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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 eyewitnessproject.org
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...

Harvard Humanitarian Initiative - December 17, 2015

This guest blog comes to us from P. Pham, M. Comes, B. Van de Walle, A. Wagner, C. Arkwright, N. Gibbons, and P Vinck. On November 4, 2015, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) brought together representatives of a range of organizations working to address the needs of refugees arriving in Europe, to take stock of the current status of data collection and coordination among key actors, to discuss critical areas of improvement in the collection and use of data, and to identify concrete next steps to be taken both by the meeting’s participants and to be recommended to policy-makers dealing with more...

Steve Wilkinson - December 9, 2015

As the frequency and brutality of conflict increases around the world, a number of voices are questioning the relevance of international humanitarian law (IHL), as well as its chief guardian the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). While many criticisms are undoubtedly warranted, some are unfair, inaccurate or misplaced; as such, they warrant a much more careful consideration.

The difficulty in assessing trends of (dis)respect and respect

Many critics of IHL argue that a seeming increase in civilian deaths in conflict means that the law is failing and/or increasingly irrelevant. Yet it is difficult to quantify whether we are in fact seeing an increase in disrespect of the law.

As a legal framework, IHL is a broad and complex beast; consequentially, such assumptions can often be misdirected. more...

Kate Akkaya - December 3, 2015

Ethnically and religiously distinct from the majority population, the Rohingya people in Myanmar face state-sponsored discrimination, and mounting evidence of serious human rights abuses, according to numerous recent reports. Increasingly urgent reports – including from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the International State Crime Initiative and Yale Law School – argue that this state-sponsored violence rises to the level of genocide. While the term “genocide” is often wielded in relation to a range of mass atrocities, it is a specifically defined crime under international law. Does the evidence in the case of the Rohingya support the claims of genocide? And perhaps more importantly, if the evidence points to genocide, what actions can or should be taken by the government of Myanmar, or the international community more generally? more...

Beth Maclin - November 17, 2015

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is one of the most infamous, long-standing armed groups in the world. Its repertoire of violence includes mass abductions, particularly ofchildren, looting and destruction of property, mass murder, mutilation, and sexual violence. After decades of poorly coordinated efforts by individual national armies, the African Union now leads a coalition of forces from all four affected countries – Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic (CAR), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – that was launched in 2012 to work toward dismantling the group. Despite more...

Yemen was already deep in the throes of a humanitarian crisis before the cyclone hit
Julia Brooks - November 4, 2015

Last month, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) reviewed two resolutions to investigate serious violations of international law committed during the conflicts in Sri Lanka and Yemen. In the case of the Sri Lankan civil war, which ended in 2009, the Council approved a resolution calling for the establishment of a hybrid court to prosecute grave violations of international law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. In the case of Yemen, the UNHRC dropped plans for an international inquiry into human rights and humanitarian law violations by all sides in the ongoing conflict, in light of strong resistance by Saudi Arabia and other members of the international military coalition currently carrying out airstrikes in the country. Instead, the Council voted to support a decree by exiled Yemeni President Hadi, with more...

Taken in N. Iraq in 1991 during Operation Provide Comfort. Lt. Col. John Abizaid speaking with some Kurds. / Wikimedia Commons
Kate Akkaya - October 29, 2015

In a protracted armed conflict, particularly a civil war, common sense would dictate that a “safe zone” – a protected area free of weapons and conflict, for the exclusive use of humanitarian actors and civilians – would do nothing but good. Indeed, since the beginning of the ongoing Syrian war, calls for safe zones or humanitarian corridors have been made by a wide variety of actors, including a revived debate as recently as last week. Yet safe zones also entail a number of downsides: they can be prohibitively complex and expensive to create and maintain, and history tells us that rarely is a safe zone truly safe for the duration of a conflict. While concentrating civilians for the purposes of protection, safe zones may become the scenes of concentrated misery and vulnerability if not adequately supplied and assisted. Moreover, such more...

Refugees and asylum seekers wait to regisert outside the LaGeSo in Berlin  © Julia Brooks
Julia Brooks - October 22, 2015

A long line forms most days in front of the “LaGeSo” – the Landesamt für Gesundheit und Soziales, or State Office of Health and Social Affairs. LaGeSo operates as the central registration center for refugees in Germany’s capital, Berlin. Here, refugees stand in line for a numbered ticket, then wait an unpredictable further amount of time for their number to be called. When their number is called they can then officially register as asylum seekers, which is necessary in order to gain access to social benefits including housing, financial assistance, healthcare and most importantly for their ability to remain in Germany in the longer term, the opportunity to file an asylum application. For months, up to 2,000 newly arriving men, women and children have been waiting daily in front of the building; the office hands out 300 to 350 waiting more...

Bonnie Docherty - October 14, 2015

This guest blog comes to us from Bonnie Docherty, Lecturer on Law and Senior Clinical Instructor at the International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School. Bonnie is also a Senior Researcher in the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch. She is an expert on disarmament and international humanitarian law, particularly involving cluster munitions and civilian protection during armed conflict. This post is adapted from a post that was previously published on the Harvard Human Rights Program blog. For more information, contact Bonnie Docherty at bdocherty@law.harvard.edu.

more...
Julia Brooks - October 8, 2015

While much remains unclear, facts are slowly emerging about the U.S. airstrikes on a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan on October 3rd, which killed 12 staff, all Afghans, and at least 10 patients, and seriously wounded another 37 people. MSF General Director Christopher Stokes condemned the bombing as “a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law” and presumed “war crime,” while calling for a “full and transparent investigation […] conducted by an independent international body” such as the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission.

The U.S., for its part, has acknowledged the attack and promised a full investigation. It has also offered partial and contradictory explanations in the immediate wake of the attack. First, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter called more...

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