Links & Contents I Liked 499

Hi all,

Capitalism suggests that today is Black Friday in connection with another holiday in the US, so why not treat yourself to some free readings instead :) ?!?

News from inside #globaldev organizations, from the Amazon rainforest to the Congo basin, from Puerto Rico to India plus beautiful essays, book reviews & more!


My quotes of the week
Life has accelerated, attention spans have shortened. Awareness of the limitations of top-down development has grown. I haven’t read any of those big docs for years. So the arrival of the first UK Government ‘White Paper on International Development’ since 2009, launched on Monday, had a distinctly retro feel.
What to read on the new UK White Paper on International Development?)

Here are five ideas for improvement:
1. Brand your building, vehicles, or team uniforms — not the supplies or gifts.
2. Use a unique identifier like a barcode if you need tracking or traceability.
3. Communicate stories — not just pictures of logos — to donors back home.
4. Never let branding interfere with what’s right/best/fastest for implementation.
5. Invite communities to co-design the branding on items they will use or wear.
(The global south isn’t a billboard, big aid brands)

Development news
What to read on the new UK White Paper on International Development?
That era has passed now – at least for me. Life has accelerated, attention spans have shortened. Awareness of the limitations of top-down development has grown. I haven’t read any of those big docs for years. So the arrival of the first UK Government ‘White Paper on International Development’ since 2009, launched on Monday, had a distinctly retro feel. I nostalgically skimmed its 149 pages, but then decided (back to short attention span) the best thing would be to put together a series of quotes and links to the more interesting commentaries/critiques to emerge (rather than those that just cherry pick or suck up to the government).
I wholeheartedly share Duncan Green's sentiment he shares on fp2p; whatever Tory governments claim about #globaldev will change anyway, funding pledges will be ignored & today's evidence will be tomorrow's 'well we have to reverse the policy because of British tax payers..."

Why do people come to the UK? To work

The UK government published some really interesting visa stats & I wonder whether there needs to be a discussion about the astronomical rise in Nigerian & Zimbabwean health & care workers and what they mean for national health systems and debates about 'brain drain', remittances & necessity for migration to Europe...

Fears of all-out ethnic war rise in Sudan’s Darfur
The next major battle in Sudan’s civil war between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) could spiral into all-out ethnic violence that puts entire communities at risk, residents, experts and aid groups told Al Jazeera.
Local monitors say the incident may have been the single largest act of mass killing since the war began. Alan Boswell, an expert on Sudan for International Crisis Group, a non-profit committed to ending and preventing conflicts worldwide, warned that similar atrocities could unfold in North Darfur. “There is a huge risk of a military fight [in North Darfur] turning into ethnic violence and atrocities like what occurred in West Darfur,” Boswell told Al Jazeera.
Mat Nashed for Al Jazeera on another genocidal situation where nobody seems to have any responsibility to protect...

The incident is a major embarrassment to Ethiopia’s reputation as Africa’s diplomatic capital and headquarters of the African Union. In the last three years, the nation has been forced to grapple with the reality of conflicts and violence hurting its reputation as a hub for foreign direct investments.
Key parts of the country remain in conflict amid loss of investments and destruction of critical infrastructure. The bulk of industrial parks are currently deserted as a result of Ethiopia’s removal from preferential trade agreements, including the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
Samuel Getachew & Yinka Adegoke for Semafor on a diplomatic incident in Addis Ababa.

The World Food Program’s Boss Faces Backlash for Attending an Event Honoring Israel

“Her attendance showed quite a degree of tone-deafness,” said Mukesh Kapila, a former UN official in Sudan, who writes about global health and humanitarian aid, commenting on McCain’s attendance for PassBlue. “It’s an ethical breach of the duty of neutrality. The World Food Program has a responsibility to help people of all sides.”
The internal email circulating among the World Food Program’s staff regarding their boss’s role at the event, seen by PassBlue, says that many personnel “have concerns around the ethics and neutrality of such representation.”
The letter reveals the internal dissent among staff and others connected to the UN going public over the unending devastation of the war on civilians.
Anastasiia Carrier's piece for PassBlue is one of several that highlights the growing dissatisfaction of UN staff with their leadership; both WFP and UNICEF are led by Americans & as long as leadership decisions are based primarily on a passport the overall UN system will be weakened. More on this developing story in today's DevEx Newswire.

Amazon region hit by trio of droughts in grim snapshot of the century to come
The Amazon is facing an unprecedented drought that is projected to continue affecting the region at least until mid-2024. The lowest water levels in 121 years of river-level records have been recorded in the city of Manaus. Vast areas of the Amazon River’s bed have been exposed, and more than 150 dolphins died in a lake where water temperatures reached 39°C (2°C above human body temperature). Human populations along Amazonian rivers have been isolated, stripped of their livelihoods and lack basic necessities.
This year has brought three kinds of drought simultaneously, resulting in practically the entire Amazon region being affected. The forecast for November 2023 through January 2024 is for drought across almost the whole region. Some projected rain in Peru may help with water levels in the Amazon River, but the wider region remains exposed to drought stress and forest fires.
Philip Fearnside & Rosimeire Araújo Silva for the Conversation on another frontline of the climate crisis.

Online Atrocity Databased Exposed Thousands of Vulnerable People in Congo
But the KST’s lax security protocols appear to have accidentally doxxed up to 8,000 people, including activists, sexual assault survivors, United Nations staff, Congolese government officials, local journalists, and victims of attacks, an Intercept analysis found. Hundreds of documents — including 165 spreadsheets — that were on a public server contained the names, locations, phone numbers, and organizational affiliations of those sources, as well as sensitive information about some 17,000 “security incidents,” such as mass killings, torture, and attacks on peaceful protesters.
The data was available via KST’s main website, and anyone with an internet connection could access it. The information appears to have been publicly available on the internet for more than four years.
The fallout from the exposure of the data may extend far beyond the breach of academic or NGO protocols. “Given the lack of security on KST’s website, it’s possible that intelligence agencies in Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, DRC, and elsewhere have been accessing and mining this data for years,” Fahey said. “It is also possible that Congolese armed groups and national security forces have monitored who said what to KST staff.”
Robert Flummerfelt & Nick Turse for the Intercept with a story that definitely deserves more attention-especially since this is not just about breaching data protocols, but about the real-life impacts of such oversight...

‘They’ll have to kill me first’: locals in DR Congo oppose plans to drill for oil
The government has so far struggled to attract bidders for the oil blocks, and some major companies, such as TotalEnergies, have said they will not take part. Finding funding and insurance for projects to extract oil in the rainforest may also prove difficult. Many financial institutions have committed to ensuring that any projects they support have the free, prior and informed consent of affected communities. Generali, Hannover Re, Talanx and Zurich have, according to Greenpeace, ruled out providing cover for oil and gas blocks in the DRC. Hannover Re said this was due to “expectations and exclusions” relating to environment, social and governance issues.
The lack of consent from the communities that TBIJ visited was evident. They may not have been consulted, but many have heard rumours of the auction. Seeing a group of outsiders speeding through the village on motorbikes and assuming they were there to take the oil, local people shouted: “Thieves!”, “We refuse!” and “Get out of here!”
Josephine Moulds for the Guardian on how not to approach natural resource management...

The Price of Goodbye: How the Economy Is Changing Funerals in Puerto Rico
“Costs are prohibitive for everyone,” says Benjamín Rosario, the owner of Funeraria San Francisco, a funeral home. In response, he has adjusted the services he offers. Wakes that used to be held in people’s homes are now held at the funeral home, and they have been reduced to a maximum of 12 hours. “Less time, less water, less electricity means less expense,” he explains. These factors have contributed to a decline in funerary rites that were once commonplace.
Coraly Cruz Mejías for Global Press Journal on the cost of living crisis in Puerto Rico.

The global south isn’t a billboard, big aid brands
Here are five ideas for improvement:
1. Brand your building, vehicles, or team uniforms — not the supplies or gifts.
2. Use a unique identifier like a barcode if you need tracking or traceability.
3. Communicate stories — not just pictures of logos — to donors back home.
4. Never let branding interfere with what’s right/best/fastest for implementation.
5. Invite communities to co-design the branding on items they will use or wear.
Kevin L. Brown for DevEx continues one of the 'classic' debates in communicating development & the role of branding stuff...

Harvesting My Father’s Mementos
Archives, no matter how robust, are never complete. Insects eat what humans leave behind, and humans make errors in the first place. Many town and village names in Nigeria were changed by colonial officers who couldn’t spell local words. In my father’s notebooks, his children’s birth records are scattered. Our births are recorded on different pages, along with deaths. There is a birth record of a brother born on June 11, 1956. He died before I was born. I also read that my mother lost a daughter on the morning of December 29, 1953 and gave birth to another girl later that same day. How do you mourn and rejoice at the same time? The notebooks do not tell me. I know only what my father saw fit to record: “My wife boon girl. 29.12.53.”
Victor Ehikhamenor's story in Guernica was published in 2021, but as far as my archival research goes, has not been featured on the blog before...and who really cares-it's a stunningly beautiful piece of writing!

Absorbing pressure: Bodily ‘tension’ in a changing Himalayan world
The Gaddi community of the Indian Himalayas experience the present as fraught with various, entangled pressures – pressure to ensure upward social mobility and inclusion in India’s middle class, pressure to secure stable domestic incomes, pressure to maintain sexual and gendered propriety. Written by Nikita Simpson, this piece examines how such pressures are not evenly distributed across the community but are absorbed by particular people through the experience of bodily and mental ‘tension’. ‘tension’, Simpson argues, both registers these pressures in the body, and allows people to push back against them, issuing a particular and paradoxical account of power and the body.
Nikita Simpson for Developing Economics shares some beautiful anthropological-socilogical-psychological reflections from her field work in rural India.

Challenging Global Development while Defending Modernity and Enlightenment Thought
I would propose that global development is perhaps best seen as a creative approach to thinking relationally about development processes in ways that disrupt North-South binaries. This may, directly or indirectly, include decoloniality and justice, but also many other things. It definitely includes a focus on thinking from the Global South to understand the Global Norths. Yes, the terminologies of North and South again suggest binaries, but we still need a language to be able to communicate in a way that is widely understood, so for now these terms seem to fulfil this requirement. It also includes new exploration of transnational flows and relationships. Not a great new theory, but if a theory is needed at all, it should be one that builds on the possibilities of modernity and the as yet too often unfulfilled promises of enlightenment thought.
Tanja Müller for EADI introduces their latest open access edited collection.

The unintended consequences of aid
As a social scientist, I have my quibbles with Koch’s approach too: focusing solely on cases where unintended consequences occur (technically selecting on the dependent variable) allows him probe to the problem he wants to describe from many different angles. But it has the unintended consequence of making it seem as if unintended consequences are ubiquitous in the world of aid. Perhaps. But possibly most aid projects succeed, absent unintended consequences, or because the impact of any unintended consequences is small. Or maybe most aid projects fail simply because they’re so poorly conceived their intended consequences simply aren’t realised.
Terence Wood for DevPolicyBlog reviews Dirk-Jan Koch's book.

Reading corner
Knowledge in Times of Crisis: Transforming Research-to-Policy Approaches
This issue of the IDS Bulletin presents learning gathered from rapidly mobilised Southern-led research by institutions who designed and delivered research aimed at influencing the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The IDS Bulletin explores the particular characteristics of Southern research organisations that were able to mobilise quickly. It discusses the types of knowledge that were needed in these unique circumstances, and how organisations mobilised knowledge in an emergency to facilitate engagement and influence response to a global challenge with local implications.
A new IDS Bulletin just dropped-as always, completely open access & with articles in Arabic + Spanish!

Why do we still measure state fragility?
Reviewing the selected indices reveals that they can be indeed a source of useful signal. However, there can also be worthless noise associated with these indices because of the identified cross-reference issue between the indices, problems of double-counting or time lag in data. The paper argues that it would rather complicate than aid to believe that there is a particular index that is better than another. Instead, it encourages a more nuanced understanding of different fragility indices and concludes with offering insights into how to make sense of them.
Gulzhan Asylbek kyzy, Gary Milante, Zina Nimeh & Kaj Thomsson for UNU-MERIT with a new a discussion on one of the things every academic & #globaldev person likes-measuring & ranking stuff ;) ...

The failure to fund refugee-led organisations
This failure to fund RLOs is (when taken at face value) puzzling. Firstly, RLOs are an important cog in the refugee-response machine. They provide essential services to their communities, as documented by the growing body of research and evidence into the scale, scope and impact of their work (Essex-Lettieri, 2022; Kara et al., 2022; El Abed et al., 2023). RLOs are also more likely to lead responses that are accountable, legitimate, transparent, effective and impactful (Asylum Access, 2021). But RLOs are not just service providers – they are also best placed to articulate the needs of their communities and influence policy from above. RLO networks and coalitions are already pushing the international refugee regime to innovate and adapt. Viewed from this perspective, the failure to fund RLOs not only compounds gaps in refugee service provision, it is also a missed opportunity for strengthening the international refugee regime from the inside.
Caitlin Sturridge, Fran Girling-Morris, Alexandra Spencer, Andhira Kara & Carina Chicet with a new report from ODI's Humanitarian Policy Group with a new report.

What we were reading 5 years ago
(Link review 287, 22 June 2018)

In response to Duncan Green: My 9 development trends and their implications for tomorrow’s aid jobs
Generally speaking, I don’t like the word ‘trend’ and I genuinely believe that over the next 2-5 years many parameters will pretty much stay the same. I don’t really like talk about ‘revolutions’, ‘disruptions’ or claims about ‘innovations that will change X, Y or Z’. I also believe that many trends are actually macro trends about how life/work/the world are changing rather than changes that are unique to the aid industry. So when it comes to the organizational architecture of how development ‘works’, a lot of things will remain the same...BUT
Me on a few developments in the #globaldev sector...this was obviously written before the pandemic, but I'm generally pleased how well this post from 2018 aged...

Linking Aid to Migration: A worrying direction of travel
There are some key things that humanitarian and development agencies must avoid if they are to navigate this highly political area without compromising on their principles and harming the very people they exist to help. They must not:
Engage in refoulement (the forcible return of refugees), or involuntary returns of migrants in any situation. (...)
Engage in projects (or activities within wider projects) which offer humanitarian assistance or other aid to people which is contingent on them surrendering or limiting their rights, or making agreements which limit their future choices and may not be in their own best interests. (...)
Engage in projects where participants or beneficiaries are selected based on whether they are ‘potential migrants’, or report on indicators related to the number of migrants stopped due to programming (...)
Engage in projects with implicit or explicit migration-related objectives unless it’s clear that the activities are in their own right beneficial to the people they seek to help. Projects which aim to make migration safer, or offer sustainable and beneficial alternatives to migration without discouraging or preventing migration, may be justifiable. Nonetheless, great care should be taken to analyse and understand the potential consequences of involvement in such projects.
Engage in projects which support reintegration of returnees in their countries or locations of origin unless that return is voluntary and safe, and returnees have adequate protection (including from sufficient access by NGOs). (...)
Tom Newby for CARE Insights on the aid sector needs to be more careful, critical and outspoken when it comes to the merger of migration and development funding and projects; 5 years later it is relatively safe to say that the discourse has shifted in exactly the wrong direction...

The Decolonial Turn 2.0: the reckoning
As I watched events unfold online this week, I was buoyed by how people were speaking UP. After years of witnessing and experiencing grievously unprofessional and racist/sexist/elitist behaviour from so-called ‘leading’ anthropologists, my little heart soared. People are ANGRY! People are demanding CHANGE! This makes me imagine what our own version of Ragnarök might look like — the death of epistemic jealousy, the reckoning of racism, misogyny, classism, exploitation in our departments, classrooms, conference halls, and yes, journals. And the refounding of a configuration of thinking and engagement that centres reciprocity, generosity, fair compensation, and accountability at its core.
Zoe Todd for Anthrodendum on how academic disciplines can truly decolonize; 5 years later we can definitely say that anthropology has been starting to change, but not as quickly & profoundly as some would have liked.


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