Top Picks: Dissidents, warlords, and mysterious murders

Welcome to IRIN's weekly top picks of must-read research, podcasts, reports, blogs and in-depth articles to help you keep on top of global crises.

Four to read

The localisation locomotive

Among the winners at the World Humanitarian Summit earlier this year was "localisation" – the idea that power and money should be devolved as much as possible to local organisations. The next step is tapping into community philanthropy; local people themselves raise the funds to deliver truly "sustainable development." The idea is that, "unlike many outside interveners, they have to live with the consequences of whatever they create," writes Rose Longhurst for the international development network Bond. But is localisation just another aid buzzword?  Longhurst argues that community foundations believe locally owned, locally-led development is far from jargon, instead it’s "the reason they exist". The "fundamental vision", she writes, "is one where 'donor' and 'recipient' are one and the same."

Want to find out more? The Global Summit on Community Philanthropy is in Johannesburg 1-2 December.

In Myanmar, mysterious murders on the Bangladesh border

It's even more tense than usual in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where about a million ethnic minority Rohingya Muslims live amongst some two million ethnic Rakhine Buddhists. Violence has exploded here before, notably in 2012 when clashes left hundreds dead and about 140,000 people displaced, with the victims overwhelmingly Rohingya. When a mysterious group this week launched coordinated attacks on three police stations on the frontier with Bangladesh, killing nine officers, suspicion fell on the minority group and many feared a deadly backlash. With access to the scene of the crimes restricted, there’s an absence of facts and speculation is rife. Some officials have blamed the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation, an armed group thought to be defunct for almost two decades. In this Q & A, Richard Horsey, a consultant with International Crisis Group, helpfully breaks down what we know so far. Pushing it further, human rights NGO Fortify Rights says it’s got credible information that Rohingya civilians have been killed in a subsequent crackdown, and it’s analysed two videos that show Rohingya speakers calling for an uprising. For a bit more background, yet another report published this week by Physicians for Human Rights details the brutal conditions the Rohingya live under and perhaps helps to explain some of of the community's frustration.

The age of walls

Last year saw a surge, not only in migrants and refugees arriving in Europe, but also in border fences and walls erected all over the world. In 2001, only about 15 international borders were fenced or walled off. Now there are 63 border fences dividing countries on four continents. This three-part multimedia series by the Washington Post, the first two episodes of which were published this week, chronicles "A New Age of Walls" from Europe to the US-Mexico border. Combining text and graphics with interviews of migrants and refugees trapped behind fences as well as the politicians and border authorities who justify them, the series reflects on what this new age of barriers says about our fears of terrorism and the rise of populist politicians capitalising on the backlash against globalisation. And it examines the impact of fences on those who, trying to reach safety or a better life, often risk their lives trying circumvent them.

Saudi Arabia’s human rights defenders

Saudi Arabia’s most-vocal group of human rights defenders is also its one of its most-prominent group of victims, according to this report from Swiss-based foundation Alkarama. The Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) was founded in 2009, and since then all 11 of its members have been prosecuted in some way – seven are currently behind bars. ACPRA’s members call for a constutional monarchy, a universally elected parliament, and an independent judiciary. They are also vocal about human rights abuses in the country, and as details on the arrests, charges, and mistreatment of the activists show, the kingdom does not take dissent lightly. It's little wonder there are few Saudi (or Gulf-based) critics of the war in Yemen, as this recent piece in Muftah points out. This report is part of a larger campaign including a short film, social media flurry, and a letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

One to watch

The Road to Fallujah

As Iraqi forces and their allies – majority Shia militias and Kurdish fighters – heard towards Mosul, there is growing concern about the security screening that has become routine in the country as areas are liberated from so-called Islamic State. There have been allegations of torture and summary executions by militias dealing with suspected collaborators, and it’s generally a rough and tumble affair with little oversight. This five minute clip from a longer VICE News film is not new, but it has just been named as a finalist for the Rory Peck Awards and is as relevant as ever. It peeks inside a village in Anbar Province just after IS has been ousted, and watches as Iraqi special forces ask villagers to vouch for (or snitch on) their neighbours. Suspects are blindfolded, put in the back of a truck, and sent away. There are thought to be more than a million people in Mosul, and before the city's fighting age men can head to camps or elsewhere, they will be vetted. There's little reason to believe the screening process this time around will be orderly or safe, but some humanitarians are doing their best to eke out improvements in the system.

One from IRIN

What's going on in South Sudan, and can it possibly get worse?

The short answer is yes. As bad as the situation is in South Sudan, it may actually be taking a turn for the worse. After two years of civil war, half the population is in need of aid and in the wake of a failed peace deal, a new phase of rebellion is spreading across the country and refugees are streaming over the borders into Uganda and Ethiopia. In this briefing, Africa Editor Obi Anyadike unpacks a conflict that is, at its root, a rivalry between two men: President Salva Kiir and former vice president Reik Machar. Both are "sectarian warlords", willing to sacrifice their country for personal gain. At the moment, Kiir has the upper hand as Machar has fled the country. But don’t rule him out. One analyst thinks that if Machar comes back, "we’ll be back to full blown civil war." The present violence is nearly as bad – as a graph in the briefing illustrates, chaos in the country has caused a dramatic spike in people fleeing the country; the number of refugees in neighbouring countries hit one million at the end of August.

Coming up:

Nigeria beyond Boko Haram – Tuesday, 20 October 9am (UCT)

IRIN has been closely following Boko Haram and the devastation the group has caused, including 25,000 dead and 2.8 million displaced. Here's your chance to ask Nigerian officials what they and their citizens can do to tackle the region's many challenges as the militants are pushed back but their legacy remains. The United States Institute of Peace will be live webcasting a discussion with governors from states across northern Nigeria, and you can get your questions in via Twitter, Facebook, and email. 

For more information, click here.

(TOP PHOTO: Rohingya from Myanmar work as fishermen in Bangladesh, often under difficult conditions and for little pay. Saiful Huq Omi/IRIN)

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