!KNOW BETTER WITH MESOP NEWS! : Beyond Mosul, IRIN’s Top Picks

26 Nov 2016 – Every week, IRIN’s team of editors curates a selection of humanitarian reports and opinion you may have missed, from in-depth analysis and features to academic studies and podcasts:

Are we rushing towards localisation?

Syria’s “White Helmets” were roundly condemned this week for staging a rescue video as an elaborate “mannequin challenge” for social media. While not exactly “fake news”, it certainly gifted an unexpected propaganda victory to opponents Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad. This weighty report from Médecins Sans Frontières takes a deep dive into an issue that groups like the White Helmets are central to: localisation. The report is particularly damning about the “political correctness with which a range of NGOs and others have promoted this agenda”. Noting the momentum localisation gained from “blanket endorsement” at the World Humanitarian Summit in May, specifically through the headline Grand Bargain funding commitment, report author Ed Schenkenberg points out a series of ethical and practical roadblocks.

For inherent limitations, he cites the example of Syria, where the White Helmets and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent mainly work on opposite sides of the conflict and are perceived, at least, to have taken a side. The report mentions many other challenges too, from anti-terrorism laws to procurement scandals to inadequate local capacity. Can local groups scale up to save lives in the most pressing crises? Not according to MSF’s experiences in South Sudan, CAR, the Diffa region of Niger, or Yemen, it says. While accepting that localisation can help build national institutions and promote sustainable development, Schenkenberg says MSF’s “overriding priority” must remain the direct provision of humanitarian assistance to people in need. “Imposing this [localisation] agenda in an unnuanced way on emergency operations in fragile and conflict settings is likely to produce suboptimal results for the people in need of immediate relief,” his report concludes.

Syria’s food and agriculture crisis

While the almost daily bombing of Aleppo continues to dominate news about Syria, more than five years of conflict have taken their toll across the country. The economy has been decimated and food production hit a record low this year, according to this report released last week by the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Food Programme. Although unfavourable weather has played a role, the war has made it increasingly difficult for farmers to access their fields, to get hold of inputs such as seeds and fertiliser or to bring their products to markets. Livestock production has also taken a hit, with Syria now having 40 percent fewer sheep and 60 percent less poultry than before the crisis. As more families abandon their farms, shrinking amounts of food are available to feed the rest of the population and more than seven million people are now classified as food insecure.

65 years of global military spending

Curious about which regions have spent the most on arms, and when purchases spiked and fell? Of course you are. Fortunately, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has now collated the data and produced some nifty charts. Trends around the world have been generally upward to 2015, but there are exceptions, like Central Europe, where military spending plunged in 1990 at the end of the Cold War. In Africa, spending has rapidly increased during the 2000s as “economies have improved, while increasing oil resources have frequently been squandered on high military spending”. There’s a similar trend in Asia, with spending driven by economic growth, as well as tensions between India and Pakistan, and North and South Korea. South America saw purchases plunge in 1992, which was almost entirely the result of Brazil cutting its military budget in half. Overall, the sheer amount of money spent on weapons is staggering, with North America (i.e. mostly the United States) leading the pack with a whopping $800 billion. There’s much more here, and SIPRI has made it easy to dig into the data by providing it free to download.

Iraq’s displacement and sectarian timebombs

All the attention in Iraq right now is on Mosul, but IRIN Middle East Editor Annie Slemrod chose instead to head to the displacement camps of Anbar Province in search of clues about where the country goes next. It’s surely only a matter of time before so-called Islamic State is driven out of Mosul and largely out of Iraq. What will happen afterwards is both uncertain and deeply worrying. This eye-opening feature, the first in a series on Iraq’s massive displacement problem and deep sectarian division, explores the two big issues lurking on the immediate horizon. Without an accommodation between the Sunni minority and the Shia majority, this will surely be just the latest chapter in an ongoing cycle of conflict. Sunni-dominated Anbar matters. It has been a cradle of Iraq’s extremism before and will be again if things don’t change. I’m biased, but this is inciteful reporting: a must-read. www.mesop.de