Poverty & the MDGs

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were widely touted as having broad positive impact, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) continue the general, expanded, trajectory. With these high level, long-term agendas it is important to, on occasion, take ten steps back and reflect. Critical reflection may identify design challenges and structural flaws that can better inform, or entirely change, what is done in international development. Cimadamore, Koehler and Pogge (2016) offer such a space in their edited volume "Poverty and the Millennium Development Goals: A Critical Look Forward." This is not a typical critique of all that is 'development,' and the contributing authors include some engaged and widely respected individuals. As an edited volume, it is hard to review, but in particular I recommend Chapters 1, 2 and 6. Quotes from these chapters are included below, and identified as such.

The editors argue that a "critical assessment of the MGDs is necessary and we could have reached a moment in history conducive to producing the meaningful changes required to fulfil the commitment to eradicating extreme poverty and achieving human development and a better life for all. This volume intends to provide that kind of assessment, combined with a look ahead at the new development agenda" (p. 4, Chapter 1). However, the "trends suggest that, at the country level, income redistribution policies need to accompany poverty alleviation or eradication strategies. This has not been the case; neither in neoliberally oriented economies nor in the developmental states" (p. 12, Chapter 1). Furthermore, good intentions, and even good programs, only go so far. It "must be recognized that poverty, as well as its eradication and prevention, is a manifestly political issue… Policies that do not analyse the impact of power relations on the creation and re-creation of poverty can have only limited and superficial success" (p. 13, Chapter 1). Some of the explicit, political recommendations are repeated by others: "Promotion of participation, inclusion and voice of poor people is crucial to overcoming some of the political and structural determinants of poverty and its perpetuation" (p. 42, Chapter 2).

Chapter 2, a unique contribution from Sundaram, makes a compelling case for the flawed methodological system that determines "success" in the MDGs. Consider: "If one starts from the original poverty definition of $1/day (in 1985 dollars) used for drafting MDG1, and then corrects for US inflation in the 1985-2005 period, one gets an equivalent poverty line of $1.815/day (in 2005 dollars), or $55.18/month, which is clearly much higher than the $1.25/day for 2005 used by the World Bank. The number of poor would then be 2,698.42 million in 1990 and 2,146.68 million in 2010 – for a mere 20.5 percent reduction over twenty years, nowhere near the enough to halve the proportion, let alone the number, of poor in developing countries" (p. 32, Chapter 2).

There are also important reflections from the MDGs on the potential of reaching the SGDs: "Available evidence on poverty trends and our policy analyses suggest that continuing with the same set of policies and measures will not suffice to eradicate extreme poverty, or even to achieve a substantial reduction in acute and other forms of poverty by 2030" (p. 14, Chapter 1). Chapter 3 continues "People feel they have been bypassed by new economic opportunities. Access to markets and/or links to higher levels of society are hindered by their powerlessness and lack of resources for fair participation" (p. 48, Chapter 3). Chapter 6 attempts to re-focus the failures away from domestic decision making to "the treacherous features of the international system whose structure serves mainly the economic and political interests of powerful factions in donor countries" (p. 127) whose power is reinforced by voting weights in global governance structures.

Post-doc Fellowship: Canada

Multiple Disciplines - 2017 Izaak Walton Killam Postdoctoral Fellowships, Dalhousie University

Izaak Walton Killam Postdoctoral Fellowships (KPDF) in most fields of study are tenable for up to two years at Dalhousie University, located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. KPDFs are valued up to $55,000 CDN per year including travel allowance, a one-time $3,000 research grant, a $1,000 conference travel grant and benefits. Applicants must have recently completed a PhD (Jan 2015 or later) at a recognized university and have no current affiliation with Dalhousie University. Applications must be submitted no later than 15-Dec-16. Full details available at:


Post-doc: International Studies

University of Denver Post-Doctoral Fellow - Korbel School of International Studies: The Sié Center is a center of excellence within the Josef Korbel School that leads research, education and policy programs focused on global peace and security. Eight faculty, visiting and post-doctoral scholars, and over 40 Korbel MA and PhD students contribute to the Center's activities. While at the Sié Center, post-doctoral fellows have opportunities to work with Center faculty and graduate students, engage with relevant policy practitioners, and receive clerical and research/travel support sufficient to allow the completion of a major research product. Fellows will be expected to attend and contribute to a seminar series and engage with other program initiatives including conferences, commentary, and publications.

Position Summary: The Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy at the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies has openings in its post-doctoral fellows program, dependent on funding. We will accept applications from candidates who specialize in global peace and security (broadly construed) but are particularly interested in those doing policy relevant research on the effects of inclusion on violence, peace-building, and governance. Fellows will engage in their own research, participate in center activities, and have opportunities to contribute to collaborative research designed to inform (and be informed by) contemporary policy concerns and strategies. The Fellowship will begin September 1, 2017. Post-doctoral fellows will spend one academic year at the Sié Center.

Candidates must apply online through www.du.edu/jobs to be considered. Only applications submitted online will be accepted. Once within the job description online, please click New Resume/CV at the bottom of the page to begin application. The fellowship carries an annual stipend of $42,000, access to additional professional development, travel, $3,000 in research support, and a comprehensive benefits package.

Please include the following documents with your application:
  1. Letter of application
  2. Curriculum vitae
  3. Writing sample
  4. Two letters of recommendation 

Send directly to Jill Schmieder Hereau.

Post-doc Fellowship: Literature, Science and the Arts Program

​The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) at the University of Michigan is excited to announce the LSA Collegiate Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, a major initiative aimed to promote a diverse scholarly environment, encourage outstanding individuals to enter academia, and support scholars committed to diversity. After reviewing the materials here, if you have questions about this program, please contact Devin Walker.

Fields: Applications for study in any field represented in LSA are welcome. Applicants with interdisciplinary research interests may have joint appointments. Predoctorates are available in the fields of economics and political science.

The purpose of the LSA Collegiate Postdoctoral Fellowship Program is to support promising scholars who are committed to diversity in the academy and to prepare those scholars for possible tenure-track appointments in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at U-M. U-M will appoint recent recipients of the Ph.D. as postdoctoral fellows for a two-year term beginning July 1, 2017. The Postdoctoral Fellows will receive a starting salary of $55,000 plus benefits, and $7,000 for conference travel and research expenses. The predoctoral fellows will receive a starting salary of $50,000 plus benefits, and $7,000 for conference travel and research expenses. During the two-year term of appointment, the fellow will teach one course a year in the host department. All fellows are expected to be in residence during the academic year and to participate in departmental seminars and related activities. The remainder of the fellow's time will be devoted to pursuing research. Each fellow will receive career advising from a mentor during their fellowship.

The College seeks extraordinarily promising scholars whose research, teaching, and service will contribute to diversity and equal opportunity in higher education. The program is particularly interested in scholars with a demonstrated interest in bringing to their research and undergraduate teaching the critical perspective that comes from their non-traditional educational background and/or understanding of the experiences of groups historically underrepresented in higher education.

More details.

Life After Violence: Burundi

What happens after conflict ends? How are lives changed, perceptions altered and the future envisioned? Peter Uvin held hundreds of interviews in Burundi to find out in his book "Life After Violence: A People's Story of Burundi" (2009). The author presents "a snapshot of life as lived and analyzed by ordinary Burundians" being "based on the voices of the people – primarily young people – throughout Burundi: people who have been refugees, internally displaced, dispersed, ex-combatants; in the city and the collines, Hutu and Tutsi" (p. 1). He starts with the context:

  • "Institutional transformation had to be achieved against a backdrop of unimaginable poverty and the social exclusion of most Burundians. The rural and urban poor, whether Hutu, Tutsi, or Twa, were the ones being killed and abused by all sides. They were the ones whose land was stolen, whose food, credit, and aid were being skimmed off, whose children were dying from preventable diseases at a rate that is one of the world's three highest. Few of those in power or vying for it, regardless of their party affiliation, were deeply connected to the poor or seemed to have their interests at heart." (p. 18).

Some parts of this book read like a report (which may have been its original intention as a World Bank supported project), and neglects to include some important contextual and methodological information. The greatest weakness appears to be that while almost four hundred interviews were conducted, we do not know how the volumes and volumes of content were analyzed and how the few selected quotes were chosen. Unless the result of systematic analysis (e.g. coding in NVivo or another software), one wonders if the quotes reflect those that seemed most interesting to the author, or are representative of the norm. Uvin offers some statistical breakdowns of how many interviewees answered in which ways, but these too leave the reader wondering how categorizations were done, as certainly there are instances wherein multiple experiences and positions are expressed about an issue. Quotes and analyses inform narrative and it is therefore important for authors writing narrative as authority on behalf of others to offer details and be reflexive about the processes involved.

Uvin offers some interesting criticisms of societal discourse, such as the following on perceptions of corruption: "Corruption has become a short-cut accusation, a term used by those who are angry at the system to express dissatisfaction and cast aspersions. It is a (rhetorical) weapon of the weak – all the more credible as there indeed is a lot of corruption in Burundi" (p. 68). And Uvin provides examples of how these claims are not always actual cases of corruption, such as a the relatively wealthy complaining about lack of support by emergency aid (excluded due to targeting) or the demobilized soldier refused aid (due to a policy). In another instance he criticizes the international discourse: "even in countries at war, there is more going on than war. War may capture the attention, dominate the political discourse, and its resolution may be a sine quo non for meaningful change, but it is not the full story of life, and people know it." (p. 82-84). In yet another part he takes aim at academics: "It seems to me that the way Burundian society defines peace is well represented in the post-conflict agenda – thus contradicting the academically popular but simplistic notion that this is all a mere neocolonial agenda. The first three categories – accounting for 80 percent of all answers – are the exact categories that the international community privileges: security, development, and the restoration of social relations. This is good news: even though peace-building experts and ordinary Burundians use different terms, they seem to talk about the same things." (p. 51) As Robert Chambers wrote in 1983 (in Rural Development: Putting the Last First, p. 30), "Academics are trained to criticize and are rewarded for it. Social scientists in particular are taught to argue and to find fault." At least in this book, it appears that Uvin has worn his critical fault-finding social scientist hat.

In reflecting on recent economic development, Uvin offers two, somewhat contradictory opinions. First, a strong promotion of job creation by any means: "job creation is the only key to development. Nothing else matters. Any way to promote job creation must be pursued" (p. 119). But, then, in reflecting upon the impact of capitalism, writes: "By calling it a capitalist ethos, I make it sound wholly positive and desirable, especially to Americans, who have been told that there is no more beautiful way of organizing life than unbridled capitalism and individual competition. But the spread of this cutthroat capitalism constitutes a profound loss for Burundi as well. Burundi's capitalist ethos feeds on fear and desperation – the knowledge that destitution and death lurk around every corner, that nobody is there to help you, and that you can only count on your own actions to survive, day by day, month by month." (p. 120). Putting these comments together, one could reasonably assume that the recommendation for job creation is not actually by any means, but directed and regulated so as to ensure the jobs do not increase vulnerability and inequality, and that they do not displace the poor and marginalized further by the relatively wealthy and investors (as the large-scale land grabs have shown can be the outcome) of job creation and economic transformation schemes.

The author also wrote a highly recommended book about international aid and violence. And, those familiar with this earlier work, will anticipate that Uvin is not pleased with the international community nor the system of international aid. His passion for justice comes out less forcefully in this book, but he offers clear reminders of his position: "the lives of most of the people we interviewed lead are an affront to human dignity and totally deny any notion that there is an international community that stands for any values of equity or justice… They die from easily preventable or curable diseases – tetanus, malaria – at scandalous rates… The poverty of Burundi, and the stinginess of the international community when dealing with it, is revolting in our world of over-consumption." (p. 2). Later in the work Uvin continues, "donors, in Burundi and elsewhere, seem incapable of understanding politics or acting politically. There are important processes that can lead to peace, the expression of citizenship, and the learning of democracy in Burundian society. But donors fail to understand them or to act on them. They simply copy products, but do not support processes. This worked reasonably well when it came to the transition, which consisted of a set of clearly defined products: demobilization of soldiers, creation of a transitional government – any government – for a number of months, organization of elections by a specific deadline, etc. But it works less well once this easy phase is out of the way, and sustainable, locally owned institutions need to take root" (p. 79-80). The passion is also found in works by Paul Farmer, wherein academic interests and practical experience are infused with deep rooted desire to advocate for justice. 

Funded PhD: Human Rights

​The Department of Anthropology at UCL is seeking applications for an MPhil/PhD candidate fully funded by The Sigrid Rausing Trust, to commence in the academic session 2017/18. The Sigrid Rausing Trust is a UK grant-making foundation, founded in 1995 by Sigrid Rausing to support human rights globally.

In conjunction with potential supervisors, the successful applicant will be expected to propose research in any area directly relevant to human rights issues. It is expected that the candidate will upgrade from MPhil to PhD after 9 months and that fieldwork will be conducted over a 12-15 month period. The final thesis will be submitted within 4 years of initial registration. Funding will cover UCL fees (up to UK fee cost) and provide a stipend for 3 years (paid at the RCUK rate, which is currently £16,296 per annum).

Enquiries may be addressed to Dr Allen Abramson (Graduate Tutor) or Prof. Susanne Kuechler (Head of Department) at Person Specification Candidates will be considered for the post on the basis of the criteria outlined below:

  • First Class Bachelor's degree in a relevant discipline AND/OR Distinction at Masters level in a relevant discipline, with at least one of the degrees being in Anthropology.
  • Strong familiarity with issues pertaining to human rights
  • Experience of and ability to carry out fieldwork
  • Relevant linguistic skills or ability to acquire
How to apply: Please email your application in pdf format to Martin O'Connor who is the Departmental Manager for UCL Anthropology. Please include a full CV (up to 2 pages) and a piece of work (c. 5,000 words) from your masters or a related dissertation, along with a statement (c. 750 words) describing how you are qualified and prepared for the position and how you would approach the proposed area of research. Please arrange for TWO academic referees to write confidentially to Martin O'Connor, to be received no later than the closing date. References should be emailed. The successful candidate will be required to complete a UCL research student application on-line (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/graduate/apply/research/how-toapply) in order to enrol at UCL and be formally registered to receive the studentship.

Post-doc: Power, Poverty & Politics

​The International Institute of Social Studies of the Erasmus University Rotterdam the Netherlands is seeking to fill three full-time (100%) vacancies for the position of Post-Doctoral Researcher for a two year period from 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2018. We welcome applications from prospective postdoc researchers who are interested in doing operational research on gender, governance and development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

The researchers will be part of the research project 'Power, Poverty and Politics (PPP) in DRC', a subproject of the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium led by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in London. The project is financed by UK Aid for the UK Government. It comprises a network of partners and research under the project is set up as close collaborations between international and Congolese universities and research institutes. 

This two-year research program (1 January 2017- 31 December 2018) aims to deepen existing research on governance, service delivery and economic growth in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to examine the details of policy implementation from national to local levels, to generate lessons from what works in promoting positive change and how to measure change. The PPP will do this by tackling a range of sector specific topics that link closely to Department for International Development (DfID) programs and policies and are thus chosen for their potential to contribute practical operational knowledge.

  1. Women, power and society. This project concerns the question of how the changing roles of women in DRC affect their power relations, with a particular focus on social accountability and decision making. It will be based on case studies of development programmes that incorporate social accountability mechanisms (including community scorecards and local community committees), and seek to assess the broader impact of these programmes on gender relations. 
  2. Everyday politics and practices of family planning in DRC. Promoting and protecting women's reproductive rights and health is key to women's empowerment and gender equality. This proposal concerns current policies and practices of family planning; debates on policy and perceptions of people regarding family planning and the role of societal stakeholders. It takes a 360 degrees, mixed methods look at family planning services. 
  3. Mining reforms and the changing roles of women in mining communities. The artisanal mining sector constitutes a vital source of income for many poor women and men - a substantial part of the population in DRC. In the course of the past decade,several attempts have been made to promote good governance in the mining sector. This study will focus on the gendered implications of ongoing reforms for the women and communities involved in artisanal mining in (Eastern) DRC.

More details.

Funded MA/MES/PhD: Climate Change, Wellbeing & Ecosystems

Drs. Derek Armitage and Prateep Nayak (Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo) and Dr. Melissa Marschke (School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa) are recruiting up to four MA/MES and/or PhD students (Canadian citizens or permanent residents) beginning September 2017 as part of the SSHRC-funded project "Integration of social wellbeing and ecosystem service bundles for adaptive co-management of coastal systems experiencing rapid change".

For accepted students, field research expenses will be covered, with additional support provided through RA-ships related to the project (note that funding arrangements may vary depending on home institution). Applicants must have an appropriate background in a relevant field, which may include: Human Geography; Development Studies; Political Ecology; Environmental Studies or Ecosystem Science. Applicants with previous research (quantitative or qualitative) or applied experience will be particularly competitive.

Interested applicants should send a brief letter of interest and current CV to either Melissa Marschke, Prateep Nayak or Derek Armitage by the end of November, 2016. Please note that the deadline for admission to University of Waterloo's Faculty of Environment is February 1, 2017 and the deadline for admission to the University of Ottawa's School of International Development and Global Studies is January 15, 2017.

The World Bank and Struggles for Social Justice

The World Bank is a favorite target of criticism. Yet, few actually know how the massive organization operates, externally or internally. Michael Goldman set out to do present this information, and specifically in the context of the 'greening' of the World Bank (or its development and promotion of "green neoliberalism") and its funding whereby it had "to come to terms with the environmentally and socially deleterious effects of its projects" (p. 7). The book "Imperial Nature: The World Bank and Struggles for Social Justice in the Age of Globalization" (2005) was the result. The author was driven toward the study by a pervasive praise of development while his own experiences were the opposite: "Whereas I am regularly told that the project of development uplifts the poor and restores the environment, too often I see it impoverishing the majority and enriching the few." (p. x).

In the book, Goldman attempts "to capture and explain the ways in which the World Bank and its partners have worked to create a representation, analysis, and mode of action for the project of development that have become naturalized, legitimate, and durable. I show through ethnographic research how, in response to effective organizing efforts of its critics, the Bank has successfully worked to reinvent itself, tame its critics, and intervene in an ever-growing number of institutions, terrains, and social bodies located across the postcolonial map" (p. 5). A methodological shortcoming, as a self-described ethnography (p. 5) and critical ethnography (p. 25), there was sparse information on what the data collection entailed or reflexivity of the process – beyond sitting in on workshops, conducting individual interviews with staff and visiting projects in one country. The reader does not gain a sense of the extent of the qualitative methods used, or if they are representative of the Bank (or ethnographic in approach). Nonetheless, the book is insightful and is well worth a read for those interested in knowing how the World Bank operates.

One of the common criticisms waged against the World Bank presents a picture of a monolithic power imposing its will upon the globe. While Goldman is critical of the Bank, he offers important nuance in the critical discourse: "People simply do not agree or consent, or fully stand with or against universal notions of progress, development, and modernization. They do not build up the scientific case for a tropical highway or pour the concrete for a megadam without some reflection, reservation, or fight. If we always assume its success or failure without first looking at how hegemony is constituted, we lose all sense of why people offer their consent without force, and why they do not. We lose the ability to discern where the political openings are, the sites and spaces where dominant structures get constituted, how people try to subvert them, and from where alternatives arise" (p. 25). This is an important addition to understand how the Bank imposes and how it is resisted, but lacking from Goldman's narrative is the role of nation-states, as sovereign countries seeking (or at least approving) World Bank projects and packages. Many countries have resisted and rejected the World Bank, and are a loci of important power in-between the international financial institution and the people of the nation. Yet, Goldman tends to focus upon the relationship between people and the Bank, and under explores the important role of governments.

One of the interesting arguments developed by the author is around how the World Bank seeks to dominate the norms and trends of international development ideas, writing that "data collection and analysis, report writing, editing, and the nail-biting process of getting approval from one's superiors (and one's superiors' superior) is less a process of discovery, creativity, and refutation than one of manufacturing consent. From hiring practices, to hierarchical pressures, to funding decisions for research, to the way information flows are manipulated internally and externally, the assembly line of knowledge production is studded with cultural practices of social control as well as incorporations and hegemony-building" (p. 148-149). Later, in the country case study, Goldman continues this train of thought: "with omission there is inclusion; for every concern, data set, interpretation, and recommendation that is omitted or removed from a report, there are as many that fill its pages and circulate as science locally and oftentimes transnationally" (p. 169). This manufacturing of consent is particularly vivid in the case of community consultations, where one independent researcher found that those consulted had little to no idea of what was even being discussed in the meeting, of often held completely different ideas of what was being proposed and approved (p. 172).

Although the book was written in the early 2000s, it provides interesting insight into what would become normalized in the decade that followed the publication of this book: "Since 9/11, the Bank has been compelled to redirect its finances to a handful of countries supporting the U.S. war. In 2002, the World Bank put together loans for an unprecedented $800 million to Pakistan, $2.2 billion to India, and $3.5 billion to Turkey, much of which appears unconnected to plans the Bank had before September 2001. Countries in southern Africa suffering from horrible famine received little financial support. In 2004 and 2005, the Bank's flagship investments have been Afghanistan and Iraq. The future of the Bank seems to be in the mopping up of the destruction caused by the U.S. military, the rebuilding of societies in the name of antiterrorism, development and democracy." (p. 275). Goldman does not explore who most benefits from these shifts and new financial packages, but other works, such as Rashid's Descent into Chaos, does.

Funded MA: Education for Sustainable Development

Location: Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Start Date: September 2017

Salary: $12,000/year stipend (with possibility of further scholarship opportunities)


Sustainable Development cannot be achieved through one sector alone, yet education in particular is seen as a vehicle to move us towards this goal. While there is a plethora of literature that examines the role of formal education for sustainable development (ESD), to date there has been very little research that examines the potential role for non-formal and informal education. The Arts (i.e. visual arts, performance arts, and literature) may be one form of informal ESD that can have a significant influence on the development of cultural norms and therefore play a critical role in creating the cultural changes needed to achieve a sustainable future. However, preliminary investigations to date have found that there are very few scholarly works associated with the topic. This dearth of found materials may be a result of poor bibliographic indexing by scholarly databases, because the materials are located outside of conventional scholarly mediums (e.g. websites, playbills, exhibition catalogues, and other grey literature), or simply because there are few written materials on this subject. The purpose of this research is to identify scholars, artists and practitioners working in the area where the Arts, ESD and sustainability intersect in order to document their conceptualizations of the role the Arts could/should play in achieving a sustainable future; to thoroughly examining the extent to which both the scholarly and grey literature addresses sustainability and the Arts. Further, it has been recognized that scholars, social innovators and artists are often isolated from each other, because of limited opportunities for knowledge exchange and dialogue, and a lack of common methods for knowledge mobilization and translation. As such, this research aims to develop and encourage collaborative partnerships and intellectual exchange among artists and scholars engaged in the intersection of the Arts, ESD, and sustainability.


This position will help with Phase 1 of this research which aims to identify scholars, artists and practitioners working in areas where the Arts, ESD and sustainability intersect; better understand how those working in this area conceptualize the role the Arts could/should play in achieving a sustainable future. Responsibilities will include identifying potential participants for the study; conducting in-depth interviews with participants; data entry and management; contributing to data analyses; conducting background research and report writing; and other clerical organizational duties as required. It is expected that students will undertake this work as part of their Masters thesis at Dalhousie University (with the suggestion of enrolling in the Master of Environmental Studies program in the School for Resource and Environmental Studies).

Interested individuals are asked to submit their application including a cover letter, curriculum vitae and the names of two references, to Dr. Tarah Wright.

Logan Cochrane


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