(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

IRIN's top reads this week

Most read #3

Want to stay on top of the current debate around humanitarian and development issues without having to spend hours surfing the web?

Welcome to IRIN's reading list.

Every week our global network of specialist correspondents will share some of their top picks of recent must-read research, reports and in-depth articles while also highlighting key upcoming conferences and policy debates.


Five to read:

Can Iraq Be Saved?

Since the rise of the so-called Islamic State (IS) everyone is talking about the Sykes–Picot agreement, the deal signed by the French and British colonial powers at the end of the First World War that created contemporary Middle Eastern borders. An underling implication – one pushed by IS to rally wider Arab support – is that today’s crisis has deep historical roots. However, in this erudite article, respected Iraq expert and author, Toby Dodge, sets out to debunk this myth, warning against a over-simplified reading history that could “lead to weak policy prescriptions.”

The Race for U.N. Secretary-General Is Rigged

This Foreign Policy article by Colum Lynch looks ahead to the 2016 election of the next UN Secretary-General to see who might replace incumbent Ban Ki-moon. It is an intriguing window into some of the conversations taking place in the “midtown Manhattan coffee bars” and how while some names are in the ring, others are holding back for fear of being exposed to an early elimination. Lynch lists some of the possible contenders but also questions the way votes are made and whether it is really an “election” at all.

Humanitarian Innovation: The State of the Art

“Innovation” is the new “resilience” in aid worker circles, and its importance is underlined by its nomination as one of the four themes of the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit. But what is innovation in the humanitarian and development sphere? Is it high-tech solutions like tele-medicine? Or should it be the very opposite: finding new ways to operate in low-tech environments?  This paper from the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to learn more about innovation and associated vocabulary.

Regulation: Banks count the risks and rewards

This article looks at the de-risking of some of the world’s largest banks globally. While that may sound rather technical, the practical implication is the banks are far more hesitant to provide finance for projects across the developing world - including humanitarian work. Particularly hard hit are those in Africa and the Middle East and those with ties to Islam. Abdurahman Sharif of the Muslim Charities Forum said it was in fact driving aid underground, with growing examples of people carrying cash into Syria and Gaza.

Lessons from Burundi’s Security Sector Reform Process

The modern concept of reforming the security sectors of fragile states has been around since the 1990s. But in practice, few countries have really made it work. In this short paper for the US-based Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, Nicole Ball looks at how in Burundi, where a civil war claimed some 300,000 lives between 1993 and 2005, an SSR programme has significantly improved the ethnic integration and professionalism of the armed forces. One of the key lessons to be drawn from the Burundian case, says Ball, is that rather than being the exclusive province of the uniformed services, security is "everybody's business" and that discussions should bring in a wide array of stakeholders.

Upcoming Event:

Humanitarians Under Attack: Delivering Aid in Insecure Settings

There has been a hike in attacks on humanitarian workers in places like Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq and it is taking a toll on the delivery of emergency aid to people in need. What can be done to mitigate these risks, keep humanitarians safe and ensure help still gets through to those who need it most. On 20 November the Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action (ATHA) at 10am EST (3pm GMT) launches a new podcast discussing some of these issues. Interventions from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Humanitarian Outcomes.

Check out:

InfoRM (Index for Risk Management)

This is a new open-source global risk profile tool that allows you (as an individual or organization) to map the risk of humanitarian crises and disasters, as well as how the conditions that lead to them affect sustainable development. InfoRM is a collaborative project of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) and the European Commission. It uses global data covering 191 countries. You can pull up national or regional pictures and use the information to help inform decisions about prevention, preparedness and response. And even better, it’s totally free. Get profiling.

From IRIN:

Talking to the Taliban, again

Slowly but surely, NGOs and UN bodies are admitting it publicly - they are dealing with the Taliban again. For humanitarians this represents the end of a 14-year process where at the worst moments they became the civilian wing of a military occupation. Such deals have been developing in private for several years, but NGOs have been hesitant to discuss their relations with the Afghan Islamist group because of political pressure and counter-terrorism legislation. However, as foreign military forces prepare to complete their withdrawal from combat operations there, it has become increasingly clear that large swathes of territory will remain under Taliban control, and aid organizations feel they have no other option.


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