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Book Review: How to Rig an Election, by Nic Cheeseman and Brian Klaas

November 3, 2020
Thought I’d repost this book review from 2018 today. No particular reason…. A lot of the power of a successful book is in its ‘big idea’ – the overall frame that endures long after the detailed arguments have faded in the memory. On that basis, ‘How to Rig an Election’ looks set to do very well indeed. The authors are
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Meet the artist changing gut reactions to the Philippines ‘war on drugs’

July 5, 2019
Jay Ramirez writes about Carlo Gabuco’s visceral, intimate and poignant depictions of Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ in the Philippines. Some brilliant insights on the power of art that bring the concept of human rights “down to the gut.” In an art fair in Manila in March last year, one installation caught everybody’s eye. A blue single-seater armchair sits in the

Africa in 2019: 7 trends to watch, by Apollos Nwafor

January 15, 2019
I get lots of internal Oxfam emails. Some of them I even read. Here’s a particularly useful 2019 curtain raiser from Apollos Nwafor, our Pan African Director: ‘There are several issues that put Africa in focus this year: Reform at the African Union: The reforms agreed by the heads of state at the extraordinary meeting in November 2018 highlight a

Aid’s fragile state problem – why is it so hard to even think about?

November 6, 2018
I’ve spotted a recurring problem with the way the aid sector talks about fragile and conflict-affected states (FCAS). FCAS are characterized by states that are either absent or predatory – in terms of development, governments and officials are as likely to be part of the problem as part of the solution. But the aid sector, especially the official world of

Why is Latin America Going Backwards?

July 26, 2018
Simon Ticehurst, Oxfam’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, delves into the background of some worrying times for Latin America Just a few years ago Latin America was being lauded as a success story, with stable economic growth, political stability and historical progress in addressing poverty and finally tackling the structural and historical inequality that has stymied development in

What I learned about Public Authority from spending two days with a bunch of anthropologists, political scientists and others.

May 30, 2018
The Centre for Public Authority in International Development had its annual get together in Ghent last week. It really hurt my head, but the pain was worth it – I learned a lot. Here are some overall impressions, and then tomorrow, my top lightbulb moment – public authority through the eyes of a dead fish….. Firstly, anthropologists are amazing. I

The UK Labour Party sets out its stall on International Development – here’s why you should take a look

March 28, 2018
I’ve just been reading the UK Labour Party’s Green Paper on International Development (out this week). ‘Green Papers’ are not about the colour (this one is actually red), but ‘designed to stimulate discussion and set the direction for the Labour Party’s programme for government.’ I work for an NGO, so a couple of minor gripes first: the party political point

How can researchers and activists influence African governments? Advice from an insider

March 15, 2018
One of the highlights of the Twaweza meeting was hearing from Togolani Mavura (left), the Private Secretary to former President Kikwete (in Tanzania, ex-presidents get a staff for life, not like in the UK where they have to hawk themselves round the after dinner speaking circuit). Togolani has worked across the  various policy levels  of the Tanzanian goverment, and his talk

Where does political will come from?

March 2, 2018
Claire Mcloughlin and David Hudson from the University of Birmingham’s International Development Department summarise the Developmental Leadership Program’s recent 10 year synthesis report, Inside the Black Box of Political Will.  When reforms fail, people often bemoan a lack of ‘political will’. Whether it’s failure to introduce legislation promoting women’s rights, not getting vital public services to rural communities, or weak implementation

The new Gates Foundation aid report: great at human stories; but where’s the power, politics and mess?

September 29, 2017
I’ve been reading the new Gates Foundation report, The Stories Behind the Data (lots of jazzy webstuff and graphs of bad stuff going down here – and if you dig hard enough, you can even find a good old-fashioned report to read here). On one level it is exemplary, setting out both an optimistic story of progress, and a warning that this could

Book Review: The Road to Somewhere, by David Goodhart

September 13, 2017
There was a moment a few years ago when I was walking through Brixton with my son, Calum. I was tediously droning on about how much I loved the cultural and ethnic kaleidoscope, compared to the plain vanilla places where I grew up. Calum suddenly turned on me – ‘you’re just a tourist; you visit on Saturdays. It’s different growing up

Can Hegel (and Geoff Mulgan) chart a new progressive agenda?

May 25, 2017
Geoff Mulgan is one of the UK’s most original thinkers about the future of society. He set up the thinktank Demos, advised the early Blair government, and now runs NESTA (an ‘innovation foundation). According to Wikipedia he even trained as a Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka. I recently came across his essay on a progressive response to Brexit, Trump etc