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IRIN's Top picks: Effective altruism, humanitarian complicity and Boko Haram

A displaced family in Cameroon's Mayo-Sava district sells dried leaves at a local market, something that has become their main source of income since fleeing Boko Haram.
(Monde Kingsley Nfor/IRIN)

Welcome to IRIN's reading list. Every week our global network of specialist correspondents share 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.

Five to read: 

Aiding & Abetting? The limits of humanitarian aid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Jason Cone, executive director of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) USA, writes candidly and in detail about the ever-growing physical and mental health needs of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as well as the challenges MSF faces in assisting them. The desperate and intractable situation leads him to question whether aid organisations have crossed the line and are now complicit in perpetuating the suffering. “What our staff sees, day in and day out, are the medical consequences of the occupation. But while we can treat some of our patient’s symptoms, we can’t alter the underlying causes of their suffering.” He says: “This is humanitarian’s dilemma: how to alleviate the suffering of a population while not enabling the powers at the root of the pain.”

Inside Boko Haram 

As Boko Haram’s toll of death and violence grows, so too does its impact on neighbouring countries. In a five-part series for New African Magazine, James Schneider visits Cameroon’s Far North region, speaking to Nigerian refugees about their chilling first-hand experiences of the Islamist militant group and the hardship of their lives in exile. Schneider also speaks to Cameroonians caught up in the violence, including hostage victims and child soldiers. Embedded with Cameroon’s Rapid Intervention Battalion, he explores the regional and political barriers holding back the Boko Haram tide and examines the group’s exploitation of child soldiers. Good on-the-ground reporting from a very troubled part of Africa where humanitarian needs are growing at an alarming rate.

The Logic of Effective Altruism 

Wikipedia defines “effective altruism” as “a philosophy and social movement that applies evidence and reason to determining the most effective ways to improve the world.” This Boston Review multi-voice debate, kicked off by Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton University and author of Doing the Most Good, explores the concept and its limitations. As well as examining why “effective altruism” has become such a popular niche in American academic and philanthropic circles, Singer also presents wider reflections on giving and our motivations for doing so. An interesting read that informs the on-going global discussions about how to raise more money for humanitarian and developmental response.

Managing crises together: towards coherence and complementarity in recurrent and protracted crises

Published in the run-up to next year’s World Humanitarian Summit, this paper calls for a more collective approach to crisis management. Authors Samuel Carpenter of the British Red Cross and Christina Bennett of the Humanitarian Policy Group at the Overseas Development Institute, examine the impact protracted humanitarian crises have on development factors, while pointing out that the two sides continue to work with different goals via divided architecture. The way aid is financed is a major barrier, they note, as are cultural and structural differences between the two sectors. Recommendations to bridge the gap include: ensuring coherence across the post-2015 global policy agendas; multi-year flexible financing; minimisation of conceptual divides; and creating positive incentives for coherence and risk-informed approaches.

See our report on this topic:  Aid, it’s complicated

CIVICUS: guest essays 

The State of Civil Society Report 2015 produced by global civil society network CIVICUS focuses on how to raise more money for the sector. This collection of 27 guest essays explores financing challenges and solutions. Topics include: improving accountability; Arab philanthropy; Islamic Zakat; the impact of the BRICS (emerging nation) donors, corporate social responsibility; and the rise of social enterprise. A timely read in the aftermath of last week’s third UN Financing for Development summit in Addis Ababa.

See our report: Do summits solve problems?

One to watch:

Borderline: Europe’s Walls

Raw and disturbing footage from some of Europe’s key migration flashpoints. These short videos offer a window onto both the suffering of fleeing migrants and the challenges faced by their destination countries. Footage from the Turkish/Bulgarian border, the Spanish enclave of Melilla that borders Morocco, the Italian island of Lampedusa, France’s Calais – where hundreds are trying to cross the Channel into Britain – and Rome’s Fiumicino airport. The films were produced with the support of the Open Society Foundations and first published on the Italian website Internazionale.

For more on the global migration crisis see our coverage

Coming up:

Live Online Consultation on Gender-Based Violence in Humanitarian Crises

Thursday, 6 August (13-15 GMT) 

Join the International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP) for this online discussion about Gender-Based Violence (GBV) programming in humanitarian settings. Speakers include: Jasveen Ahluwalia, of CARE International, Angeline Annesteus from Action Aid Haiti, Erin Kenny GBV specialist at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and Adama Moussa, deputy director of UN Women's country office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

From IRIN:

A tough homecoming in Central African Republic

Thousands of people have been returning to their homes in the Central African Republic (CAR) more than a year after fleeing a violent and complex political crisis. But while security may have improved in some areas, resuming any semblance of a normal life is proving a major challenge for many returnees. We report from Bangui about the hardship for CAR citizens struggling to make ends meet in a country ravaged by war and largely forgotten by the international community.


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