Fairfield U Students Awarded Research Grant for U.N. Security Council Project
A team of five students from Fairfield University has been awarded a $12,000 grant by the Hardiman Scholars Fund and the Lawrence Family Faculty Student Mentor Fund.
Led by International Studies major Jaclyn Conte ’18, faculty mentor Dr. Janie Leatherman, professor of politics and international studies and director of the Humanitarian Action minor, and Julie Mughal, Director of the Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network (JUHAN) at Fairfield’s Center for Faith and Public Life, the students will pursue research this summer on protection of civilians (PoC) and how the United Nations Security Council addresses humanitarian needs, working with aid organizations including UNICEF and Save the Children.
The project was recently launched during a 3 credit, five-day intercession course and United Nations Security Council Crisis Simulation on protection of civilians, which offered students the opportunity to simulate the work of the Security Council on real world events, in real time. Through the simulation experience and briefings with high level officials including UN peacekeeping, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), students have gained proficiency on international humanitarian law (IHL) as well as how and why its provisions for protection of civilians are at risk. Students represented the permanent and other key rotating member states on the current UN Security Council to learn the range of views and political barriers to protecting civilians in conflict and emergency situations.
To prepare for the simulation, students received training by the former Chief of the UN Security Council Secretariat Branch, Lorraine Sievers, who retired last year. A tour of UN headquarters in New York City was also part of the course. Students’ background research and experience drafting a Security Council resolution in the simulation provides the foundation for their individual research projects, which they will work on this summer. Each of the team members will focus on different aspects of protection work. Collectively they will share their findings to evaluate protection of civilians both within and across key bodies and agencies of the UN system. “They bring many different disciplinary perspectives and interests to their individual and joint efforts, and thus model the kind of interdisciplinary and team-led work that is critical to effective humanitarian action in the field,” Dr. Leatherman said.
Dr. Leatherman is also Project Director of Collaborative Project in Student Learning: The Examination of Enduring Questions through Humanitarian Education (Teagle Foundation). Dr. Leatherman’s training and consultancy in conflict resolution include the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes, the United Nations University, Catholic Relief Services, Search for Common Ground, the Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations. She is an internationally recognized expert on protection issues in the context of gender-based violence and is author of one of the leading texts on this subject, Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict.
The timing of this project coincides with the dramatic increase of refugees and displaced persons globally in recent years. In 2015 the UNHCR reported that number approached 60 million.
Three of the students, Brianna Klenkel ‘18, Grace Farrell ’18 and Jaime Downes ’18 are nursing majors planning careers in global public health and international humanitarian emergencies. Conte and Anmol Tabassum ’18 who is an International Business major, both plan on a career focused on humanitarian work and international diplomacy. Conte said her “research will focus on the responses by the international community and the United Nations to the protection of civilians in crises in the past and currently, while also looking into food security.”