Links & Contents I Liked 480

Hi all,

Can Andrew Mitchell save UK #globaldev?
Can we engage with the Taliban?
Can AI empower marginalized people?
Can economic development deliver in the future?
And what about Sollywood?!?

Answers to these questions & much more in this week's curated link review!

My quotes of the week
In light of the Taliban’s behavior and actions, it is unclear why western leaders would want to risk engaging with the Taliban when they could be excoriated by their own domestic opponents for doing so. Similarly, why would western governments commit scarce aid resources to Afghanistan – funds that the Taliban might be in a position to exploit ­– when they could much more safely provide assistance to vulnerable or needy people in other parts of the world?
The lesson here is stark. It is the very nature and character of the Taliban that currently condemns the people of Afghanistan to suffer, and the situation is not going to improve in any meaningful way as long as the Taliban remain in charge.

(Diplomatic Engagement with the Taliban: A Path Forward or a Black Hole?)

New research by ActionAid finds that 93 percent of countries most vulnerable to the climate crisis are in debt distress, or at significant risk of debt distress. This reflects a vicious cycle in which climate impacts put countries into debt, but that debt accelerates the climate crisis and leaves countries even more exposed to its impacts. And so the cycle continues. (Want to fix the climate? End debt traps)

Development news
Is modern humanitarianism just a job – where has its heart gone?
Outside, I saw my home country’s logo as one of the site’s sponsors. I felt a small moment of pride, followed by extreme guilt that the process I had observed felt so inhumane. “Why could we not even clear the ice from the exit where mothers were carrying tiny babies?” I wondered, as one mother hurried by, carrying her six-month old. Both had tears in their eyes. We instantly connected, without needing to say anything. This was just not good enough.
(...)
While I’ve been in the humanitarian sector for several years, this is the first time I’ve seen so much suffering so close. It’s taken me some time to find the words to express my feelings. While this has galvanized me to work harder than ever to ease the suffering of Afghans, it has also made me think how we dole out aid, so mechanically.
An anonymous aid worker shares their story on Mukesh Kapila's blog.

Aid agencies in Sudan face massive reboot as war takes hold
Relocations and evacuations have so far dominated the focus of aid groups, which have a duty of care to their staff. But there have been too few conversations on how to scale up the response in parallel, one senior aid official said, asking not to be named.
With Khartoum under attack, relaunching aid efforts will require finding a new operational hub. The Red Sea city of Port Sudan is being considered by the UN and some NGOs, officials said, though hubs may also be set up outside the country.
As Khartoum’s main airport is shuttered, getting staff and basic supplies into Sudan will also be challenging, according to Sibongani Kayola, who leads Mercy Corps’ work in the country.
“Many aid agencies have evacuated their staff,” said Kayola. “The process of bringing those staff back when the situation calms down and we are ready to start responding is unclear due to the state of the airport.”
Phillip Kleinfeld & Okech Francis for the New Humanitarian with more details of the 'mechanics' of getting humanitarian support for and into Sudan.

Andrew Mitchell revamps UK International Development
Mitchell is rebranding the government’s aid work, which will now be called UK International Development, or UKID, to “make British leadership more identifiable at home and abroad,”
(...)
Mitchell said he was “determined to win over the doubters” of international development and “drive up support to the 70-30 mark over the next 10 years,” which would require explaining what the FCDO does in “small towns and villages” in the U.K.
(...)
The “encouraging” announcements signaled “the coming of an approach that is a far cry from the chaos of recent years,” said Ian Mitchell, senior fellow and the director of development cooperation in Europe at the Center for Global Development.
“But unless Minister Mitchell is able to persuade the Chancellor to shift his position on funding hosting refugees out of the aid budget, these plans will come alongside further cuts
William Worley for DevEx; as interesting as this interview is I wish Mitchell would spare us the crocodile tears about 'public support'. First the Tories destroy DfID, cut #globaldev & divert huge sums of money to refugees in the UK and now 'we' have to convince the UK public that #globaldev is useful after all?!??

Minister seeks to restore UK’s reputation on global development
Mitchell is expected to say: “Placing partnership at the heart of the UK’s offer shows that, at its core, international development is not about charity, handouts and dependency. It is about listening to our partners and working together to advance our shared objectives.”
He will announce a new programme designed to get 6 million more girls into school each year by improving education spending in low and lower middle-income countries, and scaling up teacher training and in-class support so there is better access for vulnerable children.
In an attempt to link the British public to the UK’s development work, the minister will also announce that later this year the FCDO will go out to tender on a new international youth volunteering programme, similar to the former International Citizen Service.
Patrick Wintour for the Guardian continues with additional details about Mitchell's ideas to revamp UK #globaldev.

WHO fires doctor after findings of sexual misconduct
The World Health Organization says it has fired one of its doctors who faced allegations, first reported by The Associated Press, that he had repeatedly engaged in sexual misconduct.
The U.N. health agency had come under pressure from the United States and other countries to do more in the fight against sexual misconduct in the wake of the claims against the doctor, Fijian national Temo Waqanivalu.
“Dr. Temo Waqanivalu has been dismissed from WHO following findings of sexual misconduct against him and corresponding disciplinary process,” WHO spokesperson Marcia Poole said in a email to the AP early Tuesday.
Jamey Keatan for AP/ABC News.

WHO has Terminated Eight Staffers’ Contracts for Sexual Misconduct in Past Seven Months
Four World Health Organization (WHO) staff or consultants had their contracts terminated as a result of sexual misconduct allegations in the last quarter of 2022 – the most of any year so far.
The contracts of another three people had already been terminated between January and March of this year, Dr Gaya Gamhewage, WHO’s Director of Prevention and Response to Sexual misconduct, told the media on Wednesday.
The revelations came on the heels of news on Monday that WHO had dismissed senior manager Temo Waqanivalu following the conclusion of a high-profile investigation of sexual misconduct charges, first brought by a British doctor who had attended the World Health Summit last October in Berlin.
Megha Kaveri for Health Policy Watch who have been following the developments at WHO very closely.

Diplomatic Engagement with the Taliban: A Path Forward or a Black Hole?
The Taliban are not short of funds. On the contrary, the revenues they raise – from customs and other sources – are used to bolster the coercive instrumentalities of the regime, and there is a real question as to whether aid funds flowing into the country are freeing the Taliban of their responsibility to serve the wider population. Rather than seeking to engage with the Taliban leadership, it would make far more sense for humanitarian actors to seek to engage directly with local communities “below the radar,” where the risk of funds being diverted to bolster a brutal and discriminatory system is much lower, and the needs of ordinary people can be better met.
(...)
In light of the Taliban’s behavior and actions, it is unclear why western leaders would want to risk engaging with the Taliban when they could be excoriated by their own domestic opponents for doing so. Similarly, why would western governments commit scarce aid resources to Afghanistan – funds that the Taliban might be in a position to exploit ­– when they could much more safely provide assistance to vulnerable or needy people in other parts of the world?
The lesson here is stark. It is the very nature and character of the Taliban that currently condemns the people of Afghanistan to suffer, and the situation is not going to improve in any meaningful way as long as the Taliban remain in charge.
William Maley, Farkhondeh Akbari & Niamatullah Ibrahimi for Just Security with a devastating assessment of the options for diplomatic engagement in Afghanistan.

Policymakers in several African countries are on the wrong side of the medical professionals "brain drain" debate
A number of African countries (...) have recently passed laws or promulgated policies designed to stem the emigration of scarce medical professionals. While the region’s acute shortage of healthcare professionals is a real concern, blanket emigration bans are likely to exacerbate the problem by shrinking the pipeline of future doctors and denying medical schools opportunities for improvement. In addition, countries that restrict emigration stand to miss out on remittances that, at least in the case of medical doctors, have been shown to more than pay for the typical cost of training.
Ken Opalo for An Africanist Perspective adds his usual dose of analytical brilliance to the 'medical brain drain' debate.
Want to fix the climate? End debt traps
New research by ActionAid finds that 93 percent of countries most vulnerable to the climate crisis are in debt distress, or at significant risk of debt distress. This reflects a vicious cycle in which climate impacts put countries into debt, but that debt accelerates the climate crisis and leaves countries even more exposed to its impacts. And so the cycle continues.
(...)
International loans must not be allowed to masquerade as “climate finance”, and rich countries must not be enabled to wriggle out of their own obligations to contribute real funds. If we want to address the climate crisis, debt cancellation — rather than yet more spiralling debt — must be at the top of the agenda.
Teresa Anderson for Aljazeera introduces new ActionAid research on how an old #globaldev debate resurfaces in the age of the climate crisis.

Economic development is doing OK
In general, I think global growth is a very hard thing to forecast — even when the professionals do it, it involves a whole lot of tea-leaf reading. But simply looking out at the world and being pessimistic because of climate change and low fertility is not sufficient reason to think that economic development is dying.
So basically, I think Oks and Williams’ three main theses either miss the mark, or rely on a very hefty amount of speculation. Global development has definitely not been dying a long, slow death, nor is there good reason to believe that industrialization will longer work, nor should we be overly confident in global macroeconomic forecasts. The proper perspective here, I think, is to realize that economic development was always hard, and always slow, and always uneven and uncertain. We were right not to despair in previous decades, and we shouldn’t despair now.
Noah Smith for Noahpinion; this is a long & detailed engagement with the 'economic growth' debate, but the elephant in the room/post for me seems to be the question of how continued economic growth will be possible or desirable or feasible in a world of polycrises...'growth is good & will happen' seems very...20th century?...

What Facebook Does (and Doesn’t) Have to Do with Ethiopia’s Ethnic Violence
Still, neither content moderation nor algorithmic adjustments nor other changes to community standards will by themselves address the many ways in which online content can contribute to violence. Responsible management of those risks requires offline changes as well. Strengthening traditional local media, including through developing less partisan news sources, is crucial for the flow of reliable on-the-ground information – including on Facebook.
(...)
Meta can promote and, where appropriate, support local reporters, fact-checkers and citizen journalists who report in a relatively unbiased way. Boosting their accounts and providing technical and material aid can improve the quality of news online. Identifying these individuals will require consultations with civil society groups across the country. In Ethiopia, government support for a free press, rather than continued criminalisation of dissent, will be an essential element of improving coverage. Some may see Ethiopia’s sweeping 2020 hate speech law as a means of addressing online incitement, but it has failed so far to have a noticeable impact. In fact, it may well also discourage legitimate dissent.
William Davison, Jane Esberg & Alessandro Accorsi for the Crisis Group with a long post on the complex interactions between social media platforms, online disinformation & ethnic violence in Ethiopia.

ChatGPT and the most marginalized
While these large language models are great for writing in some languages, language data doesn’t exist for languages that the most vulnerable speak. So they will be left even further behind. If you don’t speak a major language, the barriers to getting information got higher. Because writing in those languages just got easier, those who don’t speak them don’t have access to the tool - a summary in English of 20 articles in French doesn’t help them. Their ability to get information quickly and compete with everyone else just became immeasurably more difficult.
Aimee Ansari with a nuanced assessment of how AI can support (linguistically) marginalized users.

AI translation is jeopardizing Afghan asylum claims
Muhammed Yaseen, a member of the Afghan team at Respond Crisis Translation, told Rest of World that organizations are banning the use of machine translation for good reason. He claims the machine tools he’s tested are unable to translate certain words, such as the terms for some relatives in Dari dialects, and specialized words like military ranks that can be vital to the asylum applications of former U.S.-allied soldiers.
“If we use machines for Afghans, I think we would be unfair to them,” Yaseen said. “I really feel that if we rely on machines, I [am] expecting at least 40% of our decision making on the asylum applications for refugees would be incorrect.”
Andrew Deck for Rest of World with a story of the darker side of AI-which also involves vulnerable & marginalized people...


Ground-breaking Somali TV drama shatters taboos
One of the characters in the series is a psychologist who works at the school. The students open up to her. Some of the actors kept on talking to her long after the cameras stopped rolling.
Now she has a taste for it, one-time waitress Abdikadir will stop at nothing to pursue her acting career even though filming brought up painful emotions and family opposition.
"If the only way I could act was to act in the sky, I would do it," she says, her eyes glistening as she looks up at the stars. "It's better to live like a lion for a day than to live 1,000 days as a cat."
"See you in Hollywood," I say as she walks off into the Mogadishu night. She turns and gives me a fierce glare.
"Not Hollywood, Sollywood," she says.
Mary Harper for BBC News on a new TV show (#globaldev researchers love soaps/TV dramas ;) & the potential emergence of 'Sollywood' ?!?


Ghetto Kids: what’s behind the moves of the Ugandan dance troupe that stormed the world
In this context, keeping children visible is also a strategy to protect their lives, to make them count, to stimulate their growth and education, to repair the violence of the past and to denounce their social conditions.
Triplets Ghetto Kids are the expression of the need to convert historical weakness into strengths for the whole community. They are dancing for their education and survival, and they will succeed.
Francesca Negro for the Conversation; her assessment is perhaps a bit less 'academic' than many other posts on the site, but still very interesting as 'African' pop culture is globalizing rapidly...

Top tips for getting your first job in international development
When you are interviewing someone for an entry-level position, allow them to demonstrate transferable skills practically or send them the exercise in advance so they have time to think about how they would approach the task. It can be intimidating being interviewed by stern-looking people, who may not speak or look like you, so strike a balance between being formal and conversational to help people relax and do themselves justice during an interview.
Katherine Strasser-Williams for BOND continues a vibrant discussion on LinkedIn about humanitarian & #globaldev career expectations and pitfalls.

In other news
Nothing Encapsulates the False Promise of Capitalism Like Plastic
Plastic is everywhere, and it perfectly encapsulates the notion that there is no ethical consumption under capitalism.
Nanjala Nyabola for the Nation on our addiction to plastic.

Beware the Rise of Anti-Anti-Colonialism
Taken together, the Biggar-Kuper axis represents a kind of salvage auto-ethnography of the neo-melancholic, anti-anti-colonialist that shines a light on a wider phenomenon. They serve to remind us of how in the museum and the university, we encounter enduring imperial belief systems that make it hard to imagine the world otherwise. This is reminiscent of what Mark Fisher called “capitalist realism.” These books document the increasingly desperate, hollow rhetoric of a cultural revanchism that tries to hold onto those parts of modern British society that were co-opted by 19th-century colonial ideologies, and put to work for the fabrication of what we might, following Fisher, call “colonialist realism.”
Dan Hicks for Hyperallergic reviews two books you definitely don't want to buy & the broader discourse around anti-de-colonial studies.
What we were reading 5 years ago

(Link review 270, 16 February 2018)

Oxfam, Haiti & the aid industry's #MeToo moment-a curated bibliography
There are now more than 120 resources featured in this bibliography!
Me, curating the scandal that triggered of the #AidToo debates in 2018.

The Securitisation of Eritrea: Holding a Nation Hostage!
The harsh reality of this bleak system has spurred a mass exodus, especially of the youth, out of Eritrea: with so many people falling victim to human trafficking and slavery in North Africa; organ harvesting in the Sinai; death in the Sahara Desert; or drowning in the Mediterranean and Red Seas. A decision to brave such risks becomes a viable option only when the alternative is far worse. The substantial reports and mounting evidence from the sheer number of people fleeing Eritrea for reasons, such as persecution, torture and detention, are met with the denial, dismissal or shifting of blame to “others” by the regime and its supporters.
A long essay on the Eri-Platform and a harrowing overview over Eritrea-another crisis that still tends to escape mainstream media attention.

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