IRIN's Top Picks: The wealthy, the hungry, and the ghosts of Kunduz

Welcome to IRIN's reading list. Every week our global network of specialist correspondents share their top picks of recent 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:


Blood on all hands

“They pulled us out of our homes and began burning the home... They demolished home after home until the entire village was destroyed.” Using eyewitness accounts and satellite imagery to back up its allegations, Amnesty International says whole villages in northern Syria have been razed by the Popular Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdish forces that hold sway in Syrian Kurdistan, after they captured them from so-called Islamic State. The YPG has denied the claims, arguing that evictions are necessary to protect civilians from fighting in the area. Amnesty says the abuses, by a key Western ally in the fight against IS, could amount to war crimes.

Having it all or nothing


Research by Credit Suisse finds that: one percent of the world’s population now owns half the planet’s wealth; you need only $3,210 to be better off than half the globe; and more than 70 percent of adults possess less than $10,000. The findings come after anti-poverty charity Oxfam published a similar report earlier this year warning that a small number of the wealthy elite would own more than the other 99 percent by next year. The Credit Suisse study shows that Asia is seeing the biggest expansion of the middle classes, with China leading the way, but that the poorest and most vulnerable in other developing nations are going nowhere.

The other migration crisis

Stories of migrants and refugees making the trip to Europe from Africa and the Middle East have dominated this year’s headlines. But across the Atlantic, Central American migrants trying to enter the United States have been facing their own crisis. President Barack Obama’s crackdown has led to many being deported back to countries such as Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, which have some of the highest murder rates in the world. A forthcoming study cited in this Guardian investigation identifies how more than 80 deportees have been murdered on their return since January 2014. “These figures tell us that the US is returning people to their deaths in violation of national and international law,” says Elizabeth Kennedy, author of the study and a social scientist at San Diego State University.

Ghosts of Kunduz

Burnt hospital gowns, human remains and blackened corridors: what’s left of Médecins Sans Frontières’ Kunduz trauma center, which was bombed by a US warplane earlier this month, is captured powerfully by photojournalist Andrew Quilty for Foreign Policy. His feature weaves together a series of shocking images showing the devastation inside the compound with a narrative of what happened on the night, as well as what he witnessed during his visit. “Beneath one victim’s remains – otherwise indistinguishable but for a severed foot – were the white and pale-blue squares of a hospital gown, almost completely intact.” So far, 22 people have been confirmed dead from the US airstrike, including three children and 12 MSF staff. Why?

More war, more hunger?

“Conflicts like those in Syria, Iraq or South Sudan are the biggest drivers of hunger,” says Bärbel Dieckmann, president of Welthungerhilfe. The German aid group’s Global Hunger Index (a joint report with the International Food Policy Research Institute and Irish NGO Concern Worldwide) examines how armed conflict disrupts food systems, causes mass displacement, and ultimately destroys livelihoods. The countries with the lowest levels of food security have almost all emerged recently from war, including Chad, Central African Republic and Burundi.

There is some cause for hope, the report says. Rwanda and Angola have seen the biggest improvements in scores despite suffering brutal conflicts within the past two decades, and the near-eradication of calamitous famines over the last 50 years is one of the world’s "unheralded achievements.”

One to watch:

Afghanistan’s own battle

After the departure of NATO troops from Afghanistan, Al Jazeera’s Witness programme goes back to follow the lives of an Afghan National Army unit stationed in Helmand province, where fighting against the Taliban is raging. Through the eyes of Heavy Weapons Company 3/3/215 Corps, we learn how Afghan soldiers themselves want peace to come about, how they feel about foreign intervention, and how they continue to hold out hope for a peaceful future, despite almost 14 years of war. “For the people of Afghanistan, I’m ready to sacrifice my life,” says one soldier. “But for the politicians, I wouldn't even spill one drop of blood.”

Coming out:


Humanitarian Economics: War, Disaster and the Global Aid Market by Gilles Carbonnier (Hurst Publishers, £25.00)

Should the business world and the humanitarian world mix? The global aid sector is now worth billions – but how did it come about? In this book, Gilles Carbonnier, a professor of development economics at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, combines field expertise, data analysis and more to explore the politics and economics behind the humanitarian system. How, for example, have the policies behind conflict and terrorism informed humanitarians’ negotiations with armed groups? As one reviewer puts it, Carbonnier exposes “the dark side of compassion.” The book has received praise from professors and aid practitioners alike – even Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross – for its piercing insight and accessible writing.

Coming up:

Humanitarian News: Changes, Challenges and Prospect

“From the refugee crisis in Europe to the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake, humanitarian news has been dominating the news agenda.” So how can we best report on it? A panel debate hosted by City University next week will bring together academics, aid workers, and journalists to discuss the changing role and nature of crisis reporting. It will also launch a new book entitled Humanitarianism Communications and Change by PhD student Glenda Cooper and professor Simon Cottle, which partly explores what new communication developments, such as social media and crisis mapping, can mean for delivering humanitarian relief. The event will also feature: IRIN’s Chief Executive, Ben Parker, professor Suzanne Franks, professor Richard Sambrook, Leigh Daynes, executive director of Doctors of the World UK, Brendan Paddy, head of communications from the Disasters Emergency Committee, Randolph Kent, former director of the Humanitarian Futures Programme, Kyla Reid, head of disaster response at GSMA Mobile for Development, and Dr. Mel Bunce from City University.

From IRIN:

Words matter


Ever trawled through a technical document or attended an aid conference and felt like you’re decyphering secret code? From ‘actors’ to ‘accountability’, ‘partnerships’ to ‘preparedness’, the humanitarian sector is full of jargon. To mark this week’s World Humanitarian Summit Global Consultation, where donors, diplomats, and NGOs will review 400 submissions on the future of aid, we bring you our top 100 humanitarian buzzwords. Uncover the clichés and weed out the waffle by running your documents through our buzz-o-meter. Alternatively, play our Humanitarian Buzzword Bingo and ‘build capacity’ in your next strategic planning meeting and make sure to tweet #Bingo when you get a full row.

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