IRIN's Top Picks: New aid narratives, El Niño and mapping mine deaths

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:

A new aid narrative

“In our view, the era of international aid is not ending; it is still in its infancy.” Guardian journalist Jonathan Glennie and development expert Andy Sumner made the case for a new narrative on international aid in a blogpost earlier this month. It garnered renewed interest this week when it was republished by the Center for Global Development. Glennie and Sumner suggest four reasons why we should reimagine aid as “foreign investment”: it will help to eschew the patronising idea of aid as simply charity, enable better participation from aid agencies in emerging BRIC economies, make “resource transfer more accountable, shifting from charitable donations to contracts with accountability”, and means research on foreign private investment in developing countries can come to “inform aid debates, rather than being siloed off as a separate research topic.”

Exposing torture in Burundi

A damning report released by Amnesty International reveals how security forces in Burundi used torture to extract “confessions” from anti-government protesters arrested after demonstrating against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for another term in office. Using evidence from victims in hiding, the briefing describes how the National Intelligence Service forced some “detainees’ heads under dirty water” and made another sit in acid, while the Burundian National Police “beat [them] with electric cables and police batons.” The alleged perpetrators have yet to be brought to justice – meanwhile, one man’s testimony is particularly harrowing to read: “They told me if you don't confess, we'll kill you. But I said 'How can I confess when I know nothing – you’ll have to just tell me what to confess to'."

Seeking asylum from Afghanistan

In this op-ed for the New York Times, Naqsh Murtaza documents his treacherous journey from Afghanistan to Indonesia, and the struggles he still faces as an asylum seeker. His story is far from unusual yet no less compelling. After escaping the Soviet occupation by emigrating in 1981 to Pakistan, he returned to his homeland in late 2001 only to face persecution by the Taliban for being part of the Hazara ethnic minority. Leaving for a second time with the help of a smuggler, his boat never made it to his desired destination – Australia – and he remains stuck in refugee limbo on the Indonesian island of Java. “We risk our lives to flee our homelands because we have no choice,” he says, but not before asking the million dollar migrant question: “At what point does a protracted wait for acceptance and resettlement become a violation of human rights?”

What is El Niño?

An infamous climate pattern is suddenly dominating news headlines – but why? This explainer from The Economist outlines the effects of El Niño, a worldwide weather phenomenon, and describes how some countries are already feeling its impact. Higher than average ocean-surface temperatures during at least a three-month period can produce a Niño, which “generally produces heavy rains, higher temperatures and cyclones in parts of South America and east Africa.” It can also wreak agricultural havoc; this year’s Niño is “partly to blame for drought in parts of Central America, Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia” and is likely to continue through the winter months.

The UN's investigation wars

In a landmark report on UN management in 1993, former US attorney general Richard Thornburgh wrote: “The United Nations presently is almost totally lacking in effective means to deal with fraud, waste and abuse by staff members.” Have things changed? Despite efforts to reform the OIOS, the UN’s investigations division, this exposé by Colum Lynch for Foreign Policy uncovers how a “bitter internal fight is making it harder for the UN to police its own crimes, from corruption to sexual abuse.” While top officials feud, the reputation of the UN hangs in the balance, especially in the light of a series of new rape allegations against its peacekeepers.

One to listen to:

The past, present and future of migration

What else should Europe be doing to tackle the migration crisis? That’s the key question being explored in BBC World Service’s latest episode of The Inquiry. Split into four parts, the podcast considers examples from other places, such as the Australian model, as well as previous resettlement practices used during the Vietnamese “boat people” crisis in 1980s, in order to evaluate how current EU leaders could share the burden of immigration. It also calls for “radical thinking” rather than “political theatre”, as well as “global cooperation on a grand scale” to tackle the exodus to Europe – but is this even a distant possibility?

One interactive:

Mapping anti-vehicle mine deaths

The first six months of this year saw more than 300 people killed or injured by anti-vehicle mines (AVM) – but where are these incidents taking place? The Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) have collaborated to create a live interactive map, which shows all known cases of AVM casualties in 2015 – the most deadly one so far occurred in April and involved 32 civilians on a bus in Mali. The mappers point out that AVMs are not prohibited by the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention despite their clear humanitarian impact but remain a “global threat with 59 countries and territories having recorded casualties from 1999-2013.”

Coming up:

World Humanitarian Summit Global Youth Consultation, 1-2 September 2015

More than 300 young people from around the world will come together next week for the World Humanitarian Summit's Global Youth Consultation in Doha, Qatar. Participants will have their say on how to discuss ways to reshape the future of humanitarian action as well as raise questions on issues affecting “future generations of humanitarians.” You can follow a livestream of the two-day event online and also send questions into the panellists using Pigeonhole Live, an interactive tool.

From IRIN:

Lessons from the rubble in Nepal

“Despite the destruction of much of the infrastructure, teachers and students here are determined to keep classes going.” Ninety-five percent of schools in Sindhupalchok were damaged by the earthquake in Nepal earlier this year, but this hasn’t stopped kids there from attending classes. Our photo feature shows how in “temporary learning centres" built by aid agencies, or even on the rubble of former schools, children continue to receive an education – even if their classrooms don’t have any walls.

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