The fight against global hunger needs better planning and coordination, according to an Irish government official who

Brendan Rogers, director general of the Development Cooperation Directorate at Irish Aid
Photo by Ken Levinson

spoke at Fordham on May 14 as part of a new transatlantic partnership involving Fordham’s Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA).

“Predictable needs or crises require coordinated and predictable responses,” said Brendan Rogers, director general of the Development Cooperation Directorate at Irish Aid—the Irish government’s development assistance program—and deputy secretary general in Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Global hunger was the first of many social justice-related topics to be addressed through the new partnership between IIHA and the Clinton Institute for American Studies at University College Dublin.

The two institutes formally launched the partnership by co-sponsoring the symposium, “The Fight Against Hunger: The History and Future of the Irish Role in Humanitarian Assistance,” at the Lincoln Center campus.

Fordham’s IIHA was created in December 2001 to forge partnerships with relief organizations, offer rigorous academic and training courses at the graduate and undergraduate level, host symposiums, and publish books relating to humanitarian affairs. The Clinton Institute, named for former President Bill Clinton, was established after the Irish government recommended in 2001 that an institute for American studies should be established in the country.

The institute’s board chairman, Tim O’Connor, said that it’s time for the institute to play a new role, “as a resource … at the heart of the Ireland-America relationship.”

“I am absolutely delighted that … the first chapter of that journey has been here at Fordham, in New York, a place very close to my own heart,” he said.

The event was attended by scholars, journalists, Fordham faculty members, representatives of nongovernmental organizations, and representatives of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the William J. Clinton Foundation, among others.

“Our conversation here today comes at an important time,” given the threat to food supplies in developing countries, Rogers said in his keynote address.

“There’s growing evidence that the scale and scope of disasters will increase significantly over the coming decades,” he said. “Areas of drought will become drier, water shortages will increase, and hurricanes will become more frequent. In vulnerable countries, the confluence of increasing food and fuel crises, rapid urbanization, migration, and population growth, together with extreme weather and climate events, are creating havoc.”

He added that the poor people’s food supply is more endangered because they “eke out their livelihoods” in conflict zones, drought-prone areas, flood-prone urban areas and other risky settings.

But he added that “we now know more about which parts of the world are particularly vulnerable to crisis.”

“We can predict better, so we need to plan better,” he said. “We can no longer afford to provide funding for disasters primarily after the fact. The costs are high and rising, and indeed negating long-term development. And yet, the international community still operates under a model that is largely reactive and focuses on short-term crises rather than looking at the longer-term trends and their humanitarian implications.”

“The international humanitarian response system is not sufficiently focused,” he said.

He said groups that respond to crises need to join development organizations to help countries build their ability to respond on their own and become more resilient, making future humanitarian crises less likely.

Through its graduate master’s and an undergraduate minor program, the IIHA offers an academic base for the study and development of international health, human rights and other humanitarian issues, especially those that occur in periods of conflict.