24 October 2014

Quote of the Day: Western hijacking of #BringBackOurGirls

From Nigerian writer Tolu Ogunlesi, in Al Jazeera:
the arrogance behind the actions of many Western do-gooders tends to undermine the significance of local agency; the reality that African problems will never be solved without the active involvement and commitment of Africans themselves, and that external help - in the form of funding or publicity - will only be effective when hitched to expressions of home-grown effort, within the context of a clear understanding of everything that's at stake.

For example, there's a Nigerian Bring Back Our Girls movement that has daily gathered at a public square in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, since the end of April, and have kept up the pressure on the government long after the celebrity hijackers strayed away. Those are the real heroes, and the ones to whom the international celebrity backers should be seeking guidance from as to how to intervene.
Read his entire piece here.

22 October 2014

In Swaziland, "the path to freedom goes through prison"

In Swaziland, freedom of speech does not exist. Criticize the King or expose the government and prison is possible. That is what happened to Thulani Maseko, a human rights lawyer and Bheki Makhubu, journalist and editor of the Nation magazine, earlier this year. The two soon stand trial to appeal their two year prison sentences. The above video brings attention to the injustice faced by the two men.

"When freedom is taken away, it becomes the onerous and supreme duty of men to reclaim it from the oppressor. For giving up freedom is tantamount to giving away man’s right to dignity. One can have no dignity without his or her freedom. Without our freedom we are a people without a soul," said Maseko in a July 2014 Statement from the Dock.

"The path to freedom goes through prison, but the triumph of justice over evil is inevitable. Nothing this Court can do will shake me from my commitment to simple truth and simple justice."

21 October 2014

San Antonio puts a face on 'overhead'

Nonprofits are hitting back against the overhead fetish. Next year will see a bunch of nonprofit leaders march about overhead from Maine to Massachusetts. Meanwhile, the above video from the San Antonio Nonprofit Council is meant to show why 'overhead' is a necessary investment for nonprofits to operate.

20 October 2014

The Ebola outbreak brings out the worst in people

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa and its importation to parts of the US and Europe has brought back some of the worst conceptions of the continent. Fears of Ebola, misinformation, fear of the other and racism all meld together causing ridiculous results like Syracuse disinviting a reporter from delivering remarks because he was in Liberia. That is one of what is now unfortunately many stories of people facing bans and discrimination due to Ebola.

An AP report from this weekend says "Africa's image takes a hit" because of the outbreak. An excerpt:

"It speaks to a whole discourse about the danger of Africa," said Michael Jennings, a senior lecturer in international development at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

He cited the recent decision of a British school to postpone a visit by a teacher from the West African country of Ghana after parents expressed concern about the Ebola virus. Ghana does not border the hard-hit nations and has not reported any cases of the disease.

Jennings said fearful people don't necessarily react in a rational way and the message of some comments on social media in Britain is: "Why don't we just stop everyone in West Africa from coming?"

Rather than read the article, just skip to the comments section to see what people think. Nigerian journalist Chika Oduah collected some of the reactions to the article. In short, they are terrible and essential affirm the thesis of the AP story. Here are a few of the gems Chika shared via Facebook.
"I won't go near a W. African....nor will I touch them. If the above-named complainers don't like it..TOO BAD! For God's sake..the fear people feel is NOT UNFOUNDED! It is real...it is normal...it is correct...and perfectly acceptable."

"Unfortunately Africa IS a hotbed of disease, poverty and tribal fighting. We DO have aright to protect ourselves."

"[Africa is a ] Horrible third world country."

"Africa has always been viewed as a toilet. So I doubt it's image has been damaged much."

"Africa's image??? Is that some kind of joke? Pick your program; Social reform, education, corruption management, ecological protection, economic reform, medical care,.....You name it and those people have screwed it up. Ebola may be a serious problem but I don't think Africa's image can get any worse than it already is."

"Africa is a basket case. You have to wonder why?"

"The image of Africa I had before hasn't changed... it's still a giant S* hole!"

"Look, Africa is a shait hole and no Libtvrd Media white-wash is ever going to convince most people otherwise. There are NO US interests, strategic military or otherwise, in that blighted region. Moreover, vast areas are Muslim and incubators for white and Christian hating Muslim terror. The Europeans, who F ed up Africa with their Colonialism, are the ones who OWE Africa something, not the USA. Just because we have this 9% minority whose black ancestors came from Africa as much a 300 years ago doesn't give the USA an obligation. Neither does the MISTAKE of electing a half-Kenyan, who's other half is white Libtvrd IDIOT, as US President."

"Oh yeah.. It was Ebola that changed my mind to think Africa is a festering, fly infested steaming pile of feces of a continent."

"I cannot think of any export or anything positive coming out of Africa.Only things I can think of are HIV/AIDs, Ebola, and Obama."

"Africa the backward dark continent that has contributed nothing to society."

"I never got the memo those [African] mud hut dwellers eating bush meat had been elevated."

"OLD stereotypes? They eat bats and monkies right NOW!! Africa IS full of aids and malaria and disentary. That is not a stereotype it is a fact."

"Western Africans were slaves for a reason. Come on - these people are just trash."

"Africa's image? I've always thought that place was a hell hole. Now it's been confirmed."

"Africas image took a hit a long time ago! Over population,AIDS and dirt,filth everywhere. They dont even use toilets. They go where and when they please!"

How much of a problem is inequality in East Africa? How can it be reduced?

A video from Ben Taylor (aka @mtega) shows the distribution of wealth in the three countries that make up East Africa. It comes at no surprise that the top 1% have a lot and there is little left for everyone else. He ends the video with a series of questions, but it is rather obvious that there are some issues to deal with when the 6 individuals have as much wealth as the bottom 50%.

How can it be dealt with? Not everybody agrees. Claire Melamed of the Overseas Development Institute says the attention has to be placed on the poor in order to reduce inequality. She writes in Aeon:

The mainstream narrative – about the runaway incomes of the richest people in the richest countries, the absurdities of boardroom pay and tax avoidance and so on – might prick our sense of fairness, but it has only a limited amount to offer the analysis and treatment of extreme poverty. The second, lesser known, inequality story is about the things that keep people poor. This story offers fertile ground for the coalitions and policy agendas that can actually address both poverty and inequality.

These stories are, of course, linked. Concentrations of income and opportunity at the very top might well make progress at the very bottom harder, in some cases – for political, economic or social reasons. And more money, generated by taxing the super-rich, would give more options to those governments that do want to act.

But at present too much analysis and attention in the development sector is given to the first story. This has led to a situation where people want to believe that inequality is important, but they don’t quite know why. Answering that question requires us to grapple with the second type of inequality. And that, in turn, requires better information.

At present, the empirical foundations of our inequality debates are far too weak. Perhaps that is the most basic inequality of all: between those of us who are counted, and those of us who are not.
Oxfam's Duncan Green disagrees arguing that both the top and bottom need to be addressed at the same time. He writes:
Recovering and strengthening the sense of social responsibility of the powerful is important, as is attacking the chronic poverty of the people at the bottom of the heap – why can’t they be mutually reinforcing? At the top, the effort includes more and fairer redistribution through taxation, but also thinking about ‘predistribution’ – some economic models pile up inequality by, for example, favouring capital intensive sectors, whereas others generate more benefits to the poor by creating jobs or involving small farmers in value chains. Then there’s the need for constraints on elite power and political capture – when was the last time a development organization talked about the rules governing lobbying or financing political campaigns, North or South? Put them all together and the overall task becomes something like supporting the strengthening of the social contract between (all) citizens and the state.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the chronic poverty agenda is really important (that’s why I’m on the advisory board of the Chronic Poverty Action Network). But I felt their most recent Chronic Poverty report lost the plot a bit on the SDGs: instead of arguing that chronic poverty is what is left when all the relatively easily reducable poverty has been tackled, and should thus be at the core of ‘getting to zero’ in the post 2015 process, the report went off at a tangent about what to do about people who are not chronically poor, but ‘churn’ in and out of poverty over the course of a year. That’s interesting and important, but people who churn are by definition, not the chronic (i.e. permanent) poor.

So within ODI, Claire Melamed (who runs the team on growth, poverty and inequality, but mainly does post 2015 stuff) is advocating putting chronic poverty at the heart of the SDGs, while the actual chronic poverty people are talking about something else. And anyway, I disagree with both of them, because we should be addressing both the top and bottom of the inequality equation. Feels like time for a poll (if only to put Tim Gore out of his misery for getting the ‘wrong’ answer on the last one).
Who is right? I think Duncan makes a good point and am curious to hear if Claire agrees. Where there is no disagreement is on the point that wealth and income inequality is a problem in need of solving.

30 April 2014

Want to Harm your Economy? Restrict Immigration

Yet another push for immigration reform in the US is underway. Lawmakers would be smart to cast aside their personal feelings about the issue and look at the evidence. It was already established that making a humanitarian appeal can lead people to support more relaxed immigration policies.

For the people who do not respond to empathy, there is another angle: our collective wallets.

Immigrants play an important role in the US economy and in other countries. Placing heavy restrictions that reduce the flow of migration can be harmful to economic health. That is the lesson from the UK, where economists with the UK-based National Institute of Economic and Social Research projected the impact of halving the nation's immigration rate.

Cutting immigration in the UK by 50%, as proposed by some conservative lawmakers in the country, would result in an aggregate GDP decreases by 11%, by 2060 as compared current projections. That is economics speak for saying that cuts to immigration will hurt the economy.

The damage goes much further that lower GDP growth. With fewer people coming into the UK, there are then fewer tax payers, which means less revenue, meaning fewer people have to bear the burden of taxes (aka higher taxes overall). It is a scenario that nobody really wants to face, but support persists to make cuts to immigration in the UK.

Continue Reading on Humanosphere...

29 April 2014

Prime Time Cable News Ignores HIV/AIDS - Report

When important news about HIV and/or AIDS breaks, do not tune into the evening news on Fox News, MSNBC or CNN. They probably won't report it.

That is the basic lesson of an analysis of coverage of the issue by Media Matters, for 2013 and the first quarter of 2014. Despite some rather notable breakthroughs, developments and announcements that have taken place over the last year, HIV/AIDS is not a priority issue for the leading cable news networks.

cable news HIV

CNN lead the way with a whopping 11 mentions, in 2013. Its more opinion-oriented competitors did worse with only 4 mentions each. To make matters worse, the few mentions did not often involve an actual expert on HIV/AIDS.

This year is not looking all that much better. MSNBC is holding steady with its pace of one story every three months. Fox News and CNN are lagging in their paltry coverage of the topic. It has not been for a lack of stories to cover.

Continue Reading on Humanosphere...