Humanitarian Conference Recap: Refugees and Armed Conflicts

| March 7, 2012
Webster University Geneva Humanitarian Conference

Students and diplomats presented at Webster’s 17th annual Humanitarian Conference.

Students in the current Geneva cohort of Webster’s Global MA in International Relations program went “beyond the call of duty to do a truly excellent job” in working with other Webster students to make the annual humanitarian conference in Geneva a success, said Alexandre Vautravers, head of the International Relations program at Webster University Geneva.

David Carl Wilson at the Webster University Geneva Humanitarian Conference

College of Arts & Sciences dean David Carl Wilson addressed the conference.

Webster University’s 17th International Humanitarian Conference March 1-2, 2012, attracted 36 speakers, mobilized 35 volunteer students and hosted 390 visitors.

The event is organized with the support of the United High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), under the patronage of the Government of Geneva. Jeff Crisp and Etienne Küster represented both partner institutions at the panels.

They talked about the growing challenges of their organizations, since the signing of the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Webster University Geneva Humanitarian Conference

Three quarters of the world’s refugees are in developing countries, which are often already burdened by many other issues.

In the first session, Vautravers presented the growing complexity of conflict and conflict resolution. Brigadier General Jean-Philippe Ganascia illustrated this with his experience as commander of EUFOR Chad.

David Carl Wilson, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, was part of a significant delegation from Webster’s home campus in St Louis, which also included Amanda Rosen and Lindsey Kingston, directors of the International Non-Governmental Organization and the Human Rights programs, respectively.

All four of Webster’s European campuses were represented, participating in the roundtable, panels or side events.

Conference Highlights
Webster University Geneva Humanitarian Conference

Student organizers and faculty debriefed after the conference.

Day 1

  • Orlando White, an alumnus of the IR program in Geneva, officially announced the launch of a scholarship for the migration/refugee program.
  • Afternoon sessions were devoted to case studies, in particular Afghanistan. Former UNHCR and WHO representatives Ewen Macleod and Stuart Kingma shared their experiences and outlook.

Day 2

  • The second-day panel opened on national migration policies. Three quarters of the world’s refugees are in developing countries, which are often already burdened by many other issues. Conflicts, and the causes of migration, have increased in length, complicating the repatriation of the migrants.
  • Peter Schatzer, the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) chief of staff, and Guido Ambroso, of the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), presented their joint actions in the face of Libyan refugees.
  • Angela Li Rosi (UNHCR) and Oreste Foppiani discussed the European responses to these cross Mediterranean migrants.
  •  Jubin Goodarzi compared the Iraqi refugee situation in both the 1991 and the 2003 wars, showing that more attention to the matter had been given recently to civilian populations caught in armed conflicts. Francis Piccand, from the Swiss Foreign Ministry, explained how these refugees set the entire region at risk.
  • Matthew Parish, the former legal advisor to the EU High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, gave a moving speech about the difficult return of refugees after the crimes in the Balkans.
  • Josefine Ridderstrale, an undergraduate IR student at the Geneva campus, presented a paper on the economics of migration and displacement from the Balkans in the 1990s.

The student organizers, faculty and students were able to debrief and discuss the very dense conference presentations at the Human Rights Film Festival in Geneva later that day.

Student organizers at the Webster Geneva Humanitarian Conference

Webster University International Humanitarian Conference students and organizers

Information reported by the conference’s student organizing committee. Photos above by Oliver O’Hanlon, Webster University alumnus.

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