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IRIN’s top reads this week

DUBAI, 27 November 2014 (IRIN) - 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 share some of their top picks of recent must-read research and in-depth articles while also highlighting interesting podcasts, key upcoming conferences and ongoing policy debates.
 
This week we look at HIV, failed development paradigms, ISIS in Syria, military spending, South Sudan and what peak youth really means.
 
Five to read:
 
Rule of Terror: Living under ISIS in Syria
 
This long and detailed report makes for some unpleasant reading, but is an important piece of research based on first-hand victim and witness accounts describing life under the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria. There are accounts of street executions, public lashings, women being stoned until they fall into graves, and armed children manning checkpoints, all coming from more than 300 interviews with men, women and children who fled or who are living in IS-controlled areas. It is not as slickly presented as IS propaganda, but it is far more revealing.
 
The civil society role debate: S Sudan example
 
“Inclusivity” is something of a sacred cow in conflict resolution circles, but is it really always a good idea to bring civil society to the negotiating table together with warring parties? The international community thought so in the case of South Sudan, where civil war reignited almost a year ago, yet this position gave the belligerents a rare patch of common ground: a shared contention - even if a disingenuous one - that too many actors would delay a peace deal. This post by Sudanese blogger, aid worker and analyst Mohamed el-Shabik unpicks the issues.
 
Stop Trying to Save the World: Big ideas are destroying international development
 
The launch of Bob Geldof’s Band Aid 30 song has stirred up a fiery debate about the pros and cons of “international development” and the problems with overseas actors trying to fix other countries’ problems. This article, which presents the example of a gimmicky water project that attracted millions of dollars in funding but delivered few lasting benefits, asks important questions about the aid sector and the people involved in it. The author has had a long career in international NGOs and he presents an interesting and frank evaluation of the system and wider aid context.
 
Arms and the African: The continent’s armies are going on a spending spree
 
According to data gathered by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), military spending in Africa is growing faster than anywhere else in the world. Despite the pressing need for greater investments in public health, education and housing, two out of three African governments substantially increased their military spending over the last decade. Bigger armies and more sophisticated weaponry could alter the type and scale of wars fought on the continent, this Economist article warns.
 
AIDS in 2014: tell no lies and claim no easy victories
 
Ahead of World AIDS Day on Monday 1 December, this collection of essays from a range of leading HIV activists, including Mark Heywood and Sisonke Msimang, make important and sometimes controversial observations about the “HIV Industry” and how what was previously a social rights movement has become institutionalized and “co-opted”. The authors challenge the obsession with telling the good news stories to keep donors happy, suggest UNAIDS “needs a kick”, and call for a more people and rights-focused response to the virus. There are interesting parallels made between the social aspects of HIV and Ebola. If you don’t have time to read the full report, you can download a podcast of Heywood and Msimang outlining their positions at an event at the London School of Economics.
 
Upcoming Event:
 
The evolving humanitarian system: a truly global approach?
          
The humanitarian sector has for some time been dominated by Western agencies and donors, but the world is changing and new players from Asia, the Middle East and the global South are playing an increasing role in responding to conflicts and disaster. Is the “traditional” humanitarian sector ready for these new partners?  What are the conflicts between existing actors and these new players who may follow different rules and apply different strategies?  Alexander Alimov, deputy director of the Department of International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, will present the third annual Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) on 4 December. Register here to stream online and follow #HPGlecture on Twitter for live coverage.
 
From IRIN:
 
Peak youth – seizing the moment?
 
Most people understand the phrase “peak oil” - the point where oil production goes into an irreversible decline. But those in development circles are increasingly talking about “peak youth”, when there will be more young people than ever before in the history of the planet, and when young people as a proportion of the population will reach a maximum, before starting to drop.
 
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Theme (s): Aid Policy,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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