Links & Contents I Liked 486

Hi all,

Botched biodiversity projects in Guinea, harmful algorithms in Jordan, tea pickers destroying machines in Kenya, sugar & global health in Barbados, plus stories about UN leadership & localization 'wars' really highlight the global nature of #globaldev in this week's news review...

Our academic summer break is around the corner & my weekly #globaldev review will return in the second half of August. As a little summer project I collected a few historical books on, well, you may have guessed it, 'development' & some book reviews should be showing up during the break similar to the one on Lords of Poverty.

My quotes of the week
“Many people in Jordan are not getting financial support because their hardships don’t fit an algorithm’s rigid model of what poverty should look like,” said Amos Toh, senior technology and human rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The World Bank should not let the promise of better data and technology distract from social protection reforms needed to give everyone the chance to lead dignified lives.”
(World Bank / Jordan: Poverty Targeting Algorithms Harm Rights)

ProPublica found, projects brokered by the World Bank Group can fall short of their idealistic goals. The one in Guinea has left a trail of hunger, displaced and broken families, decimated ecosystems and conditions ripe for the spread of deadly contagions. (Out of Balance)

Development news
Tensions flare at underfunded UNESCO unit over bullying allegations
Tensions are high at the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, and their backdrop paints two starkly different pictures — one of a boss whose “bullying” has gone largely unaddressed, according to some staff, and the other of a reform-minded leader steering a perpetually underfunded agency and a workforce averse to change.
Sophie Edwards for DevEx...another week, another UN organization with leadership challenges...

World's slum populations set to surge as housing crisis bites
UN-Habitat forecasts that 50% of this growth in slum populations will be concentrated in eight countries: Nigeria, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Tanzania, India, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt and Pakistan.
(...)
"More than half of the world's population lives in cities and towns. That population is going to increase to 70% by 2050.
So, tackling urban poverty and inequality is more urgent than ever before," she said.
Nita Bhalla for Context; as careful as one has to be when a UN agency talks about an increase of affected people in their area of work, the general tendency about growing urbanization & its challenges is definitely food for thought...

Out of Balance
The World Bank Group has backed such projects for decades; its arm that works with private companies, the International Finance Corporation, has funded at least 19 with biodiversity offsets.
IFC standards are influential and considered the best in the world.
But in practice, ProPublica found, projects brokered by the World Bank Group can fall short of their idealistic goals. The one in Guinea has left a trail of hunger, displaced and broken families, decimated ecosystems and conditions ripe for the spread of deadly contagions.
And the deals themselves sometimes fall apart, with the land used as an offset falling prey to another company or disaster — with few consequences for the company or its lenders.
(...)
“It is better to have something than to have nothing” was a sentiment I heard again and again. Several experts — including scientists who’d criticized offsets — said they are a pragmatic tool given that it’s impossible to avoid all impact on nature from development projects, many of which would happen anyway. They said the rules for best practices are constantly improving and written by people with good intentions.
Lisa Song for ProPublica on the dodgy politics of carbon offsetting projects.

Chad on the brink: how the war in Sudan hurts its fragile neighbour
Chad’s transitional president Mahamat Déby was surprised by the fighting in Sudan while on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. It took him almost a week to find a safe way to fly back home to N'Djamena.
However, he announced on his Facebook account that he had been in telephone contact with the two warring parties, trying to convince them to stop the fighting.
He wanted to present himself as a mediator to the international public. By talking to the two generals, he avoided choosing sides. He cannot afford to get caught on either side of the conflict between al-Burhan and Hemeti.
Since the death of his father, Mahamat Déby has tried to keep a firm grip on power despite national and international criticism. The transitional authorities suppress opposition to the Déby dynasty.
Helga Dickow for the Conversation with an overview over the impact of the fighting in Sudan on another neighbouring country.

World Bank / Jordan: Poverty Targeting Algorithms Harm Rights
The 74-page report, “‘Automated Neglect’: How The World Bank’s Push to Allocate Cash Assistance Using Algorithms Threatens Rights,” details how an automated cash transfer program in Jordan commonly known as Takaful (a word similar to solidarity in Arabic) profiles and ranks the income and well-being of Jordanian families to determine who should receive support – an approach known as poverty targeting. The program has since been renamed the Unified Cash Transfer Program. Poverty-targeted programs, which the World Bank has funded in Jordan and seven other countries in the Middle East and North Africa, are depriving many people of their right to social security even as they go hungry, fall behind on rent, and take on crippling debt.
“Many people in Jordan are not getting financial support because their hardships don’t fit an algorithm’s rigid model of what poverty should look like,” said Amos Toh, senior technology and human rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The World Bank should not let the promise of better data and technology distract from social protection reforms needed to give everyone the chance to lead dignified lives.”
Human Rights Watch with an interesting new report on the impact of algorithms in Jordan.

Barbados fights Big Sugar for the survival of its people
The problems in Barbados are rooted in colonialism and slavery. People labouring on the sugar plantations were given the rejected parts of pigs – the tails, the ears, the feet – while the landowners ate or exported the lean meat. Such fatty food, heavily salted, seasoned and pickled for taste, has become the traditional Saturday staple, called pudding (sweet potato mash) and souse.
If that early diet taught a love of salt, the sugar cane may have nurtured the taste for very sweet food that is also evident in Barbados today. Even coconut and peanuts come sweetened.
Sarah Boseley for the Guardian on the impact of sugar, colonialism & diabetes on many countries in the Global South.

Kenya's tea pickers are fighting the machines replacing them
Kenyan tea pickers are destroying machines brought in to replace them during violent protests that highlight the challenge faced by low-skilled workers as more agribusiness companies rely on automation to cut costs.
(...)
Adopting technology and mechanization is key to unlocking the potential of agriculture across Africa and should therefore be embraced, despite the frustrations of some workers, according to Tabitha Njuguna, managing director of African commodities exchange AFEX in Kenya.
"We find that potential disruptions caused by the integration of technology and mechanization can seem initially threatening, however, it is important for all stakeholders (agricultural organizations, farmers, processors) involved to see these as increasingly imminent and unavoidable," she told Semafor Africa.
Martin K.N. Siele for the great Semafor newsletter with a story that seems to be almost as old as modern capitalism...

Do Famine Declarations ReallyLead to Increased Funding?
In the case of Somalia in 2011, the declaration of famine did trigger an enormous flow of resources. But this meant that the big influx of resources arrived very late, and a lot of people lost their lives. Since 2011, there is little evidence that other declarations have resulted in major resource inflows. The preferred means of prioritizing more resources—both of a preventive and responsive nature—would be credible warnings of a problem that is likely to occur, but which are issued before the crisis has spiraled out of control. Paying much closer attention to early warning is far better than simply lowering the bar for a declaration. This analysis offers some evidence that projections and warning statements do trigger greater prioritization, but not in all cases. Linking good analysis and warning to timely action continues to challenge the humanitarian system.
Daniel Maxwell, Matthew Day & Peter Hailey for the Feinstein International Center with a new working paper that left me a bi confused as to what the message other than 'famine-it's complicated' really is...

As the Grand Bargain gets a reboot, the limits of aid reform come into focus
Despite the limited quantitative shifts, many still see value in the Grand Bargain as a platform to bring all actors of the system together – from donors to local groups – and where organisations can exert pressure upwards, especially to donors.
(...)
Ultimately, what matters most, and where changes are so far least felt, is not in global meeting rooms but on the ground – where the crises are actually happening. And that’s where many in the sector hope the Grand Bargain’s next phase might finally start to bear fruit.
Jessica Alexander for the New Humanitarian; I don't want to be too cynical, but sometimes stories about humanitarian policy seem ti be written by AI...they sound so familiar & yet seem to have so little substance let alone impact on the ground...

The localization wars
Pathfinder implements more than $100 million per year in reproductive health and family planning programs, most of which are supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Under CEO Lois Quam, the organization has undergone a tumultuous transformation that she says is about building an international NGO ready for a future of localization, but that others describe as a self-destructive power grab cloaked in progressive rhetoric.
Quam has created new leadership positions in the global south, tweaked the organization’s model so that country offices keep more project funding, and welcomed an overhaul of the board of directors to increase its diversity.
Michael Igoe for DevEx with a long-read case study on how a US NGO embarks on the challenging mission to 'localise' their project work.

Local communities know best how to cope with gang violence. Aid sector should take note.
Before designing or rolling out a programme, the UN, humanitarian agencies, and local government staff need to learn from residents about their safety protocols. These conversations should include not only community leaders, but disabled and older persons, all ages and genders, LGBTQI+ persons, and community members that belong to various ethnic or minority groups, since these groups face different types of violence and devise different survival strategies.
Jerome Marston & Rebecca Bell-Martin for the New Humanitarian; similar to previous posts, the authors make some good points, but you also wonder why we still have those discussions after all those years...

Walt Rostow’s development theory shows that capitalism relies on brutal violence
Rostow identified Cuba, Laos, Vietnam, and the Congo as four countries where the international communist movement had managed to “exploit the inherent instabilities of the underdeveloped areas of the non-Communist world,” making it necessary for the United States to intervene. He repeatedly demonstrated the violent logic of his political-economic analysis over the years that followed.Rostow told Lyndon Johnson that Suharto was ‘making a hard try at making something of Indonesia which could be very good for us and the world.’
(...)
For anyone really interested in studying the history of development, it should be clear that Rostow advocated mass killing to promote American-style capitalism. However, the way that universities have taught and disseminated his work has often concealed this reality. As one of the most influential theorists of capitalist development, Rostow is an outstanding example of how ruthless violence underpins capitalist development, both in theory and practice.
Benjamin Selwyn for Developing Economics on how to un-learn teaching #globaldev with one of the most prominent historical theorists.

Hybrid Identities of Development Studies in Tanzania
In this article we examined power and knowledge hierarchies in postcolonial settings in the context of development studies in Tanzania. We established and used the lens of hybrid identity, which combined a social constructionist approach to organizational identities as continual, as distinguished from others with postcolonial hybridity where power relationships between diverse discourses are constructed in encounters where differences and asymmetries are articulated, and potential spaces for hybrid forms open up. We identified four relevant relationships vis-à-vis which differences were articulated: with other disciplines, with past development studies, with a global theorizing of development, and with partners from the global North.
Tiina Kontinen, Rehema Kilonzo, Colman Msoka & Ajali Nguyahambi with a new open access article for Recherches Sociologiques Et Anthropologiques.

Life, Shared: Friendship Around the World

The Global Press Journal with a curated photo gallery.

What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 276, 6 April 2018)

Annual reports: Stop the madness!
Invest whatever writing and design energy you have in a website and social media that carry a distinctive brand, voice, and up-to-date content, and don’t forget about making it all show up in search results. It’s 2018. People do not form their views about an organization based on self-generated pamphlets delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
Ruth Levine for the Hewlett foundation. Given the current discussions in the #globaldev industry about AI & ChatGPT this will lead to even more debates on the role of annual reports and how they get written...

How Should Nick Kristof Report On “The World’s Most Wretched Country?”
This isn’t the first time Kristof has come under fire for centering white characters and ignoring local efforts. Kristof is frank about his decision to use “bridge characters” (such as American volunteers in the country he’s reporting on) as a strategy for getting American readers to pay attention to remote conflicts in countries they may never have heard of.
Abigail Higgins for Bright Magazine on the infamous NYT columnist who has turned into a failed politician since then...

Advice To Parachuting Docs: Think Before You Jump Into Poor Countries
"I think the era of the physicians as master and commander is over, and that's very good thing," says Dr. Khan. A physician in any setting is part of a team, he believes, and that team includes the patient.
His prime directive for all docs, including medical mission participants: "Listen to patients and don't assume anything."
Marc Silver for NPR Goats and Soda reports on another volunteering/voluntourism front line & a community that slowly comes to terms with new challenges of young people going abroad to do good...I wonder how far we've come since then...

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