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2022: Volume 53

Humanitarianism and Covid-19: Structural Dilemmas, Fault Lines, and New Perspectives

Volume 53 Number 2 April 2022 Edited by: Jeremy Allouche and Dolf J.H te Lintelo

The unprecedented threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic has presented a crisis for the international humanitarian system. At a time when the number of people in need of assistance has drastically expanded, humanitarian funding has been cut as countries focus on their domestic economies. International travel bans and lockdowns have impeded humanitarian access, constraining conventional humanitarian response mechanisms and processes.

Every crisis presents an opportunity to rethink policy, practice, and research, and this issue of the IDS Bulletin investigates how the pandemic has exposed failings but also generated new opportunities and challenges in the humanitarian system, especially within the localisation agenda. Across four major themes, the articles in this Bulletin discuss the multifaceted nature of the pandemic and its impacts. As much a socioeconomic crisis as a public health crisis, it has deepened structural inequalities and highlighted population-specific vulnerabilities.

The IDS Bulletin emphasises how responses to the pandemic have converged with a weakening of protection regimes for displaced people including asylum seekers and refugees. Furthermore, it shows that the pandemic has presented an extraordinary crisis for the international humanitarian system, highlighting the failures of states and international humanitarian actors to provide needed assistance. Conversely, and most importantly, it argues that with the partial absence of state or international humanitarian responses, the pandemic has given unanticipated impetus to everyday forms of humanitarianism practised by and within local communities.

This issue of the IDS Bulletin also offers a salutary message about the future for humanitarianism in further crises – have responses to the pandemic offered a foreboding about increased forms of detachment, a low level of concern, and a weakening of international solidarities?

This is the cover of the IDS Bulletin titled: Theory-based evaluation of inclusive business programmes. The covers features an image of a motorbike carrying milk churns.

Theory-Based Evaluation of Inclusive Business Programmes

Volume 53 Number 1 February 2022 Edited by: Giel Ton and Sietze Vellema

Increasingly, development funding is directed to programmes aiming to make market systems more favourable for smallholders and low-income consumers of food. The development outcomes of these programmes are not self-evident. Programmes operate in dynamic markets full of uncertainties and surprises and depend on many other factors not under their control.

Assessing whether a programme indeed contributed to development outcomes is challenging. Building on real-world experiences with theory-based evaluation in inclusive business programmes, this IDS Bulletin discusses approaches and methods for meaningful impact evaluation. It examines how these evaluations provided information that made programmes accountable to the donors while also helping the implementing agencies to learn and adapt their programmes.

In this IDS Bulletin, the authors discuss the experiences of practitioners and academics in finding doable and creative ways to conduct impact evaluations of inclusive business programmes in the domain of food and agriculture. Inclusive business programmes that work in the area of food and agriculture aim to change current business practices of small and medium enterprises in a way that these include smallholders as producers or target poor consumers as consumers.

The examples show a convergence in methodological approaches, with ‘What works for whom under what conditions’ as the key learning question. All use a combination of methods that complement and build upon each other. However, smart data collection and sharp analysis and synthesis alone are not enough. The evaluation process and outputs also need to be informative for the stakeholders involved. More interaction and sense-making between implementers and evaluators are needed.

All experiences presented in this IDS Bulletin acknowledge that it is not easy to find ways to make learning useful for evaluation commissioners and implementing agencies. Under the right conditions, the presented approaches and tools might work and accelerate the learning loops for adaptive management. Crucially, three conditions appear as necessary for a good theory-based evaluation:

  1. having interested ‘listeners’ as the audience of the evaluation;
  2. applying rigour in anticipating and addressing validity threats to the conclusions;
  3. sufficient resources for an appropriate mix of methods.

2021: Volume 52

China and International Development: Knowledge, Governance, and Practice

Volume 52 Number 2 November 2021 Edited by: Xiaoyun Li, Jing Gu and Chuanhong Zhang

China’s global engagement with the developing world is changing rapidly in an era where ‘traditional’ aid discourses and the practices of new ‘emerging powers’ in development cooperation are evolving. As the largest South–South cooperation (SSC) provider and the second largest economy in the world, China’s development activities overseas have spurred intense debate over its role as a rising power in international development. 

Fast-growing activities present both internal and external challenges for China and the world. How to address these challenges and knowledge gaps will not only determine China’s internal governance on development issues, but also its external activities and behaviours that are now having a profound global impact. 

This issue of the IDS Bulletin brings together studies of the primary institutions and policies that are guiding China’s activities in development cooperation, focusing on the question of what China contributes to international development and the implications for global development cooperation. It also explores a range of cross-cutting topics including: the new Asian development finance and the potential impact of China on development thinking and policies, and China’s development practice and the effectiveness of SSC and triangular cooperation.  

China’s new initiatives and practices in development cooperation, distinctive from that provided by traditional donors, will reshape the landscape of global development, leading to the generation of new development knowledge and global development cooperation governance architecture. Given China’s growing prominence as a source of development finance, and as an institutional player, there is a real need for greater mutual understanding to promote effective healthy competition in development cooperation. 

Building a Better World: The Crisis and Opportunity of Covid-19

Volume 52 Number 1 March 2021 Edited by: Peter Taylor and Mary McCarthy

The current global pandemic of Covid-19 is a health crisis of massive proportions that has also accelerated a series of other crises, threatening livelihoods, economies, and societies. Many of the responses and reactions to the pandemic are exposing, and potentially deepening, foundational cracks in society, heightening fragilities and vulnerabilities in systems of all kinds.

This IDS Bulletin asks some fundamental questions about the kinds of challenges now manifesting due to the pandemic around health, food equity, social protection, gender equality, governance, and freedom of religion or belief. It explores, through a range of analyses and focused case studies, what vulnerabilities are being experienced in specific contexts, but also assesses the value of different responses to these vulnerabilities.

If this crisis has taught us anything, it is about the importance of not simply reacting to events that have materialised, but also in anticipating and predicting likely future shocks and building in capacity to deal with sudden surges. This IDS Bulletin reflects on how a shared future can be collectively and equitably shaped – and even transformed – in the light of experience of Covid-19.

Many of the articles in this IDS Bulletin draw on conceptual and theoretical framings that help us understand better where we have come from and where we may be heading. Looking towards the future, they offer practical examples of community resilience, experimentation, innovation, and collective action, demonstrating that it is genuinely possible to build forward differently.

2020: Volume 51

Collective Action for Accountability on Sexual Harassment: Global Perspectives

Volume 51 Number 2 September 2020 Edited by: Mariz Tadros and Jenny Edwards

The #MeToo movement that spread across the internet in 2017 sparked a focus on sexual harassment as an international issue. However, collective action against sexual harassment did not start with the #MeToo campaign. Grass-roots work that has been taking place for years against sexual harassment has been hidden by the more recent spotlight on a (white) Western perspective. This IDS Bulletin presents the genealogy of collective action around countering sexual harassment and looks at the power dynamics that have informed the representation of that collective action. It seeks to pluralise voices, experiences, and insights that offer opportunities for learning, and to show the pathways for mobilising for accountability. The articles here specifically aim to address the questions of ‘What triggers and enables collective action for countering sexual harassment to hold powerholders accountable? Under what conditions is it effective, and under what circumstances is it stalled?’ Perspectives are shared from Australia, Benin, Burkina Faso, Egypt, India, Lebanon, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Spain, and Uganda. They demonstrate a whole spectrum of experiences from well-defined and visible collective action to contexts where voices are still silenced. Collective action, this IDS Bulletin argues, is critical for transforming sexual harassment into an issue that is everybody’s business, and accountability must be for the long haul. Recognising the successes of activists fighting sexual harassment, wherever they are located, is essential to the global fight against this phenomenon.