Does Diplomacy (Still) Matter?

ObamaBy Corneliu Bjola

“States receive so much benefit from uninterrupted foreign negotiations,” Cardinal Richelieu, the founder of the first-ever professional diplomatic service, once argued, but the nature of the much praised “benefit” has not always been clear.

As I have argued elsewhere, diplomacy, at its core, is about relationship management and maintaining international order. At the micro-level, this translates into diplomats building and managing relations of friendship. At the macro-level, diplomacy contributes through its core functions of representation, communication and negotiation to producing and distributing global public goods (security, development, sustainable environment, etc.) Diplomatic success is therefore arguably an equal matter of maximizing the number of allies and friends and reducing that of enemies and rivals on the one hand, and of creating a stable and self-sustainable international order, on the other hand.

Continue reading

Leaving no one behind: data revolutions and the life course

By Frances Winter, Young Lives Policy Officer

IND.191 copy

Last week I attended an excellent seminar run by both DFID’s Inclusive Societies and Statistics Departments. Drawing on the findings of an Open Policy Consultation and expert contributors, it asked whether we have sufficient data about the lives of younger and older people to monitor the Sustainable Development Goals and inform the Leave No One Behind agenda.

DFID wants “ … a data revolution! Data need to be collected, disaggregated, analysed, used and disseminated for all people everywhere.”

Data or Advocacy?

Halfway through the morning, an audience member asked if this was about the technical business of collecting better data, or about advocacy?

Continue reading

What is the Evidence for the Human Development Approach?

(This blog entry was first published as part of the PPIW Poverty Series of blogs, following a presentation at the Public Policy Institute of Wales).

By Gisela Robles and Sabina Alkire, OPHI

The human development paradigm focuses in all aspects of development that can contribute to build and enhance human capabilities. This enhancement may occur by either by expanding choices and opportunities that people have to lead a life that they value and have reason to value (UNDP, 2000, p. 2). As other approaches such as the capability approach and the human right approach, it considers human life as an end rather than as a means. It differs from a human rights perspective in the sense that it is concerned with people capabilities and also with their agency and voice – their ability to shape their own destinies, but less with responsibilities. Thus it can contribute to the progressive realization of human rights, and to specifying imperfect obligations as well as perfect legal obligations. So both human development and human rights are complementary, and reinforce each other.

QEHblog_6Apr2016Within the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI), our work has been to support the development of a rigorous methodology and comparable evidence base on multidimensional poverty. Our most prominent multidimensional poverty index covers (MPI) 1.6 billion people in developing countries living in acute multidimensional poverty. Our index replaced UNDP’s Human Poverty Index, and the Human Development Reports have published our poverty estimations for 117 countries. Continue reading

Making research more ‘impactful’ for policy and programming

By Paul Dornan, Senior Policy Officer, Young Lives

scribe animator impact 2How social science research contributes to solving real world problems has always been a concern for researchers. Few people study social ills like poverty without wishing to contribute to policies and programmes which help those affected. So it’s great that the impact of research is receiving more attention than ever before. I’m just back from a conference, organised by IDS and the Impact Initiative and set up to learn lessons from 10 years of research on poverty on funded by DFID-ESRC. There was lots presented and discussed at the conference – the story is online  and is pretty quick to absorb being set out in the medium of twitter…

There is lots that matters here. It is to the credit of DFID and others that they have been strong supporters of building a better evidence base for public policy. These arguments are well rehearsed– look for example at the LSEs brilliant impact of the social sciences blog. Public policy without good evidence is an expensive shot in the dark but experience shows good research does not automatically lead to change. To think research would automatically result in policy change ignores all sorts of issues of politics and pragmatism (e.g. ideology, policy interest cycles, competing agendas, timing, financing, feasibility, capacity and luck). And there is a further challenge of research attribution, since research sits alongside all sorts of other inputs to the policy process, and to ignore these is both naïve and under plays the importance of national policy making processes.

Continue reading

Digital Diplomacy and the Bubble Effect: The NATO Scenario

Corneliu-BjolaBy Corneliu Bjola

Measuring the impact of digital diplomacy using quantitative metrics (number of followers, retweets, shares, likes and so on) has become general practice among Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFAs), and for good reasons. Quantitative indicators allow MFAs to see how far their message travels online (via the number of followers), how well it is received by the target audience (via the number of shares and likes) and how deeply it resonates with online communities (via the number of retweets). More sophisticated techniques calculate the lifespans of tweets, determine differences in interaction when posts are in local languages, and compare and contrast the success of various digital diplomacy campaigns.

While these methods do not directly measure influence in terms of perception or attitudinal shifts of the target audience, they nevertheless provide reasonably good proxy indicators for such mutations. However, the reliability of their conclusions much depends on a critical assumption about the nature of the population that is being observed—namely, that the latter is sufficiently diverse in its political views relative to the source of digital information. In other words, the MFAs’ digital communication campaigns are presumed not to merely “preach to the choir” of sympathetic followers, but to actually reach constituencies outside the self-reinforcing “bubble” of like-minded followers.

Continue reading

International Women’s Day 2016: ‘Pledging for Parity’ Needs to Start with Childhood

Gina_cropped_lowresBy Gina Crivello


The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day campaign is ‘pledging for parity’. The ‘pledging’ part of the slogan draws attention to individual commitment and to action. ‘Parity’, on the other hand, highlights the relationship between two or more things, and is generally defined as the state or condition of being equal or equivalent. In this context, the positive focus of parity suggests gender-balanced power. And, more often than not, parity refers to relations between men and women. After all, girls have their own day – October 11th – marking International Day of the Girl Child.

But does childhood have a place in International Women’s Day? What does childhood have to do with gender parity?

I would argue that childhood has a lot to do with gender parity. The reasons why become clear when we look at the flip side of parity… and turn our attention to the workings of inequality.

Continue reading

In Defence of Rhodes Must Fall and the Struggle for Recognition at Oxford

Last week, Joerg Friedrichs and Ryan Berg drew on their research to reflect on the Rhodes Must Fall campaign. Below, ODID DPhil Simukai Chigudu, who is active in the campaign, offers his own viewpoint. In both cases, the views expressed are those of the authors alone and should not be taken as reflecting the view of the department.

By Simukai Chigudu


Flickr/suchnone, CC BY-NC 2.0

In 1993, Edward Said – the celebrated Palestinian literary theoretician and professor of comparative literature at Columbia University – gave the Reith lectures for the BBC. A quote from this series of talks, entitled ‘Representations of the Intellectual,’ is enshrined in the MPhil student handbook at the Oxford Department of International Development on the grounds that it captures the department’s philosophy of questioning and criticism, which are the foundation of intellectual and indeed political inquiry. It reads as follows:

The central fact for me is, I think, that the intellectual is endowed with a faculty for representing, embodying, articulating a message, a view, an attitude, a philosophy or opinion… And this role has an edge to it, and cannot be played without a sense of being someone whose place it is to raise embarrassing questions, to confront orthodoxy and dogma (rather than to produce them), to be someone who cannot easily be coopted by government or corporations and whose raison d’être is to represent all those people and issues who are routinely forgotten or swept under the rug.

In many ways, this is what the debate about Rhodes Must Fall (RMF), both in South Africa and in Oxford, is about: whose history is told and whose is swept under the rug; whose issues matter and whose are routinely forgotten. Continue reading

Rhodes Must Fall: From Dignity to Honour Values

Below, Joerg Friedrichs and Ryan Berg draw on their research to reflect on the Rhodes Must Fall campaign. Next week, ODID DPhil Simukai Chigudu, who is active in the campaign, will offer his own viewpoint. In both cases, the views expressed are those of the authors alone and should not be taken as reflecting the view of the department.

By Joerg Friedrichs and Ryan Berg


Flickr/suchnone, CC BY-NC 2.0

How many of those called racist or sexist are actually guilty of racism or sexism? Some are, but what about the others? Why is calling someone a racist or sexist different from calling them a liar or a felon? Why is being called a liar an offence where the burden of proof is with the accuser, whereas being called racist is a disgrace where the target must demonstrate her innocence? It seems to us that, when using a label like racist to disparage somebody who holds views that are dissonant to one’s own, the aura of victimhood is used as a licence to offend with impunity, in line with a broad culture shift in western society. Continue reading

Is Resistance Futile? Maximising the Impact of Public Diplomacy on Social Media

Corneliu-BjolaBy Corneliu Bjola

One of the most sought-after metrics in social network analysis is influence. Finding out who the most important users are in the network and how they leverage their influence online is of great value for maximising the impact of one’s message on social networks.

Degree centrality (DG), which reflects the number of relations a user has, is one common tool used for gauging online influence and it comes in two forms: in-degree centrality, which is indicative of the number of users that may potentially retweet the node’s messages (how many users follow a node), and out-degree centrality, which reflects the number of users the node may potentially retweet (how many users the node follows).

The Eigenvector centrality indicator (EC) goes a step further. If DG asks how many people could retweet a message, EC gives a measure of the importance of those who retweet your message (Kumar et al: 31). The stronger the influence of one’s followers, the higher one’s Eigenvector centrality in the network. One can develop even more sophisticated measures of online influence by combining these indicators with the Klout score, which ranks users according to their aggregated influence on multiple social networks.

Degree centrality, in its various incarnations, is clearly a useful instrument for assessing online influence, one that needs to be properly understood and accurately measured if one’s digital message is to have a reasonable impact on social networks. At the same time, DG comes with a major limitation as its focus on influence projection takes little account of the possible sources of resistance in the information flow.

In other words, it matters to have your message projected widely by influential nodes, but it is equally important not to have your message obstructed or blocked by other nodes in your network.

Continue reading

‘Am I Going to Eat Peace?’ – The Politics of Redistribution and Recognition in Women’s Peace Activism

Version 2By Simukai Chigudu

Global feminism is often seen as a progressive and emancipatory movement emanating from the West and fostering radical politics elsewhere in the world. Such a view is not only ethnocentric but, critically, it fails to engage with the complex ways in which feminist politics travel and are evinced in specific localities.

In this blog post, based on a recently published research article entitled ‘The Social Imaginaries of Women’s Peace Activism in Northern Uganda’, I seek to understand how marginalised women in the ‘Global South’ – particularly in Africa – interpret, experience and negotiate feminist ideas to wield political power in the context of their own social and moral worlds.

My case study focuses on an NGO – called Isis Women’s International Cross-Cultural Exchange (Isis-WICCE) – that mediates and helps to organise women’s peace activism in Northern Uganda. Based on extensive and in-depth interviews with a wide range of activists in the organisation and in its network in post-conflict areas of the country, I argue that Isis-WICCE pursues peace and justice along two axes: ‘redistribution’ and ‘recognition’. Continue reading