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    by Robert C. Orr
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    by Rupert Smith
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    by John Robb
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    The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
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    State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century
    by Francis Fukuyama
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    When States Fail: Causes and Consequences
    Princeton University Press
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    Building States to Build Peace
    Lynne Rienner Publishers
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    Making States Work: State Failure And The Crisis Of Governance
    United Nations University Press
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Entries in Humanitarian Assistance (2)

Saturday
Jul072012

International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance @ Fordham

The last month was very educational.  With 40 others I spent around 200 hours learning about the many issues surrounding humanitarian assistance, from its history and the principles behind it, to dealing with refugees and internally displaced persons, to camp management, disaster response, food security, health issues, gender considerations, logistics, ethics, and a variety of other related topics.  We also delved into a series of case studies on the world’s major humanitarian emergencies, both past and present, which were described to us by those who actually participated and played key roles in the relief efforts. 

 

Some of our instructors were superstars in the field humanitarian aid.  Our lead instructor was one of the most senior UN representatives in Sarajevo during the Bosnian conflict and later set up Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp.  The number two guy was in charge of UNHCR ops in Pakistan during the Afghan-Soviet war in the 1980s and negotiated with “warlords” with whom the U.S. still deals with today.  These were men who built and managed camps with tens of thousands of people and coordinated huge logistics operations to bring in supplies in incredibly difficult and resource-constrained operating environments immersed in conflict.  Others were senior officials within the UN, or large international NGOs.  Unlike myself, many of the students had substantial experience in places like Somalia, Sudan, the Congo, Haiti, Chechnya, and Afghanistan, with many stories to share.  It was one of the most interesting and beneficial months I’ve ever spent in academia, in part because I didn’t just learn new things about a subject, but because I learned a lot about myself as well.

 

The first week we spent a lot of time being lectured on group dynamics and took a psychological test on what type of personalities we had and how these various types play out in a group setting.  This was followed up with actual group work that reinforced what we learned, and was quite amazing for me at least, as the experience showed how accurate the test was in terms of interactions among differing personality types.  It helped me realize some issues I need to be cognizant of when working in teams or leading them.  Previously, I had always thought that people who talk issues to death were somehow arrogant and disrespectful of other people’s time, as opposed to just being hardwired in a manner where they feel best solving problems through long, drawn out discussions.  That is something that tends to tire and frustrate me, especially when dealing with minor issues.  For them it is energizing and the best way to get the job done.  I would rather be accomplishing tasks and not waiting until the last minute when a time crunch occurs to be solidifying plans.  Yet I'll likely always be working as part of a team so understanding how to get along better with, and be able to be more productive in such a group, was a good learning experience. 

 

We also did a mental health class where a psychologist led us through sort of a group session where we explored the mindsets of the people who work humanitarian aid and how to respond to stress and trauma in the field.  Some of my colleagues had some pretty intense experiences, and it was useful for everyone in better understanding why it is we work in war zone or dire relief situations and how to cope with the challenges one will invariably face.

 

The final big learning experience was a session on our futures, where we were asked to complete an individual exercise laying out everything we wanted in our personal and professional lives five years from now, and then do it again in five year increments until we were 60.  We then had to highlight those things we most wanted in one color and then in another those things we might have to give up to get what we wanted most.  After that we had to make a list of decisions that we needed to make to get what we most wanted and when we had to make them.  This was a useful planning exercise and caused many of us to take a hard look at who we were and what we wanted and whether or not we were willing to make the tradeoffs necessary to get there.

 

I have a series of posts on humanitarian that I’ve prepared and will let loose every couple of days for the next week or two.  I will say the experience gave me a new respect for “humanitarian” aid workers, considering the type of jobs they try to do in the environments they do them in.  At the same time, I’ve become more skeptical of those who call themselves “humanitarians,” both in terms of their competency levels and motives.  There were some who on the surface exhibited a cult-like behavior surrounding their principles and were arrogant towards military involvement in the “humanitarian space,” yet were quick to chuck those principles out the window when it suited them.  And while some were obviously highly competent individuals, others weren’t.  On the whole, I left with a better understanding of the field and a greater appreciation for those working in it, in addition to making some new friends who I’m sure I’ll be meeting again in the future.

 

But for now, I have to say, as I’ve said before, if you’re interested in this type of work, this course is something you MUST take.  The program also has numerous other related courses in areas like humanitarian logistics, disaster management, and other topics.  Perhaps best of all you can take these courses during vacation times, and once you’ve done enough of them, can earn a Master’s in Humanitarian Assistance from Fordham University.  Had I known about this years ago before started my graduate degree, I probably never would have left working and would have just done this program instead.  


Wednesday
Jun272012

Humanitarian Aid Training

Right now I’m in New York City, a couple blocks from the Southwest corner of Central Park.  I arrived here earlier in June to complete a month-long course on humanitarian aid with the Center for International Humanitarian Cooperation

 

In the past I’ve posted a lot about training resources for people who want to work in humanitarian emergencies, international development and/or war zones, because there is not a whole lot of opportunities out there.  This is one of the few I’ve found that is available without having to go for a graduate degree or learn on the job.  It’s an intense, 200-hour course, that gives you eight graduate credits and a certification known as an International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance.  While I have a lot of experience and training in conflict stabilization and the way the U.S. government conducts foreign assistance, I don’t have any in responding to humanitarian emergencies, so this will be a useful addition to my tool kit. 


Here’s a copy of the syllabus.


I’ll write a review when I’m done and let readers know more about the content.  I may also do some posts on the issues surrounding humanitarian aid.


For me, the fact that it involves credits I can transfer makes taking the course of great value in strict financial terms, since it means I can graduate a semester early.  Tuition also covers a room in a three person apartment at an awesome location in Manhattan, and all weekday meals, so that’s an added bonus.  The training I’ve had so far has been excellent, though most of the group work has been a waste of time.  Based on my experience so far (graduation is Friday), I would take this course again and recommend it to anyone who wants to work in humanitarian aid, international development, or conflict stabilization.