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Gift will expand joint program in human security

by Mark Sullivan

A $6-million gift from the Leir Foundation will support cross-disciplinary research and teaching at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in the developing field of human security.

Human security, as it has come to be termed, encompasses the interaction between the areas of humanitarian assistance, economic development, human rights, and conflict resolution. Tufts University aims to establish itself, over the next 10 years, as the world's premier center for teaching, research, training and policy development in the field.

The Leir Foundation grant will bolster a partnership between the Fletcher and Friedman schools in this area, enabling the schools' joint program in human security to hire new faculty, attract and support the most qualified students, and more effectively disseminate research to practitioners around the world.

The Leir Foundation continues the philanthropic work of the late industrialist Henry J. Leir, a longtime friend and supporter of Tufts University, whose bequest established the Henry J. Leir Chair in International Humanitarian Studies at the Fletcher School.

Over five years, the gift will provide:

  • Three-million dollars to endow a joint professorship in refugee and migration studies, a major area where development, humanitarianism, human rights and conflict resolution overlap;
  • Nine-hundred-thousand dollars in core funding for three new faculty positions in alternative financing, conflict and gender, and conflict resolution, with research and teaching to cross disciplinary and institutional borders and involve colleagues and students at both schools;
  • More than $860,000 to complete the endowment of the Rosenberg Professorship held by Peter Walker as director of the Feinstein International Center at Friedman;
  • Four-hundred-thousand dollars for renovation of the offices of the Fletcher School's Institute for Human Security, directed by Peter Uvin, Henry J. Leir Professor of International Humanitarian Studies at Fletcher and currently also academic dean of the school;
  • Scholarships totaling nearly $300,000 for PhD students and $137,000 for students in the Fletcher and Friedman school's joint Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance program;
  • Fifty-thousand dollars for a Human Security Seminar series.

Walker, director of the Feinstein International Center, said the concept of human security represents a departure from old notions of security set against a national framework.

"If you look at groups of people, whether in a village, or in a nation the size of the United States, what makes you secure is not having a security guard at the gate, or an army," he said. "Human security involves jobs, welfare, ownership of land, education of children: We have to look at all contributing factors to human security in today's interconnected, globalized world."

Walker said Tufts researchers in human security currently are engaged in projects around the world. For example, at Fletcher, Uvin and Marc Sommers, an associate research professor of humanitarian studies, investigate youth and violence in Burundi and Rwanda in the hope their research will help advance the peace process there. The Feinstein Center is pursuing similar research in Darfur and in Northern Uganda. A Friedman PhD student, Sally Abbott, working out of the Feinstein International Center, is studying the impact of the Asian tsunami on families' access to food, while Fletcher PhD student Susanna Campbell looks at how development organizations working in war-torn countries learn to adapt their programming to become more "conflict sensitive."

Tufts' Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance (MAHA) Program, run jointly by the Fletcher and Friedman schools and administered out of the Feinstein Center, is a one-year program for mid-career professionals in the humanitarian field. Among the five current MAHA students are a Save the Children program officer from Uganda who works with girls and young women abducted by rebel guerillas, and a refugee from Burundi who helps run the Forced Migration Studies program at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa.

"Most of the people we get in the MAHA program are from Africa, and the Leir grant provides support for scholarships, which, for them, are really important," said Walker. "The cost of living and studying here is astronomical. Uganda doesn't have grants to send students here."

Walker said the ultimate aim is to produce scholarship that makes a real difference in the world: "The constant question we ask about our research is: So what? How do our research and teaching have impact on the communities whose human security is most at risk? How do we pass it on so people can use it? How do we insure that what we do has global impact on the problems of today?"

Uvin said: "We need research that is scholarly, sophisticated, and at the same time, operationally relevant. For that, we need people who are capable of working across academic and professional disciplines and who are at the cutting edge of current practice. There are few such people in the world, and even fewer places where they can work.

"The aim of Tufts is to be the world center to which people look when they think of these issues. The Leir grant, following upon the past support Henry J. Leir's estate has given the Fletcher School, is key to our achieving this dream."