(Formerly called IRIN) Journalism from the heart of crises

  • Humanitarian innovation faces rethink as innovators take stock

    • At a Glance: Redefining innovation

    • A global innovation unit faces closure as sector pivots
    • Analysts say it has to be about solving structural issues not ‘shiny’ tech
    • Taking promising ideas to full-scale deployment is proving hard
    • Analysts say there’s still a need to join up hundreds of isolated initiatives
    • Underlying structural issues can’t be innovated away
    • Hype and buzzwords can cause a backlash

    More than 800 research and innovation units, labs, and other initiatives have sprouted in recent years across the UN and NGO world, accelerated by a global conference on the state of the humanitarian system. But innovation strategy is changing fast, and that means some are shutting up shop, while others are having to strike out in new directions.

    Change in the sector is underlined by the fact that one of its most high-profile outfits – the UK-based Global Alliance for Humanitarian Innovation – is threatened with closure, due to funding cuts and donors’ “shifting priorities”.

     

    GAHI’s executive editor, Rahul Chandran, said it will soon fold unless new funding can be found. A source at the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), citing “a number of challenges”, confirmed it would not be renewing funding for GAHI, along with three other donors. Jess Camburn, director of Elrha, a UK-based NGO that houses the £1.2 million project, said the hosting arrangement would lapse at the end of May.

     

    Faced with an aging set of tools to tackle the urgent needs of more than 135 million people worldwide, relief agencies are looking for new ways to operate. The sector has tried new ideas across the spectrum of its work, from assessing needs to delivering help, from managing finance to adapting its IT toolset.

     

    According to a series of interviews with leading figures in the field, humanitarian innovation strategy has changed since the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, which led to a proliferation of new ventures. “I think we’re maturing,” said Camburn.

     

    Most interviewees said the early chapters of innovation were overly enthusiastic about “gadgets” like drones, 3D printers, and mobile apps.

     

    Marking the new chapter, at least two groups, including GAHI, are using the expression “Innovation 3.0”.

     

    Camburn, whose NGO has managed a Humanitarian Innovation Fund since 2011, said the “innovation community” was now looking at broader, more complex problems, and for ideas more relevant to people in need. The community, she explained, is moving beyond a preoccupation with technology-based “quick fixes”, solutions as “products”, and “shiny new things”.

     

    Cautionary tales

     

    GAHI was announced at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit to link up aid agencies, innovation specialists, and private sector partners.

     

    Now listing 40 members, the alliance has also been looking at how to take innovative practice and scale it up. Its latest publication researched the potential of blockchain technology.

     

    Chandran, appointed in mid-2017, said the project only really got up to speed in 2018, due to bureaucratic and hiring delays. Now it “is at significant risk of closing”, he said, although he is still fundraising. Some of GAHI’s team of about 10 full-time staff and consultants have already left and planned work on ethics in humanitarian data management may not move forward.

     

    The initiative was backed by Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the UK to a total of about $1.65 million. The UK amount was part of DFID’s £50 million innovation spending portfolio. Definitions are blurred, so total spending on innovation is hard to track.

     

    Another venture launched after the World Humanitarian Summit was the Geneva-based Global Humanitarian Lab.

     

    Like GAHI, GHL aimed to stimulate system-wide innovation in the sector. It too listed about 40 partner organisations. But the original concept came to a halt in mid-2018, barely two years in. A former employee said the project ran out of cash “very quickly”.

     

    The former employee, who insisted on anonymity due to professional relationships, described the GHL concept, backed by Australia and Switzerland, as “just fantastic” but said the venture suffered from a lack of focus, being “fixated on the latest tech”, and “over-promising and under-delivering”.

     

    Founding organisations of GHL declined to offer detailed reasons for its closure to counter this characterisation. One major backer, the International Committee of the Red Cross, said its board members dissolved it “to explore an alternative model with revised objectives”. The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, another backer, said GHL had faced “difficulties inherent to any project gathering multiple partners and trying to bring new and innovative approaches.”

     

    Lower tech

     

    An innovation specialist at a large aid agency, speaking on condition of anonymity to allow for a frank assessment, confirmed the changing direction of humanitarian innovation.

    It’s now “at a bit of a crossroads” and facing up to thornier issues, including scale, the specialist said, adding: “We need to stop fetishising technology.”

     

    As innovation strategy matures, practitioners are facing up to some daunting challenges, the specialist said, listing: organisational culture, bureaucratic inertia, risk appetite, and legal and financial processes. The specialist also said the focus on technology had undervalued “backroom heroes” who come up with new ways of doing things in “prosaic spaces” like administration or human resources that may not even be recognised as “innovation”.

     

    Noting GAHI’s funding woes, and the fact that scaling takes years, many interviewees expressed sympathy: some five-year partnerships are only now coming to fruition. While insisting that GAHI was now “delivering”, Chandran said its initial donors may not have embraced “what it would take, how long it would take”, to have a system-wide influence.

     

    Innovation initiatives “struggle with anything that looks like scale,” said Helen Bushell, who, as international programmes director of Oxfam GB, manages $265 million in annual development and humanitarian spending and 150 staff.

     

    Aid innovation in specialist fields is “core” to Oxfam’s thinking, Bushell said. For example, in water and sanitation, she argued, “we have been consistently innovative”, both in improving basic water systems, but also new ideas, including a toilet that uses faeces-eating worms.

     

    “We need to stop fetishising technology.”

    Bushell divided innovation into three types: disruptive (“that’s the sexy end of it”), continuous improvement, and thirdly, strategic or fundamental changes (“how could you have 10 times the impact?”). Innovation efforts across the sector had succeeded in “forcing us to look at everything differently” but are “piecemeal”, she added.

     

    Limits

     

    A study commissioned for the World Humanitarian Summit from consultancy Deloitte suggested the humanitarian sector was ”lagging” in research and development. A DFID-funded paper in 2015 found funding for humanitarian innovation was “breathtakingly low”, with a provisional estimate of $37 million a year, or 0.27 percent of total global humanitarian spending.

     

    Despite an array of humanitarian innovation concepts and projects, some pre-dating the World Humanitarian Summit, most are working only within a single organisation, which limits their potential to affect the millions of affected people. “Collective action is the pathway to scale,” Chandran said.

     

    Camburn, of Elrha, suggested there was a gap for a “convenor” to work on shared challenges, if the membership model and agenda could be collectively agreed.

     

    Another innovation advisor said GAHI had suffered from the impression of slow delivery and a lack of results, but it may not have been given enough time to prove itself.

    Even the maturing innovation work in the sector is at a relatively superficial level, pointing to its inability to address fundamental issues or alter the wider system.

    The advisor, who requested anonymity to conserve professional relationships, said GAHI, in its defence, had tried to take a “considered approach” rather than the promotion-heavy “sequins and glitter” of some innovation labs and centres.

     

    Excessive hype has also led to a backlash. Some now “roll their eyes” even at the term “innovation” and the phenomenon of “chasing buzzwords” like AI, drones, or blockchain “makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit”, said the advisor.

     

    Moving on from “cool buzzy things” is good but innovation may not be able to tackle the structural “things we don’t talk about in aid work”, including power, rights, and agency, the advisor added.

     

    Even the maturing innovation work in the sector is at a relatively superficial level, some analysts said, pointing to its inability to address fundamental issues or alter the wider system.

     

    “It doesn’t matter how many gizmos you fund if those in power in the system don’t see real incentives for change,” said Kim Scriven, former manager of the Elrha fund.

     

    In response to questions from The New Humanitarian, an ICRC spokesperson said it was moving to a “tighter portfolio” in its “innovation journey”, and also noted the limitations. The main problems facing civilians in conflict are violations of humanitarian law, “constraints on access, unpredictable funding and multiple other challenges,” the spokesperson said. “These won't be solved with innovation.”

     

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    “It doesn’t matter how many gizmos you fund if those in power in the system don’t see real incentives for change”
    Humanitarian innovation faces rethink as innovators take stock
  • Mozambique storm; North Korea aid; and conflict spikes in South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen: The Cheat Sheet

    IRIN editors give their weekly take on humanitarian news, trends, and developments from around the globe.

    On our radar

    UN warns of ‘worst humanitarian catastrophe’ in Syria

     

    The UN said it had received $6.97 billion in pledges at a Brussels donor conference for Syria this week, shy of the $8.8 billion it had asked for to aid Syrian refugees as well as those still in the country in 2019. While participants emphasised the need for a political solution to Syria’s war, now entering its ninth year, the uptick in violence in rebel-held northwestern Idlib province is a stark reminder that it is far from over. Conflict monitor Action on Armed Violence said Russian airstrikes in Idlib city killed 10 civilians and injured 45 on Wednesday; Russia said it was targeting weapons owned by the al-Qaeda linked group Tahrir al-Sham. A Russia-Turkey deal has so far been holding off a full-scale government offensive on the territory. UN relief chief Mark Lowcock warned the audience in Brussels that such an offensive would “create the worst humanitarian catastrophe the world has seen in the 21st century”.

     

    Storms, floods, and a cyclone batter southeast Africa

     

    Half a million people in Mozambique's fourth largest city of Beira were plunged into darkness when tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall late on Thursday night, knocking down trees and power lines and destroying homes. This follows a week of heavy rains and flooding across southeast Africa that has already killed at least 126 people in Malawi, Mozambique, and South Africa. More than a million people have been affected in all. In Mozambique, the floods have already destroyed more than 5,700 homes, while in neighbouring Malawi, over 230,000 people are left without shelter. Both countries are prone to extreme weather events. In Mozambique, floods in 2000 claimed at least 800 lives and another 100 in 2015. In Malawi, the 2015 floods left at least 100 people dead and more than 300,000 others displaced.

     

    North Korea sanctions disrupt aid programmes

     

    Broad economic sanctions against North Korea are disrupting humanitarian work and having a detrimental impact on ordinary citizens, a UN rights watchdog says. In a report to the Human Rights Council this week, the special rapporteur for rights in North Korea, Tomas Ojea Quintana, said aid programming continues to see significant delays due to UN and government-imposed sanctions. Banks, suppliers, and transport companies are afraid of running afoul of sanctions, leading to humanitarian supply chains breaking down. The US government has also imposed travel restrictions on its citizens and blocked the delivery of essential supplies like hospital equipment, he said. The UN this month called for $120 million in aid funding. But last year’s appeal was only one-quarter funded, and humanitarian aid only reached one third of the people targeted.

     

    Uptick of violence threatens Yemen peace bid

     

    The UN-brokered ceasefire deal for Yemen’s northern port city of Hodeidah suffered yet another blow this week, with a group of NGOs warning that there had been a “major outbreak of violence” in the city in the last few days. As we (and plenty of others) have pointed out, the Hodeidah agreement was meant to lead to further peace talks for the whole of Yemen. Don’t hold your breath. Just to the north of Hodeidah, in Hajjah province, recent airstrikes and renewed fighting have killed and injured civilians. UNICEF reported that more than 37,000 people were forced to flee their homes inside Hajjah in March alone, and humanitarians are having trouble accessing those who need help. As Nigel Tricks, East Africa and Yemen regional director for the Norwegian Refugee Council, put it in a Wednesday statement: “Whilst the eyes of the world are on Hodeidah, airstrikes and shells continue to rain down on civilians in other parts of Yemen, killing with impunity.”

     

    A backtrack from the UN’s refugee agency

     

    UNHCR has reversed a decision that could have seen tens of thousands of ethnic Chin refugees from Myanmar stripped of refugee status. Last year, the UN agency controversially began a review process to determine whether the refugees, originally from Chin State and other parts of western Myanmar, still required international protection. But UNHCR said this week that a “worsening security situation” in parts of Chin State “has affirmed that Chin refugees may still have ongoing international protection needs”. The agency also announced that it would stop its protection re-evaluation process for Chin refugees. In recent months, renewed clashes between Myanmar’s military and the Arakan Army, an ethnic Rakhine militia, have displaced thousands in Rakhine and southern Chin states, including more than 3,200 in Rakhine this month. But even before the latest violence, refugee rights groups say reviewing refugee protections for ethnic Chin was clearly premature. The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network says there are more than 33,000 Chin refugees living in Malaysia and India.

    In case you missed it:

     

    The Democratic Republic of Congo: Cases of deadly pneumonic plague have emerged along Uganda's border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Health Organisation said, including in the Congolese province of Ituri, where health teams are struggling to tackle an ongoing Ebola outbreak.

     

    Rwanda-Uganda: Tension is rising between East African neighbours. Uganda denies it harasses Rwandan citizens and backs rebels. It says Rwanda is blocking trade. Rwanda’s president says it will never be "brought to its knees". His Ugandan counterpart said a “troublemaker” (unnamed) “cannot survive”. Regional mediation efforts have begun.

     

    Sudan: Diseases including measles, dysentery, and pneumonia are spreading rapidly in Darfur's Jebel Marra area, according to a rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-AW), that controls much of the territory. It called for outside assistance, saying dozens of people had already died from a shortage of medicines and medical staff.

     

    Venezuela: Week-long power outages crippled water supplies and cut off telephone and internet services to millions of Venezuelans already struggling with shortages of food and medicines. Amid reports of chaos and looting in the second city of Maracaibo, President Nicolás Maduro blamed “sabotage” and “American imperialism”. Others pointed to a bush fire and crumbling infrastructure.

     

    Yemen: The US Senate voted for a second time on Wednesday to end US support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen’s war. The resolution is expected to pass the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, but President Donald Trump has vowed to veto should it reach his desk.

     

    Weekend read

     

    In South Sudan, a ‘war on civilians’ despite six months of supposed peace

     

    On 15 December, South Sudan marked five years of war – almost 400,000 people dead, millions displaced, but also signs a peace deal was taking hold, with more people returning home to rebuild shattered lives. Sceptics, embittered by too many false dawns, advised against hoping too hard. It seems they were right. Not only, according to our weekend read, has fighting resumed, but it resumed some time ago – locals in the troubled Yei region even accuse the government of covering up violence to keep up the pretence of control. Tens of thousands of people have been newly displaced, Sam Mednick reports, many of them inaccessible to aid groups. Without new ideas and renewed international engagement, more violence and displacement appear inevitable, according to the International Crisis Group. First test ahead: the formation of a unity government in May.

     

    And finally…

     

    ‘Toothless’ UN migration document becomes far-right rallying cry

     

    Propaganda scrawled by a gunman involved in killing at least 49 people in New Zealand today referred to the Global Compact for Migration. A non-binding international agreement that one expert called “toothless” has become a rallying cry for the far-right and white supremacists worldwide. The three-year UN negotiation process aimed to agree “safe and orderly” migration after arrivals to Europe increased in 2015. It also hoped to stem xenophobia in wealthy countries and reassure developing nations that the walls were not going up entirely. But nationalist politicians pulled out of the process, led by President Trump, claiming the document would pave the way to more immigration. The compact sparked fierce political debate in New Zealand, even though it commits no member state to do anything. One analyst told IRIN it “doesn’t actually do much”. Well, you’d be forgiven for asking now whether it does, but in all the wrong ways.

    (TOP PHOTO: Families have taken shelter in a new makeshift camp north of Idlib, fleeing violence in southern rural Idlib. CREDIT: Aaref Watad/UNICEF)

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    Mozambique storm; North Korea aid; and conflict spikes in South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen
  • Aid groups worry new US anti-terror law could leave them liable

    A new US anti-terror law that has forced the majority of American-funded aid operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to grind to a halt may have even wider humanitarian consequences, leaving nonprofits around the world more vulnerable to litigation.

     

    While the 700-word bill appears to have been targeted at the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, experts say the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, or ATCA, is poorly crafted and could result in some non-governmental organisations and businesses being reluctant to take US funding or be associated with US-financed programmes.

     

    Signed in October last year and law as of 31 January, ATCA is an attempt by US lawmakers to make it easier for American courts to hear civil suits related to terrorist attacks abroad, specifically those involving authorities tied to the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

     

    Under ATCA, recipients of three kinds of aid – economic support funds (ESF), international narcotics and law enforcement (INCLE) funds, and financing earmarked for nonproliferation, anti-terrorism, and demining (NADR) – become subject to US “personal jurisdiction”.

     

    This means American citizens who have demonstrably suffered injury to “person, property or business” from international acts of terrorism can sue these recipients in US civil court. American NGOs that operate abroad were already subject to personal jurisdiction for such suits, but ATCA broadens this to any recipient.

    “There is a real risk that this could really cripple the US’ ability to find reliable foreign assistance partners in a lot of parts of the world where we really need them, particularly areas of conflict.”

    As a result of the law, the Palestinian Authority (PA) announced it would stop taking those forms of aid, leading the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to shut down its operations in the West Bank and Gaza in February. Other NGOs that receive funding via USAID and from the streams mentioned in ATCA followed suit.

     

    While the bill has so far only caused the shutdown of NGOs working in the West Bank and Gaza, there is no geographical limit in its wording. Experts, including Scott Anderson, a fellow at the Brookings Institution who has written extensively about the law and advised aid groups on its legal ramifications, say this means ATCA could have unintended and far-reaching consequences.

     

    “There is a real risk that this could really cripple the US’ ability to find reliable foreign assistance partners in a lot of parts of the world where we really need them, particularly areas of conflict,” he said.

     

    ATCA’s birth and immediate impact

     

    In 2015, a court awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to 10 families who were American victims or related to victims of terrorist attacks in the early 2000s. They argued that the PA and the Palestine Liberation Organisation, both headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, had offered financial support to the attackers and their families, running afoul of the US Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).

    The ruling was overturned, in part because even though the victims and plaintiffs held American citizenship, a higher court said the PLO and the PA couldn’t be sued in the US court system for attacks planned and carried out “entirely outside” American borders.

     

    Sponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley, ATCA, which clarifies the ATA, was largely the result of a campaign by the plaintiffs and their lawyers to allow Americans to do just that. After the bill passed, Grassley cited the case against the PA and the PLO: “Carrying out or assisting an act of international terrorism that injures or kills Americans abroad should provide sufficient justification to subject defendants to US legal sanctions,” his office said in a statement.

     

    The Palestinian Authority has received all three types of ATCA-specified aid in recent years. Unwilling to risk liability under the new law and a possible reactivation of earlier lawsuits against it, the PA told the United States in December that it would stop taking US funds from the three streams. It also ordered any NGOs using such funding to end their work in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Programming carried out by USAID-funded NGOs, including a planned rehabilitation of Gaza’s water system, have been halted.

     

    Eric Garduno, senior policy and legislative specialist at Catholic Relief Services, said all USAID-funded work on his organisation’s Envision Gaza 2020 programme – through which it provided food to more than 3,000 households – ended entirely when ATCA came into force.

     

    Garduno said 3,000 households was already well below their goal – due to previous US budget cuts and administration scrutiny – and added that he didn’t know how many people Catholic Relief Services would now be able to feed.

     

    “We are in sort of a limbo right now where we think at least some of the programmes that were closed on January 31 can be restarted if there is a change to ATCA, but I don’t know how quickly a change can happen now,” said Garduno. “We do know the longer this is delayed, the less likely any of these programmes will be restarted.”

     

    All of this comes at a sensitive time for NGOs working in the Palestinian territories, after a pro-Israel activist used another US law, the False Claims Act, to seek damages – successfully in at least one case – from nonprofits on the basis that their interaction with US terrorist-designated groups may amount to material support.

     

    Wider impact

     

    Overall, ESF, INCLE, and NADR funding totalled more than $6 billion in the last financial year and was received in more than 50 countries, including fragile humanitarian situations such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, and Yemen.

     

    The funds cover a wide range of activities, from sanitation to law enforcement. INCLE funds that have paid for security assistance in the West Bank have also been spent in countries like Afghanistan, Colombia, and Pakistan to combat the drug trade and finance other security measures.

    “Once people become aware of this, either they won’t want the US money, or they won’t want to do work in the rough and tumble neighbourhoods where we want them.”

    Courts will ultimately decide the breadth of the new law, but analysts say the lack of geographical specificity in ATCA means aid organisations or subcontractors that receive ESF, INCLE, or NADR funding – either directly or indirectly – could be left open to lawsuits if they implement programming in areas where US-designated groups such as the Taliban, al-Qaeda, or al-Qaeda affiliates like al-Shabaab operate. This may be true even if the only US funding they receive is for unconnected operations in a different country to the one where the ATCA and ATA-prohibited programming is being conducted.

     

    “There are partners that don’t have a US [base of some sort] that do get US foreign assistance on a pretty regular basis – usually subcontractors,” said Hady Amr, a former senior US diplomat who managed a $1.6 billion aid budget for the Middle East as deputy senior administrator at USAID. “Once people become aware of this, either they won’t want the US money, or they won’t want to do work in the rough and tumble neighbourhoods where we want them.”

     

    Kay Guinane, director of the Charity & Security Network, a group that coordinates nonprofits on regulatory issues, said foreign-based NGOs expressed concern in recent meetings that they may be vulnerable to lawsuits because of ATCA, and would not have the financial means to fight in court. She said the vagueness in US law over what constitutes material support for terrorist action, exacerbated by ATCA, had added to this anxiety.

     

    Few aid groups are willing to talk openly about the issue. “NGOs would be foolish to speak publicly about concerns with ATCA,” said Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. “Doing so would be the equivalent of painting a bullseye on their backs at which lawyers and potential litigants looking for targets [could] take aim.”

     

    "It's a hypothetical for now, but it's not paranoid to see [ATCA] as a very real potential threat,” Friedman said. "The potential use of this as a [legal] tool is only limited by the number of cases of US citizens injured overseas and the creativity of lawyers who in finding NGOs to sue."

     

    Neither USAID nor the US State Department responded to questions about whether they were using language in contracts – or warning partners in any other way – about the new implications of receiving ESF, INCLE, and NADR funding.

     

    “The assumption within a large part of the NGO community is that this could have a chilling effect on non-US or local NGOs who are willing to accept US assistance,” said Joel Braunold, executive director of the Alliance for Middle East Peace.

     

    Clarification

     

    While the NGO community waits to see what the full impact of ATCA will be, there have been unsuccessful attempts on the US side to adjust the law’s wording, especially since the PA stopped taking funding for security coordination with Israel, which includes aid to Palestinian security forces working with Israel on counter-terrorism measures.

     

    “We learned that no one on Capitol Hill thought ATCA would be interpreted in a way that would force NGO programmes to close,” said Garduno of Catholic Relief Services.

     

    NGOs hoped Congress would deliver a fix in the spending package President Donald Trump signed last month, but this didn’t happen and legislators have so far failed to amend the law.

     

    That doesn’t necessarily mean a change of some sort isn’t on the cards. A spokesperson for Grassley told IRIN was still willing to further “clarify” the law his office drafted, but said the senator blamed the State Department for only raising concerns about US assistance after the legislation had passed. The State Department declined to comment.

     

    “A lot of people, including the Trump administration, recognise the real problems here,” said Anderson of Brookings. “The broader question is whether there is going to be a fix for the broader impact this will have outside the West Bank.”

     

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    “A lot of people, including the Trump administration, recognise the real problems here”
    Aid groups worry new US anti-terror law could leave them liable
  • Local NGO risks, White Saviours, and the Sahel’s million new displaced: The Cheat Sheet

    IRIN editors give their weekly take on humanitarian news, trends, and developments from around the globe.

    On our radar

    Sahel violence displaces another million people

    Rising conflict and insecurity are accelerating forced displacement across the Sahel, and a new upsurge of violence along the Mali-Niger border has left 10,000 people in "appalling conditions" in improvised camps in Niger's Tillabéri region. The UN says IDP numbers in Mali have tripled to around 120,000. The UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund, or CERF, has allocated $4 million to assist 70,000 people who have fled their homes in just two months in Burkina Faso. Around 4.2 million people – a million more than a year ago – are currently displaced across the Sahel due to a combination of armed attacks by extremist militants, retaliation by regional militaries, and inter-communal violence.

    All NGOs are not equal, especially when it comes to risk

    When it comes to safety, security, and risk, power differences between local and international NGOs can lead to “perverse incentives”, according to the summary of a new report. Local NGOs often do the last mile of humanitarian work, especially in insecure situations. They are funded by much bigger INGOs that act as donors. But while INGOs have sophisticated risk management (10 cooperated with this study by US-based NGO alliance InterAction), their downstream “partners” are not treated the same. The physical safety of local NGO staff, for example, gets much less attention than compliance with financial and counter-terrorism regulations. The report spells it out: INGOs “put a far greater emphasis on the risks of their local partners as opposed to the risks to them.” The study includes case studies from Nigeria and South Sudan, as well as recommendations based on examples of improved practice found during the research.

    First drought, now floods

    Flash floods and landslides have killed more than 70 people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran, with numbers expected to rise as on-the-ground assessments trickle in. Parts of Afghanistan are particularly hard hit, with nine provinces reporting displacement or damage to homes and agriculture. Some 21,000 people need aid in the southern province of Kandahar alone, according to the UN. Aid groups worry the situation could worsen with continued rain and snowfall expected. Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran have been grappling with severe drought over the last several months, and heavy rainfall can increase the threat of floods on degraded land. An El Niño weather pattern could also bring more rainfall, combining with the drought impacts to make floods “more ruinous” this year, according to the UN. Which makes this a good time to read more on the complications of responding to emergencies in conflict-hit Afghanistan.

    Algeria rising

    Mass protests triggered by Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s decision to run for re-election in April were not quelled by the announcement that he “would not be a candidate” in future elections (after next month’s, that is). Bouteflika has been in power since 1999, was paralysed by a stroke in 2013, and does not speak in public. Demonstrators are speaking out about corruption, poverty, and poor social services – all issues causing young Algerians to attempt the journey to Europe, according to Omar Belchouchet, editor of an independent Algerian newspaper. “They are fed up with this authoritarian regime which is stifling people, which is pushing its own citizens to die in the Mediterranean,” he said. According to the UN, 7,300 Algerians arrived on Europe’s shores in 2018, up from 5,900 in 2017.

    An international treaty to protect women?

    Today is International Women’s Day, with events taking place across the globe. But this week also saw the launch of the campaign for an Every Woman Treaty, which would seek to limit violence against women the same way existing international agreements limit landmines and smoking. It’s a bold step, but systemic gender inequalities mean it’s more than just direct violence – like rape as a weapon of war – that the humanitarian sector needs to worry about. Women are disproportionately affected, whether they’re subsistence farmers most acutely feeling the effects of climate change, people displaced during conflict, or those abused by the very aid workers who are supposed to be helping them in times of crisis. Although women are also often on the front lines of disasters, leading the response in their communities, they still face barriers to inclusion. Explore our recent reporting to learn more about some of the key humanitarian issues facing women and girls today.

    A guide to ‘White Saviour’ media debates

    British TV audiences have a week’s blizzard of jokey fundraising to come, as Comic Relief gears up for a “Red Nose Nose Day” telethon. Almost as predictable as the line-up of UK comedians is controversy about its video packages from projects abroad. The use of famous Britons to frame field-based segments is accused of being sentimental, simplistic, and disrespectful. This year, early critics included online activists No White Saviours and British member of parliament David Lammy. Comic Relief responded by saying that “people working with or supported by Comic Relief projects tell their own stories in their own words.” The accusations and counter-arguments have a familiar feel: last year, Comic Relief’s segment with musician Ed Sheeran came under fire. Thinking you’d like someone to explain the cycle of critique and outrage from all sides? Take a look at  this blog, from communication academic Tobias Denskus of Malmö University: “White saviour communication rituals in 10 easy steps.”

    In case you missed it

    Central African Republic: Four of the 14 rebel groups that signed a peace deal with the government have reportedly withdrawn in protest of a newly formed government, which they believe is not representative. The fragile agreement was forged after negotiations in the Sudanese capital last month. For an inside look at efforts to keep the peace in CAR, check out our three-part special report.

     

    Iraq: Rather than considering children affiliated with so-called Islamic State as victims in need of rehabilitation, authorities in Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government have charged hundreds of young people with terrorism offenses because of affiliation with the group, according to Human Rights Watch. In a report released on Thursday, it said confessions are often obtained through torture.

     

    North Korea: The UN this week called for $120 million in funding for North Korea, warning of potential food shortages and the unintended impacts of sanctions blocking humanitarian aid. Nearly 11 million people in the country are considered undernourished – the root of health problems for many North Koreans. New reports suggest North Korea’s sanctions-hit economy has been imploding, with huge declines in exports in 2018.

    Syria: The UN says that as of 3 March, 90 people had died either en route or shortly after arrival to al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria, two thirds of them children under five. The camp’s population has swollen to more than 62,000 – 90 percent of them women and children – as thousands of people flee the last IS territory in the country. More than 5,200 new arrivals were reported by the UN between Tuesday and Thursday.

    US-Mexico: US officials say February was the busiest month for apprehensions at its southern border with Mexico in more than a decade – more than 76,100 people in total. The vast majority were families and unaccompanied children from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The rise is unusual, but still well below the highs of the 1990s and 2000s when as many as 1.6 million people were apprehended annually.

     

    Weekend read

     

    How dire climate change warnings are becoming a reality in Bangladesh

     

    The extent to which specific extreme weather events – and related humanitarian disasters – can be attributed to climate change can be a contentious subject and remains a matter of some debate. But try telling that to rice farmers in Bangladesh’s northeast. They have been left bewildered by a succession of warmer winters, drier summers, and more erratic rains. Our weekend read offers a real-time glimpse of how dire climate displacement warnings can become a reality: village by depleted village; family by displaced family. Scientists in December published research that showed that human-induced climate change “doubled the likelihood of extreme pre-monsoon rainfall” in Bangladesh during March and April 2017. Farmers like Shites Das in the northeastern village of Daiyya are in no doubt. "We have no fertility of land like in the past,” Das says. “This has happened because of climate change.”

    And finally

     

    Somali Night Fever

     

    Check out this film for a different take on Somali refugees and for a rare glimpse into a Mogadishu of the 1970s and 1980s, when trendy nightclubs were graced by “musicians rocking afros and bell-bottom trousers”. When civil war erupted in Somalia in the 1990s, it separated friends and families, and destroyed a once cosmopolitan way of life. As people fled, they took their culture and music with them. As Somalia changed, so the sounds of funk, disco, soul, and reggae that once filled the airwaves also fell silent. Decades later, many Somalis still live in exile – some resettled in other countries, others in refugee camps. Meet Habib, now in Sweden, and Abdulkadir, living in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya: two former band mates and best friends. Separated by the war, they remain wonderfully united by their love of music, and by their memories of a bygone era.

    (TOP PHOTO: An informal refugee settlement of Garin-Wazam in Diffa region, Niger. CREDIT: Vincent Tremeau/UNICEF)

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    Local NGO risks, White Saviours, and the Sahel’s million new displaced
  • UN probes substandard food aid for mothers and children

    The World Food Programme is investigating how up to 50,000 tonnes of nutrition-boosting porridge mix it purchased for distribution to nursing mothers and malnourished children in Somalia, Yemen, Bangladesh, and elsewhere was of substandard quality, despite its quality inspection process.

     

    The UN agency said it became aware of concerns over quality when one sample was tested in June 2018 for unrelated reasons, according to a statement issued on 11 February.

     

    WFP then initiated laboratory tests across other shipments of the porridge mix, branded as 'Super Cereal', which it “suspected of being below optimal standard”, a spokesperson for the agency said. The product was found to be low in protein and fat, with one batch containing 27 percent less protein than required. The product is safe to eat, the WFP noted.

     

    Independent nutritionists confirmed to IRIN the product would be safe to eat but said lower protein content – likely the result of an insufficient amount of soybeans – meant the supplement wouldn’t have the intended curative or preventative effects.

    Super Cereal can support the nutritional needs of nursing and pregnant women and can be used in school feeding programmes. It is also used to help prevent or reduce moderate acute malnutrition among under-fives, according to Patrick Webb, a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition at Tufts University, and former head of nutrition at WFP.

     

    These are “important food items that need to be produced to the highest standards in order to achieve intended impacts,” Webb said.

     

    The agency declined to confirm which of its suppliers is under investigation by its Office of the Inspector General. A spokesperson said investigators are determining if “operational error, negligence, or fraudulent behaviour” are at fault.

     

    WFP noted that it continues to issue millions of dollars in new contracts to the firm in question because there is a “limited pool” of suppliers of the product.

     

    In an emailed statement, the agency said it had put in place special measures: “WFP has issued contracts to the company for Super Cereal Plus under a new regime with intensified compliance and monitoring measures including more checks during the process, and daily reports from the company and from the inspection company.” Super Cereal Plus is an enriched version of Super Cereal and made up one third of the suspect 50,000 tonnes, according to WFP.

     

    Exacting quality standards, unpredictable contracts, and slim profit margins lead to little competition and incentives amongst manufacturers of the product, Webb noted. This means that “substandard practice rarely gets punished,” he said, as “there’s no one else to go to”.

     

    He said the market for such supplements “had a history of challenges, in large part because these are not run-of-the-mill items. They are specially designed nutritionally enhanced food products.”

     

    In addition to stringent production guidelines, Super Cereal requires careful storage and handling, is prone to damage from moisture, and has a relatively short shelf life, according to several aid officials. One said it’s “quite hard to handle in the field”. WFP reported less than one percent of post-delivery losses for any reason.

     

    Distribution and investigation

     

    In 2017, WFP purchased 247,000 tonnes of Super Cereal, out of three million metric tonnes of food it bought overall. WFP declined to give a costing of the 50,000 tonnes now under investigation. But based on estimates from another purchaser, who asked to remain anonymous, IRIN estimates the cost to be more than $30 million (excluding transport and shipping).

     

    Since the product was safe for consumption, WFP said it had revised distribution plans to make some use of it, for example in “general food distributions rather than in malnutrition treatment programmes”.

     

    The porridge mix was distributed to “many countries”, WFP noted, refraining from citing specific countries because of the ongoing investigation.

    The investigation is not without precedent. In 2017 WFP’s inspector general investigated fraud involving “submission of inaccurate or forged inspection certificates” by suppliers in Turkey.

     

    Webb said quality control issues were often caused by a problem in the manufacturing process, not bad intentions. “Something accidentally ends up in the wrong hopper,” he explained.

     

    Only a handful of other aid agencies purchase Super Cereal; most international NGOs that distribute the product get it as a donation in kind from WFP’s donor-funded supply or from USAID.

    22419025790_0d5201d20a_o.jpg

    US Mission to the UN Rome
    'Super Cereal' is one of a range of specialised nutritious foods used in humanitarian programmes to combat malnutrition.

    A food aid expert, who requested anonymity due to work relationships, said WFP’s quality control systems were now “quite robust”.

     

    WFP relies on third-party inspectors to take samples from every purchase order at the manufacturer, which are then examined and sent to laboratories for testing.

     

    According to WFP’s procurement web pages, the agency “appoints an independent third-party inspection company to verify that consignments conform to contractual terms.”

     

    A niche market

    Two European producers dominate the market for supplying WFP with Super Cereal: Belgium-based Michiels Fabrieken and CER.FAR SaS of Italy. Public documents show that each was awarded Super Cereal contracts worth about $60 million in 2018, and together they commanded about 80 percent of the value of WFP contracts for the product.

     

    A spokesperson for Michiels Fabrieken denied the company was under investigation by WFP when asked by IRIN. The CEO of the other, CER.FAR SaS of Italy, declined to comment.

     

    According to a businessperson familiar with the sector, the two manufacturers have “wiped out all other competition.”

     

    In January 2019 alone, the Italian firm won a further $8 million in new Super Cereal contracts.

     

    The businessperson, who spoke anonymously due to the sensitive business relationships involved, said other producers have been unable to maintain the quality standards and price points demanded by WFP.

     

    WFP is actively trying to diversify its suppliers and has contracted smaller batches of Super Cereal from companies, including in South Africa and Turkey, according to WFP’s public records.

     

    While WFP issued a public statement on 11 February, the issue was not raised in a working group devoted specifically to the use of food mixes and supplements last year, according to minutes of its September meeting. WFP told IRIN on 4 February that it had contacted “partners and stakeholders where this is operationally relevant”.  

     

    (Additional reporting by Lorenzo D’Agostino in Rome)

    (TOP PHOTO: In Ethiopia, Teshome Kalelew has come to collect WFP Super Cereal Plus for his wife, who’s just delivered twins. CREDIT: Michael Tewelde/WFP)

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    Investigators determining if “operational error, negligence, or fraudulent behaviour” to blame
    UN probes substandard food aid for mothers and children
  • Rival Venezuela pop concerts, the “triple nexus”, arming US aid officials: The Cheat Sheet

    IRIN editors give their weekly take on humanitarian news, trends, and developments from around the globe.

    On our radar

    Civilians may still be trapped in last Islamic State pocket in Syria

    A reported 2,000 people were evacuated from so-called Islamic State’s last pocket of territory in eastern Syria this week, but the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said there may still be civilians remaining in the village of Baghouz. Once screened for membership in the extremist group, many leaving the territory are taken to al-Hol camp. The UN says 61 young children have died since December on the way there or soon after arrival. The World Health Organisation’s head in Syria told IRIN recently that the security checks were delaying urgent healthcare and that local authorities had denied a request to set up a medical waystation. The SDF denied the charges, but since then UN agencies say they have set up just such a transit site “to address the high number of child deaths”. Some people who had fled Baghouz told Human Rights Watch of hunger and being trapped under heavy shelling, air strikes, and IS threats.

     

    “One after the other”: Tropical storms swarm the Pacific

    The cyclone season has put parts of the southwestern Pacific on high alert. Cyclone Oma threatened the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu for five days, sending over 1,000 to evacuation centres. The storm later brushed New Caledonia’s coast and was due to push towards Australia. Earlier this month, the cyclone warning system in Tonga sent out repeated alerts as four separate “extreme tropical weather systems” threatened the country. Tonga escaped severe damage, but the country’s head meteorologist said facing so many in quick succession was exceptional. Storms in the Pacific islands needn’t cause headline-grabbing death tolls to leave a lasting impact; officials in Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands were expecting food shortages after Oma wiped out some smallholdings. Vast distances make repairs and recovery difficult. For more on preparing for Pacific disaster, see our recent story on women fighting for a seat at the table: Fiji’s storm-watchers.

     

    South Sudan rights violations may amount to war crimes

    Despite the signing of last year's peace agreement in South Sudan, ongoing violations including rape and sexual violence "may amount to international crimes, including war crimes and crimes against humanity," according to a new UN report. Investigators with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan noted a "confirmed pattern" in the way combatants attacked and destroyed villages, plundered homes, and took women as sexual slaves. Sexual violence has worsened markedly since the commission's last update in December 2017; those targeted included children, the elderly, and pregnant women. Many sides of the conflict, including the army, national security forces, and rebel groups, were blamed for the violence, while the commission also investigated sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers. South Sudan remains one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises: 4.5 million people are displaced, seven million are in need of aid, and nearly 60 percent of the population will face severe food insecurity this year.

    Joining up billions in development, humanitarian, and peace spending

    The “triple nexus” may sound like an ice skating move, but it’s the new orthodoxy in aid. A “recommendation” was adopted today by members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The OECD says its donor states command over $74 billion of international funding in “fragile” situations. The new Development Assistance Committee policy says long-term development, peacemaking, and emergency relief should have complementary goals and together could “avoid the occurrence of humanitarian needs”. One aid agency nexus-watcher told IRIN that after much discussion in the aid community it was a relief to see clear definitions and terminology emerge. A source familiar with the discussions said “more must be done to prevent crises and deal with structural issues and root causes, rather than leaving the humanitarian system to pick up the pieces”. The text refers six times to continued respect for humanitarian principles: critics question how humanitarian neutrality and independence sit with politically-flavoured development and peace efforts.

    In case you missed it

    Burkina Faso: More than 100,000 people have been displaced by instability and fighting in the West African country, according to the UN. Tens of thousands have fled this year, as rising militancy and attacks by armed groups affect the North, Sahel, and Eastern regions.

     

    Madagascar: More than 900 people have died since a measles epidemic began in the huge island nation in September, the WHO said. Over 68,000 cases have been documented; those most at risk are infants from nine to 11 months old.

     

    Myanmar: Restrictions on humanitarian access in Rakhine State are affecting some 95,000 people due to ongoing clashes between the military and the Arakan Army, an ethnic Rakhine insurgent group, according to the UN’s humanitarian coordination arm. More than 5,500 people have been displaced since December.

     

    Refugee resettlement 2018: UNHCR says 55,692 refugees were permanently resettled in 2018. The UN refugee agency says that’s only about five percent of those they think were eligible. Despite deep cuts in its quota, the US took in more than any other nation. IRIN explored the numbers here.

     

    Yemen: UN envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths told the Security Council on 19 February that the two main sides in Yemen’s war had agreed to withdraw from a small port and oil facility near the Red Sea city of Hodeidah, in a first step towards implementing a much-discussed ceasefire deal for the city.

     

     

    Weekend read

    Opinion: Why the Venezuelan opposition’s high-stakes aid gamble must pay off

    As we write this, Venezuela is top of many media headlines as a quarter of a million people are estimated to be assembling on the border, in Colombia. The presidents of Colombia and Chile are expected – and maybe even Richard Branson. He is backing the concert they’re all there to see, Venezuela Aid Live. The event’s sponsors say it will raise $100 million to help the millions of Venezuelans living with shortages of, well, nearly everything. Branson even suggests that the performance could help persuade Venezuela’s military to defy orders and open the border – sealed tight by President Nicolás Maduro – to aid shipments; shipments that opposition leader Juan Guaidó is inviting. Meanwhile, on the Venezuelan side of the border, Maduro is hosting his own benefit concerts on Friday and Saturday. What’s a humanitarian to make of all this? Analyst and columnist Francisco Toro offers a reality check in his essay on what he calls the “increasingly blatant politicisation of aid”. $100 million for food and medicine, for instance, “is completely out of proportion” with the scale of need in Venezuela. And if you’re concerned about the politicisation of aid, you might like to check out this from The Guardian, on the politicisation of, um, bread.

    And finally

    US-armed donor proposal stirs alarm

    A new type of US government aid official could be embedded with US intelligence or military forces in insecure hotspots to work on certain tactical projects. They would be “super enablers”, according to a proposal developed by consultants hired by USAID. The proposed two-person Rapid Expeditionary Development (RED) teams would be physically fit, armed, and able to deploy where USAID can’t send civilians. The proposals met with some support in the US military and intelligence communities, and mixed views from within USAID, the 75-page report said. The concept, first reported by Devex, has been met with dismay by some in the humanitarian Twittersphere, earning reactions such as “wannabe SEALS” and “incredibly unwise”. Also, it’s been met with a humanitarian principles meme (a Ranger tab is a badge indicating completion of a very tough two-month US Army training course):

    (TOP PHOTO: Some of those fleeing besieged IS territory in Syria. CREDIT: Constantin Gouvy/IRIN)

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    Rival Venezuela pop concerts, the “triple nexus”, arming US aid officials
  • South Sudan clashes, local aid partners, and a €500 million grant: The Cheat Sheet

    IRIN editors give their weekly take on humanitarian news, trends, and developments from around the globe.

    On our radar

    Thousands flee renewed violence in South Sudan

    Last week, UN envoy for South Sudan David Shearer said fighting had “diminished greatly” since a September peace agreement. He may have spoken too soon. It has since emerged that clashes in the Equatoria region have displaced about 8,000 people internally and sent 5,000 more fleeing across the border into eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which is in the midst of an Ebola outbreak. Most of the refugees and IDPs are women, children, and the elderly – many traumatised after they “witnessed violent incidents, including armed men reportedly murdering and raping civilians and looting villages," according to Babar Baloch, spokesman for the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR. The clashes began last month between the army and the National Salvation Front, or NAS, one of more than 70 armed groups in South Sudan – and one that didn’t sign last year's accord. Five years of civil war have left 1.9 million South Sudanese internally displaced and 2.4 million living as refugees in neighbouring countries.

    Overhead costs in focus for world’s largest aid grant

    The World Bank and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) are among those competing with the UN's World Food Programme for a €500 million European Commission grant. The project supports 1.5 million refugees with cash allowances in Turkey. It’s the largest single humanitarian grant in the world, accounting for about 31 percent of the EC’s emergency aid budget. One of the issues will be indirect costs. A recent EC audit questioned the seven percent overhead fee paid to WFP (to be reduced to 6.5%), which ran the first phase of the project. WFP told IRIN it is following the financial rules set by its board, which includes EU member states. The Emergency Social Safety Net project is largely implemented by the Turkish Red Crescent. Its chief, Kerem Kinik, in a statement to IRIN, declined to back a bidder, saying his organisation "remains in promotion of an impactful and cost-efficient programme design".

    Yemen heading towards ‘catastrophe’: UN experts

    The UN Panel of Experts on Yemen released its annual report to the public this week. It makes for grim reading on 2018, a period during which the country “continued its slide towards humanitarian and economic catastrophe”. In 224 pages, the group details “widespread violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law by the various parties involved in the conflict”. Tip: For the group’s look at humanitarian assistance – including the Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s obstruction of civilian flights out of Sana’a, and the Houthi rebels’ arrest of aid workers and interference in the selection of aid beneficiaries – skip to page 56. In other Yemen news, the US House of Representatives passed a bill that would end the country’s support for the war. It still has to pass the Republican-controlled Senate, and President Donald Trump’s pen. If you’re confused, yes, last year a similar resolution failed in the House and passed in the Senate, but members have come and gone since then, and the resolution has changed too.

    Counting the cost of internal displacement

    People displaced within their own borders could be costing the global economy nearly $13 billion a year, according to new research by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. Researchers assessed costs for eight countries experiencing conflicts or disasters, including Central African Republic, Libya, the Philippines, South Sudan, and Yemen. CAR was found to have the highest financial impact for each displaced person – about $230 million, or 11 percent of the country's GDP, per year. The research found that the highest burdens come from lost income, support for housing, and healthcare. People in low-income countries were also impacted worse than those in lower-middle or upper-middle income countries. Internal displacement "places a heavy burden on the economy," said Alexandra Bilak, director of the IDMC, "generating specific needs that must be paid for by those affected, their hosts, governments or aid providers". For more on how IDPs need greater protection, read this opinion we published earlier in the week.

    Examining aid partnerships

    Major donors and aid groups have made broad promises to “localise” aid – putting more power and funding in the hands of locals when crises hit. But change has been slow on the ground, to the frustration of many local NGOs, as we’ve documented in our continuing reporting on locally driven aid. So how can local and international groups make this all work? New research examines aid partnerships in four countries – Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, and South Sudan – to look at what kinds of practices might contribute to “localising” aid. There are the positives (locals participating in project design and budgeting), and the negatives (internationals taking credit for local work). But, unsurprisingly, most of the local humanitarians interviewed in the studies said existing partnerships between international and local organisations are not equitable – closer to the subcontracting that characterises many aid relationships. Yet genuine, long-term partnerships are seen as the most likely to accelerate “localisation” reforms. The ongoing research, which you can read here, comes from a consortium of NGOs including Action Aid, CAFOD, CARE, Christian Aid, Oxfam, and Tearfund.

    ‘I am free from the conflict, but I do not feel free’

    The number of child soldiers around the world has more than doubled since 2012, according to Child Soldiers International’s analysis of six years of UN reports on children and armed conflict. The latest report verified 8,185 cases of child recruitment in 15 countries – a 159 percent rise on the 3,159 cases verified in 2012.

    Co-produced by a former child soldier, a new project brings to life the voices of 27 children who were recruited into conflict in northern Uganda. There’s a taster below, but you can view the full comic here.

    screenshot_2019-02-15_at_06.51.01.png

    © YOLRED and courtesy of Jassi Sandhar (University of Bristol)

    In case you missed it

    Germany: The German authorities have arrested two former officers of Bashar al-Assad’s secret service alleged to have tortured critics of the Syrian president. A third man is reported to have been arrested in France. Germany accepts the principle of universal jurisdiction, allowing its courts to try individuals accused of international crimes committed elsewhere – including war crimes, crimes against humanity, even genocide.

    Haiti: After more than a week of protests over corruption amid soaring prices and inflation, President Jovenel Moïse finally broke his silence on Thursday, refusing to step down and urging patience. At least seven people have been killed during demonstrations sparked by anger at the government and the business elite over a $2 billion development aid scandal. More protests and street gunfire was reported in the capital, Port-au-Prince, after Moïse’s speech.

    Kashmir: The deadliest militant attack to hit Indian-administered Kashmir in three decades killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary troops this week, raising tensions in a disputed region that has seen frequent civilian demonstrations against military abuses. The bomb blast was claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e Mohammad, a banned Islamist group.

    Myanmar: The military is shelling villages and blocking humanitarian access in Rakhine State, according to Amnesty International. Rights groups say some of the same army divisions involved in the violent 2017 ouster of 700,000 Rohingya – labelled as a likely genocide by UN investigators – are now being deployed in a crackdown on the ethnic Rakhine Arakan Army.

    Sudan: Sudanese government forces have used "extreme violence and shocking abuses" against largely peaceful protesters, Human Rights Watch said, urging the UN to conduct an independent investigation into the violations. Activists estimate that more than 50 people have died since anti-government demonstrations began in mid-December, while at least 79 journalists have reportedly been arrested.

     

    Weekend read

    International politics and humanitarian aid collide in Venezuela

    The new D-Day for Venezuela is 23 February. This is when opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaidó has said humanitarian aid will enter the country to alleviate the suffering of Venezuelans gripped by widespread shortages of food and medicine. Guaidó has urged the armed forces, who remain loyal to President Nicolás Maduro, to allow the aid in. But there’s no indication Maduro, whose presidency Guaidó denounces as illegitimate, intends to do any such thing. In our weekend read, journalist Paula Dupraz-Dobias unpicks the different strands of what has become an international aid stand-off, with aid agencies caught in the middle and uncertain what to do next. This briefing is essential reading as the showdown continues to obscure a humanitarian crisis that may be denied by Maduro, but shows no sign of letting up.

    And finally

    We recommend you check out this entry to the New York Times’ Lens blog, which features the work of photographer Wesaam al-Badry. Al-Badry and his family fled Iraq just before the Gulf War for Nebraska, and his photos beautifully document their life in the United States, warts and all. There are weddings, a prison release ankle monitor, and an Arabic-language American newspaper. “My family are not one dimensional characters in a refugee story,” al-Badry says. “They have multiple layers, they have their own personalities, their own agency and ways of manoeuvring through life.”

    (TOP PHOTO: A child holds up a map in the Protection of Civilians site in Bor, South Sudan. CREDIT: JC McIlwaine​/UN Photo)

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    South Sudan clashes, local aid partners, and a €500 million grant
  • The world’s 40 million invisible refugees

    People displaced within their own countries – whether by conflict or disaster – often struggle for the same recognition and protections afforded to refugees. And yet the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement were launched 21 years ago today – the creation of Sudanese diplomat Francis Deng, then the UN’s special rapporteur for IDPs, or internally displaced persons.

    The 30 principles built on pre-existing instruments such as the Geneva Conventions, the 1951 Refugee Convention, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – all of which ratifying governments had committed to. They reminded national governments of certain absolute obligations towards their citizens, those laid down in international humanitarian law. More than two decades later, governments continue to routinely fail to implement Deng’s principles; in Africa this is despite the African Union having made them binding through the 2009 Kampala Declaration.

    The grossest violations of international law can be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice, and specialised courts such as those set up for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. But when IDPs can’t enjoy basic rights found in domestic law – for example to education, health services, or to vote – it speaks to deep problems of neglect that can’t be prosecuted by international bodies.

    The lack of application of the guiding principles since 1998 reveals not only a lack of awareness of the needs of IDPs, but also of the inability of states to prevent and resolve the crises that force people to flee within their own country.

    When IDPs can’t enjoy basic rights found in domestic law – for example to education, health services, or to vote – it speaks to deep problems of neglect that can’t be prosecuted by international bodies.

    When the principles were born, there were 20 million IDPs; by the end of 2017 there were twice as many – a rise driven by protracted conflicts and a growing number of extreme weather events. Those who flee from armed conflicts often remain IDPs for many years, while those who are forced away because of storms, floods, or earthquakes tend to return sooner.

    So what can be done to improve the lives of the world’s 40 million IDPs?

    In a 2018 analysis for the 20th anniversary of the guiding principles, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) in Geneva – established at the initiative of the Norwegian Refugee Council in the year the principles were launched – identified three urgent issues for further action.

    First, the economic consequences of internal displacement need to be properly assessed. In terms of shelter, healthcare, and food, these can be estimated with relative ease, but the more intangible societal burden – lost opportunities in education, investments and revenue, psychological trauma, and social fragmentation – is harder to pin down. IDMC has begun a new programme to estimate these costs, so that the real burden to societies becomes known and can be factored into national plans and budgets.

    Second, access to data on existing levels and new flows of internal displacement must be improved. IDMC uses a broad range of formal and informal sources for its statistics – sources often afflicted with considerable uncertainty as states don’t always register the correct information or make data public.

    Finally, and most importantly, governments in the affected countries must be encouraged and supported to take more responsibility for their IDPs.

    Much has happened in terms of protection and assistance during displacement, but a great deal remains to be done to prevent flight in the first place, and to enable safe return and reintegration. Many states are not taking these responsibilities as seriously as their citizens have the right to expect. And some are committing, or allowing, grave violations of international humanitarian law and human rights. Displacement has, in some countries, been enforced, or even prevented, through siege. And several fragile and conflict-prone states lack the capacity to even implement the principles.

    In Somalia, for instance, IDPs find their way to cities when violence, drought, and floods undermine their rural livelihoods. The largest increase in 10 years occurred in 2017 – there are now 600,000 IDPs in Mogadishu. In the absence of legislation and regulations, they live under great insecurity, especially in the capital. As the value of land where they have settled rises in the growing economy, they risk being forcibly evicted by landowners belonging to a different clan than their own. They are extremely vulnerable, mostly living in poor shelters without access to clean water, healthcare, or education.

    In Ethiopia, the new government has created political openings and the beginning of reconciliation with Eritrea. But communal tensions over access to natural resources in 2018 led to violence between ethnic groups in the south of the country that created the largest number of new IDPs anywhere in the world. Hundreds of thousands of these people were being assisted with relative efficiency by the authorities but were forced to return towards the end of the year under the threat of having assistance taken away – even though the conflict in the south remained unresolved. Many Ethiopian IDPs have ended up in a new cycle of precarious displacement with little hope of rebuilding their livelihoods.

    Last year's global compacts on migration and refugees, for instance, didn't even try to address the IDP issue.

    In Syria, a degree of repressive stability is emerging as the regime regains control of large parts of the country. But 2.9 million new IDPs were added in 2017 – many finding themselves in Idlib province, which remains under threat from a new military offensive. Syrian IDPs are often hard to reach for humanitarian actors struggling to gain access to areas both under and outside of government control. For a long time the regime failed to properly acknowledge the existence of IDPs. Both the regime and rebel groups used besiegement as a war strategy – to force the population onto its knees by depriving them of food, water, and medical assistance. A new law gives the authorities the right to seize land and property for redevelopment, only providing compensation if the owner is able to prove ownership within one year – this will hit refugees and IDPs hard and make return and reintegration more difficult.

    States can always invite the UN's refugee agency, UNHCR, or other agencies into their countries to assist IDPs, but many are reluctant to commit to anything that they see as a challenge to national sovereignty – especially anything that is legally binding. Last year's global compacts on migration and refugees, for instance, didn't even try to address the IDP issue.

    The number of people forced to flee violence and the impacts of climate change is growing. The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement should be increasing their chances of receiving protection and assistance. But they need to be respected and, without the political will to prevent people from being forced to leave their own homes in the first place, they are insufficient.

    (A version of this article was first published, in Swedish, in the online magazine Mänsklig Säkerhet)

    (TOP PHOTO: A young Somali girl walks through an IDP camp near the town of Beletweyne, Somalia​. CREDIT: Tobin Jones/AMISOM Photo​)

    The world’s 40 million invisible refugees
  • Madagascar measles, Venezuela aid, and a dodgy data deal: The Cheat Sheet

    IRIN editors give their weekly take on humanitarian news, trends, and developments from around the globe.

    On our radar

    MSF rejects claims it didn’t follow plans to avoid Yemen bombing

    An investigation into the bombing of a Médecins Sans Frontières cholera treatment centre in Yemen in June 2018 has “dismayed” the NGO. A panel appointed by the Saudi Arabia-led alliance found that the new and still-empty building had been bombed by the coalition in “an unintended error”. The investigators, however, disputed details of how the location’s coordinates were supplied to Riyadh and whether there were markings on the roof of the building identifying it as a humanitarian site. At a Riyadh press conference in mid-January, the official spokesman for the investigators said the coalition was acting on intelligence the building was used for arms and ammunition storage. MSF said the findings were “unacceptable and contradictory”, noting that under international law, “It is the sole responsibility of armed parties to the conflict to proactively take all necessary measures to ensure that protected facilities are not attacked.” For more on notifications and coordinates, read our IRIN explainer on “deconfliction”.

    Measles kills more than 300 in Madagascar

    Madagascar is suffering its worst measles outbreak in decades. More than 50,000 people have been infected and at least 300 killed, most of them children, according to health officials. Cases have been reported in all major towns and cities, as well as in rural areas. Supported by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, the government has initiated fresh vaccination campaigns. Deaths from measles are avoidable if such campaigns are thorough enough. The virus gained ground in Madagascar as immunisation rates fell below 50 percent (from the recommended 90 percent), mostly due to access difficulties. This IRIN story from the archives is evidence that this is not a new problem: health experts were expressing concerns about falling rates (then from 81 percent to 64 percent) as far back as 2011. Although worst hit, Madagascar is not alone in having to tackle the virus. Measles has also struck parts of the United States and Europe, where cases tripled last year. Health authorities in the Philippines are also urging immunisations following an outbreak in Manila and nearby regions that has left 1,500 people infected and caused at least 25 deaths.

    Atrocities feared amid rising militancy in Burkina Faso

    Attacks and counter-attacks between militants and security forces in Burkina Faso are taking a heavy toll on civilians. This week, jihadists attacked the northern village of Kain near the Malian border, killing 14 people. Security forces retaliated, launching ground and air assaults that left 146 militants dead. Soon after, another attack in Oursi in the Sahel Region left 21 militants and five gendarmes dead. Human Rights Watch has called out atrocities on both sides, saying the army "executed" some suspected militants in front of their own families. The UN says persistent armed attacks and violence displaced 36,000 people in January alone, as insecurity risks impeded access to aid. For three years, Burkina Faso has been battling an escalating wave of attacks, while regional Sahel neighbours Mali and Niger face similar threats. Rising militancy across Africa is a trend we’re  watching in 2019.

    Aid stuck on Venezuela border

    As a former Venezuelan diplomat now working with the opposition as a go-between with international aid groups in Geneva told IRIN  this week, the current situation is “something that doesn’t make any sense”. The Venezuelan people are desperately short of food and medicine, some three to four million people have fled the country since 2015, and their president, Nicolás Maduro, is refusing to allow humanitarian aid in. That’s not to say the offers of assistance, from the United States in particular, might not be something of a Trojan Horse. Maduro says, “no one will enter, not one invading soldier”, and the United States has a chequered past of military intervention and regime change in Latin America. For now, the aid arriving in the Colombian border town of Cúcuta is going nowhere. Maduro’s forces have blocked the bridge into Venezuela and seem to have no intention of allowing it in. Opposition leader and self-declared president-in-waiting Juan Guaidó has suggested stockpiling it in three locations at the border in the hope this will change. More from on this unfolding story next week.

    Mixed picture in South Sudan as refugees return

    Political violence has “dropped dramatically" since the signing of September's peace deal, David Shearer, the UN envoy in South Sudan, said in the same week that nine people were killed in clashes between rebel factions in the Western Equatoria region. More than 20,000 South Sudanese refugees have so far voluntarily returned from neighbouring Uganda, according to Joel Boutroue, the UN refugee agency's representative in Uganda. However, in December, UNHCR said that despite reduced violence in some areas, South Sudan was not yet "conducive” for the safe return of refugees. Although Shearer praised some of the "positive" developments in recent months, including rebel leader Riek Machar's plan to return to Juba in May, he also flagged concerns about ongoing conflict and a loss of momentum in the peace process, with recent meetings reportedly lacking substance or real outcomes.

    One to listen to:

    In this week’s story on Yemen’s shaky ceasefire deal, we mentioned that Yemeni rights watchdog Mwatana for Human Rights had documented 624 civilian cases of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and torture in 2018. Here’s your chance to find out more about where that number came from: Radya al-Mutawakel, the organisation’s co-founder, is interviewed at length on the latest episode of the International Rescue Committee’s podcast, “Displaced”. She talks about the challenges of independently verifying information on human rights violations in the midst of a divisive war, including airstrikes, torture, disappearances, and detention, and explains why she thinks it is important to build what she calls a “human rights memory” in Yemen. Al-Mutawakel and Mwatana’s latest challenge? Figuring out how to document starvation as a  violation, as the link between victim and perpetrator is not always clear cut.

    In case you missed it

    Ethiopia: In 2009, Ethiopia banned local NGOs from raising more than 10 percent of income from abroad. The provision in the law governing civil society was criticised as a means to stifle dissent. Local media report that new rules lifting the limit have passed the Ethiopian parliament this week, part of wide-ranging reforms under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

     

    Syria: A joint UN-Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid convoy arrived on Thursday at Rukban, an informal camp located in a no man’s land near the Syria-Jordan border. The last delivery of aid to more than 40,000 people sheltering in the area known as “the berm” was in November.

     

    Tonga: Authorities in the Pacific Island nation are warning of gale-force winds, floods, and damaging waves as a tropical depression brushes past the country over the weekend. Last year, Cyclone Gita landed a direct hit on parts of Tonga, including its main island, Tongatapu.

     

    Yemen: This week’s Amman talks on a Yemen prisoner swap have not yet resulted in agreement on the lists of names to be exchanged, but a UN spokesman said separate talks on a UN boat had yielded a “preliminary compromise” on withdrawing forces from Hodeidah. For background, read this.

     

    Weekend read

    New UN deal with data mining firm Palantir raises protection concerns

    Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days, you’ll be aware of our weekend read: CIA-funded data-mining company Palantir signs a $45 million five-year deal to help the UN’s World Food Programme pool its data and find cost-saving efficiencies. To say data privacy and protection activists are unamused is an understatement: this is a company that provided software to US customs officials to help them deport migrants. “The recipients of WFP aid are already in extremely vulnerable situations; they should not be put at additional risk of harm or exploitation,” Privacy International told IRIN’s Ben Parker. But WFP insists there will be no “data-sharing”, and hit back with a statement outlining its thinking and the safeguards it feels are in place. This wasn’t enough, however, to assuage critics, who penned an open letter to WFP urging them to reconsider the agreement and be more transparent. As Centre for Innovation protection experts suggest here, this isn’t a new conundrum, and the Palantir furore might jolt the humanitarian sector into some belated engagement on data privacy and protection concerns.

     

    And finally...

    Hot in here

    The last four years have been the four warmest years on record, according to separate analyses released this week by organisations including NASA and the WMO, the UN’s meteorological agency. Analysts say it’s a “clear sign” of long-term climate change, along with “extreme and high-impact weather” that affected millions. The WMO says the average global temperature in 2018 was 1.0° Celsius above pre-industrial levels – climate scientists say temperature rise must be limited to less than 2.0° to stave off the worst impacts.

    il-bp-as-si/ag

    Madagascar measles, Venezuela aid, and a dodgy data deal
  • Director’s Dispatch: Aid and the elite

    Over the last three years of attending the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, I have watched as people and themes not traditionally associated with that high-profile gathering of business and political elites move into the spotlight.

    Official sessions this year ranged from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals to investing in fragile states. A simulation of a day in the life of a refugee allowed CEOs and government ministers to experience what it’s like to be held up at gunpoint or taken away to be raped. An entire day of programming was devoted to the oceans. Advertisements plastered on the town’s streets sported corporate slogans like this one from Salesforce: “Because making the world better is everyone’s business.”

    I walked past a media scrum, expecting the mass of journalists to be waiting for a head of state or Fortune 500 CEO; they were crowded around for 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, a Swedish climate activist who put the corporate elite in their place when she told them they had caused many of the world’s problems.

    From Amnesty International to the Rockefeller Foundation, from a small Indian relief organisation to the International Committee of the Red Cross – whose president sits on WEF’s board – many non-profit types attend Davos because they believe that only by having a seat at the table can they affect those with power and influence.

    Are they right?

    will_i_am_1920.jpg

    Heba Aly/IRIN
    At an evening reception called “Innovation with Purpose”, will.i.am presents a new app to help people take ownership of their personal data.

    Self-doubt and tough questions

    That question troubles many in the non-profit sector, for whom the real concern with Davos goes beyond the hypocrisy of eating canapés while discussing hunger or paying thousands of dollars for a mattress on a floor in a shared room.

    They are aware of the well-trodden critique: that for all the willingness of today’s titans of technology and finance to put climate change and income disparity centre stage, their eagerness to solve the world’s problems lasts only as long as the solutions don't threaten their own wealth and power.

    Those fears can run deeper “on the inside”, for instance that even the presence of civil society at gatherings like Davos risks legitimising an approach that avoids real transformation of the system – a system that underpinned the rise of the elite and caused most of the world’s problems in the first place.  

    As one person working for social change told me: “So we’re talking about migration and climate change, great. But are we really tackling the fundamental issues? Us being here – isn’t it hiding the real issues?”

    I asked Mohammed Hassan Mohamud, a Somali refugee and a co-chair of the meeting, for his take. His appointment to that post – a position usually reserved for the likes of Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, and Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft – itself signalled a shift at Davos.

    I had met Mohamud about six months earlier, at his home in the Kakuma refugee camps of Kenya during a WEF-organised trip for its network of young leaders, of which I am one.

    When he spoke to our group at Davos, he told us bluntly: “Next Saturday, I’m going [back] to the camp… Let’s be really honest and tangible about what we can do.”

    Co-chair of the World Economic Forum 2019 in Davos

    This year, the World Economic Forum asked a refugee to co-chair its annual meeting in Davos.

    At the end of the week, I caught up with Mohamud again.

    “I am grateful for the platform to get my message across,” he said. “But people [at Davos] want quick solutions,” he added, “like building a library in the camp. We shouldn’t normalise the camp.”

    I heard similar frustrations at the lack of attention to addressing more deep-rooted change.

    At a session about the Sahel, for instance, leaders in government, the private sector, and aid talked about the need for development and investment – but they didn’t tackle the geopolitics and foreign interference causing the instability in Africa.

    The world has seen massive progress in recent decades, true, but have the underlying structures of power changed?

    ‘The definition of insanity'

    WEF is a non-profit foundation and its mission, according to its latest statutes, is to bring together “leaders from business, governments, academia and society at large into a global community committed to improving the state of the world.”

    Around a decade ago, WEF began inviting civil society into its meetings at scale*.

    Critics saw the move as a smart response to protests against the forum’s exclusivity. But those close to WEF’s founder and contentious leader, Klaus Schwab, see his motivation as genuine. They say he recognised that the policy-making of the 1950s – governed by business people and political leaders – was not the policy-making of the future. In transforming WEF into a multi-stakeholder platform, his supporters argue, he created a unique, neutral, and impartial platform for discussions badly needed in today’s world.

    There are certainly signs this orientation has caught on – though WEF is by no means the only reason why.  

    In 2011, less than 20 percent of S&P 500 companies (the largest and most influential listed in the United States) reported on corporate social responsibility programmes. By 2017, that percentage had jumped to 85, according to the Governance and Accountability Institute.

    Dozens of companies – from Microsoft to Mastercard, from DHL to Accenture – now support the UN and NGOs with technology and know-how, at reduced costs.  

    Investors are backing social impact bonds for refugees and humanitarian relief.

    In Davos, I heard stories of CEOs pledging to hire refugees after experiencing “A Day in the Life”, or investing millions of dollars in social causes as a result of exposure to new ideas.  

    And, as IRIN heard in an event we hosted at Davos, many in the private sector see themselves as having the skills, the will, and the responsibility to be part of the solution in an ever chaotic world where traditional aid is no longer enough.

    "Is public-private partnership really what’s needed when they’re the ones who got us in this mess to begin with?”

    Yet as Matthew Bishop, who leads the Rockefeller Foundation's thought leadership centre, Bellagio, told me:  “There has still not been anywhere near enough soul-searching or deep thinking among the Davos crowd about what has gone wrong since [the financial crisis of] 2008 and why the decades of dominant liberal policy that preceded the crash didn’t deliver real progress for enough people.”

    In short, he added, “Today, there still doesn’t seem to be any clear strategy coming from Davos to make life better for the average person.”

    The sceptical activist I cited above described coming back year after year in the hope of influencing the Davos crowd as “the definition of insanity”.

    “Are we really going to shift the needle like this?” they asked. “Is there any evidence that it has worked? Is public-private partnership really what’s needed when they’re the ones who got us in this mess to begin with?”

    These doubts exist even at the highest levels. When António Guterres, now UN secretary-general, was head of the UN refugee agency, he was never an enthusiastic participant at Davos, according to one of his former senior staffers. “He thought: ‘These people are not really interested in our issues’,” Nick van Praag, now head of an organisation that seeks the views of people affected by crises, told me.

    “I tried to convince him otherwise,” said van Praag. “I thought Davos was a great opportunity. Now, more than 10 years later, I think Guterres might have been right.”

    For van Praag, the Davos crowd has indeed adopted “our issues”, but conversations are more likely to veer towards “titillating technology” than try to address the real issues the aid sector is grappling with. “For instance,” he offered, “why not put that energy into the issues the humanitarian sector has already identified as priorities rather than having a completely separate conversation?”

    As examples, he pointed to more predictable financing, localising aid, and giving affected people more of a say in the assistance they receive. That said, WEF’s council on the future of the humanitarian system, of which I am a member, has focused its discussions on how to encourage private sector investment into fragile states to reduce dependency on aid – indeed a priority of the humanitarian sector.

    In any case, the social change types keep coming. And I understand why.

    Signs of change

    I was similarly sceptical when I accepted invitations to join WEF’s Young Global Leaders network and its Global Future Council for the Humanitarian System, a brain trust of sorts.  

    But in attending meeting after meeting, I am realising that these opportunities are what you make of them. It’s up to those of us who have a seat at the table to ensure our presence isn’t just window dressing.

    As a media organisation, for instance, it is up to us to effectively use this platform to bring the stories of those affected by crises to the so-called elite. We have an opportunity to provide newer players in this space access to the critical debate around ideas that can inform their behaviours, and to inform all those seeking to better understand the issues – regardless of their motivations.

    My scepticism has also been tempered by the realisation that change is slow: IRIN is soon to mark 25 years, for instance, and sadly we continue to cover many of the same crises year after year. Does that mean we shouldn’t bother? Of course not.  

    It’s up to those of us who have a seat at the table to ensure our presence isn’t just window dressing.

    And there are signs that change is afoot. Newer private-sector players are beginning to recognise that throwing money at problems won’t fix them. While philanthropists such as Bill Gates may still see market-based solutions as the only way forward, they have evolved from promoting one-drop vaccines and plug-and-play laptops to taking a longer-term view that embraces the complexity of development. In one of the discussions I chaired at Davos, the CEO of Syngenta argued that new technologies his company is developing to help prevent food crises around the world will have little effect without better public governance.

    And within WEF there’s also more openness to voices of dissent and critical thinking. Its recent reports on global risk have called for “fundamental reforms to market capitalism”.

    The Davos edition of Time magazine, which lined the shelves of the Congress Centre where the official proceedings took place, included a short message from Anand Giridharadas, author of The Elite Charade of Changing the World, to the “1 percent elite”:

    “You plutocrats are gathering above the rest of us, convinced that you hold the key to solving problems you’ve caused…

    “But,” he wrote, “the hunt for answers to the present mess is not yours to lead. Your moral duty now is to refrain from thwarting those who are working to bury this gilded age and usher in vital reforms… Your task is simple: Stay out of their way.”

    Schwab pushes back against what he calls "the blame game”.

    “What we have to do is address the root causes. We have to work together in a constructive way,” he told CNN.

    I see a similar message in the fact that so many of those trying to usher in vital reforms spend time (and money) at Davos each year: even they believe that the 1% need to be part of the solution.

    * An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that WEF started inviting civil society to its annual meeting around 10 years ago. According to WEF, civil society representatives have attended since its inception in 1970, although the forum has significantly scaled their presence in recent years. 

    The UN and civil society now flock to the annual World Economic Forum gathering in Davos. But not without asking themselves tough questions
    Director’s Dispatch: Aid and the elite

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