Tag Archives: Rene Desiderio

Older Persons: A Priority to Protect

Angela Wells / Jesuit Refugee Service

January 30, 2018, New York City – The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011 proved to be one of the most devastating natural disasters of the century. For the nation’s men and women aged 65 and over, who made up nearly a quarter of its population, the disaster proved severely catastrophic. Unable to evacuate or secure shelter and under precarious health conditions, older Japanese people faced disproportionate insecurity, as reported by the Guardian.

The aftermath of the Japanese disaster brought to light the vulnerability of ageing populations affected by humanitarian crises. This unsurprising yet deeply neglected reality is one humanitarian responders struggle to address in protracted and emergency crises globally.

Around the world, older persons hold the social fabric of their communities together – especially when crisis strikes. They serve as family guardians and community leaders, advocates and teachers. They are also the first to fall through the cracks of the humanitarian safety net – with limited mobility and frail health as they struggle more than most to reach safety, rebuild their homes, and continue their lives in dignity.

While the number of older persons living in protracted or emergency crises is unknown, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs has reported that by 2050 the global population of individuals over the age of sixty will more than double to comprise a quarter of the world’s population. In countries susceptible to climate change-induced disasters and conflict, older persons are sure to face greater protection risks, barriers to healthcare, and vulnerability to exploitation and abuse.

Despite this evident risk, the humanitarian infrastructure continually falters in its attempts to provide dignified response to older persons – as reported by the UN Refugee Agency. Immediately after fleeing, they are the first to be split up from their families and lose access to lifesaving medical services. As they begin to start life anew, they face age discrimination when pursuing employment opportunities, health care, and social services.

In a humanitarian sphere with competing interests and rapidly evolving crises, older populations are simply not a top priority. This leaves a huge gap in assistance and creates an environment where older persons struggle to prevail.

Furthermore, in urban areas, where more than 80 percent of the world’s displaced reside, older persons are extremely marginalized and unable to access basic services. Whether the hurricane in San Juan or conflict in Mosul, cities are increasingly becoming hubs for disaster and their older and displaced residents the most affected.

“The elderly are largely invisible in disaster preparedness programs, rescue efforts and reconstruction projects. Too often, they are the forgotten ones whom no one bothers to inform, check on or assist….Older persons are particularly at risk if they live in sub-standard or overcrowded housing, in shantytowns, or in areas with badly designed infrastructure, poor transport systems, or ineffective local leadership,” wrote Ann Pawliczko, PhD IIHA Research Fellow on Ageing in a soon-to-be-published book on urban disasters.

Fortunately, the international community has made a concerted effort to address the plight of older persons affected by crises.  In 2002, the United Nations adopted the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing which urged humanitarian responses to include older persons in project design and assessment, and to protect older individuals, especially women, from exploitation and abuse.

Fifteen years later, significant strides have been made. Non-governmental  organizations like HelpAge International and the International Rescue Committee promote the inclusion and protection of older persons amidst global crises and displacement.The 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals call on the international community to leave no older person behind. Nation states have convened to form bodies like the Group of Friends of Older Persons to address their rights and needs on the UN stage.

Humanitarians are also beginning to recognize the wisdom and leadership that older persons contribute to their communities in the aftermath of crises.

“Older people are more likely to be aid givers than receivers. Their assistance to others means that supporting older people – with healthcare or income generation activities, skills training or credit – supports their families and communities. Little attention has yet been paid to how older people can be helped to fulfill such valuable roles in rebuilding communities, and recognition of their special contribution should not lead to devolution of yet more responsibilities without a corresponding increase in support,” reports HelpAge International.

Looking forward, HelpAge and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction are pursuing and promoting fourteen targets that seek to improve humanitarian response to older persons. These include involving older persons in the development of disaster and climate risk assessment, increasing access to early warning signals and information for older persons, and ensuring direct support to older persons including income support and disaster insurance.

These solutions and others will be more deeply explored by representatives of the  Permanent Mission of Japan, UNHCR, IRC, and independent experts and Fordham University at an upcoming side event of the 56th Session of the United Nations Commission for Social Development: “Humanitarian Action for Older Persons: Fifteen Years After The Madrid Plan” taking place at the United Nations Secretariat next week.

The event is being convened by the Center for International Health and Cooperation and the Institute for International Humanitarian Affairs at Fordham University in collaboration with the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations, the Group of Friends of Older Persons (GoFOP), the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Angela Wells, IIHA Communications  Officer
Noel Langan, IIHA Communications Intern

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IIHA Provides “Melting Pot of Information and People” to Network on Humanitarian Action Students

NOHA students Erik Lewerenz, Mu Chen, Stefanie Larsson, and Rebecca Lindqvist visit Fordham University’s Rose Hill campus with academic advisor Dr. Desiderio.

August 9, 2017, New York – For the third year since the initiation of a formal partnership, the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs has hosted students from the Network on Humanitarian Action (NOHA) to conduct research under the guidance of IIHA Research Fellow, Rene Desiderio, Ph.D at Fordham University.

Over the course of the summer, four students – Mu Chen, Rebecca Lindqvist and Stefanie Larsson from Uppsala University and Erik Lewerenz from Ruhr-Universität Bochum – have been conducting research on topics ranging from the role of architecture in post-disaster areas to effective methods for cash-transfer programming.

This summer program is one of several initiatives and a deepening partnership between the IIHA and NOHA. This summer, the IIHA is hosting researcher Cristina Churruca, Ph.D, the Coordinator of NOHA Master’s Consortium of Universities on Humanitarian Assistance and an expert on human security, protection and peace building.

In addition, Brendan Cahill, IIHA Executive Director, was recently selected as a member of NOHA’s Journal of International Humanitarian Action which aims to contribute to critical analysis and research that seeks to highlight contemporary challenges to humanitarian action.

For the summer NOHA students, studying at Fordham University has afforded them the opportunity to take advantage of the humanitarian network in New York City. Much of their research wouldn’t be possible without the proximity to the UN and humanitarian organizations of interest.

One student, Stefanie Larsson, is researching refugee resettlement in the United States and has found New York to be “a melting pot of information and people in many different areas of the humanitarian field.”

“A great part of the IIHA is the abundant amount of resources and knowledgeable people I have been connected with throughout my time in New York City at Fordham. I learned from the lecturers and was so encouraged to meet humanitarian workers…It made me very excited to get out in the field and start making a difference,” said Stefanie.

As the students near the end of their work at Fordham, they attribute the progress of their theses to the guidance of Dr. Desiderio who has helped them focus the structure of their research, refine their methodology, and, when possible, connect them with key informants on global humanitarian issues.

“The collaboration between the IIHA at Fordham and NOHA entails working closely with the students to chart a clear road map for their research that eventually leads to the completion of a thesis on a relevant and pressing humanitarian issue. Ultimately, we hope their research will contribute to the dearth of literature in the international humanitarian field,” said Dr. Desiderio.

“I would strongly recommend anyone to apply for a research track at Fordham University. Firstly because of the proximity to several large humanitarian organizations, especially the United Nations, which helps if your thesis would benefit from interviews with people situated in New York. Secondly, I would recommend it because of the valuable network one can build. Aside from the knowledge gained at lectures NOHA students are welcome to attend, participants of the summer courses are academics and practitioners from different organizations covering different geographical areas,” said Rebecca Lindqvist who is conducting her research on The Trust Principles for humanitarian operations in fragile states, specifically in the context of Somalia.

Johanna Lawton, 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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IIHA Hosts Second Cohort of NOHA Students at Fordham University

The IIHA hosted the second cohort of the Network on Humanitarian Action (NOHA) Erasmus Mundus students at Fordham University during the summer session from mid-June till mid-August. NOHA2016_UNIIHA Executive Director, Brendan Cahill (IDHA 9), welcomed the seven students from four European universities: Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany (Meryem Alci, Tatjana Bojarski and Malte Neuser), University of Deusto in Bilbao, Spain (Daniela Brum da Silva Nieves and Guillermo Barros), University College Dublin in Ireland (Sara Bojö) and University of Groningen in the Netherlands (Hawa Kombian). IIHA Research Fellow, Rene Desiderio, Ph.D., served as Academic Advisor of the students.

During their stay at Fordham, the students conducted research for their master’s theses focusing on various humanitarian issues. Refugees(NOHA) - 2016 NOHA Students taken at the UN HeadquartersThese include humanitarian engagement with non-state armed groups, the use of new technologies by migrants and refugees, aid efficiency in complex conflict situations with particular focus on humanitarian aid in Syria, the scourge of sexual violence in conflict areas, accountability in the humanitarian innovation community, approaches to scale-up digital health interventions for women and children and good practices of remote management in humanitarian action.

UN_HQ_NOHA2016Students who attended some of the summer sessions offered by IIHA, including lectures presented during the International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA) in June, found them particularly useful in their thesis research, and helped the students to deepen their understanding of humanitarian issues and challenges. Topics that the students found to be especially beneficial included technology in humanitarian assistance, communications and media, civil-military cooperation, migration, and accountability. One student said that the sessions “were exceptionally well taught,” while another “acquired new perspectives and insights” on issues of great interest to the student.

NOHA(2016)_UNAs a venue for third-country research stay, the students said that they will encourage and recommend Fordham-IIHA to other NOHA students. The Institute, according to the students, provides excellent academic supervision, offers interesting courses given by practitioners, and provides opportunities to meet seasoned professionals and lecturers in the humanitarian field.

 

Student Feedback

“Fordham-IIHA provides an ideal environment to focus on one’s thesis research, as well as an opportunity to attend interesting lectures on humanitarian issues.  Moreover, the city is great destination to spend two intense and memorable summer months.”

-NOHA Student, University of Deutso (Bilbao, Spain)

“I would highly recommend future NOHA students to do their research stay at Fordham-IIHA because of the excellent academic supervision and interesting humanitarian courses it offers.”

-NOHA Student, Ruhr University (Bochum, Germany)

“At Fordham-IIHA, we felt that we were not alone because the Institute was there for us during our research stay. The academic standard is high. I made the right choice because I got the support that I needed for a meaningful thesis.” 

-NOHA Student, University of Deutso (Bilbao, Spain)

“The most rewarding aspect of my stay at Fordham IIHA was being able to pursue my thesis research plus an internship with High Tech Humanitarians (HTH) that created opportunities for me to attend some UN sessions with technology experts engaged in humanitarian and development issues, as well as to meet with an OCHA representative as part of my data collection efforts.”

-NOHA Student, University of Groningen (Netherlands)

“The hands-on supervision at Fordham IIHA was essential to refine ideas and cut a clearer path towards my master’s thesis goals. The opportunity to attend summer courses and meet seasoned professionals and lecturers in the humanitarian field have enriched my overall experience during my research stay.”

-NOHA Student, University of Groningen (Netherlands)

“Fordham IIHA provides the NOHA students an opportunity to focus solely on their master’s theses, receiving valuable support from an academic advisor, who helps to get their research on the right track.”

-NOHA Student, Ruhr University (Bochum, Germany)

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