Protecting Health Care in Armed Conflict: Harvard FXB at UNGA 72

On Friday, September 22, 2017, members of Harvard FXB’s Burden of War Project team, including FXB director and co-chair of the Lancet-American University of Beirut Commission on Syria, Dr. Jennifer Leaning, participated in the high-level side event, Protecting Health Care in Armed Conflict at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly. The Permanent Missions of Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom, in collaboration with the Lancet-AUB Commission on Syria and the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, hosted the event.

The event aimed to support international efforts, including that of the UN, to protect health care in conflict areas. It followed up the May 2016 UN Security Council Resolution 2286, which called for an end to all attacks on civilian infrastructure health care and protection of health workers.  Unfortunately, as speakers at the event and research have pointed out, targeting of health care has continued or even increased since the passage of the resolution.

Dr. Jennifer Leaning listens to remarks from her fellow co-chair, Dr. Samer Jabbour

Throughout the two hour event, experts from government, NGOs, academia, and the UN discussed (watch webcam of the event):

  • The global scale of attacks on health care and other health-related violations under international law in armed conflict;
  • The progress since UNSC Resolution 2286 including efforts of UN Member States, the UN and civil society internationally to document, investigate, and respond to such violations, and;
  • Policy and practice options and next steps to be taken by UN Member States and the international community to advance protection of health workers in armed conflict.

As well as dignitaries from the host missions, speakers included Dr. Iman Nuwayhid (co-chair of the Commission and dean of the faculty of health sciences at AUB),  Dr. Homer Venter from Physicians for Human Rights (see his slides),  Dr. Ahmad Tarakji from the Syrian American Medical Society, Leonard Rubinstein from Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, and Naz Modirzadeh from the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict.

In attendance from Harvard FXB at the event and following roundtable were Dr. Jennifer Leaning, Dr. Ranya Ahmed, and Mr. Abhishek Bhatia who work on the center’s project researching the burden of war in Syria. The team works with a variety of data to provide analytical support to the rest of the Lancet-AUB commission, as well as conducting primary research to understand the impact that the crisis has on the past, current, and future state of health in Syria.

(L-R): Dr. Ranya Ahmed, Dr. Samer Jabbour (co-chair of the Commission), Dr. Iman Nuwayhid (co-chair of the Commission), Dr. Jennifer Leaning ((co-chair of the Commission), Naz Modirzadeh (Professor of Practice, Harvard Law), Abhishek Bhatia

The Lancet-AUB Commission plans to provide short summaries of the event and the roundtable which followed it. Check their event page for updates.

Read more:

Harvard FXB’s Syria and the Burden of War Project

Information on SAMS October 4-6 New York Conference, A Call to Action for Future Syria: A Coalition on Education and Research.  FXB’s Dr. Satchit Balsari will talk about the Burden of War Project.

Weaponization of Healthcare

Watch the  Harvard Chan Video on the Weaponization of Healthcare in Syria

Read about a recent FXB/SAMS panel: Stories from Aleppo: Medical Workers under Siege.

The Lancet–American University of Beirut Commission on Syria: a new role for global health in conflict and a call for papers

Read the FXB statement on the founding of the Commission.