IIHA Spring Event Series: April Round-Up Part 2

This semester, the IIHA is organizing a series of events that focus on the very timely topic of “Challenges & Opportunities: Global Migration in the 21st Century.” With approximately 60 million people either forcibly displaced from their homes or migrating by choice, the current migration crisis presents a multi-faceted, global challenge. IIHA is promoting events focused on migration as well as hosting a series of events offering different perspectives on the crisis.

Below is a summary of the events that were promoted and hosted by IIHA in second part of April 2016. Check out “IIHA Spring Event Series: April Round-Up Part 1” for more event summaries.


  • April 15, 2016 | Refugees: From Liability to Opportunity with Kilian Kleinschmidt
    Hosted by: SWITxBOARD and The New School

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 4.00.57 PMGlobal networker and humanitarian expert Kilian Kleinschmidt spoke at The New School on how technology, innovation, and inclusion can reframe the discourse on refugees, current approaches to humanitarian relief, and refugee and migration management.

Following a 25 year UN career working in humanitarian relief in conflict areas around the world, Mr. Kleinschmidt founded the Innovation and Planning Agency (IPA) to foster the use of technology and sustainable management in refugee response and humanitarian relief. This approach emphasizes organized management of migration and treats refugees as agents with ambition. In his most recent role as UNHCR Field Manager and ‘mayor’ of Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan, he worked to transform the camp into an environment that cultivates livelihoods, supports local initiatives, and fosters community in what evolved into a self-determined city.

Mr. Kleinschmidt discussed his views on the IPA approach, the future of humanitarian relief, and the challenges facing the international system.


  • April 16, 2016 | SWITxBOARD and IPA USA Launch Party in Partnership With Techfugees
    Hosted by: SWITxBOARD

Founded by Kilian Kleinschmidt, the former ‘mayor’ of Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan following a 25+ year UN career, the Innovation & Planning Agency (IPA) matches technological, social, financial and spatial innovations with the needs, talents and skills of dispossessed populations in several service lines: Project Development, Incubator Hubs, Consulting, Social Design, Academy, and Ventures. At the core of IPA is SWITxBOARD, a digital platform to connect the world’s capacity with the wold’s needs. IPA is headquartered in Vienna, Austria.

Techfugees was created as a tech community response to the European refugee crisis, involving a network of concerned individuals and organizations. They act as the conduit to tech companies, investors, and NGOs – bridging the gap between the agility and innovation of tech sector to the expertise of NGO’s on the ground.


  • April 29, 2016 | “The Last Supper: The Plight of Christians in Arab Lands” with Klaus Wivel
    Hosted by: Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs


Klaus Wivel is a Danish journalist and the New York correspondent for Weekendavisen, one of Denmark’s most prestigious newspapers. He has written on a wide range of topics and often focuses on Israel-Palestine and the Middle East. Alarmed by scant attention paid to the hardships endured by the 7.5 million Christians in the Middle East, journalist Wivel traveled to Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, and the Palestinian territories on a quest to learn more about their fate. With the increase of religious violence in the past few years, Wivel’s book The Last Supper: The Plight of Christians in Arab Lands is a prescient and unsettling account of a severely beleaguered religious group living, so it seems, on borrowed time. Wivel asks: “Why have we not done more to protect these people?”

In his lecture to faculty, staff, and students of Fordham University, Wivel noted that in 1900, the population of Christians was approximately 10 percent but is currently 4 percent in some of the countries he visited. He cited the rise of extreme Islam and persecution of Christian minorities as main reasons why Christians are leaving the area. Despite these gradual yet considerable movements of people, Wivel highlighted the continuing lack of attention being drawn to the persecution of Christian in Arab Lands and the contributing factors such as security and competing religious and political interests. While there are no easy answers, Wivel suggested a multilateral coalition focusing on the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and providing more humanitarian aid in the short-term to marginalized populations.

Fordham News recently featured an article on Wivel’s lecture, and coupled it with the closely related event, “Endangered: Religious Minorities in the Middle East and Their Struggle for Survival,” hosted by Fordham’s Center on Religion and Culture (CRC).


Charles Mario Russell gave a presentation on selected topics regarding immigration and asylum law. Mario Russell is the Director for Immigrant and Refugee Services (Senior Attorney) at Catholic Charities and an Adjunct Professor at St. John’s University Law. Mario Russell principally conducts and supervises federal administrative and U.S. Court of Appeals litigation for asylum seekers and immigrants. Mario has served as a consultant for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Hungary and Poland and has advised the National Commission on Migration in Thailand. Mario is a frequent lecturer and panelist on refugee and immigration law and litigation at national and regional conferences and trainings by organizations such as the New York Immigration Coalition and the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

This event is part of an on going series of presentations in conjunction with the upcoming exhibition “What This Journey Breeds” in the Ildiko Butler Gallery, Lincoln Center Campus, May 31 to September 30, 2016.

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