World Refugee Day and the "Grand Bargain" one year later: this week in development news

An empty bowl of porridge, the traditional food of people in many parts of South Sudan. Photo by: Ayene / UNICEF Ethiopia / CC BY-NC-ND

Despite pockets of progress, South Sudan’s food crisis deepens and the U.S. Agency for International Development courts a billionaire to ease Central American migration. Meanwhile humanitarian leaders in Geneva discuss progress — or a lack thereof — one year after the adoption of the “Grand Bargain.” This week in development news.

On Tuesday, World Refugee Day, the international community turned its attention to the 65.6 million people currently displaced — an all-time record. With conflicts raging in Syria, South Sudan, Iraq, and other states that can’t guarantee their citizens’ safety, 22.5 million people have fled their homes as refugees, and another 40.3 million have become internally displaced. Devex accompanied U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi to the U.N.-protected camp in Bentiu, South Sudan. “The U.N, as a whole, is in a bit of a dilemma,” Grandi said. “We certainly must continue to offer people a safe space, but at the same time we have to avoid that they become dependent and live for a long time in a camp-like situation.” Devex Associate Editor Elizabeth Dickinson unpacked a new report from the U.N. Humanitarian Agency, which found that the share of people resettled by the UNHCR is shrinking. Refugees are more often going to countries directly to seek asylum, instead of appealing through the U.N. system. The same report found that more IDPs returned home in 2016 than any year since 2011. Unfortunately, that is understood to be less a positive signal and more a referendum on the “precarious and insecure” living conditions IDPs face in camps.

Half the population of South Sudan is now food insecure, the greatest number ever recorded in the country, according to a new report from the IPC — the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification. The IPC estimates that 1.7 million are likely to be facing a “phase 4” food security emergency, one step below a “phase 5” famine. That is up from 1 million four months ago. “What this new report reinforces is that we have a very short window of time between someone being very hungry, to being on the brink of starvation,” said Mercy Corps' Country Director for South Sudan Deepmala Mahla in a statement. The report notes some good news. In two counties — Leer and Mayendit — international humanitarian assistance has helped push back famine, though thousands of people still face humanitarian catastrophe. “While immediate help to fight hunger is still needed now, what the people of South Sudan ultimately need is peace. Along with sending aid, the international community needs to redouble its efforts to bring all warring parties to the negotiating table and to peacefully end their differences,” Oxfam South Sudan Country Director Sara Almer said in a statement.

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helú is in talks with the U.S. government about forging a partnership aimed at stemming migration across the southern U.S. border through development investments in Central America, according to media reports. The Carlos Slim Foundation and USAID are reportedly discussing opportunities to collaborate on crime prevention and youth economic opportunity. USAID has only confirmed that it is, “exploring partnerships with the private sector to address the challenges and opportunities in Mexico and or Central America to reduce the effects of crime and violence on youth." Such investments have emerged as an early foreign aid focus of President Donald Trump's administration, which earlier this month co-hosted with Mexico a “Conference on Prosperity and Security” in Miami, highlighting opportunities to improve conditions in Central America’s “Northern Triangle.”

Humanitarian leaders are in Geneva this week to discuss the future of humanitarian assistance at the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Humanitarian Affairs Segment.  One of the big topics up for discussion is progress one year after the Grand Bargain, through which donors and implementers committed to changing the way humanitarian aid is delivered, including more cash programming, greater funding for national and local responders and easing reporting requirements. Some experts, such as Julia Steets, director of the Global Public Policy Institute, warn there is a risk some actors will just settle for low-hanging fruit and leave harder commitments "orphaned."  The World Bank's CEO, Kristalina Georgieva, has agreed to resume her former leadership role as the Grand Bargain’s “eminent person,” a move some hope will bolster political momentum to follow through on last year’s vision.

The World Bank and Airbnb signed a memorandum of understanding this week, aimed at “boosting developing economies through tourism.” The multilateral development bank and the online vacation rental marketplace plan to “examine ways in which emerging destinations use new technology and platforms such as Airbnb to create economic opportunities for communities that have not traditionally benefited from tourism and hospitality,” according to a World Bank advisory released ahead of a “Tourism Knowledge Exchange” event held at the bank’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.

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About the author

  • Igoe michael 1

    Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.

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