IRIN’s Top Picks: Open data, clichés and bush meat

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:

Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict

The 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict led to the deaths of 1,462 Palestinian civilians, one third of them children. Six Israeli civilians were also killed by Palestinian rockets. This new UN report reveals the devastating human toll of the 51-day operation and examines the exchange of fire in unprecedented detail. Accusing both sides of war crimes, it singles out Israel for its use of explosive weapons in heavily populated areas, while noting that Palestinian militants sent rockets indiscriminately into Israel. The report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 29 June.
The question is, as we asked this week, will it make any difference?

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s the unsung heroes of DFID

A welcome riposte to a “cringe-worthy” story in Britain’s Evening Standard newspaper dubbing a team from the UK government aid agency, “humanitarian heroes,” and comparing them to characters from cult western the Magnificent Seven. “The image that this article projects of young British superheroes parachuting in to fix the world’s problems is a lazy trope which ignores the complexity of providing responsible international support during humanitarian crises,” notes AidLeap blog. And it adds: “(it) Simultaneously dismisses the very real fact that it is the people affected by disasters and crises who are the real humanitarian heroes.”

Behind on 30 percent local spending target, USAID eyes '100 percent sustainability'

Given the current buzz around aid financing and the need for big donors to spend more money locally, this is a timely analysis of USAID’s bid to channel 30 percent of mission program funding to local organisations by the end of 2015. According to the latest data, it is likely to fall well short of this lofty goal, having directed just 16.9 percent of funds locally in 2014, down from 17.9 percent the previous year. Elizabeth Warfield, USAID’s coordinator for Local Solutions, rows back from the 30 percent target and tells Devex that “100 percent sustainability” – using all of its resources to build and sustain local systems – is now USAID’s overriding objective.

If I ran the innovation zoo

This cutting critique of the world of humanitarian innovation starts innocently enough, explaining how the Dr. Seuss book, “If I ran the zoo,” is about a boy reimagining his perfect zoo. But blogger Linda Raftree is using this playful concept to make a very serious point. The boy’s new zoo “looks a lot like today’s world of development sector innovation,” she writes. “Great ideas and discoveries; fresh things to look at, play with and marvel at; but also quite laden with an adolescent boy’s special brand of ego and hubris.” Raftree scolds a sector in which, “Those who ‘win’ at innovation are congratulated on TED (talk) stages,” and highlights the fallacy in using ideas fostered in the capitalist, colonial system that entrenched inequality in the first place. “If I ran the zoo,” she says, “I’d take innovation in a different direction. I’d try to figure out how to dismantle the zoo.”

Five famous African women who were once refugees

After a week of gloomy headlines about asylum-seekers and migrants, here’s an upbeat list of five successful and inspiring African women who were once refugees. Among those featured are: Sudanese supermodel Alek Wek; Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former South African home affairs minister and now chair of the African Union; and Yolande Mukagasana Clemence Evariste, a leading Rwandan human rights campaigner.

Two to listen to:

Ticket to Hide

BBC Radio 4’s File on Four goes on a journey through Italy and France to follow migrants making their way to the UK. Combining interviews with migrants and officials with keen observational journalism, this is an important listen for anyone trying to understand the current migration crisis and why states seems so powerless to react.

Deeper than Data

The first in a new series of podcasts from the team at AidData looks at the role of open data in relief efforts and how mapping can help us become better prepared for future disasters.  The hosts also take a look at aid flows to the recent earthquake in Nepal and how they were tracked.

Coming up:

Findings from the 2015 Global Humanitarian Assistance Report

Monday 6 July - 11.30 GMT
Arundel House, London

On the back of its 2015 Global Humanitarian Assistance Report, Development Initiatives is hosting a talk about aid funding and how resources can be better mobilised to address crises and reduce risk and vulnerability. Panel members include Kristalina Georgieva (co-chair of the UN secretary general’s High Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing), Ben Ramalingam, a research associate at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), and Sandra Aviles, senior advisor, Development and Humanitarian Affairs at FAO/IASC Humanitarian Financing Task Team/Future Humanitarian Financing (FHF). A live-stream is available.

From IRIN:

Bush meat trade roaring again despite Ebola ban

As Liberia approaches two months without Ebola, bush meat – a known source of the virus – is back on the menu. IRIN found monkeys, antelope, raccoons, rodents, bats, and a variety of other animals native to the country’s forests of Liberia once again freely available at local market stalls. The government officially banned the hunting and sale of bush meat in July 2014, but despite this, and the heavy toll Ebola has wrought on the country, many Liberians are reluctant to change their traditional eating habits.

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