PRESS RELEASE: Pulitzer-nominated journalist Howard French heads new board of crisis reporting venture

(GENEVA, 16 February 2016) - IRIN, the world’s leading provider of humanitarian news and analysis, has constituted its first independent board of directors, with award-winning international correspondent Howard French as its president.

IRIN reports from the frontlines of crises, bringing the voices of those affected to policymakers around the world. From rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo to rescue efforts in Nepal; from the Zika virus in Latin America to Syrian refugees in Europe; from UN financing to the competitive NGO industry; IRIN uses local voices and expert analysis to unearth the inside story on emergencies.

After nearly two decades as an editorially-independent project of the United Nations, IRIN has established itself as a non-profit association, constituted in Geneva, Switzerland in January 2016.

Its first president is Mr. French, author, former New York Times correspondent, and professor of journalism at Columbia University in New York.

“In an age of declining media coverage and rising numbers of humanitarian crises, IRIN is more needed than ever,” said French. “It keeps humanitarian crises on the agenda and reminds us all that suffering is universal.”

French’s work has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize; his book "A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa" was named non-fiction book of the year by several newspapers; and he is a past fellow of the Open Society Foundation.

The other members of the initial board are:

  • Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director and roving investigator at Human Rights Watch, who has testified about war crimes before the US Senate, the Council of Europe, and the Yugoslav Tribunal (ICTY) in the Hague;
  • Dr. Marco Ferrari, former deputy head of the Swiss government’s Humanitarian Aid Department, and expert in disaster risk reduction;
  • Andy Martin, founder and director of the civil society strategy consulting firm Firetail, who has worked with clients from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to Save the Children;
  • Mark Bidder, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Philippines and former Officer-in-Charge of IRIN.

They are supported by a high-level advisory group, drawn from the humanitarian, peace-building, digital, philanthropic and media sectors.

The Swiss government, one of IRIN’s key partners, welcomed its constitution in Geneva.

“Based on our very long and successful cooperation with IRIN, we are convinced of the crucial role of IRIN in keeping neglected crisis on the radar, informing decision-makers, and contributing to the efficiency of the whole aid sector by increasing transparency and accountability,” said Ambassador Urs Schmid, head of the Multilateral Division at the Swiss Mission to the UN in Geneva. “We are happy to see IRIN establishing itself as an association in Geneva, the humanitarian capital of the world.”

New website

This week, IRIN launched a new web platform (www.irinnews.org) that makes it easier for readers to gain the insights, news and analysis they value.

The new website, developed by Manchester-based web design agency Bliss, is fast, with clean and simple design, and looks great on mobiles and tablets.

“It allows us to deliver more dynamic and visual content, on a range of platforms, as we continue to develop our storytelling,” said IRIN Chief Executive Ben Parker. “We passionately believe that with the right combination of on-the-ground reporting and flexible content delivery, we can make more people care, understand and act on the many crises around the world.”

These developments mark a bolder, fresher IRIN, as it celebrates its 20th anniversary and its first year as a fully independent news outlet.

“Since our transition from the UN, we have been humbled to see our mission and new ambitions resonate on a whole new level,” said Heba Aly, IRIN’s Managing Editor. “At a time of unprecedented crisis around the world, we fulfill a real appetite for informed, insightful analysis that can shape the debate in high-level policy circles, in the media, and with the concerned public.

“We are shaking things up in the aid sector, and we’ve only just begun,” she added. “We look forward to welcoming new readers and partners in the years to come.”

About IRIN

Founded in 1995, following the Rwandan genocide, IRIN delivers unique, authoritative and independent crisis reporting to inspire a more effective humanitarian response.

With its specialist editorial staff and a global network of 200 correspondents, it provides multimedia reporting in English, French and Arabic from the frontlines of conflicts and natural disasters to some 250,000 unique web visitors a month, 45,000 newsletter subscribers in almost every country and tens of thousands of followers on social media. Its readership includes UN decision-makers, donor governments, academics, media and aid workers in the field. Its work is syndicated, re-published and cited by news outlets and journals around the world.

The new governance structure and website are the latest steps in IRIN’s renewal: IRIN spun off from the UN in 2015, and was hosted by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) during its transition. Its independence allows it to cast a more critical eye over the $24 billion emergency aid industry.

For more information: 

About IRIN | Full bios of board and advisory group members | Letter to readers
Press contact: Heba Aly +41 76 643 4151 heba@irinnews.org