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Davos, peace in Iraq and Libya, and demographic dynamism: IRIN Top Picks

Iraqi men hugging Ivor Prickett/UNHCR

Every week, IRIN's team of editors curates a selection of humanitarian reports and opinion you may have missed, from in-depth analyses and features to academic studies and podcasts

Davos develops a humanitarian bent

The World Economic Forum, which took place in Davos this week, is too hastily dismissed as an exclusive talking shop for political and business leaders. But this year, more than any other, there was a push to feature humanitarian issues prominently on the agenda. Besides the “humanitarian hub” inside the conference hall, there were sessions on humanitarian financing, migration, and the future of humanitarian response. As the aid world increasingly looks to partner with the private sector, and the private sector seems prepared to move beyond philanthropy, this was a good moment to showcase initiatives already being implemented and to discuss and launch new ones. For those who didn’t make it to the Swiss Alps this year, one of our favourite sessions was Redesigning Humanitarian Action: Beyond the Crisis. It brought the likes of UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and ICRC President Peter Maurer together with business leaders such as Ajay Banga, CEO of Mastercard, and Frank Appel, CEO of Deutsche Post DHL Group. They said the traditional humanitarian model had become unsustainable and talked about the need to adapt business models for responding to protracted crises. Much remains to be done to develop these new models and to address perceptions that the corporate sector just wants to profit from crisis. But it’s fascinating, for example, to listen to Imad Najib Fakhoury, Jordan’s minister of planning and cooperation, speak about what has already been achieved in his country in terms of turning the Syrian refugee crisis into an economic development opportunity. Will it catch on?

The 10 most under-reported humanitarian crises of 2016

You watched the siege of Aleppo, saw photos of hurricane-hit Haiti, and followed the spread of Zika through 2016. But you were far less likely to hear about the unfolding conflict in Chad, desperate hunger in Papua New Guinea, or massive flooding in Bangladesh. In this report, Care International gives a run-down of the major crises that attracted the least media attention last year. Why do news organisations give more coverage to certain emergencies over others? In cases like Eritrea and North Korea, it simply boils down to authoritarian governments refusing media access. In other regions, the reasons are more complex, and the report doesn’t delve deeply into that question. Instead, researchers highlighted little-known emergencies by monitoring more than 250,000 news sources to determine which conflicts and natural disasters received the least coverage. It’s no coincidence that IRIN has reported on all 10 of them: Eritrea, Burundi, Madagascar, North Korea, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, Central African Republic, Sudan.

Winning the peace in Iraq and Libya

The gains made against so-called Islamic State were one of the rare success stories of 2016. And just this week, Iraqi forces announced they had finally taken east Mosul. But winning peace is more than winning war, and this policy brief from the European Council on Foreign Relations discusses a topic too often forgotten – what post IS stabilisation in Iraq and Libya might look like. Major challenges are outlined – think sectarianism, factionalism, and containment. But there are also recommendations for policy makers here too: decentralisation, de-escalation, and security sector reform. Prefer to take your conflict analysis in podcast form? ECFR’s got you covered: listen to their 18 January event, in which the report’s authors talk over the issues with Toby Dodge, director of the LSE’s Middle East Centre.

Here’s looking at you, 2050

The overall number isn’t the most awe-inspiring: the global population is due to swell to 9.7 billion by 2050, from the current 7.3 billion. But dig a little deeper into this exhaustive Foreign Policy report by former Pew Research Center executive VP Paul Taylor and you uncover a trove of fascinating and significant demographic trends. His takeaway: “How a less Christian Europe, an aging population in the West, and the empowerment of women are going to shape the future.” But hang on! What about Africa? While Europe’s population is expected to decline by around four percent, Africa’s is expected to more than double, from almost 1.2 billion to almost 2.5 billion. Nigeria will have give-or-take 400 million people and go from being the 7th biggest country in the world to the 3rd largest after India, then China. There will be 3.5 times more Africans than Europeans by 2050, whereas in 1950 there were almost twice as many Europeans. Meanwhile, Islam is expected to surpass Christianity as the world’s most popular religion by around 2070. What’s behind all this: huge continental differences in birth rates. As Taylor puts it: “Demography is a drama in slow motion. But tick by tock, it transforms the world.”

One from IRIN:

Budget trouble sees UN humanitarian wing cut back

The UN's humanitarian arm, OCHA, has been forced to trim its budget and lay off at least 170 people after donors balked at a hefty $323.9 million 2017 budget proposition. This year, the UN department will aim for a $260 million budget, closing a number of offices and slimming down others. At the same time, a new reform tsar, Bruce Aylward, formerly of WHO, has been appointed to drive changes recommended in a hard-hitting "functional review" commissioned from Boston Consulting Group and exclusively reported here by IRIN. The report found widespread "dysfunction" in the organisation's management and rock-bottom staff morale. The UN staff union is up in arms about the way the layoffs are taking place, saying the process is "a total mess". OCHA told us the organisation was in transition to becoming "optimally structured, managed and staffed". 

Coming up:

South Sudan at another crossroads

Thursday, 26 January (1500–1630 GMT) – London

Only a few years ago, there was reason to feel cautiously optimistic about the fate of South Sudan. The picture looks very different now. This event explores the current humanitarian and development challenges, and asks: Why did the country fail to avoid this escalation of violence and instability? What options are available to the international community? And what must be done in the short term to protect those affected by the conflict?

Speakers include: Mareike Schomerus – senior research fellow, ODI; Lydia Stone – Social Development Direct; Matt Wells – senior crisis adviser, Amnesty International; Leben Nelson Moro – University of Juba.

This public event will also be streamed live online. For more, please see here.


(TOP PHOTO: Internally displaced Iraqis, mainly from Gogjali on the eastern outskirts of Mosul, arrive at the government-run Khazer camp. Around 5,000 fled to the camp in the space of 24 hours as heavy fighting broke out on 1 November 2016. CREDIT: Ivor Prickett/UNHCR)

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