Links & Contents I Liked 497
Glad to be back with a fresh curation of #globaldev links!
USAID with little impact, climate refugees in Tuvalu, the challenges of growing megacities like Mexico-City & Lagos, pracademics, internships, AI & much more!
My quotes of the week
After eight years and billions of dollars, there is little independent evidence that USAID, Chemonics, and its partners have actually strengthened a global supply chain that millions rely on for lifesaving medical supplies. ('Too big to fail': How USAID's $9.5B supply chain vision unraveled)
a colleague working in the area of participation, inclusion and social change asked “What does it mean if we no longer ‘swim’ in the data?” As evaluators and researchers we live it, breathe it, dream it, and ponder it endlessly. We feel a kind of emotion or connection with data when we are “in it.” Do we want to hand that over to a machine to spit out some conclusions? (What’s next for Emerging AI in Evaluation? Takeaways from the 2023 AEA Conference)
there are too many mediocre, zombie-like NGOs roaming this planet. We need more mergers and acquisitions between high-performing organizations to reach some semblance of that mythical “scale,” not more organizations. While it’s crummy Global Integrity is shutting down, it might be a least-bad outcome in a sector (governance/anti-corruption) that is possibly going to cannibalize itself in the coming years as core funders withdraw and the total funding pie shrinks. (Some Reflections On Global Integrity’s Shuttering)
Worst floods in decades kill 29 in Somalia, hit towns across East Africa
"What is going on today is the worst for decades. It is worse than even the 1997 floods," said Hassan Isse, managing director of the Somali Disaster Management Agency (SOMDA).
"The impact of the flooding is much worse because the soil is so damaged from an unprecedented recent drought - years of conflict and al Shabaab militia's presence also makes building flood defences and resilience more complex and costly," Moshiri said.
Abdi Sheikh for Reuters with a striking example of the climate-conflict-humanitarian crisis nexus.'Too big to fail': How USAID's $9.5B supply chain vision unraveled
But interviews with those closely involved, as well as the rare instances of external scrutiny, suggest serious problems persist. Chemonics has received multiple extensions to continue implementing the project — until at least November 2024. After eight years and billions of dollars, there is little independent evidence that USAID, Chemonics, and its partners have actually strengthened a global supply chain that millions rely on for lifesaving medical supplies.
Under 1/4 of UK climate aid to Africa goes to African-based orgs
Less than one-quarter of the UK’s climate aid to Africa has gone to organisations based on the continent, new analysis reveals. Despite being for projects in Africa, the vast majority of this spending has instead been channelled through private companies, NGOs, or multilateral bodies based in the Global North.James Wan for African Arguments with another story on how consultancies siphon off #globaldev funding despite all the talks about 'localization'...
An investigation by Carbon Brief looked into where this aid has gone. It found that 13% of it – or £833 million ($1 billion) – has been handed to private consultancies in the Global North. The UK’s use of consultancies such as Adam Smith International, PwC, and KPMG varies considerably across countries. In Nigeria and Ghana, a staggering 88% of the UK’s £282 million ($342 million) climate aid was channelled through these private firms.
Australia to offer residency to Tuvalu citizens displaced by climate change
Australia will offer a special visa category to people affected by climate change in Tuvalu, as part of a new treaty recognising the vulnerability of the Pacific island nation to rising sea levels.Daniel Hurst & Josh Butler for the Guardian on the new security-migration partnership between Tuvalu & Australia.
A new partnership will also cement Australia’s status as Tuvalu’s “security partner of choice”, according to prime minister Anthony Albanese, which will see both nations required to mutually agree on any engagement with other states on defence issues in Tuvalu – as well as Australia helping respond to natural disasters, pandemics and security issues.
The multi-faceted agreement includes a “special mobility pathway” and visa category for 280 Tuvaluan citizens each year to live, study and work in Australia, with access to services.
‘Environmental Hell’: A Small Town Grapples With Pollution From Mexico City
“What we wanted was to recover the river, to have trees and clean water running,” says Norma Reyes, another resident of Tula de Allende. “All we have is trash and bad odor.”Aline Suárez del Real for Global Press Journal with a story of the growing environmental cost of running mega-cities like Mexico-City.
“I’ve never seen the river clean. Neither did my parents. When I was born, it was already a contaminated river,” says Maya Cervantes, a civil engineer who lives in Mezquital Valley. “But if there was will to recover it … we would have a beautiful place with water and vegetation.”
When asked what he would like for authorities to know about living by the Tula River, Olguín, from the Red de Conciencia Ambiental “Queremos Vivir,” says that everyone has a right to live in a healthy environment free of contamination. For now, however, “we live in one of the environmental hells.”
The loudest champion of the climate vulnerable
Saleemul Huq was a pre-eminent climate scientist and champion for developing countries. For many years, he was a lone warrior trying to bring the issues of adaptation and loss and damage to the UN negotiating table. His death last weekend caused an outpouring of emotion across the climate world. Ahead of COP28, Zero hears from some of Saleemul’s colleagues about his life, legacy and the hole he leaves behind in climate diplomacy.Bloomberg's Zero podcast with an excellent episode in memory of Saleemul Huq.
From Darfur to Darfur: The Fall and Rise of Indifference to Mass Atrocities in Africa
In the end, however, the AU’s bluff was called: it lacked the political clout, the military resources, or the persuasion to sustain its principled position, then lost the will. In its retreat, the AU has also jettisoned the project of establishing and nurturing a norm-based, multilateral African peace and security order. That failing was ultimately the AU Commission’s. Without serious recommitment to such a political project, the atrocity prevention toolbox for Africa is likely to remain shut, its tools quietly rusting away while people in Darfur and beyond pay the ultimate price.Alex De Waal for Just Security looks at the historical trajectory of the shortcomings of the African Union.
SheCan: Fostering Change From Within The Community
Working closely with girls under 18, we ensure they understand their rights and know where to report violations. The SheCan Initiative also promotes livelihoods by identifying talents among the women and girls we serve and connecting them with opportunities.Isra Yahya for Samuel Hall with a great first-person story about her community work in the Kakuma camp in Kenya.
There is a perception that outsiders, often referred to as “foreigners,” are more effective in providing support. Thus, if international organisations align with the SheCan Initiative, it would likely boost the credibility and visibility of our organisation. The mere announcement of such a partnership would probably attract more clients to SheCan, increasing our capacity to serve the community. It will also open doors to potential future partnerships with other organisations.
Wọn ò fẹ́ wa nibi (They Do Not Want Us Here)
How can Lagos harbour aspirations of becoming a human-centric mega-city while simultaneously displacing its heart and soul? The urban poor of Lagos are akin to vibrant brushstrokes on the canvas of the city’s identity, infusing depth, colour, and texture into its unique character. From the witty antics of Danfo drivers to the sharp humour of assertive Agbero conductors, who infuse our daily routines with amusement, and to the street vendors who have been instrumental in Lagos’ informal economy for years, the vibrancy of the urban poor courses through the city’s veins. This paradox prompts fundamental questions about the city’s commitment to its proclaimed goal of welcoming everyone.Unyime Eyo for the Republic with an essay on Lagos that touches upon many issues cities across the majority world are/will be facing.
Ultimately, the enduring promise of Lagos as a city that welcomes everyone will only be realized when it genuinely becomes a city where every resident, regardless of their socioeconomic status, can find a place to call home, free from the looming threat of forced evictions and exclusion from the opportunities the city has to offer. This is the vision for which urban social movements must passionately and persistently advocate
Pracademics: just a clunky new word, or something more significant/substantial?
To be a pracademic is never to quite belong anywhere – it helps if you find that sort of discomfort stimulating, rather than draining.Duncan Green for fp2p reflects on the rise of 'pracademics'; my comment focusing on their role in #globaldev academia:
Especially from your vantage point at LSE, it's worth pointing out the political economy of "pracademics" in higher education contexts (see also "Professor of Practice" in the US): Bringing practitioners into higher education is a win-win: Many universities need to increase their share of (overseas) MA students and luring them into programs with a promise of "practical skills" is good marketing. Many "pracademics" are also relatively cheap and since many enjoy teaching they can take teaching responsibilities off researchers' shoulders who can then enjoy writing funding applications and REF-research publications. I think we need to have a much more critical debate on how "pracademics" fit into the stratified, often precarious and exploitative, ecosystem of higher education. Another interesting issue you are already hinting at is the "influencer culture"-I would probably go a bit further and call it "cherry-picking culture"-don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong towards the end of a career to take on only the gigs you like, but I'm still feeling a bit ambivalent when I have to sit through faculty meetings and design a course document over 6 months and then the pracademic walks in, delivers a great lecture and goes home. I guess this is similar to a lot of consultant work where the beauty lies in the fact that you can "speak truth to power" and then leave an organization with the pesky challenges of implementing the real work. So from my inside position of one of the pracademic "bubbles" there's definitely more to discuss-despite the great additions that many pracademics are for development research and teaching.
From left, Munkhsugir Altaikhuu, Anudari Azjargal, 12, and Rashzeveg Altaikhuu herd goats on Zuunsaikhan mountain in Bayandalai, Umnugovi province, Mongolia.
Some Reflections On Global Integrity’s Shuttering
there are too many mediocre, zombie-like NGOs roaming this planet. We need more mergers and acquisitions between high-performing organizations to reach some semblance of that mythical “scale,” not more organizations. While it’s crummy Global Integrity is shutting down, it might be a least-bad outcome in a sector (governance/anti-corruption) that is possibly going to cannibalize itself in the coming years as core funders withdraw and the total funding pie shrinks.Nathaniel Heller reflects on the closing of Global Integrity & broader think tank issues.
Breaking barriers: How paid internships can transform inclusivity in the international development sector
With this industry failing in mind, BRAC has sought to address the issue of accessibility through the paid Helen Turner International Development Internship. This internship is not only unique in the way that it promotes inclusivity, but also in how it is structured. My internship at BRAC has allowed me to experience how a leading NGO functions. With London’s cost of living soaring, an unpaid internship was not an option for me, barring me from my aspirations of working in the international development sector. Paying above London Living Wage, the Helen Turner Internship has given me the opportunity to start a career in development without having to work a full-time job alongside a full-time internship. More organisations need to provide a pathway to entry that is fairly paid and clearly valued, as BRAC has done for me.William Jones for Bond on paid internships & a reminder that they are still not very common in the #globaldev sector.
Never ask job candidates to do unpaid assignments as part of your hiring process
I’m sure there are a few job applicants who do the uncompensated assignments you require and think, “Wow, I had such a great time and learned so much by being forced to spend 7 unpaid hours creating a presentation over the weekend for a job I didn’t get!” The majority will likely think your org is run by assholes. Word will spread, and in the long run this will affect your organization’s reputation and ability to hire candidates in the future.Vu Le for NonprofitAF points out the inequalities of unpaid assignments-and how to improve the recruitment process.
Because of power dynamics, many candidates will put up with these horrible assignments, and you won’t get much feedback about how crappy and inequitable your hiring process is. But asking for unpaid work is terrible and should be abolished immediately.
What’s next for Emerging AI in Evaluation? Takeaways from the 2023 AEA Conference
We can also consider these findings in terms of evaluation competencies, leapfrogging, and equity aspects. What skills will be needed for the future? How might AI enable MERL team members who show lower performance levels to achieve higher quality results? Is emerging AI just another tool – like a calculator or a dump truck – that will allow the need for a range of technical or computing skills to be bypassed? Some data science experts, including Pete York who presented at a session on addressing bias and big data and Paul Jasper who shared a demo where he asked ChatGPT to write code, suggest that the need for evaluators to learn R or Python, will go away. Critical thinking and theory, however, will remain vital in order to instruct and prompt AI towards specific outputs.Linda Raftree for MERL Tech with an excellent overview over some of the emerging issues around M&E, AI & #globaldev.
During one of many rich side conversations, a colleague working in the area of participation, inclusion and social change asked “What does it mean if we no longer ‘swim’ in the data?” As evaluators and researchers we live it, breathe it, dream it, and ponder it endlessly. We feel a kind of emotion or connection with data when we are “in it.” Do we want to hand that over to a machine to spit out some conclusions?
Towards Structural Changes for Building Responsible Academic Partnerships
Instead, it is crucial to acknowledge inequity in different contexts without romanticising a notion of a ‘one’ Global North and ‘one’ Global South. There are “norths” in the “souths” and “souths” in the “norths”. Inclusivity in both the Global North and the Global South, thus, becomes even more important. Whereas locally developed agendas are deemed an opportunity, it is important to identify who the “local” actors are, and their roles and power dynamics to ensure proper inclusivity.Roseanna Avento, Kelly Brito & Susanne von Itter for EADI on how to challenge some of the current models of global academic partnerships.
The Gates Foundation’s new AI initiative: attempting to leapfrog global health inequalities?
There should be serious public discussion about the uses and likely abuses that AI will wreak on already teetering and impoverished ‘global health’ and domestic healthcare systems. Pragmatically, these tools were built from data encoding a deeply unequal social world and, like a cancer, AI will risk metastasizing and spreading malignant racist ideologies and priorities in new and terrifying ways. Politically, Gates’ active dissemination of these tools is little more than an instance of crass philanthrocapitalist profit extraction. They are controlled by a few corporations in North America and Western Europe. No meaningfully democratic means of control and constraint are available to most and the rhetoric of ethics and equity are obfuscatory. Finally, programmatically, AI in global health will likely accelerate the neoliberal push to eviscerate institutions of social care.Jonathan Shaffer, Arsenii Alenichev & Marlyn C Faure with an open access article for BMJ Global Health.
How to foster constructive dialogue?
It is crucial to ensure broad participation and to have participants agree on ground rules for their exchanges to create a productive setting for dialogue. A highly participatory and inclusive project set-up like the one in Niger (involving listeners’ clubs and dialogue committees, working with radio stations that broadcast in local languages and are embedded in the local community, holding a kick-off workshop on conflict-sensitive journalism etc.) proved conducive to fostering constructive dialogue in this specific context.Ines Drefs for the Deutsche Welle Akademie with a new working paper.
What we were reading 5 years ago
My reaction to the release of UNEP Production Gap report— Harjeet Singh (@harjeet11) November 8, 2023
"The UNEP Production Gap report exposes the glaring hypocrisy at the heart of global climate action. Countries that present themselves as climate champions on the global stage are betraying the spirit of the Paris… pic.twitter.com/jDTm7DmZQN
(Link review 285, 8 June 2018)
A Destiny in the Making (book review)
I really enjoyed reading Mohr’s memoir precisely because of his insights into regular UNICEF work that keeps the organization going. Partly because of his extensive diary keeping he manages to go back to small details and daily routines within the bigger picture of UNICEF under Jim Grant’s leadership and the monumental global changes that happened at the turn of the new millennium.Me with a book review.
A Destiny in the Making also confirms the importance of memoirs and storytelling as important avenues in writing about international development differently, personally and historically.
Mohr’s memoir is another reminder of what a powerful and lasting impression UNICEF work has made on many people-inside the organization and its impact on children around the globe.
Oxfam sexual abuse scandal fallout was 'out of proportion', says Clare Short
“I think if you went to the Times newspaper there would be people who misused their power. Certainly in my time in DfID there was an ambassador who was having affairs with lots of different people,” said Short, adding that the whole of government needed to have better codes of conduct.Rebecca Radcliffe for the Guardian with food for thought and critique as Clare Shorts comments on the Oxfam scandal and the role of Times' journalism.
Pressed by Pauline Latham MP, who said that exploitation by charity workers often involved the most vulnerable people in the world, Short added she was not suggesting such cases should not be taken seriously.
“I think probably people quite rightly expect more of people working in development than they do of people working in other fields. I’m not in any way trying too belittle taking it seriously, but I did think the hysterical response to the Times reporting – as though everyone working in development was morally disgusting and everyone was sexually abusing everyone – was way exaggerated and disproportionate,” she said.
The Gospel According to “Failed Missionaries”
I have lots of issues with short-term missions, but one of the biggest is the damage it causes. You have people come in and they’re intoxicated with this new environment and there’s so much poverty around them that they’ve never seen before because they’ve never left their own backyards. They feel like they can help and they make all these empty promises and then they leave and forget. They put their pictures on the wall and pat themselves on the back, and it creates a real systemic issue. Especially where I live, which is in East Africa, where it’s now normal for Christians to come over for a few weeks and just give out candy and money and whatever and then peace out. It’s not helping anyone except themselves.Failed Missionary for Bright Magazine on the Christian missionary industrial complex.