IRIN's Top Picks: Needs in Nepal, words about war and a myth-busting map

Welcome to IRIN's reading list. Every week our global network of specialist correspondents share their top picks of must-read research, podcasts, 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:

Crowdfunding for emergencies

As aid organisations battle funding shortfalls, a new “Think Brief” from the UN’s emergency aid coordination body, OCHA, explores the potential for crowdfunding to support global humanitarian action. The report looks at how different crowdfunding models could supplement traditional donor mechanisms by sending money “directly and immediately to the disaster area” and to NGOs on the ground, thereby strengthening their ability to reach the affected people. Among other recommendations, it proposes Country-Based Pooled Funds (CBPF), managed by OCHA, which would allow a “trusted network of local organisations” to partner with online platforms and post projects, encourage donations, and “lead the implementation of disaster crowdfunding.”

A tribute to humanitarians

To mark World Humanitarian Day this week, Sara Pantuliano, Director of Humanitarian Programmes at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), reflects on the challenges faced by aid workers around the world. She pays homage to humanitarians living in tough conditions, surrounded by trauma or struggling to maintain a personal life, all of which many believe to be simply part of the job. So why do people do it? Her answer is as poignant as it is honest: “People stay for the same reasons we all got involved in the first place: a sense of shared humanity, empathy for others, deep commitment to the cause and a drive to address injustice.”

Real versus imagined needs in Nepal

In this thought-provoking longread from the New Yorker, Nick McDonnell charts the difficulties faced by a volunteer medical team as they travel to Nepal to assist with post-earthquake relief efforts. The sudden influx of humanitarian workers to the country, their collective failure to coordinate with each other and a myriad of logistical problems meant despite the NYC Medics bringing enough equipment to treat 4,000 patients, they ended up helping less than 700. While they did save lives, their mission “called into question the value of emergency medical intervention by foreign teams,” and ultimately highlighted how international disaster relief can be seen as “full of inefficiencies, questionable agendas, misaligned motivations, and politicking.”

Does talking about war make it more likely?

Writing in the Washington Post, Lotje de Vries and Mareike Schomerus show how two dangerous narratives being peddled by South Sudan’s military and political elites are deepening the conflict: that ethnicity causes clashes and that war will inevitably spread to more peaceful regions. They argue that these are used to justify crackdowns on the population, “as if everyone in South Sudan is ready to line up to fight on one side or the other.” For example, local tensions in certain areas are often unrelated to the country’s wider civil war – yet they are hijacked as a way to steer public opinion towards “seeing violent confrontation as an overpowering possibility.” If South Sudan is to achieve peace, the authors suggest that negotiations need to take place “outside the framework of the civil war entirely.”

MDGs vs SDGs

How can the Sustainable Development Goals be implemented to “have the poorest, most vulnerable, and most disadvantaged, at their heart?” That is the question being explored by Bob van Dillen from the Catholic relief and development organisation Cordaid, who recognises that the SDGs, unlike the Millennium Development Goals, might do better to promote the rights and wellbeing of migrants. Specific policies in the SDG agenda include: seeing migration “as a positive force for sustainable development”; recognising that “forced displacement is a threat to development progress”; enabling migrants to gain “access to lifelong learning”; and a “commitment to eradicate human trafficking.” Such goals may give hope to campaigners and NGOs helping to tackle the migration crisis, but whether or not the SDGs will translate into national policies is yet to be seen.

One to listen to:

The price for a passport

In the latest episode of BBC Radio 4’s Four Thought series, Katie Long reflects on how identity intertwines with broader realities to do with immigration and inequality. "What does it mean to belong?" she asks, before arguing that the “vast majority of us are citizens of a state not as a result of anything we’ve done, but by virtue of bloodline or birthplace.” Long explores the ethical and economic implications of gaining citizenship and wonders at the lengths the “money-rich and passport-poor” will go through. “Isn’t the value of citizenship itself irrevocably altered once you start auctioning it off for a price?” she ponders.

One to play with:

True Size: a myth-busting map

The African continent is bigger than China, India and the United States put together; but would you know this by looking at a standard world map? Two US-based computer developers have created a mind-bending interactive tool to help visualise the real size of countries, thereby shedding light on how geographical perspective gets distorted by traditional mapping methods. Simply type in the name of any nation, move outlines around to compare, and hover over selections for more area information.

From IRIN:

Photo feature: Death traps in Yemen

In a disturbing yet essential photo feature from Yemen, IRIN contributor Iona Craig reports on the teams uncovering a deadly trail of mines, booby-traps and explosive devices as the Houthi rebels withdraw. A four-year-old boy lies half-blind in a hospital bed, his face speckled with shrapnel wounds. His family’s car had been driving through a residential area of Aden when it hit a landmine buried in the sand. Hand grenades are strung up so that the pins are pulled out when a door opens. The rebels may be on the retreat but they are allegedly leaving death traps in their wake that will continue to maim or kill indiscriminately for some time to come. The depressing conclusion: “At the current rate, with depleted, ill-equipped and underfunded demining teams it will take between five and eight years to clear all the devices.”

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