Links & Contents I Liked 473
Honduras, Kenya, Indonesia, China-and four very different environmental challenges, all linked to consumerist lifestyles & vague promises of 'development' contribute to a broader theme in this week's review; but there's more, from bad academic writing to humanitarians using AI, an economic history of cocoa & unconscious bias trainings.
My quotes of the week
“The main reason why there's a donor fatigue is because, as you can imagine, Somalia has been receiving humanitarian assistance for over three decades now and the situation has not been changing,” said Mohamed Abdi, country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council. “Many of the donors who have been paying money, a lot of money for that matter, to support Somalia will definitely get tired when they see their effort not bearing any fruits,” he said. (Donor Fatigue, Somalia Aid Cuts Worry Aid Workers)
Labor exploitation, economic injustices, and environmental degradation are undermining the socio-ecological transformation promised by electric vehicles
(Workers Are Dying in the EV Industry’s ‘Tainted’ City)
For humanitarian organisations exploring the use of AI, I hope that they first look inwards to their back office, rather than imposing untested technology on vulnerable populations which exposes them to greater risks. The more efficient and effective organisations are in their operations the higher level of quantity and quality of service they can deliver to recipients. (How are humanitarians using AI tools like Chat GPT?)
New on Aidnography
Bad-faith academic publishing-the case of “Questioning the Value of Reflexivity Statements in Research”
Editors and reviewers also need to become more aware and more critical in rejecting such attempts to roll back the small progress in emancipatory research and writing that has started to flourish in social sciences.Me on a recently published article by authors with a clear political agenda.
Donor Fatigue, Somalia Aid Cuts Worry Aid Workers
“The main reason why there's a donor fatigue is because, as you can imagine, Somalia has been receiving humanitarian assistance for over three decades now and the situation has not been changing,” said Mohamed Abdi, country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council.Harun Maruf for Voice of America; last week I included an article about shortcomings for the the Rohingya response in my post.
“Many of the donors who have been paying money, a lot of money for that matter, to support Somalia will definitely get tired when they see their effort not bearing any fruits,” he said.
Tens of thousands of refugees flee from Somaliland clashes
More than 60,000 Somali refugees have fled to Ethiopia after an escalation in fighting in the town of Las Anod, in the Sool region, where tensions between local people and the governing Somaliland authorities have been building for weeks.Kaamil Ahmed for the Guardian with more bad news from the region.
Oxfam reaction to President Biden’s nomination of former Mastercard chief as World Bank president
Congrats-a white, Republican-leaning 68-year old American woman with estimated wealth in the region of 400 million USD is *exactly* what any UN organization needs to show that their leadership is fit for the global challenges of the 21st century https://t.co/tBSdMbS0u2— Tobias Denskus (@aidnography) February 24, 2023
In response to President Biden’s nomination of former MasterCard and Nestlé executive, Ajay Banga, to the position of World Bank president, Christian Donaldson, Oxfam International’s senior policy advisor on international financial institutions, made the following statement:Oxfam joins the group of #globaldev voices that are not happy with the continuation of the citizenship-based allocation process of senior IO roles...
“While Mr. Banga may have extensive experience on Wall Street, we had hoped that President Biden would use this opportunity to ditch the old gentlemen’s agreement of World Bank and IMF appointments in favor of a more transparent and merit-based global process.
The Deadly Battle Over Land and Water in Honduras
Over the past two decades, Honduras has gained a macabre notoriety as one of the most dangerous places in the world to be an environmentalist. But the word “environmentalist” tends to be a term foisted onto the country from the outside. In rural areas, where campesinos, or rural folk — as well as Indigenous Lenca and Afro-Indigenous Garifuna people — are defending collectively held natural spaces, the environmentalists in question are more inclined to refer to themselves as land or water defenders. Their organizing puts them at odds with corrupt domestic elites invested in the expansion of open-pit mining, agribusiness and tourism. Beyond alleged links to drug traffickers, elites benefit from copious loans by way of institutions like the World Bank, as well as protection from U.S.-trained security forces.Jared Olson for TruthDig reporting from Honduras on how environmental activists have become more and more under pressure across the Americas.
Less than a mile away from a drone base, bandits stole bags of U.S. tax dollars in broad daylight
The U.S. military contractor who was not authorized to speak with the press told The Intercept that after the Austability personnel withdrew money from the bank to make payments, one of them shared the information with a WhatsApp group of close to 200 people. “Everybody knows he has the money and where he is going,” the contractor told The Intercept.Nick Turse for the Intercept on how easily military contractors were relived of their cash in Niger (and imagine the stories of this would have happened to a UN organization or INGO...).
“The Americans have sophisticated tools. Drones are flying overhead every day and every night. But there are guys circulating in the streets around here with weapons. Why is that?”
Workers Are Dying in the EV Industry’s ‘Tainted’ City
Meeting this demand has come at a huge social and environmental cost. Workers claim that deaths and injuries are common at IMIP. Medical professionals and environmentalists say the polluted air and water are causing respiratory problems, sickness, and eye injuries and destroying forests and fisheries. The rush to expand production has pushed local communities and infrastructure to the brink of collapse.Peter Yeung for Wired on the nickel manufacturing frontlines in Indonesia, a growing, heavily polluting industry thanks to the global demand for 'clean' electric vehicles...
“Labor exploitation, economic injustices, and environmental degradation are undermining the socio-ecological transformation promised by electric vehicles,” says Pius Ginting, coauthor of a report by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation think tank on the industry. “The public needs to know the reality of what’s happening.”
The Carbon Triangle
The scale of construction has been so prodigious, in fact, that it has far exceeded demand for housing. Tens of millions of apartments sit empty—almost as many homes as the US has constructed this century. Whole complexes of unfinished concrete shells sixteen stories tall surround most cities. Real estate, which constitutes a quarter of China’s GDP, has become a $52 trillion bubble that fundamentally rests on the foundational belief that it is too big to fail. The reality is that it has become too big to sustain, either economically or environmentally.Jeremy Wallace for Phenomenal World with some staggering insights into China's construction boom & its environmental impact.
Again much of this construction is not actually producing value as housing or office space. Only fugitive methane emissions and deforestation put more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere while producing less value than the Chinese construction sector, which means that right-sizing that sector represents an immense opportunity to slash global emissions.
Western media is missing the point
In fact, one could argue that the year-long war in Ukraine continues to feed the West’s anxiety regarding Moscow’s Africa policy. But it seems Western media are missing the point. Addressing the Sahel’s security crisis has grown increasingly complex, and the transition to sociopolitical stability in the region is not to be solely dictated by foreign military powers. There is an urgent need for mainstream outlets to let go of Westerncentric and paternalistic rationales and come to grips with the multidimensional challenges faced by local populations. But more importantly, there is a need for these outlets to acknowledge “Sahelians’ aspirations to reclaim their own history.’’Mathijs Cazemier for Africa is a Country.
Intervening to Undermine Democracy in Africa: Russia’s Playbook for Influence
At its core, Russia’s strategy is a crude one—protecting repressive actors so they can deploy coercion without hindrance and so retain power. This is akin to guarding the door while a violent crime takes place inside. This is coupled with Russia’s highly sophisticated disinformation campaigns infused with Orwellian messaging on non-interference and African empowerment.Joe Siegle reviews Samuel Ramani's new book for Democracy in Africa.
This strategy has been effective. Many of the African autocrats Russia has supported remain in power. Any discussion of African democratic backsliding, thus, needs to factor in Russia’s heavy thumb on the governance scale. In short, Moscow’s enhanced influence on the continent has come on the backs of African citizens’ democratic aspirations.
How are humanitarians using AI tools like Chat GPT?
I spend a lot of time reading lengthy reports and have tried using various AI tools to summarise them – with varying degrees of success. I’ve also used ChatGPT to draft Tweets from LinkedIn posts I’ve written.Rory Crew, Sonja Ruetzel, Jack Barton, Thomas Byrnes, Emily Wegener, Vimaris Rivera, Joel Kaiser, Stephen Kimotho & Jackson Mushagalusa for CALP Network on how they use AI in their work.
I’m excited to use AI to complete the administrative aspects of my work so I can spend more time grappling with the big issues.
For humanitarian organisations exploring the use of AI, I hope that they first look inwards to their back office, rather than imposing untested technology on vulnerable populations which exposes them to greater risks. The more efficient and effective organisations are in their operations the higher level of quantity and quality of service they can deliver to recipients.
Chartbook #196 The Closing of the Cocoa Frontier
Ghana’s room for maneuver has been narrowed by the financial crisis that has forced it to seek debt restructuring from its creditors. It is possible that by expanding the cocoa cartel to Nigeria and Cameroon the producers can gain more leverage. But there are more fundamental factors that might shift the balance and disrupt the market. One influence may come from the side of demand. If chocolate consumption takes off either in India and China, as the chocolate firms hope, the demand for beans could be gigantic. CdI’s President Ouattara has recently been wooing Chinese investment in the cocoa sector. The impact on the market would be all the more spectacular because the frontier expansion of cocoa growing in West Africa has reached its limit. There is no more forest in Cote D’Ivoire to clear. The forest rent has been exhausted.Adam Tooze unpacks the history of the global cocoa business.
Trashion: The stealth export of waste plastic clothes to Kenya
The system of used-clothing trade is currently at breaking point, with over 900 million items sent to Kenya from around the globe in 2021. Out of these, nearly 150 million items came from the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK). Of the 112 million items of used clothing shipped directly from the EU to Kenya each year, up to one in three contain plastic and are of such a low quality that they are immediately dumped in the environment or burned. This toxic influx is creating devastating consequences for the environment and communities.Changing Markets with a visually really great report on the impact of second-hand clothing in Kenya.
Farmer-Centric Data Governance: Towards A New Paradigm
The Report, six Deep Dives, and nine Case Studies provide user-centric approaches to data governance that places farmers and their communities at the center of data gathering initiatives and aims to reduce the negative effects of centralized power. The findings are based on literature, interviews, and workshops, to gather the experiences of change-makers and aims to:Development Gateway (of which I have not come across in a long time in my networks...) with an interesting new report.
• Raise awareness around the current political economy of agricultural data and its implications;
• Identify user-centric data governance models and mechanisms, particularly in LMICs;
• Demonstrate the purpose, value, benefits, and challenges of these models for all stakeholders; and
• Identify appropriate and relevant actionable principles, recommendations, and considerations related to user-centric data governance in the agriculture sector for the donor community.
Colonialism and the Indian Famines: A response to Tirthankar Roy
And yet, as the term colonialism has become a triggering point for Roy in recent years, he titles his shadow boxing exercise as “Colonialism did not cause the Indian famines”. If the intention of Roy is to refute Sullivan and Hickel’s original claim, he fails at it miserably.Tamoghna Halder for Developing Economics enters the debate on famines & colonialism in India.
The U.S. launched a racist eugenics program in Puerto Rico in the 1930s — sterilizing about one third of Puerto Rican women by 1976, many forced or coerced.— AJ+ (@ajplus) February 21, 2023
It was just one chapter of U.S. colonial eugenics programs and medical experiments targeting women of color. 🧵(1/8) pic.twitter.com/wkCEs6os75
Intersectionality & Climate Justice: A call for synergy in climate change scholarship
In this intervention, we call for extending the critical lens of intersectionality to the field of climate justice. We do so by identifying the theoretical and methodological links through which intersectionality can benefit climate change studies. These include common roots in radical theory, a focus on marginalized populations, challenging dominant epistemologies and ontologies, similar strategies for pursuing social justice, de-emphasizing of positivist methodologies, while at the same time deploying similar research methods, embracing cross-scalar and spatio-temporal analysis, and strong emphasis on interdisciplinarity and cross-sectoral alliances.Michael Mikulewicz, Martina Angela Caretta, Farhana Sultana & Neil J. W. Crawford with an open access article in Environmental Politics.
In other news
Unconscious bias training is ‘nonsense’, says outgoing race relations chair
“We made arguments to the state even when we’re on platforms alongside them saying this was nonsense. It’s racism we want to talk about, it’s systemic behaviour we want to talk about, institutionalised racism we want to talk about, not unconscious bias or racial awareness,” Prescod said. “It’s the stuff that kills that we want to talk about, the stuff that stunts lives that we want to talk about, the stuff that deforms lives that we want to talk about.”Aamna Mohdin for the Guardian shares reflections from long-term British activist Colin Prescod.
The Right Has It In for Woke Investors. The Only Problem? They Don’t Exist.
The right’s success in dragging ESG into the culture wars is owed in large part to the confusion about what those letters actually mean. Even the corporate staffers and Wall Street types most likely to know what ESG stands for (again: environmental, social, governance) don’t share a common definition; three-quarters of institutional investors admit to being unclear. It does not, after all, make intuitive sense to refer to a jumble of adjectives as a noun—let alone a tidily nefarious approach to investing.Kate Aronoff for the New Republic; it's quite the long-read, but what I take away from it (sorry LinkedIn ESG bubble) is that ESG is a distraction & unlikely to transform the financial sector in any meaningful way.
As legal scholar Elizabeth Pollman notes in her genealogy of ESG, the concept emerged out of the defeat of left-leaning plans in developing countries to rein in transnational corporations. Through the era of decolonization, nations freeing themselves from colonialism looked to build economic independence by constraining corporations that had long functioned as official or unofficial outgrowths of the old colonial powers; a key aim was to assert sovereignty over natural resources within their borders that had made fortunes for executives abroad.
What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 263, 15 December 2017)
Third World Quarterly & the case for colonialism debate
This is a curated and regularly updated overview (last update: 18 April 2018) over the events that followed after the publication of Bruce Gilley's article The Case for Colonialism in the journal Third World Quarterly.Everything comes around full circle...including this curated post that I linked to in my most recent post on yet another article that went through peer review for the sole purpose of trolling academia...
Hairdressing, sewing, cooking – is this really how we're going to empower women?
Many women’s empowerment projects the world over focus on hairdressing, tailoring or cooking. This is in part because the barrier to entry is low, so these programmes are accessible to women who may not have had much formal education, and in part due to constraints on women – most of these jobs can be done in female-only environments or at home. There are different trends in different parts of the world, but most conform to this pattern: hair and beauty training in the Middle East, producing local handicrafts in Latin America and south Asia, giving women chickens to tend in rural India and Africa.Samira Shackle for the Guardian on the quest for projects that can 'empower women' and that may end up producing capitalist agents on the bottom rung of the consumerist ladder...
Undoubtedly, for some women, simply learning a new skill can be hugely valuable and confidence-boosting. But there is little hard evidence that these schemes actually help women to earn a living, or empower them in any meaningful sense.
“Are they empowering women? Not really,” says Mayssoun Sukarieh, lecturer in Middle Eastern studies at King’s College London. “First of all, many of these projects reproduce gender relations, so it’s not about empowering women in the sense of making them equal. Secondly, this can work for a bit, but how much money is going to be generated by these tiny projects? Particularly when, at the same time, huge corporations are doing the same products at a very low price.”