Links & Contents I Liked 475

Hi all,

From the closure of Nairobi's iconic Hilton Hotel to palliative care in Uganda, a dodgy app by US immigration & how universities can prepare students better for work in #globaldev this week's review is as eclectic as it should be...especially after the annual content surge around International Women's Day...

P.S.: I'll be off to Innsbruck/Austria tomorrow to attend the thesis defense of my first co-supervised PhD student & then to Bonn/Germany for a board retreat so no weekly post next Friday!

My quotes of the week
As long as people in the West continue to understand local mining in the Congo as Kara’s “grim wasteland of utter ruin” as opposed to Wainaina’s landscape in which people laugh, struggle and make do in usually mundane circumstances, history will repeat. (Who wants to hear about White Saviourism gone wrong?)

Local aid workers feel disempowered too. They are on the front line of this emergency, yet feel like decisions are made by faraway bosses working in the guarded green zone bubble of the capital, Mogadishu.
(...)
This reality is rarely captured by international media. Most foreign journalists have been reporting on the drought by embedding with the UN and other aid agencies. Their stories read like aid agency funding campaigns.

(Aid, corruption, and neighbours in need: A reporter reflects on Somalia’s record drought)

Development news
Russia considering challenge to US nominee to head World Bank
Roman Marshavin, the World Bank executive director representing Russia and Syria, told the Reuters news agency the “listing of potential candidates and consultations are still ongoing,” but gave no details. He said the decision would be made in Moscow.
Aljazeera/Reuters with a reminder that international politics at multilateral organizations won't be getting any easier & Russia's playing of the 'decolonization card' will complicate things further...

Spy chief’s daughter highlights UN’s tangled relations with Syrian regime
a daughter of Hussam Louka, head of Syria’s general intelligence directorate who has been sanctioned by the US, EU and UK over human rights violations, has been working in the UN CERF office in Damascus, according to four people with knowledge of the situation. UN CERF is an emergency fund that responds quickly to natural disasters and armed conflicts.
(...)
UN bodies and aid groups are required to partner with government-affiliated agencies, according to Syrian sources, aid workers and experts. The main government-linked groups are the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, run by Assad associate Khaled Hboubati, and the Syria Trust for Development, founded by Asma al-Assad, the president’s wife, who still has heavy influence over its operations.
Raya Jalabi for the Financial Times; as always, when it comes to the work of the UN things quickly get complicated as long as Assad remains the official representative of the UN member state Syria; perhaps talking to/leaking information to the media is 1 option to highlight the de-facto blackmailing of the regime?

WHO sex abuse victims say help is too little too late
Arthur Nzanzu, who was in charge of the HEAL Africa project supporting survivors, told The New Humanitarian last month that it was merely an implementing partner and had no control over the project or how it was rolled out. Nevertheless, he said the programme was constrained by budget limitations, time constraints, and delays – all of which he linked back to UNFPA.
Rodolphe Mukindi & Robert Flummerfelt for the New Humanitarian; important follow-up story to their initial reporting-not entirely surprising that 'localization' does not seem to see to work as expected...

“Balancing Act”: Germany’s Role in the UN Security Council Reform
I want to start on a mildly positive note. While the UN Security Council is clearly even more divided than it was five years ago, the body has also shown an intriguing degree of resilience in the last year. Of course, that does not mean everything has been rosy. Relations between the five permanent members (the ​‘P5’ – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) are absolutely toxic as a result of Russia’s war on Ukraine. The war has also dominated the Council’s agenda: there have been over 50 Council meetings on Ukraine since January 2022, which is vastly more than on any other crisis.
Still, I have been struck by the fact that, despite outrage over the war on Ukraine, the Council has managed to keep working in parallel – and sometimes even innovate – on other situations such as in Afghanistan and Haiti. Interestingly, Russia has only used its veto twice on issues other than Ukraine in the last year. From the looks of it, Moscow wants to keep the Council open as a space where it can keep up a minimum level of cooperation with the West. China has also worked quite hard behind the scenes to persuade Moscow not to crash the Security Council altogether.
Richard Gowan talks to 49security about UN, the Security Council & more!

As African children died, doctors fought to get toxic Indian cough syrup banned
Pharmaceutical experts have warned for years about lax oversight of drugs made in India, whose industry supplies nearly half of the generic medicines used in Africa. India’s health regulator says it found no fault with the medicines.
The Gambian case appears to be the first documented example of DEG poisoning from imported rather than domestically produced medicines, a group of experts from Gambia and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The tragedy shows the difficulties faced by a poorly resourced country in identifying and removing harmful products, the experts said.
“There is not enough consequence when your drugs have been found to fail quality tests in a small African country,” said Jude Nwokike
Edward McAllister, Jennifer Rigby & Krishna N. Das for Reuters reporting from the Gambia on the downside of global trade, lacking oversight & an increased demand for affordable medication.
Interview with Virginie Collombier on the Libya Initiative
When we launched the Libya Initiative, I was still able to travel regularly to Libya, engage with local actors, conduct interviews and observe developments on the ground. But, over the years, the deteriorating security situation has made access to the country much more difficult. Thanks to the mentorship programme and our close collaboration with junior analysts across Libya, we managed to continue producing original field-based research, while also contributing to amplify local perspectives on key policy issues.
Virginie Collombier for the European University Institute talks about their work with the Libya Initiative.

Trouble in paradise: corruption in the Caribbean has become normalised
Repeatedly, we have seen nepotism, fraud, bribery, kickbacks, conflicts of interest, revolving-door syndrome – all these forms of corruption being normalised in the Caribbean, with absolutely no outrage or protests by the citizens and taxpayers of these islands. Not to mention the utter mismanagement of public funds on vanity projects, awarding unqualified contractors resulting in poor infrastructure, the corrupting influence of political financiers, and the gifting of public contracts to wives, girlfriends, friends, and family.
Sad indeed, as the region has lost that “paradise” title and the once-held ambition to becoming classified as “developed” countries. Sad as well that the complacent citizens are complicit without fully appreciating that fact.
Kenneth Mohammed for the Guardian on the persistent problem of corruption in 'paradise'...

Who wants to hear about White Saviourism gone wrong?
Cobalt Red has gained an extraordinary amount of attention for a book about the DRC. And yet, the reason the book has resonated so strongly with a Western audience is the same reason it is so deeply problematic. As journalist Howard French once said when reflecting on why the similarly problematic story of rape as a weapon of war in the Congo caught so much Western attention: “It allows us, meaning the general public [in the US], to become interested in Africa in ways that respond to some pre-existing notions we have of Africa. That Africa should be a certain kind of way. That Africa should provide an escalating sense of horror in order to get us interested in it.”
(...)
As long as people in the West continue to understand local mining in the Congo as Kara’s “grim wasteland of utter ruin” as opposed to Wainaina’s landscape in which people laugh, struggle and make do in usually mundane circumstances, history will repeat.
Ben Radley for African Arguments compares to recent books & narrative on how to write about 'Africa'.

‘It’s not just about dying’: Uganda’s pioneers of palliative care undaunted by huge challenges
“One of our biggest challenges is to remove the stigma [around palliative care]. Some people think it is about dying, but it is for anyone with a chronic illness that is not going away,” says Antonia Kamate Tukundane, programmes manager at HAU’s Mbarara site in south-west Uganda. “Palliative care focuses on holistic care: How are you? How is your family? What other things are affecting your illness? We provide something the doctors and nurses have no time for.
Isabel Choat for the Guardian on changing socio-medical discussions in Uganda.

Aid, corruption, and neighbours in need: A reporter reflects on Somalia’s record drought
It is unclear to me how much has changed. Three months ago, I was standing at a food distribution centre, watching relief supplies being unloaded from trucks and handed to people queuing in a long line.
Out of nowhere, a group of people turned up and started packing a portion of the items into their car. “Look at that, look at that,” said a person who was standing in line. They were implying that the food was being stolen.
I can’t be sure this was an example of corruption, but it was clear that people in the queue had no idea what was going on or who to complain to. At the very least, it showed the danger of depending on organisations over which we have no control.
(...)
Local aid workers feel disempowered too. They are on the front line of this emergency, yet feel like decisions are made by faraway bosses working in the guarded green zone bubble of the capital, Mogadishu.
(...)
This reality is rarely captured by international media. Most foreign journalists have been reporting on the drought by embedding with the UN and other aid agencies. Their stories read like aid agency funding campaigns.
Liban Mahamad for the New Humanitarian shares her insights as local journalist about the situation in Somalia.

Humanitarians shouldn't have to choose between crises
Becoming the “moral agents” of sorts for the disaster-affected has led humanitarian agencies to become seriously disconnected from the nature of the emergencies they address, not to mention dangerously politicized. They are now grappling with a largely unethical dilemma: the prospect of having to choose between emergencies and choose between countries. Choice was never part of the humanitarian ethos. But somehow, it is becoming the norm. So too is the battle to “own” the affected. Which agency gets where first? Who stays the longest? Yes, resources are scarce. But evidence shows that the industry is prioritizing crisis events based on the importance of the geopolitical region in question, rather than the crisis itself.
Themrise Khan for Zocalo Public Square; I don't fully agree with her argument, partly because it seems to overstate the agency of humanitarian organizations that depend on funding pledges of the 'international community' & geo-political dynamics outside their control (see the link above about Syria).

Kenya’s first skyscraper closes – and leaves a complicated legacy
In the Hilton’s early years of the 1970s, hotels in Nairobi were an important part of the upwardly mobile lifestyles of aspirant families. Something like the Kenyan equivalent of the country club, hotels were where you went to see and be seen. Business and political elites took their families for lunch and a day by the pool, knowing that others would be doing the same.
Hotels were places where alliances were made and deals were struck in a more informal atmosphere. Different hotels had different personalities and were associated with different social sets. Some were more exclusive; others were associated with certain political allegiances.
This was a deliberately exclusive and exclusionary scene. A world where you had to dress a certain way to get in, where you were judged on what car dropped you or on where you’d bought your dress. It was part of how new forms of socio-economic difference were established and experienced in the aftermath of colonialism. In downtown Nairobi, spaces of racial exclusion began to be overwritten by distinctions based on class and wealth.
Constance Smith for the Conversation shares some great reflections on what the Hilton hotel in Nairobi has symbolized over the 50 years of its landmark status in the city.
Migrants must overcome a new barrier at the border: The U.S. government’s terrible app
Rest of World spoke to migrants, shelter managers, immigration lawyers, and Mexican government officials, and found that the app has made an already grueling journey even more of an ordeal. Migrants spend their scarce time and money optimizing their phones, changing their usual migration routes, and avoiding new forms of digital extortion that have emerged due to criminals exploiting CBP One’s glitches — all to satisfy a requirement they previously didn’t need to worry about.
Daniela Dib & Ann Louise Deslandes for Rest of World on the latest digital hurdle to claim asylum in the US.

Q&A: Anup Kaphle on Rest of World, three years in
The mission and the motive behind the publication were aligned with what I’ve tried to instill in my work: reporting from and on places that often get ignored; telling—or at least trying to tell—those stories without imposing a Western gaze; and really allowing the local views and perspectives to play out. That way, I think we can better understand what is really happening and why it is happening
Speaking of Rest of World, its editor Anup Kaphle talks to Mathew Ingram for the Columbia Journalism Review.

Preparing International Development Professionals for the Digital Age
Graduate programs in international development, public policy, and other related fields play a huge role in training future development professionals, and therefore, must equip students with hard, soft, and policy skills. Currently, budget constraints, faculty composition, and the speed at which digital technologies change make it difficult for graduate programs to integrate digital courses and training into their curricula.
Romina Bandura for the Center for Strategic & International Studies with a long essay on how universities should prepare students better for work in (digital) #globaldev; Daniel Esser & I wrote an article about the vocationalization of #globaldev studies education a few years ago and maybe it's time to update our critique & reflections...

What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 265, 12 January 2018)

A U.N.-Backed Police Force Carried Out a Massacre in Haiti. The Killings Have Been Almost Entirely Ignored.
The U.N.’s statement — that its officers were stationed only at the perimeter of the school — contradicts the statements made by Louis, who told me he was handcuffed by a U.N. agent on campus. The U.N. insists that it was uninvolved because its officers were not in the courtyard, but the entrance where they say they were stationed is set just below the scene of the massacre.
The new U.N. mission is ostensibly focused on justice, but Apollon noted that Haiti has seen many international missions throughout its history. “They all failed,” he said, because they do not understand the Haitian reality. In Haiti, he said, impunity reigns.
Jake Johnston for the Intercept; this is an important reminder of how messy and complicated things have been in Haiti & how the UN still struggles to get things right...

Volunteering doesn't make the world a better place
The volunteering that has greatest impact is done upstream and has a measurable outcome. Volunteering works when the aim is to change a broken system, to change a law or policy. This law or policy could be one that sees a requirement for volunteers, fundraising and charities abandoned, so there will be no expectation that the next generation will keep inefficient systems. It could be a change to policy about homelessness or refugees or international aid, or school funding or hospital funding or reducing environmental damage. It doesn't create waste or waste time. Raising awareness is what happens along the way.
Catherine Walsh for the Sydney Morning Herald with a reminder about how to do volunteering right.


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