Walid, his pregnant wife and their two children fled Iraq via Turkey where they spent a short but traumatic time in detention. They are now in a makeshift detention centre on the Greek island of Samos awaiting news about their asylum applications and whether they will be returned to Turkey. Mohammad Ghannam/MSF
Julia Brooks - May 31, 2016

Since over a million refugees and migrants arrived in Europe last year – and nearly 4,000 perished or went missing on the Mediterranean Sea – European leaders have been scrambling to find solutions to this evolving humanitarian and political challenge. On March 18th, the EU and Turkey reached an agreement aimed at halting the large-scale irregular movement of refugees and migrants from the Turkey to Greece. Under the agreement, all irregular migrants crossing from Turkey to Greece as of March 20th are to be sent back to Turkey (transfers began on April 4th), and in exchange for each Syrian returned to Turkey, another Syrian refugee would be resettled to the EU. The EU also promised Turkey around $6.6 billion in aid, visa-free travel for Turkish citizens, and other incentives in return for taking back migrants, preventing further more...

Jean-Yves Clemenzo / ICRC
Julia Brooks - May 16, 2016

The al-Quds hospital in Aleppo, Syria. The Ma’arat Al-Numan hospital in Idlib, Syria. The MSF Kunduz trauma centre in Northern Afghanistan. The Shiara hospital in Razeh district, Northern Yemen. The MSF hospital in Pibor town, Jonglei State, South Sudan. In today’s conflicts, healthcare is consistently coming under attack, with devastating consequences for medical personnel and the populations they serve. In the words of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) International President Joanne Lui and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President Peter Maurer, “A dangerous complacency is developing whereby such attacks are starting to be regarded as the norm. They are part of the tapestry of today’s armed conflicts where civilians and civilian infrastructure are targeted, and marketplaces, schools, homes and health facilities are ‘ more...

File picture from Bosnian police records show Radovan Karadzic, now infamous Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal, when he was arrested for industrial crimes in November 1984. This photo was recovered in 1992 from a Sarajevo trash bin by Metro photographer Rikard Larma
Julia Brooks - May 5, 2016

Two recent rulings by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) mark breakthroughs for international justice and the fight against impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. This blog post provides an overview of the significant aspects of these two rulings.

Bemba at the ICC

In a landmark ruling in the fight against impunity for sexual violence in conflict, the ICC recently convicted Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo of war crimes (murder, rape, and pillaging) and crimes against humanity (murder and rape). Bemba is the former vice president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and former leader of the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC), a Congolese rebel group that committed widespread more...

Brittany Card - April 8, 2016

This guest blog comes to us from Brittany Card. Brittany is a Candidate for the MA in Law and Diplomacy at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where her focus is human security and gender analysis. Previously, she was the Program Coordinator for the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI).


Media depictions of armed groups that use terror tactics often feature familiar imagery: armed boys and men who are labeled terrorists, insurgents, or freedom fighters. As a result, these armed groups appear exclusively to be made up of men. In reality, women serve a more...

(C) Heba Aly/IRIN
Julia Brooks - March 9, 2016

Children now account for over one third of refugees and migrants crossing the Eastern Mediterranean, reports UNICEF; and taken together, women and children account for nearly 60% of those on the move in Europe, a sharp increase from summer 2015 when men constituted 73% of migrant flows and children less than 10%. Perhaps more than anything, it has been the images of drowned refugee children – foremost among them three-year-old Alan Kurdi – that have outraged international observers and galvanized public opinion around refugee protection and resettlement in a number of Western countries, most notably with Germany. Indeed, as the number of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean has grown rapidly over the past year, so have the proportion of vulnerable children, many unaccompanied, making the journey.

“The implications more...

Sniffer dog and handler | Crispy/Flickr
Kristin Bergtora Sandvik & Kristian Hoelscher - March 4, 2016

This guest blog comes from Kristin Bergtora Sandvik and Kristian Hoelscher. Kristin is a Senior Researcher at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and Director of the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies (NCHS). Kristian is a Senior Researcher at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).

Humanitarian actors increasingly look to frame the failure of the War on Drugs as an imperative for renewed engagement in Latin America. When leaders meet at UNGASS 2016 in April, legalization will be central in discussions, but issues of humanitarian encroachment should also be on the table.

In Latin America, the four-decade long War on Drugs has had devastating impacts on the health, safety and wellbeing of rural communities, and imposed de facto more...

Steve Wilkinson - February 19, 2016

Over the last few decades there has been a concerted movement to promote a gender perspective within the international humanitarian law (IHL). Such a movement has gained considerable momentum and importance as a central tool addressing gendered vulnerabilities in conflict. Gender itself can be defined as: “socially constructed differences between persons based on sex, perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.” While definitions may vary, “the core is that the socially constructed differences between persons are changeable over time and are different both within and between cultures.” Taking a gender perspective applies these social constructions towards a given action in order to better identify and address specific vulnerabilities.

When coupled with IHL, the body of law regulating armed more...

UN Photo Martine Perret
Roxanne Krystalli & Brittany Card - February 16, 2016

This guest blog comes to us from Roxanne Krystalli and Brittany Card. Roxanne is the Humanitarian Evidence Program Manager at Feinstein International Center at The Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. She is also a PhD Candidate at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where her research focuses on gender, violence, and transitional justice. Brittany is a Candidate for the MA in Law and Diplomacy at The Fletcher School. Previously, she was the Program Coordinator for the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI).

In 2000, the United Nations Security Council adopted UNSC Resolution 1325, acknowledging the immense impact of conflict on women and girls and promoting the active participation of women in conflict management and peacebuilding. more...

Jennifer Silverstone - February 4, 2016

Jennifer Silverstone recently travelled to northern France to provide volunteer first aid to migrants and refugees at the Calais and Dunkirk camps. She is a wife, mother of two young sons and a registered nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital.

In November, I became aware of two refugee camps on the coast of France, near the entrance to the English Channel Tunnel. Together, Calais and Dunkirk are currently home to thousands of migrants and refugees from all parts of the world, including accompanied and unaccompanied children. In Calais, you will find around 6,000 people from Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Egypt, and most recently Syria. In Dunkirk, you will find a few thousand more people, mainly from Kurdistan and Syria. While the numbers change frequently, reports coming from these camps remain dire. more...

MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, after the bombing  © MSF
David Polatty - January 27, 2016

This guest blog comes to us from Professor David Polatty. David teaches military strategy, maritime security, and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief at the U.S. Naval War College (NWC) in Newport, Rhode Island, serves as director of NWC’s new “Civilian-Military Humanitarian Response Program,” and is a co-founder and co-director of the NWC-Harvard School of Public Health “Joint Civilian-Military Humanitarian Working Group.”

2015 was a dangerous and tragic year for humanitarian aid workers, keeping with the trend in recent years of significant increases in both discriminate and indiscriminate attacks against humanitarian organizations and aid workers. In perhaps the most egregious and heavily publicized incident by a conventional military force, the October 3rd bombing of the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Hospital more...

Mare Nostrum has rescued more than half of the 120,000 migrants who have reached Italy's shores so far in 2014. Photo: Kate Thomas/IRIN
Argyro Nicolaou & Johannes Laepple - January 26, 2016

Over the course of January 2016, a Harvard University Field Study is investigating migration into and out of Morocco, how the country has managed its migration and what lessons the EU and other states can learn from Morocco’s considerable experience in this field.

Hail to the Bus Driver - Argyro Nicolaou

As part of a refreshing approach to the issue of migrant access to the Italian labor market, the ASGI (Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration) offered us a recommendation that is as original as it is socially progressive: give migrants and refugees jobs that make them socially visible.

While we have often heard about the suitability of agricultural jobs for migrant or refugee workers – as such work requires neither language nor cultural familiarity and since agriculture is a more...

Artist INTI’s mural in Rabat depicts the importance of Morocco to many Sub-Saharan migrants. Photo Courtesy of Juliette Keeley
Dan Cnossen & Stephanie Garbern & Joseph Ataman - January 19, 2016

Over the course of January 2016, a Harvard University Field Study is investigating migration into and out of Morocco, how the country has managed its migration and what lessons the EU and other states can learn from Morocco’s considerable experience in this field.

Migrant Mafias: Trafficking in Morocco - Dan Cnossen

Simultaneously dispatching her assistant on errands, monitoring and scolding children running awry, attending to her buzzing mobile phone and answering the questions of 16 Harvard researchers, Fatima Outaleb was an inspiration to meet. The founding director of Morocco’s first shelter for abused women – the UAF foundation – she offered fascinating insights to our investigation on migration.

From our interviews so far, a contradiction has arisen regarding whether Morocco is a more...

Emily Franchett & Argyro Nicolaou & Johannes Laepple - January 16, 2016

Over the course of January 2016, a Harvard University Field Study is investigating migration into and out of Morocco, how the country has managed its migration and what lessons the EU and other states can learn from Morocco’s considerable experience in this field.

Why Morocco?

Looking at Morocco’s experience of migration may hold the answer to the question we need to be asking: what next for migration in Europe.

Our goal is to assess the processes through which Moroccan society receives and assimilates migrant workers and affords protection to refugees. These can serve as a legal, moral and cultural example to societies in Europe facing similar dilemmas.

Due to its geographical proximity to Europe, Morocco is a transit zone for migrants wanting to reach Europe but it’s also an important more...

MSF trauma center in Kunduz, Afghanistan © Michael Golfarb/MSF
Julia Brooks - December 22, 2015

Since US airstrikes destroyed an Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital compound in Kunduz, Afghanistan on October 3rd, killing 14 staff, the aid organization has suffered from a barrage of further attacks. In Yemen, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes hit an MSF hospital in Haydan on October 26th and an MSF clinic in Taiz on December 2rd. In Syria, barrel bombs hit an MSF-supported hospital in Damascus on November 21st and in the Homs region on November 28th. And MSF is by no means the only organization to suffer from the latest incidents of violence against aid workers and facilities. Attacks on healthcare facilities have occurred at alarming rates in recent conflicts; a new report by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), for instance, details the systematic targeting of healthcare in Syria as a weapon of war. The International Committee more...

eyeWitness app
Wendy Betts - December 21, 2015

This guest blog comes to us from Wendy Betts. Wendy is the Director of the eyeWitness project at the International Bar Association. She has twenty years of experience in international development, rule of law reform, and transitional justice.

Humanitarian workers often find themselves operating in very volatile situations where violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and international criminal law (ICL) are all too common. Far too frequently these attacks are not only perpetrated against the civilian population whom aid workers aim to assist, but also against the aid workers themselves. In the month of November alone, humanitarian organisations suffered at least 20 violent incidents – according to information pulled from open sources by Insecurity Insight. Last year, at least 329 aid workers more...


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