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From the future of aid to viral videos: The Cheat Sheet

Jessy Mousallem/YouTube
Still from Mashrou' Leila video "Roman"

Which humanitarian topics are on IRIN’s radar and should be on yours? Check out our curation of upcoming events, topical reports, opinion, and quality journalism:

What will aid look like in 2030?

“The Future” has been something of an obsession for humanitarians of late. Academics researching the sector produce reports called “Planning from the Future” and A Practitioner’s Guide to the Future, aid agencies are similarly pre-occupied, and one of our own commentators has caught the bug.  This week, our Director Heba Aly spoke at the launch of the latest attempt at such foresighting (yes, that’s a verb). The Future of Aid: INGOs in 2030 is the product of one year of research by the Inter-Agency Regional Analysts Network, a consortium of academic institutions and large international NGOs, with the help of futurologists, to predict what the landscape for humanitarian action will look like in 12 years’ time. From the collapse of global governance to the rise of mega-cities, it maps drivers of change and how international NGOs may have to adapt, for example, by moving from less principled to “different cultural and more pragmatic approaches” in non-conflict settings; becoming franchised partners; no longer engaging in operations directly but rather providing “on-demand” services to local and regional NGOs; or acting as a global foundation that gathers funds for a cause and uses its expertise to distribute them. For those asking whether international NGOs need exist at all in 2030, this research adds to a growing body of thought, from as far apart as design firms and the World Economic Forum, on the future of humanitarian response. We’ll keep you posted!

North Koreans are people too

World leaders are wringing their hands after North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile, which theoretically makes it possible for Kim Jong-un to strike Alaska with a nuclear warhead. But what about the civilian population basically held captive by Kim’s totalitarian regime? North Korea’s nuclear ambitions have long overshadowed the plight of its 25 million inhabitants, but, as tensions rise, their situation is looking increasingly desperate. This report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization warns that North Korea is facing its worst drought since 2001 and says food imports are urgently needed even as food aid has declined, in part due to sanctions. Look out for more in-depth analysis from IRIN soon but, in the meantime, you can check out our comprehensive backgrounder on the perpetual humanitarian crisis in North Korea.

Djibouti says au revoir to anti-immigrant boat

Uproar met a right-wing, anti-immigration group’s recent plans to secure a vessel and interfere with NGOs rescuing migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean. So we decided to take a look into the boat’s checquered past. It was a floating armoury, licensed in the UK for private anti-piracy security operations off the coast of Somalia, hence its registration in Djibouti. However an official with Djibouti's national Maritime Security Services told IRIN that chapter is now over: “this vessel has nothing to do with us or Djibouti, all Djibouti certificates have been deleted”. The MV Suunta, now renamed the C Star, is currently registered in land-locked Mongolia. According to activist group Hope Not Hate, the boat is detained by Egyptian authorities in the Red Sea and the chances of it ever picking up its provocative journalist passengers and white activists in Italy seem to be fading. To recap: a company based in Wales and its Swedish director are leasing a boat flagged in Mongolia to the Austria-based Defend Europe group, which wants to help Libya’s coastguard and is raising money on a Nevada-based alt-right website. Stay tuned on this surprisingly multicultural venture...

“Roman” going viral in Lebanon

Here’s a change of pace: this week we propose you check out the music video for Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila’s new single “Roman”. The beautifully shot clip – which is spreading quickly in Lebanon – features women in various sorts of traditional Arab and Muslim dress. As the band says, they are “styled to over-articulate their ethnic background, in a manner more typically employed by Western media to victimise them”. Indeed, we see the women and the band in situations we’ve grown accustomed to seeing refugees (who now make up about a quarter of Lebanon’s population) in: like empty buildings, pickup trucks, on a beach. A quick note on the rights of women in Lebanon: years of protest have not been successful in changing a nationality law that prevents Lebanese women from passing on their nationality to their children if their partners are not Lebanese. This can leave children stateless. Activists have also been fighting, with both politicking and dramatic street theatre, to repeal a law that allows rapists to escape punishment if they marry their victims. They’ve had some success but no final vote in parliament. However, demonstrations in general seems to be on hold in Lebanon – this week the government banned all protests as Syrian activists planned to take to the street after the deaths of four Syrians in military custody. But back to Leila’s powerful video: while the refugee tie-in is not explicit (we invite you to watch and interpret for yourself), the feminism and the great dancing are.

Did you miss it?

What’s become of Riek Machar?

Held incommunicado under house arrest in South Africa and rendered virtually stateless, that’s what, according to this well-researched article by Simon Allison in the Mail & Guardian. Quite the comedown for a man who has long been a dominant figure in South Sudan and twice served as its vice president. Machar was a key player in his country’s devastating civil war and his isolation means that already moribund peace efforts have even less chance of inching forward, writes Allison. His detention is “prolonging the war”, agreed Lam Paul Gabriel, a Uganda-based spokesperson for Machar’s party. This may be true, and yet regional actors in the peace process – Uganda, South Africa, and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development – appear loath to involve him anymore. Although Pretoria describes Machar as its “guest”, his conditions are such that even his wife cannot speak to him. The South Sudanese government, meanwhile, has revoked his passport. Machar was forced to flee his country after a bout of fighting in the capital, Juba, a year ago. His gruelling journey with hundreds of fighters across the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he suffered the indignity of being rescued by UN peacekeepers, is chronicled in some detail here.

Five lessons learned from latest Ebola outbreak

The small Ebola outbreak that surfaced in the Democratic Republic of Congo in May was officially declared over on 2 July. But it’s a fair assumption Ebola will be back – if not in Congo, then somewhere else. Médecins Sans Frontières has released a useful five-point lessons learned guide. The first rule of fighting Ebola, it says, is to train frontline health teams: The Congo outbreak was quickly recognised by a rural nurse who rang the alarm, minimising its spread. Secondly, because the disease is now taken seriously by the international community, aid was rapidly made available. Third: Although there is the promise of new vaccines, the “basic pillars of outbreak control” cannot be neglected, while, fourthly, location remains an important determinant of how successfully Ebola can be contained – its emergence in rural Congo rather than the middle of a city was a distinct advantage. Finally, medical innovations are not a magic bullet. The latest outbreak was fought the old fashioned way, as the permission and medical protocols weren’t in place to allow the use of new experimental treatments. Perhaps next time…

(TOP PHOTO: A screenshot taken from Mashrou' Leila's video for "Roman")


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