Links & Contents I Liked 491

Hi all,

Last week I received a very nice message on LinkedIn from a reader whose Masters thesis research was inspired by something she read in my weekly #globaldev review-a great reminder on why I like to do what I do almost every Friday! :)

From Albania's ventures into humanitarian response, to Australia's public opinion on aid, fake news crisis in Bangladesh & a growing crisis in Congo there's lot to explore this week as well-including the impact of a returning fashion designer from Ghana, the hypocrisy of BRICS & the weaponized misspent of lots and lots of US dollars in Afghanistan and the long history of getting a Malaria vaccine.
New academic publications on visa inequalities, the limits of global commissions & failures to include indigenous voices in global governance - and so much more!


My quotes of the week
The development of malaria vaccines was stalled over and over again: by the focus on the eradication campaign and suspension of research; then by the lack of funding and urgency to address what had become a distant problem for the West; then by the complexity, length and cost of running the clinical trials; and then by the heightened and shifting regulatory requirements that added years of additional funding struggles and studies. (Why we didn’t get a malaria vaccine sooner)

In the medium-term, conference organizers, academic institutes, non-governmental organizations, think tanks and funders need to make visa and passport inequities a priority within their advocacy agendas. This means setting a clear and purposeful agenda to take initiative within their own institutions and governments and to advocate for change in policy arenas without relegating this challenge as an untouchable or unsolvable problem (Imagining a future in global health without visa and passport inequities)

New on Aidnography
Artificial Intelligence (AI) & ChatGPT in development and humanitarian work-a curated collection
I updated the post with new readings & and a reversed chronological order for easier access.

Development news
Is Australian public support for aid on the wane?
The change in attitudes is probably real, but it still doesn’t mean most Australians want aid cut. In 2023, a clear majority of Australians still think their government gives too little aid or about the right amount – only just over a third thinks it gives too much. And attitudes to aid are still more positive than they once were: in 2015, 40% of Australians thought their government gave too much. And who knows what will happen next year: inflation will likely be less, and there are plenty of reasons beyond COVID-19 for Australians to care about the world beyond their borders.
Terence Wood for DevPolicy Blog; interesting numbers, a conundrum as old as #globaldev (most people overestimate amounts of aid & want more) & a reminder that public opinion & political realties in the name of 'the taxpayer' often do not align...

Fake experts praising Bangladesh gov’t in media before elections: AFP probe
Hundreds of articles praising Bangladeshi government policies apparently by independent experts have appeared in national and international media but the authors have questionable credentials, fake photos, and may not even exist, an investigation by the AFP news agency has found.
Commentators say it is evidence of a sustained campaign of disinformation by unknown actors ahead of elections due by the end of January but appears to be intended to benefit the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Al Jazeera reporting on an AFP investigation that shows a rise in mis-/dis-information before yet another election.

An alarming humanitarian crisis and massive sexual violence wrack eastern Congo, UN official says
The scale of suffering and insufficient funding have left humanitarian workers in the impossible situation every day of deciding whether to prioritize water, shelter or medical support for the constant stream of newly displaced people. And one result of the overwhelming needs is that thousands and thousands of children aren’t able to go to school, she said.
Congo’s vast mineral wealth has fueled war, displacement and hunger, she said, and particularly heartbreaking was to see the impact on eastern Congo’s pygmy community, “one of the last hunter-gatherer communities left on earth.”
“This community has lived in the equatorial jungle for thousands of years, taking from the land only what they need to survive nothing more,” but the fight for cobalt, a key mineral for electric vehicle batteries, and diamonds for engagement rings in jungle areas is destroying their way of life “for good,” Waaijman said.
Edith M. Lederer for AP reports from DRC.

Launch of the Humanitarian Studies Centre (HSC): “Humanitarian Studies is about dignity and it is about humanity”
“What I love about humanitarian studies as the title of this domain of work is that it carries a value-laden property. Humanitarian studies is about dignity and it is about humanity. The father of modern humanitarianism, Henri Dunant, proposed that the key idea of humanitarianism is the desire to save lives and restore human dignity.
Thea Hilhorst for blISS introduces her new humanitarian research centre.

Albania’s Proposing a ‘Humanitarian Alliance’ to Get UN Aid Faster to Crisis Zones
Albania is calling the proposal “a private sector humanitarian alliance” that will “enlarge the radius of contributions,” Hoxha said at the media briefing.
Hoxha said that Eric Schmidt of the foundation and ex-head of Google, will speak at the Council debate, to be held on Sept. 14.) Hoxha said that the current roster of public-private contributors interested in the alliance — so far, all American — were best positioned to offer humanitarian aid support. But he emphasized that such backing is complementary to the UN’s current operations. He did not detail how the platform would work.
Damilola Banjo for PassBlue; there's a lot going on in this article, from humanitarian ideas, to the role of diplomats & diplomacy from small UN member states, plus insights into Albania's role in international politics; however, I remain very skeptical when it comes to private sector & philanthropic entities in humanitarian response such as Schmidt Ventures.

New members add to the list of BRICS regimes that have scant respect for media freedom
Now that the dust has settled after the new BRICS have been laid and not to be a spoiler amid significant elation, but all these countries besides South Africa have a terrible track record vis-à-vis media freedom. These countries are mainly rogues.
Glenda Daniels for the Daily Maverick with a reminder that most BRICS countries are not the biggest fans of free press & critical journalism...

BRICS hypocrisy on offshore reform
In an example of breathtaking hypocrisy, BRICS countries rail against the global financial architecture but offer no collective action on offshore banking, and they also continue to be among its major users themselves.
Given all this, what are the chances of BRICS-initiated reform in this area? Realistically, the only reason they would take action is because they care about their own regime stability. Though offshore mechanisms may seem like useful short-term levers, their long-term impact is likely to have troubling consequences for their economies. In time, offshore finance supercharges inequality and begets financial instability, which can lead to the toppling of regimes.
Andrea Binder & Ricardo Soares de Oliveira for Politico with another area where the BRICS countries are probably less inclined to rock the global boat...

Dollars Deployed: How the Weaponization of the U.S. Financial System Contributed to Afghanistan’s Collapse
The U.S. military’s strategy of using its financial might as a “weapons system” in the global “war on terror” contributed significantly to its own military failure and to the Afghan Republic’s downfall. By infusing billions of dollars into purchasing security and securing allegiances of local elites, media, civil society, and communities, the United States inadvertently created an ecosystem ripe for rampant corruption on an unprecedented scale.
The weaponization of money allowed Afghan political leaders to evade responsibility. In the pursuit of immediate goals, the United States and Afghan elites regrettably sidelined the longer-term imperative of fostering a resilient state structure through comprehensive state-building, yielding a landscape of unstable power centers and elites rather than a cohesive national framework. While presenting the façade and narrative of democratization and women’s rights for its domestic and international consumption, the U.S. sacrificed institutionalization and democratization, as well as the endeavor to combat corruption and uphold justice in the pursuit of political stability and order. Robust institutions capable of upholding the principles of the rule of law, justice, effective governance, and sustainable economic growth did not flourish.
Timor Sharan for Just Security with an important reminder about how the US military-industrial undermined Afghanistan & has almost nothing to show for after billions and billions of dollars disappearing in black holes...

Reporter’s diary: Bearing witness to the EU’s migration policies at sea as deaths soar
In the central Mediterranean, there is no collaboration between European states and civil society to save lives. Instead, there is a clash between two opposing objectives – two ways of dealing with migration caused by conflicts, repression, inequalities, and a climate in crisis: On the one hand, people are trying to save lives; on the other, European states are attempting (without much success, and despite spending of hundreds of millions of euros) to let as few people as possible reach Europe, even at the cost of their lives and of upholding human rights.
In the middle, there is the sea and those human beings, with faces hollowed out by fear, who board boats knowing they – like so many before them – may drown.
Max Hirzel for the New Humanitarian reports from his time with an NGO rescue boat.

Why we didn’t get a malaria vaccine sooner
We should have had this vaccine a long time ago,’ Alassane Dicko, a professor of public health and malaria researcher in Mali who worked on some of the trials, said to Reuters.
Malaria victims are ‘not Europeans, they’re not Australians, they are poor African children,’ said Ashley Birkett, director of the malaria vaccine initiative at PATH to Undark magazine. ‘Unfortunately, I think we have to accept that that is part of the reason for the lack of urgency in the community.’
‘Primarily, this is the problem that you face when you’re trying to develop a vaccine that nobody wants to pay for,’ said Ripley Ballou.
Reports of the malaria vaccine are peppered with similar quotes from scientists and public health professionals who worked in the area.
This isnʼt the typical narrative we hear about new discoveries and technologies. We tend to think of them emerging as soon as they’re technically possible.
But vaccines are driven by people motivated to work on the problem, and need to clear significant economic and regulatory hurdles, as well as scientific ones, before they make it to the general public.
The development of malaria vaccines was stalled over and over again: by the focus on the eradication campaign and suspension of research; then by the lack of funding and urgency to address what had become a distant problem for the West; then by the complexity, length and cost of running the clinical trials; and then by the heightened and shifting regulatory requirements that added years of additional funding struggles and studies.
Saloni Dattani & Rachel Glennerster & Siddhartha Haria for Works in Progress with a an excellent long-read on the history of getting to a malaria vaccine.

We’re finally figuring out if foreign aid is any better than handing out cash
Cash benchmarking results have continued to come in. While many cash studies analyze small transfer amounts, recent USAID cash studies look at transfer amounts comparable to the per-beneficiary spend of many traditional programs. In Liberia, cash had a positive impact on food security, wealth, intimate partner violence, and child education two years after the transfer. In Malawi, researchers found similar results two years on. In Congo, a study found a traditional program combined with cash improved business performance and personal agency. A follow-up study looking at the impacts of the cash and workforce program in Rwanda three years on showed fading, but still significant and sustained, effects.
With these results in hand, USAID now has more rigorous, longer-term cost-effectiveness studies of cash transfers than it does of interventions it funds year in and year out without question. USAID should first follow through on its own commitment to help field staff conduct better-quality impact evaluations and then make a concerted effort to evaluate the sustained cost-effectiveness of its most common and highly funded interventions. It’s worth noting that relying on overstretched field staff to take responsibility for procuring the right type of evaluation and ensuring the evaluations are well done hasn’t worked. USAID’s evaluation experts in Washington should be given more direct responsibility for scoping, procuring, and managing evaluations.
Daniel Handel for Vox with a deep-dive into cash-based #globaldev, measuring impact & the future of foreign aid (?)...

Turning the moral case for aid into aid support
To rally the support of the Sceptical Moralists, aid campaigns should appeal to widely accepted moral values and highlight the potential of overseas aid to transform lives. Addressing concerns about aid corruption and emphasising the benefits of aid on a humanitarian level may also foster greater support for overseas aid among people who believe in helping those in need around the world.
Ingrid Wittendorff Humblen for Development Compass with more interesting survey data on how public perceptions & political realties of #globaldev are often difficult to align...

Kofi Ansah left Ghana to become a world famous fashion designer - how his return home boosted the industry
Ansah’s impact on Ghanaian fashion was immense because of the timing and context of his return in 1992. He had built a successful career for 20 years in the UK and the future looked promising. On the other hand, the country he returned to was undergoing profound political and economic transformation. Ghana was transitioning from military rule to a civilian government. Political tension was high, linked to an economic downturn following structural adjustment programmes adopted in the 1980s. But Ansah chose to relocate his budding career to Ghana.
His case demonstrates how the knowledge and expertise migrants gather through international career mobility can be converted into assets at an individual, national and international level. Returning migrants can transform traditional industries into modern, globalised ones.
Adwoa Owusuaa Bobie, Akosua Keseboa Darkwah & Katherine V. Gough for the Conversation with insightful historical research on Ghana's glocalized fashion industry.

Reading corner
Envisioning an alternative ecosystem for global development and humanitarianism
The high-level goal of this ecosystem is to create not just equality between nations, but also to do so in an ethical way. The ecosystem proposes to achieve this goal in three key ways:Remove the distinctions between governments, donors, INGOs, NGOs etc. to view all the participants of global development and humanitarianism as ‘State and Civil Society Entities’ or SCSEs.
Remove ‘international’ from the vocabulary and view all countries as equal and global in scale.
Remove the distinction between the so-called ‘Global North’ and so-called ‘Global South’ to move to a more regional perspective.
Ultimately, the end result would be a more equitable and ethical system which allows each country to participate based on its own ability to make decisions and utilise its own resources as much as possible.
Themrise Khan with a fascinating new paper for the Centre for Humanitarian Leadership.

Imagining a future in global health without visa and passport inequities
In the medium-term, conference organizers, academic institutes, non-governmental organizations, think tanks and funders need to make visa and passport inequities a priority within their advocacy agendas. This means setting a clear and purposeful agenda to take initiative within their own institutions and governments and to advocate for change in policy arenas without relegating this challenge as an untouchable or unsolvable problem
For meaningful discourses to occur, there must be recognition of unfair stereotyping, racism, neo-colonial global structural values, and ignorance of these challenges as HICs are often unaffected by them. Additionally, we need to recognize that often far-right political parties promote anti-immigrant, anti-refugee sentiments pushing for othering of these communities. Thus, citizens have the power to reduce visa discrimination by voting in leaders who will enact real governance reform.
Shashika Bandara ,Zahra Zeinali, (Dian) Maria Blandina, Omid V. Ebrahimi, Mohammad Yasir Essar, Joyeuse Senga, Mehr Muhammad Adeel Riaz, Iwatutu Joyce Adewole & Marie-Claire Wangari with open access reflections for PLOS Global Public Health that continue the discussion around global visa inequalities.

Expert knowledge for global pandemic policy: a chorus of evidence or a clutter of global commissions?
However, while commissions may have some potential utility as a tool of global policy making, they appear to only represent a rapid deployment device to harness expert resources for governments and international organizations. Their influence as a global policy actor appears limited. After the first rash of ideas and “sense-making” activities that resulted from the different commissions, their extra-governmental status has stalled their influence into global health policy making.
Finally, with so many Commissions “commissioned” during the pandemic, are they concerted and coordinated, or are they discordant and incoherent? To respond to the question in the title of this paper, we argue that the four global commissions studied here represent more of a chorus rather than a clutter. To a large degree, they operated independently of each other but in a generally complementary manner. Even the G20 High Level Independent Panel reinforced the reports of three of our four case studies on its website. Collectively, the Commissions contributed to “sense-making” about the pandemic, even if this was predominantly
Diana Stone & Anneke Schmider with an open access paper in Policy & Society.

Review of participation of Indigenous peoples in plastics pollution governance
We argue that a necessary antecedent to impactful plastics pollution governance is the ability for Indigenous understandings of plastic pollution to flourish and extend. This will require more than mere inclusion and is not possible without meaningful Indigenous participation in decision-making roles where Indigenous sovereignty allows IEJ to take root. To aid in that endeavor, we provide a breakdown of the multitude of ways that plastic pollution is understood by Indigenous experts in our corpus of plastics literature. This breakdown could not possibly be exhaustive in its representation of real-world Indigenous conceptualizations of plastic pollution, particularly, because it is based on an English-language literature review and fails to account for even a partial diversity of Indigenous peoples.
Max Liboiron & Riley Cotter in Cambridge Prims: Plastics with a reminder that many areas of global governance are not fit for indigenous & decolonial participation.

Looking beyond organisational approaches to advance communication practice: an examination of development projects in India
Building on development communication and public relations theories that emphasise the recognition of social processes, the Collaborative Communication Approach presented in this study has brought the two fields together, providing interesting markers to utilise development communication and public relations and consolidate communication planning. This new approach earns feasibility through the voices of the research participants, who see both fields enhance communication practice in development. This work has looked at development and communication in relation to projects and their implementers, and cannot be an answer to all communication challenges. Yet, it recognises that unless newer methods are considered and formalised, communication practice in development will continue to remain suboptimal.
Bhupesh Josh, Valentina Baú & Paul Ryder with a new open access article for Development in Practice.

What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 279, 27 April 2018)

Where's the diversity among charity trustees, asks critical report
Almost 80% of senior leadership teams in the top 500 charities lack any ethnic minority professionals, while 62% of the charities have all-white boards, the research found. Gender diversity, compared with other sectors, was “better than most”. However the analysis shows imbalance at the top. In a sector whose workforce is 65% female, men are still taking up almost 60% of senior leadership roles.
Inclusive Boards published similar research two years ago, but found “insufficient improvement” – only a 0.3% increase in the levels of ethnic minority individuals on charity boards. It also found that the percentage of all-white boards had actually increased, by 5%.
Karen McVeigh for the Guardian introduces a new report on #BoardSoWhite...I wonder where the sector stands 5 years later...

#AidToo – What Now and What Next?
Changing this culture requires self-reflection on the part of all aid workers, both managers and staff. It requires open and honest discussions about personal and institutional responsibilities in addressing inequality in the system. And leadership that is willing to create listening spaces for staff; where what happens in the office is not solely about maintaining the public image of do-gooders that get results, but about acknowledging the vulnerabilities and limitations of being human. We need to be talking to each other more, supporting each other and seeing the value in human relations as part of the humanitarian agenda; how we relate to each other as colleagues and how we relate to the people we are wishing to help. Inner reflection, plus honest discussions within and across organisations, are a starting point to transcending some of the power imbalances inherent in the aid system and encouraging a joint, inclusive, vision of what a ‘good’ working environment within the sector could be.
Gemma Houldey shares important reflections on the tough road ahead after the initial #AidToo moment and movement in 2017/2018...I wonder where the sector stands 5 years later...

Where Countries Are Tinderboxesand Facebook Is a Match
A reconstruction of Sri Lanka’s descent into violence, based on interviews with officials, victims and ordinary users caught up in online anger, found that Facebook’s newsfeed played a central role in nearly every step from rumor to killing. Facebook officials, they say, ignored repeated warnings of the potential for violence, resisting pressure to hire moderators or establish emergency points of contact.
Despite criticism and concerns from civil society groups, the company has done little to change its strategy of pushing into developing societies with weak institutions and histories of social instability, opening up information spaces where anger and fear often can dominate.
Amanda Taub & Max Fisher for the New York Times with a long-read on Sri Lanka, Facebook and the dark side of ICTs...I wonder...


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