Tag Archives: Fordham University

IIHA Executive Director Looks Ahead toHumanitarian Issues in 2016

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Brendan Cahill

Brendan Cahill (IDHA 9, IIHA Executive Director) recently provided insight on the Escalating Humanitarian Crises for Fordham’s 2016: Which Way are We Headed?

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Second Graduate, Gianluigi Lopes (IDHA 37), earns MIHA Diploma

Gianluigi Lopes - todaydiplomaThe IIHA is proud to announce the graduation of Gianluigi Lopes (IDHA 37) from Fordham University’s Master’s in International Humanitarian Action (MIHA) Program!

Gianluigi, who began his career as a political scientist following his graduation from the University of Bologna in 2004, was employed for almost three years as freelance journalist and press officer for the private sector. He joined the humanitarian sector in 2008, and has since worked in countries including Austria, Belgium, Cambodia, DR Congo, Guinea, Haiti, Holland, Italy, Iran, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Malta, Mexico, Palestine, Sierra Leone, Sudan, South Africa, USA, Spain, and Switzerland. Gianluigi Lopes - liberia-exploteam2012His work in humanitarian contexts has spanned the fields of communications, advocacy, training, logistics, information, and project management. A majority of his assignments have been linked to humanitarian medical interventions such as forced migration (Lampedusa, Malta, and detention centres for irregular migrants), displacement and conflict (Sudan), diagnosis and treatment of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria (South Africa, Lesotho, Sierra Leone, DR Congo, and Cambodia), and epidemics (Ebola in Western Africa, Cholera in Haiti and Sierra Leone).

Gianluigi Lopes - myoffice2010In 2015, Gianluigi worked for the World Health Organization (OMS/WHO) in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as regional information manager for the Ebola response, during which time he was seconded as health pillar coordinator in the cluster system at the National stadium of Freetown to support the flood response efforts. Prior to that, he was a senior communications adviser in several MSF headquarters (Brussels, Geneva, Amsterdam, Vienna, and Rome) and was part of the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Ebola Task Force in Sierra Leone as an intersectional advocacy and liaison manager.

In his MIHA thesis, entitled “Embraced by the locals: Perception and acceptance of foreign aid,” Gianluigi examines the evolving impediments faced by international humanitarian agencies in their attempts to provide assistance to populations in need. He analyzes several typologies of the rejection of aid, provides possible causes of this phenomenon, and ultimately suggests that a perception gap characterizes the relations established among aid agencies and local actors within the operational contexts. Through this study, Gianluigi devises possible steps to be taken in order to improve the understanding of the contexts where aid efforts take place, and therefore diminish the misconceptions regarding the humanitarian discourse in emergency response.

Gianluigi Lopes - farewellhaiti2011Gianluigi is currently working for the Italian Red Cross as Head of Delegation in the Occupied Territories in Ramallah – Palestine and is in charge for the operations in the MENA area.

Congratulations Gianluigi! We wish you all the best in your future endeavors!


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IIHA Event Series Featured Resources & Articles

In line with IIHA’s Spring Event Series “Challenges & Opportunities: Global Migration in the 21st Century”, below are some articles for further reading regarding the ongoing migration crisis.

Devex | Calais: A humanitarian ‘no man’s land’?

Many of the aid organizations that specialize in setting up and running refugee camps can’t go to Calais. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) lack the mandate to work in France. In their place, volunteer organizations and a smattering of international aid groups have set up shop amidst the endless tarpaulin and scrap metal shelters. Current active organizations include MSF, ACTED, Medecins du Monde, Care 4 Calais, and L’auberge des Migrants.

Devex spent two days in the camp shadowing aid workers and volunteers, asking what the Calais jungle means for the global humanitarian system, watch the video on their website.

Fordham Political Review | Compassion, Crossings, and Refugees

Fordham Political Review Editor, Katherine Labonte spoke with IIHA Helen Hamlyn Senior Fellow, Alexander van Tulleken, M.D. about his recent documentary and his thoughts and opinions of the ongoing migration crisis. Read the interview in the Fordham Political Review.

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Alumni Update: Barbara Bemer (IHS Major)

Barbara Bemer (IHS Major), a 2015 Fordham College Rose Hill graduate was recently featured in the Fordham News article“Restless for Life: Tanzania School Taps Student for Help” which discusses Barbara’s new fellowship with Mama Hope. Barbara, who will spend three months working at Queen Elizabeth Academy in Tanzania, is excited about the opportunity to expand her knowledge of the humanitarian field.

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Letter from IIHA Executive Director, Brendan Cahill

Dear friends,

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) movement is made up of 190 national societies throughout the world, with more than 100 million members. It has, for nearly twenty years, been a strong partner in our training, sharing its expertise and sending its members for our courses. On February 25, I joined IFRC Secretary General, H.E. Elhadj As Sy, in signing a Memorandum of Understanding between the IFRC and Fordham University. This agreement recognizes the work we have done together and formalizes our partnership in training, research and other areas of mutual interest.

We are also pleased to announce a signed Memorandum of Understanding with Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). Founded in 1975, JRS has, as its mission, “to accompany, serve and advocate on behalf of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons”. We have worked with JRS for many years, training their country directors and regional directors, and, as an Institute within a Jesuit University, our goals are similar.
In both cases, our partners not only want to offer assistance to those in need, but to also allow them to retain their dignity and to be a part of their own recovery process. With the IFRC, they enable the national societies to rebuild their own capacity. With JRS, they accompany those they serve, and bear personal witness to those trials and tribulations.
Our Institute began with the idea that we had as much to learn as we did to teach, and our growth, through the IDHA, the MIHA, the undergraduate programs and our publications, is directly connected to the personal relationships we’ve fostered over the last twenty years. These two memoranda build on that.
Brendan Cahill  (IDHA 9)
IIHA Executive Director

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Alumni Update: Holly Curtis (IIHA Intern, IHS Minor, FCRH ’13)

Holly Curtis (IIHA Intern, Summer 2012; IHS Minor, FCRH ’13) is now working as a Community Manager at Girls’ Globe, a network of bloggers and organizations working to raise awareness about the rights, health, and empowerment of women and girls around the world.

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Press Release: Lord David Owen Speaks to IDHA 43 at Fordham University

Lord David Owen Speaks to IDHA 43 at Fordham University


To be staying in the United States at this time is to experience a strange mood of puzzlement and anger as to how the foreign and security establishment in America should react to ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).  The title for the organisation is at least for the present a reality – for they do control substantial territory in both Syria and Iraq. The question is for how long?

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal had an article by Dick Cheney and his daughter headlined ‘The collapsing Obama doctrine’.  It demonstrated in every line that the former Vice President has learnt nothing from the debacle of his own judgements over the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In its vehemence and its partisanship it is below the level one should expect. In its simplicities it echoes the ill-advised words of our former Prime Minister, Tony Blair.   Both men are incapable of accepting any responsibility for the mess the region is in. At least Cheney no longer holds any office. President George Bush wisely continues to show a decent respect for his successor as President, keeping his thoughts to himself as part of a dignified retirement. Blair by contrast assumes he must play a major role.

I find amongst many Americans that Tony Blair’s words are thought to represent the European Union.  When I point out that he speaks only for the Quartet, a combination of the EU, US, Russia and the UN on the limited mandate of developing the economy of Palestine, they appear very surprised, thinking he is a Middle East envoy for the whole region. They also seem to think that the UK automatically supports Blair’s views as well as the EU’s  on the military coup in Egypt and the present leaders.  This is, of course, far from the truth.  A letter from William Hague to me makes it clear that on this issue of Egypt and the unilateral bombing of Iran Tony Blair speaks only for himself. Certainly judging from the situation in America Tony Blair should no longer be allowed to speak for the EU on the Middle East and someone else found for helping Palestine without his past record and crusading messianic fervour.

A different and more important article also appeared yesterday in the New York Times by Anne Marie Slaughter headlined ‘Don’t fight in Iraq and ignore Syria’. She was Director of Policy Planning in the State Department from 2009-2011.  She has been a consistent advocate of using force in Syria.  She believes that the reason the White House did not act militarily over Syria was that no matter how heart-rendering the images and how horrific the crimes, America’s vital interests were not engaged it was just people. Whereas in Iraq she believes, in contrast to Syria, the strategic world of government interests are involved “where what matters is the chess game of one leader against another, and stopping both state and non state actors who are able to harm the United States.”

The danger of her analysis is that military intervention around the world when faced by humanitarian disasters can delay as well as speed up the establishment of peace. Many have never been convinced that military action from the air in Syria will do anything other than perpetuate and indeed exacerbate an already horrendous humanitarian crisis.

The arguments for this viewpoint are not trivial.  I strongly supported the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya. But even that intervention has run into huge difficulties.  It started however with a UN Security Council resolution that was not vetoed by either Russia or China. Because both countries believed, rightly or wrongly, that we broke the inhibition in the resolution on regime change they were never prepared to support in the UN military intervention from the air over Syria. Also even had such an intervention taken place it would not have stopped all flights over Syria. With Russian and Iranian military advising and supporting the Assad government, not only would all the ground-to-air missile defence systems have been difficult to destroy but they would have been replenished.  The fighting would not have stopped in the way that it did in Libya.  And the belief that on the ground inter-ethnic and religious fighting can be stopped from the air would have been shown up as a myth fostered by too glib assumptions from the Balkans, particularly Kosovo.

There were and still are other problems associated with intervention in Syria. There has been an understandable difference of opinion in the past over whether to supply sophisticated armament to the Sunni forces fighting Assad.  For Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region there was a readiness to supply to both moderate Sunni forces and Islamic extremist forces, but this option was not available to the US and the EU.  We remembered with some regrets that by supplying the Mujahideen in Afghanistan with sophisticated weaponry to help oust the Soviet Union from 1979 onwards those same weapons, when they passed into the hands of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, were used against ourselves.

These and many other factors led to the House of Commons in August of last year rejecting on a cross party basis the idea that the British government should intervene militarily in Syria.  When a few days later President Obama put the same issue to the US Congress it quickly became apparent without a vote that they too were not prepared to take responsibility for such military action. What is democracy if it does not mean taking note of democratic legislatures of two important countries.  The truth is that military intervention in Syria was rejected democratically.

However, no one can deny that the geo-strategic situation has changed dramatically with ISIS forces now controlling the Iraqi cities of Fallujah, Tikrit, Mosul and Tel Afar.

First, it is possible to envisage now that the UN Security Council might agree to some military action to restore the territorial integrity of Iraq and Syria if for no other reason than the Iraqi government of Prime Minister al-Maliki has openly requested military support.

Secondly, it is already a fact that President Obama has authorised discussions to be undertaken with Iran following the open invitation from President Rouhani and that though this has aroused inevitable criticism from Senator McCain that criticism has not been replicated by other significant Republican Senators who are prepared at least to wait and see if there is a new way forward.  The British government has also wisely taken the opportunity to re-establish an Ambassador in our Embassy in Teheran.

If we can start to cooperate with Iran on strategic problems facing Iraq it will be inevitable that we will also have to discuss the implications for Syria.  There can be no solution that ignores Syria and it may even have to involve military action, such as drones and conventional aircraft. President Obama and David Cameron are right to exclude boots on the ground. Were the US and even NATO to take limited military action in the present circumstances it would be very different from any action that took place in the Iraq war or was contemplated to be taken in Syria.  It would be action from outside the region that carried regional support from all the major players and might well have the endorsement of the UN.  That is why it is imperative that Turkey, a NATO ally, helps guide the policy of European countries on whether we should be ready to offer NATO support in addition to anything that might come from the US.

United diplomatic and military action has a real chance of unifying not dividing the region. It would not be seen primarily as intervention from outside but of  outside reinforcement.  The leaders who would have the most to lose if they failed to respond creatively to the new situation would be al-Malaki and Assad.  The overall prize – and it is a very big one – is to achieve the destruction of ISIS, who in many ways are a more horrendous opponent than Al-Qaeda.

Just as it is vital that there is pressure from Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia on Prime Minister al-Malaki to build a proper coalition representative of his country with the full involvement of the Sunni, Shia and Kurdish citizens, so it is vital for those three countries to exert the same pressure on President Assad to come up with a negotiated settlement with the moderate Sunni forces that are fighting with government forces in an ever futile civil war.  These people have lived together and they can do so again.  But Assad will have to recognise just as al-Malaki may have to that their past record excludes them from providing the healing leadership that is essential if Iraq and Syria are to be held together as stable countries within their present boundaries.

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