Top Picks: From poppy power to COP21’s “nerdy friend”

(Andrew Quilty/IRIN)

Every week, IRIN's editors give their takes on a selection of humanitarian reports and opinion you may have missed, from in-depths and features to academic studies and podcasts:

Afghanistan’s economy – still addicted to opium

After 15 years of a failed war on drugs in Afghanistan, it’s time for a rethink, says this study by the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit. It’s an especially timely warning, coming on the heels of a report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, which found that opium production in Afghanistan increased by 43 percent this year over last. Opium is, of course, the base element of heroin, and the United States in particular has poured billions into trying to stop farmers from growing it. Obviously, such programmes have failed massively, as Afghanistan remains the source of almost the entire global opium supply. Being the professionals they are, the AREU researchers politely point out that, “policy discussion is shaped by a superficial or misguided understanding of opium poppy and its role in rural livelihoods”. This report is an attempt to shift that discussion to more realistic – and potentially more fertile – ground.

Destination Europe

Recent unprecedented levels of migration across the Mediterranean have been framed in Europe, both in the media and by policymakers, as a “crisis” that came out of nowhere. We know the main countries that the migrants and refugees come from and what happens to them when they arrive in Greece or Italy, but there has been little attempt to understand how they got there and what happened to them between those two points. This detailed report, the end result of the MEDMIG project, which involved four months of fieldwork by a team of researchers from the UK, shifts the emphasis away from arrivals and sea crossings, and focuses on the multiple, separate movements that converge in Libya and Turkey. Not all of the 500 refugees and migrants the researchers interviewed had been forced to leave their home country, but many had felt forced to leave the countries they moved to. Those that did flee conflict at home often decided to move on from the first country where they’d sought refuge after struggling to make a living or access education. The message for policy makers is that they need to address not only the reasons why people migrate from their home countries, but also the factors behind these secondary movements – as ever, the division between so-called economic migrants and refugees is not clear cut.

Deadly CAR 

Bad things are happening in the remote central region of Central African Republic and it’s civilians that are paying the price. Despite elections this year and the hope for peace, clashes continue between Muslim Seleka rebels, and the anti-balaka, formed to fight back. UN peacekeepers are unable to halt the insecurity, which has forced aid workers to stop their work. In this useful update, Human Rights Watch says the UN should urgently deploy more of the mission’s forces to the volatile region, “expand their patrols and, consistent with the mission’s mandate, use appropriate force to protect civilians under imminent threat”.

Targeted EU sanctions on Israeli settlements?

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has all but faded into the background with more dramatic regional wars making headlines. But as a French effort to jumpstart the peace process is slowly pushing forward, Hugh Lovatt at the European Council on Foreign Relations argues that negotiators should be careful not to offer Israel all carrots and no stick. He focuses in on “differentiation", a term for measures based in EU law that allow member states and the EU to exclude settlement and settlement-linked activities from bilateral deals with Israel. It’s different than the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement in that it only targets the settlements and their roots, and Lovatt helpfully details EU policy and what individual member states are doing – labeling laws, preventing settlement-entities from accessing EU funds. Differentiation sounds a bit technical and the EU is being slow to implement it, but this is a useful look at one way the Europeans may be able to chip away at one of the most intransigent parts of the conflict, and at an occupation that is coming up on 50 years.

One from IRIN:

Aid’s cash revolution: a number’s game

Lebanon is at the forefront of data- and cash-driven aid for refugees. The use of bank cards to deliver welfare payments to refugees is now mainstream, but it's taken a while to consolidate multiple entitlements onto a single card and database. This winter almost $50 million per month will be pumped into the pockets of nearly a million Syrians in Lebanon via a new system. The whole setup is simpler and more efficient than moving around truckloads of stuff, and is more "dignifying", according to backers. But when the refugees are ranked by a statistical formula, and their cash sent by a bank, aid agencies large and small will have to make a new case for what value they add. The cash system is backed by all sorts of mathematical and sociological analysis, and is hailed as a "revolution" in aid. But some things never change: there's not enough donor cash to pay the welfare payments even for the most vulnerable – half of them don't even get the cash payments the aid system is so proud to have established. 

Coming up:

COP22 – COP21’s ”nerdy friend”

7-18 November, Marrakech

If the media fanfare that accompanied today’s entering into force of the Paris Agreement was a little muted for a potentially Earth-saving compact, next week’s climate talks, COP 22, have flown even more under the radar. There is the small matter of the US presidential election, overshadowing all, but there are other reasons too. As Sophie Yeo points out in this handy preview, “In many ways, COP22 will be the nerdy friend to its glamorous Parisian predecessor.” This isn’t to say that nothing important will happen in Marrakech. On the contrary, those with an ear to the discussions believe it might well live up to its billing as the “COP of Action” – it’s slated to consider fundamental issues of the Paris Agreement’s implementation such as transparency rules, finance, and pre-2020 carbon cuts. Exactly because it is a “nuts and bolts” gathering, political posturing is expected to be minimal and real and important decisions to be made. The devil, as ever, will be in the detail, and IRIN will be there to unpack it.

Check out full details of the event here.


(TOP PHOTO: Several women and girls from the district of Pashtun Kot in Faryab Province sit in the room of a house that the owner has provided, rent-free, in the provincial capital, Maimana, after they were forced to flee their village on 18 August 2015. CREDIT: Andrew Quilty/IRIN)

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