Webster Geneva Students Attract Sterling Lineup to 18th Annual Humanitarian Conference

| February 22, 2013
Webster University Humanitarian Conference

More than 30 Webster students organized the conference under the direction of Vautravers.

The 18th annual Webster University International Humanitarian Conference brought together another diverse lineup of INGO leaders, academics and humanitarian experts this week in Geneva. Hosted by Webster’s campus in Geneva, the conference has become a highly regarded event in the international capital.

After Webster Geneva director Robert Spencer and College of Arts & Sciences dean David Carl Wilson’s welcome speeches, Pierre Maudet, Conseiller d’Etat, highlighted the importance of Geneva as a capital of health and humanitarian action, in particular through the landmark creation of the International Red Cross 150 years ago, but also the establishment of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Webster University Humanitarian Conference

H.E. Betty E. King, U.S. Ambassador to the UN and other organizations in Geneva, delivers her keynote.

The Importance of Health

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and International Organizations in Geneva, H.E. Betty E. King, spoke about Humanitarian relief funding, and stated that poor health leads to national instability. Additionally, providing health services is less expensive and more effective than providing aid in security or other forms.

In King’s words, “Responding to crisis is essential, but it is not enough,” and the U.S. foreign policy will continue to provide humanitarian assistance through defense, diplomacy, and development. She then focused on the eradication of polio through George W. Bush’s PEPFAR program, and strongly recommended that additional resources, leadership, and political support are absolutely necessary if the world will succeed in solving global health issues.


The following session focused on HIV/AIDS and other pandemics. UNAIDS’ Anja Nitzsche-Bell said great progress is taking place and that the infection rate is decreasing, but continuing cooperation and investment is needed for further progress.

Nadine Cornier, Senior HIV Officer for UNHCR, spoke on the relationship between HIV/AIDS and refugees. Infection is a problem is not a specific refugee problem, and needs to be addressed more generally. She also highlighted that the stigma of HIV is the leading reason for decreasing treatment adherence. This session has been extremely informative and interesting, filled with numerous technical and financial information.

Webster University Humanitarian Conference

More than 250 attended what has become a key annual event in local humanitarian circles.

From WHO to Doctors Without Borders to International Law

Webster students cover a lot of ground in planning and organizing the conference each year, staffing it and reporting on the sessions from so many esteemed guest speakers.

Daniel Eduardo Lopez-Acuna, advisor to the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), gave an informative presentation on universal health coverage, noting that “too many people are pushed over the poverty line due to sickness.”

Slim Slama, Boardmember of French Doctors Without Borders (MSF), reminded participants that the rise in intrastate conflicts will make providing health care, especially for patients with chronic diseases, very difficult.

The ICRC representatives pointed out the dangers health care personnel face while providing assistance during times of conflict and reviewed the rights and responsibilities of health care facilitators.

Webster University Professor Amanda Rosen turned the focus to the effects climate change has on providing public health. Rosen asserts that the greatest challenge that populations face is adapting health systems to the new issues caused by climate change.

Webster professors Danielle MacCartney of St. Louis, Yossi Mekelberg of London and Jason Briggs of Thailand also attended and participated in a roundtable discussion with Rosen and Webster Geneva International Relations head Alexandre Vautravers on the topic of statelessness with Webster students, including a cohort of the Global MA in International Relations.

Webster University Humanitarian Conference

Alexandre Vautravers, head of International Relations at Webster Geneva, welcomes guests to the 18th annual conference.

In the last panel of the day, Geneva-based international law professors Curtis Doebbler and Michel Veuthey, looked at access to health in the perspectives of International Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law perspectives.

Another Impressive Conference by Webster Students

The International Humanitarian Conference has been organized since 1996 by a group of volunteer students of the International Relations Department at Webster University Geneva. It is a part of the INTL 5700 Humanitarian Issues class.

This has become an event of reference among the international organizations and community. The event enjoys the patronage of the State of Geneva, and the proceedings are published each year by Vautravers.

Submitted by the conference’s Student Organizing Committee

Category: Featured, International & U.S. Campuses

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