What I’m reading this month: June 2019 edition

The very cool logo from https://www.powercorruptspodcast.com 

Tube journeys (blogs/policy briefs/podcasts)

Rim Turkmani, Devolution of power or decentralisation of power in Syria?

This blog from the DFID-funded Conflict Research Programme looks at how fragmentation of the previously highly-centralised state in Syria has led to the rise of regional and local elites drawing legitimacy from ethno-sectarian narratives, the use of violence and control over the economy. While making the case for the need for decentralisation in Syria, Rim asks important questions that aim to help avoid unintended consequences from the process, including the ‘decentralisation of oppression’ and on-going violence.

Brian Klass et al, Power Corrupts podcast

This is one of my favourite new podcasts, hands down. It covers a number of topics close to our work – narcopolitics, the rise of disinformation and ‘deep fakes’, electoral rigging and so on, with upcoming episodes on money laundering, smuggling, assassinations etc. Brian knows his stuff, and that means his choice of guests can be inspired and eclectic. The episode that I think shows this best is the one on the politics of magic and witchcraft. He interviews Prof Ronald Hutton, medieval historian and the leading chronicler of modern British paganism, about why beliefs in witchcraft retain their power, and also talks to others about the way magic has affected conflicts in Haiti and in Liberia/Sierra Leone. If you’ve ever heard about Liberia’s ‘General Butt Naked’- who convinced his followers that his magic protected them so they could go into battle naked (except for wigs and masks) – you’ll know why we should take belief in magic seriously.

Southern Rail journeys (papers/journal articles/longer thought pieces)

Elisa Lucia Lopez, Heather Marquette, Joanna Buckley & Neil McCulloch, Lessons from Nigeria for improved thinking and working politically in the extractives sector

You know what they say about waiting for buses? This is the first of two papers I’ve had published this month. This looks at the first phase of the DFID-funded FOSTER programme in Nigeria that works to improve transparency in the oil sector. The case looks at how close working between DFID, the implementing partner (OPM) and a highly skilled Nigerian programme team enabled FOSTER to take risks and innovate, achieving wide-ranging successes in a highly politically sensitive sector. The research also looks at aspects of the programme that didn’t work and how the teams learned from this and adapted. FOSTER 2 is well underway, and it will be great to see what’s changed and what further lessons we’ll be able to learn.

Caryn Peiffer, Heather Marquette, Rosita Armytage & Trevor Budhram, The surprising case of police bribery reduction in South Africa

When Caryn and I first put together a research project looking at ‘hidden’ positive outliers on bribery, I don’t think either of us expected the South African police to be a case study. The research shows how measurable improvements in police bribery were largely localised to Limpopo province, where a totally unrelated anti-corruption intervention in the province led the police to dramatically change their behaviour in a 3-year period. The research suggests that fear and the sense that impunity had ended led to the dramatic reduction, though whether that can be sustained without structural changes is questionable. It looks at how the police’s unique sector characteristics, which make fighting corruption difficult, worked in this case to reduce bribery. Finally, it raises what we think is an important question about positive unintended consequences: are there positive ‘side effects’ of interventions that we don’t understand because we haven’t had, until now, a way to find them? Should we be looking out for positive unintended consequences, as well as negative ones?

Heather’s Lost & Found Bin

 Barbara Bruns, What makes a politician tackle education?

 Jack Corbett & Wouter Veenendaal, Why are Africa’s small countries more democratic?

 Anand Giridharadas, What to do when you’re a country in crisis?   

 Ben Steverman, The wealth detective who finds the hidden money of the super rich (follow the money…)

George Ingram, The future of aid: how the global development business is developing

 The Economist, Shadow state: mafias run by rogue police officers are terrorising Rio




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