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Iraq’s rebuild billions, Africa’s week of drama, and Oxfam’s seismic sex scandal: The Cheat Sheet

Tue, 30 Jan 2018 09:49:11 +0000

Every week, IRIN’s team of specialist editors scans the humanitarian horizon to curate a reading list on important and unfolding trends and events around the globe:   Spotlight falls on sexual abuse in the aid sector   By 26 February, government-funded NGOs have to report to British aid minister Penny Mordaunt on their policies to combat sexual exploitation and abuse (letter here). They also have to ensure sub-grantees have equivalent measures. Oxfam remains under investigation by the regulator and has announced tougher and more extensive provisions for its staff.   While Oxfam squirms, the fallout is spreading: the Norwegian Refugee Council has suspended a staff member connected to the scandal; Sweden has suspended funding to Oxfam and is checking whether it too failed to act on a 2008 warning; in France, questions remain for Action contre la Faim about how it recruited Roland van Hauwermeiren even after he had been thrown out of Oxfam Haiti.     Speaking from Belgium, van Hauwermeiren has denied most of the allegations. But former and current Oxfam staff members have revealed further cases, celebrity backers have walked away, and one researcher's collection of news and commentary frenzy has over 60 links. Oxfam's supporters admit it has to face the music but say it would be wrong for it to be treated as an exception while other aid agencies avoid the spotlight by sheer chance. It would be perverse to penalise Oxfam for successfully unearthing abusers in its ranks, they argue. On Wednesday, MSF joined a growing list of agencies in releasing figures on investigations, complaints, and dismissals. On the same day, Dutch politician Ruud Lubbers died. This former head of the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, was likely the most senior UN official ever to step down over sexual harassment. Meanwhile, lurid allegations of 60,000 rape cases committed by the UN have been slapped down by lobby group Code Blue as "irresponsible fearmongering".   Iraq’s long road ahead   This week, donors, politicians, aid agencies, and investors met in Kuwait to discuss the reconstruction of Iraq after three years of war against so-called Islamic State. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said it’ll take $88 billion. Only $30 billion was pledged this week. Although some news reports focused on the shortfall, Iraq never anticipated (or really asked) for the full sum: most of the money is expected to come from the government itself and private investment. Rebuilding isn’t the only game in town seeking open pockets though. The UN's soon-to-be-released Humanitarian Response Plan is expected to ask for $569 million to provide aid in 2018, and its newly launched Iraq Recovery and Resilience Programme – focusing on reconciliation and supporting survivors – asks for another $482 million this year, plus an additional $568 million “to help stabilise high-risk areas”. It all sounds like a lot of money. But as we reported from Mosul’s Old City this week, in the rubble of where the city’s final battle against IS was fought, the most vulnerable Iraqis need a lot of help. The discussions in Kuwait, and even the pledges – well intentioned as they may be – are pretty abstract concepts for those who right now have no choice but to scavenge for scrap metal on top of collapsed homes and still-rotting corpses.   In Afghanistan, a year of “appalling human suffering”   More than 10,000 civilians were killed or injured in Afghanistan as a result of armed conflict in 2017, according to figures released this week by the UN mission there. It's a drop from 2016's total, but part of a rising trend in casualties over the last nine years. In 2009, when the mission began releasing this data, there were fewer than 6,000 recorded casualties.  allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="450" id="datawrapper-chart-zX0CZ" scrolling="no" src="//" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important;">   Meanwhile, over the past three years, the Sudanese government has made it clear it expects t[...]

Afghan attack, Congo killings, and crisis debate at Davos: The Cheat Sheet

Fri, 26 Jan 2018 18:46:02 +0000

Every week, IRIN’s team of specialist editors scans the humanitarian horizon to curate a reading list on important and unfolding trends and events around the globe:   Congo’s deepening crisis   UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for "credible investigations" after at least six people were killed in Kinshasa on Sunday during a crackdown on demonstrations against President Joseph Kabila. Whether he will get it is a different matter. Guterres said the government should "hold those responsible accountable", just as the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO reported a surge in extrajudicial executions by “state agents”, notably in the southern region of Kasai. According to MONUSCO’s annual human rights report, there were 1,176 recorded summary killings, "including at least 89 women and 213 children” in 2017 – mostly committed by the armed forces – a 25 percent increase on 2016. Sunday’s protests followed the killing of nine people by the police during similar demonstrations organised by the Catholic Church on 31 December. Kabila is facing mounting unrest over his postponement of elections last year. They are now scheduled to take place at the end of 2018 – although few Congolese believe that date will hold either. Meanwhile, militia groups in the south and east are unifying to force Kabila from power, with increasing numbers of refugees fleeing to Zambia, Uganda, and Angola to escape the widening conflict. Look out for IRIN’s latest “who’s who” on the violence, and visit our in-depth page here.   Afghan attack fallout   Ripples from Wednesday’s attack on Save the Children’s office in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad are being felt far and wide. At least six civilians were killed, including four Save the Children staff, when gunmen, apparently acting in the name of so-called Islamic State, stormed the office after one of the attackers blew himself up in front of the building. The charity, which runs education projects for some 700,000 children across almost half of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, immediately suspended those operations, but the wider fallout could be far greater. It has become impossible to ignore the growing trend of civilian targeting in Afghanistan, in particular of aid organisations and places of worship. More than 60 local and international NGOs put out a joint statement, railing against this “normalisation” of attacks on civilians and calling for greater protections for aid workers operating in dangerous frontline environments. “Over the last year, there have been 156 attacks on aid workers committed by actors involved in the current conflict,” the statement said. “This includes 17 aid workers who have been killed as they attempted to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance including food, safe drinking water and healthcare to those most in need.” It wasn’t immediately clear if this latest attack would be the tipping point for some aid organisations to further scale back operations in Afghanistan, as the International Committee of the Red Cross has already done, but the secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland, said his organisation was reassessing and that aid groups in Afghanistan were “hanging on by our fingernails”. We reported in October on how this spreading insecurity is cutting off medical care for many vulnerable Afghans. We’ll now have to look in greater depth at aid access more generally.   What’s really behind Saudi aid to Yemen?   Given the “dire, unrelenting” humanitarian crisis in Yemen – to use the recent words of Guterres, you would think the announcement of any new aid is welcome. So when the Saudi Arabia-led coalition this week announced the Yemen Comprehensive Humanitarian Operations (YCHO), a new plan it said commits over $3.5 billion to “relieve suffering in Yemen”, including $1.5 billion in “new humanitarian aid funding for distribution across UN agencies and international organisations”, it certainly made headlines. But the[...]