Giving a Voice to Local NGOs in a Flawed Global Aid Environment

(This piece was originally published in the Alternatives International Journal)

By Jeremy Wildeman and Matteo Mazzoleni

There is broad agreement at even the highest levels of the international donor community that the key to successful development lies with local ownership over aid projects, where people in affected regions play a leading role in setting the agenda and developing strategies to alleviate local poverty with external assistance. For some time now that consensus has been matched with the lofty rhetoric of “partnership” used to describe the relationship between donor and recipient. Ideally those partners work as equals with donors, together designing aid projects that effectively challenge poverty and enhance local capacities through institutional development. Continue reading


‘Temple Run’ or stay?

(This blog was originally published at Africa is a Country)

By Luisa Enria

“Back then, when the boats came, people used to run. Now we’d get on gladly, at least it would mean work.” Junior’s bleak jokes are not making anyone laugh. He takes another sip of his Sprite and kicks up the dust on the street where we are sitting in Freetown, Sierra Leone. “That’s why everyone wants to go on a Temple Run”, he adds – this time everyone nods knowingly. In the addictive mega-hit mobile phone game, Temple Run, “you have to run for your life to escape the Evil Demon Monkeys nipping at your heels.” This involves jumping walls of fire, swimming through treacherous waters and flying across collapsing bridges. For young people in Freetown, Temple Run has become code for the perilous journey that an increasing number of young Sierra Leoneans are making to Europe via Libya. Continue reading

Relational Wellbeing: Re-centring the Politics of Happiness, Policy and the Self


Sarah White, Professor of International Development and Wellbeing at the University of Bath, recently talked about her research, published in the journal Policy & Politics, on why all the interest in and talk of our wellbeing may reflect an anxiety that all may somehow not be well…

Watch the video, originally posted on the Policy & Politics blog.

Accessible, engaging textbooks could improve children’s learning

(This blog was originally posted at The Conversation)

By Lizzi Milligan

Textbooks are a crucial part of any child’s learning. A large body of research has proved this many times and in many very different contexts. Textbooks are a physical representation of the curriculum in a classroom setting. They are powerful in shaping the minds of children and young people.  Continue reading

The Centrality of the Margins: Brokering Borders and Borderlands in the age of Trump and Brexit

(This blog introduces a new literature review by Dr Sharri Plonski and Dr Patrick Meehan, which has been produced for the ESRC-funded ‘Borderlands, Brokers and Peacebuilding in Sri Lanka and Nepal: War to Peace Transitions Viewed from the Margins‘. The project is led by Jonathan Goodhand (SOAS). CDS member Oliver Walton is a co-investigator.)

by Dr Sharri Plonski

The subject of borders never seems far from the news these days, with a relentless media focus on Donald Trump’s new America and Theresa May’s ‘Hard Brexit’. Trump’s Mexico Wall epitomises this border neurosis and symbolises a wider trend towards protectionism that seeks to thwart the flow of people (into the country) and of capital, jobs and control over industries (out of the country).

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Women on the verge: the essence of feminist struggle

By Ana C. Dinerstein and Sarah Amsler

The women’s march against Trump is not an exception. It signals an evolving tendency in feminist struggle and hints at what will come in the following decades.

Read the full article at ROAR Magazine



Vandals or Vanguards? Lagarde on youth in Senegal

(This blog was originally posted at

By Thibault Uytterhaegen

On February 10th 2015, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), presented a speech to the Senegalese national assembly in which she outlined several key objectives to ‘unlock Senegal’s potential, significantly roll back poverty, and secure a brighter future for its youth’ (1). The mention of youth is not incidental. In her speech, concerns over Senegal’s increasingly youthful population were voiced with a sense of urgency that denotes a widespread policy problem; how to deal with an abundance of young people entering the labour force with so little formal economic opportunities that await them?

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Airbnb and the tourist ‘broker’

By Daniel Wroe

Last month Airbnb announced it would be offering ‘Experiences’ as part of its service. The development moves Airbnb into a new area of the travel and tourism sector, the company having previously offered only a platform for people to sell accomodation. Run with little oversight from Airbnb, Experiences range in length from a couple of hours to multi-day ‘immersions’. As is the case for hosts using Airbnb’s existing accommodation feature, the ‘local experts’ that run the Experiences keep the profits they make. Continue reading

How the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can engage with religion

(This blog is based on the report ‘CAFOD workshops on Laudato Si’: Contribution to a global dialogue on progress’; and a paper presented at the 2016 UK Development Studies Association conference entitled ‘Engaging development and religion: Conceptual and methodological groundings’. It was originally posted at LSE Religion and Public Sphere)

By Séverine Deneulin and Augusto Zampini-Davies

One year ago, the world state leaders gathered in New York to adopt the Sustainable Development GoalsIndicators to measure progress towards achieving the goals have now been agreed. The SDGs, in contrast to the Millennium Development Goals, are underpinned by a holistic understanding of development, and are the results of global participatory processes which reflect people’s values. With 84% of the world’s population estimated to be affiliated to a religion, international and local institutions are increasingly acknowledging the importance of religion in their work. DFIDUNICEFUNFPAUNDP, to name a few, have established clear partnership guidelines with faith communities. However, what engaging development and religion means, and how it should be done, remains unclear. Continue reading


(This blog was originally posted at Borderlands Asia)

By Jonathan Goodhand and Oliver Walton

Sri Lanka and Nepal may have turned their backs on protracted and bloody conflicts, but the fault lines that fuelled these wars have not gone away.  Instead they continually resurface and shape contentious politics in the two countries.  The crucial challenge facing political elites now is that of constitutional reform. What is the basis of power sharing?  To what extent should power and finance be decentralised? Where should new administrative boundaries be drawn?  How can minority rights be protected?  And how can majority community buy in be assured?

Turbulent post-war politics and constitution building

In Sri Lanka, President Rajapaksa’s ten years in office came to a sudden end last year with a defeat in Presidential and parliamentary elections. In Nepal, Prime Minister Oli’s CPN (UML)-led government was forced out in May 2016 and replaced by the Maoist leader Prachanda, who heads a new coalition with the Nepali Congress and Madhesi parties from the Madhesi plains on the southern border with India. These newly elected governments are struggling to craft new constitutional agreements. In Nepal, Prachanda is seeking to amend the 2015 constitution to appease Madhesi demands. In Sri Lanka, the government is hurriedly drawing up a new constitution, which it plans to finalise before the end of the year and put to a public vote in 2017.

This is a high stakes game, with the future character of the state and its administrative arrangements up for grabs.  At one level this is a struggle involving elected politicians and lawyers, to ensure a fair and legal division of powers and representation.  At the same time, below the formal structures and official debates is a multi-layered struggle involving networks of actors animated by the drive to capture, control, and distribute power and resources. Whilst some see this as a battle for a new kind of politics, others view it as a very old game in which new political elites jostle with older established elites in order to gain access to power and resources – in other words it is as much to do with extending patronage networks as democratizing the state.

Patronage and new forms of claim-making

These tensions have a strong spatial dimension, as claim making from the periphery intersects with patronage politics at the centre. For the political parties that emerged from the states’ peripheries and were part of, or aligned with, the Maoists or LTTE, entering mainstream party politics at the centre  has been a disorientating experience; the clear cut narratives and friend-foe distinctions of ‘justice-seeking rebels’, are replaced by the murky worlds of political coalitions, alliance making and ‘dirty’ patronage politics. Maoists and ex LTTE-aligned nationalists, have found that by renouncing violence and entering ostensibly high-minded debates on constitutional reforms, they have unavoidably been sucked into ‘normal politics’ and deal making.

This new cartography of power is much harder to navigate than the old war-time landscape.  The new politics involves indeterminacies, blurred zones, surprising alliances, and hybrid institutional arrangements – all of which creates a promising environment for middle-men or brokers, who are able to navigate, find new pathways and make new connections, during periods of rupture or flux. These fixers can jump the synapses between political networks and parties leading to surprising alliances and policy positions. Muslim politicians in Eastern Sri Lanka, for example, have sought to balance the demands of their constituents in the periphery against the need to form coalitions with and extract resources from the centre. Madhesi political leaders in Nepal have both engaged with and challenged the central government, tapping into state power by joining mainstream parties then switching allegiances and orchestrating violent protests at the border.

New patterns of claim-making are emerging from the margins. In Nepal, since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006, marginalised tribal groups (the janajati) and Madhesi parties have played a decisive role in politics at the centre. In Eastern Sri Lanka, the leading Muslim party – the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) – is being confronted by a more assertive regional identity movement called ‘the Rise of the East’. In Northern Sri Lanka, new groups such as the Tamil People’s Council (TPC) are drawing attention to a range of issues they feel are neglected in public debate about the new constitution such as ongoing state-sponsored ‘colonisation’ of the North, war crimes, and the need for a federal solution.


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