Humanitarian Assistance and Refugees

MANY OF US know that conflict displaces people.

Most of us know that Iraq has been a conflict ridden area for quite some time.

Many of us know that violent leaders commit atrocities in certain parts of the world.

And most of us, by now, have heard of Joseph Kony.

So why bother spending your Tuesday lunch hour at the Puck Building listening to experts in the field of refugee humanitarian assistance and African news coverage discuss these topics?

Consider that even these well-publicized topics have hidden sides that don’t often make the headlines. As the number of displaced people from post-conflict areas rises, new refugee populations begin to change the landscape of the places they inhabit. Some wish to return home. Some wish to start fresh and build a new version of home. Each individual contributes to the shifting needs of a new population.

Adam Sirois, director of Global Development and adjunct faculty for the NYU College of Nursing, has spent years studying refugee populations in the Middle East. As an October presenter in NYU Wagner’s “Conflict, Security, and Development” lunchtime speaker series, Adam brought his on-the-ground experience interviewing Iraqi refugees in Jordan to the table. He spoke candidly about what the UN and NGOs in Jordan are doing effectively (targeting the neediest individuals, focusing on comprehensive wellbeing-healthcare that includes attention to mental health and directing resources toward psychosocial community development programs that build community in the long term), and what they’re not (communicating available resources to populations that need them and hiring competent workers in local offices to implement programs).

Then, in another October speaker event, the Conflict Series traveled 2,000 miles south with Blackstar News editor-in-chief Milton Allimadi, who discussed the evolution of African news coverage that brought us to the age of KONY2012. Referring to the internet sensation as “the most brilliant propaganda strategy we’ve seen in years,” Allimadi took us through the nooks and crannies of the most important game-changing stories that don’t get picked up by the major news outlets. He offered insights on the role of both the US government and Invisible Children in the 2008 Garamba Offensive (codenamed “Operation Lightning Thunder”), carried out by Uganda’s government against the LRA. “How do I know about this? I was there; I didn’t hear. No one talked about it. I know because of the revelation from Wikileaks!”

Allimadi’s perspective on the strategy behind KONY2012 paints a picture of a brilliantly-executed manipulation with many puppet masters. “For it [the video campaign] to have been effective, it means many people had to go along with it—with the falseness of it.”

Though many of us believe that social media has ushered in the dawn of a new “Citizen Media,” both objective and transparent, Allimadi facilitated a dialogue that calls into question our most basic assumptions about this notion. “This video is not a mere video,” says Allimadi, “it’s a part of US foreign policy, paving the way for a new White Man’s Burden.”

Pick up with the Conflict Series again on Tuesday, October 23 , the final installment of the Fall semester. Joey Ansorge, consultant, Security Sector Governance) and Andrew Michels, senior civilian advisory, Pakistan Afghanistan Coordination Cell, Joint Chiefs of Staff, will lead a discussion entitled, “Liberia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan: Case Studies in Security Coordination.”

When: Tuesday, Oct 23 12:30pm
Where: The Rudin Forum for Civic Dialogue, Puck Building, 2nd Floor

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