Jan Eliasson, the next president of the U.N. General Assembly, stressed the importance of collaboration among humanitarian workers, diplomats and world leaders, during an address to graduates of the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs' (IIHA) International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA) program.
"You are 40 [humanitarians] from 24 nations. It is very symbolic that I start my first day in New York with you, the next generation, here at Fordham" the former U.N. undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs told the graduates during a July 1 ceremony held in the McNally Amphitheatre on the Lincoln Center campus. "You bring about the power of collective strength. You can't do it alone."
A monthlong postgraduate diploma course, the IDHA program, is a collaboration between Fordham and the Center for International Health and Cooperation (CIHC). Held in Geneva in March, at Fordham University in June and in Cairo in September, the program simulates a humanitarian crisis, with lectures, workshops and the exchange of field experiences. The graduates received their diplomas from Fordham Professor Kevin M. Cahill, M.D., president of the CIHC and director of IIHA.
Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, congratulated the humanitarians and noted they should be honored to follow in footsteps of IDHA alumni who work throughout the world. Father McShane also invited the IDHA class of 2005 back to campus to share with future participants their expertise on the "struggles of the human heart and the triumphs of the human soul.
“We are very proud of you,” said Father McShane. “You are now part of a family that includes more than 650 people from 55 nations.”
Eliasson, a veteran of U.N. missions to Sudan, Somalia and several other places, reminded the graduates of two significant words — passion and compassion.
"In life, nothing happens without passion," he said. "But without compassion, the wrong things happen."
Eliasson, who officially begins his presidency of the U.N. general assembly in September, also acknowledged the need to make the organization more streamlined, accountable, transparent and coordinated. One area in need of immediate attention, he said, is the growing divide between nations.
“We are seeing more fear and less hope,” he said. “If you decrease the gaps, you increase the hope.”
The IIHA was created at Fordham in December 2001 to forge partnerships with relief organizations, publish books and host symposia related to humanitarian aid issues.