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Inter-University Event: Considering humanitarian and emergency relief in times of conflict and natural disaster from the perspective of the dignity of victims


Speaker Go Igarashi

On Saturday, December 22, 2018, an inter-university event was held on the subject of “Considering humanitarian and emergency relief in times of conflict and natural disaster from the perspective of the dignity of victims: learning from Sphere Standards and INEE Minimum Standards.” The three instructors were from the Quality and Accountability Network Japan (JQAN): Go Igarashi (Association for Aid and Relief, Japan), Sawako Matsuo (Japan NGO Centre for International Cooperation: JANIC), and Hiroaki Ishii (Japan Association for Refugees). The event was a participation-style workshop event that allowed students interested in the quality of aid and accountability in humanitarian and emergency relief to take part in learning activities including lectures, hands-on practice, group work, and presentations. The event was attended by 25 students (plus two observers) from four universities.

Participant’s report on a case study
considering problems in evacuation centers

Following self-introductions by instructors and participants, each group studied images projected on a screen and discussed issues we could imagine arising in the situations depicted. Through this exercise, participants deepened their understanding of the unequal power relations between aid providers and recipients, the frictions that can arise between refugees and host communities assisting refugees, and fairness when providing humanitarian and emergency relief. Next, there was a lecture on why international standards for humanitarian and emergency relief were necessary, explaining the background and history of the standards, the lessons of the past, and fundamental principles. Following this, there were detailed explanations about the history of the Sphere Project, the makeup of the handbook, the principles of protecting people’s rights, and the position of nutrition, healthcare, water supply, hygiene, shelter, and other aspects within the whole.

Participant’s report: presenting findings
of group work

Taking an evacuation shelter in a fictitious disaster area as an example, each group discussed what were the problems, which aspects of the Sphere Standards corresponded to, and what concrete steps could be taken to resolve the issues. The groups reported the discussions, followed by feedback and comments from the JQAN instructors.

Participants made the following comments: “I learned a lot. I’d never had an opportunity to think about international development in a workshop format before.” “I knew nothing about humanitarian aid before, so I learned a lot from the lectures and workshops over the course of the day.” “I enjoyed the opportunity to meet and talk with people from departments I don't often have contact with.” “The experience was meaningful and productive for me, because there are not many opportunities in our studies to focus specifically on humanitarian aid.”

Evaluation by JQAN instructor

In recent years, natural disasters have been a frequent occurrence around the world, including in Japan. Increasing numbers of people are forced to live over a long period of time in difficult and uncomfortable conditions in evacuation centers. Many people have also lost their homes to frequent conflicts and are forced to live in refugee camps and similar places. This event provided an opportunity to think broadly about the state of emergency aid within Japan and humanitarian and emergency relief overseas.

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