Webster Leiden's Exceptional Spring I: Humanitarian perspectives on a global scale

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The International Relations (IR) Department at Webster University's Leiden campus welcomed humanitarian perspectives on a global scale to start the 2019 spring semester.

Visiting leaders from Malaysia, legal experts and NGO coordinators from around Europe engaged students in Leiden, while local trips and regional conferences brought them into the field.

gagaTop left: University of Roehampton lecturers Jeremie Gilbert, Francesca Ammaturo, and Darren O’Byrne. Top right: IR program coordinator Nives Rumenjak's opening remarks for the Human Rights lecture. Bottom left: Marina Mahathir. Bottom center: 24th International Humanitarian Conference attendees in Geneva, Magdalena Kopal, Nives Rumenjak, Anthony Formica. Bottom right: Jeremie Gilbert responds during a panel discussion.

February: The Hague, activism and human rights challenges

A group of students from across academic departments, along with human rights experts from the University of Roehampton and the University of London, visited the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

In the evening, HIV/AIDS activist Marina Mahathir spoke at the campus on how students can build a career in the non-profit NGO field. Mahathir served as President of the Malaysian AIDS Council for 12 years and was named United Nations ‘Person of the Year in Malaysia’ in 2010.

International Relations Club president Anoushka Anand organized the event. “I knew that a lot of students here are really big on that kind of activism; women's rights and human rights in-general,” Anand said.

Webster Leiden’s Student Government Association president Neha Pu attended the Mahathir talk. As an IR major, Pu said it was inspirational to also see someone with a similar background being able to make a difference. “I just think at this point, even if she is the exception, one day she is going to be the norm,” Pu said.

The next day placed the Roehampton experts with students again as the department hosted researchers and professors for an afternoon of discussion on the dynamics of global change. “Disciplinary Challenges in Studying and Researching Human Rights: From the Indigenous Rights to the Protection of Human Trafficking Victims”, brought a full program to the campus.

Students questioned the speakers during and after the panel presentations; particularlarily with University of Roehampton professor of Human Rights Law, Jeremie Gilbert, who publishes extensively on the topic of the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples. Webster Leiden’s IR program coordinator, Nives Rumenjak, moderated the discussion.

March: Yemeni crisis, the International Humanitarian and Security Conference and student experiences

Early March brought a discussion by the Ambassador of Yemen, Sahar Ghanim, to the humanitarian-issues class of Nena Tromp. Ghanim spoke directly with students about the perils of the religious aspects of the Yemeni crisis.

Two days later, Rumenjak attended the 24th International Humanitarian and Security Conference hosted by Webster Geneva along with two Webster Leiden IR students: undergraduate, Anthony Formica and graduate, Magdalena Kopal.

“Working partly for international organizations myself, it was like… ‘OK. Now I can connect with my people,’” Kopal said.

Kopal works at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon on the human-resources side, so the conference topics were in-line with her emphasis of study at Webster and allowed some networking opportunities.

“Being inside of an international organization, you see lots of things which connect with studies. The discussion on child soldiers: what is their status, should we perceive them as victims, or hold them accountable? These were topics from my International Criminal Law class, at the time,” Kopal said.

For information on upcoming events planned for the Spring II term, follow the Webster Leiden Campus IR Department and the Leiden Campus International Relations Club on Facebook.

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