Links & Contents I Liked 488

Hi all,

I hope many of you are still on or about to leave for Global Northern summer holidays and I hope even more so that you are in a healthy, friendly & safe space...

As the Swedish academic break is slowly coming to an end, I prepared a fresh link review with more reflective content from Syria, Italy, Sudan & different spaces from UNRISD to African cultural spaces and New York policy wonkery...- plus an interesting section with new reports & longer-read food for thought!


P.S.: A look into the archive reminded me that a certain Nick Kristof used to write about #globaldev-and we didn't like it very much...

My quotes of the week

So I think we are rightly more sensitive to reductive descriptions, yet these have applied to Africa more than to any other continent on earth. Africa was never hopeless and it will never be perfect. What it is — as I hope this series contributes to showing — is a place of immense history, cultural wealth, and breathtaking creativity, where the challenges of economic hardship are real, and so are the innovative responses that abound. (What Africa rising really means)

The argument that international finance will deter migration is empirically weak and morally ugly. That it is unlikely to work is the least of its problems. Especially for my friends and colleagues in rich countries who have the interests of people from low- and middle-income countries at heart, it is past time to cease using it.
Using the Fear of Migration to Drum Up Support for Aid is Wrong)

New on Aidnography
The worrisome shift to the right of Nordic development cooperation
The bigger issue for me is how these political shifts affect global solidarity, support for others at home and abroad and driving any progressive agenda forward in a radically changing world. More attention is also needed to look at the strategies of these parties and coalitions to engage with them more directly in civic spaces, political arenas and global fora where these politicians show up.
As more bad developments regarding #globaldev in the Nordic world happened over the summer it will be important to continue the debates...

Development news
The Guardian view on UK aid spending: slashed budgets, unethical compromises
Labour cannot avoid its share of the blame for this mess. Creating the Department for International Development was a proud moment for New Labour, yet Sir Keir Starmer will promise neither to reinstate it nor to adopt the 0.7% target. The Tory government is able to get away with such callous policies because so much of Westminster politics appears to be a race to the bottom, in which lifting up destitute families in Africa or in the UK is a luxury rather than part of our common humanity. Yet the human costs are all too real, as the Foreign Office’s report proves yet again.
As the Guardian indicates, #globaldev cuts promise to be one of the sad items on this autumn's discussion agenda...

Labor turns to statecraft
The first of the five chapters of the new strategy is titled “A development program that reflects who we are”. It talks at length about Australia’s own democratic credentials, commitment to human rights, multiculturalism and our First Nations heritage. Conspicuous by its absence is any reference to Australia being a “generous nation”. Perhaps that is because when we think about aid from a moral perspective, as most do, we emphasise people, their needs and their wellbeing. Instead, the rationale for aid presented in the policy is framed predominantly in terms of “states”, “interests” and “regional stability”.
As others have noted, consistent resourcing, senior leadership and effective oversight – including strengthening the independent elements of this oversight – of these new commitments will be key to ensuring that these reforms survive the short-term pressures and incentives that will inevitably draw attention away from their implementation.
Ultimately, if our systems can’t demonstrate that we are helping deliver real impact for people and communities then Australia’s claims about being a “partner of choice” will ring hollow.
Cameron Hill for DevPolicy Blog on Australia's new #globaldev strategy.

Using the Fear of Migration to Drum Up Support for Aid is Wrong
But even if the argument was likely to work as an aid marketing tactic, it still wouldn’t be worth it. When not portrayed as swarms or marauders, migrants are portrayed as floods. This dehumanization of people trying to move to a better life justifies inhuman cruelty. And the risks of the approach should be clear from previous times it has been used. Population control advocates tried to raise funds for global family planning services in a very similar way and had to face an ugly reckoning with the results.
This isn’t about presenting a hard truth necessary for action. The argument that international finance will deter migration is empirically weak and morally ugly. That it is unlikely to work is the least of its problems. Especially for my friends and colleagues in rich countries who have the interests of people from low- and middle-income countries at heart, it is past time to cease using it.
Charles Kenny for the Center for Global Development with an important reminder that the migration-#globaldev link that is increasingly the focus of many OECD countries is not a great strategy.

Scale of conflict between mineral mines and indigenous peoples revealed
The new research published today highlights that this resistance against the environmental and social problems caused by mining activities comes at significant costs for the local communities. It argues that instead of leaving indigenous peoples and civil society groups to enter into conflict against the mining projects, governments need to establish formal governance processes, providing proactive long-term negotiations and democratic processes. Without it, it warns that the mineral mining at the scale required for the global energy transition won’t be achievable.
Sophie Robinson for the Institute for Development Studies highlights new work on old conflicts around local communities & global mining.
Six months on, Syrian photographers capture life after quakes
They chose to feature physiotherapists helping the injured, a newly opened orphanage for children who lost their parents in the quakes, the difficult living conditions for women in camps, and the construction of a new housing project for people who lost their homes in the disaster.
Their lenses don’t just show destruction, but also the hard work that has been part and parcel of the aftermath of the quakes. This includes dedication from healthcare workers and survivors, aid workers, builders, and the labour that often falls to women — frequently unseen, ignored, or unvalued — of carrying water and taking care of their families in the midst of a severe heatwave.
Abd Almajed Alkarh, Moawia Atrash, Abdul Razzaq al-Shami & Laith Doghim with a great visual essay for the New Humanitarian.

The sense of grief and loss at the destruction of one’s home
In Homs, even when people are pushed into poverty and extreme living conditions, people keep supporting each other. This infrastructure of support is essential in the process of reconstruction, so that rebuilding is not about the stones, but essentially is about people. Therefore, reconstructing place should ensure that people maintain their neighbours with whom, in some cases, have lived next to each other for decades. Preserving these networks of solidarity across people who are familiar with each other will be essential for local communities to reconnect, to protect the continuity of what is familiar, and to reflect on their identity, needs and heritage values.
Ammar Azzouz & Paola Di Giuseppantonio Di Franco for Syria Untold with comparative reflections on the impact of earthquakes in Syria & Italy.

‘All that we had is gone’: my lament for war-torn Khartoum
All that we had is gone. My lament for Khartoum and its people rises with the anguish of what is being lost. And yet it catches in my throat. The loss of our home, the scattering of my family, and their hunger and dispossession cannot be mourned without acknowledging that their fate is not the work of a unique and vengeful evil in the shape of the RSF – themselves young, poor and dying under the bombs of the military before they have lived. The RSF fighters’ decision to take up arms, their resentment and nihilism, were all forged in an economic wasteland where war was the most reliable living. They also represent Khartoum’s legacy, its failure to attend to social justice and equal distribution, and to foresee the consequences of that failure. As we yearn to return, the only hope for the city’s survival, and the safety of those who remain, is the acceptance that it can never be as it was before. As Khartoum burns, that tranquil childhood journey to visit my grandparents plays over and over in my mind, as I try to capture the city in my memory one last time, and bid it farewell.
Nesrine Malik for the Guardian with a fascinating long-read about the disintegration and violence in Sudan with a view from the 'center' that was supposed to be safe(er)...

What Africa rising really means

So I think we are rightly more sensitive to reductive descriptions, yet these have applied to Africa more than to any other continent on earth. Africa was never hopeless and it will never be perfect. What it is — as I hope this series contributes to showing — is a place of immense history, cultural wealth, and breathtaking creativity, where the challenges of economic hardship are real, and so are the innovative responses that abound.
Alexis Akwagyiram talks to Afua Hirsch for Semafor about her TV project 'Africa Rising'.

Photographing neutrality: a personal reflection from the field

But ICRC’s ability to photograph people affected by conflict for over 160 years is no coincidence. The thousands and thousands of photos in our archives demonstrate our access, acceptance, and agency. Our neutrality has granted us the capacity to document decades of conflict and capture suffering as well as acts of humanity on all sides, visceral reminders of the importance of humanitarian protection and assistance.
When I think back to that early spring day and how I would describe photographing neutrality, I still cannot give a concrete answer. The photographs I captured, along with the powerful work of my colleagues, will continue to stay with me. The images we catalogue in the future may not be any easier to witness, but it gives me a soft reassurance to know that photographing neutrality is only possible because of our neutrality.
Stephanie Xu for Humanitarian Law & Policy shares her reflections on documenting 'neutrality' through photos.

Reflecting on UNRISD’s 60 Years of Research for Social Change
As an incubator of ideas, a staunch critique of orthodox views and a promoter of alternative thinking, UNRISD has always kept one eye on the scientific soundness of its research and another on the goal of influencing policy and paradigms.
Azita Berar Awad for the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development; I wonder how the next 60 years of research will look like and what role an UN entity will/can/should/must play...

How to Be an Effective Policy Wonk Against All Odds
My seventh and last tip is simply to stay positive. This can be hard. International politics can be a frustrating business, especially if you deal with security issues at a time—like the present—when bad news often seems to outweigh the good. Policy experts do not have to be implacable optimists. But it is still necessary to look for glimmers of hope and ways to resolve or mitigate mounting problems. In 20 years of working on foreign policy, and multilateralism in particular, I have often felt frustrated by how hard it is to deal with international tensions and crises. But it has been a privilege to both track the U.N. over the years and try to help it do a little better.
Richard Gowan for World Politics Review with a reminder that some people are still using the term 'policy wonk'...but all jokes aside: Great reflections from a great communicator on social media among many other areas.

Decolonizing aid: Centering Haitian leadership in human rights solutions
In the past decades, many activists, organizations, academics, and foundations have demanded a Haitian-led solution. These efforts must address the legacies of racism, colonialism, and imperialism in international aid’s interventions; reevaluate knowledge production; redirect funding toward local and national organizations; and promote alternative narratives and solutions that have long been underrepresented or excluded. The “localization” and “decolonization” agendas, coupled with the insights from long-standing Latin American decolonial thinking and practice, offer guidance for development and humanitarian organizations to focus on the rights, challenges, and perspectives of Haitians in decision-making processes.
Mara Tissera Luna for Open Global Rights with an interesting & really well-referenced essay on Haiti, decolonization & much more!

Four approaches to shifting mindsets for decolonising knowledge
The processes required to achieve this kind of change take several resources:
  • Patience, humility, time – to allow for the discomfort of “unlearning” and the wonders of continually “relearning” with others;
  • Transparency about how researchers live and model diversity and inclusion in their activities, organisations and communities;
  • Courage to interrogate history and privilege and to work toward change;
  • Power sharing – recognize inherent power imbalances and make bold moves to cultivate shared decision making in all aspects of collaboration – the outcomes will ultimately be positive for all;
  • Recognition of people as knowers of their own experience; and
  • Financial resources, since decolonising knowledge also requires decolonising wealth.
Peter Taylor & Crystal Tremblay continue the discussion around decolonizing #globaldev for which the EADI blog has become an excellent repository.

Some longer summer readings
The Why and How of the Decolonization Discourse
This special issue debates the place of Indigenous evaluation in the context of metaphorical evaluation tree branches and paradigms. There is a strong argument that in the context of the metaphorical evaluation tree, Indigenous evaluation paradigms occupy a distinct branch, characterized by (a) belief in the interconnectedness between the living and the non-living and between the people and their environment, (b) belief in relational existence, (c) a distinct meaning of context and its role in evaluation, and (d) an understanding of needs that are inclusive of self-determination, sovereignty, giving back to community what is theirs, and revitalizing Indigenous philosophies, concepts, tools, and practices.
Bagele Chilisa & Nicole R. Bowman introducing a special issue of the open access Journal of Multi Disciplinary Evaluation.

Biometrics in the Humanitarian Sector
Our research showed a clear need to develop a more coherent and responsible approach to the use of biometrics in the sector, and that in order for humanitarian organisations to uphold their commitment and responsibility to impacted communities it is vital that a shared standard is established in the sector.
We suggest five key steps towards a more responsible approach:
  • Continued interrogation of the necessity of biometrics
  • More nuanced policy design and implementation
  • Establishing community-centred standards of practice
  • Strengthening practices around Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs)
  • More sophisticated, ecosystem-wide analysis of technologies used in the sector
Teresa Perosa, Quito Tsui & Samuel Singler with a new report for the Engine Room.

Monitoring North Korea: a visual autoethnography of humanitarian-aid practices
In this visual essay, I draw on my own photographs taken as a so-called food-aid monitor working in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea for the United Nations World Food Programme. I provide an autoethnographic account to allow consideration of the visual dimension of humanitarian aid: everyday observations, field visits and snapshots inform humanitarian action. I intend to shed a different light on the inherent visual politics of this aid practice and, hence, build a different kind of knowledge concerning (aid assistance in) the country.
David Shim with an open access article in Visual Studies.

In other news
In your mid/late career and want to do a PhD? Here’s some good news
Maybe rather than try to create a slimmed down replica of a traditional PhD and the supervisor-student relationship, these new PhDs should adapt themselves more to the realities of the student. As well as submitting their prior publications and critical reviews, students could be required to give one or more assessed lectures on their topic, lead some seminars or write a policy brief on their findings. After all, one of the likely impacts of AI is that academic assessment is going to have to move to more oral, in-person formats.
Duncan Green for fp2p with a great post and a topic that has come up on the blog several times throughout the years. My “classic” post from 2011 Should I consider a PhD in International Development Studies? is still valid in many aspects for young/er/ish readers who are interested in a PhD. 10 years later I wrote The difficult path to meaningful & decolonized PhDs in Development Studies as a sort-of update and earlier this year I was hesitant to recommend a PhD as “just another degree” and wrote Don’t pursue a PhD as skills training for “the industry”!.

PDFs vs. web pages: what’s better for users?
In this post we’re looking at a topic that a lot of people have requested: PDF content. PDF content is inaccessible, creates a poor user experience, and yet somehow, it persists. Whether you’re trying to understand if PDFs are really that bad, or you’re trying to make the case for getting rid of them in your organisation, this post is for you. It covers:
  • Why PDF content is bad for accessibility, usability, SEO, and more (with evidence)
  • Why people (stakeholders) like them anyway and how to respond to their concerns
  • Examples of organisations that are moving away from PDFs – even for reports, research and ‘long’ content
  • Times it’s actually okay to use a PDF
Lauren Pope with an interesting post about the pdf graveyard that every academic and/or #globaldev person know too well...

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

The making of a gender-balanced foreign service
She looks back on her first decade or so with kids as her “Wonder Woman” years, juggling her priorities as a foreign service officer, wife and mother. She made it a point to always have breakfast during the week with her sons, never accepting early-morning meetings unless she was travelling. On the flip side, weekday evenings were fair game for representing Canada at receptions and work functions. “There were two worlds, and I was running in between them, and I was working very, very hard,” Blais recalls.
As her kids grew into teenagers, and the “adrenaline stopped pumping,” Blais did go through a period of intense burnout and soul-searching. “I was petering on the edge for a while there, and finally it went off balance altogether.” Looking back, she thinks maybe she could have “dialled down the intensity a little bit” and still have made her way. “But I am pretty convinced that I am where I am today because I was very dedicated to my work,” she said.
Now, with her team at the UN, she is careful to apply what she knows about the importance of mental health and maintaining a “very fragile equilibrium.”
“What I try to do now as a manager is to let my staff know that perhaps you don’t need to be here until eight or nine o’clock. Do you really need that, or are you doing it because that’s what you feel you must do to do a good job? Sometimes those are two different things.”
This is something Blais wishes someone had done for her. “I think women tend to be very intense. We care so much about the work, and not to say that men don’t, but there’s a real, almost emotional attachment to the quality of our work that can be dangerous if we don’t manage it better.”
Catherine Tsalikis with 'Stories from the women driving Canada’s diplomatic corps toward equality' for Open Canada. Great long read that takes a historical approach to look at how women make careers in diplomacy.

'Times' Column Is Slammed For Its Portrayal Of Central African Republic
"Kristof represented CAR as if it were miserable across the board, and that the people who live there are victims," Knuckey told NPR. "It represents a brand of journalism that has been heavily criticized for decades, and that is harmful."
Kristof himself says he was a "little bit" surprised by the reaction on social media but "understands the frustration that people have with the lack of coverage about things they care deeply about," referring to researchers, academics and aid workers who work to improve conditions in the CAR.
For Moussa Abdoulaye, a Central African activist, founder of a community school and consultant for media companies like Al Jazeera, VICE and HBO, perhaps the worst offense was Kristof's depiction of his country as a hopeless place.
Malaka Gharib for NPR Goats and Soda with a story about Nick Kristof who used to be a thing in mostly problematic #globaldev journalism before he launched his political 'career'...

Menstrual Pads Can’t Fix Prejudice
We must resist the well-meaning impulse to improve the lives of menstruating girls through consumption. The greater need is for people to understand that periods aren’t something shameful and best kept hidden. When menstruation is treated as normal, it becomes more than a nuisance, a punch line or a weapon wielded to keep women in their place.
Our aim must be to transform the revulsion into respect, to shift from “eww” to “oh.” We need to redirect resources toward promoting innovative, inclusive and culturally sensitive community-based education about the menstrual cycle. And the audience must be not only girls, but also everyone surrounding them — boys, parents, teachers, religious leaders and health professionals.
But menstrual activism won’t be meaningful if it is reduced to Western-style “better living through more consumption.”
Chris Bobel for the New York Times with a critique about MHM that still deserves some attention.


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