If you only read one thing this week…

Theocracy or Democracy –
February 3, 2011, 11:50 am
Filed under: governance

BBC’s Radio 4 has a regular program called the Moral Maze where they look at one of the top moral dilemmas of the week in the news and debate it with leading thinkers on the topic.

This week they look at the events taking place in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East and ask,

“is democracy a morally unambiguous value? Should we always be on the sides of the masses regardless of the consequences to them and our national interests? Or is preserving life a greater moral imperative than promoting freedom – even if that means in the short term backing the stability of authoritarian rulers? Is democracy only ever the means to an end and should the only moral imperative for those in the West be to always safeguard our interests?”

This podcast will probably only be available for the next two weeks or so so catch it now – it’s thought provoking and raises many questions.


Remittances Triple Aid Amounts
February 3, 2011, 11:38 am
Filed under: Development theory

Many of the countries where we all work have large groups of people who reside outside of their home country and send money home through Western Union. Recently, the World Bank produced a new factbook about migration and remittances.  One of the most interesting findings is that migrants are sending home more than three times the amount of aid countries are receiving. Also, remittances were hardly affected by the recent economic downturn. Read more about how this information could affect international development work here.

The hazards of working in Afghanistan
January 27, 2011, 2:59 pm
Filed under: conflict, Development theory, If you only have 15 mins

Over the past year, over 100 aid workers have been killed in Afghanistan. This NY Times article cracks open the debate about the impact that the US military and government contractors may have on the safety and security of humanitarian workers. Humanitarian aid agencies, such as Mercy Corps, mostly operate without the use of armed guards, whereas many government contractors work behind fortified compounds with armed guards. Despite the high number of deaths from aid workers, the number of injuries and deaths from contractors is almost four times as high, and the number of military casualties almost doubles that. Read the article to learn more about the intertwining of these ongoing initiatives in Afghanistan.

For Nick’s most recent literature review on incidents of violence against humanitarian workers see this post.

Re-Thinking NGO Performance: Is it all about impact?
January 20, 2011, 3:07 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

At the end of the day, do you ever find yourself thinking, what does my contribution really do? Frustrated with standard means to measure NGO performance by impact, Alex Jacobs designed a new blog and website that sets out to measure NGO performance in a slightly different way. The blog offers a wide range of resources from redefining performance specifically for NGOs, to management tips, and a lengthy list of helpful references for those who want to know more.  This site contains interesting information for all professionals working within the NGO sector, not just design, monitoring, and evaluation specialists.

The new population bomb – old people
January 3, 2011, 12:01 pm
Filed under: Development theory, If you have 30 mins

The United Nations Population Statistics state that the world population will rise by roughly one-third over the next 40 years, from 6.9 to 9.1 billion. Most policy makers focus on this startling statistic, working to create policies that will mitigate the population increase. A recent article from Foreign Policy points out the other, somewhat neglected side of this issue that in many areas of the world the population is shrinking, especially the population under five years old. The problem persists in unlikely areas, such as Iran and Brazil, where birth rates are dropping. Concurrently, a gender gap is widening in many areas, where boy children are preferred. But maybe this isn’t so bad, older people can just work longer to make up for the lack of younger generations entering the workforce? Maybe a world of older people would be more peaceful?  Unlikely, the article points out. So is the world graying a bad thing in general? Read the article to see Foreign Policy’s analysis and then come to your own conclusions.

How much would you give to charity?
January 3, 2011, 11:49 am
Filed under: If you only have 15 mins, Philanthropy

For many people across the world it is the season for New Year’s resolutions, time to set a goal to improve yourself in some way. Toby Ord, a researcher at Oxford University earning an average salary has pledged to donate £1 million over his lifetime to fight global poverty. In this BBC article, Ord breaks down how he plans to scrimp and save in order to reach this admirable goal. He’s already recruiting some of his friends and family to join in and he’s hoping that his choices will inspire others to consider doing the same.

New US development policy…
December 1, 2010, 3:33 pm
Filed under: Development theory

Do you find yourself reading those news articles about how Obama isn’t doing anything? Well, Obama is doing something that affects you – and you should read about it here, in the new U.S. Global Development Policy Fact Sheet.  According to the new policy, development is now considered one of the core pillars of American power and is indispensible as a part of national security. The new policy focuses on sustainable development, a new operational model, and a modern architecture (moving development into the core of American power and security). For the Obama administration, sustainable development outcomes focus on economic growth and solving long-term development challenges especially by engaging more local voices and actors. One key idea from this section is to increase “development-focused innovation”. The new operational model will focus on countries where US assistance has been more effective and increase multilateral coordination. Read the fact sheet here to decide for yourself what this means for you and the future of development.