What we’re reading: £500million UK aid spent on private sector contracts; Andrew Mitchell throws class-based wobbly; development jargon sucks; how much water do we eat; why study development?

Many of the larger chunks of UK aid spending are channelled through big multilateral organisations and British firms. Last year alone, £500m was spent by the UK Department for International Development (DfID) on consultants. So much for untied aid reaching local firms in developing countries! The Adam Smith Institute, for example, was paid £37million to promote the free market in the Third World as discovered by a Sunday Telegraph investigation. All of this while paying their chief executive a seven-figure salary and dividends totalling almost £1.3million in 2010. Who ever said that development was neutral anyway? Big contracting UK aid firms are, it seems, good for (UK) development.

Meanwhile, DfID’s former boss Andrew Mitchell has been caught up in a moment of ‘cycle-rage’ when, allegedly, he called two police officers ‘plebs’ on being asked to get off his bicycle and walk with it  through the pedestrian exit as he left 10 Downing Street. Mitchell denies using the word ‘pleb’, which is a class-based insult that is the short term for plebeian – the Latin word for people from lower classes. Even through the storm of denials, the word choice couldn’t have been more politicised (putting aside the fact that Mitchell is a millionaire and a former investment banker). Andrew’s legacy for the development agenda is another matter; one which Jonathan Glennie believes is marred by the depoliticising of development in favour of a pro-market ideology and “technocratic tinkering” attitude towards the global poor. Focussing on aid spending above everything else has fudged and shielded all other issues from recent debates. Does anyone remember climate change?

Development jargon we hate (in the field, beneficiaries, capacity building etc.) and the chance to vote for better alternatives. Do you have any other developmentspeak pet hates to add to the list?

“What if I told you: you eat 3.496 litres of water?”

Information designer guru Angela Morelli does it again with this fantastic visual short story Virtual water: an infographic story that began as a self-initiated project based on how much water is used in the making of things we consume regularly.

Why study development?
There has been a flurry of activity over the past two weeks over on the Guardian Global Development site. As the new academic year begins the editors have started a project to crowd-source recommended reading for first year development studies students (or those covering development issues in their respective courses). This includes recommended development blogs from across the world, recommended books to read, a guide to global development data, the environment & sustainability reads and subject focus guides for students. We’ll be crunching some of this information in the weeks to come to make it available here on developmentEducation.ie but in the meantime post anything you find useful – books, reports, videos, resources – underneath, particularly for first year.

What are the Doha trade talks under the WTO umbrella all about, and why is it taking so long to reach an agreement? The Guardian’s Paige McClanahan does us the favour of putting this quick explainer together.