July 3, 2017, New York – The Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA) reached a meaningful milestone on Friday with the graduation of 25 humanitarian workers from the Institute’s 50th International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance course and four from the Master of Arts in International Humanitarian Action at Fordham University.
Surprising the graduates, Hollywood actor and IDHA commencement speaker Robert De Niro joined for the occasion to honor their commitment to humanitarian action in a world increasingly challenged with a “lack of humanity.”
“You’ve found your own inner humanitarian and you have let it guide you to making our world better. You serve with compassion and dignity while you make sacrifices that take heroic risks. Now you’ve gone through this program so you can perform your work even more effectively. You have distinguished yourselves here and you will take these lessons with you for the rest of your lives,” said Mr. De Niro.
The graduates join a network of more than 3,000 alumni who hail from 140 countries, each making significant strides in responding to conflicts, natural disasters, displacement and other crises worldwide.
“My head is full of little videos, of vignettes, of cameos, of heroic deeds, that you have written to me, which have been involving you in the field. Ambushed in Syria, taken hostage in Afghanistan, crossing frontlines under fire, emergency medicine in makeshift hospitals, opening schools in remote camps. Of simply staying on when others have left, of fighting fear, of overcoming despair, feeding the hungry, holding the hands of the vulnerable. We are in that unique position that we’re not in uniform, but we fight in the frontline. Our enemy is poverty, hunger, homelessness and our allies are the beneficiary,” said IDHA 50 Course Director Larry Hollingworth, CBE in commemoration of the cumulative impact of the IIHA alumni network.
IDHA 50 and MIHA graduates work as medical professionals, logisticians, communicators, operational managers, military officers, among other roles in response to humanitarian crises and emergencies in South Sudan, Niger, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Mexico, North Korea, and beyond.
For the past month, they paused their work to take a step back from the field and study topics crucial for effective humanitarian response.
“We were all on a ship named IDHA 50, together floating on a wide ocean of experience with an incredible depth of knowledge. Luckily, we had superb and skilled captains on board with us, who navigated the ship in the right humanitarian direction and provided us with professional lectures, professional personal experiences, in quality and quantity, in form and content,” said Bart Vermeiren, IDHA 50 Student Representative who came to the course with more than 15 years of experience working for the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Throughout the IDHA course, 33 humanitarian experts, practitioners, Fordham academics, and leaders in the field gave lectures on topics such as humanitarian law, disaster management, communicable disease, logistics, civil military cooperation, and dozens of others. Lecturers also presented a series of case studies illuminating the complexity of today’s humanitarian interventions in Ukraine, Nepal, Palestine, Ethiopia, and beyond.
In his opening comments, Kevin M. Cahill, M.D. commended the students for their willingness to “not be blocked in by academic barriers or the barriers that separate us from each other.”
The Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs congratulates these graduates in their successful completion of their training and warmly welcomes them to a network of innovative and impactful humanitarians.
“You are a treasured part of our IDHA family all over the world. Make use of it. Continue to give back. Continue to come back. Continue to be in touch and be involved with our programs, no matter where you are or where we are. And please, no matter where you are, remember these days as we will remember you,” Brendan Cahill, IIHA Executive Director, reminded the graduates before they left the halls of Fordham University and returned to their posts around the world.
For more than 20 years, the IIHA has trained humanitarian aid workers in cities around the world, including Geneva, Goa, Amman, Barcelona, Kathmandu, Nairobi, New York, and more. Upcoming humanitarian trainingswill be held in Amman, Malta, Vienna and Kathmandu and are open for registration.
Communications Officer, Fordham University Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs