Links & Contents I Liked 202

Hi all,

I am on the road during the next couple of days-but no reason for you to spend a weekend without interesting and hopefully inspiring reading suggestions!


Development news: Senegal is no country for young men; aid convoys-between easy targets and signs of hope; the political economy of ‘forgotten’ conflicts; Nigeria’s loses oil revenues-like billions of it; mining comes to Malawi; female tech activist struggle in the DRC; what’s the ‘world’s youngest dictator’ up to these days in Sierra Leone? Failed migration summit; who is reading UNDP publications? 


Our digital lives: Blogging under a pseudonym; H&M sells capitalistic ‘empowerment’; being elderly and homeless in the US

New publications featuring Bill Easterly, feminist activism and networks of control. 


Academia: The limitations of higher education conference travel.
Enjoy!

New from aidnography
Visions of Development (book review)

In many ways Peter Sutoris’ "Visions of Development: Films Division of India and the Imagination of Progress, 1948-75" is one of the most interesting historical case studies on ‘communication for development’ I have come across so far.
(...)
Based on the analysis of over 250 documentaries from the state-supported Films Division (FD) the book provides a historical overview over the evolution of the post-colonial development discourse in India and is also an important study on the history of documentary film-making from its origins to the peak of pre-digital production in the 1970s.
(...)
An accessible and enjoyable read from the first to the last page due to very diligent editorial guidance this book is clearly a recommended purchase for the communication, film studies and development communities!
Development news
No Country for Young Men

Despite being one of Africa's most stable and fastest-growing democracies, Senegal's average monthly income is less than $100, and around one in eight people are unemployed.
The surge in migrants has sparked debate globally about whether economic migrants should be treated differently to refugees fleeing conflict, and fuelled fears poverty will worsen and national stability come under threat if remittances dry up.
Uneducated, untrained and unemployed, Thiam and his peers in southeastern Tambacounda, one of Senegal's poorest regions, say they have been abandoned by the government - citing undeveloped land, few jobs, and a lack of vocational training schemes.
Kieran Guilbert reports for the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Senegal-adding important food for thought to the current debate around migration and refugees; we need 'development' now more than ever and looking at aggregated numbers in global poverty statistics won't help young men in Senegal; as urgent as the humanitarian crises are, there is still a less developed part of the world that deserves engagement and visions for the future 'at home'.

Editors’ take: The problem with aid convoys

It’s not that these publicity-laden convoys don’t have a role to play. They are intended to build confidence, show common purpose amongst UN agencies and the Red Cross movement, and call the bluff of slippery negotiators. Their very deliberate visibility is intended, in theory, as a form of insurance against attack and to discourage the conflict parties from reneging on agreements.
Ultimately, the analyst reckoned, “you’ve got to keep trying… some aid is better than none. That’s what it basically comes down to.”
As the current UN official put it: “convoys, no matter how seemingly meagre, are a glimmer of hope to those waiting for the aid. [But] when strikes on aid convoys occur, like those in Aleppo, it wipes out that hope along with any material assistance."
Ben Parker for IRIN News. As with a lot of 'on the ground work' and often criticized humanitarian engagement aid convoys deliver aid-but they also deliver a message of hope to affected people-and images for the global media industry that somebody is doing 'something'...

Why Some Wars (Like Syria’s) Get More Attention Than Others (Like Yemen’s)

But when the world asks why America has forgotten Yemen and other conflicts like it, that has the situation backward. The truth is that inattention is the default, not the exception.
(...)
'Two years before that, the “Kony 2012” video by the advocacy group Invisible Children brought wide attention to the Lord’s Resistance Army, rebels who had for years rained terror across northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic, but it faded away just as quickly.
Today there is little awareness of South Sudan’s continuing catastrophic collapse or the Central African Republic’s civil war. The civil war in Somalia simmers into its third decade, barely noticed.
Most conflicts are Yemens, not Syrias or Darfurs.
Amanda Taub for the New York Times on the political economy of 'forgotten' conflicts and wars.

Nigeria doesn’t know exactly how much oil it produces, but is pretty sure $17 billion is missing

“That’s part of where the corruption in industry is, because once the metering is done, there’ll be no more gaps or loopholes,” Oni said. “If we had efficient metering, there’s no way either party would be lying.”
Nigeria Officer at the Natural Resource Governance Institute Dauda Garuba says oil companies have rejected calls to put meters on oil infrastructure, saying it would be too expensive.
Chris Stein reporting from Nigeria for Quartz on the notoriously corrupt oil industry that brings together the worst aspects of the 'resource curse'; and in this day and age there is no way that measuring actual oil output is 'too expensive'. If you are interested in the bigger picture, I recently reviewed 'This Present Darkness' for the blog.

The Failed Promise of Mining Embitters Malawians

Malawi shouldn’t repeat the mistakes made by mining in other countries in Southern Africa, including in neighbouring Zambia and Zimbabwe. Malawi is still new to mining. There are opportunities for the government and investors to respect the rights of and minimise the risks for residents and natural ecosystems, even as they push for economic development.
It is not enough to create a fertile investment climate for mining companies. The government urgently needs to protect and respect the rights of people.
Katharina Rall for Human Rights Watch with a timely reminder to learn lessons about the negative side effects that will come to Malawi if it continues to explore mining possibilities...

Congo’s Female Tech Activists Risk Violence, Jail, and Rape to Speak Out

“Congolese women need to know their rights so they can defend themselves better,” she said. “I am happy to see that more women are going beyond our culture’s gender norms, but women are still underrepresented in the public sphere.”
Kait Bolongaro with an interesting story from DRC for VICE on the marginalization of women in the country.

My Bloody Valentine

Two hours passed. In that time, we’d covered the African roots of reggae and ska, and the poetry of pan-African idols like Léopold Senghor. But he’d mentioned nothing about his four years in power — in fact, anything about himself, really.
Monica Mark for Buzzfeed on the long, very long way down for Valentine Strasser, the world's youngest dictator from Sierra Leone that she tries to capture in a semi-successful with him.

Migration summit failed: 2 weeks later nothing has changed

The summit was destined to fail because there are few singular solution to the problems facing the tens of millions of refugees around the world. Human Rights Watch warned a month ahead of the summit that the biggest challenge would be defining the problem. Nigerians displaced by Boko Haram have different needs from Syrians uprooted by civil war and the persecuted Rohingya people in Myanmar. Additionally, new global problems such as climate change and food insecurity are displacing people from their homes and not counted as refugees by the U.N.
Tom Murphy for the Humanosphere...global summits, sigh...

Accountability, nation and society: the role of media in remaking Nepal

It outlines growing concerns over politicisation and co-option, particularly of the mainstream Kathmandu-based media, as well as other economic and technological challenges facing the media. The briefing further outlines how Nepal’s historically diverse and decentralised media market is increasingly showing signs of fragmentation and discord. It also examines the role that the international development community has played in supporting the Nepali media.
A new report from BBC Media Action. Nothing groundbreaking new really, but a good update on media development work in the country.

Who is reading UNDP’s publications – and why?

Going forward, we are making this qualitative feedback available to all our staff, so they will be able to look up their publication and go through all the individual comments the publication received. It is this kind of evidence that shows us where investment in the quality of our publications pays out, and where we need to switch gear, improve our efforts, or shift our focus entirely with regards to specific thematic areas. Most of all, it is these stories that inspire us as staff on a daily basis as they remind us why we are doing what we are doing in our pursuit of sustainable human development.
Johannes Schunter on UNDP's efforts to learn more about who and why people read their publications.

Our digital lives
What’s in a Name? Blogging under a Pseudonym

Aside from fears about pushback from leadership, there are other concerns. One such concern is the way that we see rank in the military. Senior officers could see my rank and dismiss me as not having the experience needed to address certain topics. Peers, junior officers, and NCO’s might see me as being a high-minded elitist prick who is just trying to get a better evaluation. Hopefully, readers will engage with the content and not care too much about the authorship. As the author behind The Military Leader put it, “I want the content to rule, not me.”
Angry Staff Officer's reasons for anonymity seem very similar to those who decide to blog anonymously in the aid industry.

Don’t Fall For the New H&M Campaign

Heck, H&M doesn’t stand for basic rights in general. Syrian refugee children were recently found working in its factories in Turkey, and last year’s Human Rights Watch report into Cambodia’s garment industry found factory staff were not allowed to refuse excessive overtime, but were not paid any overtime wages. Speaking of income, despite the Fair Wage Method project that H&M initiated in 2013 and rolled out to 20 of its factories in Cambodia, staff in the south-east Asian nation are still earning below the stipulated industry median of $178USD per month.
As for its purported stance on diversity and body positivity, one look inside a H&M store will tell you that’s puffery at best. Plus-size models may have rocked their bods in the autumn vid, but most H&M stores don’t even stock a plus-size range. Sydney’s Pitt St store is one of many without a plus-size department, and this month, every New York store pulled its plus-sized garments from its floors because, according to a H&M spokesperson, they don’t have room for it.
Gemma Clark for Digital Hobo on yet another campaign where a global company tries to sell 'empowerment' the cheap and easy way...

A third of the homeless people in America are over 50. I’m one of them.

It can be really tough to maintain a community. People I meet are often coming and going, dying, getting arrested, hospitalized, or leaving town. I have a few friends I have known for decades who are a godsend, helping to keep me sane by lending an ear via phone or email when I’m feeling down. But they live far away and have their own busy lives with families, jobs, and responsibilities. I don’t want to ask them for too much. A year ago, the most important person in my life passed away — my best friend, mentor, and teacher who encouraged me to write, travel, lead seminars, complete college, and more. Losses like these feel, and are, truly catastrophic.
It’s been easier to maintain a social life online. Wifi connections are cheap and easy to access by bringing my laptop to the library or by holing up at Starbucks for the small cost of an herbal tea. There, I blog, chat and keep in touch with a like-minded community of dog lovers. It’s a true moment of normalcy in my everyday life. My dog mamas and papas network has occasionally helped me out financially so that I can spend a few nights at a pet-friendly motel.
Celia Sue Hecht's long-read for Vox does not fit into categories neatly-but it is an important reflection on poverty, dignity and living on the 'margins' of society-and writing about it beautifully.

Hot off the digital press

The Economics of International Development

Foreign aid and development efforts often focus exclusively on technical solutions to the problem of poverty. There is a ‘technocratic illusion’ that we can ignore politics, and the battle of values between freedom and dictatorship. But, as economists or as development workers, we cannot do our work in a value-free, politics-free environment.
The Institute of Economic Affairs just published a lecture by Bill Easterly plus commentators as an open access ebook! This looks like an excellent primer his research and thinking!

Feminist Activism and the Politics of Reform: When and Why Do States Respond to Demands for Gender-Equality Policies?

However, one consequence of focusing on institutional factors is that the role of strategic choices made by feminist policy advocates is underestimated in explaining their successes. The article argues that understanding variation in the outcomes achieved by women’s rights advocates requires close attention to the strategic capacity of policy entrepreneurs, assessed in terms of three inter-related political skills: (i) “framing” policy demands; (ii) forming and managing civic alliances; and (iii) engaging with state entities without compromising organizational autonomy.
Anne-Marie Goetz and Rob Jenkins with a new paper for UNRISD.

Networks of Control

The collection, analysis and utilization of digital information based on our clicks, swipes, likes, purchases, movements, behaviors and interests have become part of everyday life. While individuals become increasingly transparent, companies take control of the recorded data in a non-transparent and unregulated way.
New open access publication edited by Wolfie Christl and Sarah Spiekermann.

Academia

Conference travel as a barrier to knowledge development

Barriers to an academic’s travel can impact on continuing professional development and the sharing of knowledge. Not all academics have the freedom at all times to travel to conferences or other academic events held outside their universities. This potentially has consequences for their professional development if, for example, they, are unable to attend a workshop at a conference which runs training in a novel research method. Where a conference is held will impact on who attends and, more so, who does not, which will then have a consequence for what is and isn’t discussed and so have implications for knowledge sharing. Unfortunately in this day and age, the barriers go beyond health concerns and distance; and instead reflect the politics of our times.
Donald Nicolson shares his reflections for the LSE's Impact Blog. I think he should have stressed the role of digital technology more. Opening up conferences to remote participation is not always a replacement for attendance on site, but I am always appalled to see how little attention is still paid to live streaming, Skype participation and even simple things like coming up with a Twitter hashtag.

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