Links I liked

Highlights from last week’s tweets (and more displacement activity for Monday morning). Follow @fp2p if you want the rest, including lots more serious development type stuff

Twitter loves snark – the ‘4th law of thermodynamics’ got by far the most (in fact, an order of magnitude more) retweets last week. [h/t Conrad Hackett]4th law of thermodynamics

Is humour a better mobilizer than pity? The rise of aid satire (I blame the Norwegians) [h/t WhyDev]

50 top books by African women

Why is accusing someone of doing something ‘like a girl’ an insult? Inspiring, viral (33m hits) video. Does it matter that it’s linked to product promotion?

Getting action on Climate Change will need a combination of shocks, readiness and narratives, but so far we have only had the shocks. Great piece from Alex Evans

How to shine in Meetings continued [h/t Paul O’Brien]. (Please add to last week’s list)

MSF issued a highly critical report on the state of humanitarianism. Here’s a review of aid workers’ mixed reactions. Oxfam’s Jane Cocking responds here

This could make a really annoying ringtone: Hear the Oldest Song in the World: A Sumerian Hymn Written 3,400 Years Ago.

Two breakneck tours of Britain’s regional accents: this one’s fun, but this one is more accurate [h/t Alan Beattie]

Misheard song lyrics. Let’s ruin some of your favourite songs [h/t Leah Kreitzman]

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2 Responses to “Links I liked”
  1. Graham Gillions

    > Why is accusing someone of doing something ‘like a girl’ an insult? Inspiring, viral (33m hits) video.
    Great video – one of those things that I come across and think “why’s no one done that before”

    > Does it matter that it’s linked to product promotion?
    I found this question sent me into a range of thoughts that link to NGO-corporate partnerships – essentially, where is the middle ground (if there is one at all) between a companies desire to make money and an NGO’s desire for meaningful change.
    They’re a company so of course they will want to make money out of it (so perhaps we should call these things vial adverts).
    At the very least, they do raise awareness of an issue.
    It would be nicer to thing that they will try to do something about the issue. There seems to be a campaign to challenge ‘like a girl’ – only time will tell whether this is a genuine campaign or merely a marketing exercise.
    The company would certainly be moving towards a gold star from me if, in also challenging ‘like a girl’, they were also willing to challenge what a women’s body should look like. A quick image search ( ) does seem to imply they use a fairly narrow range of women’s body types/looks.

  2. Catherine Masterman

    Duncan/Alex – I really like the piece on the need for narratives and stories – I am commenting here as there wasn’t scope on the original Eden 2.0 website. I think it’s also true to say that responding to shocks has also previously generated new structures – and what are the structures we need to be thinking about to respond? I wrote a piece in a personal capacity recently relevant to this – see below. Catherine


    An analysis of the international development agenda in the last twenty years might suggest that four factors characterise successful initiatives: Responsibility, Power, Incentive and Leadership. There are also two further significant factors – Tangible Action and an effective Monitoring Body. Where significant progress has been made (eg. debt relief, global health), all core factors have been present. Where progress has been less significant, (maternal health, women’s rights, environmental sustainability), one or more factors have been lacking. This would suggest that getting better traction on those difficult issues means looking at the structures governing them.

    Key Ideas:
    Responsibility – An international structure requiring agreement on action and some degree of accountability
    Power – The primary influence determining interaction with the issue Incentive – A reason to act that is aligned with self-interest Leadership – An influential and powerful individual (or groups) whose focus on the issue helped create the incentive for others to act. Tangible Action – Identifiable outputs that are within the control of those taking the decisions. Monitoring Body – internationally recognised body with the mandate and ability to provide credible information on progress.

    1. Responsibility for collective action lies with Governments. The primary fora for agreeing collective action on development issues have been the G8 (including the EU) and the UN. In these structures, governments (particularly their leaders) attend the appropriate forum with an agenda where they meet, agree (or not) and then take action accordingly (or not).

    2. Where Governments are the primary influence on action, strong international institutions for collective action have been created. The IMF is perhaps the most powerful international institution – representing the collective will of those that control monetary and fiscal policy. In the UN, the most powerful institutions are those concerned with security (because Governments are supposed to have the monopoly on the use of force). Outside of security, the most effective agency is probably the WHO; most populations’ experience of health care is primarily mediated by state provision.

    3. And campaigns on development issues have been able to create leadership and an incentive for those with responsibility and power to take action. One of the earliest successful development campaigns was on debt relief. In this case, Governments were the primary actors with power over enforcing developing country debts. Political pressure in the form of the Jubilee 2000 campaign was then able to create the incentive for governments to take action and the UK provided leadership through the 1998 G8 and on to the 2005 G8.

    International action on Global Health There has been significant progress on global health since the early 2000s, largely because of G8 action. The US took a strong leadership role, with the strong advocacy and action of Bill Gates, leading to the creation of the Global Fund and PEPFAR. Action on health in most countries is determined by the priorities and budget setting of the governments, (power) which was helped by the provision of greater resources in the form of ODA (also completely in the control of governments). US leadership was matched by effective campaigns creating the political pressure to give Governments the incentive to act. The existence of effective organisations who could monitor and the tangibility of the action and outcome was also critical.

    4. This suggests that where Governments have the primary influence, and there is leadership on the issue, focusing on international political pressure can result in action and progress.

    5. However, there are many areas of importance for development where governments do not have the primary influence and may have limited incentive to act. The most obvious examples are those of governance of natural resources, whose use is primarily mediated through production and consumption, and where governments, who for the most part are concerned with re-election in the short-term, do not have a strong incentive to take action. Another example is gender inequality, where governments can try and lead and control some critical aspects (such as prosecution for FGM), but attitudes (including those that govern their incentives) are primarily governed by cultural, religious and media institutions.

    6. In these areas, inter-governmental initiatives and negotiations have not necessarily resulted in traction. Taking the example of progress on global health, whilst significant progress was made on tackling diseases, progress on maternal health was lagging behind. This may be because the primary influence determining women’s access to healthcare is not governmental, but cultural and religious influences that determine whether governments make provision of maternal health care a political priority and whether women are able to make use of it. As a result of international political pressure, there may be greater incentive for governments to prioritise maternal health provision, but progress will be limited unless the key cultural and religious institutions also push to change attitudes.

    7. And international institutions are weaker. Arguably the weakest institutions in the UN have historically been those that deal with the environment and gender and the least successful inter-governmental negotiations have concerned environmental governance where governments have limited direct influence and incentive.

    8. It is now widely recognised that progress on most issues requires more than just action by Governments. Any analysis of the most powerful people in the world will include business leaders, faith leaders, high profile media personalities, and owners of influential media channels. Since the Millennium Summit, initiatives have sought to bring together a much wider set of actors. This started with widening the debate from donors to include those from emerging and developing economies. In 2002 the Canadian G8 invited African Leaders. In 2005, the UK started the tradition of inviting the 5 most significant emerging economies. As a result of the 2008 financial crisis, the G20 moved from being a financial mechanism to a leaders’ forum. Development initiatives have been increasingly characterised by non-governmental actors. Whilst non-governmental leaders had previously brought in to give opinions (for example on the Commission for Africa), in 2008, the 2008 Call to Action deliberately brought together a wide grouping including Faith Leaders and the Private Sector, all of whom were now expected to bring commitments to the table. Subsequent Summits also featured side-events bringing together commitments from a coalition of actors, such as the 2009 event on maternal health.

    9. This has been characterised as “mini-lateralism”. Perhaps the fore-runner for these was again in health – with the alliances including governments, scientists, NGOs and the private sector brought together around malaria (“Roll Back Malaria”) and Polio.

    Mini-lateralism in action – the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition Starting with the Global Partnership for Food Security, under the auspices of the L’Aquila G8 in 2009, American leadership used the G8 to spin off a much broader alliance, using political leadership to create the incentive for significant commitments by donor governments, African Governments and the private sector. Subsequent G8s and G20s have given the initiative significant political profile, most recently through the UK’s G8 where, in partnership with Brazil and CIFF, the spotlight was shone on commitments for nutrition. The New Alliance is significant because it has managed to get sustained focus from political leaders; it builds on an agreed framework for action which already has a Secretariat capacity (CAADP); uniquely, it has a leadership council giving responsibility to the private sector, (convened by the AU, the US and the World Economic Forum) and has built in a clear principle of accountability, with monitoring through the progress reports.

    10. Mini-lateralism has to be more than just a “coalition of the willing”. There are plenty of examples where a range of stakeholders get together to discuss an issue. But without political leadership and a clear framework for action, it is unlikely to get traction. It is not enough for business or other leaders to initiate their own gatherings that don’t intersect with governments and inter-governmental structures – the Clinton Global Initiative and the World Economic Forum has tried to bring together Business and Governments on a number of issues, but few sustained discussions initiated by the private sector have connected through to governmental decision-making in leaders forums. It is also not sufficient for Governments to get together and invite others to watch their party. Arguably, Rio+ 20 showed that the private sector spectators were bringing the most significant presents, but they had no responsibility for the collective decisions on action.

    11. But on some issues, there may be a need to move even beyond action through a mini-lateral framework to address the “rules of the game”. As the New Alliance 2013 report stressed, responsible and productive investment will not just happen because it is agreed to be a good thing – it needs to be incentivised by the right policy reforms, and encouraged and agreed through the right frameworks. Globally, we need to do much better at establishing frameworks for high level policy dialogue, sharing the responsibility beyond governments to those with power, who together agree and set frameworks that incentivise action.

    12. In some cases, non-Governmental actors are demonstrating the ability to take leadership, a willingness to discuss collective solutions, and to show that they have the incentive to act. But Governments need to provide the framework and mandate the monitoring bodies. The Consumer Goods Forum, with the leadership of Paul Polman from Unilever, has made a commitment to zero deforestation in their supply chains by 2020. However, the willingness and the incentive for the private sector to take action needs to be connected to governmental structures to be able to have an impact at scale. Efforts to incentivise greater sustainability of trade at a global level are not currently feasible because certification is a niche industry initiative (for example, in fisheries MSC certification covers around only 2%). Of course trade agreements preclude any easy answers, but perhaps there is more scope to look at how to connect cross-industry initiatives with inter-governmental structures?

    13. In the twentieth century we have seen the rise of structures that have enabled governments to take collective action. Solving the collective action problems of the twenty-first century requires framework of responsibility for all those with power and influence. Political capital at the highest level is scarce. We cannot afford for there to be wasted effort in structures that will not result in traction. Rather than establishing Commissions that bring together representatives of the different actors, we need to think through how to make sure responsibility is shared by those with power.

    14. The key questions are – for any particular issue, how do we bring together the key players with the most important power and influence to take genuinely collectively agreed, mutually reinforcing action. How do we create the right incentives for those and what are the opportunities to develop these over the next five years?

    15. To help answer this, it could be useful to have a “typology” of international initiatives:

    a. “Pushing the door” – initiatives where the structures are in place, the power is held by those with responsibility, and a push on leadership and creating a greater incentive to act could result in traction. An example of this might be trying to do for education what has been done for global health as in most cases, governments are the primary providers. This category was deliberately not termed “pushing an open door” as it shouldn’t be implied that this will be easy in any case.

    b. “Mini-lateralism”- where, within existing frameworks, a set of diverse actors with different interests are brought to the table to achieve a collective goal, each bringing their own contribution, along the lines of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.

    c. “Changing the rules of the game” –where current frameworks for collective action structures are not sufficient, and where different actors, with the most significant power, need to be brought together to re-think how to incentivise change.

    16. Effective and legitimate structures do not necessarily result from negotiation. The UN’s Security Council, the G8 and the G20 are all self-appointed, and yet can legitimately mandate action by international institutions.

    17. But could still be consistent with principles of accountability. Responsibility for international decisions affecting the lives of citizens is currently held only by governments – where in the most advanced and established democracies voters have the chance to choose once every few years from a very limited selection of options and only a few (less than 5% in the UK) are engaged in political parties. By contrast, in Western democracies, most people choose on a daily or weekly basis which corporates they will purchase from, which media outlets they will watch or read and whether to adhere to religion.

    18. One area that could be considered in need of rethinking the “rules of the game” is natural resource management: Not only do the poorest people depend most now on natural resources, current trends suggest that there will be major impacts for future generations of poverty. It is an issue that is incredibly hard to address at the national level, and, as argued above, where Governments have least power, and incentive to set strong frameworks. However, should we explore whether there is scope for a new approach, drawing on where influential actors in the private sector have started to take a lead?

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