IRIN’s Top Picks: Journalists, fragile states and remote management

Welcome to IRIN's reading list. Every week our global network of specialist correspondents share some of 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:

Breaking the Hourglass: Partnerships in Remote Management Settings–The Cases of Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan 

The unpredictable dangers conflict zones means “remote management,” where international organisations rely on local partners to deliver their aid, is becoming increasingly common. But what does it mean for aid accountability and effectiveness if you are sub-contracting your duties? Might the risks involved outweigh the benefits of the relationship? This study from the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University compares the “remote management” scenarios in Iraqi Kurdistan in the early 1990s with the current situation in Syria where large parts of the population rely on cross-border assistance from Turkey.

The Aid Industry – What Journalists Really Think 

Here at IRIN we’ve been reporting on the aid industry for nearly two decades, sharing positive and negative stories about the humanitarian sector. In recent years aid agencies have also become the stuff of stories of more mainstream media, and not all of them positive. This report by the International Broadcasting Trust takes a deep dive into what journalists really think about the aid industry and explores the complex relationship between scrutiny of systems as well as reporters’ reliance on NGOs for access to conflict and disaster zones. An interesting read for those on both sides of the fence and a good follow up to the recent Frontline Club discussion about who should be reporting humanitarian news, journalists or aid workers, which was chaired by our CEO Ben Parker. 

The three trends with the power to disrupt innovation in 2015

Innovation is no longer a new word in the humanitarian sector but it continues to buzz with many aid agencies now developing in-house expertise on the topic. But is it really much more than fancy blue-sky thinking and the odd pilot? In a blog post for the UN Refugee Agency’s Innovation, Dan McClure of Innovation Design Initiatives at Thoughtworks takes a look at some of the developing technology that has the potential to shake up the system in the near future, but also the “missing middle” of how new ideas might get from the innovation lab into the field and where new disruption risks lie.

Assessing the Impact of the Scale-up of DFID’s Support to Fragile States

The UK Government has committed to spending 30 percent of its Official Development Assistance (ODA) in fragile states by 2014-15, up from £1.8 billion of bilateral ODA (2011-12) to £3.4 billion (2014-15). But does pouring money into places with weak governance structures really deliver long-term gains? The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), the independent body responsible for scrutinising UK aid, isn’t so sure. In a new report it analyses the Department for International Development’s programming raising some red flags about expectations and tangible deliverables.

The dangers of “mainstreaming” IDPs into oblivion 

Elizabeth Ferris, the co-director of the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement, argues in this blog post for the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) that humanitarian organisations are not paying enough attention to the specific needs of internally-displaced people (IDPs). She notes that while many agencies used to have dedicated units working on IDPs, a number of those departments have been dissolved and IDPs are regularly lumped in with general “affected populations”. Ferris argues that “mainstreaming” IDPs is a short-sighted approach that overlooks specificity of internal displacement and the help people need.

Coming up:

Regional humanitarianism in action

24-26 February

The Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) is running a three-day conference at Dubai’s International Humanitarian City looking at how regional humanitarian organisations are playing an increasingly significant role in responding to big emergencies. HPG’s Sara Pantuliano, Steven Zyck and Lilianne Fan will moderate panels featuring the African Union (AU), Gulf Co-Operation Council (GCC), Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

From IRIN:

Who celebrity advocates are really targeting. And it’s not you. 

Our analysis of celebrity advocacy in the aid sector, which questioned the value of celebrity involvement in humanitarian campaigns, has been generating a lot of debate at a time when more and more famous faces are popping up in UN and NGO publicity material. According to Dan Brockington, a professor at the University of Manchester: “Using celebrities for broader outreach, for reaching mass publics and attracting media attention is absolutely not the silver bullet it appears to be” So what is the point? Read the article to find out.

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