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Brown University Programme in Humanitarian Response and Post-Conflict Reconstruction

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

The Brown International Advanced Research Institutes (BIARI) is annual summer school that brings academics and practitioners from all over the world to discuss the world's most pressing issues. For BIARI 2017, 110 academics and practitioners were selected through a highly competitive process to meet at Brown's Watson Institute for two weeks to workshop the following topics: Forced Displacements; Climate Change; Ethnicity, Conflict, and Inequality; and Humanitarian Response and Post-Conflict Reconstruction. I was a BIARI 2017 Fellow placed under the Humanitarian Response and Post-Conflict Reconstruction program, and the only Philippine delegate for this year.

Image 1. Our mentors and organisers host a barbecue to celebrate our arrival at the Brown campus. Photo credit: Rythum Vinoben.

Image 2. A lighthearted moment at the barbecue with co-fellows Anna (Ukraine) and Chris (Scotland). Photo credit: Rythum Vinoben.

Image 3. At the formal reception dinner for all BIARI 2017 Fellows, where we all proudly represented our countries. Photo credit: Rythum Vinoben.

Our days were intense yet lively as we trained in various aspects of the topic. We had so many incredible sessions and speakers, and memorable for me were: the SPHERE training with Dr Adam Levine, which introduced us to the UN Cluster System; media relations for disaster response training with Ian Cartwright of the BBC; and the disaster simulation at the end of our program, which synthesised everything we learned during our time at Brown. Our training also included the basics of civil-military coordination during disaster. This is crucial: a misstep in civil-military coordination could lead to the breakdown of diplomatic relations.

Image 4. First things's first: a tour of the beautiful and leafy Brown campus before the start of our first session. Photo credit: Rythum Vinoben.

Image 5. Part of our training: civil-military coordination during disaster response with actual members of the US Military as our mentors. Photo credit: Rythum Vinoben.

Everyone in the program had a direct experience of either disaster or conflict, or both, and this shared experience made us a passionate and engaged group. In all our sessions, we always had a difficult time wrapping the Q&As with our speakers as we were all excited to discuss, debate, share, question, and speculate. There are no easy answers in this field, where human relations tend to be fraught with tension given the inequalities that underpin war and disaster, and given the urgencies and uncertainties that hound every phases of disaster risk reduction and management.

Image 6. A scene from our culminating disaster simulation activity: coordination with our mentor, Dr. Adam Levine, who played the part of a UNOCHA representative. Photo credit: Rythum Vinoben.

Also memorable were the informal conversations between sessions. As fellows we never really stopped learning. Conversations in the formal sessions spilled out to breakfast ,lunch, snacks, and dinner, which were all opportunities to connect and learn from each other's unique experiences. Our amazing mentors and organisers also made sure we had time for fun! We managed to sneak in a barbecue, a clambake, shopping trips, and group dinners in between all that work.

Image 7. Keyword lunch at our usual dining hall for some informal cross-program learning. Photo credit: Rythum Vinoben.

Image 8. One last photo of our Humanitarian Response group as we graduated from the program. Photo credit: Rythum Vinoben.

We were all sad to leave when BIARI 2017 ended, but it was also quite clear, as we said our goodbyes, that the friendships and interest in each other's work would remain far beyond our stay at Brown.

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