The New Humanitarian Annual Report 2021

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IRIN’s Top Picks: Aid corruption, Boko Haram and Caliphatalism

Local aid workers have worked tirelessly for hours in repacking goods for the thousands of affected families in Tacloban City in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the central Philippines on 8 November 2013
Local aid workers pack relief goods post-typhoon (Dennis Santos/IRIN)

Welcome to IRIN's reading list. Every week our global network of specialist correspondents share some of their top picks of recent must-read research, interviews, reports, blogs and in-depth articles to help you keep on top of global crises. We also highlight key upcoming conferences, book releases and policy debates.

Four to read:

With shift to local aid, corruption a rising challenge 

One of the big talking points during the World Humanitarian Summit consultations has been the need to give more money directly to local organisations, but the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is finding this is not as straightforward as it sounds. “We recognize working on the local push, but aid is going to poorly governed places, and this is going to bring difficult trade-offs and complicated issues,” noted Neil Levine, director of USAID’s Center of Excellence for Democracy, Human Rights and Governance. Read this Devex blog for more on balancing ground-up funding with politics and accountability.


This is a long, narrative piece by a former resident of the Iraqi city of Mosul, now living in Dubai, giving a personal account of how the group calling itself Islamic State (IS) took hold. The story starts in 2007 and is an important reminder that IS did not just appear in Mosul in June last year. A rare look into the once-multi-cultural but always troubled city that has dominated so many headlines in the past eight months.

The death of international development 

Published a few months ago but still worth a read, Jason Hickel, a research fellow at the London School of Economics, argues in this blog that people no longer believe in development and foreign aid because decades of pouring money into poor countries has not delivered results. Calling out the Narrative Project - a behind-the-scenes initiative launched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oxfam, Save the Children and others aimed at countering the fatigue and apathy towards foreign aid projects – he says changing the language will not help. Hickel says the “paternalistic story of charity and aid, white saviours and poor brown victims” is no longer relevant and it’s time to “tell the real story about how the rich get richer off the backs of the poor”. Poor countries, he argues, will only escape poverty when rampant tax evasion ends in the developed world and when a real dose of fairness is injected into the global trading system.

Co-Chairs' Summary: Regional Consultation Europe and Others Group - Budapest

Next year the great and the good, the big and the small, the old-timers and tyros of the burgeoning, $20 billion emergency aid business are going to gather in Turkey to #ReShapeAid at the World Humanitarian Summit. What’s it all about? What needs to be fixed? How do we do it? Answers to these questions and many, many more can be found in this impressively exhaustive summary of preliminary consultations held in Europe earlier this month. A must-read for collectors of trending abstract nouns (such as “access,” “proximity” “protection,” “resilience” and “innovation”).

One to watch:

Embedding with Aid Agencies: Editorial Integrity and Security Risks 

Shrinking editorial budgets have resulted in journalists turning to aid agencies to cover news from the frontlines of crises. Is this a threat to editorial integrity or are aid agencies filling a growing gap in foreign reporting? Watch IRIN CEO Ben Parker discussing this topic with senior communications experts and journalists at the Frontline Club in London. 

From IRIN:

Fleeing Boko Haram - survivors' stories  

Our Editor-at-Large Obi Anyadike has been in northern Nigeria this week reporting on the election delay and the humanitarian impact of Boko Haram. Read his reports from Maiduguri and our story on how thousands of Nigerians who fled to Chad are now stranded and in dire need of food and medical support.

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