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IIHA Celebrates Book Release at United Nations


IIHA Celebrates Book Release at United Nations

Kevin M. Cahill, M.D., is joined by actress Vanessa Redgrave at the launch of History and Hope at the United Nations on April 11.
Photo by Bruce Gilbert

Kevin M. Cahill, M.D., university professor and director of Fordham’s Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA), has been writing about humanitarian work since the 1960s, when he was treating tropical diseases in refugee camps in Somalia and the Sudan.

On April 11, Dr. Cahill celebrated the publishing of History and Hope: The International Humanitarian Reader (Fordham University Press, 2013), a compilation of significant chapters in the 12-volume International Humanitarian Affairs (IHA) book series, which was first published in 1991.

What was the thinking behind this reader?
Fordham University Press asked me to go back over the 12 books I’ve edited and written about international humanitarian affairs and choose chapters that would make a coherent and cohesive reader for study in this field.

Who do you expect to be the target audience?
Eight of the volumes of the IHA book series are out in French, and one is in Spanish. So they’re used all over the place. Humanitarian assistance was a discipline that really didn’t even have a common vocabulary when I started, and now books like this are used in academia and in training of nongovernmental organization and U.N. personnel. Here at Fordham, we have over 2,000 graduates from 133 nations who have used them.

What are some of the demands posed by humanitarian assistance programs that History and Hope provides a better understanding of?
The book focuses, at least in part, on the United Nations, because the U.N. is the coordinating body for most international humanitarian crises. It also has chapters on how to train people and motivate them, and what are the laws that govern humanitarian efforts.
For example, there is a movement called R2P, the “Right To Protect.” No longer does state sovereignty have to be the only criteria to intervene in a country if that country is not caring for its people in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. That’s a radical change in the way we approach independent states.

There’s another chapter on military and civilian cooperation. There’s been a growing recognition of the need to draw on all resources in helping people in disaster zones, because you simply can’t accomplish some tasks without each other. If there’s an earthquake in Pakistan way up in the hills, you can’t get there without helicopters, and the military has the helicopters.

Was it difficult to edit 12 books down to one?
I knew the books very well because I wrote or edited all of them. I also knew all of the writers well because many of them are dear friends. It was difficult, for example, realizing that I couldn’t include many of them even though I would have liked to.

I’m happy I was able to include Lord David Owen. His contribution to one of the previous books was about his involvement in the Balkan wars in the mid-1990s. Since that topic wasn’t as relevant today as it was back then, David instead contributed a very lovely foreword for this book, which is the launch point for this new volume.

— Patrick Verel


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