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Practitioner Profile: Martine van der Does bridges humanitarian action and architectural design

New York, June 14, 2017 – An architect by trade, Martine van der Does now employs her unique expertise on functional design to improve the shelters that protect millions of people displaced from or affected by humanitarian crises around the world.

At the end of June, she will receive a Master of Arts in International Humanitarian Action from Fordham University. We spoke with her about her interesting career path and the potential of design for humanitarian action.

What is the path you’ve taken in your career?

I grew up in the Netherlands and studied architecture, specializing in renovation and restoration. I did my Master’s thesis on the renovation of a Franciscan convent in Brazil.

Soon after that, I began volunteering in Africa and this is where my humanitarian career really began. After this, I returned to university to research emergency shelter models and then later continued my work in the field by taking a job as a construction logistician with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Niger.

I later secured a job at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Africa Department for the government of the Netherlands. In this role, I worked in Kabul, Afghanistan on various development projects, among which was the construction of a prison and air terminal.

I then moved back to The Hague where I am now mainly involved in the allocation of Dutch aid for direct response. I am the point of contact between the Ministry and the Red Cross movement. I am also an expert on the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination and on the roster of the European Civil Protection Mechanisms and can be deployed in an emergency.

Why did you make the switch from architecture to humanitarian work?

Not many trained architects end up working in humanitarian aid. But at some point, I just decided that I wanted to do something meaningful with my life. I realized that I’m among the two percent of the world’s population that has had the opportunities I have. I wanted to use my skills to do something significant. I also get a lot of personal fulfillment from it, I love traveling, getting to know other cultures, and the adventure side of it.

In your humanitarian career, what has been the main difference between working for an NGO like MSF vs. in a government ministry for humanitarian assistance?

MSF is a very principled organization where beneficiaries always come first, but in government ministries there is always some level of political influence.

The other major difference between the two experiences was the level of insecurity. At the time I was in Niger, I was not in a conflict area and, especially working with MSF, I was able to engage with the community. We did have security restrictions in Niger, but I could move more freely than when I was in Afghanistan where I couldn’t move without security personnel. Attacks happened on a weekly basis; I could hear bombings and shootings regularly. When visiting projects in the field I often felt like an alien, because I was wearing a flak jacket and a helmet with a military escort. As a result, it took more effort to get to know people and to have an equal conversation.

What is the most significant lesson you’ve learned in the field?

One lesson is to always be yourself, but also be as respectful and observant to cultural norms as possible. Also, I really learned to be alert but trusting of others who sometimes have my life in their hands. When I am on mission with the government, our security officers are the ones making decisions about my security. I have to trust that if a security officer tells me that going to a meeting or on a field visit – no matter how important – is not safe, then I have to trust them.

What do you see for the future of humanitarian response?

Ideally, we wouldn’t need humanitarian response anymore, but this idealism is not very realistic as we look at the progressing crises of the world. Right now, a lot of support for humanitarian response comes from Western donors such as the European Union and the United States, but we need to diversify by reinforcing national and regional structures in disaster and conflict-affected areas so they have a greater capacity to deal with humanitarian crises. Local communities know the people, environment, culture, and places, so building up the local capacities through training should be the direction of the future.

I saw this work very well when I worked with MSF. I was on a team of construction engineers with people who grew up in Niger. They had received some education, but never had the opportunities to go abroad to study. MSF really prioritized training and offering courses to these national staff members. There was one man I worked with who was more knowledgeable than I and who I was really privileged to work with and learn from.  I recommended that he get more training and last year he emailed me to say that he did this training and has been promoted to an international staff member. This is the way I think organizations should allow their staff members to grow and the way that leadership within humanitarian agencies should be built.

Why did you decide to get more training and join the Master’s in International Humanitarian Action with Fordham?

In 2008, I joined the IDHA course in Geneva with the goal of entering the humanitarian field. I then enrolled in the Humanitarian Negotiators Course in Barcelona and I stayed in touch with Larry and the other students working in the field.

After I returned from Afghanistan in 2014, I heard that Fordham had started the Master’s in International Humanitarian Action program. I joined to continue with my training. The Institute really feels like a family and has given me the opportunity to reflect and look at certain subjects in the field on a deeper level than I can in my workplace.

Receiving the chance to really discuss humanitarian issues with people in field who each carry diverse perspectives adds a lot of value to my work, too. These perspectives often come from NGO or UN workers and are really enriching for me as an employee of a national ministry. My fellow students have given me a lot of insight into how other organizations work and the challenges they are facing.

Do you have any examples of this coming to life in practice?

When I arrived to respond to the earthquake in Nepal, I realized one of my tutors from the IDHA was leading the efforts of the International Federation of the Red Cross. Because I knew them and had worked with them, I began from a different point and this was very useful. I made the use of this network often in my work and for research for my thesis.

What issues did you research in your thesis for the Master’s degree?

Previously, I researched innovative materials for emergency shelters, but I did not have any humanitarian experience. Once I had worked in the sector, I wanted to merge my former background to develop a process for identifying design requirements for emergency shelters in humanitarian settings. This requires a lot of investigation and consideration because unlike building a house, you have logistical and cultural requirements that provoke a different set of standards.

My goal was to identify these requirements and look through history to see if architects have taken humanitarian standards into account in the past in their humanitarian designs. I also looked at the different standards organizations use for emergency shelters, such as the Sphere standards; gathered a lot of feedback from practitioners in the field; and analyzed the latest versions of emergency shelters, like the IKEA shelter for refugee camps.

I used all this information to develop a list of seven design requirements that constitute an ideal shelter in humanitarian settings.

Now that you have completed your MIHA degree, what is next for you?

I plan to take a year off from the Ministry to get back to the NGO sector as a delegate at International Committee of the Red Cross. I think I have more of an NGO heart than a political one.

I hope to one day lecture for the IDHA, too. I really appreciate the commitment of Larry and Tony and all the other people involved, and I feel it is also my responsibility to give back to the program.

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Propel Your Humanitarian Career Forward

International Diploma In Humanitarian Assistance

Shaping Humanitarian Leaders

LIMITED SPOTS STILL OPEN for IDHA 50

Media reports and images inundate the world with humanitarian crises: refugees drowning at sea, populations ravaged by famine, and seemingly endless conflicts. Collective and coordinated responses to humanitarian crises have never been more essential. Good intentions to respond and act must be informed by practical experience, technical knowledge, and academic critique.

Grounded in social justice and humanitarian ethics, the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA) at Fordham University endeavors to make the global response to humanitarian crises more sustainable, effective, and dignified. Through the intersection of critical academic analysis and concrete hands-on experience, we believe that humanitarian action can transform the world.

Photo provided by IDHA Alumnus Rahul Singh, Founder of GlobalMedic Mission

The International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA), the flagship program of the IIHA, equips mid-career humanitarian professionals to drive the humanitarian sector of the future in a more innovative direction. For 20 years, the IIHA has trained thousands of humanitarian workers in cities around the world – from Kathmandu to Amman, Geneva to Cairo.

This June the IIHA will commence its 50th IDHA course in New York City and we want you to join us! IDHA 50 students will join a cohort of diverse and highly qualified aid and development professionals from all over the world in a one-month intensive course to receive one-of-a-kind training from world-renowned experts in the humanitarian field.

The course provides the critical skills and knowledge to more effectively intervene in the complex emergency and protracted crises of the 21st century. The curriculum is highly interactive and participants will gain:

  • Extensive insight to the needs of people affected by conflict, disaster, and displacement;
  • Skills in facilitating cooperation and dialogue between international, governmental, and non-governmental agencies;
  • Awareness, understanding, and skills essential for effective service in emergency and protracted humanitarian crises;
  • Opportunities to collaborate and network with colleagues working for diverse international, governmental, and non-governmental humanitarian agencies;
  • Tools to evaluate interventions and identify examples of good practice; and
  • Methods for anticipating and preventing humanitarian crises.

Upon completion of the course, graduates will receive eight graduate level credits accepted towards a Master of Arts in International Humanitarian Action at Fordham University, or potentially their studies at other academic institutions.

Course Fee: $5,500 includes tuition, course materials, lodging, and all weekday meals for one month.

Applications are still open for the New York course in June and another IDHA course in Vienna, Austria from November 5 to December 1, 2017.

Visit the IIHA website to learn more and apply.

Housed at Fordham, the Jesuit University of New York, the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA) educates a future generation of humanitarians in the classroom, shapes humanitarian leaders in the field, and innovates solutions to challenges in humanitarian crises.

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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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IDHA Alumni Report from the Field: Hungarian Baptist Aid conducts fact finding mission in Erbil, Iraq

HBAIDHungarian Baptist Aid (HBAID) arrived to Erbil to explore more on the current humanitarian and security situation as well as to meet with national and representatives of international humanitarian NGOs working in this region. The aim of this visit is to potentially provide assistance right there at the root of the problem. As known since the Mosul’s military offense has started, the number of civilian and military casualties is continually increasing. There is an urgent need for medical assistance and humanitarian support in this region. According to UNHCR data, since the Mosul offensive began, 2,935 families have been displaced. Up to 1 million people will be affected by the operation in Mosul, and will become IDPs. HBAID is looking into possible assistance programs in the medical field and in the IDP and refugee situation.

As a first step members of the HBAID delegation are in the region to conduct prior assessments in order to understand the situation on the ground better and to meet with officials and possible partner organizations. The aim of these meetings is to find out what help could be efficiently offered by HBAID in the near future.

Anna Szenczy (IDHA 45, MIHA) and Sandor Horvath (IDHA 47) were members of the HBAID delegation.

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Alumni Update: Ferdinand von Habsburg-Lothringen (IDHA 9, MIHA)

00498_27102016Ferdinand von Habsburg-Lothringen (IDHA 9, MIHA) was recently part of a delegation from the South Sudan Council of Churches that had the honor of meeting with His Holiness Pope Francis at the Vatican. The delegation shared with Pope Francis about the current situation in South Sudan and their own involvement and efforts through the Council of Churches to encourage peace, healing, and reconciliation. Read the Press Statement! 

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Humanitarian Newsletter: September 22, 2016

IDHA 49 NepalRead the Humanitarian Newsletter for IIHA news, humanitarian resources, the latest in innovation from High Tech Humanitarians, and upcoming trainings and events! This edition shares exciting news about the next two IDHA courses (hint: Nepal and #50), highlights the IIHA’s partnership with the Network on Humanitarian Action (NOHA) International Association of Universities to host its second cohort of students at Fordham University, and proudly announces the IIHA’s second MIHA graduate, Gianluigi Lopes!

And that‘s not all.. after a long summer, this edition is full of IDHA alumni updates from IDHA reunions around the world to new positions to recently published articles! Read now, and stay tuned for more!

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Alumni Update: Thomas Thorhauge (IDHA 37) and Durgavasini Devanath (IDHA 31)

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Thomas Thorhauge (IDHA 37), Health Adviser at the British Red Cross, and Durgavasini Devanath (IDHA 31), Senior Emergency Health Officer at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Asia Pacific Zone Office recently met up in Kuala Lumpur. Durgavasini tagged some of her fellow students and friends in her post, saying: “Thinking of the rest of the IIHA/ CIHC family & looking forward to serendipitous meets soon.”

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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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Ecuador Earthquake Response: IDHA Alumni Working Together in the Field

IDHA 40 Graduates Wilson Gomez Vascones (left) and Rahul Singh (right) stand with Colónel Rueda

IDHA 40 Graduates Wilson Gomez Vascones (left) and Rahul Singh (right) stand with Colónel Rueda

Guayaquil, Ecuador (Wilson Gomez Vascones) – On Saturday April 16th at 6:58 PM, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador; many local efforts started immediately, and in the days to follow, many governments and international organizations began arriving with different types of assistance. The organization that I coordinate here in Guayaquil, Red de Voluntariado Juvenil (“Youth Volunteering Network”), started planning how to best assist with food, shelter management, and also medical assistance in the sectors.

unnamed4Within the first few days of the Earthquake response, Rahul Singh, Executive Director of GlobalMedic and the International Rapid Response Team from Canada, contacted me to offer support and assistance right away. Rahul and I had met during the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA) International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA) Training Course in June 2013, and have since collaborated on building local capacity here in Ecuador. Rahul and I agreed that his team would arrive by Monday night while I worked on securing the necessary permission to operate on ground zero.

The experience that Rahul brought with him – experience gained through his assistance and support of various agencies in disasters and humanitarian emergencies – was invaluable. 13170044_10156821476380307_502367304_oWe visited every coordination table to assist with different relief operations and in addition to experience and knowledge, GlobalMedic assisted Ecuador in its Earthquake relief efforts by providing: the R4 incorporated finders team who, in coordination of Durán Fire Department, worked the whole week on Search and Rescue tasks confirming there were no longer victims under the rubble; AR10 units that produce 2400 liters/hour of potable water, AR3 units which are several trekkers that purify water by 240 liters/hour, and1,000 buckets of fresh rain that produce 3 liters/hour and work best for families; and several thousands of aquatabs.  GlobalMedic also provided a specialty group of drone pilots that flew over the affected areas mapping the areas and allowing for real time information and data to ensure the best resources for decision makers. This effort was done in coordination with the Secretariat of Disaster Risk Reduction (SGR) who requested the areas be mapped, and with the Ecuadorian Air Force that cleared the requested areas so the drones could fly without risks.

The Red de Voluntariado Juvenil continued the programs that were running while providing essential unnamed3logistics and coordination support to GlobalMedic. Now we have around 300 volunteers in the affected areas obtaining information for the next part of the interventions which will be to build houses with partner organizations such as Techo and Hogar de Cristo. The partner organizations also invited Fronteras, a Jesuit spirituality community that looks to serve the people in need where needed the most, to share their knowledge on accompaniment in order to serve better.

unnamedIt has being a great experience to work together with Rahul as IDHA alumni, and all the knowledge gained and shared during the IDHA back in 2013 has assisted us greatly in our work. We look forward to more opportunities to collaborate and we continue to build more great relationships with every course we take through the IIHA.

unspecifiedWilson Gomez Vascones is Coordinator of the youth volunteering network, Red de Voluntariado Juvenil, based in Guayaquil, Ecuador. He is also part of the volunteers at Guayaquil fire department (which has been run by volunteers for 181 years). He is a graduate of IDHA 40.

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Alumni Update: Ferdinand von Habsburg-Lothringen (IDHA 9, MIHA)

Ferdinand von Habsburg-Lothringen (IDHA 9, MIHA) recently responded to an article featured on Insight on Conflict run by PeaceDirect. His response, rich in both experience and insight, was then featured as its own article, “The Complex History of Violence in South Sudan.” In his article, Ferdinand details what he has learned from his 20 years of field experience in the country, and he argues that in order to understand the current conflict within the country we must look to South Sudan’s complex history – a history that does not always fit into the frameworks and narratives that the international community often tends to impose upon it.

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