of the week
“Let’s not beat around the bush. We are not a development superpower at the moment. That is something that is bemoaned around the world by our many friends and people who look to Britain for leadership on development.”
(Mitchell: UK must restructure FCDO to regain aid 'superpower' status)

“Depressing and embarrassing,” said one.
“Digital garbage,” said another.
“We were [like] … WTF? Who validated this?” said a third.

(EU aid dept’s €387k metaverse meets real-world critique)

There is no algorithm that can bring water back into the Chihuahua region, put out the fires that will overwhelm Europe next summer, or achieve net zero emissions. In contrast, counter-power and resistance at the local level have proven to be more efficient than any line of code or policy target to adapt to the current climate emergency. (...) Many of these projects are empty promises, wasting immense amounts of public money to eco-bleach technology, capitalism, and AI in particular. 
(Silicon Valley and the Environmental Costs of AI)

Development news

This video has been widely circulated & discussed in my #globaldev networks this week; more reflections will follow on this complex issue... Who paid the price for Uganda’s refugee fraud scandal (and who didn’t)?
So why didn’t donors put the same pressure on UNHCR as they did with the government? A common thread throughout my research was the reputation of UNHCR among donors: As a UN institution, it was considered more reliable than the Ugandan government, even if there were frustrations around transparency and accountability.
Another explanation I heard was that donors had too close and cosy a relationship with the UN. As one journalist (who requested anonymity due to risks facing reporters in Uganda) looking into the case put it: “There was a very sympathetic view of most of the donors towards UNHCR. The [feeling] was that the internationals were all in this together.”
A last explanation highlighted the need to protect UNHCR and the refugee response in the country. As UNHCR Uganda is almost constantly in major financial need, it was felt a continued push for accountability would ultimately hurt the refugee response.
Kristof Titeca for the New Humanitarian on the impact of the UNHCR corruption & mismanagement scandal in 2018.

The Abortion Assault
Since at least 2013, the Nigerian military has conducted a secret, systematic and illegal abortion programme in the country’s northeast, ending at least 10,000 pregnancies among women and girls, a Reuters investigation has found. Many had been kidnapped and raped by Islamist militants. Resisters were beaten, held at gunpoint or drugged into compliance, witnesses say.
Paul Carsten, Reade Levinson, David Lewis & Libby George for Reuters with a heartbreaking investigation from Nigeria.

Haiti: Inside the capital city taken hostage by brutal gangs
There are mixed views here on the idea of foreign boots on the ground. There's support from some in business - who have used armed groups but now want them reined in - and from those trapped in gang-controlled areas. There's opposition from civil society leaders who say Haiti needs to go it alone.
While the international community debates and demurs, it is massacres as usual for the gangs.
Local sources say armed groups are brutally expanding their territory because elections are overdue. When politicians come looking for votes - in gang held areas - they have to pay off the gunmen.
Orla Guerin for BBC News with a long-read on the situation in Haiti.

Dutch king commissions research into royal role in colonialism
Three Dutch historians and a human rights expert will carry out the investigation, which is set to take three years and will span the period from the late 16th century until the “post-colonial” present, the RVD said, without elaborating on the details.
The Guardian on more small steps the Netherlands are taking to look into their colonial past.

China lends billions to poor countries. Is that a burden ... or a blessing?
"There is a role for Western democracies to play in addressing and curbing some of negative by-products of Chinese projects by improving internal systems to reduce corruption. It's not to say that countries shouldn't borrow from China, it's about doing so responsibly."
Andrew Connelly for NPR Goats & Soda with an overview of Aid Data's recent report.

Mitchell: UK must restructure FCDO to regain aid 'superpower' status
“Let’s not beat around the bush. We are not a development superpower at the moment. That is something that is bemoaned around the world by our many friends and people who look to Britain for leadership on development,” Mitchell said.
During his wide-ranging and frank remarks, Mitchell also declared:
• The U.K. had lost the trust of former partners because of the aid cuts.
• The FDCO did not deem responding to the drought in Somalia as “essential” aid.
• He wants to restructure the FCDO after the “suboptimal” merger.
• There are 200 development positions vacant in FCDO and “morale issues” among staff.
Will Worley for DevEx on the never-ending saga of what the future of UK's #globaldev engagement should look like.

EU aid dept’s €387k metaverse meets real-world critique
“Depressing and embarrassing,” said one.
“Digital garbage,” said another.
“We were [like] … WTF? Who validated this?” said a third.
A fourth, told the price tag for the entire metaverse campaign, responded: “Jesuuuuus”.
Vince Chadwick for DevEx; for me this is one of the 'best' #globaldev tech fails of the year (and already highlighted in one of my previous mid-week newsletters).

10 insights about frontline learning in humanitarian response
The challenge of supportive learning environments was stressed repeatedly by steering committee members and became a key element of the Sharing Tacit Knowledge resource pack. It was also evident in the action learning pilots, where some staff struggled to put their new learning approaches into practice because more senior staff were not invested in creating the space. While the Action Learning for Frontline Humanitarians resource pack suggests ways staff can strengthen their own learning independently, the pilots underscored the need for wider organisational change if the value of frontline knowledge is to be maximised.
Jennifer Doherty for ALNAP with lots of great food for thought!

Racism poses public health threat to millions worldwide, finds report
“Racism is a health issue,” said Richard Horton, the editor-in-chief of the Lancet. “Our structurally racist societies are unsafe for too many communities, families and individuals.”
The Lancet series marks a moment for health professionals “to recommit ourselves” to “defeat these insidious social pathologies – pathologies that for too long we have chosen to ignore”, he added.
Andrew Gregory for the Guardian with an overview of the recent Lancet report.
Silicon Valley and the Environmental Costs of AI
There is no algorithm that can bring water back into the Chihuahua region, put out the fires that will overwhelm Europe next summer, or achieve net zero emissions. In contrast, counter-power and resistance at the local level have proven to be more efficient than any line of code or policy target to adapt to the current climate emergency. Whereas Silicon Valley companies are striving to promote AI projects to mitigate the effects of climate change or invest in carbon offset projects, reality shows us another path. Many of these projects are empty promises, wasting immense amounts of public money to eco-bleach technology, capitalism, and AI in particular. But the organization and struggle of communities to protect what belongs to them remain.
Ana Valdivia for the Political Economy Research Centre with a powerful reminder of digital mirages & real-world problems + change.

Reading corner
Gender justice: Decades of research from the IDS Bulletin
In solidarity with the 16 Days campaign, we look back at the rich history of research that has been published over the last 50 years in the IDS Bulletin which has highlighted the work that IDS and partners do towards gender justice.
Gary Edwards for IDS with a great selection of open access articles from the IDS Bulletin!

The Dignity Report 2022
What we have seen in our work is this: the idea of dignity has traction in yoking together these disparate debates for reform and refocusing development assistance on the human hopes of the people we seek to serve. We make real progress with dignity when we can help the sector take practical steps.
That’s why we, as IDinsight, invested so much in building tools – survey measures, Dignity Audits, and reflection workshops. So far this year, our survey measures have been taken up by programs serving almost eleven million people. In the first half of this report, we reflect on how to build dignity through tools like these, and all that we’ve learned from longtime pioneers in this cause.
Tom Wein, Mary Blair & Nakubyana Mungomba for IDinsight with a flagship report you actually want to read :)

The Ukrainian refugee crisis: Unpacking the politics of pet exceptionalism
The rescue of pets soon became part of the humanitarian narrative of the attack on Ukraine. The open-door policy on companion animals from Ukraine—a high-risk country for rabies—in terms of regulatory modifications and the provision of services could be described as one of ‘pet exceptionalism’. While the influx of pets and the response to it has significance for the international refugee regime, there has been scant scholarly engagement with the movement of pets across borders during emergencies.
Kristin Bergtora Sandvik with a new open access article for International Migration.

In other news
Can blogs change the world? Uncovering pathways to policy influence through LSE Blogs
The example of LSE Blogs also illuminates an intriguing development in the policymaking process: the emergence of knowledge brokerage blogs as a distinct new policy influencing pathway, against the backdrop of ‘traditional’ brokerage pathways such as think tank publications and interest group lobbying. Given that our exploration of LSE Blogs has shown that such blogs can have an influential role in the process, it is interesting to consider why this format might be appealing to policymakers. One potential reason is that blog articles tend to be shorter and more concise and tailored to a policymaker audience, which makes it easier to digest key messages from the underlying research. Perhaps also the more conversational, personal tone invites a more informal dialogue on areas of research than more formal publications and scholarly papers.
Kat Hart for LSE Impact of Social Science with one of my favourite topics: Blogging...which is not 'dead', btw...

My PhD Process
I really think that a doctoral degree, at least in the humanities, but maybe generally, should be a mid-career objective, and should generally only be undertaken after twenty years of working life. What Sciences Po demands may be a bit extreme; probably most people in this age group would spend five years to finalize even a much more modest doctoral dissertation.
In contrast, I don’t think the production of young academics with doctoral degrees but little experience of life outside academia serves a general purpose. It allows the academic institution to perpetuate itself aloof from society. Allowing people with work experience that has been transformed by mid-life doctoral research to enter academia through a side-track provides much more interaction with the rest of society. This is a discussion which we must have, within academia.
Robert Kluijver shares great reflections of a mid-career PhD student that echo so some extent my classic post Should I consider a PhD in International Development Studies?

What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 255, 20 October 2017)

The Lomidine Files (book review)
Killing dozens of recipients, the mirage of a preventive wonder drug was eventually uncovered to be medically faulty and the story of Lomidine was hidden in public and corporate archives of the drug manufacturer. There are three outstanding features of the book that I will focus on in my review: First, the story is a well-crafted historical narrative. Second, the book is an exemplary case study of what ‘discourse analysis’ or ‘governmentality’ really mean from a research perspective. And third, as distant and outdated some of the practices of the 1950s now seem, the book opens up a fascinating arena for discussion of how we count, who counts and what counts in contemporary development efforts. Whether we discuss expat aid workers, communicating development or using randomized-control trials in research, Lachenal’s book is to some extent a mirror of beliefs and practices that have (and have not) changed since the end of the colonial era.
Me with a book I really enjoyed reading & reviewing!

UN report on Rohingya hunger is shelved at Myanmar's request
WFP did not respond directly to questions about whether food aid cuts had left vulnerable people in need or whether it the agency had prioritised good relations with the government over the immediate humanitarian needs of the Rohingya.
Oliver Holmes for the Guardian with a short article that is still timely & relevant 5 years on.

Puerto Rico: when it rains, it pours
Puerto Rico was an important hub, in particular, for big pharmaceutical firms like Pfizer, which have kept many of their investments on the island even after ‘936’ was gradually ended. But Puerto Rico is no longer competitive in areas where 75-80% of expenses come from payroll costs. Puerto Rico needs to move up into higher-value manufacturing and services. It has a large number of educated bilingual workers. There is potential to turn the economy into a modern hi-tech service sector. But that would require government investment and state-run firms democratically controlled by Puerto Ricans. It’s the Chinese model, if you like. Puerto Rico is a small island that was exploited by the US and foreign multi-nationals with citizens’ tax bills siphoned off to pay interest on ever increasing debt, while reducing social welfare – all at the encouragement of foreign investment banks making huge fees for doing so. Now Puerto Ricans are being asked to keep on paying for the foreseeable future after a decade of recession and cuts in living standards to meet obligations to vulture funds and US institutions. And the troops will be sent into ensure that!
Michael Roberts with some important context on the multi-faced root causes of the crises in Puerto Rico.

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