Links & Contents I Liked 468

Hi all,

Davos came & went, but there are also other important stories from Afghanistan, Brazil, on faux carbon offsets, value/poverty chains, peace intermediaries & much more!
And another brand new post on Aidnography-this time about PhD skills & their limited transferability.

My quotes of the week
“On the one hand, the stereotypes seem to hold true (...). There are decadent parties, executives spouting vacuous talking points about sustainability, and behind it all the mysterious World Economic Forum. “Still, every global development leader I spoke to was glad they came. The easy access to top-level corporate and government leaders is hard to replicate elsewhere, even at the United Nations. “But the question for journalists and development practitioners alike is whether, by their sheer presence, they are legitimizing a gathering which could not be more removed from the constituencies they’re meant to serve. Each year, it seems they ask themselves the question. And each year they come back.” (DevEx Newswire, 20 January 2023)

There is another problem with the word famine. And that is that the word famine is too closely associated with food. When you’re in a famine-type situation, it’s not just food that is needed, from a humanitarian perspective. Famine eats up all the oxygen in the room – of discourse and of literal resources moving into food. “Oh,” they say. “Famine, we need to give food! Lots of food.” (How to end hunger: A famine expert’s plan

New on Aidnography
Don’t pursue a PhD as skills training for “the industry”!
Generally speaking, I think that most PhDs offer very poor value for money vis-a-vis building up a skill base-especially if the PhD is (partially) self-funded.
Long story short: Pursue a (ideally fully funded) PhD by all means, but keep in mind that PhDs are mentally and financially challenging and should not be treated as simply another degree that adds to your university study credentials.
Me, with a bit of PhD advice.

Development news

Revealed: more than 90% of rainforest carbon offsets by biggest provider are worthless, analysis shows
The forest carbon offsets approved by the world’s leading provider and used by Disney, Shell, Gucci and other big corporations are largely worthless and could make global heating worse, according to a new investigation.
The research into Verra, the world’s leading carbon standard for the rapidly growing $2bn (£1.6bn) voluntary offsets market, has found that, based on analysis of a significant percentage of the projects, more than 90% of their rainforest offset credits – among the most commonly used by companies – are likely to be “phantom credits” and do not represent genuine carbon reductions.
Patrick Greenfield for the Guardian; any measure that large companies adopt voluntarily or implement without protest will not (or only marginally) "offset" anything or do something about the carbon impact.

OpenAI Used Kenyan Workers Making $2 an Hour to Filter Traumatic Content from ChatGPT
A Time investigation published on Wednesday reported that OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, paid Kenyan workers less than $2 an hour to filter through tens of thousands of lines of text to help make its chatbot safer to use.
The workers were tasked to label and filter out toxic data from ChatGPT’s training dataset
Chloes Xiang for VICE (the original reporting by Time is behind a new registration wall...) on how the company behind this, Sama, is not making good on their promises to empower African workers through including them in the digital economy.
Why this humanitarian NGO leader flew to Kabul to meet with the Taliban
I'm trying to.... We have lined up meetings with the Islamic leadership in Kandahar, where I will be equally blunt, equal to what I've been here in Kabul.
We have to win this. It's a battle of values. We have to win it.
UN Envoy Visits Afghanistan, Discusses Bans on Women
Mohammed also met with U.N. staff, aid groups and Afghan women "to take stock of the situation, convey solidarity, and discuss ways to promote and protect women's and girls’ rights," deputy U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said in New York.
In those talks, Mohammed "stressed the need to uphold human rights, especially for women and girls," and was "encouraged by exemptions" to the ban on female aid workers, Haq said. The exemptions have allowed some work to restart in areas such as health care.
Humanitarians Must Reject the Taliban’s Misogyny
Many might disagree with this last point and argue that NATO’s war in Afghanistan gives the West a particular responsibility for humanitarian repair in Afghanistan today. But this responsibility does not hold if the West is an unacceptable power, or if the process of repair requires international agencies to inflict moral damage on themselves by violating one of their deepest values – gender justice.
The last two centuries of Western interference in Afghanistan have proved that it is only really Afghans who change Afghanistan, and only they who can find an appropriate form of gender justice in Afghan society. In the meantime, many international agencies may find their aid budgets more welcome and more fairly spent preventing starvation in East Africa.
Sheena Goodyear for CBC, Ayaz Gul for Voice of America & Hugo Slim for fp2p all contribute to an interesting case study about the complexities of principled humanitarian aid.

Amazon Under Fire: The Long Struggle Against Brazil’s Land Barons
For his new book, Masters of the Lost Land, Araujo spent four years traveling from his home in Rio de Janeiro to Rondon do Pará, a town in the eastern Brazilian Amazon, to understand how, in less than 60 years, the largest rainforest on the planet has been transformed into an engine of economic growth. Tracing the story of land rights activist José Dutra da Costa, or “Dezinho,” who, before his assassination in 2000, led a revolution among landless peasants, Araujo comes to see how a handful of ranchers managed to grab huge swaths of pristine rainforest and why deforestation, violence, and lawlessness remain pervasive in the region.
Jocelyn Zuckerman talks to Heriberto Araujo for Yale Environment 360 about his new book and research in Brazil.

How to end hunger: A famine expert’s plan
The Grand Bargain is great, big picture thinking. But there needs to be a grand vision that really is not just about throwing money at the problem, but thinking radically different about what the end state of no hunger and no famine truly looks like, and designing, financing, and implementing for that.
When you get to the famine levels, there’s a very intricate relationship between health, WASH, food, and protection. Those are now suddenly all interrelated with each other, and it gets into a downward spiral. So if you’re in a famine situation, and you respond with just food while the WASH systems have collapsed, and while the health systems have collapsed, and while protection issues are paramount because people are displaced, and when you’re displaced you’re vulnerable to gender-based violence and physical violence. And that makes your access to food, health services, and WASH, even worse. So, the word famine, to put a pin on it, tends to put too much attention on the food side, in what is a multisector humanitarian catastrophe.
Irwin Loy talks to Nicholas Haan for the New Humanitarian-plenty of food for thought if you pardon the bad Friday afternoon pun...

One Small Step for Norway, One Giant Leap for Evidence-Informed Decision Making in Norwegian Aid.
So, what does this all mean? It shows that Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Norad realized that key to making aid portfolio managers prioritize the generation and use of evidence is to make it easier for them to do so. How do you do that? You make funding evaluative research an expectation rather than something they need to argue . You include it as part and parcel of good development aid management rather than viewing it as something that takes away funds from the ‘real work’ which may or may not actually be working well.
Maria Gaarder, Amanda Glassman & Ruth Levine for the Center for Global Development; the language of the evidence-industrial complex always sounds similar & promising until a right-wing government is voted in and cuts #globaldev because they don't like it...

Why global value chains should be called global poverty chains
The prevalence of worker poverty in GVCs suggests that they are not the generators of rising incomes, better jobs, and reduced poverty, as the World Bank and numerous academics would suggest. Rather, GVCs represent an organizational strategy for transnational firms, designed to raise exploitation by depressing wages below the value of labor power. While this strategy has done wonders for the profits of TNCs, it has subjected hundreds of millions to poverty pay and health-damaging work.
Benjamin Selwyn for Developing Economics with a good reminder on the limited 'sustainability' of global value chains.
4 Lessons from MacKenzie Scott’s Unconventional Approach
Indeed, the sense of elation and empowerment that came through was both inspiring and depressing. Inspiring in how it shifted leaders’ mindsets; depressing in what a contrast it presented to the day-to-day experiences of nonprofit leaders and, frankly, the routine humiliations that often accompany fundraising.
All of us would be wise to recognize, as Scott has, that leadership of nonprofits is uniquely challenging, requiring everything it takes to lead an equivalent sized business, and a lot more. Yet, too often, nonprofits and their staff are treated with suspicion or even downright disrespect.
Phil Buchanan & Ellie Buteau for the Center for Effective Philanthropy on how MacKenzie Scott's philanthropy is having diverse, unexpected impact on the sector.

How ethical can research relationships be in Development Studies?
Researchers in the field of Development Studies must care enough to commit to ethical changes as individuals. Decolonising research relationships requires peeling back layers of honesty, particularly when unethical research practices have been normalised and this honesty it is not required. This is likely going to be an uncomfortable experience that will bring up complicated emotions, yet if this is not done, researchers will continue to be in denial about the ethics of their research relationships and miss an important opportunity to learn from their mistakes.
Isis Barei-Guyot for EADI Blog on decolonizing research relationships.

What Do Feminist and Women’s Rights Organizations Want From Partnerships With INGOs?
There is a need to incorporate the existing feminist agenda into the work
of INGOs. It is presumptive of an organization to try to define the feminist/
climate justice approach while ignoring or sidelining decades of research
and work that feminists have already dedicated to this. Unfortunately, this
is one of the negative perceptions around how INGOs work – they are seen
as having a tendency to try to define/own an agenda or approach, even
where something already exists and is well documented.
Another visually very nice paper summarizing research Oxfam & CARE did together with Feminist movements and women’s rights organizations in Africa.

The nine roles that intermediaries can play in international cooperation
The dominant role of the INGO as implementer is now giving way to alternative models of international cooperation. One well established but less common role for INGOs is that of intermediary, though this has often focused on INGOs as conduits for funding to organisations in the Global South. However, the role of intermediary is far richer than just a mechanism for managing donor funds.
Peace Direct with a visually very appealing way to present their latest research.

In other news

Oaxaca’s Indigenous University Reimagines Higher Education
More than 50% of indigenous students who graduate high school move out of their communities, Vásquez says, so the university is designed to strengthen their connection to their community and help reduce migration rates. “We see issues related to the communities — for example, how other communities are suffering from dispossession of territories, mining concessions,” says López. “We see that the community experiences many problems that we, as students who studied in the past in official institutions, did not get to see and, on the contrary, we contributed to them.”
Such degree offerings are especially important in the age of climate change. “In the territory and communal property major, students are taught about the cultural, patrimonial, biological and intangible defense of what we call territory,” says Natalia Jiménez, general coordinator of the Santa María Tlahuitoltepec center. “That is, the conscious use of what we find in our territory.”
Ena Aguilar Peláez for Global Press Journal on a great local higher education project.

What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 258, 10 November 2017)

Aid workers warn of 'cooling effect' after Oxfam sexual harassment scandal
Aid workers also called for tougher sanctions on perpetrators and tougher measures put in place to prevent staff from being allowed to leave their jobs before investigations are complete, something a number of those who spoke to Devex said is widely known to happen.
“I’d also like organizations to be required to document and keep records of perpetrators who resign and leave before a disciplinary process is concluded. I think there is a massive amount of this and it means there is nothing on their record about what they do,” the gender-based violence specialist told Devex.
Sophie Edwards for DevEx with a comprehensive update on sexual harassment prevention in the #globaldev where is the industry five years after the Oxfam scandal?

“Can you say that again, but faster?” Research communications lessons from Instagram and storytelling
The two media of our choice, Instagram and spoken storytelling, appear diametrically opposed. One is based on pictures and 15-second videos, very much a product of the 21st century. The other one is a time-honoured practice that is central to how we perceive the world and ourselves. Nevertheless, both start from the same premise: what is the story? What is the kernel of truth within pages and pages of research findings to be shared with a larger audience?
Judith Krauss for Global Development Institute blog on how to communicate #globaldev research with Instagram-perhaps an update for TikTok is needed?!?


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