IRIN's Top Reads this week

Want to stay on top of the current debate around humanitarian and development issues without having to spend hours surfing the web?

Welcome to IRIN's reading list.

Every week our global network of specialist correspondents will share some of their top picks of recent must-read research, reports and in-depth articles while also highlighting key upcoming conferences and policy debates.

This week we look at humanitarian access, how Ebola survivors are key to contain the virus, Chinese aid policy and the perils of “VolunTourism”.

Five to read:

Humanitarian Access in Situations of Armed Conflict: Practitioners' Manual and Handbook 

Essential reading for any aid worker involved in a conflict-situation response, this new manual takes a look at the principles of humanitarian access with a view to supporting approaches to improve access. A collaboration between the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and Conflict Dynamics International, its contents include input from consultation workshops held in Switzerland, Jordan, Kenya and Thailand during 2012 and 2013.

To hasten Ebola containment, mobilize survivors 

There is more to Ebola survivors than heartwarming stories. This paper argues that due to their post-infection immunity, people who have survived the virus are vital to helping bring it under control. They have local knowledge, they understand the symptoms, and their blood antibodies may be useful to help others fight the illness.

The 'Chinese way'? The evolution of Chinese humanitarianism 

As a rising economic power, China is also growing as a humanitarian actor, giving generously to a number of recent disaster funds. But Chinese aid gets little coverage and its modus operandi and intentions are generally perceived to be “different” to that of so-called “traditional donors”. This paper shines a light on what it refers to as China’s distinctive “humanitarian identity”, giving important historical context, and makes a case for more dialogue between the international and Chinese humanitarian communities.

VolunTourism:  More harm than good 

As the season for giving to charity and making New Year resolutions approaches, how many people will be making plans to “do good” while on holiday? If anyone you know has such an intention, make sure they read this first. Journalist Heather Ruiz, who travelled through West Africa in 2013, highlights some of the follies of “VolunTourism” and makes a good case for why it makes better sense to support vocational training and community-based initiatives rather than sending in “white saviours”.

Authoritarianism, democracy and development 

Many aid programmes are taking place in less than perfect political situations and there are difficult questions about whether it makes good sense to give support to authoritarian regimes with poor records on civil liberties and human rights. This paper from the Developmental Leadership Program examines the evidence on authoritarianism and development from the perspective of a policy-maker providing advice to an imagined developmental authoritarian regime, and raises some interesting points.

From IRIN:

Time for re-think on humanitarian funding? 

WFP’s celebrity-endorsed #ADollarALifeline campaign thrust the plight of Syrian refugees back into the global spotlight and netted more than the asked-for US$64million in just a matter of days. But experts warn that the success of this type of appeal is masking deeper fundamental and structural issues relating to how humanitarian agencies are funded. What do you think?

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