General Government

Climate calamity, migrant myths, and children in conflict: The cheat sheet

Check out which humanitarian topics are on IRIN’s radar and trawl through our curation of the best reports, opinion, and journalism you may have missed:

Where next for planet Earth?

US President Donald Trump’s announcement that he is withdrawing the planet’s second largest polluter from the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change has prompted dismay around the globe. The World Meteorological Organisation is warning that in a worst-case scenario Trump’s move could add 0.3 degrees Celsius to global temperatures by the end of the century. But as IRIN will outline in detail next week, it also compounds the effect on developing countries of ongoing cuts to overseas aid, as the US will cease contributing to the Green Climate Fund – the biggest source of climate finance by far. The private sector has an increasingly vital role to play in climate change mitigation, but the US withdrawal from Paris could relegate American companies to the sidelines in developing countries. The G20 summit in Hamburg on 7/8 July has become a moment of reckoning for world leaders. Can they devise a new business model for climate action and for the involvement of the private sector in this “post-US” era?

Identify children’s rights violators in war

In an open letter to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, 41 organisations working to protect the rights of children in armed conflict have condemned the UN’s reported decision to “freeze” any new additions of armies/groups that commit grave violations of children’s rights to the annexes of the upcoming 2017 annual report to the UN Security Council on children and armed conflict.

There have been past examples of the “politicisation” of the list. In 2015, Israel (over the Gaza war), and, in 2016, Saudi Arabia (over Yemen) avoided being listed after “undue pressure”, the letter said. A freeze would mean the Saudi Arabian-led coalition fighting in Yemen would escape again. The rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, said: “We believe firmly that the list should be impartial, based on UN-verified evidence, and with all parties held to the same standard.” They also urged Guterres to issue an updated list for 2016.

Al-Shabab triumphant

It’s been a rough few weeks for Kenyan security forces in their battle with al-Shabab militants. On Wednesday, seven police officers and a civilian were killed when a roadside IED destroyed their armoured vehicle in southeastern Lamu. On 24 May, at least five officers were killed in an IED blast that targeted Governor Ali Ibrahim Roba’s motorcade in northeastern Mandera. On the same day, three policemen were killed and two injured in an IED attack in Garissa, north of Lamu. All told, at least 19 officers have died in the past two weeks in al-Shabab attacks on Kenyan counties neighbouring Somalia.

This week, the jihadists claimed another propaganda victory when they released footage that seemed to show they had overrun a Kenyan army base at Kulbiyow, in Somalia’s Lower Juba, in January. The government has always denied the base fell – although it has admitted the battle was vicious, with defences breached by three vehicle-borne IEDs. Al-Shabab claimed they killed 67 soldiers. The footage shows them in the camp, with Kenyan soldiers in retreat. Critics have condemned the army for not learning both the military and information management lessons after the fall of El-Adde base in 2016.

Did you miss it?

UN flight ban reduces Yemen access at critical time

The difficulties and dangers journalists face in reporting on humanitarian emergencies are not often told. Given the gravity of events unfolding in Yemen, it is a point worth making on this occasion. Regular IRIN contributor Samuel Oakford reveals how Saudi pressure has led to an effective ban on journalists and human rights workers travelling on UN chartered flights to the capital, Sana’a. Given the non-existence of commercial flights, this means those still trying to cover the conflict are having to go to increasingly desperate lengths to do so. This, in turn, ramps up the pressure and risks for local journalists, already vulnerable to abuse and intimidation. The scale of the cholera epidemic now gripping Yemen and a looming offensive for the port of Hodeida make it imperative that reliable information gets out.

Europe: Migrant dream or last resort?

It’s been another busy week in the Mediterranean, particularly off Libya’s coast. Despite frantic efforts by Italy to broker deals with Libya and its neighbours to police their borders and coastlines, the boats keep coming. From January until the end of May, Italy received nearly 60,000 sea arrivals, compared to 41,000 over the same period last year. EU efforts to train and equip the Libyan coastguard to intercept smugglers’ boats before they reach international waters have only resulted in about 6,500 migrants being returned to Libya. The prevailing narrative is that the predominantly African migrants using this route are intent on reaching prosperous Europe, whatever the risks. But the evidence suggests Europe is often the default destination rather than the intended one. Based on research conducted between 2015 and 2016, Vicki Squires of the University of Warwick describes “destination Europe” as a myth. Many of the 257 migrants interviewed recounted fragmented journeys in search of safety or work, and then being forced to flee violence and indiscriminate detention in Libya. Our own recent investigation found that a significant proportion of Bangladeshis, arriving in Italy in unprecedented numbers, spent several years working in Libya before conditions there became untenable. Others may have opted for the dangerous sea route as legal routes to Italy and other European countries were closed off. Squires concludes that the EU’s deterrence policies, based as they are on misplaced assumptions about the drivers of migration, are bound to fail.

Ebola: The trouble with quarantine

When a deadly, contagious disease appears in a densely populated urban setting, what’s the best way to stop it spreading? This is not a hypothetical question: The 2014-15 Ebola outbreak in West Africa forced authorities to take tough decisions with implications not only for public health but also human rights. Take quarantine. While this may sound like a surefire way to contain a disease, its effectiveness, appropriateness, the risks and humanitarian implications are complex and intertwined issues, as this lessons-learned paper from ALNAP sets out. Describing quarantine as a “measure of last resort”, the paper warns it can lead to unrest and non-compliance, and describes in detail how it was implemented in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. For example, the lack of mobility imposed by quarantine measures meant many city-dwellers lost jobs and other sources of income. At one point, half the population of Freetown was under quarantine. Disposing of the huge amount of waste generated by quarantined populations, such as clothing and bedding likely to be infected with the Ebola virus, was a major challenge. In all three countries, poor communications by governments led to public backlashes. The ALNAP paper is part of a series of three focused on the Ebola outbreak in cities, with the others looking at population movement and community engagement.

One for the diary:

Where it matters – 19 June – Geneva

How humanitarian agencies can beef up their ability to deliver aid and protection to people caught up in conflict will be the focus of this upcoming conference in Geneva. The event, organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Norwegian Refugee Council, and HERE-Geneva will examine obstacles to effective response, including endemic risk aversion and poor institutional investment.

(TOP PHOTO: With unpaid street cleaners on strike, rubbish heaps are now common on the streets of Sana’a. Mohammed Hamoud/IRIN)