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IRIN's Top Picks: Cash in aid, changing faith, and de-development in Gaza

Palestinians inspect the remains of a house which was destroyed during an air strike in Central Bureij refugee camp, in the Middle Area of the Gaza Strip.
(Shareef Sarhan/UNRWA)

Welcome to IRIN's reading list. Every week our global network of specialist correspondents share their top picks of must-read research, podcasts, 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:

The ‘de-development’ of Gaza

A hard-hitting report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development warns that the Palestinian enclave of Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020 due to war and the long-term economic blockade. “The most recent military operation compounded already dire socioeconomic conditions and accelerated de-development… a process by which development is not merely hindered but reversed,” the report says. More than 70 percent of people in Gaza have inadequate food, while the 2014 conflict left just about everyone destitute and reliant on international aid. Donor support is essential but insufficient. The prospects for the future, it says, are “bleak”.

What we know and don’t know about humanitarian cash transfers

In this blog post, Theodore Talbot of the Center for Global Development examines the effectiveness of humanitarian cash transfers. Based in part on data from the interactive mapping tool Cash Atlas, his research “paints a stark picture of a growing deficit between needs and resources” and reveals that aid agencies prefer “programs that come with strings attached for beneficiaries.” It also found that rather than unconditional cash grants, voucher-based programs “reach the most people, but have consistently received a smaller share of total budgets.” Talbot says quantifying the impact of the different kinds of cash transfers on a per-person basis is a “fundamental gap” in our knowledge. For that, he writes, much better information on actual costs, as well as budgets, is needed.

How can international humanitarian law be better enforced?

Many states are unwilling or unable to prosecute war crimes, says Julia Brooks, a legal research associate at Harvard University’s Humanitarian Academy. Jurisdictional barriers only extend this impunity. For example, the International Criminal Court may only prosecute in countries that have ratified the Rome Statute – this doesn’t include Syria or Iraq. There is also the problem of politics, not least the Security Council. There must be agreement from China and Russia, as well as Britain, France and the United States, to pursue miitary intervention or set up ad hoc tribunals to prosecute serious violations in many countries. We need to strengthen national judicial systems, educate the public, and advocate on this issue more, writes Brooks.

High risk, high reward

Bloomberg’s Pauline Bax looks at the lesser-known success stories of economic migrants who leave African coasts for Europe driven by “aspiration, not desperation.” Ibrahim Sarr is just one of the many Senegalese who went abroad, began a business and starting sending money back. He eventually returned home to realise his dream and open a grocery store. Bax pays tribute to the crucial contribution migrants like Sarr have made in pushing African families into the middle class, noting that the money they wire home exceeds aid or direct foreign investment.

One to listen to:

The war in Yemen

Struggling to understand the conflict in Yemen? This podcast from BBC World Service’s Newshour Extra hosted by Owen Bennett Jones brings together regional and international experts including Adam Baron from the European Council for Foreign Relations, Nadia Sakkaf, Yemen’s information minister from the exiled government, Mina Al-Oraibi, an Iraqi journalist, and BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner to discuss the increasingly grave humanitarian situation in the country. It gives a broad overview of how Yemen’s popular uprising became a failure, and charts what is now a complex proxy war between pro-Iranian Houthi rebels and the Saudi Arabian coalition. As Gardner concludes: “There isn’t going to be peace and progress... until there is a political solution” with “realistic compromise” and a “shared vision of what Yemen looks like.”

One to watch:

Losing faith

“If you're born into a lower caste you suffer the worst type of slavery.” This eye-opening documentary from Al Jazeera takes a deep look into how the complex Hindu caste system still dominates modern Indian society. It highlights the steps some Dalits – the ‘untouchables’ who are at the bottom of the caste hierarchy and often forced to do menial jobs – will take to escape prejudice. Converting from Hinduism to other faiths, such as Islam, is one way some find acceptance in new religious communities. However, this can pose its own challenges: many face resistance from families, or no longer receive certain government benefits that go to Hindu Dalits. "It's not easy to convert to Islam,” one man explains. “They say it's because Muslims have a bad reputation.”

Coming up:

How cash transfers can transform humanitarian aid
Tuesday 15 September (14-15:30 GMT) 

“Evidence shows that unconditional cash transfers can be more efficient, more transparent, more accountable and better for recipients than in-kind aid.” Chaired by Rajesh Mirchandani from the CGD, this event will include short talks from leading experts on how to move towards a “coordinated system of cash transfers” in the wider humanitarian aid system. Speakers include David Miliband, CEO of the International Rescue Committee, Owen Barder, senior fellow at the CGD, Degan Ali, executive director of Adeso, an African charity and development agency, Michael Faye, executive chairman of non-profit GiveDirectly, and Claus Sørensen, director-general for European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO).

From IRIN:

No way forward, no way back for Libyan migrants

“For every migrant who chooses to return home, many more are still prepared to risk the boat journey.” Images of a young boy lying face down on a Turkish beach after drowning off the coast while attempting to reach Greece by boat with his family have raised international awareness about the human cost of the refugee crisis. This IRIN photo feature from Zuwara in Libya also shows the grim reality of what happens to many migrants and refugees who continue to try to cross the Mediterranean in smugglers’ boats in search of a better life – despite knowing it could be their last ever journey.


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