Highlights - July to September 2017

From July to September, IRIN took a critical look inside the UN mission in Myanmar as it struggled to respond to mass abuses of the Rohingya people, and provided a ground-level view of the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis. Our early warning radar honed in on Congo’s spiralling Kasai conflict, and we published a special in-depth report on Iraqi Kurdistan’s pivotal independence referendum. In the aftermath of a record-breaking hurricane season, we also landed project-specific funding to report on the humanitarian consequences of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean.

To help deliver on one of our key ambitions – to grow our audience and strengthen engagement with our readers – we have begun working with a digital agency to better understand user behaviour and preferences and improve our digital platform and strategy. Your feedback will be critical to that, so stay tuned for an audience survey!

And for all of us in the fight to preserve quality journalism, here’s a small contribution from me. My TEDx Talk “Stop eating junk news” drives home the importance of unbiased, in-depth journalism about the biggest challenges of our time. After all, we cannot prevent, respond to, or resolve crises if we do not properly understand them.

Thank you, as ever, for your support. It is crucial to our efforts to put quality, independent journalism at the service of the most vulnerable people on Earth.

Heba Aly, Director of IRIN

 

 

 
 

IRIN starts work on audience engagement

In line with our aim to maximise the impact of our work and grow our audience, IRIN has launched a new cross-team project, working with a digital agency, to take our audience engagement to the next level. This includes surveying both existing and prospective users to find out what works and what doesn’t, assessing our digital strengths and weaknesses, and recruiting a dedicated audience engagement manager and web developer. 

IRIN steps up disaster coverage

Natural disasters caused havoc across the Caribbean, North and South America, South Asia and parts of Africa in the past few months, leading us to step up our coverage of disasters. Our reporting on the consequences of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which hit the Caribbean in September, was supported by a new grant from the UK Department for International Development (DfID) through H2H, a network of organisations that provide services to other humanitarian organisations rather than directly to beneficiaries. 

IRIN's first TEDx Talk

IRIN was pleased to be invited to take part in the first TEDx event in Chamonix Mont Blanc, France, sharing the stage with the likes of Tim Smith, an open science advocate who leads the Collaboration, Devices and Applications Group at CERN in Geneva, and Alyoscia D’Onofrio, Senior Director of the International Rescue Committee’s Governance Technical Unit. 

Heba at TEDx - quote
 

“IRIN scans the globe through a lens that is of unique value for the UN. Your critical voice as an organization that knows us is of great value."
- Fabrizio Hochschild, UN Assistant-Secretary-General 

 
 

Rohingya refugee crisis coverage

We continued to push forward our in-depth reporting on the Rohingya refugee crisis from both sides of the Myanmar-Bangladesh border. In the swelling refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar, our stories examined security concerns and provided a ground-level view of the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis. In Myanmar, exclusive stories have taken a critical look inside the UN mission in the lead-up to the 2017 refugee emergency, and analysed the growing pressure to take action as a result of the refugee crisis. We’ve been reporting on the Rohingya community years before this most recent crisis began. Read more of our coverage here.

A camp in Pawktaw, Myanmar, for Rohingya displaced by violence in 2012
Sara Perria/IRIN
 

Reporting rules for donors

Ben Parker dug deep into the data of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a club of the biggest donors, and pulled out some uncomfortable surprises. Donors reported $15 billion of spending on newly-arrived refugees in their own countries - more than their spending on emergencies abroad. But they presented this spending as part of their international development assistance, over-representing how much aid they actually give. Denmark, for example, has shifted spending from foreign assistance to domestic expenses, while still appearing to increase its aid budget. This threatens to make a mockery of the famed target of spending 0.7 percent of GNI on aid. The unique reporting was referenced by the UN Refugee Agency, the UN Secretary-General's office, the British opposition party and last but not least, the satirical Twitter account @AidWorkerJesus.

The hurricanes of 2017

Monsoon floods on the other side of the world were worse than Harvey, which made landfall in the United States in August, yet America's crisis took all the attention. Using open data, we quantified the relative online news coverage and found yawning gaps. In a story that was later cited by Buzzfeed, we also reported on concerns over Google’s choice of partner to distribute millions of dollars of public donations in response to the hurricanes: a little-known Washington DC advisory group without the proven capacity to manage and distribute the funds.

Our reporting on the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean saw Senior Editor Ben Parker and two of our freelancers fly to Antigua and visit Barbuda, Dominica and Barbados in September and October. Reporting for the project is gathered on this page, and includes a live blog, a stunning photo feature on the devastation in Dominica, an analysis on a local disaster agency, and an investigation into the island of Barbuda, where politicians and investors are said to be taking advantage of the devastation to grab land from people displaced.

Ben Parker/IRIN
 

The uncertain future of the Kurdish people

In the run-up to a pivotal independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan, we published a new series on the uncertain future of the region’s Kurds. In addition to examining the logistical challenges of holding a vote in the midst of a war and displacement crisis, we asked whatYazidis think of independence (it’s a mixed bag), and covered election-day violence in a disputed region where bloodshed signals a long road ahead for the territory that hopes to become the world's newest country.

Worsening Kasai conflict

Continuing his tireless efforts to shine a light on neglected wars in Africa, regular IRIN contributor Philip Kleinfeld turned his attention to the spiraling conflict in Congo’s Kasai region. Clashes between a new insurgency and government forces have claimed 3,000 lives in the last year and prompted 1.4 million to flee their homes. Philip’s field reporting unpicks the complex dynamics of the conflict and lays bare its human cost. It’s not a story Congo’s government is keen to have told: in the wake of visits to mass graves and meetings with rebels in Kasai, the local reporting assistant Philip was working with received death threats from national intelligence agents.

 

Philip Kleinfeld/IRIN
 

Unwelcome stranger: An African asylum seeker in Israel

This short documentary tells the story of Anwar, a Sudanese anti-government activist who fled his home in Darfur in 2003, and his experiences of detention and injustice in his country of refuge. This film offers a rare window into the difficult and uncertain lives many African asylum seekers face today in Israel.

 

Damned if you fish, damned if you don’t: No good choices on Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria once supported Africa's largest inland fishery. Thanks to poison, illegal nets and climate change, its stocks are dwindling. More families struggle to make ends meet and are turning to the production of palm oil. This IRIN film shows the reality of people living on Lake Victoria, affected by years of mismanagement, environmental changes, and a burgeoning population, and their struggle to make good choices in order to make a living.

 

 

 

Unlocking the potential of displaced people

In July, IRIN’s Director Heba Aly moderated a session on unlocking the potential of displaced people through trade and humanitarian relief - from upgrading skills to becoming active economic actors - with Swedish Trade Minister Ann Linde at the 2017 Aid for Trade Global Review, a monitoring exercise of the World Trade Organization’s initiative to help developing countries trade. Read the takeouts and catch a video of the event here.

The future of aid

How radically will aid have to change in the long term? IRIN Director Heba Aly spoke at the launch of the The Future of Aid: INGOs in 2030 - the result of a year’s research by the Inter- Agency Regional Analysts Network, a consortium of academic institutions and large international NGOs, working with futurologists to predict what the landscape for humanitarian action will look like in 12 years’ time. You can hear more about it here.

 

 

 

 

Geneva Peace Talks

On the International Day of Peace, IRIN Director Heba Aly shared the stage at the annu al Geneva Peace Talks with former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Christian Picciolini, a former member of the far-right white supremacist skinhead movement who co-founded the NGO Life After Hate. She spoke about the critical role independent and impartial journalism plays in building empathy and contributing to bridge-building. Watch her speech here.

Global People’s Summit - the first ever virtual online summit

Aimed at bringing discussions about global challenges out of the corridors of the UN and into people’s homes, the inaugural Global People’s Summit, organised in parallel with the UN General Assembly in New York, brought together a president of state, heads of aid agencies, media figures and youtube celebrities to discuss global action towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

IRIN Director Heba Aly had an important message about being informed on the issues you want to change: “Don’t be naïve heroes. Decide where you want to have an impact and then focus your energies, and part of that is understanding these issues and their complexities.”

 

IRIN in the press

The Italian NGO “Associazione Carta di Roma”, launched by the National Council Order of Journalists and National Federation of the Italian Press to ensure the publication of accurate information on immigration issues, described IRIN as “one of the best sites on migration and human rights”.

Catch IRIN contributor and Syria expert Aron Lund speaking to the BBC World Service about the situation in Deir Ezzor. Listen to him here (at 31 minutes) and read his reporting on the subject here.

The Century Foundation, an American public policy think-tank, used IRIN articles as a source for a report on the Syria-Jordan berm issue, where tens of thousands of Syrians are trapped on the border between the two countries.

IRIN Director Heba Aly joined the Advisory Board of a new Journal of Humanitarian Affairs to be published by the Humanitarian Conflict and Response Institute at the University of Manchester, the HAT at Save the Children and CRASH at MSF. Stay tuned for its scheduled release in Summer 2018.

On the occasion of Carleton University's 75th anniversary, IRIN Director Heba Aly has been recognized as one of the Faculty of Public Affairs' seventy-five most inspiring alumni, from the Foreign Service to the United Nations. Read more about Heba’s journey from Canadian newsrooms to becoming Director of an award-winning humanitarian news and analysis service.