Saturday Morning Reading #40

Here’s your Saturday morning reading featuring development reformers, change on a biblical scale, sexual harassment in Bangladesh, engaging with Nigel Farage, a cartoon on plunder in South Sudan, empowering people to advocate for themselves and resettling Syrian refugees…

  1. The mistakes made by most development reformers | Chris Blattman

This, along with the interview with Dani Rodrik it links to, really resonates with me. A question for the ‘thinking and working politically’ and ‘doing development differently’ crowds – how can you get governments to think in terms of adaptation when there are all sorts of incentives and norms against that kind of thinking?

“To me the important question is not “what is the right policy?”, but “what is the process for generating good policies over time?”, and more importantly “how to get governments and aid organizations to adapt to the good and throw out the bad?”.

I don’t know a good answer. To me, this is what makes most development aid and planning not just fruitless but downright dangerous.”

  1. We need a new Jubilee campaign to achieve equality and sustainability | Alex Evans – The Guardian

Tearfund have released an interesting new report looking at how we can frame ideas of equality and sustainability in a biblical context to build deep movements for change.

“To resolve the problem, a transformation of our economy is needed. And given the formidable barriers to this happening – inertia, vested interests, institutions built for another age, public apathy – a new theory of influence is needed too.

As the report sets out, this is going to mean less time spent on insider lobbying and more on building a movement that lives the values of a restorative economy and mobilises to demand political change – exactly what we saw in the US civil rights struggle, the campaign to abolish slavery, and other movements that have overcome apparently impossible odds.”

Also read about it on Alex’s blog.

  1. React every which way | Rachel Kurzyp – WhyDev

A discussion of the everyday realities of sexual harassment for a white Australian female living overseas.

“Sexual harassment is only a symptom of a much larger and complex issue of gender inequality as we all know but for those of us who don’t have to experience every day it’s hard to imagine just how unavoidable the issue is and more importantly the right way to react. After six months of the violating stares and leering comments I still don’t know what to do.”

  1. Nigel Farage is wrong on the aid budget – but it’s an argument that’s worth having | David Hudson  Global Development Professionals Network

“We can’t just dismiss Ukip and more general concerns about the aid budget and DfID as wrong and bigoted. That won’t achieve anything. Instead we need to make the public case for development in a way that makes sense, simple but honest. This – winning the argument and allowing people to engage – is a political and emotional task, not an intellectual or moral one.”

  1. South Sudan: Who Got What? | Alex de Waal & Victor Ndula

A comic written by Alex de Waal, who many consider to be one of the world’s leading experts on South Sudan, and drawn by Victor Ndula, one of Africa’s leading comic artists as well as editorial cartoonist for the Nairobi Star. In 8 pages it explains how South Sudan was bankrupt and at war within just three years after independence.

  1. Going from “On Behalf of” to the Whole Story | Ruth Levine – Hewlett Foundation

There is something crucial missing—it’s the voice of people who should be setting the agenda for their own better futures, and telling their own story to educate and persuade. To me, the active participation of people who are directly affected by bad policies is essential to the most powerful and sustained kind of advocacy, the kind that will demand the right responses. And it’s just not there often enough.”

  1. UK Election Notes: Foreign Policy Opportunities – Resettling Syrian Refugees | Dr Neil Quilliam – Chatham House

An opportunity for the next UK government with wins all round.

“A change in policy on resettlement and humanitarian admission would not only be a symbolic act of moral leadership, but would also serve the government’s policy of supporting stability in the Middle East and offer long-term benefits for British national life, foreign policy and security.”

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.”

Saturday Morning Reading #5

Here’s your (early) Saturday morning reading (scuba in the morning!) featuring wishes for 2014, drugs, inequality and South Sudan:

1) Nancy Birdsall, President of CGD, gives her crowdsourced top ten wishes for development policy in 2014 including tobacco control, tropical forests and antibiotics

2) Related to the above, Duncan Green highlights the new generation of development issues, especially diets and drugs:

“The positive aspect of the story is that governments, scientists and others in the North have lots of experience in these issues, and their advice and assistance would probably be a lot more useful to developing countries than banging on about stuff the rich world is currently not very good at (growth, jobs, smallscale agriculture etc)”

3) Andy Norton from ODI says that while inter-country inequality is decreasing, inter-personal inequality is increasing within countries with implications for social disorder. However, the good news is that Ben Phillips of Oxfam suggests “the struggle against inequality is a transformational campaign we can win”.

4) Two pieces of analysis on the conflict in South Sudan:
First, via Aid Leap: “What are the chances of success for the Addis Ababa talks?
Zero. They are non-existent. This is war. The winner will be he who ousts the other militarily and diplomatically. ”

And from Think Africa Press: “Transitioning from war to peace is not a technical exercise but a highly political process. South Sudan was born amidst ongoing political power plays, deep divisions and conflict at many levels − issues that remain unresolved”

Saturday morning reading #4

Here’s your Saturday morning reading:

1) POSITIVE: Inspiring stories from South Sudan. E.g. ” A Juba suburb has organised community patrols comprising of Nuer and Dinka men tasked with protecting all members of their community.”

2) NEGATIVE: Goodbye to an ominous year
“Though certainly depressing, the observation that 2013 was a bad year is fairly unimportant. More worrisome is the prospect that 2013 signals a dangerous trend, even while experts tell us there has never been so much peace in the world.”

3) GEEKY: The development hype cycle…
“First, I want to amend the hype cycle framework to make it work better for development ideas. Second, I want to plot out where various popular ideas currently sit.”

4) FOOD:
Part 1: I expect this will be controversial…
From the Economist: “Intensive livestock farming is more efficient and environmentally friendlier. It is essential to combat the destructive trend of traditional pastoralism.”

Part 2: New report on obesity in developing countries from the ODI.
The upshot? “Governments need to explore the scope for combining small changes and incentives to improve diets.”

5) PREDICTIONS: Outgoing IDS Director Lawrence Haddad makes six predictions for 2014
Including: Get ready for more crap along the lines of “Cut the Green Crap”