IHP news #457

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MeToo in the aid sector

By on February 16, 2018 

Dear Colleagues,

The commotion around the Global Fund’s disturbing partnerships continued over the weekend, among others with a hard-hitting  viewpoint in the Lancet, but then the Oxfam scandal (and its ripple effect) took over the “limelight”. It’s clear the aid sector (which includes the UN architecture) is now facing its own #MeToo moment, long overdue, as some of these practices have been around for a very long time, rooted in power dynamics, (post-)colonialist attitudes or downright “male pig” behaviour. Among others.

Arguably, as psychologists will be keen to tell you, many of us have at least some traces of an inner Caligula, Bacchus or Cleopatra – I admit, the latter not exactly in the same league as the former – buried deep down, or other dark/dodgy demons routinely swept under the (more or less subconscious) mat, having been disciplined as neoliberal/decent citizens. But even taking this into  account, the uproar on the organized debauchery & sexual exploitation of vulnerable people is more than warranted. The need for drastic (structural) reform of (part of) the aid sector in this respect is thus urgent (as for example Owen Barder suggested in a spot-on thread of tweets), even if evidently some political actors in the UK and elsewhere are now snowboarding like Shaun White on the scandal to do away with aid and the idea of global solidarity altogether. For once,  “draining the swamp”   thus seems the right thing to do. Unlike in US politics, the early signs of a strong reaction by the aid sector don’t look bad. And to cheer up the people working at Oxfam, we re-post Jonathan Glennie’s tweet here: “ To all the brilliant people @Oxfam, you work for one of the world’s most wonderful organisations. Serious mistakes were made – let’s learn and change. Oxfam will emerge stronger and so will the sector. It’s a chance to refind and renew ourselves. Wishing you strength and belief.” Sums it up nicely.

From Caligula to Bill Gates is a rather big leap, I admit, even for this newsletter. Bill & Melinda published their (10th) annual letter this week, answering 10 of the toughest questions asked to them over the years. Preparations for the 40th anniversary of Alma Ata have also started, Richard Horton paid a visit to that other pope in Rome to kickstart a new Lancet Commission, The Donald’s new budget request is as worrying as always, and we also pay some attention to the “Agenda 2030 for Children: End Violence Solutions Summit” in Stockholm.  On Valentine’s Day, the day of ‘old, new and never meant to be’ partnerships, another Big Alcohol representative, AB Inbev’s CEO, informed the world he’s going to help ensure “Safer Roads for All Through the Power of Partnerships” (no kidding), together with the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). There was also remarkable news from Ethiopia, where the prime minister resigned, and last but not least, as you no doubt know already, Zuma is no longer in charge in South Africa. Feels good to end this week’s intro on a positive ‘drain the swamp’ note : )

Enjoy your reading.

The editorial team



(you find the pdf of the full newsletter here: IHPn457 )

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