Saturday Morning Reading #37

Here’s your Saturday morning reading featuring sustainable development goals, volunteering, South Sudan, thinking about development as a process not a project, and farming in Uganda…

1. Sustainable Development Goals

a) The 169 commandments | The Economist

“Developing countries seem to think that the more goals there are, the more aid money they will receive. They are wrong. The SDGs are unfeasibly expensive. Meeting them would cost $2 trillion-3 trillion a year of public and private money over 15 years. That is roughly 15% of annual global savings, or 4% of world GDP. At the moment, Western governments promise to provide 0.7% of GDP in aid, and in fact stump up only about a third of that. Planning to spend many times the amount that countries fail to give today is pure fantasy.”

b) SDG Targets: Here’s How to Make Them Stronger | Charles Kenny – Center For Global Development

CGD suggest many tweaks to the SDGs draft – increasing the poverty line, lowering the required rate of economic growth and more useful indicators.

More on poverty lines and health.

2. The professionalization of development volunteering – towards a new global precariat? | Tobias Denskus – Aidnography

Great to see a political economy angle on the volunteering debate.
“An ‘experience industry’ is now linked to the regular development industry that demands more qualifications and skills while at the same time contributing to precarious quasi-employment that often masks the challenges of over-supply of young professionals and shifting dynamics in global development engagement away from the traditional ‘North-South’ flow.

I will arrange my reflections around two key points: First, the paradox that rightly demands better educated aid professionals, but not necessarily links them to equally professional work and salaries.

And second, a growing ‘volunteering industry’ that usually brings together state, civil society and academia, but that is more likely to contribute to a depoliticized ‘employability’ discourse than meaningful political engagement over development policy and practice.”

“Well-meaning teachers, academics, policy-makers and NGO staff need to critically engage beyond the ‘any money for development is better than nothing ’ argument .”

3. South Sudan: war without end | Richard Dowden – African Arguments

Depressing. It’s difficult to see the way out.

“What, I kept thinking, have the Southern Sudanese learnt from the rest of Africa’s post-independence mistakes over the last 50 years? How could South Sudan avoid the coups and bitter personal enmities that rivals tribalised to make war on each other? Who was able to stop the gross theft of state funds? Why did so many African rulers live in paranoid secrecy and total security? Above all why did those rulers lack any interest in development for their own people? I had seen it in Idi Amin’s Uganda, in Moi’s Kenya, in Mobutu’s Congo, in Abacha’s Nigeria, in Houphouet-Boigny’s Cote d’Ivoire. And here, now, in 2015, in Africa’s newest country all those criminals are being mimicked by this scarcely literate clown in a black cowboy hat.”

4. Why it’s time to stop thinking of development as a project | Stephanie Buck – Until the Lions

“Projects have a start and a finish. They have goals and objectives to meet. There should be some sort of visible result at the end. They are designed in advance, often from a distance. Their design usually struggles to adapt to different or changing realities on the ground.
Processes are fluid. They adapt to their environments. They are not seen as ends in themselves. They adjust as needed and are part of long-term, systemic change.

We know that development is hard. We know it takes time. We know that it means something different in each context and culture.

Yet international development activities continue to be funded as isolated projects. If we’re lucky, it will be a series of projects meant to build on each other. But even these often don’t get to the root challenges. The lack of coordination, and lack of focus on processes and institutions remains troubling.”

5. #FreeTheSeed and the Romanticization of Uganda’s Hunger | Francisco Toro – Campaign for Boring Development

“The prevalence of undernourishment has actually risen in Uganda, from 27.1% of the population in 1991 to 30.1% in 2013.

Nobody who has actually sat down to look at the realities of farming and food security in Uganda in detail can miss the fact that without much better farming technology able to substantially increase yields, these trends are going to continue. Techniques like shifting cultivation that made some sense two generations ago are not viable in the vastly changed social circumstances of 2015.

Improved Seed – no need for scare-quotes here guys, they really are better – when used alongside better agronomic techniques and reasonable amounts of fertilizers, have been shown to multiply smallholder yields up to sevenfold within a single season.”

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