Monthly Archives: June 2015

Fordham News Profiles IDHA 45 Graduates

Kevin Cahill, MD congratulates a graduate of the IDHA.

On Friday we celebrated the graduation of IDHA45 on June 26th. Fordham news was there to cover it all and here’s what they had to say:

At a time when there has never been a greater need for humanitarian aid workers, Fordham’s Institute for International Humanitarian Affairs sent forth one of its largest classes ever in a ceremony on June 26.

The graduation ceremony at the Lincoln Center campus honored 50 students from 28 countries who’d completed four weeks of intense training, classwork, and team-building exercises required for the International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA).

Commencement speaker David Rieff, senior fellow at the World Policy Institute at the New School for Social Research and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, sketched out a daunting scenario that many graduates—who hail from countries such as Syria, Sierra Leone, and Pakistan—are well acquainted with.

“I think its fair to say that this global crisis of displacement is really unparalleled since the period immediately after the last world war,” said Rieff. “People are now on the move everywhere, and it isn’t simply the publicized crisis in the Mediterranean. It’s the Rohingya and the Bangladeshis, too.”

In Central America, he noted, the nations of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are also in a “freefall.”

“There is much more movement in the Americas than perhaps the headlines would have you believe, and there will be more to come,” he said.

What’s particularly challenging is that the United Nations has been incapable of sustaining peace, he said, and though the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Food Programme have been successful, their continued success is not a given. When it comes to funding, Rieff said, the public is like a serial monogamist—unable to pay attention to more than a one crisis at a time.

“We now have a global order whose characteristic elements are no longer grounded in law fit for the crisis,” he said. “And that puts on all of you a hugely added burden, because you are in effect navigating in contexts that—to use Marx’s famous phrase—‘All that is solid melts into the air,’ in which the law you think you can rely on actually turns out to be quite unreliable.”

He told the graduates that in spite of all the problems within the humanitarian aid systems, “you are in a very essential way the people standing between what we have now, and complete barbarism. What you do has never been more essential, and never required more heroism and more intelligence.”

Simon Clarke, the student speaker, joked that the students were “darkly warned” about joining IDHA’s “family” when they first arrived on May 31.

“It’s like being indoctrinated into a secret society—the most egalitarian one I’ve ever seen, representing both sexes, all sorts of languages, colors, creeds, and faith,” he said. “[But] we will know each other not through a dodgy handshake but through a laugh and a hug.”

He said Albert Einstein’s observation that the world is dangerous “not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it,” were words to live by.

“Don’t forget—Einstein was a refugee,” he said.

Visiting Professor of Humanitarian Studies Larry Hollingworth said he hoped the program’s graduates are leaving with a greater love, endearment, and respect for humanitarian aid beneficiaries.

“It’s easy to say the beneficiary wants food, water, and protection. I think what the beneficiary wants more than anything is to regain respect and to have dignity,” he said.

“If we have convinced you of that through the course, then go and restore some degree dignity to the beneficiary, and everything will have been worthwhile.”

Read about some of the IDHA graduating class here.

Article by Patrick Verel.

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Alumni Update: Nathalie Niden (IDHA 43, Class Graduation Speaker)

Nathalie Niden (IDHA 43, Class Graduation Speaker) was recently featured in the Swedish newspaper, Metro. Nathalie, 27, was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 24, and in this article, she shares her story and some of the challenges and learning moments she has encountered since her diagnosis four years ago. As she writes in her personal blog, Imperfect Beautiful Life,“instead of relying on things being okay, I am making things okay by accepting my situation and keeping my hopes for the future realistic (yet positive).” The IIHA and IDHA family offers our prayers and support to Nathalie, and along with our friends and extended networks, we send our gratitude to her for allowing us to share in her inspiring journey.

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Humanitarian Spotlight: World Refugee Day 2015


Syrian Kurdish refugees cross into Turkey from Syria, near the town of Kobani. (UNHCR / I. Prickett)

This past Saturday, June 20, marked World Refugee Day 2015. This year’s events took place against a backdrop of worsening global crisis as the international community struggles to cope with record numbers of people fleeing disasters and conflict. In United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres’ World Refugee Day 2015 statement, he announced that the international community has “reached a moment of truth… in the wake of displacement on an unprecedented scale.” He goes on to urge global powers and nations capable of accepting refugees to acknowledge and respond to the plight of those who must flee their home countries due to natural disaster, war, or fear of persecution.

UNHCR’s Global Trends Report 2014: World at War estimates that a record 59.5 million people were forcibly displaced as refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), or asylum seekers in 2014. 13.9 million individuals were newly displaced due to conflict or persecution in 2014, the biggest leap ever seen in a single year. According to the estimates, an average of 42,500 people were forcibly displaced each day, four times that of just four years ago. For the first time, Turkey became the largest refugee-hosting country worldwide with 1.59 million refugees.

Through the figures released and the statements issued, the international call to action is clear, yet there is ongoing debate as to which countries are able or willing to open their borders to the forcibly displaced. The refugee crisis, which is only anticipated to worsen in the coming year, will become even more internationalized as countries bordering prolonged conflicts grow overwhelmed by the needs of incoming populations. As stated by Mr. Guterres, the world “must either shoulder collectively the burden of helping the victims of war, or risk standing by as less wealthy countries and communities – which host 86 percent of the world’s refugees – become overwhelmed and unstable.” As it is now, and as it will be then, the situation of the forcibly displaced is not only a human rights issue demanding a compassionate international response, but also a global security issue that threatens to destabilize not only nations, but also the international community at large.

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Alumni Update: Boukary Gambo (IDHA 44)


Boukary Gambo (IDHA 44), Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs Manager at World Vision International Niger, is currently working in Diffa, Niger where many refugees have fled to escape attacks by Boko Haram.

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Alumni Update: Andy McElroy (IDHA 16)

Andy McElroy recently authored the article Sendai Framework takes root in Central Asia,” in which he highlights the work of Mayor Ryskul Urkalyevich of Karakol, in North-eastern Kyrgyzstan, who has been inspired to strengthen his city’s resilience after representing his municipality at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai this past March. Andy’s two most recent articles focus on examples where the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is being implemented at the country and city level: New Zealand has adopted a “whole of society approach” to implement the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction while Da Nang, on Vietnam’s Central Coast, has embraced the Sendai Framework’s call for partnership which is identified as a vital element in global efforts to reduce disaster risk.

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Forum Spotlight: Global Forum for Improving Humanitarian Action



ALNAP’s Global Forum for Improving Humanitarian Action was held on June 4 – 5, 2015 at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York. Comprising hundreds of representatives from aid organizations, donor organizations and governments from around the world, the conference looked to examine, in a serious, collaborative, and substantive way, how we as a humanitarian community can adapt to current issues, increase the impact of our emergency response and do so in a way that preserves the human dignity of aid beneficiaries. IIHA Executive Director, Brendan Cahill (IDHA 9), was happy to represent the IIHA at the Forum.

The conference began with an opening address by US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, who posed four areas of consideration for the conference to explore: Security, Modernity, Dignity, and Money. Other issues discussed included the importance of building local capacities, the need to reduce duplication in humanitarian efforts, and the contributions of technological innovation. Many of the improvements suggested throughout the forum are not new. What is new is the technology that now allows for greater impact, as well as an expressed desire to be more efficient and effective in an era of increasing human induced and natural disasters. As the new UN Aid Chief, Stephen O’Brien, mentioned in his closing remarks, “The world is changing and we must change with it.” The conversations, many among representatives who have been involved in aid work for decades, reflected this desire for transformation and evolution.

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Alumni Update: Barry Finette (IDHA 33, IDHA Tutor)

Barry Finette (IDHA 33), THINKmd Founder and CEO, shares latest edition of the THINKmd newsletter which discusses the recent growth of the organization and the field testing of MEDSINC, THINKmd’s product, in Peru . MEDSINC transforms mobile devices into a self-training, frontline pediatric point-of-care system that gathers health data and generates therapeutic recommendations.

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Alumni Update: Jorge Castilla-Echenique (former IDHA Tutor, IDHA Honoris Causa)

Jorge Castilla-Echenique (former IDHA Tutor, IDHA Honoris Causa) recently released a new health toolkit for public health emergencies through LinkedIn. The toolkit is designed to give rapid guidance to emergency responders for a wide variety of health emergencies.

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Alumni Update: Barry Finette (IDHA 33, IDHA Tutor)

Barry Finette, THINKmd Founder and CEO, has now issued the fourth edition of of the organization’s newsletter, which discusses THINK md’s recent developments and progress.

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Alumni Update: Barry Finette (IDHA 33, IDHA Tutor)

Barry Finette, THINKmd Founder and CEO, shares latest edition of the THINKmd newsletter, which discusses the recent growth of the organization and the field testing of MEDSINC, THINKmd’s product, in Peru . MEDSINC transforms mobile devices into a self-training, frontline pediatric point-of-care system that gathers health data and generates therapeutic recommendations.

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