What We Are Reading: Summer 2022

Justine Allenette Ross / justineallenetteross.com

Written by Melinda Wells

What are the lessons we should be learning about privilege, power, and systematic inequalities as the world rushes to establish a post-COVID new normal? How has the failure to learn lessons 10 years ago affected the scale and severity of the food insecurity crisis happening now in the Horn of Africa? This month we are looking at Reimagine Recovery, a post-pandemic playbook from the Ford Foundation and Dangerous Delay 2: The Cost of Inaction, a report on the Horn of Africa food crisis from Oxfam, Jameel Observatory, and Save the Children.

Report: Reimagine Recovery, Ford Foundation (2022)

Justine Allenette Ross / justineallenetteross.com

In Reimagine Recovery, the Ford Foundation highlights painful truths about inequality revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The playbook consists of sub-sections on Work, Life, and Balance offering key learnings from the pandemic, and actions required to convert awareness into action. Promising initiatives by civil society organizations are spotlighted along with Ford’s own $420M commitment to addressing gender inequality exacerbated by the pandemic (including a 5-year partnership with the Equality Fund). Key themes:

  • Precarious employment and its resulting lack of basic safety nets have deep social costs. Women, especially women in the Global South, are overrepresented in vulnerable, low-paying, and informal employment. Making work more inclusive, strengthening rights and protection for workers, and expanding access to capital are key enablers for change. Women and other marginalized groups have been historically underserved by traditional financial institutions, preventing them from full participation in the economy.
  • Inequality and exclusion of women, racialized groups, and people with disabilities played out across the response to the pandemic, from access to vaccines and technology to justice. At the same time, these groups also led the charge for social justice in many places. The playbook calls for increased support and power shifting to traditionally excluded groups, and prioritization of global health over national and corporate interests. It stresses the need for climate action which centres Indigenous voices and equitable access to technology accompanied by effective laws and standards that mitigate its harmful uses.
  • Current social, economic, political, and governance systems need to be closely examined in light of the pandemic. This includes reflecting on the importance of civic space and engagement. Ford calls for governments and other donors to strengthen support and protection for civil society groups advocating for marginalized and underrepresented communities. The playbook also calls for “bigger, bolder ways to collaborate across borders because polarization is infectious, and no single organization or government can tackle it alone.”

COVID-19 continues to pose ongoing challenges. In a world pushing hard to close this chapter, Reimagining Recovery offers a valuable framework for reflection. There is an opportunity to learn some painful but important lessons from the pandemic which can be usefully applied to more effectively, and equitably meet the global challenges ahead.

Report: Dangerous Delay 2: The Cost of Inaction, Oxfam, Jameel Observatory, and Save the Children (2022)

Dangerous Delay 2: The Cost of Inaction is a haunting report. It comes 10 years after a briefing paper on the 2011 drought in the Horn of Africa that recommended a change in the approach to chronic drought: focusing on early management of risks, rather than late response to crises. The 2022 report spotlights the current food security crisis in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya– an example of the terrible human costs of global failure to accelerate progress on the climate crisis.  This famine plays out as an under-resourced humanitarian system “finds itself unable to adequately respond to cyclical and predictable shocks at this scale.” 

It may be tempting to view COVID-19 and the conflict in Ukraine as extreme events that distracted attention and resources from the clear warnings from the Famine Early Warning System Network going back to early 2020. The report frames these events, instead, as a clear indication of the fragility and interconnectivity of the systems that much of the world depends on for its survival. 

There are mountains of documentation showing that in humanitarian crises, local groups prepare and take action well ahead of National and International ones. Nonetheless, the review found that local actors are still not consistently engaged in pilots, and funding is not flowing to them in a way that allows them to respond at scale. While the report details the gendered dimensions of hunger, it is also important to note the gendered dimensions of funding. Local actors remain underfunded, and amongst them, women’s organizations fall furthest behind.

Some progress has been made since the original Dangerous Delay report. Early warning systems are operational and worked effectively to flag the precursors to the current drought early in 2020. Better coordination occurs across NGOs and between NGO networks and Governments. Pooled funding and forecast-based response models have allowed for earlier deployment of funds and resources in some cases.

The report’s message is clear: It is not a question of early warning, hunger is a political failing.   Droughts result in famine where the underlying conditions of chronic poverty, conflict and late decision making are present. Crisis situations exacerbate gender and other inequalities. It is the failure to address these underlying conditions that drive chronic food insecurity. In the face of an escalating climate crisis, the world cannot afford to let another 10 years pass without learning this tragic lesson.

As this is the (Northern Hemisphere) Summer edition of What We Are Reading, we offer a list of favorite podcasts recommended by the Equality Fund staff with the hope that many of our readers will have the opportunity for some downtime in the coming weeks.



On Being with Krista Tippett: Interview with Ocean Vuong

Radical Books Collective: Trailblazing African Feminists  

ODI Think Change podcast, episode 5: how can global feminists help fight back on Roe?

Canada Land Podcast series: Thunder Bay

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