Tag Archives ISS

Home (in the world)

Home (in the world)

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 ...

#MeToo and the need for safe spaces in academia by Brenda Rodríguez, Bruna Martinez and Vira Mistry

#MeToo and the need for safe spaces in academia by Brenda Rodríguez, Bruna Martinez and Vira Mistry

We hope this article leads to a larger discussion about sexual harassment in academia and the urgent work of creating a safe and inclusive environment for all of the members ...

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.

The Editorial Board of ISS Blog Bliss meets at quarterly intervals to discuss numerous aspects relating to the blog, including its functioning, successes, and future directions. At such meetings, we always discuss the statistics of the blog, including which articles have the most reads and where the readers come from.

At our recent Board meeting, we noticed that of the top 10 countries in terms of readership, only two are outside the Global North. Moreover, these two countries—South Africa and India—were former British colonies where English is the lingua franca, understood and spoken by a large part of the population. The top 3 countries were the Netherlands, the UK, and the USA, while other countries included Germany and Switzerland. As all blog articles have been published in English, this inevitably means that people who are able to read English texts and do research in English have been able to access our blog site.

In an effort to increase the readership of our blog, we have decided to encourage blog authors to translate their blog articles to their native languages, or to the native language of the communities participating in the research. In the future, English texts will be encouraged to be accompanied by texts in native languages. We hope that in so doing, our audience can be diversified, moving beyond scholars, practitioners and research participants in the Global North to include those in the Global South as well.

Something we also found at Bliss is the importance of researchers sharing their blog articles on social networks. While Google helps to find blog articles, research dissemination on social media is also a form of scholar activism. Our research finds that Facebook is particularly important for finding blog articles, followed by Twitter and Google. We are therefore encouraging authors to share their blog articles on social media (in their native languages) as well.

The good news are that blogs remain a wonderful way to communicate what we are discussing or researching at ISS. The content is more accessible, both in terms of style and in terms of open access, than scientific theses or journal articles. We therefore encourage researchers to make use of this communication channel. If we really wish to live the scholar-activism many of us subscribe to—if we truly want to be scholar activists—we must also think of how and to whom we are disseminating the knowledge we have generated through our research.

Are you also committed to changing academia? Join us by writing for Bliss in your native language and then share it as widely as you can!

16177487_1348685531818526_4418355730312549822_oAbout the author:

Lize Swartz is a PhD researcher at the ISS focusing on water user interactions with sustainability-climate crises in the water sector, in particular the role of water scarcity politics on crisis responses and adaptation processes. She is also the editor of the ISS Blog Bliss.

Image Credit: Chris JL on Flickr

When the going gets tough: duty of care and its importance by Siena Uiterwijk Winkel

When the going gets tough: duty of care and its importance by Siena Uiterwijk Winkel

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 ...

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

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 ...

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 series, Mansoob Murshed sheds light on these questions.

The year 2019 marks fifty years since the Nobel Prize for Economics was instituted. The first award went to the two founding fathers of econometrics (techniques applied to empirical data to test theoretical hypotheses) namely the Dutch economist Jan Tinbergen and the Norwegian economist Ragnar Frisch. This year also happens to be a quarter of a century since the passing of Jan Tinbergen. Between 24th and 26th June, the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of the Erasmus University of Rotterdam (EUR) will host the 19th Jan Tinbergen European Peace Science Conference, also known as the Network of European Peace Science (NEPS) conference.

It is fitting that the Institute does so for a number of reasons. Jan Tinbergen was a founding member of the Economists for Peace and Security, and perhaps the society’s most distinguished doyen on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Although it is well known that Professor Tinbergen enjoyed a long tenure at the Erasmus School of Economics, what is less known is that the ISS awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1962. Jan Tinbergen was a founding member of the Economists for Peace and Security. He was, incidentally, also one of the founding members of the Econometric Society back in the 1930s. Unsurprising, as he was one of the progenitors of this particular art.

Underpinning all of Tinbergen’s contributions to Economics is his desire for the usefulness of research. The extent of inequality in society during his youth in the 1920s (as is once again the case with a vengeance), as well as his first-hand experience of poverty in Leiden caused him to abandon a potentially brilliant career as a Physicist to become an Economist; Physics’ loss was Economics’ gain. He, however, brought over extensive intellectual arbitrage from Physics (and Mathematics) into Economics. Many others shared his passion for measurement, but he went to systematize it by inventing econometrics, a statistical tool that enables the testing of economic theories, and he preferred theory to be mathematical.

As such, he devised the first empirical macroeconomic model for an economy, even though the operation of the model was hampered in the case of the Netherlands by the paucity of data (unlike in the UK or USA). The 1930s was an era plagued by the scourge of mass unemployment in the industrialized world, just as nowadays the immiserisation of many at work afflicts most societies (a phenomenon otherwise known as precarious employment). Tinbergen was invited by the League of Nations to work on business cycles, because these cyclical swings were the major cause of unemployment.

At one time, Tinbergen was also the leading advisor to the League’s successor, the United Nations, on development policies, which most famously resulted in the benchmark for the quantum of development assistance to be donated by rich nations. (0.7% of national income), although Tinbergen really would have wanted more to go to poorer nations. Even more presciently, Tinbergen favoured world government, as he feared governance at the level of the nation state risked becoming myopic.[1]

Tinbergen managed to connect the inseparable concepts of welfare and security[2], as well as to formulate the notion of global security[3]. Underpinning the notion of world security is yet another inseparability between military (or security) expenditure and development assistance for poorer countries. A degree of convergence in average incomes across nations was required, and to bring that about, military expenditure needed to be curtailed so as to free up more money for aid.

It is worth reiterating Tinbergen’s commitment to the societal relevance of Economics, the need to engage in advisory work, and the overwhelming salience of finding solutions to economic problems, especially poverty and inequality between nations. His style of communication was refreshingly free of our current obsession with memes and soundbites. For all of these reasons, and more besides, it is fitting that this year’s NEPS conference, which will witness the presentation of nearly a hundred papers in quantitative conflict studies, will be held at the ISS, in the Hague, the home town of one of the pioneers of the economics of conflict, who was also one of the most ardent and distinguished champions of disarmament and development assistance.

[1] See Kol, J and P De Wolff (1993), Tinbergen’s Work: Change and Continuity, De Economist, 141.
[2] Tinbergen, J and D Fischer (1987) Warfare and Welfare, New York; St. Martin’s Press.
[3] Tinbergen, J (1990) World Security and Equity, Aldershot: Edward Elgar.

This is the first article in a series related to the 19th Jan Tinbergen European Peace Science Conference that will be hosted by the ISS from June 24th to 26th June 2019. 

Image Credit: Nationaal Archief, Den Haag, Rijksfotoarchief: Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Fotopersbureau (ANEFO) under a CC license. The image was cropped.

best photoAbout the author:

S. Mansoob Murshed is Professor of the Economics of Peace and Conflict at the ISS. His research interests are in the economics of conflict, resource abundance, aid conditionality, political economy, macroeconomics and international economics.








Development Dialogue 2018 | Social acceptance of oil activities in the Ecuadorian Amazon: a long way to go by Alberto Diantini

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 ...

Learning from the crisis in international criminal justice by Jeff Handmaker

Learning from the crisis in international criminal justice by Jeff Handmaker

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 ...

Let’s think twice about orphanages and volunteering by Manasi Nikam

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.

Studies indicate that 80% of children in orphanages have at least one living parent[1]. The next question that springs to mind is: Why are they living in orphanages, then? The answer is obvious—poverty. Parents often choose to send their children to a residential caring facility hoping that the children will have access to better nutrition, education, and healthcare. But I want to raise the question: Are orphanages actually as virtuous as we believe them to be? Are there other ways of supporting children other than institutionalizing them? By donating to or volunteering in orphanages, are we really helping the children? Do we like the feel good factor in supporting orphanages, or do we really want to make a difference?

The Orphan Industry

Kristen Cheney from ISS was invited as a speaker at The Hague Talks on November 20, 2018. She voiced her concerns on orphanage tourism, a phenomenon that is taking over across sub-Saharan Africa.  She pointed out that in the 1990s, when sub-Saharan Africa was severely affected by AIDS, there were about 3,000 orphans in institutional care in Uganda. By 2017, the number of children in institutional care shot up to 40,000. The massive increase in the number of orphans is linked to interests of Westerners, especially youngsters, who want to do something meaningful, so they opt to volunteer in developing countries.

This rather benevolent sentiment soon became commodified and there was a proliferation of companies that promised to give Western youngsters ‘vacation with a difference’ for a fee. On the other hand, children belonging to poor families are being pulled away from their parents by orphanages in order to raise funds, making running an orphanage a lucrative business. This phenomenon is not just limited to sub-Saharan Africa. In Kerala, India, orphanages have mushroomed that purchase children belonging to poor families for meager sums of 1000 or 3000 Rupees and collect donations from Gulf countries.

Volunteering: Are we really making a difference?

As for the volunteers who want to help communities, they unwittingly become a part of the problem that keeps children in orphanages. When I volunteered in an orphanage in India for about two years, I witnessed the various issues that arise in context of interaction of youngsters with children. Children would often get attached to volunteers without realising that their presence is only temporal. And I believe that although each volunteer cared for the children to the best of their abilities, we fell short of providing the children with the kind of emotional support that they need following abandonment, family tragedies, or poverty. There were also instances of sexual abuse by older children on younger ones. Give that it was an all-boys shelter, the children were not exposed to the female gender on a daily basis, as a result of which they were unsure of how to behave around women and girls their age. There have been occasions where the children had remarked inappropriately on my appearance and other women such as the cook, as we were the only females that the children were exposed to on a regular basis.  In a family or community environment, children are sensitised about interacting with the opposite sex and develop socialising skills. Their behaviour receives individualised attention, something that an institution does not provide; therefore their actions go uncorrected.

Abuse endured by children in orphanages

Besides, children in orphanages are easy prey for sexual predators within as well as outside the institution. The case of Bihar, where 34 out of 42 girls aged between 7 and 17 in a shelter were raped by the custodian of the shelter as well as outsiders, shed light on the unspeakable abuse the children suffered. The accused in the case also included the child protection officer appointed by the local governing body. After the shelter in Bihar was exposed, a spate of similar crimes in other states surfaced in the media. Plainly, orphanages are not as virtuous as we believe them to be.

 What now?

Orphanages have an intuitive and emotional appeal. They after all shelter the most vulnerable sections of society. But we all know that the orphanage is not the best place to raise a child. A familial environment is required to meet a child’s emotional, psychological, and developmental needs. The Netherlands is considering banning foreign adoption, given that it leads to institutionalisation of children and can also hamper the development of robust child protection systems in the children’s native countries.

The International Institute of Social Studies has given due recognizance this problem. It is the first educational institution in The Netherlands to sign the pledge against orphanage volunteering. The pledge is an initiative undertaken by the Better Care Network and London School of Economics Volunteer Centre that can be adopted by institutions for higher education. The Better Care Network has also produced a movie ‘The Love You Give’ that shows how volunteers unwittingly are breaking up families and harming the very children that they want to help.

 Clearly, it’s high time we rethink the role played by volunteers, donations and childcare institutions in the lives of children and think of more holistic solutions. Before signing off, I only hope I have given you enough food for thought and enough reasons to stop and think before you make a donation to an orphanage or volunteer.

[1] The Love you Give Partner Toolkit (2018), Better Care Network.

Nanjappa, V. (2014). Kerala’s orphan industry sell’s kids in the Gulf’. rediffNEWS (online) Accessed on 8 December 2018.
Cheney, K. (2018) ‘Combatting the Orphan Industrial Complex’ Hague Talks (online)
Cheney, K. (2016). ‘The Netherlands’ proposed ban on foreign adoption and the (ab)uses of ‘scientific expertise’. Open Democracy (online). As accessed on 19th December 2018.
Biswas, S. (2018). The horror story inside an Indian children’s home. BBC News (online). Accessed on 8 December 2018.
McCann, C. (2017). #StopOrphanTrips. ISS is first in the Netherlands to join the global campaign to stop orphanage volunteering. Stahili Foundation. (online) As accessed on 19 December 2018.


About the author:

Manasi Nikam is a student of MA in Social Policy for Development at ISS.  She has co-authored ‘Children of India’ a chapter on the status of well-being of children, for Public Affairs Index 2018.



What determines societal relevance? by Roy Huijsmans and Elyse Mills

What determines societal relevance? by Roy Huijsmans and Elyse Mills

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 ...

Development Dialogue 2018 | Who decides who gets social protection? by Maria Klara Kuss

Development Dialogue 2018 | Who decides who gets social protection? by Maria Klara Kuss

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 ...

The battle for Zwarte Piet: Everyday racism in the Netherlands by Dorothea Hilhorst

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?

As a child growing up in a Dutch, white suburb, my favourite tradition in the Netherlands has always been Sinterklaas. It is our variation of Santa Claus, but our Sint gives the children presents on the occasion of his birthday on 5 December. Three weeks before the big day, Sint arrives by steamboat in the Netherlands and during the three weeks’ stay he visits schools, families, and hospitals to meet children. Before going to bed, kids place their shoes near the chimney or door. They sing the traditional songs about Sinterklaas, and add a root or water for Sinterklaas’ horse. In the middle of the night, Sinterklaas’ servants – so the story goes – would enter through the chimney and place sweets or presents in the shoes.


As a child, Sinterklaas was the highlight of my year, and I was never aware of the racist character of the tradition. Sinterklaas is surrounded by servants that are black. Although there are many myths about the origin of Zwarte Piet, it is not difficult to see remnants here of the Dutch history riddled with slavery. The representation of Zwarte Piet, a servant with exaggerated racial traits, including shiny black skin, kinky hair, and fat red lips, is perceived by many as reproducing racial stereotypes and as a form of everyday racism. For the last ten years, the discussion on Zwarte Piet has escalated to become a principal battleground of what it means to be Dutch in the twenty-first century.

In 2014, a UN research team concluded that Zwarte Piet was indeed racist, and the report noted that the committee was shocked to find how ignorant Dutch society is about its history with slavery. The e-mail account of one of the researchers, Jamaican professor Verene Shepherd, had to be temporarily closed due to extensive hate mail from Dutch people who felt that one of their most precious traditions was being attacked.


While protest against Zwarte Piet is growing in the Netherlands, it is important to note that the tradition is not under attack. Nobody wants to ban the tradition of Sinterklaas, protesters just want a minor adaptation to Zwarte Piet. The proposed alternative is Roetveegpiet: a person of unspecified ethnicity that is blackened by the soot from inside the chimneys through which Piet supposedly enters the houses. This alternative seems simple and doable, yet the Netherlands continues to be utterly divided over the matter. When HEMA – a popular store – announced in 2015 that it was changing its December displays to the Roetveegpiet, it quickly had to backtrack because of a consumer boycott and security threats received by HEMA personnel.

In 2017, when Sinterklaas’ arrival by steamboat took place in the province of Friesland, a number of people blocked the highway to stop anti-Zwarte Piet demonstrators from holding a peaceful protest. The people who blocked the highway have recently been convicted by a court to several weeks of community service, but fail to understand why and show no remorse or regrets.

This year, 2018, the arrival of Sinterklaas was accompanied in many cities by violent attacks on peaceful protesters against Zwarte Piet. Apparently, the core of those coming to the defence of Zwarte Piet is now formed by football hooligans that take joy in throwing cans and other objects at the protesters. Dozens of the hooligans have been arrested. While extremist hooligans are the most visible part of the pro-Zwarte Piet movement, surveys show that in the society at large the support for Zwarte Piet is declining, but that he can still count on majority support among the population.

For this reason perhaps, the Dutch government so far has refused to intervene in the debate, claiming this is not a political, but a socio-cultural issue. Only last week, the leader of the Christian party Christen Unie that forms part of the current government coalition publicly announced his support for Roetvegenpiet.

It is quite incredible how Zwarte Piet has become the epicentre of the stormy discussion on how the Netherlands has to relate to itself in times of diversity and migration. Accusations of racism on the one hand and treason on the other entrench antagonism in the battle for or against Zwarte Piet.


At ISS, everyday racism is a major topic of analysis. One of the things that I’ve learned from our international students is that something can be racist with or without intention. When somebody is reprimanded after telling a nasty joke about black people, the usual defence is, “Oh, but I never meant that to be racist, and, by the way, I have many black friends.”

But even without the intention of racism, a joke can be racist in the sense that it reproduces prejudice about minority groups with a different skin colour or a non-majority ethnic background. And even without racist intention, these friends may still find it unpleasant to hear the jokes.

How can this insight help us in the Zwarte Piet debate? Could Zwarte Piet critics believe that the large majority of Zwarte Piet lovers have no racist intentions? And could Zwarte Piet defenders then acknowledge that Zwarte Piet is nonetheless a hurtful expression of everyday racism?

The author (on the right) with her sister in the 1970s.

In November 2013, the ISS community sent a letter to Erasmus University’s Rector Magnificus to raise the issue of the celebration of Sinterklaas and the everyday racism it represents. The letter was a response to an invitation (which just had a picture of Zwarte Piet) to celebrate Sinterklaas on the Erasmus University campus in Rotterdam. Authors of the letter called for the recognition and appreciation of principles of tolerance on which the ISS strives to be built and requested that the university starts to consider alternative forms of representation to overcome the racial stereotyping from the celebration of Sinterklaas. The letter was signed by 52 members of the community.

Picture Credit: MysterieusVP


About the author:

Dorothea Hilhorst is Professor of Humanitarian Aid and Reconstruction at the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam.



Globalisation, international law and the  elusive concept of ‘global justice’ by Jeff Handmaker and Karin Arts

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 ...

Development Dialogue 2018 | Social cash transfers: the risk of Malawi’s donor dependence by Roeland Hemsteede

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 ...

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.’


There is considerable debate regarding the age at which children are ready to enter preschool. However, scholars seem not to have been able to reach any conclusion regarding the link between children’s development and schooling age. There are two principal views on this issue that shape the age-of-entry debate both at the policy and practice level: First, entry with maturity, and, second, entry followed by maturity.

The first view is a maturational point of view that expects the child to be mature and ready for school. Reaching only a specific age does not ensure that a child is ready for school, nor does it guarantee a specific level of development. The conventional wisdom is that older children are more likely to have the necessary skills and maturity to succeed in school and therefore learn more in each grade (Cmic & Lamberty 1994; Krauerz 2005; Graue & DiPema 2000). Therefore, advocates of maturational view propose a delay in entrance to kindergarten for a child who is not ready, and such delay gives the child an extra year to become developmentally ready. This trend was described by the phrase “graying of kindergarten” (Bracey 1989), which is recently known as “redshirting” (Katz, 2000).

On the other hand, people holding the alternative view believe that the only determining factor for entry into kindergarten should be chronological age. This entry criterion is exogenous and less susceptible to cultural or social biases (Brent et al. 1996; Kagan, 1990; Stipek 2002). Besides, development is uneven and multidimensional, and thus, a threshold cannot be identified, as children’s level of development varies across different dimensions and children are not likely to achieve the level considered important for school success in all domains at the same time (Stipek 2002: 4).

Yet, very little is known in the context of developing countries, and whether the variation in the age of entry in preschool has any impact on children’s later development is still an open question. The authors took the initiative[1] to explore the same debate in the Indian context. As children from developing countries like India face several challenges from the very beginning, therefore, it is utterly significant to examine whether early entry in preschool provides them with an edge.


The answer in this context is yes, it matters, and it is evident form the study that the age of entry into preschool is utterly significant for children’s later development. Empirical evidence indicates that early entry into preschool may help children to acquire better cognitive and socio-emotional skills. The study has also found significant variation in children’s development depending on their socioeconomic background viz. parents’ level of education, their ethnic origin, etc. Considering the socioeconomic and cultural background of Indian society (as reflected within the household and parents characteristics), the results suggest that early entry into preschool has significant effects both on social and cognitive development of the child at least after a one-year completion of primary education. Therefore, the study advocates in favour of early preschool entry which has been referred by the authors as ‘Green-Shirting’.

Considering children from developing countries, where various forms of inequalities are already present, several differences may exist between children of lower socio-economic status and those of higher socio-economic status even before they enter preschool. Therefore, it is particularly necessary to provide children with a strong foundation from the very beginning so that these early disadvantages can be tackled.

Early childhood education and care provisions can be important intervention for children’s development. For example, the publicly provided preschool education in India, known as the ‘Anganwadi Centre’, which is the predominant type of preschool in India, represents an important and an effective initiative in ensuring both the social and cognitive development of children in the later stage of their life. Early entry into preschool and therefore, longer preschool experiences, can help to ‘level the field.’

[1] The study on which this article is based was carried out by the authors in India and is based on a primary data of 1,369 households. Ten different parameters were used to measure children’s development, which was further disentangled into cognitive and social development.

Bracey, G. (1989). Age and achievement. Phi Delta Kappan, 70(9): 732.
Brent, D., D. May & D. Kundert (1996) ‘The incidence of delayed school entry: A twelve-year review’, Early Education Development 7(2):121-135.
Cmic, K. & G. Larnberty (1994) ‘Reconsidering school readiness’, Early Education and Development 5(2): 91- 105.
Graue, E. & J. DiPerna (2000). Redshirting and early retention: Who gets the gift of time and what are its outcomes?. American Educational Research Journal, 37(2): 509-534.
Kagan, S. L. (1990). Readiness past, present and future: Shaping the agenda. Young Children 48(1): 48-53.
Katz, L. (2000). Academic redshirting and young children. ERIC. Washington, DC, Office of Education Research and Improvement.
Krauerz, K. (2005). Straddling early learning and early elementary school. Journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children 64(3): 50-58.
Stipek, D. (2002). At what age should children enter kindergarten? A question for policy makers and parents. SRCD Social Policy Report 16(2): 3-16.

This blog article is part of a series related to the Development Dialogue 2018 Conference that was recently held at the ISS.

About the authors:ghosh

Dr. Saikat Ghosh has recently received his doctorate from the University of Bamberg, Germany. His research interest centres on poverty, education, inequality, and social policy analysis with particular focus on developing countries. Formerly, he has worked for the Bamberg Graduate School of Social Sciences (BAGSS), Germany, and UNU-WIDER, Helsinki. He also served the Government of West Bengal, India for six years between 2007 to 2013.

deyDr. Subhasish Dey is an Associate Lecturer at the Economics Department of University of York, UK. He is an applied microecometrician working in the field of development and political economy. He completed his PhD in Economics from University of Manchester in 2016. His research interests include social protection programme, impact evaluation of social policies, electoral politics, affirmative action and routine immunisation. He served government of West Bengal for five years between 2003 and 2008 in education and Panchyat and rural development departments.

Development Dialogue 2018 | Blue Economy: A New Frontier of an African Renaissance? by Johan Spamer

Development Dialogue 2018 | Blue Economy: A New Frontier of an African Renaissance? by Johan Spamer

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 ...

ISS hosts 16th Development Dialogue for early-stage researchers

ISS hosts 16th Development Dialogue for early-stage researchers

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 ...

Celebrating a year of blissful blogging: ISS Blog Bliss turns 1!

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.

Bliss, our blog about global development and social justice, celebrates its first birthday today. We don’t really have a frame of reference for thinking about whether we are doing a good job, and can thus only share why we have come to like the blog.

In the first 12 months of existence of our blog, 68 posts have been published. Two-thirds of these were written by staff and students of the ISS. The breadth of topics mirror the lively diversity in the institute, with topics ranging from economic diplomacy, humanitarian aid, women’s rights, epistemic diversity, deglobalisation, the Orphan Industrial Complex, populism, and much more.

We know our stats. We have had 13,000 visitors in the first year—more than 1,000 every month. Is this good or not? It pales in view of the intimidating numbers one has become used to for web-based platforms. But what do we compare the blog to? When we think of the average number of students in a classroom or participants in seminars, we are extremely happy and impressed if indeed 13,000 people have bothered to read at least one of our posts!

Making our research known

What inspired the blog is an urge to open the windows of our building and reach out about pressing issues that our research sheds light on. We defined our audience as people in policy, practice and the public at large. We are particularly pleased that we have had 1,000 visitors from India, and another thousand from South Africa and Kenya! We have actually had visitors from across the world due to the diversity of our articles.

ISS staff and students have also gotten to know each other’s work better through Bliss. We see each other every so often over lunch or in meetings, and we usually know the kind of project or topic colleagues work on, but rarely do we know the specifics of the research. It is really wonderful to get the occasional glimpse of what your neighbour at work has been up to and what insights she or he reached and wants the world to know about.

Pursuing social justice

One blog will not change the world, but it is wonderful that we can add our voices to the critical streams for positive change, global development and social justice that keep up and manage to trickle through all the often depressing layers of naïve, selfish, blinded, devious, scared, evil, commercial, unthinking, or fanatical messages that continue to condone inequality, violence and threats to our climate.

Our first year has brought some evidence that blogging can be fun and powerful. Dorothea Hilhorst, one of the Editorial Board members, wrote her first post for Bliss about a report on transactional sex in the DRC that she was quite proud of, but that had not gotten much traction in the two years after its completion. However, Bliss helped her to make known her work on transactional sex in the DRC. The topicality, the title, and the picture related to the blog article all added to the cocktail that made the post one of the most popular on Bliss. It importantly led to different follow-up requests for lectures, blogs and even an invitation to contribute to a special issue on sexual abuse in the aid sector. This just shows what impact Bliss can potentially make if it reaches the right audiences.

The year ahead

It would be tempting to present you here with links to our favourite posts, but there are too many, and each has its own merits. We invite everyone to identify their personal favourite and tell us in a comment. So, instead of listing our favourites, let us rather share with you our wish list for the year to come. Here are five things that we hope to see in the coming years:

  1. More series. We have had several series this year on deglobalisation, epistemic communities and humanitarian studies. Series have turned out to be an effective way of disseminating fresh messages while creating a continuing conversation about different faces and shades of an issue.
  2. More responses on topical issues and news related to our academic work. Many things happen in the world that our research directly speaks to, so our research can feed into ongoing debates. Just recently, for example, we had a wonderful post on the recent elections in Brazil.
  3. More frequent use of blogging to increase the societal relevance of academic work. ISS places a high premium on societal relevance. Although there are many meanings of and approaches to societal relevance (a blog article on the topic is to be published soon), blogging is definitely a wonderful way to go the extra mile and tell a wider audience about relevant findings from an academic publication.
  4. More discussion about issues that matter to academic work in a world where the nature and status of science and evidence is increasingly under discussion. Confusingly and interestingly, these discussions take place in different corners. They come from places that favour fake news and like to see science as just another opinion. But they also come from within the academe where we wonder how inequality and a lack of recognition of the value of diversity biases our work. There is lots of space for debate on our blog.
  5. More stories that give voice to people that may not easily be heard. To paraphrase comedian Hannah Gadsby: it is not laughter or anger that connects people and communities, but stories. Let Bliss be a place where connecting stories are being told!

The Bliss Editorial Board members are Sylvia Bergh, Dorothea Hilhorst, Linda Johnson, Rod Mena, Matthias Rieger and Christina Sathyamala.

IHSA Conference 2018 | How to defend a common humanity? by Khaled Mansour

IHSA Conference 2018 | How to defend a common humanity? by Khaled Mansour

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 ...

IHSA Conference 2018 | Aid behind walls? A spatial view of humanitarian security by Janine Bressmer

IHSA Conference 2018 | Aid behind walls? A spatial view of humanitarian security by Janine Bressmer

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 ...

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.

This week, the world has bereaved Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations. I have admired Annan as one of the most remarkable global leaders that during his time at the United Nations and thereafter tirelessly devoted himself to the promotion of democracy and the protection of vulnerable people. His death appeared in comments as the end of an era—a marker of the demise of value-driven internationalism.

Indeed, the prospects for crisis-affected people to secure protection, survival and refuge seem increasingly subject to the vagaries of geo-politics. Few governments remain that respect their duties to protect vulnerable people, and we see increasing polarisation between policies based on populist resentments against refugees and civic initiatives of solidarity to welcome people that are seeking for refuge.

It is in light of such events that ISS this week hosts the 5th bi-annual conference of the International Humanitarian Studies Association (IHSA). In more than 50 panels, academics, researchers and practitioners will discuss the state of affairs and emerging trends in humanitarian crises in the world today, involving refugees and displacement, conflict, disasters triggered by natural hazards, and protracted emergencies.

The conference reflects the broad concern of humanitarian studies, focusing on crisis and crisis responses and addressing these in relation to changing realities in world politics, welfare regimes, migration movements and concerns over the long-term effects of climate change and other ecological trends.

The cradles of many UN and humanitarian agencies, the USA and Europe, are seen to let politics of fear and security prevail over solidarity and international commitments. Countries close their borders or even seek to extra-territorialize their border control. The keynote of David Keen, professor of conflict studies at the London School of Economics, and several of the panels, will address the European politics towards refugees. The inhumane treatment of crisis-affected populations has now triggered a worldwide initiative, United Against Inhumanity, and we look forward to hear more about this initiative from Khaled Mansour during the opening of the conference.

Interestingly, while united international action at times seems increasingly elusive, this year has also seen the unanimous adoption of a landmark UN resolution that supports political action to address food crises related to conflict. Starvation as a weapon of war has been common in history, yet has not been recognised in international humanitarian law. It is only now, in this new resolution, 2417, that the starving of civilians or unlawfully denying them humanitarian access is recognised and condemned as warfare tactics. We are very pleased that the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, as well as Alex de Waal, will speak about the relevance of the resolution during the opening of the conference.

The IHSA conference is a timely event to reflect on the profound changes happening in humanitarianism. The World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) of 2016 called for the rethinking of crisis response, bridging the domains of humanitarianism and development and increasingly localizing responses. The evolving Global Compact on Refugees compounds the trend to make humanitarian response subject to localized arrangements. The trend in humanitarian aid to build on people’s resilience had become mainstream and merits serious discussion on how these trends affect the possibilities for people and communities affected by crises to be assured of basic protection.

If we want to understand these shifts in humanitarianism, we have to delve deeply into the nuts and bolts of how they change practice on the ground. And this is exactly what the conference will do. The range of panels is impressive, enabling us to unravel how humanitarian practices are evolving. To name a few of the issues that come by in the panels: the link between humanitarian aid and national governments, issues of participation and accountability, the role of innovation in aid, and the role of debt in the ways that people can cope with crises.

Finally, I am excited to continue the discussion on the ethics of humanitarian studies. During the World Humanitarian Summit of 2016, scholars agreed on ethical commitments for humanitarian studies. These commitments concern collaboration and inclusion in humanitarian research; the study of the impact of the WHS; the further development of evidence-based approaches; the localization of humanitarian research and education; the impact and increase of the use of humanitarian research; and the protection of academic freedom and scientific ethics. While we observe, analyse and seek evidence to expand our understanding of crises and crisis response, I hope that humanitarian scholars will also use the conference to reflect on how our research can be made more relevant for crisis-affected communities.

TheaAbout the author: 

Dorothea Hilhorst is professor of humanitarian aid and reconstruction at the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam.