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Crunch time in Congo, community philanthropy, and continuing genocide: IRIN’s Top Picks

Every week, IRIN’s team of editors curates a selection of humanitarian reports and opinion you may have missed, from in-depth analyses and features to academic studies and podcasts:

Equality and economy in the Middle East

As Bessma Momani points out right off the bat in this briefing for the Brookings Institution, one of the major drivers of the Arab Spring was economic stagnation. Almost six years further on, many countries in the region are still struggling, but they are also failing to utilise what should be one of their greatest resources – women. While women in many countries in the Middle East and North Africa have higher university enrollment rates than men, they are still comparatively underemployed. There are many reasons for this that have nothing to do with cultural norms: mandatory retirement ages are lower for women than men – this limits career expectations and pensions – and many female entrepreneurs don’t have access to collateral for loans. In addition to a wealth of data, Momani offers sensible policy recommendations that would benefit both women and the countries they live in: providing safe public transport to work is a good one just for starters.

Community philanthropy – power to the people!

The first line of the blurb for the global summit on community philanthropy, held in Johannesburg earlier this month, doesn’t quite trip off the tongue. Do you want to see philanthropy and international aid re-oriented towards community strengthening? Um … Yes, of course you do. So here’s a useful guide by Anna Wansbrough-Jones on what that could all mean.

The first point is the philosophy. Everybody is a giver in community philanthropy. There are no donors and beneficiaries. It’s about shifting the power dynamic, encouraging communities to identify and build on their existing assets, easing dependency, and in so doing arriving at better outcomes. But how do we get there? Wansbrough-Jones lists seven lessons learnt from the summit.

Global migration’s impact and opportunity

Last week, the McKinsey Global Institute launched its report on the potential outcomes of global migration patterns on the world economy. This companion report focuses on the particular challenges confronting individual European countries as they attempt to process and absorb the 2.3 million refugees and asylum seekers who arrived in Europe between 2015 and 2016. An unusually large percentage of the new arrivals were from war-torn countries, meaning most will be granted refugee status and the right to stay. This presents a challenge for countries where years of recession and austerity measures have contributed to highly charged political debates about immigration. The McKinsey report looks at some of the systemic issues stalling successful integration of new arrivals and recommends strategies for solving them. It warns that failure to properly invest in improving asylum procedures and supporting refugees to integrate could strain welfare systems, segregate societies, and leave refugees at risk of isolation and unemployment. The good news: there’s still time to reap the economic and social benefits of effective integration programmes that cover entry into the labour market as well as access to education, housing, health, and language classes.

Deadly attacks dumbed down in Indian-administered Kashmir

Since July, Indian forces in Kashmir have used weapons deemed “less than lethal” against stone-throwing protestors. The group Physicians for Human Rights disagrees with that assessment. Its report says the weapons “in fact caused deaths and serious, often permanently debilitating, injuries.” The weapons in question include tear gas grenades, pepper gas canisters, and shotguns loaded with pellets, as well as live ammunition. Pellet guns have blinded hundreds of people. Yet, in September, the state’s High Court refused to ban them. More than 87 people have been killed so far, and more than 9,000 injured. In addition, the rights groups says, “Indian security forces deliberately obstructed access to urgent medical care for protesters”. Outbreaks of unrest as well as insurgent activity have erupted periodically in Kashmir for decades. Another life was lost on Thursday: a protestor hit by a stray bullet from security forces battling unidentified gunmen. 

One to listen to:

Congo in crisis

Joseph Kabila’s full second term as Congolese president runs out on 20 December and the opposition is demanding he step down the day before. Kabila, on the other hand, insists that the constitution allows him to remain in office until elections have been held and a successor is ready to take office. The big problem: elections have been repeatedly delayed. The previous constitutional deadline for the calling of elections, 19-20 September, saw protests that led to scores of deaths. There is little trust for Kabila in Kinshasa, with April 2018 now being talked about for elections and fears the president might try to change the constitution before then to maintain his grip on power. This BBC Newshour Extra is dedicated to working out what will happen next and sees a trio of experts duking it out with Kabila’s chief diplomatic advisor, Barnabé Kikaya Bin Karubi. The aide is insistent the president, whose father and predecessor Laurent was assassinated by one of his own bodyguards in January 2001, intends to remain in office only until his successor is elected and ready to take the reins. Time will tell if this is the case, or if the people of Congo are prepared to wait that long.

One from IRIN:

The human cost of Chad’s war against Boko Haram

For the last seven years, the Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram has rampaged across the Lake Chad Basin region, uprooting 2.6 million people in four countries. An estimated 20,000 people have been killed in the group’s brutal attempt to establish an Islamist caliphate in West Africa, but there has been little reporting on the carnage, beyond the bombings and kidnappings in Nigeria. That is until IRIN contributor, Ashley Hamer, visited the remote Chad side of the lake to file this fascinating multimedia special. She reports on Ndjamena’s effective military response to the insecurity, but the less than stellar performance by the government and aid partners in tackling the humanitarian fallout of the insurgency. Sharp analysis, touching testimonies and haunting photo images tell the story of a hidden crisis, in which donor funding falls well short of needs and local communities are left to shoulder much of the burden of the influx of refugees and IDPs.

Coming up:


Today is the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime. There’s no event coming up, just time to reflect on the appalling fact that more than two decades after Rwanda and Bosnia, and more than a decade after the worst atrocities in Darfur, genocidal campaigns are being waged from Syria to South Sudan, from Myanmar to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Campaign group United to End Genocide has another 10 countries on its watch list: Afghanistan, Burundi, Guinea, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, and Yemen. These conflicts have varied and complex origins, from geopolitical power struggles to elites that simply want to cling to power, but differences in ethnicity, race, nationality or religion are increasingly being exploited to further military objectives with horrific consequences. Often it’s civilians – including women and children – who pay the price. Violent extremism also shows no sign of abating, while xenophobia and hate crimes are on the rise in Western democracies just as populism and nationalism are on the march. It’s a deeply depressing state of affairs as 2016 heads towards a close. Let’s hope 2017 brings better news.

(TOP PHOTO: Protest in Kinshasa, September 2016. CREDIT: Habibou Bangre/IRIN)