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Masters students on Kenya study tour 2014

18 July 2014

Freyja OddsdottirFreyja Oddsdottir is Research and Communications Support Officer in the GSDRC.  She is responsible for communicating research outputs to partner organisations, implementing professional development activities, and maintaining the GSDRC’s online library.

For the past couple of years, the IDD has organised a field research trip to assist IDD Masters students with the logistics of field research, which is an optional component of their MSc degree. Last year, the destination was Kerala in South India. In June this year, a group of 16 students travelled to Nairobi, Kenya, along with Dr Jonathan Fisher and Freyja Oddsdottir, where they stayed for three weeks to conduct field research for their dissertation.

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The research topics were as different as they were many, ranging from affordable housing to police corruption and the LGBT community in Nairobi. Each student organised their own agenda depending on their research interests, and their interviewees included NGO staff, politicians, university professors and human rights activists. The research took the students to different parts of the widespread city of Nairobi, and one of them even travelled to the town of Kitengela outside Nairobi to spend a few days with the project staff of a women’s empowerment programme.

2014-07-02 14.29.17As a group, the students got to meet the Horn of Africa Project Director at International Crisis Group to receive input from him about current events in Kenya as well as their research topics. We also visited UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), where we learnt about the refugees that have come to Kenya from nearby countries such as Somalia and South Sudan, the options they have when they are unable to return to their country, and the challenges they face.

The IDD is fortunate enough to have a strong alumni community in Kenya, from which we received a warm welcome at our IDD alumni reception. One of them had even boarded a two hour flight to be at the event to meet the ‘IDD family’, as we often describe it. During our stay, the alumni were also very helpful in connecting the students with appropriate people to interview and collect their data. IDD alumnus Kenneth Okwaroh has been particularly generous with his time and contacts, for which we are very grateful.

IMG_6196Field research aside, Kenya had plenty of extracurricular activities to offer to the students such as patting baby elephants at the Elephant Orphanage, bargaining for local handicrafts at the Maasai Market, a boat trip amongst hippos and a safari in the Maasai Mara.

All in all, it has been a great opportunity for the students to experience the rewards and challenges of field research, and what it might be like to work in the development sector.

Politics shape services; and services shape politics

24 June 2014

Richard BatleyRichard Batley is Emeritus Professor at the University of Birmingham’s International Development Department. His research focuses on state/non-state relations in service provision, and on the politics of public services in developing countries. He has researched particularly in Brazil, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Mozambique, and the UK.

In governance circles, service delivery is often discussed as if it raised common issues across service sectors as diverse as health, education, water and sanitation. Yet within sectors, debates about governance issues are quite distinct.

Is this just a matter of perspective or do different sectors really present different political problems and opportunities?

There are indeed common policy problems that run across services. For example, it is much more difficult to improve their quality than to extend access to them (by building schools, clinics, and water networks). Reviews of the political economy literature have found that services face common conditions for good performance. These include political commitment, good monitoring, effective sanctions, systems of local accountability, and strong political incentives to provide services.

But the profound diversity of issues between services is very striking.

In drinking water supply, for instance, a major policy concern is that badly directed subsidies lead to over-consumption by the least needy and to under-investment in water supply for the poorest.

By contrast, it is difficult to mobilise policy-makers and providers to address sanitation at all, although it is well known to be the most important contributor to personal and public health.

In health care, high cost treatments for some diseases are often prioritised while other diseases and more cost-effective measures are neglected.

In most countries education is a policy priority. Yet the quality of much public education remains poor and potential learners continue to be excluded.

Together with Claire Mcloughlin at the University of Birmingham and colleagues at ODI, I have been involved in research on why services perform differently even in the same political and economic context.

The outcome? That services themselves shape the incentives, power and accountability of the main actors, whether they be politicians, policy-makers, delivery organisations, or users.

Children in Sindh, Pakistan, play at a water pump in a village

Children in Sindh, Pakistan, play at a water pump in a village. Photo: Russell Watkins, UK Department for International Development.

The idea that services themselves have a political character may seem far-fetched. But consider how a service such as hospital health care raises different issues of politics and accountability compared to urban water supply. Patients place themselves individually into the care of doctors and nurses, often knowing little about their treatment, and unlikely to feel empowered to dispute it. On the other hand, water-users have a good idea of what they should expect from the supplier; they share their daily experience of the service with other users, and can represent their opinions at a neighbourhood level.

These differences are political in the sense that they affect relations of power between politicians, providers and users: patients are likely to feel less empowered than water-users.

Our research has developed a framework for comparison by piecing together the available evidence on the political effects of what we describe as ‘service characteristics’ – that is, the features that can be used to distinguish between services.

For example, services that are privately consumed (such as household water connections as against mains sewerage) will tend to enhance opportunities for political patronage. More visible aspects of services (such as the construction of clinics rather than staff training) are likely to attract greater political prioritisation.

Monopoly (as in piped water supply), inequalities of information and professional discretion (as in health care) can all strengthen providers’ dominance over users. On the other hand, the frequent and predictable use of a service (like schools) operating in a limited territory gives communities the opportunity to organise and make demands.

Such characteristics help to explain why some services for some people receive more attention. They also suggest possible policy responses and organisational reforms.

We put the service characteristics approach to the test in a series of consultations with sector specialists in education, health, water and sanitation. The broad conclusion was that the approach could help specialists both to make sense of sectoral debates and to discover opportunities for learning between sectors. For example, ways of enabling community participation can be shared between strongly client-oriented services like health centres and schools.

Start by recognising the experience of practitioners in health, education, water and sanitation. Our final assessment suggests that doing it this way round can help lever political economy analysis out of its ‘governance silo’.

It will encourage dialogue between governance and sector specialists, helping them to understand why different services present quite different opportunities and constraints.

And, by giving us a better-grounded diagnosis, it will also give us a fuller picture of the policy responses and organisational reforms that are likely to work in any particular service.

This blog post is an expanded version of the author’s opinion piece for ODI (28 May 2014).

Public service motivation: Love or money?

14 March 2014

Sumedh RaoSumedh Rao is a Research Fellow in the GSDRC, working on governance in situations of conflict and fragility, statebuilding and state fragility, political economy analysis, aid architecture, anti-corruption reforms, and civil service reform.

Ask what motivates workers, and the common response is a list of carrots and sticks. But offer a worker one of these carrots and they may just be insulted. When the Boston Fire Department replaced its policy of unlimited sick days with a 15-day sick day limit, ten times more firefighters called in sick on the following Christmas and New Years’ Day than the year before. When the Fire Department decided to cancel the firefighters’ holiday bonuses in retaliation, the firemen went on to claim almost twice as many sick days as before, apparently angered by the new system.

Samuel Bowles, who looked at this case study, argues[1] that the result of the new system was that firefighters abused it and abandoned their previous ethic of serving the public even when injured or not feeling well. 

Carrots and sticks are messages and they can signal distrust in employees and encourage them to ‘game the system’ – to be more selfish instead of being altruistic or public-minded. Humans are not donkeys and need much more nuanced motivators. To achieve the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, delivering health, education and other life-sustaining public services, we need to find these motivators. This is why the UNDP Global Centre for Public Service Excellence and the GSDRC are running an e-discussion[2] to find evidence and experiences on what does and doesn’t work for public service motivation.

Well, what about money as a motivator? Surprisingly, money doesn’t seem to be what attracts people to public sector jobs or what keeps them there. One study[3] found that people are attracted to these jobs because of greater opportunities to help people. Higher earnings, better job security and working hours aren’t the appeal, and can actually put off some health and education workers.  

This is good news, both for developing countries with tight resources but also richer countries having to cut budgets following the global recession.

So what are the key non-financial factors that motivate? Different studies and authors have different findings but there are common themes.

Three nonfinancial motivators emerged from a global staff survey[4]  across a range of sectors: praise and commendation from an immediate manager, attention from leaders, and opportunities to lead projects or task forces. These were found to be even more effective motivators than the highest-rated financial incentives.

Dan Ariely[5] argues that what’s important is seeing the fruits of our labour; feeling appreciated; knowing that we are helping others, even unconsciously; and positive reinforcement about our abilities.

Dan Pink[6] argues that for simple, repetitive tasks, money can be a motivator. But with more complex jobs, you need to pay enough for people to forget about compensation and focus on the work, and then allow autonomy, mastery and purpose. The work should satisfy the desire to direct one’s own life (autonomy), the urge to get better and better at something (mastery) and the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves (purpose).

It seems the key to maintaining public service motivation would be, in fact, letting people do public service – visible, appreciated work that helps others, and which they get better at over time. How do we best enable them to successfully carry out public service work?  

Civil services can face very challenging conditions. In some countries public sector jobs are sinecures – paid positions with little or no work – given as patronage. In other countries the public sector has to compete against other employers such as ‘project implementation units’ paid for by foreign donors who can offer better conditions.

While better-resourced countries struggle to maintain morale within their public sectors, how are developing countries to maintain theirs? And how do we ensure we cater to different people within different contexts, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach?

I’d like to ask you, the reader, to share your thoughts on what works. With the reminder, of course, that you are free to do so, it’s always good to improve your discussion skills, and that your comments will be helpful and very much appreciated.

Is that motivating enough?


[1] Bowles, S. (2012). Machiavelli’s Mistake: Why Good Laws Are No Substitute for Good Citizens. Draft for UCLA Legal Theory Workshop. http://www.law.ucla.edu/workshops-colloquia/Documents/Samuel%20Bowles.Machiavelli’s%20Mistake.pdf

[3] Georgellis, Y., Iossa, E., & Tabvuma, V. (2011). Crowding out intrinsic motivation in the public sector. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 21(3), 473-493. http://eprints.bournemouth.ac.uk/16577/1/Crowding_Out_Intrinsic_Motivation__Georgellis_final.pdf

[4] Dewhurst, M., Guthridge, M. & Mohr, E. (2009). Motivating People: Getting Beyond Money. McKinsey Quarterly, November 2009. http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Motivating_people_Getting_beyond_money_2460

[5] Gross, J. (2013, April 10). What motivates us at work? 7 fascinating studies that give insights. TED Blog. Retrieved 13 March 2014. http://blog.ted.com/2013/04/10/what-motivates-us-at-work-7-fascinating-studies-that-give-insights/

[6] Pink, D. H. (2011). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. Penguin. http://www.danpink.com/books/drive/

Violence in South Sudan illustrates the perils of state building

14 January 2014

paul-jackson165x212Paul Jackson is a political economist working predominantly on conflict and post-conflict reconstruction. Core areas of interest include decentralisation and governance, conflict analysis, and security sector reform.

The Christmas period in the newest nation in the world, South Sudan, has been a violent one. More than 1,000 people are believed to have died (BBC) with more than 120,000 forced to flee ethnic clashes (BBC) in one of the least developed countries in the world. The President of the UN Security Council, Gerard Arnaud, has warned that this could lead to a fully fledged ethnic war in the country and around 7,500 UN peacekeeping troops have deployed to the country. In a country that is awash with guns and with a long history of violence between ethnic groups, populist political rhetoric along ethnic lines is dangerous.

The situation remains confusing. President Kiir claims it was a coup attempt by former Vice-president Riek Machar. Meanwhile, the authorities arrested 10 other senior political figures and said they were searching for 5 more. Machar himself denies the coup claim and the situation is far more complex than the official version.

South Sudan overwhelmingly voted to break from Sudan in 2011 in the midst of great optimism for its economic future, partly driven by access to oil reserves. However, ongoing disputes, both internal and with Khartoum, delayed production until April 2013. At the same time, the country has been subject to significant international support aimed at creating a new and functioning set of state institutions within a democratic framework.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLA/M), which currently holds power in Juba, led the fight against the North that culminated in independence, but it was not the only armed group involved. At the same time, it was also a divided movement with factionalism so deep that the war became as much a fight between southerners as with the north. Peace has been affected by continuing dissent from localised militias opposed to the SPLA.

The deepest divide was between the largest group, the Dinka and the second largest, the Nuer. The leader of the SPLA during the civil war was a Dinka, John Garang, and Machar was one of three Nuer SPLA commanders to break away from the SPLA and oppose the ‘dictatorial tendencies’ of Garang. Many Dinka have never forgiven Macher for this and only accepted his Vice-Presidency as a price for peace with the Nuer.

This places Kiir and Machar as political and ethnic rivals jostling for position before elections scheduled for 2015. In July Kiir fired his entire cabinet, including Machar, as a pre-emptive strike against political opponents. Since then Machar has been increasingly critical of the President. Machar himself remains deputy chairman of the SPLA and has based his criticism on a lack of reform by Kiir, claiming that Kiir was preventing the transformation of the SPLA from liberation movement in to a political party.

What is interesting is the wide ethnic and regional range of those arrested. Kiir may have arrested so many prominent and senior SPLA/M figures because there was a genuine threat to his leadership, in which case this is clearly not a democratic move within a political party. Alternatively it could signal that Kiir is cleaning out his rivals, taking advantage of the violence perpetrated by military hotheads. Either way, Kiir appears to have unleashed a series of political and violent forces that endanger the fragile democracy of South Sudan, and the personal rivalry of Machar and Kiir places South Sudan, and thousands of people living in appalling conditions, in considerable danger.

A major part of the problem is that this infighting within the SPLA/M is not new. A ferociously brave resistance movement, the SPLA was frequently let down by poor organisation and this has continued in to the peace. With around 55% of the South’s budget allocated to defence, and a lack of progress with professionalization, the SPLA remains a corrupt grouping of local ethnic groups tied together with cash payments rather than a professional army. A spark could ignite a more comprehensive civil war in the south.

What can the international community learn from this? The US and UK, amongst others, have played a significant part in ending the civil war in Sudan and setting the south on to a democratic path. However, calls for respect for human rights, democratic government and a wider role for civil society are consistently ignored. This might be surprising given the high level of international support for the country, but the SPLA/M appears to believe that the international partners will not abandon a country where they have invested so much time and money, which is starting to produce oil, and which is effectively a bulwark against the ‘rogue state’ of Sudan to the north.

A peace agreement that excluded several ‘other armed groups’, relying on the SPLA/M to incorporate them into the new state when it has been unable to integrate ethnic groups itself, has proved extremely problematic. The resulting moves towards democracy have been taken on very shaky political ground that has remained largely unexplored by the international community, which has built a state infrastructure by the book, but on foundations of sand.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela 1918-2013

6 December 2013

A tribute to Madiba

We were deeply saddened, like much of the rest of the world, to read about the death of Nelson Mandela. When he began his ‘long walk to freedom’, both of us were teenagers, and his story – of strength, compassion, sacrifice, compromise and hope – inspired us on the paths that eventually led us to the Developmental Leadership Program.

DLP’s research over the years has inevitably looked at Mandela’s leadership – from Jo-Ansie van Wyk’s study of the ANC, business and development, to Monique Theron’s work on African heads of state. But Madiba was not just a ‘big man’ of history; he was the embodiment of what we call ‘developmental leadership’. He used his power and authority in order to mobilise people and resources for developmental ends, overcoming many deeply entrenched collective action problems. He didn’t simply rule but instead brought people together in coalitions for change and, in doing so, changed the world.

There are a small number of former leaders who we – as a global family – revere, rather than simply remember, for their willingness to fight long and hard to help end inequality. They privileged the poor and the disadvantaged, and they did so for as long as they could. They articulated the hopes of the millions.

Our current leaders could well learn this lesson. Inequality in South Africa is rising, a potential threat to Mandela’s legacy there; around the world, inequality has never been so stark and threatens existing progress on poverty reduction. Our leaders should celebrate Mandela’s life not through words but through deeds, and give us back the hope we all felt when we saw him leave prison almost 25 years ago. He deserves no less.

Heather Marquette David HudsonHeather Marquette, Reader in Development Politics at IDD, and David Hudson, Senior Lecturer in Political Economy at UCL, are directors of research for the Developmental Leadership Program (DLP).

Photo of Nelson Mandela courtesy of South Africa The Good News

Making ‘climate compatible development’ possible in coastal areas

19 November 2013

Fiona NunanFiona Nunan is Lecturer in Environment and Development in IDD, specialising in natural resource governance and management in developing country settings, particularly within inland fisheries and coastal locations in East and Southern Africa, and in exploring the links between poverty and the environment.

As the 19th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meets (11th – 22nd November 2013) in Warsaw, building adaptation capacity within the context of development must be firmly on the agenda. Approaches such as ‘climate-smart development’, ‘low carbon development’ and ‘climate compatible development’ reflect a desire to bring together efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and increase storage or sinks for carbon dioxide, increase adaptive capacity and develop adaptation strategies, and to reduce poverty. Whilst these approaches are attractive, questions remain as to how far these objectives can be tackled together.

Climate compatible development

“Development that minimises the harm caused by climate impacts, while maximising the many human development opportunities presented by a low emissions, more resilient, future” (Mitchell and Maxwell 2010).

This approach to development is advocated by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), the funders of this research.

Climate Compatible Development

Climate Compatible Development
Reproduced from Mitchell and Maxwell (2010)

Our research in Sri Lanka and Kenya on the potential for climate compatible development in coastal areas has identified a range of policy mechanisms that already exist, or could be fairly readily adopted, that could contribute towards achieving these multiple goals.

Climate change presents considerable challenges for coastal areas, which are already under significant pressure from diverse sources and are often sites of contestation, with competing, and at times conflicting, demands for the use of land, extraction of natural resources and access to beaches and fishing grounds. The impacts of climate change will magnify and deepen such challenges, presenting an urgent need for adaptation strategies for local and national populations. Coastal ecosystems also present extensive opportunities for climate change mitigation through carbon capture and storage, as well as being important areas for livelihoods and economic development.

Examples of packages mechanisms for CCD

Multiple policy instruments and approaches already exist that could support the delivery of CCD in coastal areas including:

  • Integrated coastal zone management
  • Climate change mainstreaming
  • Payments for ecosystems services schemes
  • Protected area status
  • Environmental impact assessment and strategic environmental assessment
  • Collaborative forms of natural resource management.

To strengthen the potential of delivering on CCD, such mechanisms could be brought together as a package of complementary measures to enable delivery on mitigation, adaptation and development. Examples of such packages are:

1. Integrated coastal zone management/collaborative forms of natural resource management/ protected area status/climate change mainstreaming

ICZM very often involves the participation of coastal communities, but there may be multiple forms of collaborative natural resource management that could be coordinated for a more effective, integrated approach. Protected area status can strengthen the mitigation and adaptation potential of coastal ecosystems and contribute to improved livelihoods. ICZM can strengthen the resilience of ecosystems to climate change as well as carbon storage potential.

2. Payments for ecosystem services/collaborative forms of natural resource management/ protected area status/climate change mainstreaming

Community-based PES schemes require a form of collaborative natural resource management between communities and relevant government departments, with appropriate policy and legal support. Protected area status and climate change mainstreaming can strengthen the contribution of PES to mitigation and adaptation, and, with a strong poverty orientation in the design, to improved livelihoods.

3. Land-use planning/EIA and SEA/climate change mainstreaming

As there are very often multiple land uses and demands in coastal areas, land-use planning systems have the potential to make a real difference to the resilience of coastal areas to climate change and to the mitigation potential of coastal ecosystems. Land-use planning also has significant effects on local livelihoods – in both positive and negative ways. Bringing together land use planning with strategic environmental assessment and climate change mainstreaming could result in a much more holistic, resilient approach to planning for CCD.

Kalpitiya Lagoon, Sri Lanka (photo credit: Priyantha Kumara)

Kalpitiya Lagoon, Sri Lanka (photo credit: Priyantha Kumara)

What does policy need to promote CCD in coastal areas?

To enable such mechanisms, or packages of mechanisms, to deliver on CCD in practice, significant leadership is needed to bring people and ideas together across sectors and between stakeholder groups. In particular, what would be needed includes:

  • Coordinated policy across sectors, which include environment, climate change, land use planning and forestry.
  • Strengthened integrated management of coastal areas, including measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change and to reduce poverty of local people.
  • Effective participation of coastal communities in governance structures and processes, with strengthened and coordinated collaborative management.
  • Implementation of existing policy, with the resources (financial, technical and political will) to support implementation.

Clearly the potential is there for climate compatible development to happen in coastal areas, but a genuinely coordinated and integrated approach to policy and management is needed, with effective participation of a range of stakeholders, including local users of natural resources, and financial resources to ensure implementation.

This blog is an output from a project funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Netherlands Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS) for the benefit of developing countries. However, the views expressed and information contained in it are not necessarily those of or endorsed by DFID, DGIS or the entities managing the delivery of the Climate and Development Knowledge Network, which can accept no responsibility or liability for such views, completeness or accuracy of the information or for any reliance placed on them.

Fishing for decentralisation in Yemen

6 November 2013

nickson-andrewAndrew Nickson is Honorary Reader in Public Management and Latin American Studies in IDD and has extensive worldwide experience of teaching, research and consultancy on public administration reform, decentralisation, and the reform of basic service delivery and regulation of privatised public utilities. He is currently in Yemen, contributing to UNICEF’s strategic thinking in the direction of greater engagement with district councils and local level planning.

Yemen, the ancient Kingdom of Sheba, is facing a critical juncture in its tumultuous recent history. Formerly divided into South Yemen and North Yemen, unification took place in 1990, followed by two decades of growing authoritarian rule by military-backed regimes. Student uprisings in the Arab Spring forced President Saleh to leave office in November 2012, but not to leave the country. Since March this year a 565-delegate National Dialogue Conference (NDC) has been in session, striving to agree on the future shape of the country against a backdrop of terrorist strikes, drone attacks, kidnappings and assassinations. The NDC initiative is strongly supported by the international community, including the presence of a Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General. A separatist movement (Hiraak) in the south is pressing for a federal system with only two states. This would be followed by a referendum, which they hope would then lead to secession and a return to separate statehood for South Yemen (and, by default, North Yemen). They argue that the international community has already accepted the precedent in the case of Sudan, where greater autonomy for the south was followed by a referendum in favour of secession and eventual statehood for South Sudan, which has now become the newest member of the United Nations. But other parties are pressing for an alternative federal arrangement comprising five states, each with a high degree of autonomy, but without the risks to national unity posed by the two-state model.

Old Sana'a street crowd - photo credit Stefan Geens Old Sana’a street crowd – Photo credit Stefan Geens

Yemen (pop. 25m) is currently a unitary state with 21 regional governorates and 333 district councils, as well as over 130,000 communities, most of which are in remote desert areas. Yet in its discussions so far, none of the eight working groups of the NDC have given any attention to the extremely weak presence of the state at the district level, which is limited mainly to field offices of some central government line ministries. District council elections were last held in 2004 and the mandate of the handpicked councillors was extended for a further seven years when their three year mandate expired. In the absence of basic electoral accountability, corruption and mismanagement has flourished. Citizen participation in local service delivery is now virtually non-existent in many parts of the country, especially where tribal sheikhs have monopolised councillor posts.  Meanwhile Yemen has one of the worst indicators of human development in the world. The health and education sectors receive only 4% and 17% respectively of public expenditure, the majority of which is swallowed up by the security services (armed forces and police). UNICEF figures for 2012 show that an alarming 50% of under-fives are stunted, 15% suffer from severe malnutrition, 50% of households in rural areas do not have access to safe water, only 17% of births of children under five were registered, and the maternal mortality rate, at 200 per 100,000 live births, was one of the highest in the world.

Unlike the 1994 national dialogue in Bolivia, where independent civil society organisations (CSOs) played a major role in its deliberations, the NDC is dominated by political parties and vested interests. Whatever is the final outcome of its bargaining on the future shape of Yemen, it would be naïve to think that this reconfiguration will somehow be a panacea for meeting the urgent development needs of the people. In fact, the NDC urgently needs to incorporate the issues of citizen participation and the role of district councils in its deliberations. Why so? Because in country after country where, in the name of ‘decentralisation’, governmental reforms have preferentially strengthened an intermediate (state or provincial) tier of government, the latter has almost always sucked powers not only downwards from central government but also upwards from local government. This “decentralisation of centralisation”, with its attendant growth of an often venal and self-serving bureaucracy, has invariably produced negative consequences for basic service delivery and citizen empowerment at the local level.

Old Town SanaaOld Town Sanaa – Photo credit: Richard Messenger

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