A space for dialogue about current humanitarian dilemmas.
The Future of Humanitarian Protection: Keynote Address by Yves Daccord
The protection of populations affected or threatened by conflict and natural disasters is a critical component of humanitarian action. Challenges of ensuring protection are notably complex, touching on myriad intersecting issues including international legal norms, frontline humanitarian negotiation, gender, and the migration patterns of vulnerable populations.
In this episode of the Humanitarian Assistance Podcast, Yves Daccord, the Director General of the International Committee of the Red Cross gives the opening keynote address for the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s 2018 Humanitarian Action Summit. In his talk, Mr. Daccord discusses four current challenges in addressing protection: the protection of aid workers—including the increasing use of remote management to transfer risk to local partners, impunity for attacks on healthcare, the use of detention as state policy to dissuade migration, and the digital insecurity of vulnerable populations fleeing violence.
Responding to the 2018 Ebola Outbreak: Challenges and Opportunities
On August 1, 2018 the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ministry of Health announced the 10th Ebola virus outbreak since 1976 had been confirmed in the country’s North Kivu Province. Senior Director of Emergency Health at the International Rescue Committee, Michelle Gayer, noted this outbreak has, “the potential to be the worst ever seen in East Africa—and risks being an encore of history we simply cannot afford.”
Health workers face a number of challenges delivering medical and preventative care in this context, exacerbated by high numbers of operational armed groups and rumors that the outbreak is politically fabricated to decrease voter turnout in the country’s upcoming elections. New options for treatment and lessons learned from the 2014 West Africa Ebola crisis can provide insight for aid workers on the frontlines of this latest outbreak. In this episode, Ambassador Sinead Walsh and Dr. Oliver Johnson discuss their new book, "Getting to Zero: A Doctor and a Diplomat on the Ebola Frontline," which explores the shortcomings of the 2014 response, as well as suggestions for improvement in future outbreaks. They are joined by Patrick Vinck, the Director of Research at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, who is currently conducting research on the outbreak in the DRC.
Practitioner Profile | Wendy Betts
In this episode, we speak with Wendy Betts, Director of the EyeWitness to Atrocities project of the International Bar Association. With growing concerns about impunity for atrocities and other violations of international law in conflict and emergency settings around the world, EyeWitness helping to bring perpetrators of atrocities to justice. The mobile camera app tool can be used to capture verifiable photos or videos related to international atrocity crimes. The tool also captures the metadata needed to ensure that images can be used in investigations or trials, and securely stores the information, while the eyeWitness team works with users to reviews the evidence and connect to investigative or judicial mechanisms. So today on the podcast, we’ll speak with Wendy Betts about how tools like EyeWitness may be used to enhance accountability for international crimes, and promote the protection of civilians and aid workers. We’ll also discuss some of the particular sensitivities around engagement by humanitarian actions in the pursuit of accountability, and ways to mitigate the risk while promoting international humanitarian norms.
Practitioner Profile | Timothy B. Erickson
In light of recent international negotiations over nuclear disarmament and efforts to respond to the use of chemical and poisonous weapons, we sit down with Dr. Erickson to discuss the health and environmental impacts of conflict and emergencies. Dr. Timothy B. Erickson is an emergency medicine physician at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston where he serves as the Chief of Medical Toxicology in the Department of Emergency Medicine, and a faculty member at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. He is an expert in environmental toxicology and crisis in climate change, and has active humanitarian health projects in conflict regions of Ukraine and Syria, as well as ongoing health projects in Nepal and India. Dr. Erickson earned his M.D. degree from The Chicago Medical School in 1986, and is a Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians, the American College of Medical Toxicology, the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology, and the National Geographic Explorers Club.
From the campaign to ban landmines to cluster munitions to the prohibition of nuclear weapons, advocates of humanitarian disarmament have sought to ban or restrict the use of certain indiscriminate and inhumane weapons to reduce civilian harm and suffering in conflict. In this episode, we’ll speak with leading experts and practitioners in the humanitarian disarmament movement. We’ll discuss the humanitarian approach to disarmament, and lessons from particular campaigns, including the Nobel Peace Prize-winning coalitions behind the 2017 Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty and the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, as well ongoing movements to address the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, lethal autonomous weapons systems (“killer robots”), toxic remnants of war, and other remaining challenges for civilian protection in armed conflict.
Yemen's Humanitarian Crisis: Conflict, Cholera, and International Response
Yemen has become, according to the United Nations and World Health Organization, the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. Nearly 12 million people are in need of assistance and in 2017, the worst cholera outbreak in recent history affected an estimated 1 million people. The outbreak, though now controlled, and other infectious diseases combine with famine, malnutrition, and the collapse of the country’s water and sanitation sector to threaten millions, while aid access is blocked and aid workers, hospitals, and civilian areas are attacked. As the armed conflict continues and political fissures in Yemen deepen, humanitarian access and protection issues continue to pose enormous challenges.
This panel was recorded during a live event at the Middle East Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Panelists discussed the complexities of addressing the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, paying particular focus to the cholera outbreak, as well as the broader issues of sustaining humanitarian access and protection, advocating for respect for human rights, and achieving a political solution to the crisis.