In solidarity to the 16 days activism against gender-based violence, this article highlights the structural violence that impedes the rights of children with disabilities —including girls— in Kenya. The author Stephen Ucembe, who is an alumni of the international Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, emphasizes the need to protect the rights of children confined to institutional care.
As global as needed, as local as possible: glocal is a buzzword both in the humanitarian and development fields. According to many, acting glocal is a possible response to the long debate on coloniality in aid, and the key for a new generation of international practices that are more aware, more equal, and more balanced. But recent practices show how also glocalization can be steeped into coloniality: who is deciding what is possible and what is needed? And which voices, among the many that are composing the so-called Global South are being heard?
Humanitarian Observatories Series | Creating a space for Congolese to talk about issues including how widespread sexual abuse is ravaging the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s humanitarian sector
Sexual abuse is widespread in the humanitarian sector of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The observatory was set up to discuss, among others, crises that plague the humanitarian sector, including sexual abuse in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Humanitarian Observatory (HO) is a suitable space for academics, civil society, international and state actors to discuss humanitarian governance challenges so to contribute in shedding light on how to go about them sustainably.
International Humanitarian Studies Association Conference 2023: “Humanitarianism in Changing Climates”
The International Humanitarian Studies Association (IHSA), which is hosted at the Humanitarian Studies Centre at ISS, held its biennial conference at the beginning of November in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Held in collaboration with North-South University (NSU), and the Insights Network, the three-day conference featured a huge range of presentations and panel discussions on everything from migration, conflict, humanitarian education; and much more besides. The conference was also an opportunity to elect a new President and Board Members for the Association.
The war between Israel and Palestine has saturated the media with many views on the resulting effects. What about the state of things in Gaza prior to this violent conflict? In this blog, Irene Van Staveren — a professor of pluralist development economics at the International Institute of Social Studies — tickles our imagination to consider the complexities of social problems evident in Gaza prior to October 7, 2023 when the war broke out.
There have been many statements, petitions, Op-Eds and other forms of concern and condemnation from scholars following the resurgence of violence around the impasse between Israel and the Palestinians. This also includes Jewish scholars, such as an open letter from Jewish students at Brown University and another from Jewish writers. Moreover, there have been critical Jewish organisations that have long-supported a Palestinian-centred narrative, including the Promised Land Museum, and in particular their tribute to the late German-Dutch phycisist Dr. Hajo Meyer, Zochrot and Jewish Voices for Peace. In the same spirit, as Jewish employees and students at Dutch universities, universities of applied science and research institutions, we also refuse to stay silent about Gaza, and so present the following statement.
In this blog, Tom Ansell looks through International Humanitarian Law at how cutting mobile network and internet access, such as recent targeting of telecoms by the Israeli military during their ongoing retaliation against Palestinian people in Gaza. Whilst the cutting off of utilities such as electricity and water are considered to fall under a ban on collective punishment, International Humanitarian Law does not mention cutting off communication infrastructures. When we consider how vital phone and internet services are for human dignity, organizing relief efforts, and documenting war crimes or countering misinformation, it might be time to consider the deliberate cutting off internet and telecoms access as a breach of International Humanitarian Law and so a war crime.
International Humanitarian Studies Association conference roundtable and North South University statement on Gaza: “As scholars and practitioners of Humanitarian Studies, we strongly condemn acts of widescale and indiscriminate violence against civilian populations”
This blog is part of a series about the International Humanitarian Studies Association (IHSA) conference in Dhaka, Bangladesh. In this piece, Dorothea Hilhorst (Professor of Humanitarian Studies at ISS, outgoing IHSA President) and Sk. Tawfique M Haque (Professor and Chair of Political Science and Sociology, North South University) present a statement made by participants of a roundtable held at the conference to take stock of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
‘Important and urgent’: this decision-making matrix shows that we need to act now to fight climate change
Climate change was first flagged as a global risk several decades ago, but warnings were not taken seriously. Now that climate change is part and parcel of our daily lives, the need for immediate and concerted action to limit its effects is increasingly being recognized, but there is also strong resistance to the radical change required to do this. In this blog article, ISS Professor of Pluralist Development Economics Irene van Staveren contemplates how the well-known Eisenhower decision-making matrix can help us take climate change seriously. We are already in the ‘important and urgent’ box, she argues — an understanding that should drive us to act.
Migration Series | Precarity along the Colombia–Panama border: How providing healthcare services to transit migrants can foster new logics of inclusion and exclusion
Transit migrants journeying the Americas to North America often pass through Necoclí, a seaside town close to the Colombia–Panama border and the Darien Gap. Upon their arrival, they frequently require medical attention but can only access emergency medical services. In this article, Carolina Aristizabal shows how a limited healthcare provisioning system designed for immobile populations has been reworked by humanitarian organizations to help transit migrants receive the care they need. She argues that new logics of inclusion and exclusion emerge as a result of such reconfigurations — a development that may lead in some cases to xenophobia in local communities.
Silence on the Afghan deportation drive from Pakistan reveals hypocrisy; the international community must honour its commitment to human rights
With the Government of Pakistan’s announced deportation drive, the situation of Afghan refugees in Pakistan has taken a shocking turn. In this post, three women refugee researchers from Afghanistan, writing with ISS researchers Karin Astrid Siegmann and Saba Gul Khattak, state that the international community is looking on as Afghan refugees in Pakistan risk deportation to and persecution in Afghanistan. Rather than deporting them, these refugees, especially vulnerable groups, should be resettled to third countries or granted asylum in Pakistan. The international community has a duty to help them, they write.
Misinformation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is spreading like wildfire on social media — here’s why we keep reading fake news and what we can do to change it
Can you trust what you read on social media about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Even some of the most popular posts are misleading. With more and more people using social media as their primary news source, how can we make sure that we’re getting accurate information? This question becomes much more relevant in times of conflict, where misinformation could cause widescale violence. In this blog article, Tom Ansell looks at misinformation in times of conflict and what we can do to encourage better reporting in fast-moving and dangerous contexts.
Decriminalizing sex work is a first step towards assuring rights and recognition for sex workers in Belgium — but it is not a silver bullet
Each year, International Sex Workers Day celebrates sex workers’ resistance to the stigmatization, criminalization, and exploitation they face. This year, to commemorate the event, a seminar at the ISS discussed how sex workers’ advocacy resulted in the recent decriminalisation of sex work in Belgium. In this article, Marianne Chargois, Daan Bauwens, and Karin Astrid Siegmann discuss which further changes need to be made to ensure the dignity and rights of sex workers in Belgium.
Gaza is under constant blockade and subject to multiple airstrikes every day — with little regard for avoiding civilian harm. This is a breach of international humanitarian law, which places specific legal imperatives on combatants not only during war but also as occupying forces after war. In this article, Professor of Humanitarian Studies Dorothea Hilhorst critically discusses Israel’s responsibilities in its role as a combatant, as an occupying force, and as a neighbouring country.
Belonging to and longing for the village: how the earthquake in Morocco reveals the importance of the homeland in shaping diaspora identity
What happens when a country gets hit by an unexpected, highly damaging earthquake? How does the aid this country receives afterwards look like when it has a diaspora community of more than one million people? And how does a tragic event such as an earthquake affect those million people and their diaspora identity? While diaspora identity is often defined by referring to the country of origin, in this article Malika Ouacha discusses how the earthquake in Morocco affected her and led her to foster a deeper understanding of her identity as member of the Moroccan diaspora.
As urbanisation continues to surge, especially in the Global South, it is essential to address the myriad issues that contemporary cities face. The recent EADI/CEsA Lisbon Conference provided a platform to consider urban challenges and possible solutions. Tazviona Richman Gambe and Betty Adoch attended three panels, each with thought-provoking discussions on different urban issues. Three main themes emerged from these panels:
The current wave of protests on the A12 highway in The Hague against government subsidies for fossil fuels have been both applauded and condemned. Several scientists have joined the protests in their professional capacity, which has led to questions of whether their activism threatens their independence as scholars. In this blog article, Dorothea Hilhorst responds to the argument of Dutch scientist and writer Louise Fresco in an NRC column last week that academics have no place in protests. All academics/scientists should be wary of their place in society and should use their positions of expertise to advocate for better outcomes, she writes.
Climate change governance: Why a Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) approach is vital for preventing extreme weather events from turning into disasters
Climate change reports and scenarios paint a bleak picture of the present and the future — one filled with extreme weather events such as heatwaves, floods, hurricanes, storms, and droughts that could result in the loss of lives, threaten livelihoods, and exacerbate existing problems. But it is too simple to blame climate change for the increase in the number of disasters and for their effects. Today, as we celebrate Disaster Risk Reduction Day, disasters and humanitarian studies scholar Rodrigo Mena argues that a Disaster Risk Reduction approach to governing climate change could be essential for preventing extreme weather events and other climate-related phenomena from becoming disasters.
Extraction was central to the colonization of half of the world in the nineteenth century, having played a key role in enriching already wealthy countries. But while colonization seems to belong to the past, the extractivist mindset based on the notion of extraction continues to pervade all aspects of our lives. In this blog article, a condensed and partial version of the inaugural lecture given by incumbent ISS Rector Ruard Ganzevoort on 12 October 2023, Ganzevoort discusses how extractivism shapes our lived realities and proposes a radically alternative approach to extractivism rooted in compassion.
The recent upsurge of violence in Israel and Palestine signifies a “prelude to genocide”. How could this happen?
The tragedy that has been continually unfolding in Palestine for the past 75 years recently took a dramatic turn when Palestinian armed groups broke through the steel gates closing off Gaza and entered Israel on 7 October 2023. While the details of what occurred are gruesome, but also very unclear, their actions led to a further escalation by Israel, with senior figures in the Israeli government vowing revenge in terms that are tantamount to an incitement to commit genocide. The massive loss of human life and deliberate targeting of civilians has been accompanied by feelings of incredulity. People are asking: How could this happen? In this article, human rights and legal mobilisation scholar Jeff Handmaker provides some context.
Anti-discrimination legislation: findings from a parliamentary investigation and some recommendations
Despite myriad legal provisions in place in the Netherlands to prevent discrimination, it remains a serious issue, permeating all societal sectors and informing government actions and policies, as the recent childcare allowance scandal has shown. Between 2020 and 2022, ISS Rector Ruard Ganzevoort in his capacity as a member of the Dutch Senate chaired a parliamentary committee of inquiry that examined the effectiveness of anti-discrimination legislation. In this blog article, he discusses some of the key findings of the investigation and names six factors that can be considered when seeking to ensure that existing laws effectively prevent discrimination.
Traditionally, Development Studies has been centred around a demarcation between the global North (Europe and North America) and the global South (Asia, Africa, and Latin America). In recent years, there has been growing clamour to throw out this North-South framework – held as outdated – in favour of a new ‘global’ outlook. It sounds harmless enough, but in our recent open access article published in Development and Change, we map out our concerns.
Humanitarian Observatories Series | A humanitarian observatory for discussing heatwaves in South Asia was recently launched — here’s how it wants to improve responses to heatwaves
The heightened vulnerability of the South Asian subcontinent to heatwaves can be ascribed to several interacting characteristics — but these have not been adequately examined and discussed. The Humanitarian Observatory Initiative in South Asia (HOISA) was launched earlier this year in an attempt to bridge this gap by charting the particular risks and vulnerabilities of the region, observing the state of current humanitarian governance processes, and based on ongoing discussions providing recommendations for more effective responses to heatwaves. This article details some of the main dynamics of heatwaves in South Asia considered during HOISA’s first panel discussion, including specific governance challenges that the observatory will focus on.
The recent occupation of the A12 highway in The Hague to protest fossil subsidies has dominated news headlines as protestors blocked the highway en masse for several days in a row. ISS Professor of Pluralist Development Economics Irene van Staveren was one of several academic researchers who joined the protests. In this article, she explains why they decided to appear in academic gowns and refutes several counterarguments scientists, politicians, journalists, and others use to deny climate change or the need for climate action. Neutrality is no longer an option, also for scientists, she writes.
New research published this month gives a better understanding of how and why countries affected by armed conflict are more vulnerable to disasters. In this post, two of the co-authors of this research argue that much of the loss caused by Hurricane Daniel could have been prevented in Libya.
How is the war on Ukraine affecting international development? A look at lesser-heard stories about winners, losers, and the unknowns
The impacts of the war in Ukraine — the largest conflict in Europe since the Second World War — are enormous. The war’s ripple effects are permeating international relations, international organizations, and trade. An important question is who is winning and losing, in which ways, and what we can do about it. During the fourth episode of Research InSightS LIVE held on 29 June, three ISS researchers discussed the compounding effects of the war on global development. In this blog, Adinda Ceelen and Isabella Brozinga Zandonadi summarize the key takeaways of the discussion.
On Saturday 9 September, thousands of activists joined Extinction Rebellion in a blockage of the A-12 highway in The Hague, to protest against the 37 billion Euro annual subsidy of the fossile fuel industry in the Netherlands. The amount was established by research collective SOMO and consists of direct subsidies and tax exemptions. On the highway and at the support demonstration organised by several Dutch NGOs there were dozens of professors, wearing their gown joining the protest, among them several professors of ISS. Joyeeta Gupta of the University of Amsterdam and winner of the Spinoza price 2023 spoke at the support demonstration. Here is her speech.
Launch of the Humanitarian Studies Centre (HSC): “Humanitarian Studies is about dignity and it is about humanity”
Humanitarian Studies has been defined by Professor Thea Hilhorst as the study of societies and vulnerable communities experiencing humanitarian crisis originating from disaster, conflict, refugee situations, and/ or political collapse. This definition stemmed from the recent launch of the Humanitarian Studies Centre (HSC) on 31 August, 2023 at the International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague. The HSC aims to build a network of researchers, practitioners, and policy makers to collaboratively impact the field of Humanitarian Studies.
Disasters often have severe impacts on human security. But how do disasters impact armed conflict dynamics? When striking armed conflict zones, disasters indeed frequently trigger higher fighting intensity, confirming concerns about a climate-conflict nexus. However, this effect only occurs in a minority of cases, specifically in locations with a high disaster vulnerability. More importantly, disasters can also reduce civil war intensity, for instance by posing logistical challenges to armed groups. While such effects are often short term, they provide important windows of opportunity for relief provision and diplomacy, writes Tobias Ide.
Home is where the heart is, the old adage goes. But home is also a space and a feeling of belonging created through our connections with each other, whether it’s by means of sharing daily experiences, values, hopes and dreams, a place on Earth, or all of these. In this post, Ruard Ganzevoort, who recently joined the ISS as its new rector, shares his thoughts on feeling at home at the ISS and why this feeling arises.
Migration Series | “Us Aymara have no borders”: Differentiated mobilities in the Chilean borderlands
In Chile, recent initiatives to manage migration have been based on nation-state and sedentary imaginaries. These approaches to migration are challenged by the traditionally mobile and trans-national lives of the Aymara indigenous population residing in Colchane and Pisiga Carpa. Focusing on the Aymara residents of these so-called transit communities and initial reception points for migrants and refugees upsets pre-supposed differences between ‘migrants’ and ‘non-migrants’ and invites us to reconsider approaches to mobility.
EADI Conference 2023 | From sunbathing to sunstroke: How should we personally respond to the risks of (severe) heat and heatwaves?
This summer, several weather records have been smashed, with the hottest week ever recorded occurring last week. The heat is becoming a serious problem; some may argue that climate change is on our doorstep and no longer an unimaginable future. But while heatwaves are particularly dangerous, leading to a loss of lives and health risks, above-average temperatures are also risky, even when a heatwave hasn’t been declared officially. In this article, ISS PhD researcher Lize Swartz asks whether we should also be taking action when there are no heatwaves and what role we can play in protecting ourselves—and those around us—from the heat.
Migration Series | From branding to bottom-up ‘sheltering’: How CSOs are helping to address migration governance gaps in the shelter city of Granada
Granada is one of the few Spanish cities that established itself as a ‘shelter city’ for migrants, but despite the city administration’s pledge in 2015 to improve migration governance, bridge divides, and promote community building between migrant and non-migrant communities, selective indifference towards migrants persists. In light of several governance gaps caused by the failure of local authorities in Granada to go beyond the mere branding and enactment of the concept of shelter cities, various civil-society organizations (CSOs) have launched initiatives aimed at alleviating these tensions and are filling the gaps left by local authorities, writes former ISS MA student Christy Gamboa.
Humanitarian Observatories Series | Why it’s crucial for internally displaced persons to participate in the peace process following Ethiopia’s Oromia Conflict
Like the conflict in Tigray, one of the gravest consequences of the conflict in Ethiopia’s Oromia region has been the disastrous level of internal displacement it has given rise to. In this blog, Alemayehu B. Hordofa provides an overview of the situation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Oromia and shows why ensuring their rights should be at the heart of the peace process in the region. He contends that the peace process in Oromia should give adequate space to the viewpoints of at-risk populations, including IDPs, and that including their concerns in a peace agreement is critical for safeguarding sustainable peace and preventing future conflict-induced displacements.
Migration Series | From caminantes to community builders: how migrants in Ecuador support each other in their journeys
With the deep political and socio-economic crisis, a large number of Venezuelans have fled to other countries, including Ecuador. Many people have journeyed on foot, earning them the name caminantes (walkers/hikers), and have encountered various challenges but also forms of solidarity along the way. This blog centres on the experiences of different actors who have provided aid to caminantes as they traverse Ecuador, turning the one-dimensional idea of migrants and refugees as victims on its head.
In the past few months, several humanitarian observatories have been set up in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and South Asia as part of a project on humanitarian governance and advocacy. These observatories review humanitarian action in the countries they’re located in and aim to contribute to humanitarian reform from below. In this post, Dorothea Hilhorst introduces this exciting new development and the Bliss blog series that will show what’s happening at the different observatories.
Why are we blocking a highway as scientists? It is a justified response to the violence of climate change
How can scientists help engender societal change, and when is it effective to take the road of activism? This question has become increasingly relevant in the face of the urgent need to address the implications of climate change. In this blog (that first appeared on 1 June 2023 as an op-ed in the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant), Professors Thea Hilhorst and Klaas Landsman – both recipients of the Spinoza Prize, the highest scientific award in the Netherlands in 2022 – gave a speech during the occupation of the A12 by Extinction Rebellion. Why did they choose to participate in this action as scientists?
Migration Series | How does a place become (less) hostile? Looking at everyday encounters between migrants and non-migrants as acts and processes of bordering
What happens if people on the move encounter others who by means of their everyday actions and interactions can render environments hostile or who actively try to prevent this? What are the effects of these encounters on the places migrants inhabit and traverse? This article introduces a blog series that highlights a diversity of encounters between migrants and non-migrants to put the reader in the shoes of those who are migrating, crossing borders and/or settling in. Through the series, we aim to show how both migrants and non-migrants navigate terrain that becomes hostile through modern manifestations and practices of nation-state borders amidst so-called ‘migration crises’.
Grappling with unease – together: collective reflections on Migration Studies and Colonialism by Mayblin and Turner
How can scholars tackle the legacy of colonialism in migration studies? Last year, a small group of critical development studies scholars at ISS sought to reflect on this challenge by collectively reading and discussing the book Migration Studies and Colonialism that explores exactly this issue. In this article, we share our observations and discuss two things that we consider vital in meaningful discussions on the topic: the need to move beyond simplistic notions of European colonialism and the importance of meaningful engagement with scholars from the ‘Global South’.
Contemporary debates in agrarian studies have been predominantly focused on land and property issues, at times to the detriment of questions about production and exchange. The large and expanding footprint of contract farming is one example of a relatively neglected – yet significant – dimension of contemporary agricultural systems in the Global South. Farming contracts are one of many forms of coordinating production and exchange that seek to avoid the uncertainty for producers and buyers of finding each other more spontaneously in open markets. Contract farming involves a non-transferable agreement between farmers and buyers that specifies the terms of production and marketing, typically relating to the price, quantity, quality and delivery of the product.
The dangerously optimistic global climate finance agenda: why blended financing and domestic resource mobilization won’t help close the climate finance gap
The global climate finance agenda in its current form is insufficient for tackling climate change and fostering a green transition across the globe. Calls to close the massive climate finance gap that prevents developing countries from accessing much-needed funds often rely on the expectation that domestic resource mobilization and blended finance can help close the gap. In this article, we demonstrate why this expectation seems wildly optimistic and argue that instead of relying on insecure trends, global policy makers should take action by developing policies that grant a bigger role for public money and innovative monetary solutions.
Development Studies must always be critical, or it becomes just an apology for the status quo, for exploitation, for the reproduction of inequality within and between nations, and for the destruction of the conditions of life on Earth.
Earth Day Series | How spending time in urban green spaces can counter our children’s biophobia and improve the wellbeing of older adults
In a recent BLISS blog, we argued that outdoor nature education programmes in primary schools can help combat eco-anxiety among children. As young people have fewer and fewer direct encounters with nature, they come to fear or misunderstand it. Spending time learning through nature outdoors can help prevent this from happening. But adults can also benefit from being outside: an ongoing project shows that spending time in urban green spaces can enhance the well-being of older adults. To ensure that urban green spaces are suited for intergenerational use, they may need to be adapted.
Earth Day Series / Honour thy financial commitments: climate funds promised at COP27 won’t reach vulnerable countries unless these things are done
When the COP27 summit was kicked off in Egypt in November last year, there was hope that some progress would finally be made in financing climate action. But Hao Zhang, who attended the summit, observes that although efforts seem to have been stepped up, there is not yet reason for optimism. In fact, COP27 was marked by the failure of government leaders to truly commit financially to meeting climate goals. While the past year has witnessed devastating disasters, a potential economic downturn and energy crisis, the war in Ukraine, geopolitical unrest, and the aftermath of Covid pandemic, this is not enough to justify the lack of commitment, she writes.
Myanmar’s Spring Revolution is now in its third year since the February 2021 military coup. Despite facing brutal repression including arson attacks and aerial bombardment by Myanmar’s state security personnel, ordinary people across the country are continuing to resist the return to dictatorship. What explains the extraordinary resilience of their civil disobedience and armed resistance efforts?
Mujeres Indígenas Profesionistas Trabajando para Transformar las Ciudades en México: Reflexiones Metodológicas
Las prácticas de investigación continúan sin reconocer la multiplicidad de puntos de vista, experiencias y conocimientos de las diversas personas involucradas en los procesos investigativos, pasando muchas veces por alto los significados que las personas dan a sus propias vidas y a la realidad, y silenciando así las interpretaciones subjetivas. En este blog compartimos algunas reflexiones sobre la metodología desarrollada en el marco de un proyecto sobre el Derecho a la Ciudad con mujeres indígenas en Guadalajara, México. Pensar la investigación como un sistema vivo, compuesto por numerosos engranajes movilizados por el trabajo colaborativo, puede ayudarnos a investigar de forma más consciente y responsable, escriben Azucena Gollaz y Marina Cadaval.
Scholars at risk: why the Dutch system for protecting persecuted scholars is failing and why the government urgently needs to get involved
In the past, scholars facing persecution have regularly been received by Dutch universities, which have provided them with a safe space to continue conducting their research in times of adversity. In 2019, the Dutch system for providing a safe haven for such scholars collapsed – an event that went largely unnoticed at the time. Ever since, efforts to help scholars have been mostly futile, largely because the bureaucratic hurdles to providing a safe space are more or less insurmountable. In this article, Linda Johnson explains how and why the Dutch system for supporting refugee scholars has become ineffective and suggests what should be done about it.
A rise in the number and scale of political tensions between countries in the Global North clearly signal the return of geopolitics; the war waged by Russia on Ukraine is a key example. But while such conflicts are widely reported on, a new geopolitics emerging in the Global South, while equally significant, is often overlooked and should be receiving more attention, writes Wil Hout, ISS Professor of Governance and International Political Economy.
Year in and year out, academics send themselves halfway across the world to attend conferences. In an age in which flying for leisure is fast becoming a taboo, are such conferences in which academics and their universities pay large sums of money to converge for brief moments to present their research and to network also becoming impermissible? And are they even more concerning when they take place in ‘exotic’ places at convenient moments – are destination conferences a thing, and are they a problem?
Numerous Palestinian, Israeli, international and UN organizations as well as scholars have called Israel an apartheid and settler-colonial regime. The City of Amsterdam has historically acted against South Africa’s apartheid regime, yet the same is not happening now in relation to Israel’s apartheid regime. At a recent panel discussion on anti-racism, Jeff Handmaker talked to renowned anti-apartheid activists about the role the city could and should play in condemning Israel’s oppressive and racist actions. It is important that Amsterdam affirm its cultural heritage as a space for solidarity anti-racism, he writes.
Women’s Week 2023 | From young girls to “bush wives”: Armed conflicts are traumatising girl soldiers in Africa, and post-conflict peacebuilding and rehabilitation efforts could be making it worse
As armed conflicts persist across the world, children are repeatedly recruited into armed groups as soldiers, robbing them of their childhood. While some estimates reveal that girls comprise almost half of all child soldiers, they feature less prominently in post-conflict peacebuilding and rehabilitation efforts. Esther Beckley in her research explores the disproportionate impacts of war on girl soldiers, exposes the gender blindness of post-conflict peacebuilding efforts, and calls into question the legitimacy of peacebuilding programmes.
Women’s Week 2023 |“I am a girl, not a woman”: how recognizing diverse girlhoods can foster the inclusion of young mothers in debates on womanhood and girlhood.
In Uganda, young mothers are predominantly called women, although some young mothers contest that representation and prefer to be called girls. The normative insistence on categorizing young mothers as women despite girlhood being a transitional phase locks young mothers in an in-between category, a space in which they can be neither girls, nor children, nor women. International Women’s Day celebrations further risk widening the gap between such girls whose daily realities centre on survival, writes Annah Kamusiime. The need to recognize diverse girlhoods is a first step in ensuring that girls are included in discussions on womanhood and girlhood.
To celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, here’s a list of articles we’ve published on women’s struggles for gender equality
Today, International Women’s Day is celebrated globally. To mark the occasion, we’re showcasing the blog articles on women’s struggles for gender equality that we’ve published on Bliss over the past five years. We hope that the articles inspire further action and discussion. Happy International Women’s Day!
Transformative Methodologies | Professional indigenous women acting to transform urban spaces in Mexico: methodological reflections
Research practices often still do not adequately recognize the multiple points of views, experiences, and knowledges of those we work with. In the process, the meanings that people give to their own lives and to reality are often overlooked, which silences subjective interpretations. In this blog, we share some reflections on the methodological process developed while carrying out a project about the right to the city with indigenous women in Guadalajara, Mexico. Thinking of research as a living system comprising numerous collaborative gears turned and interlocked by different types of support can help us do research more mindfully and responsibly.
The response to the OccupyEUR protest and an invitation to a survey on the university as a ‘brand’ are provocations, writes professor of Social Theory Willem Schinkel. They flatten what a university actually is.
Last year, Sri Lanka faced its worst economic crisis to date, accompanied by political upheaval that left its population reeling as they struggled to make ends meet. In this article, Shyamika Jayasundara-Smits briefly outlines how things played out in 2022, showing that while the crisis has had a devastating impact on the country’s stability and prosperity, 2023 signals a time for action – and change.
The politics of ethnicity: are political elites in Bolivia using indigenous discourses to win elections?
In Bolivia and elsewhere in Latin America, indigenous peoples have sought greater inclusion and more rights and freedoms for many decades. While it appears that they have been somewhat successful in doing so, in reality, their lives have not changed much. Political promises to act on their behalf have not been honoured and they remain excluded and marginalized. The link between poverty and being indigenous persists. In this article, Alvaro Deuer Cenzano, ISS 2018-2019 Alumni, shows why it’s important to study the role of elites in perpetuating these social injustices, arguing that the instrumental use of ethnic discourses to win elections may be strongly contributing.
Both scholars and practitioners engaged in either researching or advancing legal mobilization recognize that law can be used to guide legal interventions seeking to trigger transformative justice. A persistent question faced by legal mobilization practitioners and researchers alike is: who are we mobilizing for, and with whom? As a member of the Legal Mobilization Platform (LMP), I sought to answer this question during the platform’s launch on 12 January 2023 in The Hague.
Is the legacy of the Arab Spring greater oppression? Twelve years after the Egyptian Revolution, Egypt’s civil society has been all but nationalized
The popular uprising that swept across Egypt exactly twelve years ago was supposed to herald a new era marked by greater political freedom and the end of state oppression. But optimism that things would change for the better quickly evaporated after the resurgence of authoritarian practices. In this blog article, we argue that ever since the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, the Egyptian government has taken steps to nationalize civil society, turning it into yet another administrative machinery under its direct control.
Knowledge is power: how ‘infomediaries’ are helping marginalized communities in Bangladesh claim access to information
South Asian countries have made remarkable progress in adopting laws that provide citizens with the right to information. Yet in many instances, information still cannot be accessed, or differentiated access to information can be observed. ‘Infomediaries’ introduced in Bangladesh through a community empowerment programme have played an essential role in helping marginalized people access information by mediating between communities as information seekers and local governments as information providers. Such actors may assist marginalized communities in South Asia and beyond in claiming their right to information, writes Sujoy Dutta.
The invasion of government offices in Brasília on 8 January by mobs of protestors and vandals forces us to revisit a fundamental question: is Brazil’s relatively recent move to democracy too fragile, or is this just part of its evolution? The protestors’ support for a far-right politician who would prefer to see the demise of the country’s indigenous peoples (and others marginalized groups) points to their lack of understanding of democratic processes. The country’s hierarchical and exclusionary social structures and political processes also play a significant role in how and why things played out as they did. Can these change?
Amid increasing disinformation and the silencing of speech, scholars must strive towards speaking truth
With the rising assault on free speech and with disinformation being used as an instrument by states to undermine dissent, the role of researchers has become pivotal. Scholars need to transcend their role of complicit impartiality and should seek to reveal and tell the truth as cognisant political agents, writes Haris Zargar.
In late December 2022, the Taliban announced that aid organizations would no longer be allowed to employ women. It was the next step in a series of measures that make it increasingly impossible for Afghan women to study, live or think independently. In response, many aid organizations have stopped their work, others are continuing. What will be the effect of all this and where are the boundaries for continuing assistance?
The East African Community’s regional economic integration efforts are starting to pay off – here’s why to take note
Good news about Africa always seems to travel slowly. The East African Community has successfully been pushing for regional economic integration in East Africa, but not everyone has gotten wind of it. ISS researchers Peter van Bergeijk and Binyam Demena in their recently published book called ‘Trade and Investment in East Africa’ show how the EAC’s many successes and failures can provide several opportunities – and lessons – for the Netherlands and other countries seeking to further strengthen regional economic integration.
As the FIFA World Cup in Qatar is well under way, the controversy around the exact number of migrant workers’ deaths continues. There is little doubt that illnesses related to the physical and mental strain of working long hours in extreme heat played a significant role in the surge in untimely deaths. How heat is governed in the Middle East and North Africa strongly influences its effects on public health, writes Sylvia I. Bergh, who argues that heat plans and traditional adaptations can help overcome governance deficiencies.
Fashion and Beauty in the Tower of Babel: how Brazilian companies made sustainability a common language at COP27
Fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world, plagued by sky-high greenhouse gas emissions, mountains of excess clothing manufactured and cast away each year, and the widespread use of fossil fuels in producing synthetic fabrics. A roundtable organized at COP27 drew together Brazilian companies who are leading the pack when it comes to sustainable fashion and beauty. Panel conveners Luciana dos Santos Duarte and Sylvia Bergh summarize the main takeaways and what it implies for the role these industries can play in helping address the challenges posed by climate change.
As citizens of the Global South, now immigrants in the Global North, which narrative of climate action should we uphold: the one that we know is unfair back home, or the one that puts the responsibility of action on us because of where we reside now? Are our Western contemporaries aware of these dilemmas that we face? A Nepali scholar now residing in Norway reflects on these questions.
Programmes to further climate goals have a disturbing number of “unintended consequences” that can drive social conflict. By discussing the UN’s REDD+ programmes intended to prevent forest degradation and reduce emissions from deforestation, Dirk Jan Koch and Marloes Verholt discuss why these consequences are seldom given sufficient attention.
When considering climate as a security threat, military and security actors could well become part of the formulation of responses to climate change, which would have major implications on the power dynamics around the natural resources involved. We need to ask whether much-needed action on climate change has harmful environmental and social effects, writes Corinne Lamain.
The current choreography of policies and interventions that make up the “climate action” framework can be seen as a way to preserve global capitalist class power in the face of the ongoing climate catastrophe. Mainstream climate change mitigation and adaptation policies are imbued with neocolonial discursive constructions of the “other”. There can be no decarbonisation without decolonization, write Diego Andreucci and Christos Zografos.
COVID-19 and climate change bear striking – and worrying – similarities and differences. Both are characterized by high uncertainty, but while COVID-19 has been identified as an immediate threat and action has been taken despite the absence of comprehensive knowledge, uncertainty has been touted as impeding concerted efforts to transform energy systems to combat climate change. While both crises require dramatic societal transformations, we need to be aware of the potential negative political consequences of declaring them as emergencies.
How combatting illicit financial flows can prevent remittances from helping people during humanitarian crises: a closer look at Afghanistan
Remittances are a lifeline for many people in low- and middle-income countries, playing a particularly important role during conflict-related humanitarian crises by helping those affected by conflict stay on their feet. However, laws countering money laundering and the financing of terrorism during such crises can prevent remittances from reaching those that need them. Using the case of Afghanistan, Mohamed Muse and Rodrigo Mena in this article discuss the links between remittances and such laws and propose a critical research agenda focused on remittances as an important part of humanitarian crisis responses.
Despite Pakistan’s growing number of adaptive measures, mostly in the form of foreign investments in its water and agriculture sector, recent floods all but destroyed this South Asian country. In light of this, we should critically discuss whether taking adaptative measures can really help Pakistan (or any country) prepare itself for climate change-related disasters that are becoming increasingly unprecedented in magnitude and scale. Radical climate action that moves beyond adaptation is needed to truly protect vulnerable regions and communities from catastrophic events, writes Isbah Hameed.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown that ensued caused disruption in every possible dimension of life, including the way in which academic research projects were conducted. In this article Wendy Harcourt, who led the recently completed EU-funded WEGO project, reflects on the effect the pandemic had on the project, showing how its network of researchers had to think and work together creatively and innovatively to keep the project going.
In its latest advisory report ‘Met de kennis van straks’ (‘With the knowledge of later’), the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) maps out what Dutch science and society need to do in order to be well prepared – and thus ready – for future pandemics. However, the report pays scant attention to macro(economic) issues, which doesn’t do justice to this societal-medical problem, writes Peter van Bergeijk.
From sacred to clinical: how the lack of proper burials during the Covid-19 pandemic affected communities in Uganda
When Covid-19 started spreading across the globe, the World Health Organization issued strict burial guidelines in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. In Uganda, the national health department took over the burial of Covid-19 victims, interring them quickly and without adhering to proper cultural and religious procedures. In a country where death rituals form a central part of the grieving process, the undignified burials that took place during the pandemic have had severe psychological consequences for bereaved families and communities.
How recognizing the Amazon rainforest as non-human helps counter human-driven ‘sustainable development’ interventions
Projects introduced in the Amazon rainforest to ‘protect’ it from harm hardly ever follow this objective; instead, they represent human interests while negating the interests of non-humans. But the rainforest as non-human also deserves the right to be represented. Luciana dos Santos Duarte in this article draws on developments in three academic fields to show how non-humans can become recognized in such projects.
So often we think that ethics and business do not blend, and too often we are proven right. But what if this is not always the case? What if there were a way for profit to be generated and for companies to grow, with the only compromise being the time taken to do so? In this article, Niyati Pingali argues that companies do not have to forego their profit objective – adopting a more-is-more mindset that entails engaging in a slow process of forging and consolidating ethical and sustainable business practices can drive immediate change in the sector, an intervention that can sit well alongside larger degrowth agendas.
The ongoing military conflict between Ukraine and Russia has allegedly changed the course of history and revived the era of ‘Great Power Rivalry’. Under this backdrop of re-energised geopolitical competition, the hostile rhetoric and posture have only further aggravated between the U.S. and China, especially regarding the ‘Taiwan issue’. Re-assertion of the international order dominated by the west, and counteraction of it (led by Russia and China), have led to a more fractured world both politically and economically. In the meantime, as most of the world has stepped out of the horror of Covid-19 pandemic, China’s continuing resolute containment measures and minimum border entry have astonished audiences in the west and beyond. These Covid-related restrictions coupled with China’s position in the rivalry with the U.S., have posed the question of whether China is gradually taking a deglobalisation course? Because China is so deeply ingrained in many aspects of globalization, including the global trade network, the answer to this question will not only have a significant bearing on China’s economic development and state-building, but it will also have significant worldwide implications. In this blog, we endeavor to answer this question by taking stock of modern China’s history of globalisation as well as the discourse around it and taking into account the consequences of the present Ukraine-Russia conflict.
This year in June and July (and into this month of August), a global heatwave led to an increase in deaths and disasters. Several European countries were largely impacted, including the Netherlands, France, Portugal, and Spain. In this blog, we (Shellan Saling and Sylvia I. Bergh) review the European Union’s (EU) policy response to heatwaves, and argue for a more active role for the EU in coordinating national efforts to develop heat-health action plans (HHAPs).
In order to prioritise the needs of humans over those of the state, migration and asylum governance needs to shift towards utilising a human security framework. A case in point for the urgency to do so can be found in the inhumane conditions within the European ‘refugee camps’ to which migrants are confined under the nomenclature of ‘national security’. Mainstream frameworks for evaluating camps reveal the illegal and inhumane conditions yet remain unable to challenge their structural existence – all bark, no bite. Through human security, these camps can be evaluated and improved (the bark) and ultimately dismantled (the bite).
As The Netherlands is currently suffering from extreme heat, it is worth reminding ourselves of the effects of the latest heatwave, which took place from 10-16 August, 2020. Worryingly, the excess mortality was 37% higher among people receiving long-term care than the average in the previous weeks. Especially senior citizens (people aged 65 and above) are vulnerable to the negative health effects of heatwaves. They often do not feel thirsty, and accordingly, they do not drink enough. Due to their reduced mobility, they have difficulties in moving to cooler places such as parks. They also cannot afford to buy air conditioners or sunscreens. Hence, as we, Erwin van Tuijl, Sylvia I. Bergh, and Ashley Richard Longman, argue in this blog, there is a need for frugal solutions to protect seniors against heat. Frugal solutions are both affordable as well as “simple” . We present some frugal solutions we identified in a recent research project in The Hague, The Netherlands. We also discuss challenges that hinder development and usage of these frugal solutions.
Are we sure we still need to be in the office 40+ hours a week? The economy may suffer in the short term if we continue flexible working, but society suffers in the long term if we force a return to the office So, do we really need to return to full time work-from-office? I say no. Hear me out.
Can collaborative research with marginalised communities be transformative, turning around unjust social relations, and supporting solidarity and rights in a practical sense? In this blog post, we (Jack Apostol, Helen Hintjens, Joy Melani and Karin Astrid Siegmann) reflect on this question based on our experience with the PEER approach, a participatory research methodology, that we used in a study on undocumented people’s access to healthcare in the Netherlands. The answer? We posit that the claim that social science methodologies can directly transform social realities, may be raising expectations too high, at least for the PEER approach. Yet, dissolving barriers between academic and non-academic knowers might be useful in itself, leading to greater respect for, and the amplification of the voices of marginalised people.
Transformative Methodologies | A reflection on collaborative writing across sex worker organisations and academia
We – members of Empower Foundation – a sex workers’ rights organisation in Thailand – and two scholar-activists from International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS) in the Netherlands, reflected on our experience of collaboration in light of our search for social transformation.
At a workshop in Bulange, Uganda, held in August 2021 the focus was on how to engage youth in protecting, preserving, and promoting World Heritage. The goal was to sensitise youth about heritage through learning from past legacies, understanding what elders live with today, and what they will pass on to the future generations. With a focus on the UNESCO World Heritage Kasubi Tombs site (No.1022), this workshop was important because cultural and natural heritage are both invaluable sources for life and inspiration, that require actionable innovations to transmit heritage knowledge, create heritage-related employment, and preserve the moral development of societies, while promoting young people’s cultural and intellectual development in a globalised world. In this blog, I make the case for increasing grassroots funding for youth-led activities to protect and preserve heritage, as well as to integrate information computing technology (ICT) to help disseminate heritage knowledge globally in a variety of digital formats.
The recent coup d’état in Africa threatens the political stability and democratization trends achieved in the past decade in the post-independence era. History has shown that military coups directly impact the human development and economic growth of a country. This article analyses the root causes of these coup, often masterminded by the military regimes. Whereas the continent has achieved tremendous progress in building democratic institutions, in this blog I argue that the conditions for recurring coups have largely remained since the adoption of continental binding principles (Lome declarations, ACDEG). The African Union (AU) and regional economic communities (RECS) ought to be more pragmatic, bold and decisive in its approaches in promoting good governance agenda in Africa.
The role of National Governments in delivering humanitarian-development-peace nexus approaches: a reflection on current challenges and the way forward
The concept of Humanitarian, Development, Peace (HDP) — referred to also as the triple nexus — gained momentum during the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, and more recently with the wide adoption of the recommendations on the HDP nexus issues by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC) in 2019.
Gender Studies is yet to make its mark among university students in Pakistan: Findings from a study on perceptions and attitudes towards gender studies among students in Quaid-i-Azam University, Pakistan.
Since 2010 I have been working as a lecturer at the Centre of Excellence in Gender Studies at the Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, Pakistan. I am also pursuing a Ph.D. degree in Sociology, with my research focusing on understanding the challenges and opportunities related to offering gender studies as an academic discipline in universities in Pakistan. Moreover, I will also be joining the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) as external Ph.D. candidate beginning in May 2022.
Addressing threats to scholars on the ground demands proactive measures from Academic institutions: Notes from fieldwork in Kashmir
Fieldwork is the most critical, and perhaps, the most demanding component of research, especially in difficult and hazardous contexts such as active conflict zones or nations with authoritarian regimes.
Rolph van der Hoeven and Rob Vos are the authors of a chapter* of the recently published book ‘COVID-19 and International Development’. In this blog, they elaborate on their chapter, which is about the international financial system. They urge governments worldwide to implement four reforms, necessary to create more fiscal space and access to adequate external finance for developing countries.
Imeko border town remains a significant border area in Nigeria, due to the sizeable economic activity that is carried out there, which contributes to the country’s revenue base. However, despite the economic benefit that the border area provides Nigerian states, it remains marginalised and in a state of heightened insecurity. This article argues that the large presence of various Nigerian security forces, has in no way, ameliorated the security situation in the border area. However, this anomaly can be addressed if proper monitoring of the border area is carried out by relevant authorities.
What the war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 crisis teach us about our global interconnectedness and its implications for inequality
Due to the war in Ukraine not only the country’s inhabitants have come under fire, but also the granary of much of the world. If the war is not stopped, grain prices will rise. This will have severe effects on many countries and vulnerable countries in Africa are likely to bear the brunt. The war, like the corona pandemic, illustrates how closely we are interconnected as nations on a global scale. What effects do such crises have on existing inequality? In this blog, a number of researchers of global development and social justice share their thoughts.
Integrated approach to research: Towards transformation of social (gender) injustices: A case of understanding gender-land injustice
This article is a contribution to the transformative methodologies blog series. It argues that employing an integrated approach to research, by equally highlighting status order (such as gender relations, by utilising a gender lens), challenges the focus only on class or political-economic dimensions of research concerns. Hence, an integrated approach to research brings forth the integration of economic (distribution), cultural (recognition), and political (representation) dimensions in knowledge production, thereby challenging the conventional methodological approaches, and elucidating the neglect and invisibility of an equally important research dimension, such as gender relations.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought war back to Europe. The international ramifications of the war are clear, for instance now that President Putin talks about nuclear deterrence and the United Nations has condemned the invasion. This blog argues that a proper assessment of the war in Ukraine should take into consideration the dimensions of international order and the European security order.
The sanctions package against Russia is expanding every day as the main strategy to end the invasion of Ukraine. While it is inevitable that ordinary Russians will suffer from these sanctions (as will people in the countries applying these sanctions), we must do everything in our ability to protect all civilians affected by this war, including people in Russia, from the impact of sanctions. This is not an easy task at all. On one hand, the sanctions might bring suffering to people in Russia (primarily for the most vulnerable ones), but on the other hand, they might lead to the end of the war, and, thereby, save many lives and reduce the extreme suffering of millions in Ukraine.
Binyam Afewerk Demena is one of the authors of several chapters of the recently published book ‘COVID-19 and International Development’. In this blog, he and his colleagues elaborate on their contributions to this book. We welcome you to join us for the book launch on March 17 (3:30-5:00 CET) at Pakhuis de Zwijger. Registration is now open.
The agricultural sector in Algeria relies on the informal labor force of Sub-Saharan migrants on their way to Europe. Interviews with migrants highlight their precarious conditions of life and work, worsening during the Covid-19 health crisis.
Transactional Sex (TS) is often used as an umbrella term to encompass a wide range of practices ranging from sex work to sexual exploitation and abuse. TS is typically framed in humanitarian settings through reductive lenses that portray the person engaged in them as without agency, forced into “negative coping strategies” by a larger crisis. Academics and practitioners have challenged these dominant framings in the Transactional Sex in Humanitarian Contexts panel as part of the 6th International Humanitarian Studies Conference. The presentations highlighted both the complexity and the nuanced nature of TS in different contexts, and common trends spanning a broad spectrum of humanitarian and displacement settings, including Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), France, Greece, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan, Switzerland, Syria, and Turkey. The panel offered a reflection of the ideologies and frameworks implicit in humanitarian operations, which can blind us to the diverse needs and strategies of those engaged in transactional sex.
Collaboration between researchers and those they engage with for their research is increasingly promoted as a way to address some of the epistemic injustices arising from the process of producing knowledge. Stepping back and allowing those we work with to shape research agendas and become intimately involved in the research process is an act of care, and the effects and benefits are tangible, writes Marina Cadaval Narezo. Care can be a thread that weaves together multiple and diverse actors, helping create a dense fabric of experiences through which researchers and those they work with can collectively, and in more equitable ways, make sense of the creative process.
“Nothing about us, without us!”: Disability inclusion in community-based climate resilient programs. A case study of Indonesia
In design of climate-resilient programs for community development, there is growing awareness of the benefits of gender assessments, but it is far less common that disability is considered. The meaningful inclusion of people with disabilities can reveal their knowledge and capacities to contribute, and result in more contextualised and socially-just responses to climate change.
Transformative Methodologies | Listening differently, hearing more clearly: a decolonial approach to fostering dialogue between plural knowledges
Recent debates on decolonising research have highlighted the importance of accounting for plural knowledges by seeking to foster a dialogue between them. Yet, a dominant modern rationalist approach informing how we understand the knowledges we encounter and produce through our research is impeding this objective. A diversity of languages is used to share and represent knowledge – and not all of them can be captured and understood by modern rationality, writes Agustina Solera.
Transformative Methodologies | How ‘interactive research’ can foster mutual learning as a first step in transformative research
Transformative research is an evolving concept rooted in the conscious action of embedded scholar-activism. Opening up possibilities for mutual learning can be an important first step for interested scholars in making their research transformative. In this blog, Holly A. Ritchie proposes that subtle social change may be triggered through the research process itself by what she terms ‘interactive research’.
Narratives or the stories we use to set our perceptions and experiences in a larger context of meaning are powerful tools for both supporting civic space and engagement and oppressing them. As we are often not even aware of these narratives, changing them is not easy and requires much more than spreading information. A roundtable at the recent EADI/ISS conference “Solidarity, Peace and Social Justice” explored successful practical examples how a deeper change of narratives can take place in favour of positive social change and freedom of expression. Nicole Walshe and Anne Mai Baan summarize its recommendations.
On 19 October 2021, the government of Israel issued a military order that designated six, renowned and award-winning Palestinian human rights groups as “terrorist organisations”. The reason for this military order, and the evidence for making such designations, have not been disclosed. This is the latest of Israel’s longstanding efforts to undermine the work of these organisations. It also seems clear that this action is intended to intimidate donors and supporters of these organisations.
Transformative Methodologies | How emancipatory research can help prevent the misrepresentation of marginalised groups in conflict-prone settings
The misrepresentation of minority groups through research taking place during the colonial period has had lasting effects, impacting not only the way in which such groups are represented and represent themselves, but also how they are seen in academic research and treated by researchers. Delphin Ntanyoma by discussing the case of the Banyamulenge in the DRC shows how social and political settings, as well as historical oversights, errors, and rationalisations are perpetuating harm against minority groups. He proposes emancipatory research based on the co-creation of knowledge as a way to prevent further harm.
Transformative Methodologies | On ‘being with’ and ‘holding space’ as transformative research tools in anthropology
Despite advances made in the field of anthropology to address some of its problematic practices, anthropologists still conduct research in the same ways as they always have, their comings and goings based on the amount of data they have acquired. The decolonisation of anthropological studies may benefit from a different approach in which researchers spend time ‘being with’ studied groups, hold space for their stories, and are responsible for the stories they as researchers then put forth, writes Aminata Cairo.
The Netherlands has been a leading participant in water diplomacy efforts due to a self-proclaimed water management expertise. An extensive discourse analysis of an advisory report finds that the Netherlands in framing itself as a ‘neutral broker’ pursues multiple objectives in its water diplomacy efforts. The article shows that these include much self-interest, and that this small nation’s mercantilist ambitions are alive and well. It also illustrates how to apply a linked series of discourse analysis methods to key policy texts in a way that is feasible for non-specialists.
COP26 came to an end a month ago, and with it the opportunity to have a clear-cut global agenda for the energy transition. While many political leaders acknowledge the need for a green transition, the narrative and the strategies to address this global concern maintain the existing inequalities between the resource-rich (developing) and consuming (developed) countries. A transition to a green and sustainable economy requires a comprehensive understanding of the consumption-driven lifestyle heritage of our liberal economies, writes Jewellord Nem Singh.
EADI ISS Conference 2021 | Some steps for decolonising international research-for-development partnerships
While partnerships between researchers and practitioners from the Global North and Global South can be and often are intellectually and socially impactful, they remain highly unequal. Coloniality pervades these partnerships, influencing who leads research projects implemented in the Global South and whose interests are represented. Here, the conveners and panellists of a roundtable discussion on partnerships in academia that formed part of the recent EADI ISS Conference 2021 propose some steps for decolonising international research partnerships.
Keeping Africans out: Injustice following wilful neglect and the politicization of Covid-19 measures
As the Omicron variant continues to spread across the globe, Western nations have taken the decision to impose travel bans to African countries. This measure to contain the virus, is the latest -but neither the only nor the most outrageous- example of how Covid-19 responses have been instrumentalised for political purposes, write Dorothea Hilhorst and Rodrigo Mena.
Community economies based on collective action and reciprocity have the potential to help us move toward a postcapitalist economics. However, communities tend to be romanticised and their politics sidelined. (Almost) forgotten economists have some interesting things to say about community economies and how they can be strengthened to contribute to systemic change, writes Irene van Staveren.
EADI ISS Conference 2021 | How social accountability initiatives are helping pursue social justice aims
Achieving social justice in service delivery in the health, social welfare, and humanitarian sectors is still a formidable challenge in most developing countries. The inability of the poor and marginalised to make and have their demands heard and the lack of awareness that rights can be claimed are two main challenges preventing the pursuit of improved services delivery. But social accountability initiatives can help to address these issues, helping ensure substantive citizenship and legitimacy. In this article, Elsbet Lodenstein and Sylvia Bergh summarise a discussion that took place on this topic during the recent EADI ISS Conference. The range of initiatives presented during the panel session were all effective in helping upholding accountability in their specific contexts, they write.
Mainstream climate change mitigation and adaptation policies are imbued with neocolonial discursive constructions of the “other”. Understanding how such constructions work has important implications for how we think about emancipatory and socially-just responses to the climate crisis.
Le ONG europee si adattano ancora al registro dei loro interlocutori – ma ci sono segnali di cambiamento
Nel decennio scorso, il discorso sullo sviluppo della Confederazione europea per lo sviluppo e l’aiuto umanitario (CONCORD) si è basato sulla sovrapposizione di vari quadri teorici, per lo più riformisti. In quanto rappresentante di più di 2600 ONG a livello europeo, CONCORD si posiziona quale interlocutore essenziale delle istituzioni europee, all’interno della società civile del settore. Il suo riformismo è al tempo stesso teorico, tattico e il risultato della sua ricerca di rappresentatività (effetto consenso). Recentemente, anche se timidi, cominciano a materializzarsi segnali di un’agenda più radicale, che mostrano un potenziale re-indirizzamento verso critiche più fondamentali sia della crescita come modello economico che dell’eredità coloniale nelle odierne relazioni esterne.
When we think of the European Union (EU), we tend to see a unified body that speaks with one voice. While this perception also holds true for European NGOs, a recent study has shown that in the last decade, a multitude of different, mostly reformist theoretical framings have been informing how these NGOs view and talk about development. This article explores what this reformism means for such NGOs, showing that a more radical development agenda that moves away from an economic growth model and Europe’s colonial legacy might be emerging, even if discussions are still mostly taking place internally.
Environmental destruction and resistance: a closer look at the violent reoccupation of the DRC’s Kahuzi-Biega National Park
The decision of the indigenous Batwa to reoccupy parts of eastern DRC’s Kahuzi-Biega National Park by force shocked many outside observers. They were further shocked when the Batwa started to ally with rebel groups, traders, and illegal timber cutters in order to exploit part of the ancestral forest they had been forced to leave decades prior. In a recently-published article on the Journal of Peasant Studies, Fergus Simpson and Sara Geenen show why the Batwa’s decision to return to the park should in fact come as anything but a surprise.
Human Trafficking |Community self-regulation of the sex industry: a bottom-up approach for fighting sex trafficking in India
Efforts by the government of India to prevent and address human trafficking are failing to improve the conditions of the sex industry in a meaningful way, in particular due to its focus on the rehabilitation of ‘rescued’ sex workers. To resist this patronising attitude toward sex work, community organisation Durbar has been working on an alternative ‘paradigm’ to counter human trafficking in Kolkata, one of India’s largest cities. Its approach rooted in community participation in the protection of sex workers is proving effective because the dignity and agency of sex workers are placed central in the organisation’s efforts, writes Jaffer Latief Najar.
Human Trafficking | How anti-trafficking governance is getting it wrong: consequences of the differential treatment of migrant worker groups in the Netherlands
In many countries, including the Netherlands, being an immigrant – or being perceived as one – is a key mechanism used to normalise job precarity and poorly paid work. From this perspective, in theory, the rising attention to exploitative conditions that has paralleled anti-trafficking interventions is promising for migrant workers. Yet, using the case of the Netherlands as an example, this post highlights that, in practice, the exploitation of some workers seems to worry policy-makers more than others. The selective concern for migrant workers’ exploitation has paradoxical consequences, writes Karin Astrid Siegmann.
EADI ISS Conference 2021 | Development researchers as advocates: eight tips for more engaged scholarship
Research impact has become a strategic priority for many research institutes around the world, with an increasing focus on “bridging the gap” between research and society and positioning research in a way that ensures the knowledge it produces can contribute to bringing about change. But do and should researchers make sure that their research contributes to these objectives? And how can they go about it? This article shares some key insights from a roundtable forming part of the recent EADI ISS #Solidarity2021 conference.
Researchers who conduct their fieldwork in unfamiliar or hazardous settings are routinely exposed to risks that can bring them harm if these are not anticipated and circumvented. Often, junior PhDs or foreign researchers conduct fieldwork on behalf of more senior researchers; and in doing so, they also take over the risks that fieldwork poses. The practice of ‘risk and ethics dumping’ that was discussed at a roundtable session on safety and security for researchers at the recent EADI ISS #Solidarity2021 Conference should end, and research institutions and senior researchers should start feeling greater responsibility toward those they work with or employ, write Linda Johnson and Rodrigo Mena.
Human Trafficking | Overregulated, but unprotected? Human trafficking governance is not protecting sex workers in the Netherlands
Furthering the discussion on the negative consequences for sex workers of the regulatory conflation of sex work and human trafficking, this post reflects on how regulation focused on identifying cases of human trafficking in the Dutch sex industry has failed to protect sex workers, whose primary concerns remain an unsafe working environment and a lack of job security. Government surveillance of the sex industry does not produce better working conditions – what is needed is increased dialogue for evidence-based policy-making that ensures that immediate needs of sex workers are met without further ado.
Starting in 2014, World Day Against Trafficking in Persons has been held on 30 July each year. The events that correspond to these days are meant to raise awareness about the crime of human trafficking and the protection of the rights of trafficked persons. In the month of September, we are publishing a series on critical engagements with interventions to combat human trafficking. The series opens with Marie-Louise Janssen’s and Silke Heumann’s critical discussion of a new law that seeks to protect victims of human trafficking in the sex industry of the Netherlands, but is unlikely to do so.
Development Studies requires “an epistemological and ontological change”, write Elisabetta Basile and Isa Baud in the introduction to the recent EADI volume ‘Building Development Studies for a New Millennium’. The planned sequel of the book will take this analysis one step further and explore viable ways to build on both the critique of development as such and the growing demand to decolonise knowledge production. During a plenary session titled ‘Questioning Development – Towards Solidarity, Decoloniality, Conviviality’ that formed part of EADI’s recent #Solidarity2021 conference, four contributors discussed the upcoming book. Christiane Kliemann summarised the discussion.
In the face of increasing pressure on global water availability, a degree of inventiveness in finding just and sustainable ways to ensure access to water is required. The redistribution of water is one possible way in which this could be done. But ongoing research on elite responses to a recent water scarcity crisis in South Africa shows that the redistribution of water resources will not go uncontested by water elites and that existing narratives on the sharing of water are not creating the extent of solidarity needed. We need to frame this action differently, writes Lize Swartz.
The dire shortage of COVID-19 vaccines across low- and middle-income countries is a strong indicator of global health injustice in recent times. Vaccine hoarding by affluent countries, for example the USA or Canada, is causing vaccine apartheid, and global policy responses thus far fall short in failing to save the world from this catastrophic moral failure. While the political and economic relationship of vaccine production and distribution is dominating the discussion, it’s the socio-cultural dynamics of the COVID-19 vaccine that put global governance in a fix.
The coup d’état that took place in Myanmar in February this year led to a global outcry as the junta took over the country’s government. But despite massive and enduring citizen-led protests and strong criticism by the international community with accompanying punitive measures, the junta remains in power and continues to arrest and kill citizens. Seohee Kwak in this article argues that resolving the situation requires the Burmese public and foreign actors to work together more concretely and coherently.
The absence of serious measures to protect citizens from the COVID-19 virus in countries such as India and Brazil, as well as vaccine grabbing by countries in the Global North, have created much avoidable suffering, mainly, but not only, in the Global South. Nearly a year and a half after the outbreak of the pandemic, hope for transformative change rests mainly on the countless practices of solidarity by local communities worldwide. It therefore comes as no surprise that all speakers at the opening plenary of the EADI ISS #Solidarity2021 conference were torn between pessimism and hope when taking stock of solidarity in times of COVID-19.
17th Development Dialogue| Communicating research differently: how a comic strip is bringing the everyday struggles of Somaliland’s Uffo to life
Researchers and non-researchers alike can learn much about and draw inspiration from the everyday struggles of ordinary people in difficult contexts. Yet such stories that we hear when working with communities engaged in the pursuit of social justice or emancipation often go untold or are overlooked. A comic strip about acts of civil resistance in Somaliland shows just how powerful such visual imagery can be in communicating lived experiences of struggles, writes Ebba Tellander.
17th Development Dialogue | A call to end the ‘social distancing’ of the sciences – in the COVID-19 era and beyond
The chasm that separates the different scientific disciplines remains deep as ever despite the evident need to address pressing global problems through transdisciplinary collaboration. C. Sathyamala and Peter A.G. van Bergeijk in this article show how close and intensive cooperation across the artificial borders between the sciences can be made possible and argue for a methodology acknowledging that only a combination of qualitative and quantitative research can create the type of knowledge that’s required to move forward together.
EADI ISS Conference 2021 | How online conferences can contribute to social justice: lessons from organizing the EADI ISS Conference 2021
When we think of social justice, we often think of working towards it through academic research and development practice. But what if conferences themselves can also help further social justice? The EADI ISS Conference that’s taking place between 5 and 8 July 2021 is an excellent example of the extent to which the reshaping of conferences can change who is involved in the conversation and what is being discussed. We never expected this to work so amazingly, but it did. And we are in agreement that all conferences should be held online at least in part to bring scientific knowledge closer to society and further inclusion.
The noise never stops: life in Palestine during the Israeli occupation – a conversation with Rana Shubair
The noise never stops. The sky is filled with the buzzing of drones, echoing on and on, and with the sound of buildings collapsing as they are bombed. It’s not safe anywhere. There’s nowhere to flee to. And amidst a crumbling country and the chaos that is life in Palestine, people are trying to keep themselves upright. Rana Shubair in this article talks about life under the Israeli occupation and how parents have to stay strong as they watch their children face the hardships the occupation and grow up before their eyes.
More than 700 people have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea this year alone while attempting to reach Europe. This article shows how EU border agency Frontex has been complicit in the suffering and deaths of many thousands of refugees and why it cannot be allowed to continue doing so. Today, on World Refugee Day, through the international campaign #AbolishFrontex we urge the EU to end its border regime.
News reports of children being orphaned by Covid-19 deaths in India raise the spectre of a generation of children without adequate parental care. But international responses that favour solutions like building orphanages and seeking adoption for these children are misguided and can lead to child exploitation. In this post, Kristen Cheney explains why, and how you can better support children orphaned during the pandemic.
When some one million people crossed the Mediterranean in the course of 2015 to seek refuge, European countries called it a crisis. Yet the real crisis was created by by European immigration and asylum policies and by the challenges they posed for aid providers. We discussed these issues at the conference of the International Humanitarian Studies Association (IHSA) in August 2018 that was held at the ISS in The Hague. In this blog we highlight some of the key issues from our just-published conference special issue and show how the issues raised back then are still of concern today. The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the violence experienced by people seeking safety in countries such as Italy, Greece, France, Belgium, Germany, Norway, and the UK.
Back in 2015, cardboard placards bearing the words ‘Refugees Welcome’ that were shown in public spaces became an important way for ordinary European citizens to demonstrate solidarity with refugees and other migrants arriving en masse in Europe at the time. Citizen-led initiatives staffed by volunteers mushroomed, providing crucial assistance to refugees when humanitarian organisations were surprised and overwhelmed. But has something changed over the years as the amount of refugees entering Europe became smaller? What happened to these smaller grassroots initiatives as state and professional humanitarian actors gradually took over?
Palestinians are showing enormous bravery during this moment of horror. The walls of intimidation and despair that Israel has erected in the minds of Palestinians to prevent resistance are being torn down. Now that everyone has seen that Palestinians will no longer be silent , we need the rest of the world to respond with corresponding acts of courage and support, tearing down the wall of silence, inaction and complicity so Palestinians can finally enjoy freedom, justice and equality.
It is May 2021. Once again, Palestine is burning. Again, the US- and EU-funded Israeli military machine is in full throttle and again, the US – now led by Joe Biden – persistently blocks a UN Security Council Resolution, even to call for a cessation of violence. I am again writing, the latest of dozens of articles, feeling hopeless as people are killed and most of the world remains silent. I ask myself, again … what can I do?
The most recent wave of state violence against Colombian citizens that culminated in the killing of 47 demonstrators during a single week of protests taking place across the country is extremely worrying given the massive human rights violations it signifies. Yet far from being an isolated episode, the events that recently transpired are rooted in a deeper socio-economic and political crisis that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. State violence that has plagued the country for so long can be interpreted as the expression of institutional imbalances and may signify a worrying move toward securitisation – one that should be avoided at all costs.
#SOSColombia: A call for international solidarity against the brutal repression of protestors in Colombia
The recent surge in violence against Colombian citizens has led to thousands of reports of police brutality in a matter of days as the state cracked down on protesters taking to the streets starting 28 April. This has prompted a global outcry and pressure from international organisations and several countries on the Colombian government to end the violence so that the human rights of the protesters remain guaranteed. In this article, Ana María Arbelaéz Trujillo and Diego Hernández Morales present a brief overview of the situation and propose some ways in which the general public can get involved in raising awareness about the events and what they mean.
Now it’s time to start monitoring how children learn: moving beyond universal access to education in Bolivia
A recently published UNESCO-led evaluation of the quality of education in Bolivia and other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean revealed just how badly it is faring in providing education of sound quality. The report shows that despite near-universal access to education, primary school learners are struggling at school. Alvaro Deuer made similar observations for his Master’s thesis and here argues that to change this, Bolivia’s education system needs to be transformed through the long-term prioritisation of evidence-based research and policy informing the ongoing monitoring and improvement of education quality.
The enduring COVID-19 pandemic has led to a sharp spike in hunger among Filipinos resulting from an extended lockdown in this Southeast Asian country. This is driven in part by its problematic trade policy based largely on food imports and fluctuating global food prices. For those who also have to deal with the financial repercussions of the lockdown, increasing hunger due to poorer food availability along with increased poverty thus form a double disaster. Without the government’s immediate promotion and prioritisation of local food production and sustainable agricultural development, this could lead to even more widespread and severe hunger during and long after the pandemic.
Nth Room Crimes and intensifying gender conflict in South Korea: attempting to unite a highly divided society
The horrific case of videos showing the sexual exploitation of women in South Korea being sold on the social media platform Telegram was recently uncovered, prompting a public outcry and leading to feminist action in the country. Known as the Nth Room Crimes, this case shows just how far South Korean society still is from eliminating the oppression of women and addressing skewed gender relations. The strong backlash from men against efforts to redress gender inequality makes matters even worse. This article shows that toxic masculinity in South Korea urgently needs to be addressed for any real change to take place and suggests some possible first steps.
The most important lesson that we can learn from the COVID-19 pandemic is that inequalities are the Achilles heel of a society that has been hit by a pandemic. Based on selected insights from his new book, Pandemic Economics, Peter van Bergeijk argues that relatively small interventions in the Global South and the adjustment of the SDGs to include combating pandemics can go a long way in preventing future pandemics.
From possession to property: how the commodification of land affects youth participation in farming in Ghana
With the gradual transition from the customary possession of land to property ownership based on a capitalistic logic, customary lands in the Techiman area in Ghana have been commercialised and are failing to fulfil their traditional role as essential stepping stone for the youth to initial economic independence. Gertrude Aputiik argues that, contrary to mainstream assertions of the youth being disinterested in farming, difficulty accessing agrarian resources (land) could be seen as the major cause of poor participation of the youth in farming.
The use of rather rudimentary wicker shields by Dutch police during recent anti-lockdown protests is surprising given the availability of resources in the Netherlands to invest in more high-tech protection gear. This act of frugality in a context where it isn’t considered ‘necessary’ can help us better understand frugality as a strategic choice and supports the argument for the need to embrace frugality at an institutional level, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As soon as US president Joe Biden took office in January this year, he set about signing dozens of executive orders with the aim of reversing some of the most egregious policies instituted under the Trump administration. One was to reverse an order issued by Trump that had led to the forcible separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents at the Mexican border. In this post, Kristen Cheney details how this reversal order that will see families reunited and others signed by Biden can give us hope that conditions for children may finally improve in the US – but only if we make sure that the new administration is held to its promises.
India’s countless farmers have rallied together en masse over the past few months to protest farm ordinances imposed by the Indian government. These ordinances may have severe implications for agriculture in India, including reduced state support for agriculture, the increased domination of corporate interests, and a threat to food security, land rights, and livelihoods of the farmers. The intersection of this development with already tenuous conditions may fuel a famine and further increase vulnerability of the agrarian classes, writes Karishma Shelar.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are becoming increasingly popular, especially among young ‘digital natives’ who are living a significant part of their lives online. But besides helping smooth the transition to a physical-digital life, cryptocurrencies are also changing the world in a different way. This article, part of a two-article series on cryptocurrencies, shows how Bitcoin and blockchain technologies are rooted in a quest for social justice.
Low-hanging fruits are sometimes the sweetest: how tree-sourced foods can help transform the global food system
The global food system has been monopolized and simplified, leading to the domination of a select few foods and the large-scale conversion of forests into agricultural land. The system in its current shape threatens livelihoods of small-scale farmers and is not meeting the nutritional needs of the majority of the global population. A recent study shows that the elevation of small-scale tree-sourced food systems can help contribute to a global food system transformation that leads to improved environmental and human well-being by countering widespread hunger and malnutrition, helping protect the environment against massive deforestation and biodiversity loss, and protecting livelihoods.
The recently published UNDP Human Development Report shows that we’ve come a long way in recognising the damage we’re doing to the planet and how intricately connected natural resource use and poverty are. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities and poor living conditions, making it clear that we don’t have time to waste in addressing the double challenge of environmental and social injustice. We now have an opportunity to change things for the better – if only we seize this opportunity together, writes Kitty van der Heijden, Director-General for International Cooperation at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Aspiration is an implicit element of development that inspires action for change. Yet there are increasing concerns about the individualised and instrumental use of aspirations in development practice. In a recent special issue of the European Journal of Development Research focusing on youths’ aspirations that I guest-edited along with Nicola Ansell and Peggy Froerer, we argue that aspirations should be recognised as socially produced and as positionings by young people in presents shaped by remnants of pasts and the uncertainty of futures. In this post we detail what’s inside the special issue.
The climate crisis is becoming an international focal point, and budgets for climate change mitigation and adaptation are getting larger. At the same time, debates on ‘climate security’ involving some of the most powerful actors globally can be discerned. We need to ask ourselves, our governments, and corporations some difficult and counterintuitive questions: does much-needed action on climate change have harmful environmental and social effects, especially for marginalised groups living in and of water, land and forests?
Today we celebrate International Women’s Day, but as always, there are some positive developments we can commend and others that we should be horrified about. The COVID-19 pandemic has strongly exacerbated gender injustices and created new gender inequalities. At the same time we can fortunately witness the strengthening of discussions on gender relations and things we’re still doing wrong (and those things we’re setting right). We’ve reached the tip of the iceberg and the rest – the assumptions and silences that perpetuate gender injustices – lurk beneath the surface, a silent colossus standing between us and real progress. In this post, we celebrate attempts to chip away at those parts of gender relations that are less visible, but just as crucial to address.
On the eve of the national elections set to take place on 17 March in the Netherlands, developmental issues are being debated and diverging solutions proposed by political parties running in the elections. A recent debate organized by SAIL on the role of knowledge in aid and trade relations indicated that even though not receiving much attention in pre-election debates, knowledge produced by Dutch knowledge institutes is considered vital in sustaining aid and trade relations between the Netherlands and its counterparts in the Global South, writes Linda Johnson.
COVID-19 | How exclusionary social protection systems in the MENA are making the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects worse
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the majority of people living in the MENA region even more vulnerable, adding to existing structural problems that include under-resourced public health services, a high degree of labour informality, and high poverty and unemployment rates. Temporary social and economic support measures to mitigate the pandemic’s effects are not sufficient, however – the region has to go beyond piecemeal policies. Countries need to expand the scope and scale of social provisioning and social protection as well as the quality of and access to public health services by moving towards a universalist approach to social policy, writes Mahmood Messkoub.
Hanging by a thread: what’s right – and wrong – with the new German supply chain law meant to protect human rights
After years of civil society campaigning against the working conditions of supply chain workers in the Global South supplying German companies and consumers, the German government recently agreed to the introduction of a human rights due diligence law. The law, supposed to force companies to ensure the human rights of these workers and affected communities in countries abroad, will likely be passed before the summer. But unless the parliament makes substantial changes, the law in its current form will not be enough to hold companies responsible. Furthermore, it fails to ensure that the voices of those affected most are heard, writes Josephine Valeske.
Forty years after the ‘clean up’ of the Amoco Cadiz oil spill, the shores of Brittany that have been forever blighted by the spill attest to our collective failure to manage the consequences of our addiction to oil. Clean-ups or compensation are not enough to address the permanent damage caused, writes Maryse Helbert—we need to find other ways to fix the zones that have been sacrificed during decades of oil exploitation.
Positioning Academia | Let’s talk about it: embedding research communication in transformative research
Discussions on the transformative potential of research have focused little on how research is communicated once it has been conducted and, indeed, while it is conducted. Instead, the focus hitherto has been primarily on data generation processes, with topics such as inclusion, research ethics, and agency frequently discussed. Fundamental questions such as who the knowledge produced through research reaches, at what time, and with which purpose require greater scrutiny, write Dorothea Hilhorst, Lize Swartz, and Adinda Ceelen.
Positioning Academia | Reducing inequality should be our top priority during the COVID-19 pandemic—but it isn’t
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated income inequality all over the world. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal of reducing inequality (SDG 10) is getting more and more off track. How are countries reacting to this worrying trend? This blog reviews how governments report on reducing income inequality to the UN, showing that although attention to income inequality is increasing, strong policy measures to tackle the underlying structural factors that cause income inequality are often not reported and are still found wanting.
Positioning Academia | Decolonizing academic minds: reflecting on what academics are getting wrong (and right) by Ton Dietz
When Linda Johnson and I shared responsibilities for the Prince Claus Chair in Development and Equity, we had many discussions that were close to the leading topic of the ongoing Africa Knows! Conference for which I am co-responsible, ‘It is time to decolonize minds’. In a recent email message to all conference participants, David Ehrhardt, Marieke van Winden and I shared some preliminary thoughts about lessons learned so far. I reflect on them here.
Contemporary policies and discourses on migration largely overlook human dynamics of migration and focus on migrants as a policy problem to be ‘dealt with’. A human security scope is a sustained call for a major overhaul of how we think about human mobility towards rehumanising migration, writes Ali Bilgic.
Inequality is growing in most countries and deep-seated injustices continue to pervade our world—from the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on minority ethnic groups and the tragic death of George Floyd in the US, to reports of the collapse of the health system in Yemen. In the face of such embedded inequalities and injustices, what must we, as engaged academics, do to make our commitment to a more equitable and sustainable world real?
While most academics can conduct research freely, a number of scholars around the world have been threatened due to the nature of their critical, yet crucial work in the field of development studies. Over the past decade, the ISS has provided institutional support for the Scholars at Risk (SAR) network, helping create a safe haven for five scholars whose lives were in danger. We share here our experience of the value of this programme on the occasion of the retirement of Linda Johnson, who along with her work for the Prince Claus Chair coordinated ISS support for visiting scholars, infusing the link with a special quality.
COVID-19 and Conflict | COVID-19 in the Brazilian Amazon: forging solidarity bonds against devastation
The indigenous populations in the Amazon are putting up a commendable fight against the Brazilian government’s lack of adequate response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are fighting an epic battle, not only trying to prevent being infected by the virus, but also encroachment by multiple actors on Amazonian land—a process that continues despite the pandemic. Here, we present the ongoing struggle of indigenous peoples in the Brazilian Amazon and how they are resisting several threats simultaneously.
Several shocking events that transpired in Greece last year have not been met by truly humane solutions, showing that the performative moments of ‘refugee crises’ are not enough to move EU leaders into adopting a different approach toward refugees. The EU’s long-awaited New Pact on Migration and Asylum is supposed to change how refugees are treated, but with the European Commission set to promote ‘a European way of life’ through the pact, harsh practices are bound to continue, writes Zeynep Kaşlı.
COVID-19 and Conflict | Why virtual sex work hasn’t helped sex workers in India survive the COVID-19 lockdown
Virtual sex work, although around for many years, has become an alternative to traditional sex work during the global COVID-19 pandemic. In India, like elsewhere, sex workers due to a strict lockdown and the limiting of their movements have turned to virtual sex work to earn a living. Yet it has not become a viable solution for many due to a number of challenges the workers face when resorting to this type of sex work, write Birendra Singh and Chitrakshi Vashisht.
The Kivus in the Eastern DRC do not seem to be getting a break. Besides facing a protracted armed conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an economic downturn in the region as mining activities have been limited or shut down completely. In light of this intersection of crises, the region’s inhabitants have had to find ways to cope, defying lockdown measures in the process. Yet, the social ties of the region is what is keeping it alive, write Christo Gorpudolo and Claire Akello
COVID-19 and Conflict | From the Chilean miracle to hunger protests: how COVID-19 and social conflict responses relate
COVID-19 broke out in Chile last year in the midst of an intensive social conflict rooted in the deep-seated inequalities caused by the free-market reforms in the country. The case of Chile shows how pre-existing conflict dynamics can be strongly intertwined with pandemic responses as earlier protests for greater equality paved the way for a climate facilitating ‘hunger protests’ during the pandemic. In response to growing mistrust in the state, citizens had a strong social mobilization base that drove collective action.
COVID-19 and Conflict | Between myth and mistrust: the role of interlocutors in managing COVID-19 in Haiti
Mistrust in state-provided information about COVID-19 has characterized citizen responses to the pandemic in Haiti, preventing the effective management of the virus. This article shows that this mistrust is rooted in a number of historical, political, and social factors, including the perceived mismanagement of past crises. In the wake of resistance to pandemic measures and failure to adhere to regulations, local organizations can play an important role in contexts with low institutional trustworthiness.
Rapid research into the effects of COVID-19 on young people in Tanzania reveals high levels of anxiety about the virus as it relates to relationships, economic livelihoods and the community. The research, led by Dr Elizabeth Ngutuku, draws further attention to the need for governments to consider the disease’s wider social and psychological impacts.
COVID-19 and Conflict | Pandemic responses in Brazil’s favelas and beyond: making the invisible visible
The inaction of the Brazilian government during the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed some members of Brazilian society into an even more vulnerable position. Yet many of these groups seem to know what they need to do to fight the virus. Here, we highlight the capacity of some domestic workers and residents of favelas to organize both quickly and innovatively during the pandemic. Importantly, we show that favelas can be a site for empowering transformation, rather than just a place of misfortune.
COVID-19 and Conflict | The state’s failure to respond to COVID-19 in Brazil: an intentional disaster
The COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil stretches beyond the fight against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The inaction of the government over the past year to counter the effects of the pandemic has worsened living conditions for millions of Brazilians and ultimately resulted in the loss of lives. We argue that the intentional disaster resulting from the mismanagement of the pandemic was caused by the direct (in)action of the federal government as gross negligence rooted in apathy clashed with historically constructed conditions.
In the absence of state infrastructure, grassroots networks play a crucial role in addressing the prevalence of violence against children in Kenya. How do these networks work and how can they be supported to overcome their challenges?
As the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign draws to a close today, Agustina Solera and Brenda Rodríguez Cortés reflect on the challenges women in Latin America have faced over the past year and how, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, they have stood strong as ever, braving the particularly difficult conditions that they have had to face this year.
Is it important for ethnographers to revisit the sites where they conduct their research once their projects have been completed? Returning to the site where I conducted my fieldwork six months later indicated that the answer is both yes and no. It makes me believe that ethnography practice is a continuous knowledge production project, as people’s perspectives and practices are always evolving.
While the US economy is going through its worst crisis in the last eight decades, with small businesses shutting down en masse and millions of Americans losing their jobs, one wouldn’t know anything is wrong solely from looking at the largest US companies. The crisis, triggered―but not caused―by the COVID-19 pandemic measures, has enabled some of the world’s largest corporations to amass record profits. It allows them to capture ever-larger shares of a market that is increasingly monopolised. How could that happen and what will it lead to?
Following a stand-off with commercial creditors and protracted but unresolved negotiations with the IMF, Zambia defaulted on its external sovereign debt on 13 November this year. While most commentary has focused exclusively on the government’s sovereign borrowing, our own research has detected massive outflows of private wealth over the past 15 years, hidden away in an obscure part of the country’s financial account. The outflows are most likely related to the large mining companies that dominate the country’s international trade. With many other African countries also facing debt distress, this huge siphoning of wealth from Zambia provides crucial lessons that need to be central in discussions about debt justice in the current crisis. We explain here what we’ve found.
COVID-19 | The COVID-19 pandemic and oil spills in the Ecuadorian Amazon: the confluence of two crises
How can we reframe the current planetary crisis to find ways for decisive and life-changing collective action? The Amazon region of Ecuador, at the center of two crises—COVID-19 and a major oil spill—but also home to a long history of indigenous resistance, offers some answers.
Over the past few years, the European Union has used deterrence as its main strategy to prevent an influx of refugees, becoming more hard-handed as the number of refugees has increased. A faulty asylum procedure creates false hope to those who are then met by an untimely death or horrific conditions upon reaching Europe instead of ‘making it’ as a handful of refugees before them did. This hope-generating machine divides instead of unites, diminishing the collective power of refugees to challenge the EU’s migration policy.
Is there a crisis in the United States, as many commentators would make us believe? If so, what is the nature of that crisis? It has become very fashionable to speak of innumerable ‘crises’ while most of these events can be traced to something far deeper, namely lawfare. It is becoming increasingly clear that the use of lawfare has been Trump’s game plan from the beginning until the end of his administration; accordingly, he is now seeking to bypass the will of the voters and entrench himself in the White House.
COVID-19 and Conflict | How Duterte’s new Anti-Terrorism Act is terrorizing Filipino citizens, not helping them survive the COVID-19 pandemic
The Philippines, like many other countries, has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, but a stronger blow was delivered to its citizens and democracy when the Anti-Terrorism Act was passed at the height of the pandemic in July this year. This event reveals President Rodrigo Duterte’s prioritization of the consolidation of his authoritarian regime’s power—at the expense of Filipino citizens. An increased state police and military presence justified as necessary for curbing the spread of COVID-19 shows that this law is being implemented, with dire implications for freedom of speech and expression as those critical of Duterte’s rule are imprisoned or terrorized.
COVID-19 and Conflict | How pandemic regulations are being used to target the political opposition in Zimbabwe
Relatively few Covid-19 infections and deaths have been registered in Zimbabwe, yet the Southern African country has been hit hard by the pandemic. Our recent research on Covid-19 responses in Zimbabwe shows that in the face of a strict lockdown and ongoing economic repercussions, one of the biggest worries for Zimbabwean citizens ironically is falling prey to the instrumental and strategic use of laws meant to protect them from the virus, which are apparently being used to continue decades-long political repression.
As the Covid-19 pandemic drags on, many of us living in wealthy countries are still struggling to get used to the ‘new normal’ of frequent regulatory changes that affect our freedom of movement and well-being. In developing countries, the negative effects of the pandemic move beyond the curtailing of movement to include increasing hunger, unemployment, and inequality. We can now witness some of these seemingly permanent changes that may take years or even decades to reverse, and we should not accept this as a ‘new normal’, write Shradha Parashari and Lize Swartz.
Curtailing the movement of people around the world in a bid to control and eventually stop the spread of Covid-19 has forced many, including academics, to gather online. A recent online conference of the European Consortium for Political Research I attended shows that such conferences can not only be a roaring success, but can also help address social injustices, in particular economic and social barriers to participation. Yet these practices should become the ‘new norm’ to ensure that these barriers are broken down once and for all.
Morocco’s recently enacted Right to Information Law is a potentially powerful tool in the hands of its citizens, but their ability to use it is still largely dependent on the government’s commitment to transparency and political will to enforce it.
Taking an ethnographic route to study disaster-affected communities makes us grow deeply aware of seething worldly inequalities that disasters bring forth. At the same time, it makes us compassionate towards the world outside. It is imperative we reserve a piece of that compassion for our own selves, too, writes Mausumi Chetia.
While Germany has been lauded for agreeing to take in 1,700 refugees from refugee camp Moria that recently burned to the ground, the country has been cited as a role model for its rational, yet humane stance toward refugees ever since it took in more than one million people in a single year during Europe’s so-called ‘refugee crisis’. However, within the country a different type of crisis is brewing—one characterized by deep structural and societal racism. Only if Germany and international observers shake the deceptive perception of the country as ‘welcoming’, change can finally happen, writes Josephine Valeske.
Covid-19 | Strengthening alliances in a post-Covid world: green recovery as a new opportunity for EU-China climate cooperation?
As nations turn their attention to fighting the economic crisis resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, green recovery seems to be a good—and perhaps for the first time, possible—option. As climate change remains the most pressing challenge despite the severity of the global Covid-19 pandemic, a green recovery plan to slow down global warming and meet climate goals becomes imperative. Leaders in the EU are taking the lead in greening the recovery, while China seems to be following suit. A ‘green consciousness’ seems to be emerging. Could these efforts improve EU-China relations and help these two global powerhouses work together to fight climate change? asks Hao Zhang.
In 2010, approximately 34% of young women in developing countries – some 67 million – married before reaching 18 years of age. An additional 14-15 million women will marry as children or adolescents every year in the coming decades. Child marriages lead to pregnancies and childbirths at an early age, which can have negative consequences for the health of both mother and child. Does the age at which motherhood takes place matter, and can postponing motherhood into adulthood help increase the chances of children surviving beyond five years of age? My study of teen pregnancies amongst Bangladeshi girls shows that age does matter, and it matters quite a lot.
The recent fire that razed refugee camp Moria in Greece has left around 13,000 refugees homeless and fleeing once again—this time to an unknown destination where they hope to find safety at most, or temporary shelter at the least. While humanitarian aid organizations have scrambled to provide aid to the destitute refugees and Europe’s leaders have assumed a cold and calculating approach, it seems that refugee men are being forgotten. Dorothea Hilhorst argues that all refugees, regardless of age or gender, should be helped and that the plight of young men, who are often not considered ‘real’ refugees, should also be highlighted.
After decades of civil warfare, peace is the priority for the Democratic Republic of Congo. Yet the predicament of the Banyamulenge, a minority currently besieged and threatened by surrounding armed groups in South Kivu, illustrates that the poisonous legacies of colonial theories of ‘race’ are alive and well in people’s minds. This threatens prospects for peace in the DRC and the wider Great Lakes region. Belgium’s King Philippe recently issued a public apology for the cruelty of colonialism in the Congo, and following Black Lives Matter protests, a Parliamentary ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ commission has been set up in Belgium. Yet its findings will not come soon enough to help the Banyamulenge. Helen Hintjens and Delphin Ntanyoma call for urgent intervention to protect the civilian Banyamulenge who are facing genocide. They call for mental decolonisation from race theories to ensure that ALL Black Lives Matter in the Congo.
Prioritising ‘well-being’ amongst refugees living in fragile settings through the framework of culture and inclusion
A focus on improving the well-being of vulnerable groups such as refugees and migrants is crucial for at least two reasons: managing the trauma of crisis and disruption that has severely affected the lives of such groups, and confronting new challenges arising in displacement, including ‘social and cultural barriers to integration, low socio-economic status, acculturation stress, exclusion and discrimination’. This blog explores how a project run by Holly Ritchie in a fringe area of Nairobi, Kenya seeks to counter the precarious position of Somali refugee women by placing their well-being first, with particular emphasis on the role of culture and inclusion.
CSOs are recognized as key partners in the collaborative pursuit of the SDGs, which provide a positive framework for action and dialogue. However, a recent study found that those CSOs who manage to become and remain engaged are mainly part of the aid system and operate in urban locations. Does the inclusion of these powerful CSOs mean that civil society is included in the pursuit of the SDGs, or is the opposite the case?
The Green New Deal has become a central focus of debates around ecosocialist politics; this list brings together diverse resources to foster critical reflection on its potential and limitations.
Despite early assessments that Peru was faring well in the COVID-19 pandemic and that its preparedness was due to its strict application of austerity and reforms over the last 30 years, these quickly turned out to be tragically premature as the country emerged over the summer as one of the worst impacted globally in terms of confirmed deaths per capita. While much of the blame has been focused on people’s behaviour, the crisis ultimately points to deep overlapping structural inequalities within the social protection, employment, and health systems, which austerity and reform have not resolved and in some cases worsened.
Addressing racism and decolonizing humanitarian studies is urgent, and as scholars we need to step up our efforts. Partnerships between scholars and conflict-affected communities are as unequal as ever, and the disparities between humanitarian studies in the global North and global South remain large. Dorothea Hilhorst here introduces the importance of localization in humanitarian studies that will be discussed in an upcoming workshop on 20 August, highlighting the need for equal partnerships and meaningful participation, as well as continuous debate to move beyond quick fixes in addressing structural and persistent inequalities.
Genocide denial is an obstacle to meaningful reconciliation and healing in Rwanda, a country struggling to recover from the deep scars left by the 1994 genocide. In this article, Helen Hintjens and Jos van Oijen show that genocide denial has evolved over time, shifting from outright denial to relativizing the genocide by referring to other forms of violence, or recasting it in a way that shifts the blame to the victims and perpetrators while keeping bystanders such as international organizations out of the spotlight.
Covid-19: Increased responsiveness helps South Korea legitimize authoritarian pandemic response measures
Despite the South Korean government’s authoritarian Covid-19 measures that have sparked concerns over the possible violation of personal rights, no public protests against the government’s response have been witnessed thus far. In this article, Seohee Kwak explains why, showing that the high level of responsiveness of the government in tackling the pandemic lowers the perceived need for contentious political action.
Covid-19 | Gender and ICTs in fragile refugee settings: from local coordination to vital protection and support during the Covid-19 pandemic
ICTs are changing how marginalized communities connect with each other, including those in fragile refugee settings, where ICTs have been used to share information and organize in collective enterprise. This year, during the Covid-19 pandemic, WhatsApp has taken on a critical health function. Holly Ritchie here discusses how Somali women refugees are using this platform particularly in this challenging time and discusses the evolving role of ICTs in refugee self-reliance.
The violent Israeli encroachment and annexation of Palestinian land is compromising the future of the West Bank and putting its residents in an extremely vulnerable position. Palestinians are resisting both annexation and the Covid-19 pandemic by returning to their land and cultivating it, with the support of social justice movements. A concrete example of their contribution to Palestine’s rich agrarian heritage is a seed bank, whose hardy indigenous seeds are feeding people in the short term and protecting the climate and defending territory for generations to come.
The Covid-19 pandemic, emerging in the aftermath of the recent global financial crisis, could potentially further shake the confidence that Europeans have in their institutions. Rigid and slow decision-making processes and an excessive institutional reliance on super-specialisation and protocol-driven scientific evidence can at least partly explain why Europe finds it so difficult to predict disruptions and why it adapts its institutional machineries so slowly. Greater flexibility, including space for experimentation and improvisation, can help Europe to adapt more quickly to future contingencies, write Saradindu Bhaduri and Peter Knorringa.
When a peace agreement was signed in 2016 in Colombia between the government and armed forces (FARC), citizens and activists seized the opportunity to make longstanding grievances heard and press for change. But between September 2016 and March 2020, 442 social leaders were assassinated. As death becomes part of the daily discourse, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, we should look beyond these shocking numbers and understand that the massive killing of social leaders is not only a humanitarian crisis, but also a threat to the process of social transformation and local empowerment.
Bigotry, in all its forms, is steadily rising. Clearly, being non-racist is not enough; we need to be anti-racist to be able to combat race-related bigotry once and for all. This principle should indeed apply to all forms of bigotry, including antisemitism. However, as this article explains, misleading narratives in the documentary film Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations distorts our understanding, and even serves as a cover, for other forms of intolerance, which can move us closer to bigotry instead of further away from it.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought to the fore gendered and racialised aspects of precarity that were steeping in academia long before the virus emerged. The increased burden of unpaid care work, still mostly borne by female academics, has skewed research output. Casualised staff, many of them early-career and/or international researchers, are expected to withstand the worst of the crisis, with their job security under threat. What action can academics take to challenge these negative developments? We need a post-pandemic vision, writes María Gabriela Palacio.
‘I cannot understand your question’: challenges and opportunities of including persons with disabilities in participatory evaluation
Participatory evaluation has been praised for engaging vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities (PwD). However, the inclusion of this group can be challenging and even self-defeating if carried out incorrectly. Despite the challenges, evaluators and researchers can follow some strategies to make the evaluation process with PwD as inclusive as possible.
COVID-19 | Ephemeral universalism in the social protection response to the COVID-19 lockdown in the Philippines
Since March 2020, the Philippines has implemented one of the world’s strictest and longest lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused severe disruptions in peoples’ livelihoods. The government’s emergency social protection response, the ‘Social Amelioration Program’ (SAP), has also been notably massive, introducing one-off near-universal income protection. It is an insightful case given that the country’s existing social assistance system has been celebrated as a model for developing countries, even though it has been mostly bypassed in the emergency response. Moreover, the country’s highly stratified and fragmented social policy system has resulted in implementation delays and irregularities that have fostered social hostilities and undermined the potential for such momentary universalism to have lasting transformative effects.
Policy makers in Rwanda are targeting formal financial inclusion (“having a financial account”) as part of the strategy to alleviate poverty. Our research shows that the actual use of financial accounts should become the focus of policy. Background interviews with local officials revealed their believe that individual characteristics are not important for the formal decision to accept an individual as an account holder at a financial institution. Our analysis, however, supports the importance of gender for the use of bank accounts by the self-employed in the informal sector – with clear implications for targeting policies.
When outright racism triggers migrant precarity: Britain’s Windrush Scandal and the need to move beyond arguments on legality by Anna Cáceres
In 2018 Britain once again made news headlines, this time for the Windrush scandal that saw scores of British citizens with migration backgrounds wrongly detained and deported. Almost all were migrants from Commonwealth countries who had migrated to Britain after the Second World War and because of a series of policy changes starting in 2010 were no longer recognized as citizens by 2018. The scandal is important for two reasons. First, it demonstrates the importance of viewing ‘citizenship’ as a fluid, and indeed socially constructed, category, rather than a binary legal designation. Second, it shows how racism, when coupled with racially exclusive constructions of national identity, can be a more important trigger for migrant precarity than legal status.
The award-winning documentary film ‘For Sama’ tells the story of a mother who filmed her life in war-torn Aleppo for her newborn, Sama. The mother documented her daughter’s first moments, but also the context in which they tried to live, including the regular bombing of the hospital, the blood-covered victims, dead people and, by and by, the destruction of the city. A recent study by ISS researcher Natascha Wagner and Nawras Al Husein highlighting the voices, fears and perceptions of Syrian refugees who fled to Turkey and Germany shows that decisions by refugees to return to their country of origin are complex; the general assumption that Syrian refugees wish to return to Syria after the war has ended should not be taken as a given. The research shows the necessity of engaging with refugees to inform decisions on their future.
As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we are slowly settling in to a ‘new normal’. For many of us, having lived our lives online the last few weeks has made us question the necessity of meeting in person to get things done. Can we also organize online to enact change? While internet access is not yet universal, a recent study shows that WhatsApp can be an important tool for mobilizing. Lize Swartz discusses how new forms of online activism can emerge on WhatsApp and whether it promotes inclusivity.
COVID-19 is a hazard, but does not produce the risks that we now see unfolding throughout the world, says ISS researcher Dorothea Hilhorst, who recently participated in a webinar organized by Humanitarian Knowledge Exchange platform Kuno to reflect on how the COVID-19 pandemic is being handled and what could be done differently. Here’s what she had to say.
As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses and lockdowns continue, even more people are suffering from hunger and malnutrition due to their inability to access nutritious food. The pandemic has revealed the importance not only of alleviating immediate hunger produced by the sudden loss of movement and restrictions to economic activity, but also the longer-term effects of a lack of nutrition arising from the inability to access or pay for nutritious food during the pandemic. Children are particularly vulnerable: the lack of an adequate diet can lead to persistent losses in health, education and productivity that can have lasting. The after-effects of the pandemic could be more severe than its immediate effects, writes Jimena Pacheco.
In recent years, humanitarian spaces have become technologized as aid agencies have turned to digital technologies to improve aid allocation. Wearables and other forms of digital humanitarian artifacts can foster improved surveillance of aid beneficiaries, their needs, and aid distribution, but raise serious ethical concerns. Through tracking devices, aid beneficiaries risk becoming the producers of commercial data extracted from emergency settings under the pretext of a reciprocal ‘gifting’ relationship between benefactor and beneficiary, writes Kristin Bergtora Sandvik.
COVID-19 | Will current travel restrictions help academics change their flying behaviour? by Lara Vincent and Oane Visser
With drastic restrictions on mobility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, international academic air travel for research, conferences, and defences has largely come to a halt. The sudden inability to hop on a plane and fly away makes us even more aware of how mobile academics have become over the past decades. The COVID-19 pandemic may provide the perfect opportunity to reassess and alter our travel behaviour now that we are forced to stay put, write Lara Vincent and Oane Visser.
As the Puerto Rican food movement looks into the future, Comedores Sociales has a slogan that says it all: ‘We don’t eat austerity; we cook dignity.’ This organization in Puerto Rico that runs community kitchens is an overtly political group that directly connects hunger and poverty to the island’s capitalist and colonial system, rebelling through alternative food provision mechanisms. Such communal initiatives have shown their importance in a time of rising precarity driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and its links to the global capitalist system, writes Salena Fay Tramel.
Initiated back in 2006 by African-American civil rights activist Tamara Burke, the #MeToo movement exploded in 2017 during the sexual misconduct scandal of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein when actress Alyssa Milano asked her Twitter followers from across the world to share their experiences of sexual harassment. As the hashtag went viral, a number of others also emerged, shedding light on sexual harassment in specific sectors. This included the #MeTooAcademia and #ScienceToo hashtags that highlighted the prevalence of sexual harassment in academic spaces and the need for change.
Lize Swartz in conversation with Dr Gustavo García-López, 2019-2021 Prince Claus Chair. Social and environmental injustice are increasing globally as neoliberalism tightens its grip. Crisis upon crisis are hitting especially vulnerable populations, interacting to create precarious and untenable living conditions. These issues become more pressing in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made more visible to the world the environmentally destructive and socially unjust patterns of our societies. The recovery of more equitable and sustainable ways of life based on communality and interconnectedness is needed to address the hypercomplex global crisis generated by globalized neoliberal capitalism, argues Dr Gustavo García-López, current Prince Claus Chair holder at the ISS. Lize Swartz spoke to him about his work and how commoning can transform the world we live in.
The COVID-19 pandemic provides the perfect opportunity to investigate and quash corruption in the UN’s aid agencies by Avagay Simpson
More than 100 million people across the world living in war zones and other emergency settings are dependent on humanitarian assistance facilitated by the UN. These populations are likely to be profoundly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and require support now more than ever. The UN that in recent years has been fraught with corruption incidents and has witnessed the siphoning of humanitarian aid funds by aid workers now faces two choices. It can either fail to adequately monitor aid allocated to the fight against the pandemic that can allow corrupt practices to continue, or it can seize the opportunity the crisis presents to boldly fight corruption by reviewing and rethinking its aid allocation practices.
COVID-19 | Remote research in times of COVID-19: considerations, techniques, and risks by Rodrigo Mena and Dorothea Hilhorst
The current COVID-19 pandemic is preventing many scholars and students, especially those in the social sciences, from visiting identified research sites and interacting with the groups or actors important for their research. Many researchers now plan to shift to forms of remote research where data are gathered without meeting research participants in person. While COVID-19 compels this trend, even before the pandemic scholars have had to conduct remote research when fieldwork is considered risky or difficult, for example in high-conflict or remote contexts. Our research of the interaction of disasters and conflict in Afghanistan and Yemen shows what to keep in mind when conducting remote research.
COVID-19 | Restaurants are empty, but the work continues: freelance food delivery in times of COVID-19 by Roy Huijsmans
Freelance food delivery workers have largely had to make their own decisions about working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Who are they? How has their work been affected, and how have they responded?
EADI/ISS Series | Digitalizing agriculture in Africa: promises and risks of an emerging trend by Fabio Gatti and Oane Visser
The potential of the digitalization of agriculture in Africa to contribute to food security, poverty reduction and environmental sustainability agendas is being increasingly recognized, as shown by growing investment in digital technologies that are supposed to help small-scale farmers to ‘upgrade’ the way they farm. However, these technologies should not be considered panaceas from the get-go and require critical scrutiny to ensure that they will benefit those who need it the most. There is a strong need for independent and in-depth social science research able to go beyond the surface of international donors and policy makers’ discourses and assess the effectiveness ‘on the ground’ of such new and greatly emphasized developing trend.
COVID-19 | “Stay safe” conversations that illuminate the glass walls between her and me by Mausumi Chetia
Disasters are lived in different ways by different classes of people. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the differential impacts of disasters lie in the blurred spaces between populations fortunate enough to focus on ‘productivity-during-lockdown-times’ and others who focus on ‘providing-food-for-their-children-and-having-a-home-during-lockdown-times’. For generationally disaster-prone or disaster-torn populations of India, this global pandemic is only widening the class gaps that have characterized local realities for the Indian society for centuries.
Ana María Arbeláez Trujillo in conversation with Bob Brown, organizer of the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party (GC) Since the 1960s, the leaders of the Black Power Movement have fought tirelessly to challenge institutional racism, to reclaim and reinterpret the history of black people and for the right to establish and change the terms to define them and their relationships with society. Committed to this long legacy and revindication of black history, longtime activist and researcher Bob Brown visited the ISS in February 2020 to participate in an event titled “Black Power and the Politics of Liberation, in comparative perspective”. He talked about the origins of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and the larger Black Panther Movement worldwide. We conversed afterward. Here is what he had to say.
COVID-19 | How Kerala’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting inadequate responses elsewhere in India by Sreerekha Sathi
The Indian state of Kerala seems to have addressed the COVID-19 pandemic remarkably well, limiting the amount of virus-related infections and deaths through its assertive approach. Kerala’s outlier position in India is well known, and its development model that differs from those of other Indian states might well be the cause of its successes in responding to COVID-19. Central to this development model—and the state’s response—is a well-functioning public healthcare system rooted in the state’s left-wing government. The rest of India and other countries can learn several lessons from Kerala’s government and its people, if they are willing to listen.
Contesting the Amazon as an ‘Open Space for Development’ by Lee Pegler and Julienne Andrade Widmarck
The use of land for soya cultivation in the Brazilian Amazon has led to compelling debates on the sustainability of the movement of products globally through global value chains (GVC) and the democratic processes surrounding these. All of us, in the Global North and Global South alike, have played a role in stimulating the expansion of GVCs in the Amazon that has led to an increase in the precarity of livelihoods, landlessness, and health/environmental problems. Without sustained and imaginative strategies by local and transnational social movements, this disjuncture between the market, sustainable futures, and democratic processes may simply widen.
COVID-19 | A political ecology of epidemics: why human and other-than-human diseases should push us to rethink our global development model by Fabio Gatti
The recent COVID-19 outbreak has generated an incredible interest around public health in particular and other social issues in general. However, most commentaries have failed to look at the crisis from an environmental and ecological perspective. We need to look at the links between COVID-19 and the global environmental crisis in order to identify and address the structural causes leading to the emergence of the pandemic: increasing urbanization, an exodus from rural areas and the abandonment of peasant farming, the intensification of natural resource extraction, and the industrialization of agriculture.
This year we are celebrating Labour Day in a very different way—the world we live in has changed dramatically over the past few months because of the COVID-19 pandemic and our collective and individual responses to it. As economies are shut down, many people are for the first time realizing that essential workers keep the cogs of societies oiled and turning. Yet many essential workers remain underpaid and underappreciated. We should realize that these workers are nurturers and deserve living dignified lives that can only be achieved if our economic system is critically examined and transformed.
COVID-19 | Is deglobalization helping or hindering the global economy during the coronavirus crisis? by Peter A.G. van Bergeijk
We are only starting to see the economic impact of the COVID-19, but it is likely to have far-reaching effects and will result in unprecedented economic transformation. We are currently in a phase of deglobalization and the impact on livelihoods is closely linked to how we respond to the pandemic. The bad news is that we’re not yet responding very well. The silver lining is that we will nevertheless stay globally connected.
COVID-19 | Increased surveillance during the COVID-19 pandemic reveals the emergence of a new architecture of global power by Jacqueline Gaybor and Henry Chavez
Central to efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic has been the monitoring and prevention of the spread of the virus. To do so, governments need to keep discipline amongst their populations and limit their movements. While new big data, artificial intelligence technologies and control mechanisms are being implemented, we are witnessing the emergence of new a global structure of power built with our digital traces. As the intertwined history of epidemics and states shows, the utility of these new trends and devices should not be solely evaluated in terms of their effectiveness in controlling the spread of the virus, but also in terms of their consequences for the global structure of power and the future functioning of states.
Fleeing the farms: the devastating effect of conflict on youth involvement in small-scale agriculture in Pakistan by Hassan Turi
Rural youth unemployment is a serious crisis facing countries of the Global South. Small-scale agriculture, which has long been the single biggest employer of the developing world, has the potential to be ecologically rational, socially just, and capable of absorbing unemployed youth. However, contemporary agrarian research has increasingly found that young people are not attracted to agricultural work. While a global urbanization trend is leading to exodus from rural areas, Hassan Turi shows the devastating impact of protracted regional and local conflicts on agricultural practices in Kurram District in Pakistan that further diminish the youth’s willingness to engage in small-scale agriculture.
EADI/ISS Series | The Battle is on: Civic Space & Land Rights by Barbara Oosters and Saskia van Veen
Defenders of land rights all over the world struggle with shrinking civic space. The more that space for people to peacefully claim their land rights is restricted, the more intense land disputes become. In 2017, Global witness recorded that globally an unprecedented number of 197 land rights defenders were killed. A recent Oxfam learning lab identified strategies for associations working in the area of land rights to deal with an environment of shifting and shrinking civic space.
COVID-19 | Driving transformative social change through an internationalist response to COVID-19 by Lize Swartz
A recent webinar organized by the Transnational Institute and partners brought together activists from all over the world to brainstorm how to make social justice central to our responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The main message? Stand united instead of divided, let empathy inform context-based responses, and start thinking of changing what’s broken, including our healthcare systems. These principles should also guide our collective efforts to enact transformative social change that starts with our responses to the crisis and ends in a sustainable, just and resilient future—one in which no-one is left behind.
COVID-19 | Ecuador, COVID-19 and the IMF: how austerity exacerbated the crisis by Ana Lucía Badillo Salgado and Andrew M. Fischer
Ecuador is currently (as of 8 April) the South American country worst affected by COVID-19 in terms of the number of confirmed cases and fatalities per capita. While even the universal health systems of Northern European countries are becoming severely frayed by the nature of this pandemic, Ecuador serves as a powerful example of how much worse the situation is for many low- and middle-income countries, particularly those whose public health systems have already been undermined by financial assistance programmes with international financial institutions (IFIs). The IMF and other IFIs such as the World Bank must acknowledge the role they have played and continue to play in undermining public health systems in ways that exacerbate the effects of the pandemic in many developing countries.
COVID-19 | Rethinking how to respond to COVID-19 in places where humanitarian crises intersect by Rodrigo Mena
It is widely known that COVID-19 will disproportionately affect developing countries and impoverished peoples. Many of these countries are already affected by conflict and disasters including humanitarian crises, making the contexts even more fragile and complex and the threat of COVID-19 even more serious. Western approaches to fighting the coronavirus pandemic might not be feasible in these contexts where multiple crises intersect, argues Rodrigo Mena. Responses as in the western world are not sufficient to minimize impacts that include the potential loss of thousands of lives in vulnerable contexts; prevention and context-specific solutions that also address the root causes of humanitarian crises are needed now more than ever.
COVID-19 | Europe’s far right whips out anti-migrant rhetoric to target refugees during coronavirus crisis by Haris Zargar
The explosion of the coronavirus has dramatically brought about fresh challenges for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. With countries adopting stringent measures to contain this pandemic, including rigid border controls, the outbreak will not only have a huge impact on those driven out of their countries by crisis situations, but may create another refugee tragedy that may be worse than what has been experienced before.
COVID-19 and climate change bear striking – and worrying – similarities and differences. Both are characterized by high uncertainty, but while COVID-19 has been identified as an immediate threat and action has been taken despite the absence of comprehensive knowledge, uncertainty has been touted as impeding concerted efforts to transform energy systems to combat climate change. The global economic system has strongly contributed to our failure to make radical changes. A different system – one that is not so fundamentally focused on maximizing profits over all other concerns – could have been better placed to make the undeniably painful economic adjustments we are forced to make, both before the emergence of COVID-19 and to prevent a catastrophe arising due to climate change. While both crises require dramatic societal transformations, we need to be aware of the potential negative political consequences of declaring them as emergencies.
COVID-19 | Sex workers driven further to the margins by the coronavirus crisis by Jaffer Latief Najar
Despite inroads having been made in recent years to improve their rights and reduce precarity, sex workers are still shunned, struggling to shift negative attitudes toward this age-old occupation. The coronavirus crisis is placing further pressure on sex workers, not only leading to a loss of income, but also pushing them further to the edges of society. Jaffer Latief Najar argues that states have the responsibility to ensure the acknowledgement of sex work and its entrepreneurs so that they can enjoy the same benefits as other employees or entrepreneurs during and after the crisis.
COVID-19 | Another top priority in times of crisis: keep democratic life up and running by Isabelle Desportes
The coronavirus crisis seems to have reduced societal functioning to the bare minimum as an increasing number of governments have limited freedom of movement in an attempt to halt the spread of the virus. The introduction of several such authoritative measures needs to be counterbalanced by active citizens who continue to uphold democratic life and question these measures themselves, argues Isabelle Desportes, who studies how humanitarian emergencies are handled in settings where this is not the case. ‘Authoritarian dangers’ are not only a concern for far-away countries long labelled as ‘hopeless pariah states’, as European attempts are showing us these very days.
Donor-driven agendas and the need to move beyond a capacity building focus in Myanmar’s research ecosystem by Jana Rué Glutting and Anders Lee
Localization has become a buzzword among promoters of development aid following a recent shift in focus to the sustainability of development projects after the withdrawal of donors from contexts where projects have been initiated. But why don’t aid interventions also focus on the localization of research? This blog post intends to stress the importance of critically assessing the localization strategies of the international community in the research space in Myanmar, requiring an honest introspection in how social science research is being conducted and funded, and who are the actors at play and its implications.
COVID-19 | Radio silence during the crisis: how our imperial gaze threatens to sharpen global divides by Lize Swartz and Josephine Valeske
The spread of coronavirus COVID-19 across the world has been accompanied by an explosion of activity on social media as people have tried to make sense of the implications of the virus and the speed of change. But the story that is emerging amid the chaos has failed to draw attention to the effect of the virus on low-income groups, making visible a radio silence on the plight of those in the Global South in particular. We need to break the silence to ensure the implementation of inclusive responses and a widening of the narrative beyond that of the privileged, write Lize Swartz and Josephine Valeske.
In search of a new social contract in the Middle East and North Africa – what role for social policy? by Mahmood Messkoub
Social policy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is in urgent need of reform. Critiques of current social policy models point out their deficiencies in terms of coverage of population, entitlement to services, fragmentation of support for different groups and inadequacy of services provided, and above all a wasteful generalized/untargeted subsidy structure. The answer to these shortcomings not only lies in the redirection of resources from generalized subsidies towards targeted sectors and populations, but also in a broad rethinking and democratic dialogue on a new social contract and social policy models in order to improve coverage, entitlement, and the quality of services.
We are living in an era where people’s daily lives are deeply intertwined with the impacts of global markets and the threats of climate change. Even good intentions for mitigating and adapting to climate change can jeopardise natural resources and rural livelihoods. Examples from Mozambique, Colombia, and the Eastern Himalayas show how local communities affected by resource grabbing engage in both overt and covert responses against dispossession and exploitation.
Our dependence on the Internet as a way to build, strengthen, and maintain personal relationships has grown along with global advances in digital technologies. A prolonged Internet blackout has taken a heavy toll on residents of India’s disputed Kashmir region, showing how the sudden absence of connectivity affects the dynamics of personal relationships. With authoritarian regimes blocking access to the Internet more often, is it time to ensure unhindered Internet access under international law.
Aid or, at least, its narrative, is increasingly politicised. This is happening in a period of emerging populist and/or nationalist movements in Europe. Maybe counter-intuitively, nationalism or populism does not necessarily lead to decreasing aid budgets or a lower profile for international assistance. The explanation lies in the fact that aid, when used politically, can be a useful tool for fulfilling donors’ interests.
Rethinking how we communicate on Bliss – a contribution to the decolonization of science by Lize Swartz
Research institutes are not only spaces in which research and education take place—they play a political role in sharing knowledge that is intended to benefit society directly or indirectly. Who the knowledge is shared with and in which ways is of extreme importance; publishing research findings and learnings in English limits who can benefit from the research. In an effort to contribute to the decolonization of science, ISS Blog Bliss has decided to encourage the publication of blog articles in the native languages of the authors or the communities participating in the research.
“Whose responsibility is it anyway”? Questioning the role of UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO in stabilizing the eastern DRC by Delphin Ntanyoma
In the highly volatile eastern DRC, where over the past decades violent conflict and political instability have claimed the lives of thousands of civilians, UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO has intervened to help security services including the national army and the police regain control of the region. After twenty years of intervention, MONUSCO is blamed for what should be the DRC government’s responsibility—the failure to de-escalate the situation and find long-term solutions that will bring peace. What role can and should it play in eastern DRC, then? As Delphin Ntanyoma explains, the power and responsibility to enact real and long-lasting change lies with the DRC government.
Over the last two decades, development has been replete with theories and interventions focusing on ‘empowerment and accountability’, and how these could contribute to a range of outcomes, be they good governance, social inclusion, and social justice. Much of the early thinking on these approaches emerged from examples in countries which were then relatively open, enjoying perhaps an opening of democratic spaces and opportunities. But what about empowerment and accountability in more difficult spaces – characterised by shrinking civic space, strong legacies of authoritarianism, violence and repression, and fragmented forms of authority?
When should you ‘Call It What It Is’? Enabling disclosure of sexual violence by Chris Dolan and Onen David
The international criminal law (ICL) system can only hear and describe a tiny fraction of what people experience, particularly when it comes to sexual violence. The ICL system not only makes it difficult for victims to disclose their experiences, but often misplaces, deprioritises and erases the sexual elements of violence under other headings such as ‘torture’ and ‘inhumane treatment’. This is what inspired ‘Call It What It Is’, a campaign designed to enable victims to freely testify in a system where sexual violence is better articulated.
EADI/ISS Series | Bridging EU- & Postdevelopment Studies: Four Avenues by Sarah Delputte and Jan Orbie
Postdevelopment debates are relatively new to scholars studying the EU’s Development Policy. However, bridging EU development and post-development can help us to think about (normative) alternatives to EU development, both generally and concretely, argue Sarah Delputte and Jan Orbie. The EU provides a relevant and practical setting within which concrete alternatives to development aid can be considered. In line with Julia Schöneberg’s plea for practical postdevelopment, the focus on the EU can contribute to making more concrete how policies and approaches should be changed.
Discussions on the impact of higher education and research have increased, together with the rise of strategic thinking in the management of universities during the last decade. Governments, taxpayers and private funders want to know which benefits they get from universities. Academic Institutions, in turn, want to prove how their work is beneficial to society in multiple ways. This tells us much about the global management culture in public services – and about a new pressure against the academic authority and standing of universities.
Using youth-led peer research to break the silence on adolescent sexuality in Bulgaria by Rutger van Oudenhoven, Kristen Cheney, and Kristina Nenova
In Bulgarian schools, the topic of sex education is contentious and often even avoided, leading to a lack of proper knowledge and understanding of sexuality among young people. An innovative research project tried to address this gap by training adolescents as peer researchers to gather information on how young Bulgarians perceived their relationships with others in their community. This led to a study revealing that young Bulgarians felt the need for better sexual education and the creation of ‘safe spaces’ where young people can discuss sex, sexuality, and relationships. The youth peer researchers then became advocates who initiated a number of activities to teach themselves and their peers about healthy relationships.
Creative Development | Moving national narratives: artistic expressions of flight, refuge and belonging by Roy Huijsmans
National historiography often takes the form of a single story propagated by those in power, thereby muting alternative experiences of ordinary citizens of these celebrated events. In Laos, the country’s National Day coincided with an international dance festival, showing different ways of recounting histories. In this blogpost Roy Huijsmans suggests that in the creative realm and performing arts we may find articulations of the subjugated narratives of the collective memory of the nation.
While the rise of authoritarian populism continues, its rural dimension has been missed in most commentary. Whether it is because of land grabs, voracious extractivism, infrastructural neglect or lack of services, people’s disillusionment with the status quo, across often disconnected rural areas and small towns, is tangible across settings. It is the rural dimension of the rise of authoritarian populism that has been the focus of the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative (ERPI), which aims at reinventing politics of new sustainable rural economies, based on solidarity and collectivity.
Moving beyond women as victims in post-conflict peacebuilding efforts in Liberia by Christo Gorpudolo
Liberia, a war-torn country for much of the 1990s, initiated several post-conflict peacebuilding programmes with the hope of building sustainable peace. But a study of the Palava Hut Program as a transitional justice mechanism showed that such efforts can be thwarted by the reduction of women to victims of war. The opportunity to rebuild gender relations damaged during wars can be missed in the process. Besides rethinking the link between women and victimhood, women’s inclusion in peacebuilding programmes based on lived experiences can help to equalize men and women in the peacebuilding process, argues Christo Gorpudolo.
Informal brokers and middlemen are essential for the delivery of public services in India. In 2018, the government of Delhi launched a programme that seeks to formalise these informal public service providers through an external agency. Examing the programme, Sushant Anand finds that despite its rising popularity, traditional methods are still prevailing. He points out a number of challenges the government has yet to overcome.
There are right and left, radical and conservative social movements at work in today’s volatile and unequal world. Whether directed towards a transformative social justice agenda or not, social movements themselves do not exist outside of the structures of power. Even among social movements directed towards deep social justice, gender inequality remains a key concern, since gender-related inequalities persist, both within the movements themselves, as well as in their recognition, support and the response to them.
EADI/ISS Series | Two faces of the automation revolution: impacts on working conditions of migrant labourers in the Dutch agri-food sector
Rapid advances in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are enabling production increases in the Dutch agri-food sector, but are also creating harsh working conditions as the sector remains dependent on manual labour, while implementing new technologies. To ensure better working conditions for migrants forming the majority of manual labourers in this sector, ‘worker-friendly’ implementation of new technologies is necessary to limit the negative effects of the automation revolution.
In November 2019, an all-women panel of judges presiding over a decade-long court martial in Suriname convicted Desiré Delano Bouterse, the country’s current president, for international crimes that include torture and extra-judicial executions. While legal mobilisation can legitimately be used to bring about justice, Bouterse and his supporters have used lawfare to try to prevent his trial from proceeding. The trial eventually took place and Bouterse was sentenced to 20 years in prison, while some of his co-accused were acquitted. Bouterse remains in office following the judgement, and it now remains to be seen whether legal mobilisation will triumph over ongoing attempts to use lawfare to undermine the rule of law.
I am only well if you are well: can the Utu-Ubuntu philosophy help drive the acceptance of sexual and reproductive rights in Africa? by Joan Njagi
In the face of growing resistance of religious and conservative groups on the African continent to the advancement of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), this article discusses the potential for African philosophy and theories to drive the acceptance of SRHR here and elsewhere. Utu-Ubuntu, a philosophy focusing on humanity and interconnectedness, may help to bridge divisions and advance SRHR for young people on the continent, writes Joan Njagi.
The bitter aftertaste of chocolate: why Ghana’s cocoa farmers are struggling to adhere to sustainable cocoa production standards by Adjoa Annan
Prompted by demands from consumers to know where the chocolate we eat comes from and how it is made, companies producing chocolate are increasingly investing in measures such as certification schemes and company-driven sustainability initiatives in an effort to make chocolate production more transparent and sustainable. However, cocoa farmers in Ghana are struggling to adhere to environmental standards for more sustainable cocoa production practices. Adjoa Annan explains why.
Since late November, Colombia has seen unprecedented mass protests, the longest since 1977. These protests illustrate the awakening of a muffled civil society. Protests in Colombia are part of a Latin American “spring”. Demonstrations have, since September, swept across Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Panama, Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile. But Colombia’s protests are not merely following a regional trend, nor can they be attributed to a single ideological leaning.
Death and torture in the Life Esidimeni cases in South Africa: avenues for accountability by Meryl du Plessis
In 2015 the lack of attention to mental health care in South Africa made news headlines when 1,711 mental health care users dependent on assistance were forced out of state-sponsored private mental health care facilities. In what has been called the worst human rights violation since the end of apartheid, 144 of these transferred patients died due to neglect. A number of national and international legal mechanisms exist to hold the perpetrators accountable, but victims and their relatives may need assistance to be able to do so.
Holding Myanmar accountable for acts of genocide is just the start of a long process of justice for the Rohingya by Lize Swartz
Public hearings are currently underway at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, where Myanmar stands accused of committing genocide against the Rohingya minority after violent crackdowns since 2012 left thousands dead and forced more than one million Rohingya to flee the country. This follows shortly after the Minister of Justice of The Gambia at the International Conclave on Justice and Accountability for Rohingya held at the ISS in October declared that what has transpired in Myanmar over the past years must be named genocide and that The Gambia would lead efforts to hold the Myanmar state accountable through international legal mechanisms. However, this is just the first of several steps to ensure justice for the Rohingya—the human side of what has become a ‘refugee crisis’ needs to be acknowledged, writes Lize Swartz.
REDD+, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, has been one of the holy grails of international efforts to combat climate change for the past 10 years: over 10 billion dollars have been pledged to this cause by donor countries. Although REDD+ aims to reduce deforestation rates while increasing the welfare of landowners, research has shown that it also negatively impacts indigenous communities and has contributed to conflict. While hard work has been done to improve REDD+ programs, there are serious unintended effects of this much needed climate change action program. We wondered if organizations will do something about these unintended effects and would like to stimulate debate on that. We found that there are limits to what they learn: some unintended effects are likely to persist.
Nobody knows what happens after UK general elections on 12 December 2019: Brexit, a referendum on Irish unity, on Scottish independence, or a No-Deal exit from the EU? In 1977, Tom Nairn in The Break up of Britain warned that during “extreme difficulties and contradictions, the prospect of break-down or being held forever in the gateway… may lead to… nationalist dementia for a society” (p. 349). The election taking place this week will decide whether the ghosts of imperial ancestors win the day, or whether younger generations can save the UK from its divided self.
Imagine that you are a police officer and witness a close colleague accepting a bribe. Would you report this behaviour or turn a blind eye to it? 600 police officers in Uganda answered similar questions relating to a variety of cases of undesirable police conduct. A series of recent publications by Dr Natascha Wagner and Professor Wil Hout, with ISS alumna Dr Rose Namara, shows that officers who participated in an accountability project were influenced positively in their attitudes towards desirable and undesirable police behaviour.
The climate crisis is forcing us to rethink our relationship with the world around us and the effect of our own actions (or inaction) on this massive collective action problem. Blame games are becoming a dangerous diversion tactic used to deny responsibility for our own role in the crisis by blaming others for causing it, writes Lize Swartz. Recent developments in the Netherlands and beyond reveal just how far we still have to go to acknowledge the climate crisis as a collective action problem and to rethink our own role as natural resource users in addressing the crisis.
Since the 1980s, international organizations and financiers have created sophisticated guidelines on involuntary resettlement procedures. They have relied on public consultation to build consent in order to establish resettlement projects as an effective, common, and sustainable solution to displacement. But the focus on pre-resettlement consultations has largely neglected the importance of follow-up processes when resettled people start facing difficulties to live their everyday life. How can we, development researchers and practitioners, engage with the long-term effects of resettlement and its potential pathways towards sustainable development?
Jordan is home to some 700,000 Syrian refugees who are trying to adapt to Jordanian laws and customs, including the legal requirement and social expectation to register a marriage. Dina Zbeidy argues that while the precarious legal and economic status of Syrian refugees in Jordan plays a part in preventing them from registering their marriages, development organizations can play an important role by shifting their focus to addressing structural obstacles Syrian refugees face and by challenging the problematic legal system.
Inequality is above all a multidimensional problem. Yet, the key question is whether it is possible to reduce inequality and to what extent. Recent evidence suggests that the growing divide between rich and poor threatens to destabilize democracies, undermines states’ economies and fuels a variety of injustices, either economically, socially, politically or ecologically. Despite certain variations, this holds true not only for rich economies, but also for low and middle income countries.
Counter-terrorist legislation is threatening independent humanitarian relief, and is set to get worse today by Dorothea Hilhorst and Isabelle Desportes
The Netherlands has recently joined a handful of other Western countries in developing counter-terrorism legislation with the hope of stifling terrorist activity and threats. The new legislation on counter-terrorism recently passed by the Dutch Parliament (Tweede Kamer) will be discussed in the Senate (Eerste Kamer) today. Thea Hilhorst and Isabelle Desportes warn that the effects of such legislation should be examined critically, in particular implications for humanitarian actors whose work risks to be criminalized when they operate in areas with high levels of terrorist activity.
Muslims are now at the centre of two forms of terrorism. On the one hand, acts of terror carried out in the name of Islam and/or to defend a Muslim population by fellow Muslims. And on the other, acts of terror by white supremacists carried out in the name of western, Christian, or European civilisation. How should one respond to terrorism carried out in one’s name?
How we approach contestations over land and property rights in South Africa says a lot about what we believe a just post-colonial constitutional order to be. While politicians and political parties have exploited issues around land and property rights to garner votes, particularly in the 2019 election, what has become apparent from ensuing public and scholarly debates is that there is emerging a collective sense of an impending national existential crisis. At the heart of this crisis lies the thorny question: where to from here for South Africa’s constitutional democracy?
Sometimes our research takes us to unexpected places. I spent the last weeks gluing my friends to fossil fuel corporations, getting lifted up and “bureaucratically displaced” by riot police, and dancing to David Bowie’s “Rebel, Rebel” in the rain on a bridge occupied by Extinction Rebellion. In the midst of climate chaos and ecological breakdown, the boundaries between activism and academia are collapsing all around me. And that is the point.
Do skill building training programs improve labor market outcomes among rural youth in India? by Bhaskar Chakravorty
In India, 54% of the country’s population is below the age of 25 and faces a high rate of unemployment. The government of India is implementing job-linked skill building training programs to improve labour market outcomes among disadvantaged rural youths across India. The study conducted in rural Bihar suggests the outcomes to be short-lived while caste discrimination and low paying job placements play a crucial role in negating the initial returns of the training.
Governance in the Colombian Amazon: Heavy-handed and lacking coherent policies by Ana María Arbeláez Trujillo
The President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, has been at the forefront of the critiques for his dismissive attitude towards the fires in the Amazon. Although a significant portion of the rainforest (40%) is contained in Brazil, it is key to consider that eight more countries share the Amazon and are responsible for its preservation. What are these other states doing to preserve the largest rainforest on the planet? This article analyzes how the policies promoted by Colombia’s president, Iván Duque, are insufficient to protect the rights of the Amazon and its inhabitants.
During much of the twentieth century, the African mining sector was seen by many as an enclaved economy, extracting resources to the benefit of the global economy while offering little to meaningfully or sustainably advance social and economic development on the continent. Yet recent mining industry restructuring has fuelled fresh hopes that the sector now carries the potential to drive industrialisation and structural transformation across Africa’s 24 low-income countries. Yet empirical evidence from this country group has been lacking, with a focus instead on middle-income African countries (in particular South Africa) and the historical experiences of today’s high-income countries. So what relevance, if any, does the idea of the mining enclave continue to hold for Africa’s poorest areas today?
We were fortunate to be part of a two-day workshop on civil society relations in India, organised in the framework of a research on advocacy in the Dutch co-financing programme. There were fascinating presentations of research on civil society and civic space with a loose connection to the Dutch development programme of ‘Dialogue and Dissent’. In the fantastic company of some of India’s most outstanding civil society activists and scholars, we discussed the diverse realities of organisational life in today’s India. Here are some take-aways…
Are We Having One or Two Capitalist Crises? Mapping Social Reproduction in Capitalism by Maryse Helbert
In June, a colloquium called ‘capital accumulation: Strategies of Profit and Dispossessive Policies’ was organised for the 50th anniversary of the University of Paris Dauphine. The colloquium provided a snapshot of the current debates and concepts within the field of Marxism. Discussion between the main key Marxist speakers – David Harvey and Nancy Fraser– revolved around conceptualising various challenges that capitalism is facing. The different conceptual mapping of the crises provides different path to emancipatory changes.
In 2014, on the 20th of July, the Israeli military targeted and bombed a home in a refugee camp in Gaza, killing several family members of Saad Ziada, including his mother and three brothers. Since this day, Mr. Ziada, a Dutch citizen and resident of the Netherlands, has persistently been seeking justice through legal mobilization. Ziada’s search for justice reveals the immense challenges faced by individuals and organizations seeking to hold individuals accountable for international crimes through different forms of legal mobilization.
This article presents an interview with Dr. Oane Visser, Associate Professor in Rural Development Studies, at the International Institute of Social Studies. It shows ways in which technology can be used to address developmental problems. Dr. Visser coached six teams in a technological challenge about the ‘prevention of land grabbing’.
Typically, disasters are seen as disruptions of normal economic activity and thus reducing trade. However, the existing empirical evidence for a negative relationship between disasters and trade is contradictory. On the contrary, it has been recognised that disasters may stimulate trade. How come? And what are the policy implications of this finding?
The credibility problem of United Nations official statistics on Internally Displaced Persons by Gloria Nguya and Dirk-Jan Koch
Our research, notably Gloria Nguya’s PhD research, which she recently defended at the ISS, focused on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in urban settings in eastern DRC, particularly Bukavu and Goma. Bukavu and Goma are provincial capitals of the Kivus with about 25 years of instability. According to the latest United Nations figures there are exactly 25.619 IDPs in Bukavu. These very precise figures have surprised us, because when we started our field research we noted that there was a large confusion about who should be counted as an IDP. During our research we found people who considered themselves IDPs, even though they were just regular migrants according to official definitions. Others who thought they weren’t IDPs were actually IDPs according to these official definitions. In this blog we single out one key crucial question to which there are so many contradicting responses: ‘When is somebody no longer an IDP?’.
What do you get when you cross university researchers, development aid practitioners, and a few people somewhere in between? This sounds like it could be the start to a good joke, but it could actually be the start of something much more meaningful. A group of 19 researchers and practitioners got together at the CARE Nederland office to talk about a major gap in the research literature and development practice: governance norms.
The next EADI Development Studies conference is about “Solidarity, Peace and Social Justice”. But what does solidarity actually mean in relation to development studies? Kees Biekart explores the term by looking at current global examples such as the Fridays for Future movement.
Despite having one of the world’s largest early childhood education and care program named ‘Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS)’ in operation since 1975, the impact of such provisions on children’s later development is still largely unknown in India. Empirical evidence from India suggests that attending preschool makes children more sociable but does not improve their cognitive ability.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s answer to drug-related crimes is bringing back the death penalty. According to recent reports, international drug smugglers are increasingly turning to Sri Lanka as a transit hub in Asia, while drug-related arrests are on the rise. The question is whether the war on drugs is winnable and whether the death penalty will help. Framing the anti-narcotics efforts as a war has been a selling point for the public who are getting weary of everyday drug abusers and dealers.
With the attention to Sudanese women musicians actively participating in the current upraising in Sudan, this article reflects on the history of women’s involvement in music and how their performances have acquired political claims over time. Music has always occupied a significant role in the multiple cultural expressions of the Sudanese nation. In the current uprising, it created a space to enact resistance and narratives of belonging.
Creative Development | Sudan protests: artistic acts of citizenship by Azza Ahmed A. Aziz and Katarzyna Grabska
Although mainstream media have not engaged much with the main political events in Khartoum and in Sudan, since December 2018, Sudan’s ‘revolution’ has been changing local and diasporic dynamics of what ‘citizenship’ and belonging mean (see ISS research project). These acts of citizenship (see Isin and Nielsen 2008) have been most visibly associated with artistic creativity that spread across Sudan and in diaspora.
Food security, agricultural policies and economic growth through the eyes of Niek Koning by Dorothea Hilhorst
One of the pleasures of summertime is that I get to read some of the books that have piled up over the years and this is how I came to read Niek Koning’s monumental monograph on: ‘Food security, agricultural policies and economic growth: Long-term dynamics in the past, present and future’. For someone like me, who usually finds herself working around the immediacy of crises, disaster and displacement, the book gives me a solid reminder of how the critical moments of emergencies are interlinked with each other and emerge from global histories and contexts.
The link between HIV transmission and the use of Depo-Provera®, a three-monthly injectable contraceptive, has raised concerns for its use in populations with high prevalence of HIV. The WHO is convening a Guideline Development Group at the end of this month to review the status of Depo-Provera based on evidence from a new study. Considering that its results are not unequivocal, sufficient time should be allowed for response from scholars, health authorities of the concerned countries, and civil society representatives to facilitate an informed decision.
The question of democracy in environmental politics: The Green Road Project in Turkey by Melek Mutioglu Ozkesen
Road construction is usually presented as a major condition for development, but the question is: development for who and whose land is being intruded for the construction of the road? In Turkey, these questions were prominently raised by social movements and civil society organizations when the government launched its Green Road Project in 2013. It is promoted by the state authorities for making the Black Sea region accessible to the incoming tourists that would arguably improve the economic conditions of the people living in the region. Six years later, the road has almost been completed, and this post can only pay homage to the brave and gradual field attempts of social movements to stop this project.
Complexity of Micro-level Violent Conflict: An ‘Urban Bias’ lenses of a Native Researcher? by Delphin Ntanyoma
Micro-level violent conflict is complex, and triggers of violence are unpredictable. Building on long-seated unresolved grievances coupled with the presence of foreign armed groups in Eastern Congo, South-Kivu Province is facing a barely noticed humanitarian crisis whose understanding can even puzzle a native researcher when armed groups are involved. Can a “native researcher” with lenses affected with “urban bias” understand complex contours of micro-level violent conflict?
Safety and security for students and staff traveling in complex, remote and hazardous areas is important but often taken for granted at universities. In order to create an embedded, inclusive and efficient policy, it is key to have more exchange of good practice examples among universities and to talk about what is needed in this respect. This article argues these points through discussions that happened in a seminar organised by the ISS on ‘Safety and Security Abroad for Universities’ in cooperation with the Centre for Safety and Development (CSD).
The mandate of India’s general election silenced the ‘if not Modi then who’ debate which had been brewing given the country’s economic instability and rising communal polarization. The historic re-election of Narendra Modi as India’s Prime Minister fundamentally re-ordered the country’s political landscape and reaffirmed people’s faith in him to fulfil their economic aspirations. While critics are vary of the ethno-nationalism fueled social turmoil under the new government, others look forward to Modi’s promised vision of a ‘New India’ in his second term.
Informal mediation peopled by brokers, touts, middlemen has over the years embedded itself within public service delivery. Even as they are not within the government system, brokers have come to play an important role, and have reshaped it. The Municipality of Delhi is no exception. Through this article I discuss as to who are these people, and how do broker practices impact governance?
Reclaiming the space for feminism in development practice: the role of ‘femocrats’ by Clara Mi Young Park
In spite of international pledges to gender equality and development that leaves no one behind, the current wave of populism and autarchy is materializing in the form of resurging patriarchy, oppression and exclusion. This has spurred a counter movement of feminist activism across the globe. At this juncture, this article discusses the role of feminists in development organizations that can and must also do their part to promote change that is premised on gender and social justice.
European Peace Science Conference | Why do economic sanctions work? Do they? Will they? By Peter A.G. van Bergeijk, Binyam A. Demena, Alemayehu Reta, Gabriela Benalcazar Jativa and Patrick Kimararungu
Political scientists and economists claim to understand the mechanisms of economic sanctions as a tool for foreign policy and assert to have provided convincing statistical evidence for their theories. In this contribution we argue through the present article that their theories and evidence are significantly influenced by publication bias. What does this mean for our understanding of the history of economic sanctions? Further what are the implications for the future application of the sanction instrument?
Marks assigned by teachers tend to motivate students, have bearing on their career choices, admission to universities and affect students’ self-esteem. Existing literature shows that teachers may hold preconceived stereotypes and implicit biases based on their students’ ethnicity, caste, class, and sex, which influence the grades that the teachers award. Consistent with that, my own research among 120 teachers in 8 private and 11 Indian government schools found evidence of teacher discrimination on the basis of students’ caste and socioeconomic status.
Creative Development | “Do I exist”? Miktivism for Land Rights and Identity in Ethiopia by Tatek Abebe
Miktivism—the use of music for the purposes of activism and social change—has become a popular strategy of resistance among Ethiopian youth. I use the term miktivism to refer to the practice of employing music to advance causes of social justice by youth who do not claim to be activists, at least not openly. This blog explores an example of miktivism: young musicians deploying what they regard as their talents and resource—music and microphone—to highlight questions of land and identity in the Oromia region, Ethiopia.
The history of apartheid in South Africa is generally well-known. Yet, apartheid is not exclusive to that country. According to international law, and on various social grounds, Israel too may be viewed as maintaining an apartheid regime. What does apartheid mean and how has the international community confronted both South African and contemporary regimes of apartheid? This article takes up this discussion, reflecting on a recent event organised at the ISS.
European Peace Science Conference | NEPS and the ISS Celebrate Jan Tinbergen with a Home Run by S. Mansoob Murshed
In less than two weeks from today, the ISS will host the 19th Jan Tinbergen European Peace Science Conference, which will witness the presentation of nearly a hundred papers in quantitative conflict studies. But who was Jan Tinbergen, and why was a whole conference named after him? In the first article of our Peace Science series, Mansoob Murshed sheds light on these questions.
Why Feelings Matter in Global Politics: Aesthetics, Vulnerability and Playing with Language by Aoileann Ní Mhurchú
What happens when we foreground the aesthetics of language -– that is the feelings, perceptions and imaginations it invokes – when thinking about resistance in voice? Aoileann Ní Mhurchú argues that we can begin to think about the importance of vulnerability in language rather than just mastery of language. Looking in particular at shame and failure as feelings in language she considers playfulness as an imaginative response to these.
EADI/ISS Series | Solidarity, Peace, and Social Justice – will these values prevail in times of fundamental threats to democracy? By Jürgen Wiemann
In today’s world of constantly rising inequality, increasingly authoritarian governments and anti-immigration sentiments, solidarity, peace and social justice seem to be more out of reach than ever. In a joint series by the EADI and ISS in preparation for the 2020 General Conference “Solidarity, Peace and Social Justice”, Jürgen Wiemann, EADI vice president, reflects on the possibilities we have to preserve these values.
The current phase of deglobalization is a challenge for social sciences. Peter van Bergeijk discusses what we can learn from previous deglobalizations. What do the periods of the Great Depression and Great Recession currently imply for Europe?
Right-wing populism has gained high levels of support among rural population in Europe. How could this happen and what are the solutions? Natalia Mamonova, of the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative, explains the causes of populism in the European countryside and shares some ideas on potential resistance and the building of alternatives to the regressive nationalist politics.
Creative Development | Art and Knowledge Production: Sense, The Senses and the Struggle for Control by Aoileann Ní Mhurchú and Cathy Wilcock
What is the relationship between art and knowledge production? Does art only contribute to the aesthetics or does it have any role to play in production and even in control of knowledge? This article explores these questions through an example of ‘immigration’. It is a version of the presentation given by Aoileann Ní Mhurchú at the recent ISS workshop ‘Moving Methods’, funded jointly by the CI and D&I groups.
Nepal’s government is increasingly merging schools due to shrinking population numbers in its rural areas, arguing that this will improve the quality of education. However, as Nilima Rai points out, reducing the number of schools actually has an adverse impact on children in remote areas. Hence, the government policies interfer with the children’s right to education.
A green revolution using frugal innovation: crop insurance for Tanzanian farmers by Meine Pieter van Dijk
What is the best way to help traditional small maize farmers in Tanzania to increase their production? A crop insurance project in Tanzania showed great success in decreasing the vulnerability of these farmers to drought through a simple frugal innovation called Weather Index Insurance. However, a transition from traditional to hybrid seeds is recommended to further decrease vulnerability and increase agricultural productivity.
Venezuelan refugees on Curaçao have entered the Kingdom of the Netherlands! by Peter Heintze, Dorothea Hilhorst and Dennis Dijkzeul
“Reception of refugees in the region” is a central concept in the foreign policy of the Dutch government. It means that the Netherlands wants to financially support countries that accept refugees fleeing from a conflict in a neighboring region rather than enabling refugees to migrate onwards to Europe. Usually, the regions where refugees need to be sheltered are far away from the borders of our Kingdom. Suddenly, however, the Netherlands Kingdom has become the region itself.
The Netherlands may have found in Colombia a strategic partner to help expand its commercial activities, but Colombia’s complex social context needs to be carefully considered. Whether this alliance will benefit both countries, or will reinforce the dynamics of the longest conflict in Latin American history, will depend greatly on the Dutch stance towards very sensitive issues that affect the Colombian rural sector.
To fight or to embrace? Divergent responses to the expansion of Southern China’s industrial tree plantation sector by Yunan Xu
The industrial tree plantation sector has been expanding rapidly and massively in Southern China, affecting the livelihoods of the local population residing in the region. But is change resisted or embraced? A recent study on the political economy of Southern China’s industrial tree plantation sector shows that differentiated positions of villagers in their communities lead to distinct political responses to the expansion of the sector.
January is Zero Waste month in the Philippines, celebrating the month in which a law on waste management was signed in 2000. Since the law came into force, various cities and towns in the Philippines have shown leadership in implementing the law. But strong political will and robust policies are needed to ensure that government leaders and an engaged citizenry can transform the Philippines into a zero-waste country.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, there is a variation in the ratio of male to female birth—since the 1990s, 25% more male births than female have been recorded in different areas. Prenatal sex selection reflects a subtle act of violence rooted in social, political, economic, and cultural factors that re-enforces the persistent low economic status of women and value of girls in some communities. This could lead to an overall impact on the mental and physical health of women as well as the creation of a gender imbalance within the population.
At once unexplored and overexploited, the oceans surrounding Indonesia represent neoliberal development’s final frontier. But Indonesian activists are building a global movement to resist the financialisation and privatisation of the world’s oceans.
Brazil leads the numbers when it comes to LGBTQ+ death rates. Stories of prejudice against LGBTQ+ persons dominate newspapers and social media daily. But what about Brazilians building local social spaces of resistance and joy? Looking at the urban context of Brasília for my MA research, I talked to its residents to discover how spaces for inclusivity and innovation enriching queer lives are created and experienced.
Women’s Month 2019 | ‘Empty’ laws and Peruvian women’s ongoing struggle for therapeutic abortion by Zoya Waheed and Romina Manga Cambria
Laws and regulations are policy tools that are seen as strong and effective in securing rights, but should we assume that this is always the case? Looking at therapeutic abortion, evidence from Peru leads us to believe otherwise. Legislation of protection laws often fails to be translated into practice.
Budget cuts in higher education limit universities’ transformative potential. A big strike is therefore planned in the Netherlands for all sectors of education on 15 March 2019. This strike follows demonstrations amongst others by university staff and students in The Hague in December 2018. This post is a conversation between ISS PhD researcher Amod Shah and senior lecturer Karin Astrid Siegmann about what motivates them to participate in the protests.
A majority of Colombia’s rural areas now hold large levels of interest-bearing debt as a result of the increased popularity of bank credits. This article through interviews with debtor peasants shows that their lives have been transformed by the debts they have incurred—debt has generated an imperative to grow. In producing the necessary amount to fulfil debt, small-scale producers are pressed to follow principles of accumulation and profit maximisation that characterises the capitalist society.
Women’s Month 2019 | Seed keepers, memory keepers: native women and food sovereignty by Leila Rezvani
When North America was colonised, the relationship of indigenous people with food was also colonised. But a group of women acting as seed keepers for their communities are fighting back, practicing decolonisation in their daily work and addressing the legacy of food colonisation through the reclamation of seeds and the traditions, practices, and affective relations that nurture human-plant-environment relationships and keep Native communities thriving, healthy, and connected.
Kidnapping in the Eastern Congo: ‘Grievance-oriented’ struggles and criminality? by Delphin Ntanyoma
From August to November last year, 83 cases of kidnapping were reported in Ruzizi Plain alone, part of Uvira territory in the Eastern Congo. While kidnapping can be viewed as a major problem in the DRC, Delphin Ntanyoma argues that it’s important to consider that violence in the Congo is deeply embedded in the demands for better living conditions coupled with other socio-political loopholes that have been created since the colonial era.
Distorted anti-Semitism allegations in UK’s Labour Party are a cover for Israeli apartheid by Jeff Handmaker
On 18 February 2019, Luciana Berger and six other British Members of Parliament (MPs) left the UK Labour Party. The most prominent reason provided by the departing MPs, led by Berger, is that the Party had become ‘institutionally anti-Semitic’, due mostly – or so it would appear – to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s outspoken criticisms of the Israeli government and military. As discussed in this blogpost, which draws on a longer article published on Mondoweiss, these allegations are both dangerous distortions of anti-Semitism and serve as a shameful cover for Israel’s regime of apartheid.
Deglobalisation is not the mirror image of globalisation. The losers of globalisation will thus not be the winners of deglobalisation. Indeed, the vulnerable and poor will be the big losers of deglobalisation both in the Global North and Global South.
Creative Development | Rap Against Dictatorship: Thai lessons in history, politics, and belonging by Roy Huijsmans
On December 30th, 2018, when the end-of-year music charts were nearing their annual climax, music history was made in Thailand: the music video of Thai collective Rap Against Dictatorship called Prathet Ku Mi ([What] My Country’s Got) reached 50 million views on YouTube. This blog post explains that appreciating rap as social critique requires going beyond lyrics to contextualise its multiple and at times subtle messages and references.
Between resilience and vulnerability: the dilemma of refugee resettlement by Mahardhika Sjamsoe’oed Sadjad
Many of the 25.4 million refugees worldwide are living a life in limbo, forced to face a grave dilemma due to the uncertainty of resettlement: while living a life in transit seems to make them more resilient, this could undermine their chances of being resettled. Based on observations while doing research and working with refugees in Cisarua, Indonesia, this article argues that vulnerability and resilience are actually two sides of the same coin.
Development Dialogue 2018 | Social acceptance of oil activities in the Ecuadorian Amazon: a long way to go by Alberto Diantini
Oil companies are coming to realise that they need a ‘Social Licence to Operate’—the acceptance of locals—to reduce social risk associated with their activities. But how do they achieve this community acceptance, especially in areas of the Amazon forest inhabited by indigenous peoples?
Actual scandal-worthy fashion moments aside, it is of little surprise then that occasionally otherwise inoffensive fashion items and objects get caught in the Twitter outrage cycle simply for existing. Would fashion really be doing it’s job in 2017 if it didn’t occasionally provoke such strong reactions online? We have little doubt that that was the point at least some of these designers (we’re looking at you Demna) were trying to make. Others maybe were perhaps just playing catch up on what they perceived as a trend. “Up until that point, people had been hearing exercise messages for the better part…
The localisation agenda, which aims to localise funds and responsibilities to local actors in humanitarian responses, retains an ambiguous concept of ‘the local’. The inclusion of power relations at multiple local governance levels in the localisation debate is needed for a more realistic approach to locally led responses to disasters, argues Samantha Melis.
Japan has a hotel where guests are served by robots, and in Australia self-driving tractors autonomously harvest crops, day and night. Robots help with care for residents in some Dutch nursing homes; once in your house, they can order you a taxi, order your food, or mow your lawn. Robots of all shapes and sizes are beginning to penetrate our lives. Do they generate smarter, happier lives? What are the implications of a robotic revolution for our freedom and autonomy?
Religion should not be considered one among many wellbeing dimensions that development enables people to engage in, but one among many ontological sources that enables people to engage in development, Fernande Pool, postdoctoral researcher at the ISS, argues. A truly inclusive and respectful dialogue on development would go beyond a secular/religious binary and allow for alternative sources and conceptualisations, whether embedded in religious or non-religious sources.
One of the main characteristics of agriculture in the post-socialist countries is its dualistic structure—large- and small-scale farms coexist in countries such as Russia or Ukraine. ISS alumna Natalia Mamonova in this interview explains the relationship between these two forms of farming, examining whether they cooperate or compete against each other.
A new book on the pedagogy of crises was launched in January 2019 at the ISS, edited by Karim Knio and Bob Jessop. In one of its chapters that focuses on the legitimacy crisis in the system of international criminal justice, Jeff Handmaker argues that the politics of international law must be taken seriously in order to address not only the legal legitimacy problems attached to the functioning of international criminal tribunals, but also the external political challenges it faces.
Volunteers jump at the chance of going to developing countries to help orphans, believing that they will make a difference in the lives of these children. But there is a dark side to orphanages, that is orphanage tourism, and ISS scholars are increasingly advising against engaging in this pursuit.
Newly elected Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has immediately started making work of his animosity towards indigenous peoples by transferring the mandate to deal with indigenous land issues to the Ministry of Agriculture that aims to put these lands to commercial use. To justify his policies, Dorothea Hilhorst argues, Bolsonaro uses rhetorical tricks that turn reality upside down.
Creative Development | Migration and musical mobilities in Sudan and Laos by Roy Huijsmans, Katarzyna Grabska and Cathy Wilcock
How are belonging, citizenship, and rights contested through creative practices such as music and dance? What role do the creative industry, international cultural institutions, and the mobilities of performing artists play in this? And what is the significance of all this for rethinking development in post-conflict settings such as Sudan and Laos? This article briefly reflects on these questions that are driving a new ISS-funded research project.
Zimbabwe, once considered the breadbasket of Africa, now lies in an economic flux. A new term, ‘Economic Trauma’, is proposed in this blog to draw attention to the societal impacts of historical, perpetuating, and contextual lines of trauma that influence the current situation.
Social researchers at times apply certain terms without critically reflecting on their use. For example, the word ‘humanitarian’ is used to refer to specific crises, while responses to such crises may move beyond humanitarianism. This article details the problematic of the application of certain research terminology and calls for a changing of lexicons in war-to-peace transitions.
Are you oversimplifying? Research dilemmas, honesty and epistemological reductionism by Rodrigo Mena
During a recent field trip to South Sudan, a question taunted me: How can I tell the story of this place accurately without reducing in my research the lived experiences of people I engaged with? Epistemological reductionism can be a challenge for scholars, and this post explains that the reasons for epistemological reductionism are complex and contextual, moving beyond just a personal limitation of doing research.
The results of the general elections recently held in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after being delayed for two years show interesting developments. The opposition remained weak despite rallying together, and the Catholic Church came to play a pivotal role. This post explores the ‘gambling game’ through which these elections have been compromised by surprises. The far-fetched results of the presidential elections will unlikely contribute to the DRC’s long-term stability.
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered: a study of witchcraft accusation in Northern Ghana by Issah Wumbla
Witchcraft accusation and consequent banishment that still persists globally can be viewed as a form of violence against women and children. While it is believed that women are accused of witchcraft mainly due to their socio-economic status, an intersectional analysis of witchcraft accusation in Northern Ghana shows that other factors also contribute.
An external committee found that the ISS’s research is highly societally relevant, but what does that really mean, and what determines it? Here four broad questions guide us toward a better understanding of societal relevance and impact to contribute toward an ongoing conversation on the topic within the ISS community. We find that the complexity and contingencies of societal relevance in relation to research must be appreciated before attempting to develop a methodological framework for measuring it.
Bouncing back from a devastating crop disease (vassoura de bruxa), Brazilian cacao producers are showing a different face. Many of the old plantations have been ‘taken over’ by younger family members who seem keen to present more sustainable products and methods. As discussed here, a 2017 visit and forthcoming research seek to evaluate the development significance of these changes.
Social protection interventions have recently been scaled up in sub-Saharan Africa. While international aid donors have invested much money, time and effort into the policy design phase,, the real politics start to unfold during its implementation phase. This is when people experience who will receive benefits and who is excluded. What can the case of Zambia tell us about the political debates on who ‘deserves’ social protection and who does not?
Development Dialogue 2018 | Pan-African diasporas in the Brussels bubble: new actors, new business? by Valentina Brogna
Pan-African diasporic networks are emerging in Europe as new lobbying actors within EU-Africa relations under the prism of development cooperation. Who are they, and can they influence EU development policy? This article shows that pan-African diasporic networks as new actors within (or without) EU-Africa relations try to propose different narratives on the African continent, advancing the cause of African-led development.
Hillary Clinton recently claimed that to halt the spread of populism, Europe needs to get a handle on immigration and to stop migrants from crossing borders into Europe. But anti-immigration ‘solutions’ including the building of physical or symbolic walls will only contribute to the rise in populism, Cathy Wilcock argues.
Development Dialogue 2018 | Morocco’s ‘ninjas’: The hidden figures of agricultural growth by Lisa Bossenbroek and Margreet Zwarteveen
In Morocco’s Saïss region an agricultural boom is unfolding, premised on a process of labour hierarchisation shaped along gender lines. Female wageworkers find themselves at the lowest strata and take little pride in their work and are stigmatised. In such a context, how are rural women able to engage in agricultural wage work without losing their dignity and without being stigmatised? What can we learn from their daily working experiences?
Every year around this time, a major cultural and identity clash emerges in the Netherlands as proponents and opponents of Sinterklaas (the Dutch version of Santa Claus) clash over Zwarte Piet, his black servant. However, instead of leading to resolution, debates on Zwarte Piet have become increasingly marked by violence and intolerance, as some fiercely defend this tradition, while others call for change. What is the debate all about, and how can it provide us with insights on everyday racism in the Netherlands and beyond?
Globalisation, international law and the elusive concept of ‘global justice’ by Jeff Handmaker and Karin Arts
We all talk about the search for ‘global justice’, but what does it really mean, and how can international law help achieve it? The elusive concept of ‘global justice’ is discussed in a new book launched tomorrow at the ISS and edited by ISS scholars Jeff Handmaker and Karin Arts. This blog post shortly introduces the book, which seeks to show how legal vocabularies have framed the possibilities for mobilising international law as an instrument for attaining global justice.
Development Dialogue 2018 | Social cash transfers: the risk of Malawi’s donor dependence by Roeland Hemsteede
Social cash transfers are becoming more popular, especially in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa. But what happens when the government does not support these programmes? Roeland Hemsteede shows that in Malawi, the dependence on donor funding and lack of government buy-in pose a risk to hundreds of thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on these transfers.
Development Dialogue 2018 | Do children entering preschool early develop more quickly? by Saikat Ghosh and Subhasish Dey
Despite fierce debate among scholars regarding the age at which children are ready to enter preschool, the issue remains contentious. This article based on an empirical footing argues that earlier preschool entry is better for children living in developing countries like India, as it can help to ‘level the playing field.’
The African Union recently proclaimed that the ‘Blue Economy’, as the ocean economy is increasingly known, could become the ‘New Frontier of an African Renaissance’. The Blue Economy promises sustainable development through its focus on socio-economic inclusion and the protection of the maritime environment, but is it really all it promises to be? With the first global conference on the sustainable development of the blue economy taking place in two weeks, this article takes a closer look at what the Blue Economy is about.
The Development Dialogue, an annual event organized by and for PhD researchers, this year welcomes over 80 participants. The conference theme is “Social Justice amidst the Convergence of Crises: Repoliticitzing Inequalities”. Does this sound intriguing, and do you want to know more? Perhaps you’re interested in attending some of the panels? This article provides a short summary of the conference.
Public spaces are important in the Macedonian context because they’re one of the few places where people from diverse ethnic backgrounds can interact. But these spaces are undergoing fundamental changes. Public spaces are becoming sites for symbolic wars between the ethno-nationalists of the two major ethnic groups in the country. Diversity is seen as a threat, and a type of “staged multiculturalism” is visible.
The recently published IPCC report paints a grim picture of the future if carbon emissions are not immediately and fundamentally reversed. It is now necessary to focus on our own contribution to the mess that we’ve made, Dorothea Hilhorst argues. She focuses on the flying habits of development practitioners and academics, asking whether flying should become the new smoking and how we can address our problematic flying behaviour.
Bliss, the blog of the ISS on global development and social justice, turns one this week. Although the blog is still in its infancy, it is already showing great promise. The Bliss Editorial Board here reflects on the reasons why Bliss should be celebrated and outlines their wish list for the year to come.
Debates on the provision of justice in countries transitioning from armed violence to peace often fail to reflect on how the objective of justice must be linked with its practice. A recently published volume explores this through reflecting on the challenges facing the implementation of the transitional justice framework established in the recently signed peace agreements in Colombia.
The run-up to the Brazilian presidential election to be held on 7 October reminds spectators of the coming to power of Donald Trump two years ago. Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing politician, is running for the election, and while many are cheering him on, others are watching aghast as he heads the polls. In this article, Marina Graciolli de Paiva looks at the implications of the election of Bolsonaro and shows how the Brazilian women’s resistance movement is countering the rise of a fascist government.
Most research on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights is adult-led and adult-centred, not only ignoring young voices but denying diversity amongst young people. But a new project co-led by Kristen Cheney of the ISS departs from the premise that young people are the experts of their own lives, giving children and adolescents the chance co-create knowledge. In this article, Cheney details the importance of youth-led participatory research and how this is done through the new project.
A new Congolese mining code signed earlier this year is intended to increase the mining sector’s contribution to state revenue, which should in theory lead to improvements in the daily lives of the Congolese. However, if the misappropriation of mining revenue continues under the new code, little is likely to change. State misappropriation of mining revenue, while so often the focus of analysis, is just part of the problem. Tax evasion and avoidance strategies practiced by transnational corporations are of greater importance.
The UN in its current form does not serve the citizens it promises to protect. Is it time for a UN 2.0 that puts citizens at the centre? This article explains why the current international system is becoming irrelevant. A world citizenship approach must urgently be explored, Antonio Donini argues.
The idea of a dystopian government that is all-powerful, unrestrained and especially all-seeing is centuries-old. Machiavelli, Orwell and many others have pondered the opportunities and challenges of allowing a government, particularly an authoritarian one, to have access to a system of surveillance that provides every detail of people’s lives. But few could have imagined the implications of modern technologies, such as DNA testing and facial recognition software. What can be done by way of legal mobilisation, beyond the courtroom, to restrain the government when threats to human rights by surveillance agencies are regarded as unacceptable?
Today, not just disaster but the functions—and instrumentalisation—of disaster have been brought right into the heart of Europe. If widespread official violence and the instrumentalisation of disaster can happen right under the eyes of a free press and under the watch of two of the world’s most established democracies, what then is possible in greater seclusion?
A recent workshop hosted collaboratively by the University of Manchester and the ISS sought to determine what knowledge can be derived from artistic work by asking ‘what can social scientists know from art and how?’ The workshop aimed to start conversations between those who make art and those who engage with art in their social science research. This blog article by ISS postdoctoral researcher Cathy Wilcock includes verbal and written reflections of the workshop proceedings and outcomes.
In a gripping account of his witnessing of the gross human rights violations inflicted on others, Khaled Mansour asks why aid workers are becoming apathetic toward the crimes against humanity that are still occurring today. He shows how genuine change is made possible by a group of aid workers that are countering worrying trends in the humanitarian sector by means of a global movement called United Against InHumanity.
The humanitarian aid community in reaction to security risks facing its staff is slowly but surely building a Fort Knox around itself. This article details only some of the risks associated with the building of physical and psychological walls, showing that ultimately, this act negatively influences the relationship between humanitarian staff and local populations. Humanitarian aid workers and scholars must actively investigate how they manage the security of humanitarian staff to prevent this from happening.
IHSA Conference 2018 | (Re-)Shaping Boundaries in Crisis and Crisis Response: introducing the 2018 International Humanitarian Studies Association Conference by Dorothea Hilhorst
Today, in a rapidly changing world, humanitarian crisis response and humanitarianism is increasingly confronted with boundaries that are dissolving, displaced, or resurrecting. The bi-annual International Humanitarian Studies Association (IHSA) Conference taking place this week at the ISS seeks to unpack the way in which boundaries related to crisis and humanitarianism are shaped. IHSA President Dorothea Hilhorst in this article reflects on the importance of the conference in an era where governments are increasingly alienated from the vulnerable people that they have the duty to protect.
Beyond the binary: negotiating cultural practices and women’s rights in South Africa by Cathi Albertyn
In a recent lecture at the ISS, Professor Cathi Albertyn of the University of the Witwatersrand discussed how South African women navigate civil and customary laws to claim women’s rights within culture. Here she shows that women in South Africa do not seek to oppose culture and custom, but desire equality within their own communities.
Economic diplomacy: bilateral relations in a context of geopolitical change by Peter A.G. Bergeijk and Selwyn J.V. Moons
Economic diplomacy, although perceived as marginally important by neoclassical economists, is a highly relevant topic first and foremost because it works in practice, but also because it provides an essential policy answer to the increasing uncertainty of international transactions. In this article, Peter A.G. van Bergeijk and Selwyn J.V. Moons, editors of the recently released Research Handbook on Economic Diplomacy, briefly introduce the topic of economic diplomacy and highlight the value of the new publication, to which several ISS researchers have contributed.
The Orphan Industrial Complex comes home to roost in America by Kristen Cheney and Karen Smith Rotabi
The recent removal of migrant children from their parents at the southern US border has caused great public outcry, but Kristen Cheney and Karen Smith Rotabi argue that it could become another incarnation of the Orphan Industrial Complex that glorifies ‘child rescue’ and the charitable commodification of children without parental care—one that actually produces orphans for a hungry adoption market through dubious legal means.
A recent workshop on masculinities hosted by the ISS Counselling Team focused on ‘being a man in the #MeToo era’, drawing participants from the ISS and beyond. The workshop provided a space for reflection on lived experiences regarding masculinity, for the exploration of the ways in which masculinities have been constructed and performed, and for the examination of some of the ideals of masculinity across different cultures. This article briefly details some of the workshop’s highlights.
Epistemic Diversity| Understanding epistemic diversity: decoloniality as research strategy by Olivia U. Rutazibwa
How do we make sure that our efforts to diversify knowledge production go beyond a window-dressing/Benetton operation? How can we move beyond merely adding some colour and other markers of ‘diversity’ to existing structures—a move that too neatly serves the neoliberal project embedded in our institutions, and their related unquenchable thirst for all that looks new, ‘shiny’ and exciting? I propose that an explicit decolonial engagement with epistemic diversity is one of the ways to productively address and navigate these challenges of co-optation and commodification.
Technological solutions for socio-political problems: revisiting an open humanitarian debate by Rodrigo Mena
The use of technology in the humanitarian aid sector is showing a steady increase based on a sense of hope that technology could help to improve the delivery of aid and solve multiple systemic problems. Technological solutions alone, however, cannot properly address such complex problems. This blog engages in an ongoing debate among development scholars on some of the hopes and concerns related to the use of digital and web-based technology in this sector. The main conclusion: we need more case research on the use of technology and, in the meantime, the careful use of technology is invited.
Epistemic Diversity | From ‘do no harm’ to making research useful: a conversation on ethics in development research by Karin Astrid Siegmann
Ethical dilemmas are part and parcel of the research processes that researchers are engaged in. This article details a recent conversation between ISS students and staff in which they tried to make sense of some of the ethical issues that researchers face. While the ‘do no harm’ principle was emphasised as an overall yardstick, the discussion went beyond that, raising broader questions about epistemic and social justice.
Epistemic Diversity | The challenge of epistemic poverty and how to think beyond what we know by Sruti Bala
Researchers face the challenge of engaging with the topic of epistemic diversity. We know that we should consider diverse knowledges in our research, but how can this be operationalised? This blog post engages with this question and shows us that it first of all means calling into question what we hold dear—the very ground on which we stand as researchers and the means by which we distinguish knowledge from non-knowledge.
Epistemic Diversity | “I am where I think”: research and the task of epistemic diversity by Marina Cadaval and Rosalba Icaza
Epistemic diversity in research is sorely needed in the academia. But what is epistemic diversity and why is it so important? This post—the first of a series on epistemic diversity— introduces the topic and illustrates the importance of discussions on the political economy of knowledge production taking place in our universities.
This week Arturo Escobar is delivering a lecture at the ISS on the topic of post-development. Escobar’s work on rethinking development is crucial in a time when the development field is still plagued by a superhero complex. This article sketches how his work contributes to the deconstruction of the Global North’s own portrayal as a saviour, and serves as a background to his lecture.
In a recent attempt to address the underrepresentation of female professors in the Netherlands, the Dutch government made extra funds available to universities to appoint women. To the dismay of many people at Erasmus University, the university refused to fill over half of the available positions and sent the money back. This triggered Willem Schinkel’s personal essay in which he explains how he feels alienated from a university whose masculine dominance is closely tied to its corporate character.
Ghana’s water utilities are undermined by corruption, impeding the ability of millions of Ghanaians to access safe water resources. The media can play an important role in pushing back corruption in several ways. But often, the media’s potential as watchdog is not fulfilled. This article highlights the key challenges that the Ghana’s media sector faces and argues that it is not likely to ensure greater water integrity without support from the government, the private sector, and civil society.
The ISS next week hosts a conference organised by INFAR on “Human Rights Inside and Outside”, with a special focus on the Rule of Law and human rights. These two concepts are core normative ideas for law, yet their intrinsic value and application is contested. This blog details the conference proceedings and briefly describes the conference theme and the main questions participants will seek to answer. It also serves as an invitation for interested parties to attend the conference.
Memories came racing back for Ubongabasi Obot during a recent book launch at the ISS. The book’s theme? Breaking through the glass ceiling as an African woman. Obot’s own journey to become a female attorney in Nigeria had been fraught with challenges, and she identified with the seven female Africans who are now judges in international tribunals and whose stories are captured in the book. Here she reflects on the launch, and on trying to make it in a male-dominated sector.
In January this year, a long day of interviewing aid workers involved in the Myanmar Rohingya crisis revealed that these aid workers often refrain from talking about the human rights violations in Myanmar. Out of fear to be forced to cease operations or to get fired, they keep silent and carry on. This raises the question: should the scholars engaging with them speak up in their stead? This blog provides a reflection of whether and how scholars can get involved in the entanglements of humanitarianism and conflict. It also provides insights into the ethical and practical reasons why both aid workers and scholars sometimes hesitate to become more engaged.
Toward ‘fisheries justice’?: the global ‘fisheries crisis’ and how small-scale fishers are fighting back by Elyse Mills
The global ‘fisheries crisis’—in which fish stocks are depleted, environmental destruction has reached an apex, and small-scale fisheries are disappearing—is causing irreversible damage to both the fisheries sector and communities sustained by fishing activities. Governments implement stricter regulations and resource management strategies in an attempt to solve the crisis, but these approaches typically leave out the perspectives of small-scale fishers. Despite this, fishing communities are constructing innovative ways to make their voices heard and to protect their lives and livelihoods.
Deglobalisation Series | Will deglobalisation save the environment? by Sylvanus Kwaku Afesorgbor and Binyam Afewerk Demena
Anti-globalists and some environmentalists argue that globalisation is harmful to the environment because it leads to an increase in the global demand for and supply of goods and increased energy production. If globalisation is perceived as harmful to the environment, then should we expect that the current deglobalisation trend in the Global North can reverse the harmful impacts that globalisation is seen to have borne on the environment?
While the consequences of globalisation over health and nutrition can be contradictory, trade openness can be a relevant policy for reducing food insecurity. This relatively inexpensive action, when compared to technology or research-based programmes, can increase the availability of nutritional foods, increase higher nutritional variety in diets, and can stabilise the food supply, food reducing shortages.
The ‘Paradox of Plenty’, the ‘Dutch Disease’ or the ‘Resource Curse’ are often cited as reasons for Venezuela’s economic crisis. In Venezuela, declining oil rent alone may not explain the economic crisis of this oil-exporting economy—the mismanagement of oil rent strongly contributes.
The Financial Crisis of 2008/09 led to a structural break in financial globalisation, setting cross-border capital flows back to the average of the 1990s. Do differences between cross-border financial flows of the Global North and Global South disqualify the financial slowdown as deglobalisation? Will the 21st Century be a deglobalised century, or are we just witnessing a new (and maybe better) face of financial globalisation?
Human security is not a moralistic utopia but a realistic approach to migration, which takes European citizens’ insecurities seriously by focusing on human security of migrants. It is now time to bravely and innovatively rethink Europe and migration, and by extension, what kind of European political community can be imagined.
After benefiting from international trade and investment for the past 30 years, China’s global position is starting to change. Given its role as leader in international trade, will China be able to ‘restart’ globalisation and offer an alternative to globalisation and deglobalisation as defined by the West?
SDG 12: a long way off from changing how we produce and consume by Des Gasper, Amod Shah and Sunil Tankha
The SDGs are a striking set of goals that potentially could facilitate major changes across the world. SDG 12—to ‘ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns’ (SCPs)—is fundamental and exceptionally broad. But both political and technical factors have contributed to a watered-down set of SDG 12 targets and indicators. These need to be revisited, deepened and added to in national and local level plans for the goal to live up to much of its promise.
In defence of his trade war with China, Trump claims that ‘when you’re $500bn down you can’t lose.’ The problem with this stance is that persistent US trade deficits with China are arguably a sign of US strength or even imperial privilege, not weakness. However, on this issue, he has much of conventional economics wisdom supporting him in his delusions that the US is being treated unfairly or is ‘behind’ based on these deficits.
‘Migrant-led’ political parties are on the rise in the Netherlands—a natural reaction to extreme anti-migration populism of the past decade. Insights into the local elections held on 21 March 2018 across the country show us how the rise of parties led by migrants (so-called allochtonen) can diversify the Dutch political landscape in a positive way.
We may have reached a stage where economic interactions have become so internationalised that further increases in globalisation cannot deliver greater prospects of peace. But the logic of the capitalist peace still holds water; the intricate nature of the economic interdependence between advanced market economies almost entirely rules out war, but other hostile attitudes can still persist, and even grow.