Tufts University Hosts Second World Conference on Humanitarian Studies June 2-June 5

June 2, 2011

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MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. – International leaders in the study and practice of humanitarian aid work are meeting at Tufts University today through June 5 for the Second World Conference on Humanitarian Studies.

Organized by the International Humanitarian Studies Association (IHSA) and hosted by the Feinstein International Center at Tufts, the conference will bring together academics, practitioners and policy makers from leading academic institutions, government agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including the United Nations, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Oxfam America, Doctors Without Borders and Harvard and Columbia Universities.

“The conference coincides with a coming of age for humanitarianism. As illustrated by Haiti, Pakistan, Libya and the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, the demand for assistance is unprecedented,” says Peter Walker, PhD, director of the Feinstein International Center and the Irwin H. Rosenberg professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts. “With this comes the need to shift from the traditional ad hoc approach to fieldwork to research-supported strategies that will be presented and debated by the attendees.”

More than 80 panels will feature research and case studies on emerging practices and challenges such as:

·         Media and New Technologies

The humanitarian response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake was unlike any other in history. New technologies such as open source mapping, Short Message Service (SMS), and people-finder websites, allowed remote volunteers to mobilize immediately and work in concert with their colleagues in the field. In recognition of their potential, discussion will focus on the viability of these tools for the future. The panel will also address the increasing use of broadcast media as a means of communication for populations affected by crises as well as responders.   

·         Urban Crises

An increasing number of crises are occurring in urban settings, requiring aid workers to be prepared for non-war-related violence and to serve the growing number of refugees and internally displaced who are seeking out new homes in cities rather than traditional camps and settlements. Using examples from field-based research, the panels will explore how humanitarian agencies can better understand and address the complexities of urban displacement. Case studies from areas including Port-au-Prince, Rio de Janeiro, Damascus and Cairo will be presented.

·         Food Aid

Panelists will tackle the challenges of delivering more nutritious foods to areas in crises, particularly to reduce child mortality rates and to speed recovery from nutrition-related disease. A new federal government initiative stressing micronutrient content will be discussed, along with Doctors Without Borders’ call to support a global fund to support the distribution of nutrient-rich food to 26 million children in need.

The conference opens in Cohen Auditorium with a keynote address at 5:45 given by Nancy Lindborg, the assistant administrator for the Bureau of Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance of USAID and Michael Barnett, PhD, University Professor of International Affairs and Political Science at The George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs and author of the recently released book, Empire of Humanity: A History of Humanitarianism.

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 About Tufts University School of Nutrition

 The Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University is the only independent school of nutrition in the United States. The school's eight degree programs, which focus on questions relating to famine, hunger, poverty and communications are renowned for the application of scientific research to national and international policy.