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Gaza talk hopes, Ruto’s struggles, and emergency education cuts: The Cheat Sheet

A weekly read to keep you in the loop on humanitarian issues.

Louise O'Brien/TNH

Our editors’ weekly take on humanitarian news, trends, and developments from around the globe.

On our radar

Can Gaza ceasefire talks be rekindled?

Efforts to secure a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip are reportedly showing signs of life after being stalled for weeks. There are, of course, some large caveats: Despite moments of optimism and a UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to the fighting, multiple rounds of ceasefire talks have already fallen through. And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has previously said he will not end the war but could agree to a temporary pause to secure the release of around 120 Israeli hostages. Israel’s top military leadership, however, is reportedly pushing for a ceasefire, even if it means temporarily abandoning the goal of toppling Hamas. The Israeli army is running low on munitions after nine months of a historically destructive campaign. A ceasefire would allow it to replenish stockpiles, and potentially de-escalate tensions, amid fears of a possible second war with the Iranian-backed Lebanese political party and militia group Hezbollah – a more formidable fighting force than Hamas. Israel’s military campaign has laid waste to much of Gaza and led to allegations that it is committing genocide and other war crimes in the enclave. More than 38,000 Palestinians have been killed and over 80% of Gaza’s population has been forcibly displaced, almost all of them more than once. Meanwhile, the Israeli government approved plans this week for the construction of more than 5,300 new homes in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank in what an Israeli advocacy group said is the largest seizure of land in the occupied territory in 30 years. The expansion of illegal settlements is reportedly part of a plan to cement Israeli control over the West Bank and prevent the formation of a future Palestinian state. 

Yet more Sudanese displaced, as RSF gains continue

The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces has continued its eastwards push, capturing parts of Sudan’s Sennar state unaffected by fighting until now. Civilians reported widespread looting of homes and personal belongings – a recurrent feature of an RSF takeover – and over 136,000 people have fled, according to the UN. Some have been uprooted for a second or third time, having moved to Sennar after escaping fighting in nearby Gezirah and Khartoum. People are mainly moving to Gedaref and Blue Nile states, but they are both already hosting large numbers of people, and shelter is limited. The Sudanese army says it is still fighting in Sennar, but the RSF’s mounting successes are leaving many wondering if anywhere in the country is safe anymore. Now in its second year, the war has produced the world’s largest displacement crisis, uprooting nearly 10 million people, and the biggest hunger crisis too. One study has predicted 2.5 million starvation deaths by September, while others are warning of the world's worst famine in 40 years.

Ruto struggles to quell Gen-Z protests

On 5 July, William Ruto hosted an X-Space discussion, a first by a sitting Kenyan president and attended by over 150,000 listeners, as he desperately tried to shore up his crumbling legitimacy following weeks of countrywide youth-led street protests calling for his resignation. In advance of the online forum, he announced measures to drastically reduce government spending, including the elimination of $9.4 million allocated for the offices of his wife and the wife of his deputy. However, the X-Space event is unlikely to do much if anything to improve the standing of a regime that has been roundly condemned for employing brutal tactics such as deploying the military, and killing and abducting protesters and activists. The crackdown has failed to dampen enthusiasm for the protests, as have attempts to address concerns by withdrawing the tax measures that sparked the unrest, and establishing a consultative working group; ditto a disastrous live sit-down with top media houses, which provoked a major backlash in parliament. Looming over all this is the anniversary of the 7 July 1990 “Saba Saba” protests – against then-dictator and Ruto mentor Daniel Arap Moi – meaning protesters are expected to come out again in force.

Resentment toward Syrian refugees in Türkiye spills over into violence

Following online media reports that a Syrian man had been arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a young Syrian girl, groups of Turkish men attacked cars, businesses, and homes belonging to Syrian refugees in the city of Kayseri in central Türkiye on 30 June. The next day, the violence spread to a half-dozen other cities. It also sparked protests in parts of northern Syria under Turkish control against the treatment of Syrians in Türkiye. At least seven people were killed in confrontations between protesters and Turkish troops. Türkiye hosts around 3.1 million Syrian refugees who fled their country after the Syrian revolution-turned-civil war began in 2011. For years, political parties have scapegoated Syrian refugees for Türkiye’s economic woes, with some also presenting them as a threat to the country’s culture. Türkiye has been experiencing high inflation and a cost of living crisis since 2018. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also recently expressed openness to re-establishing diplomatic ties with Syria. Relations between the two countries have been suspended since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, when Türkiye backed rebel groups aiming to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad’s government. 

‘Boundary setting’ saw lopsided cuts to emergency schooling

In an era of rising needs and donor frugality, terms like “prioritisation” and “boundary setting” have become ominous buzzwords for humanitarians in 2024. Pressured by donors to keep budgets in check this year, some warned that aid groups would self-censor – keeping funding requests for things like education or gender-based violence prevention artificially low. A new report suggests that’s what happened with emergency education funding. Education budget asks for this year’s humanitarian appeals fell by 26% – a bigger cut than that faced by the overall UN-led appeal, known as the Global Humanitarian Overview, which shrunk by about 18%. “The impact of this boundary setting on the education sector should be assessed,” said the analysis commissioned by the Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies, whose members include NGOs and several UN agencies.

What’s keeping the UN on top humanitarian pick?

Now that the UK election is done and dusted, will an announcement on the next UN relief chief be forthcoming? Martin Griffiths stepped down as the UN’s head humanitarian at the end of June, with no replacement named. The decision was reportedly put off until the UK election, and the widely expected change in government. “This delay strongly suggests that absurdly and unjustifiably, the UN Secretary-General is again giving special consideration to British candidates,” PassBlue noted. A few names have been floating around, including Brits, non-Brits, and dual citizens. But some humanitarians worry that a gap in humanitarian leadership, however temporary, sends the wrong messageFor more on Griffiths’ legacy and the challenges awaiting his successor, read our analysis.

In case you missed it

COP29: The UN must ensure the agreement signed with Azerbaijan, host to this year’s climate summit, is publicly accessible and backed by human rights safeguards, Amnesty International said. The rights group said the agreement signed with COP28 hosts United Arab Emirates was scant on protections and only released recently.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO: The Congolese army and the Rwanda-backed M23 rebel group have reportedly agreed a two-week humanitarian truce designed to ease civilian suffering after an upsurge in fighting in the eastern North Kivu province. The truce comes as two aid workers employed by Tearfund were killed in the region.

DIEGO GARCIA: A British judge will hold a trial next week to decide whether the government of the British Indian Ocean Territory is unlawfully detaining dozens of Sri Lankan asylum seekers stranded on the remote island of Diego Garcia for nearly three years. Several asylum seekers told The New Humanitarian they continue to face prison-like conditions after a court granted them bail in April to leave their fenced camp.

HORN OF AFRICA: Türkiye is mediating talks between Somalia and Ethiopia over a controversial port deal Addis Ababa signed with the breakaway region of Somaliland. The negotiations are an attempt to cool tensions, stoked when Ethiopia agreed to lease 20 kilometres of coastline from Somaliland in exchange for recognition of its contested independence.

HURRICANE BERYL: The earliest maximum category five Atlantic hurricane on record, with sustained wind speeds of more than 160mph (257 km/h), caused widespread destruction in the Caribbean, killing at least 10 people in Grenada, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands.

NIGERIA: The death toll in triple suicide bombings in the northeastern town of Gwoza has risen to 32. A wedding, hospital, and funeral were targeted by three female suicide bombers in coordinated attacks on 29 June. The attacks are believed to have been ordered by Boko Hara m, marking an ominous return to a terror tactic last used in 2020.

PANAMA: President José Raúl Mulino struck a deal with the United States to stop massive migration from Panama to North America through the Darién Gap. The US committed to cover the cost of repatriation of migrants who illegally enter Panama and to deploy Homeland Security teams on the route. For more context and background, read our series: The Darién Gap: the reality behind the numbers.

 SIERRA LEONE: A new law sets stiff penalties for anyone involved in the marriage of a girl child, including jail for at least 15 years. It will not spare religious or traditional leaders. A third of all girls – particularly rural children -- are married off before they turn 18, one reason for the country’s high maternal mortality rate.

 SOUTHERN AFRICA: Food aid needs are set to increase across the region as a result of an earlier than normal start to the lean season. Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe in particular are facing food emergencies as a result of drought-triggered crop failures. In May, regional governments forecast more than 56 million people would be in need of aid.

VENEZUELA: With less than a month to go until pivotal elections, President Nicolás Maduro unilaterally announced that he will resume negotiations with the United States. The US State Department had yet to respond publicly at time of publication. The US reinstated oil and gas sanctions in April after Maduro failed to live up to commitments to hold a free and fair election, enshrined in the Barbados agreementFor more on why many Venezuelans are considering leaving if Maduro is re-elected, read our recent analysis.

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In case you missed it

COP29: The UN must ensure the agreement signed with Azerbaijan, host to this year’s climate summit, is publicly accessible and backed by human rights safeguards, Amnesty International said. The rights group said the agreement signed with COP28 hosts United Arab Emirates was scant on protections and only released recently.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO: The Congolese army and the Rwanda-backed M23 rebel group have reportedly agreed a two-week humanitarian truce designed to ease civilian suffering after an upsurge in fighting in the eastern North Kivu province. The truce comes as two aid workers employed by Tearfund were killed in the region.

DIEGO GARCIA: A British judge will hold a trial next week to decide whether the government of the British Indian Ocean Territory is unlawfully detaining dozens of Sri Lankan asylum seekers stranded on the remote island of Diego Garcia for nearly three years. Several asylum seekers told The New Humanitarian they continue to face prison-like conditions after a court granted them bail in April to leave their fenced camp.

HORN OF AFRICA: Türkiye is mediating talks between Somalia and Ethiopia over a controversial port deal Addis Ababa signed with the breakaway region of Somaliland. The negotiations are an attempt to cool tensions, stoked when Ethiopia agreed to lease 20 kilometres of coastline from Somaliland in exchange for recognition of its contested independence.

HURRICANE BERYL: The earliest maximum category five Atlantic hurricane on record, with sustained wind speeds of more than 160mph (257 km/h), caused widespread destruction in the Caribbean, killing at least 10 people in Grenada, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands.

NIGERIA: The death toll in triple suicide bombings in the northeastern town of Gwoza has risen to 32. A wedding, hospital, and funeral were targeted by three female suicide bombers in coordinated attacks on 29 June. The attacks are believed to have been ordered by Boko Haram, marking an ominous return to a terror tactic last used in 2020.

PANAMA: President José Raúl Mulino struck a deal with the United States to stop massive migration from Panama to North America through the Darién Gap. The US committed to cover the cost of repatriation of migrants who illegally enter Panama and to deploy Homeland Security teams on the route. For more context and background, read our series: The Darién Gap: the reality behind the numbers. 

SIERRA LEONE: A new law sets stiff penalties for anyone involved in the marriage of a girl child, including jail for at least 15 years. It will not spare religious or traditional leaders. A third of all girls – particularly rural children -- are married off before they turn 18, one reason for the country’s high maternal mortality rate.

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Food aid needs are set to increase across the region as a result of an earlier than normal start to the lean season. Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe in particular are facing food emergencies as a result of drought-triggered crop failures. In May, regional governments forecast more than 56 million people would be in need of aid.

VENEZUELA: With less than a month to go until pivotal elections, President Nicolás Maduro unilaterally announced that he will resume negotiations with the United States. The US State Department had yet to respond publicly at time of publication. The US reinstated oil and gas sanctions in April after Maduro failed to live up to commitments to hold a free and fair election, enshrined in the Barbados agreementFor more on why many Venezuelans are considering leaving if Maduro is re-elected, read our recent analysis.


Weekend read

Education for girls is not a ‘minor issue’ for Afghans, nor for the world

As the Taliban keep pushing for official recognition, the one topic that could break the deadlock is the one they don’t want to address.

And finally...

Small boat art 

Is an inflatable boat meant to depict asylum seekers and migrants risking their lives to cross the English Channel to reach the UK “vile and unacceptable”? Or is it really the policies that aim to punish people for making such journeys that deserve scrutiny, rather than a fairly tame piece of protest art? That’s the debate that kicked off in the UK when the street artist Banksy launched a small inflatable boat across a crowd during a set at the Glastonbury Music Festival on 28 June. The boat was a visual reference to the tens of thousands of people who have crossed the English Channel in precarious crafts to seek protection, reunite with family members, or pursue better lives in the UK since 2018. The crossings have precipitated a slew of policies from successive Conservative Party-led British governments aimed at making it more difficult for people to cross the Channel and penalising those who do – the most infamous being the plan to send asylum seekers who arrive by boat to Rwanda. British Home Secretary James Cleverly decried Banksy’s political statement as “vile and unacceptable” in a Sky News interview on 1 July, touting the Conservative Party’s efforts to crack down on migration. But by 4 July, he was out of office after the Labour Party won a landslide election victory, sweeping the Conservatives from power after 14 years. The Labour Party has denounced the Rwanda policy as an expensive, unworkable gimmick. Now they’re in power, we'll see what direction – and tone – new Home Secretary Yvette Cooper chooses to take on migration.

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