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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.


16 Aug

As the world’s eyes are glued to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Egypt, a few other bits of HREC-worthy news and stories caught my eye. Enjoy, share, discuss:

1) International Education M.A. Alumni share their stories

Because this blog is also dedicated to sharing the stories, struggles and successes of members of our graduate cohort as we emerge into the field of education, I would like to commend those who were featured in NYU Steinhardt’s M.A. Alumni profile section (including HREC’s own Alice Jacques and attendees of the Human Rights and Education Colloquium!). You can read interviews with each alum, detailing their favorite aspects about their new positions as well as what they liked about their recent International Education graduate degree program.

2) INEE Conflict Sensitive Education Pack

This week, the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) launched the highly anticipated Conflict Sensitive Education Pack. According to INEE, “conflict sensitive education refers to the design and delivery of education programs and policies in a way that considers the conflict context and aims to minimize the negative impact (contribution to conflict) and maximize positive impact (contribution to peace).” The CSE pack thus supports the integration of conflict sensitivity in education policies and programs with several tools, including: INEE’s Guidance Note on Conflict Sensitive Education; a Reflection Tool for designing and implementing conflict sensitive education programmes in conflict-affected and fragile contexts; Guiding Principles on integrating conflict sensitivity in education policy and programming; and a number of additional resources. FHI 360 and Save the Children co-hosted the Launch with INEE this Tuesday in Washington D.C. For those who missed out, you can watch the stream of the event.

You can find and download the full CSE Pack on INEE’s Toolkit here.

3) The humanitarian situation in Darfur

While eyes have been turned (justifiably) to the worsening humanitarian crisis in Syria and the surrounding region, the humanitarian situation in the Darfur region of Sudan is the worst it has been in years, with over 300,000 people fleeing their homes in 2013 alone and 3.2 million Sudanese in need of humanitarian assistance. Over the past decade, over 2.3 million people have been displaced by ongoing violence, which in recent years has been fueled primarily by disputes over grazing land and gold-mining. The Sudanese government in Khartoum is both unable and ostensibly unwilling to assist those in Darfur, placing the responsibility to protect (let’s not jump into an R2P debate just yet…) squarely in the hands of the international community, who remains drastically underfunded for the endeavor. Virtually all international NGO staff and aid workers have left Darfur. This deteriorating situation reminds me of the myriad challenges facing the humanitarian community to provide assistance to those in need. When states effectively dismantle international peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts, assistance becomes impossible. I am curious to see whether the same sort of “smuggled aid” that found its way into Syria last year has taken any sort of foothold in Sudan. My guess is no, but does anyone happen to know of other efforts being made to undercut the traditional avenues of assistance provision to help the people of Darfur?

4) How technology is transforming emergency preparedness

In their “Humanitarian Futures” series, OCHA’s IRIN has been producing some great pieces exploring anticipated changes in the aid world likely to unfold over the next decade. This week, IRIN looks at how technology is transforming emergency preparedness around the world. The piece explores how mobile phone technology, geographic information systems (GIS), and other technologies like Twitter are being used to provide early warning systems and routine monitoring in the face of crises. When I began my work in Tanzania as recently as 2009, it seemed that the idea of mobile banking was only in its very nascent stages. When I returned to Uganda just a year later, it seemed that mobile banking, mobile transfers and mass communication systems were burgeoning at a remarkable rate. I am quite interested to see how these technologies continue to be improved and expanded to benefit the largest number of people possible. I like to think the future looks quite bright!

5) Area 51 officially acknowledged

I’m hoping that before long, the Human Rights & Education Collaborative will have to evolve into the Human/Extraterrestrial Rights & Education Collaborative – HEREC…nice ring to it don’t you think?

From Nauru to NYU: Picks of the Week(s)

24 Jun

Will new Nauru asylum centre deliver Pacific Solution?

The BBC recently became the first media org to gain access to the detention centre set up (or commissioned) by Australia in Nauru. This could be viewed as an important step towards transparency, and certainly the journalist is plenty critical of the whole Australian refugee policy, but I find the whole ‘opening up’ of the centre to be deeply suspicious. The reason that the media is being let in is to try to shift debate, and to cast Australian policy as a merciful and humanitarian, even as it imprisons refugees indefinitely.

Today Marks 20 Year Anniversary of Order that Closed “H.I.V. Prison Camp” at Guantánamo

This one is kind of cheating: I work with the Guantánamo Public Memory Project, and for the past week we’ve been focusing on an oft-forgotten chapter in the history of Guantánamo Bay.

In 1991 the U.S. Govt. began detaining Haitian asylum seekers at Guantánamo. The parallels between the plight of these detainees, and the current detainees at GTMO is striking. The parallels between the case of the Haitians and asylum seekers detained at Nauru by the Australian Govt. are equally so.

Objects of the Journey

Vela hosts work by a bunch of fantastic writers, but it is the power of images rather than words that made this article stand out to me. Undocumented immigrants face a whole host of troubles before they even make it to the U.S., and the way they are preyed upon remains for me one of the most terrible aspects of the Drug War as it has recently been fought in Mexico and Central America. This photo essay documents the undocumented, and does so in a concerned, compassionate way.

Yale, NYU sacrifice academic freedom

I love me some NYU bashing, and I couldn’t agree more that NYU is expanding globally so fast that it really has no idea at what cost (lack of academic integrity and quality of education seem obvious possibilities). However, I’m mostly including this link because I take issue with the sanctimonious tone of the article. Separating the world into free and unfree nations, and denying the possibility of freedoms being won in ‘unfree’ nations seems incredibly simplistic. The idea that the U.S. is a bastion of freedom and virtue rings pretty false, given recent revelations about surveillance, and the House’s decision to allow indefinite detention of citizens.

Web art by Josh Begley

I first learned of Begley’s work through his site that documented every single drone strike by the U.S., but have found his other projects equally compelling. The satirical edge to his activist art is really refreshing, as is the scope of his documentary projects (such as documenting the entire history of the race question on the U.S. census).

Good read: The Oath …an insight to the Supreme Court Justices and their upcoming ruling on DOMA and Prop 8 cases.

30 May


If you are interested and/or curious about the latest developments on the LGBT civil rights movement and you are waiting to hear the Supreme Court ruling this June on DOMA and Prop 8 cases, then you would certainly like The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin.

Through a recompilation of interviews, anecdotes and facts, Jeffrey Toobin describes the interactions among justices and provides the audience with a good perspective on the justices human side. He describes the ways in which their past personal and professional experiences contribute to their ideologies and greatly influence their decisions on current issues. As you read it becomes clearer why and who will vote in favor, who will vote against and who could be the unpredictable one this June.

This book is a great insight to the behind the scenes at the justices and their interactions with the White House.

If you are interested on the possible outcomes of the Supreme Court ruling on this issue the American Foundation for Equal Rights blog explains it really well.

A Desperate Need for Cooperation

10 May

A good deal of this week’s news stories from the field seem to underscore the frustration that arises when practitioners are reminded of the fact that the work they carry out in the field can only go so far without concerted efforts from other sectors. Over the past few years, my professional and research interests have fallen into two primary categories: education for refugees and IDPs, and the ongoing struggle for LGBTI rights both here and around the world, particularly in regions where alternative sexualities are simply not tolerated (as if personal freedom was a thing that requires tolerance…). As I continue my job search, until I am hired, I am forced to learn of  how these issues are playing out on the other side of the globe through these bits of news. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has a great resource for humanitarian news and analysis called IRIN News,  which I highly recommend checking out if these issues interest you as well. The following is a short list of articles from IRIN and beyond that caught my eye this week:

1) The plight of LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees – This is a particularly striking topic considering the struggle of the LGBTI community in day to day life anywhere in the world. LGBTI identity in displacement adds layers of marginalization that do not seem to be adequately addressed. However, addressing such issues requires that a dialogue be generated in regions where displacement is commonplace, which is rarely the case. A perfect example of a failure to communicate, and failure to cooperate to make social progress the whole world over.

2) Countering the radicalization of Kenya’s youth – As the new Kenyatta government looks to decentralize Kenya, youth are turning to identities and occupations that are not only a result of the increasingly divided state of Kenya, but of the lack of focus on economic opportunities following what education they may or may not receive. The same has been seen in Sierra Leone a decade prior – hopefully Kenyan youth will not be sucked into the same fate.

3) ‘The Long Road Home to South Sudan‘ and ‘We Want to Go To Our Homeland‘ are both striking accounts of the thousands of Sudanese and South Sudanese caught in limbo as the long transition into independence continues to leave them trapped in protracted displacement. Fortunately, if my current career search has taught me anything, beyond the fact that it’s really hard to get a job, it’s that there are dozens of positions opening up every week to address the needs of these returnees and displaced – a sign that funding is being focused on these issues in both local civil society and among international bodies. Cheers to cooperation!

4) Syran Refugees in Jordan Struggle to Survive – A NYTimes piece this week that highlights many issues facing children and youth affected and displaced by the ongoing civil war in Syria – however, I can’t help but be a bit troubled by the vernacular used to describe these youth as a “lost generation.” This is defeatist language that I don’t think helps mobilize resources and efforts in the right direction.


Picks of the Week: From Boston to Capitol Hill to the U.N. to Kabul with LOVE.

19 Apr

Debora Spar wrote something on her Newsweek article “Throw Out that List” that stood out to me and I would like to share with you in light of this week’s terrible events:  “There are millions of women and men who live lives of consequence every day.  They are not famous, most of them. They are not perfect. They do not do, or have, it all. But they are building lives that matter, honing skills and nurturing talents that touch the lives of others. Which is in the end, perhaps, the best we all can do”

Bombs, Instincts and Morals: Why Heroes Risk It All for Strangers– “Morality is a team sport. It’s far better to be part of that team than to be apart from it”

Whistler blower policy failure at the UN. – “It is the world’s most important organization, yet remains one of the most dysfunctional. A former United Nations employee described a pervasive culture of impunity inside the organization – one in which whistle-blowers are punished for exposing wrongdoing.”

Nancy Hatch Dupree’s Affair with Afghanistan– Great story about her passionate affair in 1960s Kabul with a handsome, Harvard-educated, ex-paratrooper and archaeologist  of her expulsion from Afghanistan at the communist takeover and her husband’s arrest and interrogation as a CIA spy; of her meetings with bin Laden, and her trips as a solo American woman into Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

Boston Attacks Stand As Reminder Of Violence Worldwide– “Attacks like this usually happen in far-off, troubled places – not in the middle of a major American city.”

Gabrielle Giffords open-ed on gun control legislature failure. – “Speaking is physically difficult for me. But my feelings are clear: I’m furious. These senators made their decision based on political fear and on cold calculations about the money…”

To Boston from Kabul with LOVE – Photo-blog. “All those people had hopes and dreams for their futures. Their parents had hopes and dreams for their futures. It doesn’t matter that we experience this more often here. No one should experience any of it ever”

From Camels to Cavemen: Picks of the Week

14 Apr

Hollande Finds His Gift Camel Was Consumed

I gave a presentation on the Mali Conflict at an NYU conference on Friday, and would have dearly loved to include something about Hollande’s camel. Fifteen minutes just wasn’t long enough, however, to do justice to a topic of such import.

Something tells me Hollande wanted that camel out of his hair and into the tagine all along. An express-posted replacement camel probably wasn’t what he had in mind.

Narco War on TV Screens

I just read Ioan Grillo’s El Narco, a great insight into the rise of the Mexico’s militant drug cartels. In this piece for The Dissident Blog – an interesting project in its own right, and published by Swedish PEN – Grillo highlights the difficulties faced by Mexican journalists, pressured by both the government and the cartels (who are themselves in conflict and not a united entity) to pursue certain editorial lines. The piece is also a testament to the importance of critical, ethical journalism, which is never so obvious as when such journalism and journalists are under threat.

Red Cross chief blasts US for force-feeding Gitmo inmates

The detainee hunger strike at Guantánamo drags on: this article does a good job of highlighting not just the immediate cause of the huger strike, but also the sinister and completely misdirected approach by the US administration to breaking the strike.

Reckoning with Genocide

Yes I’m giving biased attention to Latin America. Expect this to continue indefinitely.

Interesting piece by the New York Review of Books on the slow road to accountability and justice in the aftermath of the mass killings – including a brief account of why these constitute a genocide – in Guatemala in the 80s.

First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

NYU’s very own caveman, Slavoj Zizek, on the ethics of charitable giving. Zizek is far easier to understand in animated form.