May 12 - May 26, 2014 
Training Humanitarians Around The World
Blaming the Victims:
The Tragedy of IDPs in South Sudan
By Dr. Amir Idris

The recent politically motivated violence against unarmed civilians seeking shelter from the violence in South Sudan in the United Nations compound in Bor exposed not only the criminal act of the perpetrators but also the mindset of those who ordered and executed it. The unprovoked brutal attacks on the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp had been justified by the government spokesperson Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Michael Makuei Lueth, and interlocutors' reaction to the IDPs celebration of the fall of the city of Bentiu in the opposition hands. The IDPs were labelled as 'rebels' and 'supporters' of the opposition who deserved to be punished for their act of celebrating the defeat of the government forces. Hence, the victims were asking for it. The attacks and its bogus justification have raised questions about how the government of South Sudan understands the key concepts of citizenship, responsibility to protect, and the rule of law. These three concepts are considered to be the sacred pillars of any modern political community.


After all, those who were subjected to violence in their UN shelter are South Sudanese citizens. Their rights and duties as citizens of South Sudan are enshrined in and protected by the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan which the government claims to respect and defend in its war against the opposition forces. None of this has stopped the government from blaming the IDPs, calling them pejoratives such as 'lazy', 'lovers' of free food and handouts from the UN. The justification of the attacks not only dismisses the claim to equal treatment of the IDPs as citizens of South Sudan, but also denies their very existence as human beings. Ironically, instead of exposing the fraudulent assertions of the government spokesperson, government supporters, including a handful of intellectuals, bought into the bogus explanation. The bogus official narrative about the IDPs began earlier when the violence erupted last year. Government officials circulated distorted propaganda about the IDPs' connections with opposition forces. They were unsuccessfully portrayed as enemies of the state - 'rebel fighters in civilian clothes', and 'potential agitators' from within.


However, the truth is the government is attempting to escape responsibility by placing the blame for crime at hands of the victims. The IDPs are not guilty for violence committed by government forces and armed youth in Bor. This violence occurred because the government failed to protect them in the first place. The government could have prevented the attacks by disarming the youth and holding those who broke the law accountable. To say that government's claim is a woeful over simplification would be to give it way too much credit. In fact, the claim is an embarrassing debacle filled with worthless platitudes to back an argument that is insulting not only to the IDPs and the people of South Sudan but to anyone who respects critical reasoning. It also seems to make the tribalistic assumption that all Nuers are rebels and worthless of trust. And even those Nuers who have the interest of mending bridges of peace and reconciliation are categorized as potential enemies. The tendency to smear a whole population of IDPs or an ethnic group reflects what is among the worst aspects of the human condition, where perpetrators blame the victims for their experiences. The danger of this kind of mentality and attitude may worsen hostilities between the conflicting communities, incite ethnically driven revenge, and drag the whole South Sudan into chaos and an uncontrollable bloodbath with unimaginable human tragedy in the 21th century.


The unfolding tragedy in South Sudan is a man made one. And to end it and restore the deep respect for human virtues in particular respect for life to all South Sudanese irrespective of their ethnic, religious, and gender identities, collective political efforts have to be made by the victims and the perpetrators of the violence. This of course can be done if the government and the opposition first recognize that the IDPs are human beings and citizens deserving their constitutional entitlements including protection from both the government and the opposition forces. No valuable lessons will be learned from this inhuman tragedy in South Sudan so long as the government and the opposition and their interlocutors continue to perpetuate the monstrous claim that those who are victims of political violence, including unarmed IDPs, deserve such a fate.


Dr. Amir Idris is a Professor and Chair of Department of African and African American Studies at Fordham University in New York.  

IIHA Course Calendar

JUNE 1 - JUNE 28
JUNE 22 - JUNE 28

JUNE 29 - JULY 5
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#IIHASouthSudan Lecture Series

Given the deteriorating situation in South Sudan, the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA) presented its Spring 2014 Lecture Series: South Sudan in Crisis.


The first event of the series, "Making Peace in Dangerous Places: Lessons from Sudan and South Sudan for Contemporary Conflicts," featured guest speaker Dr. Dirk-Jan Omtzigt, who discussed the peace building and negotiation processes that culminated in the division of the two nations during the 2011 independence referendum. This event was then followed by a Symposium, titled  "Perspectives on National Reconciliation in South Sudan: Lessons Learnt from South Africa, Rwanda, and Sudan," organized by Fordham's African and African American Studies Department.


For the final event of the series, the IIHA hosted a screening of the documentary The Longest Kiss followed by a discussion with Director Alexandra Sicotte-Levesque, during which Ms. Sicotte-Levesque related some of the most challenging and most rewarding moments she encountered as she filmed this insightful and moving documentary.  Throughout her commentary, Ms. Sicotte-Levesque shared several anecdotes with the audience which opened up conversations about identity, trauma, and state secession. Several attendees later thanked the Director for her marvelous work and the insight she provided to viewers who are aware of the situations in Sudan and South Sudan but have no first-hand experience of the continuing challenges faced by the two nations. 

The IIHA would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all of the brilliant lecturers, faculty, alumni, students, and all those who attended the Spring 2014 Lecture Series: South Sudan in Crisis. In particular, we would like to thank Dr. Dirk-Jan Omtzigt, Alexandra Sicotte-Levesque, Ferdinand von Habsburg-Lothringen, and Dr. Amir Idris for their participation, collaboration, and insight throughout the semester. We welcome all those interested in the humanitarian situation in South Sudan to send information, articles, and questions to us via Email, Facebook, or Twitter

View the photos & follow our Twitter Conversation #IIHASouthSudan

Dr. Jemilah Mahmood to head World Humanitarian Summit Secretariat
Described as a creative and inspiring leader who understands the humanitarian response system well, Tan Sri Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, founder and former President of Mercy Malaysia and Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of Teach For Malaysia, has been appointed to head the World Humanitarian Summit Secretariat at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

In response to the announcement, Dr. Mahmood, a senior visiting research fellow at King's College London Global Policy Institute, stated "I am extremely grateful and honored to be appointed to lead the charge in such an important initiative, and that a Malaysian has been selected for the role. Now more than ever, we need to recognize the sheer magnitude of the problems we face in the humanitarian and developmental sectors, and focus our collective resources on solving them. As I have learned in my time at Teach For Malaysia, if the problems are universal, then the solutions are shareable." United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator for Malaysia, Michelle Gyles-McDonnough, declared the news a boost for humanitarian action around the world, citing Dr. Mahmood's extensive humanitarian experience and strong knowledge of the humanitarian system.

Rejoining the UN task force, now as part of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Dr. Jemilah Mahmood will be in charge of leading the organization of The World Humanitarian Summit, to be held in Istanbul in 2016. The World Humanitarian Summit is an initiative of the secretary-general of the United Nations, and an opportunity for governments, UN and intergovernmental agencies, regional organizations, non-profits and civil society actors, the private sector, academia as well as people affected by crises to come together, take stock of humanitarian action, discuss the changing landscape, share knowledge and best practices, and chart a forward looking agenda. The summit will focus on four major themes: Humanitarian Effectiveness, Transformation Through Innovation, Reducing Vulnerability and Managing Risk, and Serving the Needs of People in Conflict. 
Dr. Jemilah Mahmood is a frequent lecturer for the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA) and was awarded the International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA) Honoris Causa in 2011. The IIHA offers our sincere congratulations to Dr. Mahmood and we look forward to an exciting and innovative few years in the lead up to the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016.  

International Women's Day - March 8, 2014 - marked the official launch of Chasing Misery, an anthology of 21 essays and 26 photographs contributed by women who have worked in humanitarian responses during the last decade. All of the essays are first person accounts of specific experiences women had which challenged or inspired them. It has been my honor to contribute - both as an editor and author/photographer - to this work, which provides a deeper insight into the complex world of humanitarian responses through the eyes of those on the front lines." 

- Carmen Crow Sheehan, IIHA Alumna, Mental Health in Complex Emergencies Course (MHCE 6 / NYC 2009)


For additional information, please visit: 
Chasing Misery website: 
Twitter: @chasing_misery 
Interview (Washington Institute with Kelsey Hoppe, head of the editorial team)

The Journal on Education in Emergencies invites submissions of papers for its two sections:
  • EiE Research: These articles use a clearly articulated research design and methods, an explicit theoretical or conceptual framework, and contribute to the evidence-base and the advancement of knowledge on EiE. Articles that develop new theoretical or conceptual EiE frameworks or challenge existing ones will also be considered. Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods approaches are also welcome.
  • EiE Field Note: These articles demonstrate progress and/or challenges in designing, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating EiE policies and programs. Articles on the development and application of tools and resources on EiE and articles exploring links between EiE and traditional humanitarian sectors will also be considered. 

For submission instructions: Please click here.


To submit: Please click here. 

Submission deadline:
July 15, 2014
Tuesday, May 13, 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

This event will feature a discussion concerning the Constitutional Court ruling that revoked the citizenship of more than 200,000 Dominicans with Haitian descent. The dialogue will be led by 2 speakers from the DR: Ana Maria Belique, and advocate for human rights, and Juan Bolivar Diaz, an award-winning journalist with a long trajectory in the defense of human rights. The event will also include a screening of the documentary Birthright Crisis, and will be opened with a live, rare, and spirited performance.


For more information: Please email Milagros Ricourt, or call (718) 960-8280.


Location: Lehman College, 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, NY 10468, Bronx

Thursday, August 28 - Friday, August 29

UN DPI/ NGO will be holding a conference this coming summer and the dates and location are now in place! Plans are underway to have an opening event on the evening of Wednesday, 27 August and possible side events on Saturday, 30 August. So save the above dates and start your planning!

To register: Please register online. 

Location: United Nations Headquarters, between 42nd & 48th Street, New  York, NY 10017

Tuesday, May 13 - Thursday, May 15

Humanitarian Technology: Science, Systems and Global Impact is an exciting, relevant and technically focused international conference that will explore emerging technologies that further enable global humanitarian assistance.

To register: Please click here.

Location: The Marriott Courtyard, 777 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA 02139

Sunday, May 18 - Friday, May 23

The American University Washington College of Law is hosting it's 19th Annual Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Competition. The competition was established to train attorneys on how to use the Inter-American human rights legal system as a legitimate forum for redressing human rights violations. It requires students to argue the merits of a hypothetical case written on a cutting-edge topic currently being debated within the Inter-American human rights legal system. All student team members must be enrolled in a Juris Doctor (JD) degree program or its international equivalent to participate as a team. The oral round sessions occur in May, in Washington, DC. Register as a team or to participate as an observer by March 2014.

For more information: Please visit or email Becca Russell-Einhorn at

Location: American University Washington College of Law, 4801 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20016

Wednesday, July 9 - Thursday, July 10

The Aid & International Development Forum's 6th annual Disaster Relief Summit is the world-leading gathering for international humanitarian experts at relief agencies, NGOs and charity associations, UN and government agencies, development banks and donors and innovative technology and service providers. AIDF summits are designed to create a mutual platform to facilitate and encourage exchange of thoughts, share expertise and present the lessons learned through first-hand experiences. The summit strives to enable quicker and better response during crisis and catastrophes in a more effective, sustainable and cost-efficient way.

To register: Please register online here.

Location: Washington DC, USA. Conference venue details will be determined soon.


2014 Health & Humanitarian Logistics Conference
Wednesday, June 4 - Thursday, June 5

The 6th annual conference will be hosted by the Tecnol´┐Żgico de Monterrey at its Santa Fe campus and co-organized by the Health & Humanitarian Logistics Center at Georgia Tech (HHL), the Humanitarian Response Lab at MIT, and the Humanitarian Research group at INSEAD. Activities will encourage discourse among participants through plenary panels, interactive workshops, poster sessions on innovative research, and other educational and networking activities. Discussions will focus on the role of logistics in areas such as disaster response, health systems and food security as well as highlight the unique logistical challenges for humanitarian response in Latin America.

Registration: Please register online here.

For any additional questions or topic suggestions: Please contact one of the co-organizers at Georgia TechINSEAD, or MIT.

Location: Tecnologico de Monterrey, Santa Fe Campus. Avenida Carlos Lazo 100. Please visit the Venue website for additional information.

Wednesday, June 4 - Friday, June 6

The 18th annual Humanitarian Human Resources (HR) Europe Conference will explore what the future holds for humanitarian HR. The conference will focus on three themes: how to measure and demonstrate the impact of HR; global mobility, which will explore national vs international reward and more; as well as the opportunities and challenges of working in consortia.

For more information: Please visit

Location: Budapest, Hungary

Wednesday, May 21, 9:00 AM - 10:30 AM


This free webinar, hosted by Cynthia Koons of INEE, will answer the questions: What do we mean by conflict sensitive education? What steps should we take to ensure our programs do not contribute to conflict? Are there any resources to support us to deliver education programs that are conflict sensitive? 

For more information: Please email


To register: Please click here and follow the prompts.

Friday, May 23, 10:00 AM- 11:30 AM (EDT)

This debate will focus on what makes humanitarian feedback mechanisms work. A feedback mechanism is seen as effective if, at minimum, it supports the collection, acknowledgement, analysis and response to the feedback received, thus forming a closed feedback loop. Where the feedback loop is left open, the mechanism is not fully effective. Concrete examples of feedback mechanisms' set up and functioning have been documented in Sudan (South Darfur), Pakistan and Haiti.

ALNAP and CDA have finalized a research project looking at effectiveness of feedback mechanisms for crisis affected populations in humanitarian contexts and will present the related practitioners guidance on establishing and using feedback mechanisms effectively. The aim of this action research was to document what works and why when establishing and using feedback mechanisms and to capture learning from field staff. But what are humanitarian feedback mechanisms and why is it important that they are effective?


The event will be chaired by John Mitchell, Director of ALNAP, and speakers will include Francesca Bonino, Research Officer - Evaluation, Learning and Accountability, ALNAP; Burcu Munyas Ghadially, Accountability Adviser, Save the Children UK and Alex Jacobs, Director of Programme Quality, Plan International. 


To register: Please click here. 

Wednesday, May 28, 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM (EDT)

ODI and the DFID-ESRC Growth Research Programme (DEGRP) will host KY Amoako, president of the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) and former executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, to launch the 2014 African Transformation Report. The report argues that Africa's economies need more than growth - if they are to transform they need growth with depth: to Diversify their production, make their Exports competitive, increase the Productivity of farms, firms, and government offices, and upgrade the Technology they use throughout the economy-all to improve human well-being.

The feature speaker of the event will be KY Amoako - President, African Center for Economic Transformation, and Member, Commision for Africa, and discussants will include Yaw Ansu - lead author, African Transformation Report 2014; David Booth - Research Fellow, Politics and Governance, ODI; Tony Burdon - Head of Growth and Resilience, DFID; Mavis Owusu-Gyamfi - Director, Programme Policy and Quality, Save the Children and Dirk Willem te Velde - Head of Programme, International Economic Development Group, ODI. 

To register: Please click here.