Triangulation conversations and endgames

By James Copestake

With field work complete, the ART Project is now in its final stages; workshops in Ethiopia and Malawi during July brought many of us together to reflect on what we have learnt, and on what to do next. Many thanks to all who participated, especially to staff of Farm Africa and Self-Help Africa in both countries for hosting us. If I had to pick out one recurring theme from these workshops it would be triangulation – i.e. learning about the same subject by confronting data about it from acutely different angles.

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‘Divided brain, divided world?’: International development and Ian McGilchrist’s right-hemisphere deficit thesis

By James Copestake

Ian McGilchrist’s heavyweight work, The Master and his Emissary, is primarily a contribution to neuroscience and psychology but claims also to be saying something more general about “the making of the Western World”. This wider ambition is explored in Divided Brain, Divided World, a text featuring a dialogue between McGilchrist and Jonathan Rowson, which informed a workshop with policy makers and academics, organised by the RSA Social Brain Centre in November 2012. Philosopher Ray Tallis led those who doubted that better understanding of cranial circuitry can help much to explain history. But others, Continue reading

Contested reconciliation in Sri Lanka

By Oliver Walton

(This is an updated version of a blog that originally appeared on the Insight on Conflict website)

Last month, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution calling on the Sri Lankan government to fulfil its international obligations towards justice and accountability and to address issues of reconciliation. The resolution sent political shockwaves across South Asia, with the DMK (Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam), a political party from Tamil Nadu, pulling out of India’s ruling coalition in protest at India’s failure to push for stronger language. The Sri Lankan government has robustly rejected international pressure for reconciliation and accountability, arguing that intervention of this kind threatens to undermine a nationally-led process. In the aftermath of the resolution, President Mahinda Rajapaksa reasserted his government’s resolute stance against international interference: ‘[t]hese attacks would not subdue us…, nor would they defeat or intimidate us in any way’. Continue reading

Aid impact assessment and agricultural change: Researching ‘good enough’ qualitative approaches

By James Copestake

Using public money to reduce global poverty is a tough enough ‘task’ even without having to account for each pound spent every five minutes. But aid professionals can hardly claim to be less susceptible to self-serving group-think than anyone else, and indeed the case for strong reality checks on aid expenditure will remain particularly strong so long as the power and influence of those it aims to assist remains weak. How then to generate evidence on aid impact that is reliable, affordable and useful? Continue reading

Israeli elections and Palestinian children

By Jason Hart

The results from Israel’s elections are gradually trickling in. Although the make-up of the government may not become clear for some days or even weeks, two outcomes are likely. Firstly, Benjamin Netanyahu will continue as Prime Minister. Secondly, the extreme right, who have gained a significantly increased share of the vote, may well become partners in the coalition Netanyahu puts together. ‘Ha-bayit Ha-Yehudi’ (‘The Jewish Home’) – a party whose brand of ultra-nationalism would raise alarm bells were it to attract popular support in elections in any Western European country – won 10% of the seats in the Israeli Knesset. Continue reading

Can DFID really work with faith communities?

By Severine Deneulin

In June 2012, DFID launched a new partnership with faith communities, working together for poverty reduction and sustainable development. Amongst other things, it calls for  for mutual understanding between DFID and faith communities.  The question of whether this was really possible was vividly highlighted to me when I was in Ecuador last year attending a government-sponsored conference on sustainable development alternatives. The conference opened with a religious ceremony by a Kichwa man and an altar of harvested goods. He began by singing songs of praise to God for giving abundant food and sustaining human life. He then gave a short introduction to the Kichwa indigenous cosmovision which is encapsulated in the Kichwa greeting: Not ‘how are you?’ ‘Fine’ but ‘You are me’ ‘I am you’.  This was to expresss how our individuality is found in our relationships to others and our lives are intertwined with the natural environment. He finished by some petition prayers that we may live in harmony with each other and nature. Continue reading