IRIN’s Top Picks: Beyond aid, transparency and development finance

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:

When losing track means losing lives: Lessons in accountability from the Ebola crisis

Anti-poverty group the ONE Campaign calls out the lack of transparency around aid flows to the Ebola crisis. Through its own online, interactive tracker, the NGO set about trying to map money movement from different donors to the affected countries. But it concludes: “We faced limitations that inhibited our ability to get a comprehensive, clear picture, and to answer basic questions about the world’s response or even on a significant subset of donors.” Issues included: discrepancies between pledges and final contributions; multiple and confusing records; and a reliance on donor self-reporting.

For Human Dignity

Oxfam presents a rousing call to action ahead of next year’s World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), calling for the word’s governments to be held to account for their role in “injustices” that lead to humanitarian crises and for more to be done to prevent and prepare for natural disasters. In her foreword, executive director Winnie Byanyima notes: “A successful humanitarian response begins before a crisis hits. We need to tackle the structural causes of crisis, not simply to mop up its tragic human consequences afterward”. The paper also makes a call for the aid sector itself to change how it works, urging “more funds onto the ground, where aid actually happens” and a minimization of “money lost in the UN and international NGOs”.

Why all development finance should be risk-informed

Published to coincide with the Third UN Financing for Development (FFD3) conference in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, this paper highlights the low investment in “disaster risk management”, despite the high risks in countries where the bulk of development aid is spent. The report, co-authored by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) notes: “All development planning should integrate appropriate disaster resilience measures … Investing in disaster risk management (DRM) yields multiple benefits. It helps avoid losses when disasters strike, unlocks development potential and produces economic, social, and environmental co-benefits.”

Terrorists beware

If you are a terrorist working for a US government-funded project in Kenya, Guatemala, Lebanon, the Philippines or Ukraine - beware. The New York Times reports there is a new federal screening programme designed to ferret you out. All non-profits taking USAID money will be required to collect detailed personal data — including biographical information and bank account numbers — on “each officer, board member and vital employee”, which will then be shared with the US government. Not surprisingly, aid groups, reliant on local employees - who may not want their names on a government intelligence database - have condemned the move.

Aid transparency: 'It's better to self-report on your own failures than have others do it for you'

Following on from an online Q and A on aid transparency, the Guardian compiles a list of 16 ways to boost accountability in the sector from experts. Tips include: keeping the pressure on large donors; presenting data in a way that is useful to people; and using creative ways to share your message. Vijaya Ramachandran, a senior fellow at the Centre for Global Development in Washington, also urges NGOs not to be afraid of “bad press”. Citing the recent reporting on the American Red Cross in Haiti, he says: “Being honest about shortcomings and failures can lead to negative press reports and a decrease in funding. But in the end, it’s better to be open and transparent about what has worked, what has failed and how much money has been spent.”

One to listen to:

Has Africa Outgrown Development Aid?

Recorded in London but timed to coincide with the FFD3 event in Addis Ababa, the latest BBC Africa Debate asks whether the continent needs to move on from aid. Panel members Andrew Mitchell, a former UK secretary of state for international development, Ghanian Tutu Agyare, the managing director of a London-base asset management firm and Giles Bolton, author of “Aid and Other Dirty Business” were joined by an invited audience of 300 development specialists, politicians, academics, philanthropists and students.

From IRIN:

Mapped: 15 years of aid worker attacks

In 2014, more than 300 aid workers were killed, wounded or kidnapped, the second-worst year on record, after 2013. Using data from Humanitarian Outcomes, IRIN has mapped every single aid worker attack around the world since the year 2000. You can search our interactive data-visualisation by country, type of incident, context and organisation. As well as a poignant reminder of lost lives, the data also throws up interesting questions about risk appetite within the sector and the use of local versus national staff.

See also:

Memento Mori

Fewer aid worker attacks. That's good right?