INEE Conflict Sensitive Education Training: April 2, NYC

4 Mar

FYI, for all you future and current education in emergencies practitioners:

INEE is offering a 1-day training on Conflict Sensitive Education (CSE) using recently developed training materials that are based on the INEE CSE Pack. The training will be held at the International Rescue Committee in New York, NY on Wednesday, 2 April 2014, 9am-5pm.

This training will focus on the meaning of conflict sensitive education, why it is important, when it is applicable and how to use the INEE CSE Pack to support education response.

Space is very limited. If you are interested in participating please RSVP to


How to Build a Perfect Refugee Camp

16 Feb

How to Build a Perfect Refugee Camp

The headline for this NYT article is sure to be a HREC attention-grabber.

It focuses on Kilis, a camp for Syrian refugees in Turkey. Compared to many other camps, and certainly compared to the picture of refugee camps that lingers in many imaginations, Kilis is a model facility. What is it doing differently? A few explanations are suggested. One that stands out is this:

“Kilis is not run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Rather, Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, or AFAD, asked the U.N.H.C.R. for its camp guidelines — minimum distance between tents, and so on — and then designed its own. It staffed the camps with Turkish government employees, allowing in few NGOs and giving those only supporting roles.”

The article also give some attention to the problems of running ‘nice’ facilities. From a political (in the ‘politicians who want successful careers’ sense) point of view, being ‘too nice’ to refugees is dangerous ground.

Still, reading this on the same day as an article about a break-out from one of Australia’s offshore detention centres – Australia having adopted the policy of advertising how poorly it will treat any ‘asylum seekers’ – I’m pretty sure I know which country is going to come out of this looking good. In places like Kilis, Turkey is setting itself up in the international community as a progressive, humane leader in refugee management.


INEE Journal on Education in Emergencies

31 Jan

Attention all Education in Emergencies enthusiasts (nerds)!

This week the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) announced a brand new Journal on Education in Emergencies. Along with this announcement, INEE also revealed that NYU Steinhardt’s own Dr. Dana Burde will be the Journal’s first Editor-in-Cheif! The first of its kind, the Journal will close a crucial gap as the field itself gains more international attention and (ideally) funding:

The Journal on Education in Emergencies is established in response to the growing need for rigorous Education in Emergencies (EiE) research to strengthen the evidence base, support EiE policy and practice, and improve learning in and across organizations, policy institutes and academic institutions. The Journal will close a gap existing in the academic space: currently, there is no Journal dedicated to this topic. The Journal will facilitate EiE knowledge generation and sharing, thus contributing to the further professionalization of the EiE field.

The Journal will include three sections:

  • EiE Research Articles: Articles in this section will have solid research methodology/ research design, use an explicit, well-recognized theoretical or conceptual framework, and contribute to the evidence-base and the advancement of knowledge on EiE.
  • EiE Practice: Articles in this section will demonstrate progress and/or challenges in designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating EiE policies and programs.
  • EiE Book Reviews: Articles in this section will offer a critical review of a recently published or an upcoming book on EiE.

Very excited for this. Manuscript submission guidelines will be released in Spring 2014. This would have been a fantastic resource while I was in graduate school, and I am quite pleased that it will be available for future classes and practitioners.

More online courses…you know you want them

28 Jan

Quick post for those interested in getting their MOOC on.

Echoing sentiments blogged about here on HREC over the past few months, another great post over on recently rounded up some great massive open online courses (MOOCs) that may be of interest to development workers or students looking to supplement their equally massive existing course loads. As WhyDev blogger Meghan Hussey notes:

Whether you are driven by intellectual curiosity to learn more about the history of the country you are working, or by a practical desire to up your proficiency in a technical skill, MOOCs are a low-cost option for personal and professional development.

Topics include:

-General Development/Social Change
-Global Health

Don’t pretend you’re not exited.

Remember Neo…there is no “field”

15 Jan

As this blog is also dedicated to those current and recent grad students seeking to dive headfirst into development, humanitarian and education work, I thought that this blog post I came across was worth passing along to our readers.

Last week, WhyDev blogger, AidSource co-founder, and author of “Disastrous Passion: A Humanitarian Romance Novel” (next on my ever-expanding reading list) “J.” (the elusive name only adds to the amusement and contemplation provoked by the post) recently wrote a piece on WhyDev about the myth of “the field.” Piggybacking off a recent rant on AidSpeak concerning the murky definition and romantic delusions about the obsession development workers have with working in “the field,” J. comments on the perpetual mystique and intrigue of this broadly defined place in international development and humanitarian work that young adventure-thirsty jobseekers like myself so often discuss as the place they feel they belong. J. comments on years of experience in development work, roughly a 50/50 split between international and HQ roles, and regards the two ostensibly unique placements within the development world to be remarkably similar. As the AidSpeak post highlights:

  • Work in HQ: Go to meetings. Stare at a computer screen. Send email messages. Occasionally visit project sites and talk to beneficiaries. Be responsive to the needs of donors.

  • Work in “The Field”: Go to meetings. Stare at a computer screen. Send email messages. Occasionally visit project sites and talk to beneficiaries. Be responsive to the needs of donors. Have a housing allowance. Awesome Facebook updates.

J. explains how in his own experience, it is the HQ-level jobs that enable you to decide and dictate where the indispensable funding that drives development work will be allocated, and in “the field” you are essentially relegated to a position of accepting these decisions as they are handed down from above. The myth of autonomy and being able to make a direct impact on the ground as you see fit is in reality at the whim (no matter how well thought out) of individuals and teams working on the other side of the world. Additionally, the post comments on a topic that has been discussed elsewhere on HREC, in regards to the hesitation of us international development folks who wish to work in foreign locations but do not want to fall into the ‘white savior industrial complex’ or Neo-colonial manifestation of the ‘white man’s burden.’ This is a difficult catch-22, especially being a tall white male with a fairly substantial blonde beard, with which I personally have qualms on a regular basis (I have qualms with the catch-22, not my amazing beard). J. talks about how despite “our” best intentions to breed “local” interventions with local ownership, we essentially “re-cement the divide between “us” and “them” every time we refer to the place where aid supposedly happens as the field.” J. offers a piece of unsolicited advice, for readers to “understand and be honest about your motivations—the “why” matters. Find your spot in the overall scheme of what needs to be done.”

I loved these posts. Through my current home-based consultancy work, I am continuing my own search for a position in this mythical “field,” specifically in East Africa with a desired focus on refugee education. I would argue that the motivations for individuals wanting to work in the “field” are not always confined to the desire to make what they possibly erroneously assume will be a tangible, direct impact on the ground. That is certainly part of it, but even in the smaller NGOs for which I have worked in the past where one would assume more direct impacts could be made, bureaucracy still thrives, and making a direct impact is always a challenge (don’t get me wrong, I am confidant that I personally helped improve the lives of many people, and I have those smaller NGOs to thank for that). In my travels I have even heard horror stories from Peace Corps volunteers who lived, worked, slept and ate with local communities 24/7, and they were still unable to get their organization to provide them with funding to carry out even basic projects that they knew the community truly needed, simply because it did not fit within a larger global development goal-oriented framework.

The posts allowed me to re-evaluate what truly inspires me to want to work in East Africa rather than in NYC or DC at HQ level where I could have the power to determine what communities and what issues get focus and funding. At the end of the day, aside from my powerful distaste for the lifestyle in the Northeastern United States (no offense NYC and DC, I had plenty of fun out there, but this California boy had his fill of that pace of life), I simply fell in love with East Africa in my various work endeavors. I fell in love with the people, with the cultures, with the communities, and those communities were the most welcoming I have ever experienced. I developed an undying passion not to help poor starving Africans, but to learn from the most resilient people I have ever crossed paths with. To draw from my own upbringing in relative poverty and apply my life experiences and my expertise to grow alongside those with whom I worked in Kampala, in Arusha, and in so many rural villages in between, was what motivated me to get the M.A. required to get the jobs that I saw essential to truly making an impact. To me, “the field” is more of a state of mind – it’s getting out of the classroom, getting your face out of books, and LIVING life while conducting work that truly benefits the lives of other people. I have never been concerned with money, I have never been concerned with titles, and I have never relished the glamor and intrigue of being based internationally. I just love to travel, and I love to live with peoples that are radically different than my own, while at the same time highlighting the beautiful and inspiring similarities that bond and bind all of mankind together as one.

This blog discusses education and human rights. And my work abroad taught me not only the true value of education, but it taught me what it means to be human. That understanding, and that experience, I believe, is essential for development workers to truly be in touch with those they seek to work alongside in order to make the world a more just and livable place for all human beings. More than that (stop reading if my hippie-talk is too much for you), life is all about connection, and sitting behind a desk in the community I am seeking to work with is a far more connected and active process for me than sitting behind a slightly nicer desk in HQ. A neophyte to the world of international development and humanitarian assistance, I eagerly await how a few more years of work abroad will shape and mold my perspective, and perhaps I will eventually get tired of that game and return to HQ where I may feel I can really make a difference. But gaining that perspective is what life is all about. Hats off to J. for allowing me to turn inward and think about these ideas, and for the inspiration that has come about because of it.

And maybe it IS time to reactivate my Facebook account…

“With Nelson Mandela behind us…who could be against us?”

13 Dec

The world has been buzzing with the news of the passing of Nelson Mandela last Thursday, with an incessant stream of stories on his life, his legacy, and his impact on crucial issues of civil, political and human rights. He was a champion of the equal provision of rights for all people regardless of race, class, and religion, but following his presidency, he also took on a role as a champion of the rights of people affected by HIV/AIDS. This week marked the 17th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) in Africa, which was appropriately held in Cape Town, South Africa. Conference participants reflected on the impact that Mandela made on the fight against HIV/AIDS, talking more openly about the epidemic at a time when it was still shrouded in silence.

Perhaps even more striking was the impact that Mandela made on the fight against stigma towards HIV/AIDS. From sporting a t-shirt reading “HIV Positive” upon meeting activists with the Treatment Action Campaign and Médecins Sans Frontières in Khayelitsha, South Africa in 2002, to inviting celebrated HIV-activists like Annie Lennox (I love her way too much) to the launch of his 46664 HIV-awareness campaign in 2003, to his acknowledgement in 2005 that he had in fact lost his own son to an AIDS related illness, Nelson Mandela ushered turning point after turning point in the global fight against HIV/AIDS and the stigma that stymies the efforts of AIDS activists everywhere. He was quoted as saying, “let us give publicity to HIV/AIDS and not hide it, because the only way to make it appear like a normal illness, like TB, like cancer, is always to come out and to say somebody has died because of HIV.”

Anyone working in the global effort to curb the spread of HIV and educate populations on its causes and reach can tell you that stigma is often the most difficult barrier to break down in providing effective outreach. This phenomenon is by no means specific to African countries – it exists all over the world – but 97% of those living with HIV reside in low to middle income countries, and adequately providing sufficient resources to curb the spread of HIV in these countries is a colossal task. I remember first arriving in Tanzania some years back, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to join the fight by teaching HIV-prevention education in rural primary schools and local community centres. I was shocked to see and hear first-hand some of the misconceptions and myths about HIV and the general resistance to even acknowledging this devastating epidemic.

There are currently 33.4 million people worldwide living with HIV (and that only accounts for those who have been tested…to say that the actual number of cases is significantly higher is a gross understatement) and over 25 million have already died from AIDS-related illnesses*. Though many still believe that HIV is a myth, or that it is a virus spread from the West to perpetuate some form of neo-imperialistic population control in the developing world. Many cultures believe themselves to be immune. Many believe HIV is spread through lies and rumors, through witches and sin, through curses and (ironically) condoms. There are millions of people in this world who do not want to get tested because they would rather not know their status. This is not only because of the devastating affect of HIV on a person’s health, but also because many communities still stigmatize and reject individuals based on their HIV status.

Educating the world about HIV/AIDS is essential to stopping it. So much emphasis is placed on radical new ARV treatment therapies that we forget that HIV is a 100% preventable virus – spread through sex, blood, and birth from an HIV+ mother. Educating oneself and one’s community about the facts of the epidemic can help to prevent the stigma and breed generations of people working together, regardless of status, to put an end to the spread of HIV.

Nelson Mandela recognized this. Just as he knew that no peoples of this world should be discriminated against based upon the color of their skin, Mandela knew that those living with HIV need the support, acceptance and love of their neighbors – and their country – in order to receive proper care and prevent the virus from spreading further. Though as the conference in Cape Town discussed, “vulnerable groups such as men who have sex with men, injecting drug users, and prisoners are still being criminalized and marginalized in most countries, and are often unable to access basic HIV services.”

Madiba has left the world with an immense legacy of compassion, vision and the relentless pursuit of equality for all human beings. Let us honor that legacy by educating ourselves about HIV/AIDS in our countries and around the world, and recognize that stigmatizing an individual based on their HIV status is no different than discriminating against them based on the color of their skin.

*Quick Fact: Few people seem to understand that HIV is a virus that depletes the immune system over a number of years, most of which are marked by no symptoms, which is why getting tested is the ONLY way to know one’s status. AIDS, on the other hand, is a stage of HIV that comes about once a person’s T-Cell count (the ones that keep us immune to illness and disease) drops so low that our bodies are unable to fight off infection. To say someone has died of AIDS is to say that that person died as a result of opportunistic infections that took advantage of a body with no immune system to protect itself. Next time you hear somebody say “You’re going to get AIDS” or “I don’t want to get AIDS by engaging in Behavior X, Y, or Z,” let them know that this erroneous understanding of a complex virus is detrimental to the fight to end it. Educate yourself. Find out more.

edX Announces Free International Human Rights Course

6 Dec

It’s human rights. It’s education. It’s human rights education. And it’s free!

In another batch of outstanding course offerings, edX has announced an International Human Rights course. Taught by Olivier De Schutter, a Professor at the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL) in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, and at the College of Europe (Natolin). He has also served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food since May 2008. Here’s a brief course description from edX:

Human rights develop through the constant dialogue between international human rights bodies and domestic courts, in a search that crosses geographical, cultural and legal boundaries. The result is a unique human rights grammar, which this course shall discuss and question, examining the sources of human rights, the rights of individuals and the duties of States, and the mechanisms of protection. We shall rely extensively on comparative material from different jurisdictions, to study a wide range of topics including, for instance, religious freedom in multicultural societies, human rights in employment relationships, economic and social rights in development, or human rights in the context of the fight against terrorism.

As with all of edX’s course offerings, the class is free, and available to take for a certificate or simply to audit for those with less time to commit. The class begins in February 2014.  Other topics of interest to our readership in the field of international development include Health & Society, Global Warming Science, Introduction to Bioethics, Next Generation Infrastructures: Part I, and Ressources naturelles et developpement durable. Each course is taught by professors who are leaders in their respective fields, hailing from Harvard University, MIT, UC Berkeley, and an impressive list of other highly-respected academic institutions.