Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

New six-part Human Securities Series Bridges Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies and the U.S. Naval War College

October 8, 2019

Watson’s new Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies (CHRHS), formerly the Humanitarian Innovation Initiative (HI²) recently launched a new Human Security Series, inviting students, faculty and community members to explore humanitarian disasters and the challenges faced by emergency responders worldwide. David Polatty, CHRHS visiting fellow, and the U.S. Naval War College’s Civilian-Military Humanitarian Response Program director, is coordinating the six fall semester discussion group meetings that will address the interdisciplinary issues of human security and humanitarian relief.

“We’re looking at how we can better affect positive changes on the coordination between humanitarian organizations and international militaries when they respond to disasters, both natural and man-made, and complex emergencies, such as those in Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Polatty said of the series, which offer exposure to the broad and diverse array of viewpoints around the issues of human security and 21st century responses to humanitarian operations. 

Beth Eggleston, a Fulbright Scholar with the Civilian-Military Humanitarian Response Program at Newport’s U.S. Naval War College, and a founder and co-director of Humanitarian Advisory Group (HAG) in Melbourne, Australia, spoke on Sept. 24 to an engaged audience.

Her presentation, “Strengthening Humanitarian Leadership Through Diversity & Leadership,” summarized results of the Humanitarian Advisory Group’s State of Diversity Survey. The survey examines whether relief agencies with diverse and inclusive leadership teams have better outcomes, as do diverse and inclusive corporations.

Noting that both diversity and inclusion are needed to generate organizational success, Eggleston defined diversity among people as “all the ways we differ. It includes differences according to gender, age, disability, cultural background, sexual orientation, social and economic background, profession, education, work experiences, and operational role.” Inclusion, she said, “occurs when diverse people feel valued and respected, have access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute their perspectives and talents to improve their organization.”

Survey results found that diverse and inclusive humanitarian leadership teams are:

• 13.6 times more likely to be perceived to listen and act upon community views mostly or very well.

• 9.1 times more likely to be perceived to listen and act upon colleagues’ views mostly or very well.

• 6.2 times more likely to be perceived to make decisions mostly or very well.

Working effectively with local populations after disasters poses myriad issues of diversity and inclusivity. For example, are meetings run in the right languages and accessible to all who should be invited? How can you reconcile the inherent conflicts between human rights organizations and humanitarian relief entities? How can diverse groups provide assistance if risks (war, landmines, etc.) make on-the-ground engagement untenable? 

“We are examining the most complex issues the world is facing today and thinking through solutions to them,” Polatty said. Both the Watson Institute and the Naval War College work closely with several U.N. agencies, the U.S. Department of State, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); they fully recognize, Polatty added, that having academics from military institutions, such as the Naval War College, and elite academic institutions, such as the Watson Institute at Brown University, tackle these problems and think through them are essential to finding comprehensive solutions.

Now a fully-endowed Center, CHRHS is incorporating human rights issues into its mission statement, says Stulen. “HI² had evaluated issues of humanitarian responses, but we’re now examining those issues through the lens of a human rights perspective.” We’ve made great progress from HI²’s three-year-old foundation, says Stulen, who is pleased that the Series – which is open to the larger Rhode Island community – draws students from both Brown and the Naval War College.

More information about upcoming series’ events.

Nancy Kirsch