Tag Archives: IIHA

Robert De Niro to 2017 IDHA Graduates: “You Are My Heroes”

In his commencement address to the 50th graduating class of Fordham’s International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA), legendary Hollywood actor Robert De Niro urged the humanitarian aid workers to let their “inner humanitarian” guide them into making the world a better place.

The ceremony, held on June 30 at the Lincoln Center campus, honored 25 IDHA graduates and two recipients of the Master of Arts in International Humanitarian Action program. The students hailed from 17 countries around the world, including Italy, Tajikistan, New Zealand, Egypt, Poland, and Pakistan.

Before addressing the graduates, the Oscar-winning actor, whose film credits include Taxi Driver, The Godfather: Part II, Raging Bull, and who appeared most recently as Bernard Madoff in HBO’s The Wizard of Lies, commended his longtime friend Kevin Cahill, M.D., IIHA’s founder, as a “man of great culture and enormous warmth.”

“Like many of you, he had an instinct for finding himself in places where the need was greatest,” De Niro said.

The actor told the graduates that they too were “true humanitarians” because they “served with compassion and dignity” while making sacrifices and taking “heroic risks.”

“Now you’ve gone through this program so that you can perform your work more effectively,” he said. “You have distinguished yourself here, and you will take those lessons with you for the rest of your life.”

De Niro, who received an honorary diploma, said that while many people might solely deem humanitarian workers as “wonderful people doing heroic work,” he considered them “shining examples of what can be achieved when you find the humanitarian hidden inside.”

“By inspiring others, you increase your impact exponentially,” he said before reading the names of the entire graduating class. “You are my heroes,” he told them.

Bart Vermeiren, who delivered the IDHA participant address, said completing the program is a huge milestone.

“We all embark on a new or old journey in our lives, but one day or another, sooner or later, we will use our IDHA wisdom and put it into practice with our learning experiences to the benefit of ourselves, and, most importantly, to the benefit of the people in need,” he said.

It’s a message that resonated with Naomi Gikonyo, a humanitarian practitioner with nearly a decade of experience in emergency response interventions in countries including Haiti, Libya, South Sudan, and Kenya.

“This program has pushed me to apply a lot of what I’ve learned into the field,” said Gikonyo, who works as an emergency preparedness and response officer for the United Nations World Food Programme. “It’s instrumental because we’re dealing with humanitarian crises with high complexities.”

Dr. Cahill told the graduates not to be afraid of the challenges ahead. “You have the ability to go over barriers, to not be blocked in by academic barriers or those barriers that separate us from each other,” he said.

After 20 years of courses and 3,000 participants representing 140 nationalities, Larry Hollingworth, director of humanitarian programs at Fordham’s Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs, which runs the IDHA program, said IDHA continues to create impact.

“We are in that unique position that we’re not in uniform, but we find ourselves on the front line,” he told the graduates, whom he said are leading emergency medicine in makeshift hospitals, opening schools in remote camps, and “staying on when others have left.”

“Stand up for you values, and your beliefs. Do what you want to do. Be bold and be brave.”

This article was originally published by Fordham News.

 

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Syrian Voices: Customs and Traditions in Humanitarian Crises

Monday, March 6, 2017 – As conflict wages on in Syria, nearby countries have opened their doors to millions of new people seeking refuge. In Lebanon, one in four people is a Syrian refugee. While Lebanon is the biggest host of the five million Syrian refugees globally, truly integrating their neighbors into society has proved challenging for the small country where economic strains and competition for scarce resources is ever increasing.

House of Peace (HOPe) in Syria is striving to understand and address the evolving relationships of displaced persons within refugee populations, amongst their host communities and with non-governmental organizations.

Their new report, Syrian Voices, aims to raise voices, analyze opinions and propose positive recommendations for advancing integration and social peacebuilding. HOPe conducted workshops with around 300 participants, most of whom were Syrian refugees living in Lebanon but also Palestinians and Lebanese host community members.

“The main impetus behind this paper is helping people concerned with the Syrian crisis to see things from the eyes of those who are suffering the most; to contribute in bringing people from different points of views closer by helping them overcoming their prejudices and self-evident beliefs,” said Elias Sadkni, Director of HOPe and International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance 39 alumnus.

Restrictions to integration. A major finding of the report was the ways in which government policy and NGO modus-operandi surrounding refugee response in Lebanon have changed the ways in which Syrian communities relate each other and their hosts.

Strict residency and labor laws for Syrians in Lebanon have made securing employment particularly difficult for men. Women, however, are more easily able to find work opportunities in the informal labor market and through the support of vocational trainings and services provided by organizations.

Perhaps even more disconcerting was the effect that strict work restrictions had on fueling forced marriage or labor on children in the country. In 2016, some NGOs estimated between 60 and 70 percent of refugee children are working and Human Rights Watch reported that more than 250,000 Syrian children were out of school in Lebanon.

“Harsh regulations that prevent most refugees from maintaining legal residency or working are undermining Lebanon’s generous school enrollment policies…With 70 percent of Syrian families living below the poverty line in 2015, many cannot afford school-related costs like transportation and school supplies, or rely on their children to work,” said Human Rights Watch.

The Syrian Voices report reiterated this point adding that “participants felt Humanitarian and UN efforts are not prioritizing educational establishments for Syrian refugees; in addition to this issue, the majority of educational establishments in Lebanon refuse to accept Syrians.”

Blurring cultures. Despite the challenges that come with displacement, Syrian participants also expressed that social solidarity amongst their communities remained strong in exile. This solidarity at times extended into their relationships with their host communities, and in turn caused the lines between Syrian and Lebanese cultures to blur.

“Many participants felt that adapting to Lebanese culture is causing changes in the customs and traditions of Syrian refugees. Some expressed dismay at these changes, fear their permanency, and believe they have been a source of intra-communal tension, whilst others embrace them,” said the report.

Improved humanitarian intervention. Other focus groups with NGO representatives examined the complex role NGOs play in the Syrian crisis.

Representatives voiced concerns that “their presence at times has contributed to existing tensions or created new ones”, because they failed to partake in adequate contextual and cultural analyses before implementing projects. Others noted a lack of transparency between donors and the community.

Syria Voices ultimately concludes in a list of recommendations for the humanitarian community to improve their continuing intervention, suggesting that humanitarian organizations begin to truly address the root causes of suffering amongst Syrians in Lebanon by:

  • Ensuring and advocating for equal access to adult education, vocational training and employment opportunities for Syrian adults of both genders;
  • Developing mechanisms for effective child protection from exploitation;
  • Enhancing educational opportunities for children;
  • Truly engaging with Syrian and Lebanese communities to better understand conflict
  • Improving communication methods between agencies in order to learn from each other’s experiences and best practices; and
  • Promoting more positive and less stereotypically harmful narratives about Syrian refugees in Lebanese media.

Ultimately, HOPe believes this report can be a guiding resource for the humanitarian sector, one that encourages agencies to question and improve their increasingly important response to the Syrian crisis.

Syrian Voices is a research-initiated project aimed at spreading Syrian perspectives on issues of social peace. The goal of the paper is to inform the humanitarian community, allowing stakeholders to implement recommendations and best practices to help resolve conflict in Syria and surrounding areas.

Andrew Seger, IIHA Communications Intern

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Looking forward to 2017

Dear IIHA Community,

As we wrap up the first month of 2017, allow me to extend my warmest wishes to you for the year ahead. 2017 promises to be a year of great growth for the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs and I wanted to reach out to you, to review where we are going, and how we intend to deepen our engagement with our community.

After 16 years of continued growth and nomadic movement through four different offices at Fordham’s Lincoln Center Campus in New York City, the IIHA will move to the Rose Hill campus. By being closer to Fordham’s academic community, we hope we will be able to provide new opportunities for our students. We will be located in Canisius Hall where additional space will allow us to bring in more dedicated research fellows and host exhibitions, lectures, and other extra-curricular events. This is the first of many changes that 2017 will bring.

After five years, we are saying goodbye to Dr. Alexander van Tulleken who is moving on from the Senior Fellow position to concentrate on his medical, media and humanitarian work throughout the world. This is no small change. Under his academic guidance, the undergraduate program flourished, and his insight and multidisciplinary and praxis-based approach informed our transformative approach to education. I know the decision to leave his undergraduate teaching and advising role with the Institute was not an easy one, but we are confident he will continue to be an active contributor to the Institute.

We are actively seeking his replacement and are fortunate to have welcomed two new members to the team. Ms. Angela Wells will serve as our the new IIHA Communications Officer. Ms. Wells, who had been working with Jesuit Refugee Service in East Africa, will direct our social media, websites, and communications initiatives. She looks forward to working with and being a resource for all of you. Giulio Coppi has become the first Humanitarian Innovation Fellow at the Institute. Mr. Coppi is the founder of High Tech Humanitarians, a project for humanitarian innovators supported by the Institute.

He is one of four core team of contingent faculty and research fellows teaching our undergraduate courses this semester, including:

  • Pat Foley, an applied anthropologist with 20 years of experience in emergencies, recovery and development;
  • Giulio Coppi, an expert on the use of Open Source technology and community-based approaches to humanitarian response;
  • Laura Perez, an internationally recognized expert on the protection of children in situations of armed conflict; and
  • Rene Desiderio, a technical expert in emergency and humanitarian response operations as well as topics ranging from population and development to international migration and gender.

We are additionally endeavoring to launch a new Master’s in Humanitarian Studies program, based on our New York campus. Paperwork for this initiative has been submitted to the New York State Department of Education and we are awaiting their approval. This program will allow us to extend our training to recent undergraduates and young professionals seeking to make their next step in their humanitarian careers.

Our Master’s in International Humanitarian Action (MIHA) program and short courses for humanitarian workers will also continue to thrive with courses around the world. This year we will host three diploma (IDHA) courses in Nepal, New York and Vienna, as well as specialized short courses in Barcelona, Amman and Vienna. We are particularly excited for the summer IDHA in New York, as this will be the 50th diploma course to date. We are proud to have reached this milestone and will commemorate it with memorable activities.

As the year progresses forward, we hope to be an intellectual catalyst of discussion, collaboration and action toward a more socially just world. Our door and ears are open and we look forward to hearing your thoughts on how we can better serve this community.

Warmest regards,

Brendan Cahill
Executive Director
Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs
Program Chair, Humanitarian Studies

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Alumni Update: Samantha Andrews (SIHA 2, DMTC 6)

Samantha Andrews (SIHA 2, DMTC 6), intern for the Council on Foreign Relations’ Center for Preventive Action (CFA), recently wrote a piece on the rise of the Islamic State in Yemen.

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CIHC President and IIHA Founder Lauded by Universities

1 Dr. Cahill 4.27The last few months have been filled with honors for Kevin M. Cahill, M.D., President of the Center for International Humanitarian Cooperation (CIHC) and founder of Fordham’s Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA). On the heels of Dr. Cahill’s 80th birthday in May, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) recognized Dr. Cahill with an Honorary Fellowship from the College. It was at the RCSI where the IIHA’s flagship course, the International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA), was first offered by the CIHC. Since the inaugural course, the CIHC and IIHA have held 2 subsequent courses at the RCSI, and the RCSI has been one of the institutions cited on the Diploma for every course since.

2 Dr. Cahill 4.27Professor Declan Magee, President of the RCSI, in conferring the Honorary Fellowship on Dr. Cahill, noted that “this is indeed a very rare event: the last time such an honor was conferred outside of Ireland was when we presented the same award to Nelson Mandela in South Africa in 1995. He noted that “Professor Cahill was the longest serving full Professor in the 230-year history of the RCSI, and had taught over 4,000 medical students during his 36-year tenure as Chairman of the Department of Tropical Medicine and International Health.” Dr. Cahill then served a subsequent 10 years as the Inaugural Professor of International Humanitarian Affairs.

Dr. Cahill’s most recent book, A Dream for Dublin, chronicles the inspiring story of how, against all odds, he founded the world-renowned Department of Tropical Medicine and International Health at the RCSI in Dublin for which he was honored. In a contribution, the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, notes: “I have known Dr. Cahill for almost a lifetime. His ability to see a suffering world beyond borders is extraordinary, whether those are the intellectual borders that separate academic disciplines or the physical borders that separate the citizens of this planet from one another.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 4.32.17 PMLater in May, the Maharishi University, and the dozens of related schools in India, presented their highest honor, the Maharishi award for “Health and Humanitarianism” to Dr. Cahill in a ceremony in Fairfield, Iowa. The Fairfield Maharishi Award Ceremony occurs annually, the preceding recipient being the Prime Minister of Japan, as well as various Nobel Laureates. In the ceremony, the Maharishi University cited Dr. Cahill’s long record of work for peace, health and development. Read Dr. Cahill’s acceptance speech!

Most recently, Dr. Cahill was awarded one of Fordham University’s highest honors, the President’s Medal, during the 48th International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA) Graduation Ceremony on July 1st at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus. The occasion of the IDHA Graduation Ceremony was personally selected by Dr. Cahill due to its significance both to himself personally and to his legacy at Fordham University. In presenting the award, Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., President of Fordham University, noted that since “Dr. Cahill had received an Honorary Doctorate from this university more than 25 years ago, we now award him the President’s Medal, the highest award given by the university, and only conferred 36 times in the 175-year history of Fordham.”

As an expert in tropical medicine, Dr. Cahill’s career has taken him to four continents and 65 countries, including Somalia, Egypt, Lebanon, Nicaragua and Sudan. With a deeply profound interest in humanitarian aid and the goal of advancing the methods and framework by which humanitarian workers operate, he founded the IIHA in 2001, in partnership with the Center for International Humanitarian Cooperation (CIHC). Dr. Cahill continues to serve as the President of the CIHC and as a University Professor through the IIHA at Fordham.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 4.36.03 PMFather McShane described Dr. Cahill as “a man who has never lost a passion for serving the poorest of the poor and the most marginalized in society throughout the world. He is, to me, a hero.” Among his many accomplishments, Dr. Cahill has published over 30 books, been a longtime UN adviser, served as a chair of New York State’s Health Planning Commission, and is on the faculty of three universities. Yet, Father McShane noted that Dr. Cahill did not deem himself worthy of receiving the President’s Medal. In large part due to Father McShane’s continued encouragement, Dr. Cahill finally agreed to accept the award, as long as it could be presented at the IDHA commencement. “He chose the ceremony that meant more to him in all the years and for the program whose work means more to him than anything else, besides his family,” explained Father McShane. “It speaks volumes that he chose to receive the medal here.” Furthermore, he praised Dr. Cahill and his program for embodying “all the principles on which the University was founded and to which it devotes itself every day.”

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The Participant Perspective: Mental Health in Complex Emergencies

The Mental Health in Complex Emergencies (MHCE) course is an intensive multidisciplinary training course for mental health workers and humanitarian program staff who wish to gain insight and competency in establishing mental health or psychosocial programs in conflict and post conflict areas or in complex disaster settings. Following last year’s MHCE course in Ethiopia, two participants – Sujen Man Maharjan and Caitlin Cockcroft-McKay – wrote about their experience and shared how the comprehensive and intensive training positively impacted their work in the field. In his personal blog, Sujen Man Maharjan of ICRC Nepal reflects on the course and also highlights the personal experiences of his classmates – other field practitioners – as they work to implement Mental Health and Psychosocial (MHPSS) programming in complex emergencies. In a special alumni reflection for the IIHA blog, Caitlin Cockcroft-McKay of HealthNet TPO also reflects on the training and shares how the practical application of the knowledge and tools gained contributed to her work as Psychosocial Project Coordinator in South Sudan. In her post, Caitlin emphasizes the impact and value of trainings such as the MHCE course:


“The kinds of trainings provided by the IIHA at Fordham University bring the MHPSS community within the NGO and humanitarian sectors a step closer to understanding how best to implement MHPSS programs in various, and often very difficult, contexts. It helps us to direct the conversation at the ground level, at the national and international level, and then to express the needs (and potential solutions) to the donors. The training in Ethiopia has really given me the direction I need both within my work in psychosocial programming, and also at the country level. I am able to feed into the coordination mechanisms and reference the training and experiences of experts in the field, in order to guide the discussion and suggest options for improving the provision of services. This is something that will take time. With experiences such as the one I had in Ethiopia, I do think with time and passion and imparting of knowledge, we can edge closer to supporting countries to provide basic mental health services to their people.”

Read Caitlin’s full reflection on the IIHA blog and more about her experience on Sujen’s blog. The next MHCE course will take place in October 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland. Learn more on the IIHA website.

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Alumni Update: Jessica Alexander (IIHA Humanitarian Consultant, IDHA Lecturer)

Former IIHA Humanitarian Consultant and IDHA Lecturer, Jessica Alexander, recently wrote an article for Vogue Magazine in which she shares about love, loss, and finding new life after the tragedy of the Haitian Earthquake in 2010. Jessica is also the author of Chasing Chaos: My Decade In and Out of Humanitarian Aid.

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Alumni Update: Kaitlyn Lyngaas (IHS Major)

International Humanitarian Studies (IHS) Major Kaitlyn Lyngaas recently shared with Fordham News how Fordham University and the IIHA opened her eyes to a new vision of the world – a vision that leaves her bothered and restless… and ready to put her knowledge and passion in service of those “striving for a safe landing, a secure life.”

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
Best,
Brendan Cahill  (IDHA 9)
IIHA Executive Director

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