Links & Contents I Liked 482
When it comes to failing the Syrian people entities from the Arab League to the IOM & the Australian government feature in this week's newsletter; the Taliban, Mugabe's daughter & Sudanese generals complete a picture of rather undesirable dinner guests...'migration management' meets #globaldev again & getting #globaldev right is hard-especially if you are the World Bank...and should indigenous 'pretendians' in #highered return grant money & honorary degrees?
My quotes of the week
Now that most foreigners have left the country, resupplies and reinforcements for both parties are pouring in; the battle is set to escalate. This is the revolution no one wanted. (The Revolution No One Wanted)
The stoppage has rankled local relief workers, alarmed U.N. relief experts, and triggered allegations that the migration agency had intentionally torpedoed the program, which is deeply unpopular with the government in Damascus, to help patch up its relations with the government and strengthen its case for reopening its office there. IOM was expelled from Damascus in 2017. (The day the data died in Syria)
You have been given the most difficult but also the easiest, most rewarding job in the world. Your mandate is to speak for humanity and for our planet, for the incredible diversity of beings and ways of living, for a paradise that remains to be built, while doubling as hell in the meantime. The responsibility is huge and simultaneously light and clear: lasting peace, sustainable prosperity, respect for every human person — human resilience and well-being, that is. All for one and one for all, and you stand in the middle of it, reflecting the light of the Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and human ethics. (The Unbearable Lightness of Being UN Secretary-General)
Arab League readmits Syria as relations with Assad normalise
A U.S. State Department spokesperson said Washington shared the goals of Arab partners in Syria, including building security and stability, but remained "sceptical of Assad's willingness to take the steps necessary to resolve Syria's crisis".Aidan Lewis & Sarah El Safty for Reuters on more bad news on the decline of whatever 'international order' is left...
"We do not believe Syria merits readmission into the Arab League at this time," the spokesperson said, adding that U.S. sanctions would remain in full effect.
The day the data died in Syria
But the data program — which tracked key demographic and socioeconomic indicators in 8,000 communities across Syria — never resumed, and the U.N. agency that managed it has since washed its hands of it, leaving other U.N. agencies and private relief groups to improvise.Colum Lynch & William Worley for DevEx with a wowzer of a story of how #globaldev 'works' in Syria under the Assad regime...
The stoppage has rankled local relief workers, alarmed U.N. relief experts, and triggered allegations that the migration agency had intentionally torpedoed the program, which is deeply unpopular with the government in Damascus, to help patch up its relations with the government and strengthen its case for reopening its office there. IOM was expelled from Damascus in 2017. It has rebuffed appeals from other parts of the U.N. to restart the data program.
“My best guess is that IOM, who have been resisting pressure to shut this down for years, now feel the politics is such that the damage they would suffer from Assad … is greater than any grief they will get from the donors,” the former U.N. relief official added. “Humanitarian needs remain sky high in both government-controlled Syria and the rest of the country, and the disappearance of regularly updated data on that will be bad news for those reliant on humanitarian operations.”
'Grave fears': Albanese government faces legal action over Australians detained in Syria
Legal action has been launched against the federal government in a "last resort" effort to repatriate Australian women and children trapped in Syrian detention camps.Jessica Bahr for SBS News on a another aspect of the continued humanitarian crises in Syria.
Mat Tinkler, CEO of international aid organisation Save the Children, said the legal proceedings would seek to repatriate around 40 children and their mothers from Syrian camps to Australia.
He said many of the children in detention have developed an illness or cognitive impairment as a result of the conditions they are living in.
"These kids have been through hell. Some of them were born in a detention camp in the middle of the Syrian dessert, there's no access to healthy, nutritious food," he said.
"Many of them are stunted, which means they're not only stunted but they're suffering cognitive impairment as a result, or have untreated illnesses."
China’s Belt and Road to enter Afghanistan in Taliban’s victory
The Taliban agreed with China and Pakistan to extend the Belt and Road Initiative to Afghanistan, potentially drawing in billions of dollars to fund infrastructure projects in the sanctions-hit country.Japan Times/Bloomberg with more bad news on how the Taliban regime is strengthened in Afghanistan.
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang and his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari met in Islamabad on Saturday and pledged to work together on Afghanistan’s reconstruction process including taking the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to the Taliban-ruled nation.
Riches of Robert Mugabe's daughter laid bare in her divorce papers
The daughter of Zimbabwe's former President Robert Mugabe owns 25 residential properties, including a Dubai mansion worth millions of dollars. This was revealed in divorce court documents filed by Bona Mugabe’s estranged husband, Simbarashe Mutsahuni Chikore.Sharon Mazingaizo for Times Live wraps up this section on the legacies of evil dictators...although I would have guessed that a member of Mugabe clan had actually stolen more from the people...
Chikore also listed 21 farms, luxury vehicles including a Rolls Royce, Bentley and Range Rovers, farming equipment, machinery and cash.
The Revolution No One Wanted
Often, I have been asked why people do not collect and make money from the plastic in the river, I tell them it is a hard & expensive task to do . Yesterday, I challenged myself- got into the water for one hour to see how much of the recyclable plastic waste I’d be able to gather pic.twitter.com/xJlqbbiQBD— James Wakibia (@JamesWakibia) May 10, 2023
These activists had neither the skills nor the capacity for political graft to see their revolution through. Foreign donors, who found it easier to deal with men in uniform and failed to appreciate the urgency of lifting sanctions, relieving the debt and bailing out the collapsing economy, did them no favours. At the same time, a parallel revolution was unfolding: a stealthy invasion by provincial paramilitaries.Alex de Waal for the London Review of Books writes on Khartoum, history & the war.
Now that most foreigners have left the country, resupplies and reinforcements for both parties are pouring in; the battle is set to escalate. This is the revolution no one wanted.
EU details violations at Greece’s ‘model’ refugee camps
In internal correspondence obtained by Al Jazeera through freedom of information requests, EU representatives overseeing operations at the facilities on Samos, Leros and Kos islands reported nearly daily struggles ranging from staff shortages delaying asylum procedures to allegations of sexual and other violence impacting children.Lydia Emmanouilidou, Ludek Stavinoha & Apostolis Fotiadis for Al Jazeera on refugee camps on Greek islands.
But in emails to Brussels, European Commission representatives detailed a slew of safety challenges despite heavy investments in high-tech surveillance equipment and security staff.
Migration management and external policy in Europe are increasingly connected – and that’s problematic
What’s wrong with international development agencies in Ukraine?— Tymofiy Mylovanov (@Mylovanov) May 10, 2023
My list of top fundamental errors that are committed to
1. Obsession with control 1/
Ultimately the EU is faced with a bigger question: is the fundamental goal of development aid and policy to curb irregular migration or to reduce poverty? Any desire to orient programming to “address the root causes of irregular migration” rests upon an outdated frame, one not backed up by evidence and inconsistent with the reality of forced irregularity experienced by many migrants. Negative conditionalities around trade could do significant damage and the legal and financial risks – for multiple stakeholders – appear significant.Claire Kumar & Dora Meredith for the Overseas Development Institute on the growing trend of using #globaldev funding for migration management at home & abroad.
This is an area that merits careful diplomacy and, ideally, a partnership of equals seeking to solve shared challenges, alongside generous development aid and expanded legal pathways for labour migration. A well-functioning international protection system remains a basic ingredient, though one unfortunately side-lined as a priority in current debates.
Relatives search for loved ones after deadly flooding in DRC – in pictures
Women from Nyamukubi look at the bodies spread out on the ground to see if they can identify family members.Moses Sawasawa for the Guardian.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being UN Secretary-General
You have been given the most difficult but also the easiest, most rewarding job in the world. Your mandate is to speak for humanity and for our planet, for the incredible diversity of beings and ways of living, for a paradise that remains to be built, while doubling as hell in the meantime. The responsibility is huge and simultaneously light and clear: lasting peace, sustainable prosperity, respect for every human person — human resilience and well-being, that is. All for one and one for all, and you stand in the middle of it, reflecting the light of the Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and human ethics. Or you can stand in the black hole, watching the mess and destruction unfold.Georgios Kostakos for PassBlue strikes an interesting tone - not too cynical, not entirely ignoring some of the 'buzzword bingo that comes with the job - in his piece on fulfilling the role of UN SG.
The searing sad story of why Scaling Solar didn't scale
The Scaling Solar program didn’t scale. Not only did the initiative itself not grow beyond this handful of pilots, but it seemed to fail at its grander trailblazing mission: creating a model for how private capital could turbocharge development and the energy transition. (Remember the whole billions to trillions mantra?)Todd Moss for Eat More Electrons curates an interesting new research paper; getting #globaldev right remains extremely challenging & the Bank has a bit of a mixed track record that way anyway...
So, what exactly happened? In a new analysis (that’s excruciatingly fair and chock full of fascinating tidbits), Teal Emery arrives at a deeply ironic conclusion: Scaling Solar was so secretive about what it actually took to deliver cheap solar that it undermined its own mission.
Teal explains that the cheap prices relied on all kinds of subsidies and other help that are much harder to replicate. And without being honest about what was provided, the Bank was misleading about what’s actually needed. (Teal is very careful to explain that project managers were nuanced and thoughtful; his criticism is directed squarely at Bank leadership.)
Is 'Global Development' dead?
It’s true that the field of international development is not working as it ought to. Too much time and resources get wasted on faddist navel-gazing instead of serious investments in knowledge production and policy focus on structural change. Policymakers in donor agencies and developing countries are too easily distracted by the next shiny thing (including ill-suited claims of rigor). Due to the over-reliance on “apolitical” foreign expertise with no skin in the game, much of development thinking ends up erroneously assuming that poor countries are poor because their policymakers/politicians are dumb/autocratic/corrupt. Consequently, many low-hanging potential wins get neglected simply because they are boring or don’t fit within the orthodoxy espoused by experts.Ken Opalo for An Africanist Perspective shares reflections on a paper that I highlighted in last week's review.
That said, it is simply not true that there’s been nothing but four decades of stagnation or decline in developing countries as alleged by Oks and Williams. Just because structural economic change doesn’t get much airtime in Western academic/practitioner circles does not mean that it is not happening. The last 30 years have seen significant improvements in the developmental outcomes in many low-income countries, including in Africa. From infrastructure, to education attainment, to life expectancy, the last three decades have witnessed real economic change in most African states.
30 Best International Development Podcasts
The best International Development podcasts from thousands of podcasts on the web and ranked by traffic, social media followers & freshness.Feedspot with an interesting, albeit slightly odd ranking of #globaldev podcasts; I'm sure these are interesting programs, but I was a bit surprised that as much as half of the podcasts on the list have not yet crossed my social feeds...
Disruptions and Dynamism in the Arab World
Upon closer inspection, the shifting and complex tableau of Arab polities and societies defies simple narratives and comfortable tropes. Some of the Middle East’s headline-grabbing conflicts may have subsided, but this is a region still in the throes of great change, emanating from within and without. Capturing the contours and implications of this dynamism requires a lens that is at once granular, panoramic, and attuned to both local specificities and worldwide trends.Frederic Wehrey for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace introduces an open access edited collection/book.
The authors of the ten essays in this collection do just that. Drawing from a range of disciplines and marshaling an array of sources, they analyze the forces that are reshaping the region, including shifts in the global economy, the transition away from hydrocarbons, climate change, advances in digital technologies and artificial intelligence, and great power rivalries. The authors home in on the local Arab actors that are both affected by and contributing to this transformation: regimes, security institutions, publics, civil society actors and Islamists, and increasingly imperiled populations like refugees and migrants, among others.
The politics of complaint: a review of the literature on grievance redress mechanisms in the global South
This article reviews literature on formal grievance redress mechanisms in the global South to understand whether these mechanisms help the aggrieved to complain and seek redress for their grievances. In this emerging literature, the institutional and definitional boundaries of formal grievance mechanisms are slippery; systems that look like grievance systems may do little to enable complaints by those who seek to register them, and even less to enable them to achieve redress; with limited evidence on how these formal grievance systems work on the ground, and without sufficient power to act on complaints these formal grievance systems appear to be more ornamental; and where they have worked uncommonly well they have not always attracted political support to go to scale.Naomi Hossain, Anuradha Joshi & Suchi Pande with a new open access article for Policy Studies.
In other news
It's time for 'pretendians' to return the grant funding and honorary degrees
This behaviour is unacceptable. It is insulting and harmful to Indigenous people. It needs to stop.Jenene Wooldridge for CBC Opinion on the problem of lacking accountability that follows when academic falsely claim indigenous heritage.
Truth is necessary for reconciliation, but it's not enough.
These individuals need to do more than admit this opportunistic appropriation of Indigenous identity once they've been discovered. It is time for these people to step away, return the grant funding, return the honorary degrees, and refrain from occupying positions that weren't intended for them.
IDS publishes Equity and Inclusion review
This review has uncovered that most staff feel that IDS creates a respectful and inclusive working environment and that colleagues and leaders, on the whole, strive to ensure this is the case. However, younger staff, more junior staff and those from racially minoritised backgrounds demonstrated the greatest discontent in both survey findings and consultations, demonstrating the need for a continued focus on EDI. The research uncovered several challenging issues that inhibit a sense of belonging, equity and inclusion. The most pressing issues include the following:
• asymmetries of power, with a minority of senior academics exhibiting non-inclusive and bullying behaviour
• unclear routes for reporting and limited repercussions for poor behaviour
• a lack of clear lines of accountability and limited action relating to EDI
• limited diversity in some parts of the Institute with a tendency to recruit ‘in its image’ both with domestic and international hires
• organisational structures that leave staff with limited support and advocacy, including within research projects that often function in silos.
The review also identified some of the positive experiences and initiatives designed to advance EDI. This includes the willingness to engage in discussions on EDI topics, the receptiveness of senior leadership, and the role of networks and groups. These are all built on the foundation of the positive shared purpose of the Institute.IDS's Equity and Inclusion review is an important piece for the ongoing discussions around 'decolonizing' #globaldev research & studies further; it also goes to show that if (one of) the leading #globaldev institutions has room for improvement it probably does not look better across the sector...
What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 272, 2 March 2018)
Things Fall Apart
A feat of elegant design wowed elite architects and promised to bring education to poor children in Nigeria. Then it collapsed.Allyn Gaestel for Atavist Magazine. Still a fantastic essay on 'development' & life!
This ending is unsatisfying, poetic, and true. Change is never linear, humans are ever contradictory, and answers are rarely easy. “The money is literally just sitting there,” Etomi told me. Meanwhile, in Makoko, school years pass; children grow.
Farewell to Development
About a year ago, I attended a meeting in Bogotá with the Minister of the Environment about the Pacific Coast, a rainforest region rich in biodiversity and populated largely by black and indigenous peoples. For thirty years, research and strategies to “develop” the area have centered on large-scale development interventions, such as the expansion of oil palm plantations, mining, and large port development. Against this backdrop, poverty, inequality, and violence have deepened. To say the problem facing the region—and other parts of Latin America—is lack of development is fundamentally flawed. At that meeting, I argued that we should dare to reverse the picture: to entertain the idea that the problem of this region, is not underdevelopment but, in fact, excessive development. Recognizing this opens possibilities for new thinking based on alternative notions of human and ecological well-being.Arturo Escobar in an interview with The Great Transition Initiative. Great reading on his post-development thinking and how timely the concept still is in 2023 as it was in 2018...