#MenToo

#MenToo

It is 28 days since actress Alyssa Milano’s infamous tweet that sparked a social media debate about men’s behaviour towards women and globally engendered power imbalances. The #MeToo campaign has since been attributed to Tarana Burke’s 2006 grassroots campaign on MySpace, which was aimed at creating ‘empowerment through empathy’, particularly among women of colour from underprivileged communities. #MeToo is no doubt very different to what Burke envisaged in 2006, with less of a focus on race and privilege and more concern with sexual harassment and assault. Her campaign dealt with a different but no less important form of discrimination, however without major celebrity support failed to gain the same level of public attention as the more recent #MeToo.

The conversation about sexual harassment in its current online form goes back much further than the #MeToo campaign. After all, #MeToo came about on the anniversary of the 2005 Access Hollywood tape in which US president Donald Trump bragged “when you’re a star, they let you do it”. The response to Trump’s misogynistic comments in 2005 was similar to that of the recent Harvey Weinstein revelations and resulted in the #NotOkay campaign.

So, what has changed between #NotOkay and #MeToo? First, the effects of #MeToo have been visible, not only in the ramifications for Harvey Weinstein but for a number of other men. Sam Kriss, a journalist for Vice, Rupert Myers, political correspondent for Vox Media and Lockhart Steele, editorial director at Vox Media were all fired after sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations came to light as a result of the campaign. Perhaps actions do have consequences after all.

Second and perhaps most encouraging is #MeToo’s male representation, response, and engagement. A factor mentioned in many articles discussing the campaign is the detached representation of men as supporters. This is not to deny that the majority of sexual harassment and sexual assault cases are perpetrated by men and suffered by women. Neither is it to shift the focus of the campaign away from empowering women to become more vocal. But if the purpose of the conversation is to truly change some men’s behaviour, then we need to enter into a meaningful dialogue with them, by acknowledging, involving and challenging them to discuss.

I will be the first to admit that it is very difficult, as a man, to accept there will be men I know who have committed acts of sexual harassment or even sexual assault. Although they are not representative of all men, there is more we can do as men to challenge these aggressors and stand with women. And there are men that have done just that. Benjamin Law, an Australian journalist, and screenwriter responded by taking to Twitter and create a brothering hashtag to #MeToo entitled #HowIWillChange.

Not all reaction to the #HowIWillChange hashtag was positive, however. While a number of men began to tweet how they would change their behaviour in support of #MeToo, others saw this new hashtag as an attack on their personal characters and values. They began tweeting responses:

“#HowIWillChange – I Won’t. I’m not a bad guy. I won’t be forced to feel like one.”

I can’t help feeling that these men are involving themselves in a campaign they do not fully understand.

They are not the only misguided commentators within this discussion. Margaret Wente, a columnist for Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail, among other simplistic comments wrote “The vast majority of men are not violent sexual abusers… and to sort of tar the whole male gender with this problem is very unfair to men”. There have been many responses to #MeToo, but it is difficult to evidence an indiscriminate tarring of the male gender. If men feel similar to those referred to above, that they are scrutinised under the same behavioural microscope as women are daily, then I say good. Empathy is an important lesson.

While it is optimistic to think that the #MeToo campaign can change an entire oppressive system, what it has provided – for me at least – is insight into the scale and frequency of the oppression women face daily through stories from women in my life. What the campaign hasn’t done is reveal the full extent of the problem. I’m well aware that there will be many women out there, probably some of whom I know well, who didn’t take part in the campaign for various personal reasons. But what they should know is that should they choose to speak, they won’t be alone. It isn’t their fault. It’s the man’s fault. And if they stand up to him, I and other men like me will stand with them.

 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

Exit Priti Patel

Exit Priti Patel
Penny_Mordaunt_image
The New International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt / Gareth Milner

Penny Mordaunt has been appointed the new International Development Secretary after Priti Patel was forced to resign on 9th November. The resignation came after a string of unauthorised meetings with Israeli officials, including in the politically sensitive region Golan Heights.

Will Patel will be missed by DfID officials?  She belongs to a group of Conservative party politicians rumoured to want the department to be folded back into the Foreign Office and for the pledge to spend 0.7% of gross national income on aid to be cut.  A quarter of all aid money is now being spent by other government departments, and ministers are now shared with the Foreign Office. According to Steve Bloomfield in Prospect magazine, Patel’s leadership is part of the reason for morale being the lowest it has ever been among civil servants in the department.

With Priti Patel leaving, the door was open for the Prime Minister to appoint someone with a passion for the brief who could re-energise the department. A strong supporter of the UK’s aid budget commitment of 0.7% of gross national income would have sent a clear message to the department and the wider development community. Rory Stewart would perhaps have been an appropriate choice, given his experience in the diplomatic service, where he governed two provinces in Iraq, as well as his work in Afghanistan where he set up Turquoise Mountain, an NGO. Alistair Burt, the Minister of State for International Development and the Middle-East at the Foreign Office also deserves a mention. Nicky Morgan too, is an experienced politician, having served in government, and voiced her support for the UK’s aid budget recently, arguing for increased investment in water and sanitation.

Despite this, there were reports that May was under pressure from the Europhobe wing of her party and the right-wing press (who have been hostile to foreign aid) to appoint a Brexiteer. May made time for a banquet celebrating the Daily Mail editor’s 25 years in the role on the night of Priti Patel’s resignation. Then Mordaunt was appointed.

Judging by her tone in the build up to the EU referendum, DfID officials will probably be sceptical about Mordaunt. She suggested that Turkey was about to join the EU and seized on the Leave campaign’s anti-immigrant tone. She hardly seems like the global citizen that would be welcomed by the development community.

The appointment of Mordaunt is a missed opportunity to reconcile with the more socially liberal wing of the Conservatives and the UK as a whole. Appointing a Remainer could have sent positive signals to the more progressive and younger voters that the Conservatives lost in the general election. That May did not take this opportunity, suggests perhaps she is being held hostage by a coalition of pro-Brexit MPs, party donors and the right-wing press – who recently tried to discredit universities by accusing them of influencing students to support Remain.

The episode begs the question: are people are being appointed to government posts solely because they are suitable, or must they be loyal Brexiteers as well? Without someone who will boost the department, the very existence of DfID is at risk, with the Foreign Office looking to take more control, and another Secretary of State happy to allow the department’s decline.

What do you think?

Read Penny Mordaunt’s article for the Daily Telegraph here

Read the full article in Prospect magazine The war on aid: the hidden battle inside Priti Patel’s own department

 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

A charity that deserves to sparkle

A charity that deserves to sparkle

‘Empowering children of today, for a better tomorrow’ is the motto of The Sparkle Foundation, a UK charity making strides to provide education, nutrition, and medical support through small-scale sustainable projects for communities in Malawi, Africa.

Malawi is an underdeveloped and largely agricultural country, weakened by hardships such as HIV, Aids, and corruption. The country is one of the poorest in the world, with half the population living below the poverty line.

The Sparkle Foundation was founded by Sarah Brook in the town of Lytham St Annes in Lancashire, North West England, after she travelled there during her gap year. It was at the young age of eighteen that she embarked upon her mission to trigger change in Malawi, initially starting in a small village called Sogoja, with aspirations to help communities worldwide. Sarah has since spoken across the globe in schools, universities, and various companies, as well as being featured on television, radio, and newspapers. In 2016, she gained the title of United Arab Emirates Woman of the Month.

Ted Talk by Sarah Brook, CEO of The Sparkle Foundation

Sparkle Malawi has a vision for long-term sustainable impact and aims to do this in four ways. Firstly, through achieving sustainability. Two-year time limits are set on initiatives aiming to help communities utilise the ‘Malawi model’, which implements methods using natural resources to encourage self-sufficiency.

The foundation has its own health and nutrition program which early this year introduced health evaluations of all children involved. The program provides them with meals and safe drinking water, a huge majority of which comes from the locally grown ingredients in the communities.

Education is a third priority. The charity is currently devising a curriculum for children aged two up to the age of eighteen. For younger participants there is an early childhood program, providing a fun and educational nursery for those up to the age of six. Older children attend local schools in the morning, and then in the afternoon, classes are in place to help them develop skills to assist in securing job pathways by the time they reach eighteen.

The foundation has also partnered with the Malawian health department to provide medical support to the communities. A nurse ensures check-ups and any necessary vaccinations are provided on a monthly basis. Local team members are trained in first aid, there is a medical clinic on site, and advice can be provided for a variety of medical ailments.

The success of these initiatives has come from the great work of volunteers both in Malawi and those in the United Kingdom.

Sparkle Malawi turns on the first electrically pumped borehole in Zomba district

How can you get involved?

The Sparkle Foundation hosts a range of events to fundraise for these projects. This year the Sparkle Sevens Rugby Tournament was a storming success, raising close to £10,000 and attracting more than 700 supporters. The foundation also challenges supporters to complete the iconic Brighton Marathon in April, and this year won a golden ballot spot for the London Marathon.

School mum Theresa Ruscoe is raising money from selling second-hand goods on eBay, and creating change from her home at no cost at all. Alternatively, you can make a difference simply by donating or sponsoring either a meal or a child, and there are also volunteering opportunities.

To find out more go to: sparklemalawi.org/volunteer or email info@sparklemalawi.org

 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

Does short-term volunteering abroad do more harm than good?

Does short-term volunteering abroad do more harm than good?

 

This month the London International Development Centre (LIDC) with The Guardian Global Development Network hosted a talk on voluntourism as part of a series of panel debates on key issues in international development. Speakers included Tricia Barnett, Director at Equality in Tourism, Dr. Jim Butcher, Reader in the Geography of Tourism at Canterbury Christ Church University and Alex Kent, International Director of Strategy at Restless Development. Shefali Shah went along to find out more.

It is a question that has long been debated in international development. Whether you are a student or graduate looking to gain experience abroad, or a skilled professional wanting to do more, most people choosing to volunteer overseas are motivated by a private desire to help. And there is no shortage of organisations, both public and private, offering such opportunities. From gap year placements on conservation or teaching projects to DfID’s International Citizen Service (ICS), 50,000 volunteers are placed overseas each year through 85 organisations in the UK alone.

But what difference can those volunteering overseas on short-term projects really expect to make when development is so complex? And what should organisations and volunteers themselves be doing to make the most of what they have to offer?

Volunteering versus voluntourism

So-called voluntourism, a combination of volunteering and travel, offers tourists the chance to experience a developing country and its culture while lending support to a local community.

The idea that just anyone can make a difference to development in a short period of time has faced intense scrutiny and not only from development experts. Tricia Barnett, Director at Equality Tourism described voluntourism as being “[about] us versus them, those with versus those without, the strong versus the weak.”

Where volunteers are selected for the experience or their ability to pay, this can lead to gaps in culture, status, and background. As a result, voluntourism places the needs of the volunteer above those of the communities they help, focusing more on what the volunteer wants to do, rather than the skills they can bring.

In an industry worth around $173 billion each year, companies can often be seen to be gaining more than the disadvantaged communities they work with. The NGO Lumos recently reported on the impact of orphanage voluntourism in Haiti. Philanthropic funds from overseas are creating an incentive for child trafficking such that orphanage directors were found to be recruiting children to their orphanages for profit.

Whether it is profit or advantage among other businesses, voluntourism is often sold as a means of enhancing an individual’s CV. And as anyone wanting to work in the international development sector knows, experience overseas can be crucial in standing out amongst the competition.

Who really benefits?

From millennials to Generation X, young people today are more engaged in global issues. More than 80% see it as their duty to change the world. A lack of trust in Western governments alongside growing inequality, climate change, migration, and unemployment has meant youth are increasingly looking to society to take on global citizenship.

Organisations that offer volunteering play an important role in connecting young people to build momentum and ultimately drive global change. For those choosing to volunteer overseas, the experience can be inspiring, help to create more active global citizens as well as provide people with a better knowledge and understanding of development.

“The benefits to the individual and their careers can be huge as well as the relationships built between young people and local communities,” said Alex Kent, Director of International Strategy at Restless Development. For Alex, the significant impact on volunteers, communities and global change from volunteering through ICS can be justified given it accounts for a small percentage of the UK’s aid budget.

However, some might question whether spending £75 million sending more than 20,000 young people overseas, is more beneficial than spending that money on sustainable long-term development in these countries.

What about the hosts? Is there a danger that voluntourism might create dependency amongst local communities rather than the infrastructure needed to sustain their development? In Ghana, people were less likely to buy health insurance in the knowledge they could receive the medication they needed from the international volunteers visiting every few months. Working overseas should be about creating meaningful change and for volunteers that come and go this can be difficult to achieve.

As Dr. Jim Butcher, Reader in the Geography of Tourism at Canterbury Christ Church University pointed out, while local communities may gain superficially from the support offered by volunteers, the longer term impact is often harder to measure and;

“What matters is the activity and whether it’s well organised, well-conceived, well managed and collaborative with those national communities. [That] is the definition of good impact.”

In short-term volunteering, there needs to be an equal benefit to all – volunteers, not-for-profits, and hosts. The voluntourism industry shows no signs of slowing and there is an urgent need for those involved to adapt so that volunteer experiences have meaning and improve quality of life. Organisations can do more to shift from the commercialisation of volunteering and offer better structured and thought-out opportunities that are embedded in the needs of the communities they aim to help.

What can volunteers do?

Good-quality volunteering projects are led by communities and place the greatest value on working in partnership. Volunteering in the short term requires having the knowledge and understanding of the support they need and the skills we as individuals can bring to a developing country context.

When selecting overseas volunteering placements, we can ask:

·        Do we have the right skills for the role?

·        How will our money be spent?

·        What benefit will there be to the community?

·        How much can we really achieve in two weeks?

Recognising the value of short-term volunteering for both volunteers and local communities requires a deeper understanding of the type of work being undertaken. Development is complex and the proliferation of westerners volunteering overseas raises an important question around who in fact should be contributing to development – volunteers or paid workers.

While volunteering doesn’t offer a solution to development, it can be a valuable tool for empowering young people to take action on global issues. Achieving change is about working together and while short-term volunteering can be a good place to start, it is important to identify the projects that do more good than harm.

Find out more

Development in Action offers responsible volunteering placements overseas in partnership with NGOs throughout India. Find out more about our India Internship Program

You can watch the full debate on You Tube here

 

 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

Global Migration and Economic Empowerment: The Wage Crisis Faced by Refugees

Global Migration and Economic Empowerment: The Wage Crisis Faced by Refugees

As crisis in the Middle East and North Africa spreads, thousands have sought safety abroad as refugees seeking political asylum. Here, Adam Grech examines the complex relationship between the needs of those seeking asylum in host nations. Also, he considers the distinct policy gaps that exist in fully addressing migration challenges, and the ultimate success of those searching for a new home.

Over the course of the past 20 years, there has been a significant presence of patterns of conflict that have created new waves of refugees and displaced persons. The overall number in fact, has surpassed the number of refugees seen following the Second World War. In 2011, with the outbreak of civil war in Syria, even larger numbers of asylum seekers fleeing the terror of the conflict began the migration process. Those from countries around the world have joined them in a decades long string of global migration.

In assisting those in need, nations from across the globe have opened their doors to those seeking asylum, and have gone to lengths to help in providing those fleeing conflict with a new home. Despite the altruistic intentions of many of these nations accepting refugees, however, the long-term nature of the settling of migrants presents many challenges for policymakers residing in host countries.

Of the difficulties that arise in the naturalisation process, economic empowerment, particularly in well-educated nations, remains a significant issue that often goes unaddressed. Of the nations that have opened their doors to refugees, a large number, such as the likes of Canada and many European nations, retain highly educated populations. They also have high minimum wage levels when compared to the global standard. This balance allows for a high standard of living and increased capacity to assist with migrants. But, it also creates difficulties for those refugees that lack a university education, or are not proficient in their host nations native language, and can act as a barrier to employment opportunities.

In Sweden for example, while the country’s 160 thousand refugees have managed to escape violence and find a new home, their economic realities prove to be difficult. Of those who have immigrated to Sweden, less than 500 have found permanent employment. This shockingly low employment rate has in turn led to a significant wage gap between native Swedes and refugees.  While the Swedish government provides significant benefits to its refugees, the 6,468 Swedish kronor per month is far below the SEK 33,305 earned by the average male who holds a position in manufacturing or a similar industry.

Campaign poster for the Sweden Democrats | Blondinrikard Fröberg

This severe gap in income inequality between refugees and Swedish natives could prove to have significant long-term consequences. With many refugees lacking access to housing options in less affordable neighbourhoods, there is an increasing level of segregation growing between migrants and natural citizens. As has occurred in other European nations, it is possible that this continued societal rift could lead to feelings of isolation among immigrant populations, and assist in cultivating negative attitudes towards those seeking asylum. Despite its historical roots as an open society and a global leader in cultural acceptance, up to 41% of Swedish citizens now believe the country has began accepting too many refugees. Sweden has also seen a rise in the popularity of anti-immigrant groups such as the Sweden Democrats, who have recently taken up place as the nations second largest political party.

In Germany, the country with the greatest number of refugees in Europe, migrants face similar challenges in finding meaningful work. While up to 90% of refugees have been reported to desire employment, a mere 13% surveyed had been successful in their search. Elsewhere in Europe, similar difficulties have been observed. In countries like France, Denmark, and Norway, there also exists a significant gap in employment between refugees and native citizens, and it is possible that these inequalities could lead to further socioeconomic challenges looking towards the future.

Boat Refugees Sculpture in Denmark | Carsten Fonsdal Mikkelsen

Although these challenges persist, a number of countries have begun to implement programs to assist their country’s migrants in entering into their national economy. In Germany, language courses across the country have been offered to refugees emigrating from nations such as Syria, Iraq, and Ethiopia. With upwards of €559 million being spent by the German government on the program, the nationwide budget for language courses has doubled. However, this funding can only provide for courses for approximately 25% of Syrian migrants to the country, and it is clear further progress needs to made in order to assist refugees in the transition process.

Ultimately, there are a number of challenges that present themselves to both refugees fleeing conflict, as well as the countries that host them. While providing assistance to those fleeing areas of conflict is crucial in saving lives, often both the host countries and refugees alike are unprepared for what lies ahead. In order to address these gaps in policy, it will be important that policy makers and economic advisers alike examine and better understand the needs of those seeking asylum. Furthermore, they must better formulate policy that will assist not only in the cultural acceptance of their refugee populations, but also in the establishment of programs that will enable their future economic success.

Feature Image: Blondinrikard Fröberg


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

Development aid and tackling austerity: exploring new COIN strategies for the future

Development aid and tackling austerity: exploring new COIN strategies for the future

In this article, Sam Griffith argues that exploring the potential of effective development aid overseas and tackling anger over austerity policies in the UK, offer distinct opportunities for tackling terrorism, in a debate that, at times, overwhelmingly revolves around undermining civil liberties.

In June, days before the general election, Prime Minister May spoke out against terrorism, stating that there was too much tolerance in British society towards extremism, noting that things had to change. Her speech was given after three men drove a van into people on London Bridge and within the wider context of two earlier attacks on Britain in the previous three months. She highlighted the importance of measures designed to stop extremists from recruiting online, changes to sentences and a crackdown on safe spaces for extremist attitudes. The logic behind such strategies is clear, albeit concerning for what it means for civil liberties.

However, this is standard practice for counter-terrorism. Just look to the civil liberties impositions inflicted by the likes of the Patriot Act or the UK’s Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015. However, approaches to development arguably offer different and perhaps more efficient ways to tackle modern-day terrorism in ways that don’t undermine civil liberties. Yet, as May’s speech demonstrates, it isn’t a traditional approach to counter-terrorism, either abroad or at home. However, given the reality that the London Bridge attacker, for example, was a British national, alongside recent estimations reveal that 850 people from the UK have gone to fight for jihadist organisations, new approaches that focus on understanding how almost ten years of austerity policies have hurt and left behind the most vulnerable in society and look to address the grievances of people before distrust and hatred towards society takes hold, offers a different and perhaps more effective approach to tackling terrorism.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard – Counter Terrorism Response Level: Heightened | Elliott Brown

The economic argument for investment in the form of development aid makes sense at an intuitive level. Hatred in societies often grows out of anger, which is born from frustration which develops most easily under conditions of poverty and deprivation. Despite UK foreign aid increasing from £12.1 billion to £13.3 billion, with the Middle East (Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon) receiving 40.8% of all of DFID’s region-specific bilateral ODA in 2016, it seems as though the ability for economic aid to combat foreign terrorism is limited.

There is a counter argument which revolves around the limitations of foreign aid provided by developed countries. Foreign aid doesn’t always get where it is needed most, as usually these societies are governed by corrupt dictatorships. This was the case in Turkey when widespread corruption meant humanitarian aid wasn’t getting into Syria. The problem seems to be that of governance rather than any inherent limitations to the logic of economic development aid.

However, a study by Brookings notes that the issue perhaps isn’t the role of aid at all. Economic development, while an important goal for countries struggling with poverty, can often increase inequality within a country. This role of inequality instead of poverty offers an initial explanation and suggestions for how to tackle terrorism not just abroad but at home.

Austerity Isn’t Working | Michael K. Donnelly

It is possible to criticise both May’s government and those that came before it for doing little to tackle the reasons why young people are radicalised. A situation over the last 7 years has occurred, shaped in part by the financial crisis and the implementation of austerity measures which has historically meant that young people particularly are worse off. This was the case in the UK when an analysis of official figures in 2015 found that young people (between 16-24) were three times more likely to be unemployed.

The Conservative strategy seems to echo that of the so-called American Dream, to tell young people they can achieve anything while simultaneously making it more difficult for them to get a university education or buy a house. This has led to mass disenfranchisement with the political system, which has been shown to be a factor that allows for extremism to take root. Problems regarding the integration of ethnic minorities into British society, notably demonstrated by the failings of the PREVENT programme which helped fuel distrust in Muslim communities.

While it’s impossible to say outright what the appeal is for those joining terrorist organisations, the relationship between economic inequality and the potential attraction of terrorist organisations seems more plausible when it is considered that the UK has a particularly high level of income inequality. The Equality Trust notes that the top 10% of the population have nine times that of the bottom 10% when it comes to disposable incomes.

Solutions for combating terrorism should be comprehensive and all avenues for tackling both foreign and home based terrorism should be explored. The debate about effective development aid should be discussed, not just because of what it means with regards to poverty reduction, but because investment in governance and civil society could be an effective tool at reducing the likelihood of extremism developing in the first place.

Feature Image: Tiocfaidh |Flickr


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

Investing in the future of street children: the StreetInvest approach

Investing in the future of street children: the StreetInvest approach

After completing an internship in Jamaica working in the field with a government development agency, Reni came back to the UK with the desire to learn more about how development works in an international context. She came across StreetInvest, a small international NGO focusing on street children. Little did she know that StreetInvest is about much more than bringing street children back to school or home, the approaches that she had encountered in my field work.

StreetInvest supports “the sustained employment of street workers through direct investments and the development and sharing of best practice of street work”. Street workers are responsible, trustworthy, trained, local people who work on the streets with and for street children. They combine capability, compassion and in-depth knowledge of the local context, and can reach even the most socially excluded children. Street workers build a relationship of trust “by bringing all their care and feelings, and above all, commitment that will not waiver when the first child tells him to go away”. The process of establishing such a relationship is long and arduous, but once the child starts believing in an adult, new possibilities can be explored, wishes, wants and needs listened to and solutions found. The approach of this small UK-based NGO and its partners is a long-term one – instead of trying to bring street children back to school or the home as it is commonly accepted, they work with children to uncover opportunities and assist with day-to-day struggles, at the same time working towards changing negative perceptions of street children within the community and providing a framework for child protection.

StreetInvest | Investing in children on the street

StreetInvest depends on a network of local partner organisations to implement activities and, during the past decade, has expanded its reach over 4 continents. This combination of localised context-specific activities owned by members of the community, and capacity building and financial support provided by StreetInvest, allows the NGO to have a real impact in the lives of disadvantaged children.

StreetInvest has been working with street youths for nearly a decade and has helped numerous young people through street work. The NGO not only makes a difference in the lives of street children, but also uses its strong street presence to collect reliable data on marginalised youths thus providing a much more nuanced view of their complicated reality. Recently, the importance of StreetInvest’s work has been recognised in international policy through the publication of General Comment 21 on Children in Street Situations by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. For the first time ever, street children are the focus of authoritative UN guidance to states on how to uphold the rights of children. The General Comment acknowledges the role of “trustworthy adult street workers” in ensuring that children are able to fully enjoy their rights and are accepted by the communities they live in. This is the result of the work of the network of organisations united in the Consortium for Street Children (CSC) but also of Duncan Ross’s tireless lobbying in New York, Brussels and Geneva, and Kate Bretherton’s, StreetInvest Co-CEO and Development Director, role in the drafting of the general comment.

There are many challenges that face StreetInvest and, according to co-CEO Duncan Ross, the biggest one is changing people’s perception of street children often seen either as helpless victims or troublemakers. “These young people possess immense capability, responsiveness, creativity and capacity but, at the same time, experience extreme discrimination”, remarks Duncan. It takes the effort of the entire community to change people’s view and make a step towards helping these children, which in turn helps ensure the sustainability of StreetInvest’s work.

A further challenge for the NGO is funding. StreetInvest raises all funds from its UK office as most of its partners do not have the capacity to fundraise themselves. However, as Duncan said, “we don’t do something normal, so it’s very hard to explain why we do what we do.” Even if people intuitively understand the mission, most donors want a short-term scalable solution that fits within their policies and rarely understand why “outcomes” cannot be prescribed to a street child. “The constant need for resources is something we struggle with every day”, shared Duncan.

Lack of collaboration between organisations is another challenge for StreetInvest that also presents an impediment to street work everywhere. Enhanced partnership would not only help meet funding requirements, but would also enable the sharing of knowledge and best practices, coordinated data collection and research, and aligned advocacy. StreetInvest is not unique in its localised and context-specific approach. There are a number of NGOs that prefer such a method for the implementation of their projects because, although outcomes take longer to manifest, the approach is sustainable and, one can argue, represents the essence of the widely accepted participatory development. Such initiatives are of great importance for the communities they affect because they allow people to take responsibility of their development thus paving the way towards positive social change.

This post is part of a series profiling the work of small independent NGOs and charities in the UK

Feature Image: A Coin for the Homeless | Alex Proimos 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

What We Do: DiA UK Workshops

What We Do: DiA UK Workshops

Development in Action’s  mission is to promote global citizenship by improving understanding of and engagement in development issues amongst young people in the UK. Our Global Citizenship Workshops are one of the key ways in which we achieve this. Some of our UK Workshop leaders – Pauline Niesseron and Oliver Deacock have written about their experiences running our Global Citizenship Workshops, and the important lessons they have learnt whilst working for DiA.

Pauline Niesseron has been a workshop leader with Development in Action since 2017. In this piece, she gives an account of her experiences and views working with the charity, and conducting the workshops.

In July, I gave my first Development in Action workshop at Hillsfest, an annual event organised by Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge. Given this year’s theme, Bringing People Together, I decided to prepare a workshop on Social Movements. For a very long time and around the world, citizens have occupied squares together to protest against oppressing governments or promote open and just societies. As an urban planner, I have a natural interest in how social movements form and contribute to shaping neighbourhoods, cities and the world we live in. In fact, it was in urban areas that social movements first appeared as industrialisation and urbanisation led to larger settlements, where social interaction between scores of people was facilitated and where people with similar goals and ideas could find each other.

Hillsfest – Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge

Being my first workshop, I followed eagerly DiA’s methodology to prepare the lesson plan. The methodology is structured around four ideas: connect – demonstrate – activate -consolidate. This helped me built a coherent and interactive session. For me, one of main challenge of the workshop was to estimate its length as this depends mostly on the class interaction.

The workshop’s objective was to introduce social movements (what they are, why do they exist, how can they change the world) but also to raise awareness on the risks, difficulties and limitations they face. I started by showing a couple of pictures of famous social movement and asked students to reflect about the context in which they were formed. Next, students came up with a short definition of social movements. Indeed the multiplicity of social movements make them somehow difficult to define. Yet, students came up with great definitions which included key concepts necessary to understand social movements: loosely organised group that acts collectively, and shares a common outlook of society, to support social goals.

In the Activate part of the lesson plan, students were asked to create their social movement, meaning agreeing on a cause to defend, in groups of four. They had to prepare a three minutes presentation explaining the cause they are defending and what actions they would take to create awareness about it. While a bit artificial exercise, it highlighted some of the issues that social movements can face such as agreeing on actions. Two groups decided to tackle islamophobia; one group campaigned for free access to university and one for inexpensive healthy food. The groups all mentioned social media as their main campaign tool.

I greatly appreciated giving the workshop: it was enjoyable to get insights on what young people think about social movements and what causes they deem important to defend today. It was also a valuable experience for me on how to engage young people, make a workshop interactive, find a balance between providing content and encourage independent thinking!

I would like to thank Hannah, Rosalie and Caroline for their help with the development of the workshop.

Students get involved in the UK DiA workshop at Hills Road Sixth Form College

Oliver Deacock is a 21 year old International Relations student at the University of Birmingham.

After my second year of study, I decided to take a year out to gain work experience. This is where I became a Youth Workshop Leader for Development in Action (DiA) along side other internships.

The three months I spent in India on a development placement was the key reason for my application to Development in Action. It was there where I witnessed the opportunity for sustainable development through education. It was this realisation, which seemed to fit like a glove on the idea of Global Citizenship. This topic is what I centred my first workshop on. I used interactive methods to portray how education, environmental awareness and treating others equally could improve the quality of life of others around the world.

I was aware that helping strangers in another country through simple actions at home was not an easy concept to grasp, so I continually tried to make topics relatable by making links between actions and results. A group of teachers I had a discussion with felt another way to make this concept easier to grasp would be to show how people may have similar ambitions/hobbies in life, even though the environments they live in could be very different.

With regards to results and feedback I found that the interactive nature of the workshops I have delivered has been key in terms of enjoyment and learning. It has been a pleasure to plan and deliver workshops for DiA and I’m looking forward to my next opportunity.   


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

The Refugee Crisis: What can we learn from World Bank programmes?

The Refugee Crisis: What can we learn from World Bank programmes?

The refugee crisis has garnered a fair share of attention over the past few years. It has frequented headlines and influenced politics, with Western Europe and the United States seeing the rise of far right movements. While fear mongering of refugees has grown in relation with the Syrian refugee and asylum seeker movements since 2011, the facts often support a very different narrative. The image below shows, as of December 2016, the top host countries for refugees globally. The countries with the largest refugee populations are Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan and Lebanon. Overall, 86% of refugees are hosted in developing countries.

The World’s Top Ten Refugee Host Countries | Amnesty International

While Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan are housing the majority of refugees their status as middle income countries makes it difficult to support those numbers. Middle income countries are defined as, “having a per capita gross national income of US$1,026 to $12,475 (2011) and are a diverse group by size, population, and income level.” In recognition of this, different programs and aid packages have been put together to offer funding and resources to countries supporting the majority of asylum seekers as a result of the violence Syria has endured.

One such initiative is the Global Concessional Financing Facility (CFF), a World Bank initiative launched in 2016 to help alleviate some of the financial burdens host countries are experiencing from the Syrian refugee crisis. The CFF, partners with the United Nations and the Islamic Development Bank Group as well as multiple donor nations. So far, pledges for the program have come from Japan, Sweden, United Kingdom, Netherlands, United States, Germany, Canada, Denmark, Norway and European Commission totalling $227.59 million. These pledges make up the ‘concessional loans’, which are loans that are offered at significantly lower interest rates with often-longer grace periods compared to market loans. These loans, geared specifically at Jordan and Lebanon, are designed to offer international aid to middle income countries who usually are not qualified to receive this type of support.

The CFF program offers a collective response that has been absent from Western country’s reactions to offering support to the millions who have been forcefully uprooted. The initial response to the crisis consisted of Western countries constantly punting responsibility to other countries and seeing who could close their borders the fastest. Germany and Sweden can be recognised for their support despite other EU country’s ‘not in my backyard’ policies and rhetoric.  However, this program is strictly pledging financial support as no country is offering to alleviate the ‘burden’ by housing or resettling a certain number of refugees.  Throwing money at a problem has become somewhat of a modus operandi for Western countries with the range of excuses from ‘cultural incompatibility’ to ‘overwhelming numbers to accommodate’.

The media has emphasised the surge of Syrian refugees coming to make a new start in Europe. The graph below provides the numbers of asylum seekers who have made their way into Europe and filed for asylum since 2011. In 2016, there were a little over 1.2 million applications for asylum spread across Europe. 1.2 million asylum seekers is around the same number that Lebanon alone is hosting and at least a million shy of what Turkey and Jordan are each hosting individually. The distribution was not evenly spread across Europe with the majority of asylum applications being submitted in Germany. In 2015, Germany had around 400,000 applications for asylum filed.

Asylum Applications to the EU from 2006-2016 (thousands) | Eurostat

There are currently 4 projects that are being supported by the CCF. The ‘Economic Opportunities for Jordanians and Syrians’ focuses on providing economic opportunities and work permits for Syrians living in Jordan. Granting legal work permits to Syrians refugees allows them to be self-sufficient and reduces the financial burden and dependency on the host country. The ‘Ain Ghazal Wastewater Project’ is supported by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and focuses on infrastructure improvements in Jordan. The project works in Jordan’s host communities to improve the wastewater infrastructure that has been strained by the increased population.

In addition to these, two further projects have received concessional approval including the ‘Lebanon Roads and Employment’ and ‘Jordan Energy and Water DPL’. The ‘Lebanon Roads and Employment’ project seeks to both improve transportation infrastructure as well as provide employment opportunities for Syrian refugees. The construction industry is the main focus for job opportunities in this project with a target set at 1.5 million labour days of direct short term jobs to be created for Syrian refugees. Lastly, the ‘Jordan Energy and Water DPL’ seeks to alleviate pressures put on the water and electricity sectors from the increased consumption levels. These projects differ from the other aid responses to the Syrian refugee crisis because they offer long term support instead of targeted short term relief. This is a welcomed transition that will allow Syrian refugees the opportunity to be self-sufficient and contribute to their host societies instead of being warehoused in camps. Offering support, and improving the host communities also reduces local resentment and animosity towards refugees who are seen as depleting local resources.

However, the reality is middle income countries are, and have been supporting, a much larger share of the displaced both in terms of overall numbers and relative to the population size. With no end to the Syrian conflict in sight, Western countries should continue the momentum of this initiative and finalise a program of responsibility sharing that includes the resettlement of displaced persons. A more permanent and useful solution to the refugee crisis should consider both financial and resettlement initiatives so asylum seekers and refugees are given the opportunity for self-sufficiency, security, and inclusion.

Feature Image: UN Migration Agency | Flickr


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

International Development is Under Attack: We need a new approach

International Development is Under Attack: We need a new approach

Global citizenship is under attack in the UK. Attitudes are hardening towards those living in poverty overseas, and it is becoming increasingly common for members of the public to suggest cutting the foreign aid budget as an easy way to generate revenue for public services. Watching any episode of Question Time or reading the comments below any online newspaper article on the subject provides ample evidence of this attitude shift in action.

It’s not just the assistance provided by the British government which is under threat; the entire international development sector has come under sustained attack by the right-wing press in recent years. Some of this coverage has been legitimate, taking aim at unscrupulous and aggressive fundraising tactics which bring the entire charity sector into disrepute.

However, much of the coverage has perpetuated misconceptions about international development work, and criticised overseas aid charities for such heinous crimes as having the temerity to pay their staff salaries in accordance with the market rate of the work they do. For instance, this article in the Daily Mail bemoans the fact that ‘Oxfam has rewarded senior executives with banker-sized salaries and benefits.’ The publication’s underlying assumption is clear: those who devote their careers to combating global poverty are of lower social value than those who work in a sector responsible for crashing the global economy in 2008.

The ways in which some international development charities have responded to this increased scrutiny of their finances have often been counter-productive. Charities now battle it out over who spends the largest proportion of donations on ‘charitable activities’ and the lowest proportion on ‘administration’. Surely this misses the point – is it not the impact that charities have which is the most important factor, rather than the proportion of donations which are spent on frontline work? Would a charity which spends 100% of its donations on the frontline but achieves nothing be better than one which spends 75% on administration but manages to eliminate malaria?

Water Aid’s Donation Pie Chart explains exactly where there money goes | Water Aid

It’s admirable that charities want to be transparent with their supporters. However, oversimplifying their public accounting to the binary of ‘charitable activities’ and ‘administration’ (or something along those lines) perpetuates the idea that back-office staff are leeching off of supporters’ generous donations; that the work done by charities’ HR departments is less valuable than that done by aid workers, when both are vital to the functioning of the charity.

Some overseas aid charities have attempted to show a direct link between donors and beneficiaries – the ‘donate £3 to give a family a goat’ kind of model. Again, oversimplifying the work done by these charities is highly damaging. Amongst other factors, this type of marketing has created the widespread impression that international development charities are primarily a cash transfer scheme. The idea being that when supporters donate money, that money is directly sent to (or buys something tangible for) people in a developing country.

Seen like this, overseas aid charities appear to be nothing more than middle-men, taking their cut of donors’ cash before sending it on. The proportion of donations spent on ‘administration’ seems to be waste expenditure at best, and at worst as downright fraudulent.

World Vision’s must have gifts page | World Vision

The impact of this prevailing narrative has been to undermine public trust in international development charities. Because these charities are seen in the public imagination as cash transfer schemes, the proportion of their funds spent on staff wages does not seem to be compatible with the proportion they claim to spend on ‘charitable activities’. Despite this discrepancy being easily explained by the perfectly legitimate overlap between staff wages and charitable activities, it has nevertheless resulted in numerous scandals.

The right-wing press have been able to portray international development charities as dodgy and self-serving because the public fundamentally misunderstands the work that they do. The international development sector partly has itself to blame.  When you’ve boiled the issue of poverty down to ‘these people are poor; they need your money’, it’s very difficult to justify employing an entire office building’s worth of staff. In reality, global poverty is much more complex and deserves to be portrayed as such.

At this particular political moment, when insular and regressive politics are on the rise, it is more important than ever that those of us who believe it is right and just to help those living in poverty overseas make our voices heard. International development charities need to make a concerted effort to raise awareness of the work they do, restore public trust in the sector, and build public support for overseas aid and international development work.

Feature Image: Oxfam’s Donation Page


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

Is the UK Aid budget under threat from Conservative reforms?

Is the UK Aid budget under threat from Conservative reforms?

A recent opinion article by Zoe Williams highlighted the dubious spending of the UK Aid budget on private, for-profit investments in developing countries which masquerade as projects in the best interests of the most vulnerable in society. Luke Humphrey investigates the Conservative Party policy on the UK Aid budget and what it means for the future of UK Aid.

In the aftermath of the shocking 2017 General Election result, several Conservative manifesto pledges were dropped from the Queen’s speech. The Conservative pledge toward the 0.7% overseas aid commitment is confusing at the time of writing this, with disapproval of the policy from many in the party such as Nigel Evans MP and even Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, who suggest a review of the aid budget in 2020. What is neglected from discussions about the Conservatives pledge on UK aid spending is a rethinking of what kind of projects fall under UK aid spending.

The 2017 Conservative pledge differed from that of the other mainstream parties in that it not only committed to spending 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) on overseas aid, but it also stated that the party would seek to change how overseas aid spending was defined, ultimately altering what the UK can spend aid on. Currently, the definition of what countries can spend their aid budget on in developing countries is defined by the OECD/DAC, who came up with it in 1972. However, this definition is now considered by the Conservatives as outdated and unsuitable for the development and political challenges of today.

According to Conservative MP and Member of the International Development Committee Pauline Latham who spoke at a recent Contemporary UK Development Aid Conference in Leeds, there are several parts of the OECD/DAC definition which have become obsolete and do not fit what is now needed in development spending. Despite acknowledging that parts of the definition need to be edited, removed and added to, Latham could not reference a single component of the existing aid definition that desperately needed changing under the Conservatives proposals.  Similar to the  idea of  Tory MPs riding rough-shod over the rewriting of the Human Rights Act, the idea that a group of MPs can switch around and adapt the definition of aid for their own purposes is worrying, as is the lack of clarity about what would change.

DfID Field Visit to Somali Region in 2017| UNICEF Ethiopia

There is an on-going debate across Whitehall about how much overseas aid spending should be in the national interest , and subsequently directly benefit the UK government.. In October of last year, Conservative MP and Secretary of State for International Development Priti Patel indicated that the UK aid budget under the Conservatives would be  more focused on benefiting the UK , arguing that we need to have an aid budget that “works in our national interest”. In an exclusive interview with Development in Action, ex-International Development Secretary and Labour MP Hilary Benn claimed that the UK aid budget “ is morally right, but it is also in our self-interest”. This question over the balance between the national interest and the interest of the poorest and most vulnerable in recipient developing countries is likely to spill over into the reframing of what falls under aid spending.

Considering the emphasis on reigniting relationships with the Commonwealth and African Caribbean Pacific group  (ACP)  states post-Brexit, we can begin to deduce what exactly aid spending might focus more on, according to the Conservative’s definition, despite the lack of clarity from the party themselves. Under the current definition, aid cannot be spent directly on facilitating and sweetening up trade deals. However, Priti Patel, among other Conservative MPs, has hinted at an aid for trade scheme which could benefit the trade negotiations led by the Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox MP. So, it seems likely that aid spending on trade will be much more relaxed in the Conservative proposals for the new aid definition. This raises questions over what exactly the UKs aid priorities will look like over the next few years.

As the country moves closer to finalising   Brexit negotiations, will we see a move towards trade for aid over other priorities such as meeting the SDGs? Or will these changes in definition only seek to update the OECD/DAC definition by introducing new rules on more recent issues such as FGM/C, Climate Change and outbreaks of diseases such as Ebola and Zika? One thing is for sure, with the minority government, any definition will have to be wholly agreed upon by all Conservative and DUP members if it stands any chance of passing into the House of Lords, which will also have its own set of challenges to the Conservative party, as has been proven on controversial issues such as tax credits and the powers of parliament over final Brexit decisions.

Feature Image: Enough Food IF


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

Pulling Strings: The Fine Print Behind Development Aid

Pulling Strings: The Fine Print Behind Development Aid

While development aid can provide countries and their citizens with the resources necessary to complete crucial infrastructure and relief projects, it often comes with an unintended price. Adam Grech examines the conditions that often come attached to aid, and the ways in which they can hinder, rather than promote, national development.

Across the world, numerous countries, companies, and NGOs contribute significant amounts of aid to nations in need. While the intentions of the majority of these groups are positive, in certain instances, the provision of aid has created significant burdens for the recipient states through the process of conditionality.

Largely beginning in the 1920’s, wealthy European nations began to provide aid to colonies under their administration for purposes of economic development. Following the Second World War and the implementation of the Marshall Plan, the United States became a large international donor, and entered into an arms race for global alliances with the Soviet Union. Both sides immediately began to use development aid in order to increase their respective spheres of influence.

While aid in exchange for political conditions has long been in place, during the 1990’s, there was a push towards specific obligations by nations providing development aid. The view was that elected regimes would provide more national stability and help to limit the ability of dictatorships to form in at risk areas of the world. Therefore, donors began to place a move towards a democratic government and liberal economic systems as requirements for developing nations in order for them to continue to receive aid payments.

The G8 give something back to Mother Africa | Jeff Weichel

Organisations that impose significant conditions on development aid such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, have been criticised for their imposition of structural adjustment conditions, for example, privatisation programs, liberal trade policies, as well as public sector reforms. As stated by the IMF, the intention behind elements of conditionality for development aid is to put into place measures that better ensure the repayment of the donation itself. This, however, is not always the case, and often, governments find themselves unable to financially cope with new economic systems or trade practices that are put into place.

Politically, countries such as China have also been able to use development aid and conditionality as a way to gain access to trade relationships and valuable resources. In Africa for example, China has been a significant donor, with over 60 billion USD in aid pledged to the continent. In many countries in which China has heavily invested in development projects, natural resources are abundant, and low interest loans are often provided in order to capitalise on their availability. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, China has exchanged development aid in the form of infrastructure projects for access to the country’s vast copper and cobalt stores as payment, and will extract over 7 million tons of minerals over the next 25 years.

This issue of ‘tied aid’ remains prevalent today, as the cost of the provisions purchased often significantly reduce the real value of aid received by recipient states. In some cases, the export of critical, and costly, aid imports by donor states has the potential to reduce the true amount of assistance received by 25 to 40 percent. Over the long term, and in combination with limited control over spending options of received aid, recipient countries are often left with limited sources of aid for development projects, hampering much of the progress assistance programs could make.

Of countries that have felt the impact of aid conditionality and debt repayment, those in Sub-Saharan Africa have come to bear the economic difficulties of these conditions placed on development aid severely. Despite numerous instances of aid forgiveness, nations such as Ghana have continued to struggle to repay outstanding aid loans. Although Ghana experienced success with investment in oil reserves in 2010, the Ghanaian government required an additional 1 billion USD bailout from the IMF, and its probability of defaulting on its payments have increased substantially since 2011. With little economic progress to show for, many developing nations now find themselves in a continuous and vicious cycle of substantial debt, making future repayment increasingly difficult.

IMF Deputy Managing Director, Nemat Shafik signs deal recognising the Africa Regional Technical Assistance Center with the Finance Minister of Ghana, Seth Terkper | IMF/Ghana MOU

These mixed outcomes hold significant consequences for the acceptance and delivery of development aid. For many receiving development aid, the perceived ‘strings’ that come with aid payments may seem daunting, and could discourage countries from accepting much needed assistance in the future. For donor nations and organisations, it will be important to ensure that more equitable aid payment and distribution protocols are established in order to provide more security for those countries receiving them, and in turn the citizens who are the ultimate beneficiaries of global development programs.

Feature Image: Fairphone | Flickr


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

5 Reasons why Cooperation is Key for Development

5 Reasons why Cooperation is Key for Development

The launch of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 focused the world’s attention on 17 “Global Goals” to be met by 2030. They highlight the significant challenges that lie ahead for every one of us, as a student, community member, policy maker or NGO worker. Goal 17 is to “Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development” – but just why are partnerships so important in sustainable development and why could cooperation be vital to achieving these goals by 2030.

1. It works better

Locals commonly know best what is needed for their own communities, and local experience is a powerful tool and motivator. Local people are often expert guides in their own culture, environment, geography and society. However, strong state support and international resources can also be crucial to bolstering locals who may be lacking in capacity to act on their own. Through a combined effort from both communities and bigger organisations in setting up and maintaining development projects, the initiative can benefit from the varied expertise of all involved.

It can also mean that resources are better utilised in ways that are relevant and targeted to local needs. This avoids misinformed aid ideas, where good intentions can miss the point and fail to address the real social problems at play. Thorough cooperation and co-production can also improve transparency and accountability, reducing the possibility of corruption.

2. It lasts

Cooperation between local and international actors leads to the improved sustainability of development projects. Locals often also have a great deal of influence in their community and can help promote development initiatives through informal local networks with greater success than international actors, who may be seen as untrustworthy or to have conflicting interests. In this way locals, as community organisers, may achieve greater support and cooperation in their locality for the development initiative, helping it last.

3. It promotes equity and inclusiveness

High quality programmes produced by locals and outsiders can promote equity and inclusiveness in communities, tackling issues of marginalisation and exclusion. By working together, local and international actors can ensure that resources are distributed fairly and everyone is involved in the process. This can mean a more equal power balance that also incorporates an external perspective, driven by a desire for fairness.

Inclusiveness between local and international agents in development initiatives can also help to engage those who might otherwise be marginalised in the wider processes to ensure that their rights and needs are recognised.

4. It empowers local communities

When it comes to development, empowerment is a vital element in its success. Working with communities and involving locals in the decision-making and implementation of initiatives can empower them to assert control over their own development, and help them access resources and capacity needed to do so. It encourages self-reliance, helping to free people from control by mainstream political processes and manipulation or exploitation through unequal power relationships with the state or international actors. That’s why local people’s ability to negotiate with and to hold accountable the institutions and initiatives that affect their lives must be fostered and acknowledged.

5. It ensures that we all get to play our part in the world

Ultimately, each and every one of us has an important role to play in global development and deserves to be given the chance to do so. Community development cannot operate in a vacuum, but needs local coordination via local government structures and support from international sectors. We need to foster greater development dialogue and cooperation rather than a simple bottom-up or top-down approach.

Sustainable Development Goals (9529) | IAEA Imagebank

A successful sustainable development agenda requires widespread participation and the formation of partnerships between local and international actors. In the words of Ban Ki-moon: “To successfully implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we must swiftly move from commitments to action. To do that, we need strong, inclusive and integrated partnerships at all levels.”

It’s up to all of us who study global development, volunteer and aspire to make the world a better place to ensure true, productive cooperation between organisations or individuals with the resources for change, and those who seek to solve their own problems.

Feature Image: Stand Up Campaign | Flickr


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

Will the detaining of Zambia’s opposition leader put Zambia at risk of losing development funding?

Will the detaining of Zambia’s opposition leader put Zambia at risk of losing development funding?

Zambia as a democracy often attracts minimal attention from the development sphere, because it is not necessarily successful as a democracy but is also not an authoritarian state. However, in the last few months following a series of events Zambia has attracted negative international attention. In April 2017, the opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema was arrested on treason charges for obstructing the presidential motorcade. This was followed by condemnation from catholic bishops who criticised the charge of treason for being illegal. For the bishops, the violent way Hichilema was arrested and the failure of the judicial system to recognise political manipulation and corruption makes Zambia a dictatorship and authoritarian state.

On 25th May 2017 Mmusi Maimane, the leader of South Africa’s main opposition party, Democratic Alliance (DA) was barred from entering Zambia to attend the opposition leaders trial in an aggressive confrontation with the police. This is not the first time a Zambian president has used intimidation, manipulated national institutions and arrested an opposition leader.

President Jacob Zuma with President of Zambia Edgar Lungu at the Union Buildings during a State Visit in 2016 | GovernmentZA

Since 2015, Zambia’s economy has experienced severe strain due to a range of external and domestic factors including a slowdown in regional growth, low copper prices (Zambia’s main export) and an intensification of power outages that have affected key economic sectors. Additionally, concurrent fiscal deficits have reduced investor confidence and poor rainfall from severe weather changes has reduced agricultural income and led to an increase in food prices. To aid the economic strain, Zambia began talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in March 2016 about a potential aid package. Zambia’s recent political events lead one to question whether the IMF may reconsider their development funding to the country.

The arrest of Zambia’s opposition leader on a charge of treason which carries a maximum sentence of the death penalty for blocking a presidential motorcade has attracted condemnation from domestic and international actors. In a tweet, the British High Commissioner to Zambia, Fergus Cochrane-Dyet OBE stated that during consultations in London, Whitehall departments and UK investors expressed concerns about the Hichilema’s treason trial and that he was hoping for IMF progress. The countries Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD) has also expressed concern that the negative publicity Zambia is attracting may impact the countries credit rating and economic ranking. Isaac Mwaipopo, the CTPD’s acting executive director emphasised his sincere hope that these negative political developments will not affect the Zambian governments ability to borrow funds from partners such as the IMF.

In May 2017, the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) expressed concern over the arrest of Hichilema, insisted on the need for the law to be applied fairly and urged the Zambian government to prevent political violence and to guarantee complete media freedom. On 14 April 2017, Amnesty International issued an appeal for the immediate release of Hichilema and urged Zambian authorities to refrain from using all forms of torture or harassment on Hichilema or his workers. With this reaction from various groups, it goes without saying that many disagree with the actions of the Zambian government and view them as extreme and a violation of Hichilema’s human rights.

Zambia election workers during the January 20th, 2015 Presidential Elections | USAID U.S. Agency for International Development

For years, multi-lateral institutions have championed the importance of good governance as a positive driver of development. In a 1992 report titled “governance and development, the World Bank defined good governance as “the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development.” Good governance for the World Bank is therefore synonymous with development as it is a key compliment solid economic policies that help to create a sustaining environment which fosters strong and equal development for. Like the World Bank, the IMF places importance on good governance.

The IMF has for a long time provided advice and technical assistance that promotes good governance. The IMF contributed towards promoting good governance through providing policy advice, helping member states to enhance their capacity to design and implement economic policies and promoting transparency in financial transactions of governments. In its role of providing policy advice, the IMF monitors the economic and financial policies of its member states. Through this process, the IMF identifies potential risks to stability and recommends measures necessary for the sustenance of economic growth and the promotion of financial and economic stability. Through The World Economic Outlook, the IMF carries out detailed analysis of the global economy and its potential for growth to address issues such as global financial turmoil. Emphasis is put on issues that may result from the economic, fiscal, and monetary policies of large, globally central economies such as the United States and China.

With the strong importance, international financial institutions place on good governance being a prerequisite for development, Zambia’s bad publicity may lead

to a loss of confidence from lenders. To maintain and grow its support from lenders, Zambia needs to provide proof that’s its countries leaders are committed to democracy. The increasing inability of Zambian leaders to respect democratic principles is worrying sign for a country that needs international aid to sustain its various institutions.

Feature Image: Exchange Photos | Flickr


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

The Curious Case of Venezuela

The Curious Case of Venezuela

Although holding the potential for riches, Venezuela is experiencing an economic catastrophe and great political friction. Here, Adam Grech examines the country’s economic decline, and the events that have pushed citizens to protest.

On the Northern side of the South American continent rests Venezuela, a state rich in beauty and natural resources, maintaining one of the largest oil reserves in the world, and housing a diverse national ecosystem. Despite these riches, however, elements of instability, both political and economic, have been commonplace in the country recently. Poor implementation of economic programs by the states government and crackdowns on freedom of speech have led to statewide protests, and left the citizens of Venezuela with more questions than answers about the future of their country.

While political strife has been a frequent occurrence in the country’s history, many of Venezuela’s current economic problems can be traced to the late 1990’s, and the administration of former President, Hugo Chavez. With the promise of a better future for the nations people, and with the hope that rising oil prices would fuel national social programs, Chavez rose to power in 1998. He quickly began the process of the nationalisation of private companies operating within the country’s borders as well as the redistribution of wealth through the expropriation of property.

During his reign, Chavez was the beneficiary of a fortuitous economic tide in which oil prices rose from only $10 a barrel to nearly a hundred, allowing him to advance his social programs, and at one point was looked upon extremely favourable by the people of Venezuela. Although claims by the Chavez government that nationalisation processes would be beneficial in the long-term for the nations people, and for a period, his reforms did experience great success, his policies and over-reliance on oil revenues led to food shortages. They have now left feelings of resentment among many citizens.

Hugo Chavez’s Burial | Sortu

For some, the situation has become so severe that they have turned to purchasing goods in neighbouring Brazil and Columbia. Those that cannot afford to travel, however, face a more dismal situation. As inflation has risen, stores have experienced difficulty maintaining an adequate supply of food, and when combined with the inability of citizens to match rising prices, have exasperated the states poor economic conditions. It is estimated that up to 32% of the country’s people are unable to afford three meals a day, and that levels of nationwide poverty have spiked from 73 to 82 percent in only a year.

Following an exodus of foreign companies and a fall in oil prices, the Venezuelan economy experienced a steep decline, and by 2016, inflation had risen by more than 800 percent, and the national economy had undergone a contraction of nearly 19 percent. Amid these economic constraints, current President Nicolas Maduro has accused political opponents of purposefully attempting to create financial difficulties for the state, and has stated that Venezuela is in the midst of an economic war with global rivals such as the United States.

Today, calls for a constitutional convention by Maduro that would delay national elections (the country’s presidential contest was set to occur in 2018), and increase the likelihood of his defeat, have led to mass protests, and created fear for those who may be considered adversaries of the regime. In recent weeks, the situation has continued to worsen. As civilian led demonstrations continue across the state, protests have become increasingly violent, with 37 dead, more than 700 injured, and 152 taken into police custody.

Protesters in front of police line – Venezuela protests in 2014 | andrezAzp

As conditions in Venezuela worsen and violence continues, a mass number of citizens have attempted to flee the country in order to find safety. Across the world, nations are experiencing a sharp rise in Venezuelan asylum seekers, with countries such as the United States seeing as much as a 150 percent increase. Others, such as Spain and Italy, are also undergoing a significant increase in asylum requests as the political situation of the country continues to deteriorate.

While Venezuela remains a nation of beauty and natural wealth, it faces a difficult road ahead, and will likely continue to fight large political hurdles in order to achieve sustainable economic growth in the years to come. Looking towards the future, it remains to be seen whether Venezuela will be able to truly prosper under similar political leaders, and whether or not the nations people will be able to truly benefit from the country’s sources of potential prosperity.

Feature Image: David Numeritos | Flickr


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

USAID: An Institution Fighting for Survival

USAID: An Institution Fighting for Survival

Established in 1961 by John F. Kennedy, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was designed to advance America’s interests while fulfilling a humanitarian duty to the world’s poorest nations. USAID has had its existence threatened by Congress since its inception but whether this criticism is warranted or simply an easy means to gain public support is debatable.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, the average respondent believed that the US government spends 26% of the federal budget a year on foreign assistance. This common, but gross overestimation allows USAID and other forms of humanitarian assistance to be placed on the chopping block during an administration transition. In reality, foreign assistance and international development only account for less than 1% of the total federal budget. In addition, the US spends significantly less on official development assistance than other OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries.  Official development assistance is defined as, “government aid designed to promote the economic development and welfare of developing countries” According to data from 2016 shown in Table 1 the USA was ranked 25th in terms of official development assistance as a percentage of gross national income.

Net ODA as a Percentage of Gross National Income | OECD Data

The general public is not only misinformed about Uncle Sam’s generosity but also about the purpose and priorities of USAID and development. The mission of USAID is, “to partner to end extreme poverty and to promote resilient democratic societies while advancing our security and prosperity.” This mission is twofold with both humanitarian and national security priorities. From a humanitarian perspective USAID and its programs has helped build local capacity and lift people out of extreme poverty. In the past thirty years, the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day has been cut on half in part because of the work of USAID. Economic development initiatives by USAID try to tackle this global inequality, as no one’s daily income should be what others spend on their morning coffee. USAID works in over 100 different countries with programs focused across health, governance, economic growth, and conflict resolution.

While noble in theory, USAID can be legitimately criticised for some of its chosen interventions since its beginnings. One of the broadest and most reoccurring reproaches of USAID is a lack of coordination leading to inefficiencies. Part of this is due to its formation, which essentially lumped all existing aid organisations at the time into USAID without complementing this merger with a clear direction.  In addition, the agency is subject to the administration’s priorities at that time which makes long-term commitment to objectives and goals difficult.

Alexandra Riboul with USAID talks with children at Tabarre Issa Emergency Relocation Camp | Kendra Helmer USAID

Scandals have also spoiled the reputation of USAID over the years. USAID was infamously exposed for its ‘Cuba Twitter’ humiliation, which tried to covertly bring about the collapse of communism through the use of a social media platform. Accusations of intelligence gathering and meddling in foreign governments by USAID were also substantiated in the organisation’s involvement in Venezuela. The agency attempted to oust Huge Chavez by undermining his supportive base. The discovery of USAID’s involvement in these programs legitimises the critics of the aid industry. While these examples display an overreach of USAID’s purpose there has always been a national security and ‘soft power’ component to the organisation.

The pursuit of economic development and transparent accountable governments reduces factors that contribute to fragile states and instability. In today’s context, “foreign aid promotes national security by helping to combat conditions that spawn terrorism-namely weak institutions and corruption.” International development seeks to tackle the institutionalised problems in society while building up human capacity.  Recipients of aid deserve to live in an open, safe society that can produce and sustain opportunities for its citizens.  By stabilising and expanding economic growth opportunities for developing countries, USAID also circulates a positive reputation for America. This influence assists in creating ally relationships and fostering productive partnerships between nation states.

International aid is held to a higher standard than other industries. When money is seen as being wasted because of inefficiency or corruption a popular thought is to collapse the whole industry. For example, this standard is not shared by the defence industry where wars are entered into and fought with low returns, leaving countries destabilised and devastated. Aid is an industry and as such will be plagued to some extent with inefficiency. However, as both a humanitarian responsibility and soft power tool USAID is an essential industry deserving of constructive criticism at times, but not of dissolution.

Feature Image: USAID | Flickr


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

General Election 2017: Where does each party stand on development spending?

General Election 2017: Where does each party stand on development spending?

In 2015 David Cameron’s Conservative government passed a bill that enshrined in law, the UK’s commitment to the UN’s aid spending target of 0.7% of GNI (Gross National Income). This resulted in £18.01bn worth of spending on development aid in 2016 meaning that the UK was the third largest net donor behind Germany and USA and just one of eight countries to hit the UN percentage target. Some of the budgets achievements can be found on Department for International Development’s (DFID) website and include: 11.3m children being supported in primary and lower secondary education, 9.9m women using modern methods of family planning and 64.5m people being reached with one of more water sanitation or hygiene promotion intervention.

In the lead up to the election the validity of the budget and the budget’s purpose have been called into question time and time again. From Question Time debates to articles in the press suggesting a split in the Conservative party on the issue. This blog post will not act as an evaluation of the 0.7% target it is merely an attempt to present an apolitical piece regarding each of the major parties stances on aid spending.

The Conservative Party

The Conservative party under Theresa May remain committed to the 0.7% of GNI target and the continuation of aid spending that aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda.

Interestingly the manifesto opens the door for a potential redrawing of the definition of development assistance, “we will work with like-minded countries to change the rules so they are updated and better reflect the breadth of our assistance around the world. If that does not work, we will change the law to allow us to use a better definition of development spending.”

Currently the definition used by the UN is the official OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) definition of Official Development Assistance (ODA). This definition states that aid must be provided by official agents or by executive agencies. In addition, each transaction is administered with the promotion of economic development and welfare of developing countries at its root as well as being concessional in character conveying a grant element of at least 25%. It has been noted that this change in definition may be an attempt to appease some conservative ministers who believe that the UK does more than its fair share in development spending especially when considering the average spend for other wealthy countries is just 0.4%.

The Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, The Scottish National Party (SNP) and Plaid Cymru

All of these party’s stances on development spending is much simpler in that they all support the continuation of the commitment of 0.7% of GDP budget and the alignment of this spending with the SDGs. In the SNP and Plaid Cymru’s cases this would mean holding the Westminster government to account in the continuation of that budget level.

The Green Party

The Green party are the only party proposing that there should be an increase in the level of annual spending. They would increase the overseas aid budget to 1% of GDP.

The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

UKIP are proposing the most drastic of changes to the current budgetary layout of aid spending. They have run on the idea of “Trade not Aid” and propose to reduce the aid budget to 0.2% over time, along with the promotion of free trade deals with the developing world. They argue this would save around £10bn per annum that could be redirected to the NHS. In addition to this they would close DFID and have a single minister for overseas development working out of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to administer aid.

Feature Image: Tony Hirst | Flickr


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

Small is beautiful: the UK charity believing in India’s rural poor

Small is beautiful: the UK charity believing in India’s rural poor

Recent figures from the World Bank indicate that India may finally be climbing out of poverty, yet, what they don’t show is India’s growing inequality. 63 million people in rural communities still do not have access to clean water. Less than 50% of women and low-caste people own land. India’s position on the Human Development Index remains low. And, as a new report published this week reveals, India is failing to realise the earning potential of a large section of society: women. One UK charity, Jeevika Trust, believes it can help solve the problem by improving rural women’s livelihoods. Their projects have so far reached 100,000 people in 90 villages in Odisha and Tamil Nadu, two of India’s poorest states. .

A key cause of rural India’s poverty is the social hierarchy of the villages themselves. Women face not only prejudice, but also rape, child marriage and domestic violence all of which limit their income-generating potential. To tackle this, Jeevika Trust developed its own village livelihood model, identifying six crucial factors: social standing, education, water, nutrition, income, and human rights, that empower women and improve their potential to earn. Their work centres around preserving, promoting, and delivering this model, for example, by training Dalit women farmers in new technologies to help increase their income.

All Jeevika’s work is based on the idea that if women’s lives improve, everyone prospers. Their highly successful Rural Women’s Livelihood Programme (RWLP) supports Dalit and tribal women in generating an income through a variety of different methods, including beekeeping and fish cultivation. Evaluation of the programme shows that the income generated is three times the money originally invested. And, the projects have lasting impact on the whole village, as women become decision-makers, able to influence change.  “I have become self-dependent and sufficient,” commented one participant, “We are free from the four walls of the house.”

Jeevika Trust’s Bihar Rural Livelihoods Project

The fact that Jeevika operates at grassroots level is no coincidence. One of the charity’s founders was German economist E.F. Schumacher, author of Small is Beautiful, a well-known critique of conventional economics. Ahead of his time in arguing for sustainable development, he advocated finding solutions to poverty through local knowledge and human connections. The title of his book became a catchphrase, at a time when people were questioning the ethics of globalization.  It was Schumacher’s “compassion and common sense which strike one” says Jeevika director Andrew Redpath in an interview, “and how he clearly saw that the problem of India’s huge rural population was one of truly global significance, which would come to haunt India unless tackled systemically at village level.”

Schumacher’s influence can clearly be seen in the solutions Jeevika provides: practical, people-centred ideas to create sustainable futures, such as providing rooftop water harvesting for a school in Odisha.  Their work with Jeevan Rekha Parishad to conserve the Chilika Lagoon is another example of a project with sustainability at its heart. The two-year initiative helped local women to cultivate crabs in the lagoon, generating funds which then supported other projects in the area like sanitation facilities. The group worked to improve the lagoon’s eco-system, ensuring the project had lasting potential.

Beekeeper from one of Jeevika Trust’s honey-production projects

 

Jeevika’s work has the potential to create prosperous rural communities; places residents actually want to live in. The ultimate hope is that villagers will choose to stay rather than migrate to the cities. “My 2020 vision” says Andrew, “is that we will have meaningfully touched a million lives in rural India and made a small but valued contribution to the reversal of urban drift. Every young person who looks at his or her life in the village – its facilities, its opportunities, and its values – and decides not to migrate to a city is a mark on India’s most important social score-board.”

Stories of India’s economic growth are hitting the headlines, but should we be focusing on the other reality, that 50% of the population shares just 2.1% of the wealth? Against a rising tide of opinion in support of migration and urbanisation, Jeevika Trust has demonstrated that there can be such a thing as a sustainable Indian village. The government may be leaving its rural communities behind, but this tiny charity is not.

There are plenty of ways to get involved with Jeevika. You can fundraise for them, connect on social media, or e-mail them about volunteering.

This post is part of a series profiling the work of small independent NGOs and charities in the UK


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

Work/Life Balance – Does the secret lie in the 3-day weekend?

Work/Life Balance – Does the secret lie in the 3-day weekend?

A perfect work life balance is what we try to achieve every day. It’s quite hard to find a healthy compromise between our work commitments and all the other thousands of things that need to be done.

Eventually, there isn’t too much time left for those moments that we should use to nurture ourselves. And even more surprisingly, some recent studies demonstrate that the time we think we have been producing the most at work it has not been as effective.

Like all of us, companies are always searching for innovative ways to invest to increase the bottom line. Many organisations have finally started to realise that investing in their employees goes beyond a good benefits package and the occasional company party.

There is a practice that can substantially increase employee productivity. This tactic is the 3-day weekend. Research has shown that breaking beyond the outdated tradition of a 2-day weekend can increase employee productivity by a significant margin.

A 32-hour week can generate more, and higher quality, work than 40.

As a result, employees have more time to pursue what they love, from spending time with family to participating in volunteer opportunities. It also helps ensure that retirement isn’t spent trying to recover from the mad grind to get there.

The infographic below, by Tiffany McAdams, explains the benefits of this approach for both employees and employers around the world. Companies across the world have seen overwhelming improvements in productivity, team morale, and overall job satisfaction with this ground-breaking practice. Happier, more productive employees and a bigger bottom line? This is a win-win for employer and employee alike.

The 3-Day Weekend | Tiffany McAdams

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

DiA Interview | Professor Leif Wenar

DiA Interview | Professor Leif Wenar

Professor Leif Wenar’s new book ‘Blood Oil: Tyrants, Violence and the Rules that Run the World’ is a comprehensive insight into the world of corrupt trade and politics, specifically in the oil industry. Most of the world’s oil, amongst other valuable resources, is stolen from its people by big corporations such as Shell or BP. The deals and illicit financial flows that go in and out of impoverished countries such as Nigeria are kept within the elite echelons of society, lining the pockets of tyrants and dictators in both the developing and developed worlds, effectively stealing income and employment from ordinary people in the developing world. Leif links the everyday process of buying goods such as fuel and food to the harsh rule of oppressors and autocrats through the trade links established between these tyrants and the West, and provides an insight into how countries can stop their reliance on trade with these regimes.

He first came up with the idea for the book when visiting Nigeria, observing the poor levels of governance in the country. After asking people again and again, what was the issue, Leif found one reoccurring answer: oil.

While this may seem like a topic that would take the efforts of many people to delve into, Leif researched the book himself. “I did it all myself, and I mostly just listened to people” he explains. “I would ask anybody I could get a hold of. The representative of Nigeria to OPEC to the head of the Central Bank, to journalists, someone high up in Shell Oil, to militants in the Delta, to NGOs.” While Leif makes this process sound short and simple, it almost certainly wasn’t. But for him, the challenge of writing such a thorough piece of work can be met by following two pieces of invaluable advice. First of all, “People will just talk to you, so ask them, and you will be surprised how willing people are, even very important people”. Leif’s second piece of advice is to listen, and don’t assume that you know all the answers.

Leif Wenar’s ‘Blood Oil’ will be out in paperback on the 1st June

While there is reason to feel dejected about what is happening in the political world at the moment, Leif remains resiliently upbeat about the future. “All the old certainties are being questioned, people are really looking for progressive new answers. So this is a great time for people with challenging initiatives. “One area he is especially enthusiastic about is advocating for the use of renewable energies, something which fits in nicely with his message about countries avoiding oil trading with authoritarian regimes. “The best way to get away from blood oil is to get away from oil altogether, and because of climate change we should certainly be transitioning away from fossil fuels as fast as we can”.

He is also keen to point out that “even without the transition to alternatives that we should make, all major western countries right now could stop importing authoritarian oil”. There is a lot of oil in the world, and we could easily move away from the Blood Oil referred to in Leif’s work and “we can still keep the traffic moving, we can still keep the lights on”.

It is hard not to feel optimistic about the future when listening to Leif. We discuss what can be done by consumers to help end the corruption that Blood Oil highlights so strikingly. We agree that trying to buy goods such as food, clothes, laptops and phones ethically is a minefield. According to Leif “It is just too hard to trace the origin of the oil that goes into our plastics that makes computers or the nitrogen that grows our crops, or the synthetics that our clothes are made out of”. But he believes there are ways for consumers to contribute.  “There is an organisation called Fairphone based in Amsterdam, and the Fairphone smartphone is a wonderful thing, the ideal is that young people have got together and as far as possible they have made a conflict-free and also modular, recyclable phone, which is a really terrific product”.

Leif’s next piece of work is also designed to help consumers understand what oil companies do the most ethical trade. “When the paperback edition of the book comes out I hope to be able to tell consumers, between BP and Shell and Total, which of these companies are doing more business with authoritarian regimes. Then people themselves can decide where to fill up their petrol based on the scores of those companies”.

Leif’s work is crucial to understanding how we feed our oil addiction, and the index provided in the paperback version of Blood Oil will go a step further in identifying which companies are trading with authoritarian regimes. One of the key messages of Blood Oil is simply that “every country belongs to its people”. If this is true, then that also means that the actions of our country belong to us, and we as academics, taxpayers and global citizens can change our actions for a better world.

The paperback version of Blood Oil, published by Oxford University Press, will be available on the 1st June 2017 on Amazon and WHSmith.

Feature Image: Leif Wenar


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.