Abstract: During the United Nations’ first Development Decade (the 1960s), NGOs forged a place for themselves within the professional world of long-term development. Within this context, one British organisation – Oxfam – asked a straightforward question: does aid work? To answer, it appointed its own ‘aid appraiser’. This article examines what happened when the organisation was confronted with his reports. The self-perpetuating nature of development work has long been observed. How Oxfam responded to self-critique shows that the capacities for organisations to engage in self-assessment, absorb criticism, expand and maintain a positive vision of their future direction were evident as soon as appraisal began.
Follow Us On TwitterMy Tweets
In our new issue we feature Samantha Balaton-Chrimes’s essay on decolonizing global solidarity. Also in this issue are essays on the Cold War history of human rights, humanitarian governance, human rights and population control, and the visual politics of maternal mortality. We end with review essays on human rights in Colombia and the political ethics of doing good.View entire issue >
Recent Blog Posts
Last December the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore, commissioned an ethnographic consultancy of the organizational culture of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The consultancy was assigned to a team consisting of Agathe Mora, Julie Billaud, and myself, three political and legal anthropologists who combined have extensive experience in the ethnography of human rights and international organizations. The call for the consultancy outlined as its motivations the desire to “identify remaining barriers and obstacles to, Continue reading →
This post is part of a symposium on Lyndsey Stonebridge’s Placeless People. All contributions to the symposium can be found here. “Literature is put to all kinds of political uses, public and private,” Philip Roth once observed, “but one oughtn’t confuse those uses with the hard-won reality that an author has succeeded in realizing in a work of art.” After reading Placeless People: Writing, Rights, and Refugees (2018), I wonder if Lyndsey Stonebridge would disagree. Works of literature that deal with human rights issues are Continue reading →