IRIN’s Top Picks: Cats, Celebrities, Cold War and Climate Change

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:

For love or money: should charities pay stars like Binky Felstead?

The UK’s Guardian newspaper asks should celebrities be paid to support charities. Citing a recent example of a British reality TV star receiving a rather handsome sum to endorse a chain of charity shops on Twitter, the article takes a deep dive into the thorny issue of using famous people for aid advocacy. It questions whether paying them is immoral or a necessary evil. An interesting follow on from our piece about celebrity advocacy

Yemen and the Saudi-Iranian 'Cold War'

IRIN’s former Yemen reporter Peter Salisbury has produced this informative report looking at the Saudi Arabian and Iranian influences on various militia and government groups in Yemen. He argues that while “the primary drivers of tension and conflict in Yemen are local… the perceived, and often exaggerated, roles of external players continue to affect the calculations of the Yemeni players and of different regional actors.” The politics behind these external influences can affect funding for aid programmes and are exacerbating one of the world’s most under-reported humanitarian crises.  

The Can and Can’t of Cat Bonds 

Sorry, this has nothing to do with fluffy kittens, but rather it’s about innovative ways to support crisis-hit government. “Catastrophe bonds” – or “cat bonds” function like regular bonds, but the difference is the borrower does not have to repay if it needs the money to tackle an emergency or natural disaster. In this article for the Centre for Global Development, Owen Barder and Theodore Talbot, look at last year’s World Bank “Cat bond” debut, and the potential benefits and risks of the mechanism for countries facing sudden and costly events.

The Politics of Climate Change and its Implications on Africa 

In an LSE blogpost, Kenyan Political Science post-graduate student Martin Namasaka cautions against an over-simplification of climate change issues in sub-Saharan Africa.  He argues that while climate issues have played a role in armed conflict, they are not the only driver and by focusing too heavily on climate issues in contexts such as Darfur, other political nuances may be overlooked and responses will as a result be inadequate and fail to tackle all root causes.

“Humanitarian innovation”: an oxymoron or a necessary new reality?

Olivier Delarue, the head of Innovation at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) calls for his beat to be taken more seriously and says aid organisations must start to recognize that just like companies, they have to “innovate or die”. He points out that while innovation may be labelled new-fangled and techy, UNHCR has in fact been innovating for years as it has responded to unprecedented challenges from Vietnam in the 1960s to Syria today. A good riposte to those skeptical about ‘innovation’ in aid.

One to listen to:

Could Europe Stop Migrants Dying In The Mediterranean? 

This week’s installment from new BBC World Service radio series The Inquiry deals with the issue of migrants risking everything to cross the Mediterranean and what governments can do to tackle this ever-growing problem. At 25 minutes long, the programme features a number of expert guests giving a range of perspectives. It is a neat analysis of the issues at stake and the politics behind the response, including the launch and subsequent pulling of the rescue service the Mare Nostrum, and so-called “deterrence” tactics.   

One to watch:

VICE Meets Politician and Humanitarian David Miliband 

VICE interviews the president of American NGO International Rescue Committee, David Miliband, as part of their “Vice Meets” series. The 24-minute interview, conducted by VICE’s Michael Moynihan, provides a detailed overview of global humanitarian crises and some of the political roadblocks hampering effective response. There is perhaps some irony that Miliband was Britain’s Foreign Minister between 2007 and 2010 making the kind of political decisions he is now questioning.

Coming up:

Live Q&A: how can NGOs and the media work better together? 

Thursday 26 February, 1-3pm GMT - Follow the hashtag #globaldevlive 

Join our CEO, Ben Parker, for an online Q&A exploring how NGOs and the media can work better together. Hosted by the Guardian Global Development Professionals Network, the discussion follows on from a Frontline Club debate chaired by Ben looking at the blurring lines between NGO communications teams and journalists, and a report looking at the relationship between the two groups.  Other panelists include: Tobias Denskus, senior lecturer communication for development at Malmö University; Andy Shipley, news editor of Plan UK; Tom Murphy, a reporter from the Humanosphere blog; Kate Wright, a senior journalism lecturer at the University of Rohampton; and Zubair Sayed, head of communication for Civicus in Johannesburg.

From IRIN:

The World Humanitarian Summit: Talking shop or game changer?

The build-up to the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul is gathering pace, but what guarantees are there that anything will actually be accomplished? Ahead of the upcoming Middle East and North African meeting in Jordan on 3-5 March, IRIN takes a look at the consultation process so far, hearing concerns – and assurances – about a number of issues. The big unknown remains how all the “talk” will be translated into meaningful action.

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