IRIN’s Top Picks: Bad jokes, innovation and apathy

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:

You probably won’t read this piece about Syria

The recent fourth-anniversary of the Syrian conflict was a grim milestone marked by media outlets – including IRIN - with a series of articles examining the human toll and asking what can be done to stop the bloodshed and suffering. Deep-pocketed Al Jazeera went to town with extensive coverage of the crisis, but according to the outlet’s online editor Barry Malone, few people read it. “When we tweeted the accusation that the world didn't care, many people retweeted it. But most didn't click the link to read our stories,” he said. “Perhaps they wanted to be seen to care. Perhaps they believed that people should care. But they didn't care enough to read what we had written.”

Relationship between humanitarian and development aid

The idea of joining up emergency humanitarian response with longer-term development aid is not new - it’s been around since the 1990s and even has its own acronym, LRRD (linking relief, rehabilitation and development). In a time of multiple protracted crises, the gap between humanitarian and development is naturally shrinking; how best to manage that relationship has been a talking point at several World Humanitarian Summit regional consultations. In that context this literature review produced by the Governance and Social Development Resource Centre (GSDRC) is a useful stock take, citing both humanitarian policy documents as well as real-life examples of LRRD being applied.

Comic Relief is a bad joke; Make charity history!

It’s a national institution in Britain and it has raised millions of pounds for good causes over the years, but is Comic Relief really the right way to help those in need? In this fiery blog post Joel Lazarus, a research fellow at the department of Politics and International Studies, at the University of Warwick in the UK describes the annual Comic Relief events, which took place this month, as “the most degenerate expression of the spectacle-mediated, consumer-driven institution of contemporary charity”. He is critical of the way the focus is on celebrity and corporate generosity and more about the viewer feeling good for donating, rather than the core issues creating the poverty porn they are feasting on while baking cakes and wearing red plastic noses.

Innovation spaces: Transforming humanitarian practice in the United Nations

Many UN agencies have so-called “innovation labs”, departments seeking out new tools and processes to improve aid response and find fresh ways to finance ever-more complex crises. This working paper from the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford provides a helpful overview of different approaches and analysis of the various strategies currently being tested. It welcomes the focus on innovation, which it says is delivering “impressive positive impacts”, but also calls for perspective about aims and targets and cautions against different agencies researching innovation in isolation.

Pentagon loses track of $500 million in weapons, equipment given to Yemen 

Since September, Iranian-supported Houthi rebels from northern Yemen have controlled the capital Sana'a. The internationally recognised president has fled to the southern city of Aden, where this week his presidential palace was bombed. Are the weapons the Houthis are using to rule the country paid for by the American taxpayer? The answer is quite possibly, as the Pentagon has admitted it cannot account for $500 million worth of military equipment it supplied to Yemen in recent years.

One to watch:

Drowning for Freedom: Libya’s Migrant Jails

More and more desperate people risk their lives every week trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. In this first of a three-part series, VICE News presents graphic footage of sinking migrant boats, as well as pictures from inside the country’s overcrowded migrant detention centres.

Coming up:

Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development Conference & Exhibition (DIHAD)

Tuesday 24 to Thursday 26 March, Dubai

Now in its 12th year, DIHAD presents a full agenda featuring high-level speakers from across the global humanitarian spectrum, including UN agencies, NGOs, think-tanks and Red Cross and Red Crescent Society and community groups. Topics on the agenda include displacement, climate change, sustainability, water and energy, and disaster risk reduction. Parallel to the formal sessions is an extensive exhibition space showcasing the latest in humanitarian technology.

From IRIN:

What you need to know about DRR

A new global plan to prepare for future natural and climate-linked disasters was agreed this week in Japan at the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, poignantly just days after Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu. NGOs say the document lacks ambition and “short-changes” poorer countries that are most at risk. We go behind the ubiquitous acronym that is #DRR to tell you what you need to know. 

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