Marlene Houngbedji - August 21, 2014

Due to the ongoing nature of the military operations taking place in Gaza and Israel, the below analysis relied on the most recent developments and may evolve until parties to the conflict agree on a truce.

The latest iteration of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Operation Protective Edge, as named by the Israeli military, has entered its fourth week, including a second round of anti-Hamas ground offensives in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza. To date, calls for an immediate ceasefire have mostly gone unheeded. The human toll is staggering, unmatched by a stalling political process: over one thousand casualties and two failed bids for a truce negotiated first by Egypt and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, with a third attempt in progress. Amid accusations by more...

Julia Brooks - July 28, 2014

The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) over the Ukraine on July 17th, which killed all 298 passengers and crew on board, is an international tragedy. While the investigation into the crash remains ongoing, the U.S. maintains that the plane was brought down by an anti-aircraft missile launched from the area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists, likely acting with Russian support and arms. So far, Russia denies involvement in the incident.

In the aftermath of the Ukrainian Revolution of February 2014 and the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, pro-Russian rebels have clashed with Ukrainian government forces in the eastern Ukraine, escalating into an armed insurgency and government counter-offensive. With the shooting down of Flight MH17 bringing increased international attention to more...

Marlene Houngbedji - July 7, 2014

Commemorations for the 14th World Refugee Day[1] on 20 June drew to a close as the United Nations reported a sharp increase in the number of forcibly displaced persons worldwide,bringing new depth to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR)’s 2014 theme of “One family torn apart by war is too many.” An alarming 51 million people have thus far been involved in mass migration movements; 10.4 million of them now classify as ‘refugees of concern.’[2]

The causes of this dramatic surge need not be described at length; suffice it to say that internal and transnational conflicts are currently crippling countries from Africa’s Great Lakes region to the Near and Middle-East.  The protracted nature of several of those armed activities exacerbates more...

Julia Brooks - June 24, 2014

Human dignity, compassion, relief from suffering, aid to the poor, protection for the vulnerable, and refuge for those in need. Modern humanitarian assistance is rooted in the ancient traditions and values shared by the world’s major faiths. As such, faith-based organizations (FBOs) have long played a central role in providing humanitarian assistance and protection. As Elizabeth Ferris emphasizes in an article published by the International Review of the Red Cross, some of the earliest humanitarian work was undertaken by faith-based groups. Hebrew scriptures emphasized justice for the poor, and temples often served as sanctuaries for the persecuted or refugees. Christian faith and practice is also based on the values of charity and mercy, and Christian orders have long provided services to the poor, sick, and vulnerable. Likewise, more...

Anaïde Nahikian - June 17, 2014

ATHA’s Anaide Nahikian recently sat down with Dr. François Audet, Scientific Director of the Canadian Research Institute on Humanitarian Crisis and Aid (OCCAH) and a professor of management and technology at the Université du Québec à Montréal. Their discussion centered on Dr. Audet’s recent research, which looks at the interest and attitudes of western humanitarian organizations in developing local capacities, and explores the influences behind agencies’ decision-making process.
You can listen to the interview by clicking on the audio player below. If you want to be the first to hear similar discussions in the future, we encourage you to subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.

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ATHA - May 2, 2014

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The delivery of health services in contemporary armed conflicts is becoming increasingly complex, as the nature of these conflicts is continually changing. While the response to specific health needs of vulnerable populations may be found in specialized literature, the practical challenges of access to victims and the response to major disruptions of health care systems in conflict are rarely discussed in global health arenas. This is an issue of particular relevance to the Harvard community, as well as the global humanitarian community of professionals, designing an effective humanitarian response in these environments.

In this episode of the Humanitarian Assistance Podcast, we’ more...

Anaïde Nahikian - April 24, 2014

On April 15. 2014, for the Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action (ATHA), I interviewed Dr. Peter Singer about the impact of new technologies on the evolution of warfare. Dr. Singer is the director of the Center for 21st Century Security Intelligence at the Brookings Institution and is the author of several books on the topic, including his most recent book, co-authored with Allan Friedman, Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know.

Highlights from this interview were featured on a Humanitarian Assistance Webcast broadcast from Harvard University on April 24, 2014. This webcast included a wide array of expert commentators:

Mr. Claude Bruderlein, Strategic Advisor, International Committee of the Red Cross Ms. Bonnie Docherty, Senior Researcher in the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch, instructor at more...
Rob Grace - April 21, 2014

A seemingly historically unprecedented development has been taking shape within the past few years in the domain of international humanitarian law (IHL). For perhaps the first time in history, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), scholars, human rights advocates, and policy actors have been engaging in discussions and debates about the legal and ethical implications of the military use of technology that does not yet exist. In recent months, for example, the use of autonomous weapons systems has been the focus of events convened by the American Society of International Law (ASIL) and Chatham House. A recent issue of the International Review of the Red Cross — titled, “New technologies and warfare” — also examined this topic in depth.

Some existing weapons systems already function with a certain degree of autonomy. For example more...

ATHA - April 10, 2014

Many of those who participated in our recent Humanitarian Assistance Webcast, On the Basis of Humanitarian Need? The Confounding of Operational Decision Making, submitted questions that we were unable to address during the event due to time constraints. However, these questions were far too important and thought-provoking to leave unanswered. In this light, we asked one of the event's panelists, Lars Peter Nissen, to address the questions. His responses are below. -HPCR & ATHA

Wahidullah from Canada comments: "In Pakistan several agencies conducted EMMA to help inform their programming. Most of the agencies were late to respond to the needs of the affected population in 2010 flood. The assesment took forever and most of the agencies started their response at least 2 months after the more...


Q from Tensai in the United States: What are your tangible suggestions for improving negotiations with Syrian government for cross border access, and why do you believe that greater pressure from OCHA and ICRC would yield results?­

With regard to the question of access, the main challenge faced by aid organizations in Syria is not the improvement of their relationship with the Syrian government. It is rather to gain leverage over the Syrian government in order to obtain a formal or de facto acceptance of cross border operations. The first tangible step in that direction is to publicly acknowledge, as Valerie Amos and John Ging did, the failure of the current aid operations to reach all those in need, especially in rebel held areas, and the necessity for cross border access.

To me, alerting more...

ATHA - April 24, 2013

Q: In 2011 Islamic Relief announced an adjustment in its strategy to better address to root causes of poverty, build local capacity of communities, and confront inequalities. Particularly given the October threats of Al Shaabab in Somalia, do you anticipate this new strategic approach shifting the way that Islamic Relief is viewed in the field or impacting it’s access?

A: Islamic Relief came up with a strategic road map to interlink relief and recovery efforts through defining the programmatic linkages, between response and development, for Somalia. Islamic Relief has been using the recovery road map for guiding its programmatic engagement in Somalia as well as for advocacy with donors and wider stakeholders. Together with our partners we launched our suggested alternative ways of doing things in more...


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