Daily Archives: August 14, 2015

IRIN's Top Picks: Syria’s status, the migrant crisis and talking to ISIS

LONDON, 14 August 2015 (IRIN) – Welcome to IRIN’s reading list. Every week our global network of specialist correspondents share their top picks of must-read research, podcasts, reports, blogs and in-depth articles to help you keep on top of global crises. We also highlight key upcoming conferences, book releases and policy debates.

Five to read:

Shifting the system

Ahead of next May’s World Humanitarian Summit, the Start Network, a consortium of 24 leading NGOs, presents its mission statement to the gathering. It suggests four urgent changes to help the system respond better in a world of increasingly complex crises. These are: decentralisation towards local preparedness and response; new financial mechanisms to enable change; review and reform of the major humanitarian agencies; and greater accountability across the board. The document sheds light on some of the key policy debates in the run-up to the pivotal meeting in Istanbul.

Combating compassion fatigue

Syria is on the brink of destruction. Nearly half the country’s population has been displaced and some four million people are in need of aid – but are we still paying attention? Hugh Eakin and Alisa Roth highlight this sobering reality in the New York Review of Books: “The greatest threat facing Syria’s refugees today is indifference.” They argue that Syria’s neighbours have “scarce resources” to deal with the endless tide of refugees and so are “closing their borders.” Meanwhile, more and more people are fleeing to Europe, often dying along the way. Those who stay survive on almost nothing or face annihilation by so-called Islamic State (ISIS). The war is in its fifth year, but humanitarian assistance is dwindling. Eakin and Roth insist the last thing we should do is turn our backs.

Deciding who to aid in Syria

How do frontline aid workers in Syria decide who really needs humanitarian help? That is the dilemma being explored by Rezan Hemo, a field coordinator for Bihar Relief Organisation, an NGO serving Aleppo and established in 2011 to respond to the country’s ongoing bloody civil war. In his blogpost for the Humanitarian Practice Network, he suggests: “The challenging job… is to make those truly in need of assistance (be it material or otherwise) feel comfortable enough to accept it in a dignified way.” To tackle the “shame” and psychological stigma attached with receiving relief, he argues that Bihar works to establish “objective and transparently applied criteria” and “consult with the community” to identify who must be given aid – or decide whether “to employ blanket distribution” to local families in need.

How to destroy a war economy

“As long as conflict is profitable, it will remain harder to end.” John Prendergast makes a strong case in Foreign Policy to follow the trail of money made from atrocities unfolding in Africa. In order to prevent corrupt state leaders using middlemen – “arms dealers, ivory traffickers, gold and diamond smugglers” – to make hefty profits from war, he has launched The Sentry, a collaborative project with actor George Clooney to expose insidious financial networks benefitting from mass violence. He concludes: “International policies must focus more overtly on changing the cost-benefit analysis from war to peace.”

10 truths about Europe’s migrant crisis

Did you know the migrants at Calais account for as little as one percent of those who have arrived in Europe so far this year? The Guardian’s Patrick Kingsley aims to separate facts from fears in this popular, myth-busting piece about the migrant crisis: “The number of refugees in the UK has actually fallen by 76,439 since 2011… each asylum seeker in Britain gets a meagre £36.95 to live on… 62% of those who had reached Europe by boat this year were from… countries torn apart by war, dictatorial oppression, and religious extremism” – one statistic after another helps to debunk some of the most headline-grabbing, but ultimately bogus, claims about migration to Europe.

One to watch:

Why we don’t know what we don’t know

When studying mass human rights violations, how can we trust our data? Patrick Ball, executive director of non-profit Human Rights Data Analysis Group gives a gripping talk at the Claremont Graduate University Commencement Forum 2015, arguing that “no matter how big it is, data on violence is always partial.” He argues that using flawed statistical methods to study mass data can have dangerous consequences – for example, a systemic lack of analysis on who was being killed and why during the Iraq war meant we didn’t recognise that ethnic cleansing was taking place in Baghdad until it was too late. He ends by stressing the importance of rigorous statistics, using random sampling and modelling. “When you have a giant data set, what is it that you don’t have?” he asks.

One to listen to:

Should we ever talk to ISIS?

In the BBC World Service’s latest episode of The Inquiry, four experts debate what it would take to stop the rise of ISIS and whether it could “ultimately mean talking to them.” The father of James Foley, an American journalist beheaded by the group a year ago, has said governments will have to negotiate with them eventually, while Pope Francis has stated he would never close the door on dialogue. In the podcast, Jonathan Powell, the chief British negotiator on Northern Ireland under former prime minister Tony Blair says: “There is no military strategy for destroying them, so there needs to be a political strategy. That will involve talking to them.” However, journalist Qais Qasim, who is based in Baghdad and has witnessed atrocities perpetrated by ISIS firsthand, disagrees, saying bluntly: “You cannot negotiate with savages.”

From IRIN:

Is Turkey fighting ISIS or the Kurds?

Turkey restarted its bombing campaign against ISIS last month in an effort to tackle the Islamist militant group – but is this also an excuse to go after its long-term Kurdish separatist foes, the PKK? IRIN ran a fact check and the evidence is damning – just nine ISIS militants have been killed by attacks so far, compared with nearly 400 Kurdish fighters. It seems that while many in the West view ISIS as the most immediate threat for Turkey, those in power in Ankara seem to disagree.


UN human rights office warns Burundi crisis ‘spiralling out of control’

14 August 2015 – The situation in Burundi continues to deteriorate amid ongoing killings, arrests and detentions in the latest post-election turmoil to afflict the country, the United Nations human rights office has reported.

&#8220We urge all sides to resume dialogue before the situation spirals completely out of control,&#8221 warned Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), as she addressed reporters today in Geneva.

&#8220Burundi has been slipping closer to the edge with every high-profile attack and killing, and we call on leaders on all sides to take concrete steps to renounce the use of violence and to resolve differences peacefully,&#8221 she continued. &#8220Where violations and abuses have occurred, there need to be prompt investigations with a view to bringing the perpetrators to account and justice for victims.&#8221

According to the UN, civil unrest erupted on 26 April in Bujumbura, Burundi’s capital, after the ruling Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie-Forces pour la défense de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD) party elected President Pierre Nkurunziza on 25 April as its candidate for the then-scheduled 26 June presidential election.

Mr. Nkurunziza has been in office for two terms since 2005, and a broad array of actors warned that an attempt to seek a third term was unconstitutional and contrary to the spirit of the 2000 Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi that ended a decade of civil war in the country.

The OHCHR spokesperson observed that since the outbreak of violence in April, at least 96 people have been killed, mostly among opposition supporters, while some 600 people have been arrested and detained. Among those detained, there have been at least 60 cases of torture and many more cases of ill-treatment, she added.

&#8220So far, no trials have taken place in relation to the violence, killings, torture and ill-treatment since April, although the authorities have repeatedly indicated that investigations are under way and that some police elements have been arrested,&#8221 Ms. Shamdasani said, noting that the actual numbers of persons killed, detained or tortured may be much higher than initially thought.

&#8220We understand that in very few cases have investigations actually been initiated. Continuing impunity in Burundi can only fuel cycles of violence.&#8221

Along with the increasing human rights violations, the mounting violence across Burundi has also provoked a widespread humanitarian crisis as refugees have spilled across the country’s borders and fanned throughout the region.

Indeed, the most recent data state that over 200,000 people have sought refuge in neighbouring countries with 85,200 Burundian refugees in Tanzania, 71,600 in Rwanda, 28,300 in Uganda, 14,322 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 7,000 in Kenya, and 3,000 in southern Africa.

VPower Enters a New Market in Africa

– VPower plans to expand to a second Africa country and pitch in on Ghana’s effort to diversify its electricity generation mix

HONG KONG, Aug. 14, 2015 / PRNewswire – VPower Group, one of the leading independent power providers (IPP) recently announced expansion plans into Ghana, following its first fast track power installation in Africa in Chad. This will also be the first gas-power generation plant by VPower in Africa.

VPower%20Group%20Logo VPower Enters a New Market in Africa

VPower Group Logo

Logo – http://photos.prnasia.com/prnh/20150304/8521501369LOGO

“Gas-fuel power generation holds great potential for Ghana, offering impressive reduction in emissions and fuel-to-power efficiencies. We have one of the most compact gas generator sets on the market, which cuts cost and time in transportation and installation. The high potential for domestic gas (http://www.modernghana.com/news/599398/1/the-best-mix-of-power-sources-the-best-strategy-to.html) now gives us the opportunity to meet the country’s power demand in ways that improve the stability of power supply,” says Joel Castiel, VPower’s Regional Director for Africa.

Ghana has an installed power capacity of over 2,400MW to date, with power demand predicted to exceed 5,000MW by 2016. Driven by the Ministry of Energy’s objective to become a key exporter of electricity into the West Africa Power Pool (http://www.ecowapp.org/), in addition to meeting fast increasing domestic power demand, the Ghanaian government seeks to meet its goal of an 80% electrification rate by 2016. (http://www.nortonrosefulbright.com/files/investing-in-power-in-ghana-100588.pdf).

VPower’s gas-powered units are fitted with advance MTU gas engines and delivers power at one of the best efficiencies for category. Bringing energy solutions to support local government’s commitment to meeting capacity targets, fast and cost effectively is among the key focus for VPower. In 2014, VPower launched their first power installation to generate 20MW in N’Djamena, Chad. By 2017, VPower will be generating a total of 2GW of power in fast growing economies including Indonesia, Bangladesh and Myanmar. The expansion marks the company’s commitment to deliver leading power generation technology and know-how to regions where power demands continue to outstrip supply.

VPower boasts one of the fastest power gen set deployments in the industry, leveraging leading proprietary system design and integration and a compact and optimized genset fleet, bringing customers great flexibility in generating the electricity they need within short periods of time.

About VPower Group

VPower is a leading independent power provider delivering fast-track, short to medium term mobilized power solutions. Its primary business scope is to invest in on-demand power installations, complete with comprehensive system integration, O&M and EPC services to growing economies and businesses around the world. Established in 1995, VPower is now the largest power solution provider in high speed generator-set systems in China and Asia. Delivering cost-effective, eco-conscious power in record time to rapidly developing regions with immediate needs is VPower’s mission. It is headquartered in Hong Kong with a global presence, employing over 800 employees worldwide.


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