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Humanitarian policy: The highs and lows of 2019 so far

Manuel Elias/UN Photo

There’s no shortage of controversies and challenges for the humanitarian sector this year: from biometrics to Brexit, or from counter-terrorism to countering sexual abuse.

Set-piece UN policy discussions wrapped up in Geneva on Wednesday with an unusual dispute. US diplomats wanted to change the wording of an annual resolution that summarises the international agenda on humanitarian response. They wanted new anti-abortion language. A compromise text could not be agreed, and the US changes were rejected by a public vote.

As well as the formal UN event, this week saw a flurry of side-meetings among donors, and NGOs. 

Time then for a select reading list to mark the gatherings. Topics we covered this year on the policy beat include innovation, cash-based aid, fraud, Venezuela, Ebola, and fragile states

We looked back to Rwanda 1994. We profiled local relief operators, and USAID investigators.  

And, in the coming weeks, we’ll be taking stock of the “nexus”, the Grand Bargain, and other reforms, as well as keeping on top of data protection debates and all the latest innovations. 

We always welcome tips and feedback. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with topics or documents you think need an airing. You can reach me at my contacts above.

Photo of United States position at United Nations ECOSOC meeting.

US anti-abortion push flops in Geneva

In a departure from diplomatic consensus, the Trump administration tried – and failed – to insert anti-abortion language into a UN resoluton on meeting humanitarian needs. 

Faces on the front lines of local aid

Hear from local humanitarians about homegrown responses, and why they’re pushing for big changes to the global aid system:

It’s time for “innovation” to change

“It doesn’t matter how many gizmos you fund if those in power in the system don’t see real incentives for change”

How can Oxfam – and the aid sector – root out sexual abuse and exploitation?

What a high-powered panel found in a year-long enquiry into the troubled NGO

Yemeni boy with WFP food bag

Biometric standoff in Yemen aid fraud row 

Hungry civilians find themselves caught in the middle of a UN insistence on biometric ID.

What Brexit means for UK NGOs and foreign aid

A guide to how Brexit could affect the UK government’s humanitarian spending, British NGOs, and the EU’s aid arm, ECHO.

New UN deal with data mining firm Palantir raises protection concerns

The UN’s food agency says it can become more efficient and save costs with a no-cost deal with a controversial US security and intelligence contractor.

Q&A: Top US aid fraud investigator defends tough counter-terror stance

USAID’s watchdog clamps down on corruption and saves taxpayers millions, but critics say its rigid policies also deny aid to those in need.

Director’s Dispatch: Aid and the elite

A Davos reality check from Heba Aly on billionaires and philanthropy: “Are we really going to shift the needle like this?”

(TOP PHOTO: A staff member helps with preparations in the General Assembly Hall at the United Nations in New York.)

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