IRIN’s Top Picks: Siege gardening, Scientology and aid pledges

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, interviews, 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:

Local engagement with armed groups: in the midst of violence

“International policy is ambiguous on whether or not to talk to non-state armed groups, but while states equivocate, local populations may already be in contact,” notes this new Accord Insight publication from Conciliation Resources. With three in-depth case studies from Colombia, northern Uganda and Syria, the study looks at the role local communities play in dialogue with armed actors and includes a reminder that “local populations are not just passive actors in conflict zones but can make important contributions to local human security and peace building.

Scientologists are in Nepal trying to 'heal' trauma victims

Taking the white savior meme to new levels, meet the people taking supernatural healing powers into disaster zones. Patrick Winn reports for GlobalPost on the Scientologists flying to post-quake Nepal to deliver their own very special kind of aid. According to Winn, in The Scientology Handbook, “accidents and illness and bacterial infection are predetermined in almost all cases by spiritual malfunction” and Scientologists can fix these ailments by addressing a person’s inner “thetan”. See our report on a similar theme: Psychologists stay home: Nepal doesn't need you

A garden grows amid the daily dangers of a siege in Syria

A rare, uplifting story about Yarmouk, a neighbourhood in the Syrian capital, Damascus, which has been under siege for more than two years.  The area, originally a camp for displaced Palestinians, has received so little food due to the ongoing blockade, those that are still there are now growing their own fruit and vegetables in abandoned lots and on rooftops. Gardening in a conflict zone is not without its risks, and some people have been killed while tending to their beds, but the community is determined to do what it can to help itself in an otherwise helpless situation.

What do we know about the long-term legacy of aid programmes?

This blog raises some interesting points about post-project evaluation and the short-term nature of development programming. “We seldom go back a decade later and see what happened after we left. Why not?” asks Duncan Green, strategic adviser for Oxfam GB. He suggests that looking back and taking account of how communities responded to projects and adapted in the longer term could provide important lessons for future planning.

Coal giant exploited Ebola crisis for corporate gain, say health experts

Beware the corporate brand bandwagon. The Guardian reports on the outrage surrounding an attempt by Peabody, a US-based multinational with mining interests around the world, to use the West African Ebola crisis to promote one of its products. “Lack of electricity impairs ability to fight crises like Ebola,” reads a headline on a PowerPoint presentation by chief executive Greg Boyce.  Peabody denies any wrong doing, but the incident raises important questions about the role of the private sector in humanitarian and development issues.

Coming up:

The Frontline Club and Monocle 24 present: Crisis in the Mediterranean

Thursday 28 May, 7 PM (BST), London

A panel discussion chaired by Steve Bloomfield, executive editor of Monocle and host of Monocle 24’s The Foreign Desk radio programme. The event, featuring Maurice Wren, chief executive of the UK’s Refugee Council, will look at the root causes forcing thousands of people to risk their lives on boat crossings and what Europe should be doing to avoid more deaths at sea.

From IRIN:

Which countries are failing to deliver Gaza aid?

Arab countries like to pledge big on Gaza, but IRIN has seen a new World Bank report that shows actual aid delivery has been limited.  According to the data, Qatar has delivered just 10 percent of the $1 billion it promised, while Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Kuwait between them have handed over just over $50 million of the $900 million they pledged.  

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