In a hugely popular TED talk, International Rescue Committee President and CEO David Miliband said the refugee crisis was “about the rescue of us and our values, as well as the rescue of refugees and their lives.” You could say the same of any humanitarian crisis or development issue: how we respond reflects what we stand for as individuals, as communities, and as nations.
But you don’t have to get on a plane to Uganda to make a difference. A good first step is just to be aware of what’s happening in other parts of the world, or even in your own backyard. And podcasts are here to make it easy; you can listen in during your morning commute, while you’re driving or when you’re out for a run. Plus you’ll collect some solid facts to use when family, friends or colleagues drag out myths about issues such as refugees, foreign aid or the rise of extremism.
Here’s my hand-picked list of 5 podcasts to listen to, in order to be a better global citizen.
1. Pod Save the World
Host Tommy Vietor is a former Obama aide who also co-hosts the sister podcast, on American politics, ‘Pod Save America’. I’m a bit obsessed with both, so I’m shamelessly biased. But from the relatively small field of quality podcasts on world news, this one stands out. Thanks partly to his White House connections, Vietor lands impressive talent including former ambassadors and political leaders, foreign policy experts, activists, journalists and more. You’ll also hear stories about working in the Obama White House, including Situation Room meetings.
Length: Might take you a couple of days to listen to a full episode. They’re usually around an hour, sometimes a bit longer.
2. First Person
If you find straight international news a bit dry, Foreign Policy’s First Person makes it more personal, by interviewing people who were directly involved and getting them to tell the story. Hosted by Foreign Policy deputy editor and award-winning journalist Sarah Wildman, each episode features one person sharing their experience. Recent interviews including a reporter who embedded with US-backed forces in Syria describing the battles to defeat the Islamic State; and how ‘citizen journalists’ are working to solve mysteries such as the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17.
Length: Around 30 minutes – sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less
3. The Foreign Desk
I hadn’t heard of this one until a friend raved about it. This award-winning podcast comes from Monacle magazine which describes itself as “keeping an eye and an ear on the world”. Hosted by dry-witted Australian journalist Andrew Mueller, it covers specific moments like the recent Israeli election and the US midterm elections, and broader topics like Russia and the Middle East; why Ambassadors still matter; and the future for Islamic State fighters.
Length: The longer episodes are a nice 30 minutes. You’ll also get handy five minute explainer episodes on topics like the new threat of civil war in Libya.
Where to find it: iTunes or the Monocle website
Combining two things I like – Vox Media and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) – this podcast features two senior IRC employees, Grant Gordon and Ravi Gurumurthy, talking to humanitarians, policymakers and others about how to deal with the global displacement crises. It’s still such an important topic, with a new record of 68.5 million people forcibly displaced around the world – the most since World War II. The first season in 2018 included leaders such as former President of Ireland Mary Robinson and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and fascinating interviews with people working with refugees. Season two just started in January.
Length: Generally between 30 mins and an hour
Where to find it: iTunes or online
5. What a Relief!
This weekly podcast comes from NGO Islamic Relief USA, which provides aid in more than 40 countries, including the United States. Host B.C. Dodge keeps the tone upbeat while exploring serious humanitarian issues with influencers like activist Linda Sarsour, Islamic Relief staff, filmmakers, volunteers and others. It covers some general issues like Palestine and the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, and has interviews with people like actor Tala Ashe, who plays a Muslim environmental activist on the superhero television series ‘Legends of Tomorrow’.
Length: Generally 30-45 mins, but sometimes up to an hour.
Where to find it: iTunes or the Islamic Relief USA website