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Humanitarian response to conflict: Re-thinking priorities

Friday 16 November 2012, 6.45PM

Speaker: Rae McGrath

Prince El Hassan Bin Talal Annual Lecture

Rae McGrath is a Specialist in humanitarian response to conflict and emergencies and lectures annually on the MA in Post War and Recovery Studies within the Post-war Reconstruction and Development Unit at York.

In his lecture Rae will look at the humanitarian response to the conflict in Syria. He will also discuss Libya and the Cote d'Ivoire refugees in Liberia from a field practitioners perspective.  

Born in Liverpool Rae left school at 16 and worked as a manual labourer before enlisting in the British Army where he spent eighteen years as a field engineer. On leaving the service in 1985 he began working with humanitarian NGO's, initially with Save the Children Fund in Darfur Province of Sudan during the famine of the mid-1980's in charge of food distribution and logistics. He went on to work throughout Africa and Asia with various humanitarian agencies. Drawing on his military experience he established community-based landmine clearance programmes in Paktia Province of Afghanistan in1988 and later directed the first ever United Nations humanitarian mine clearance operations in Kunar Province. He went on to found the UK-based NGO Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and served as its Director until 1996, by which time it was widely established as the lead agency in establishing effective clearance of landmines and unexploded ordnance with an emphasis on building indigenous technical capacity at grass roots level. McGrath developed an organisational policy that emphasised the developmental urgency of making land safe and recalls his greatest achievement with MAG as establishing ordnance clearance in Laos and helping to draw international attention to the enormous problems facing that country resulting from the nine year US bombing during the Vietnam War.

The author of many key reports and two books on the impact and effective response to landmines, cluster munitions and unexploded ordnance McGrath is also an active civil society campaigner and was a founder member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), representing the campaign when it was awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, he delivered the Nobel Peace Lecture. He played a key role in the Cluster Munition campaign which resulted in the treaty banning the weapons in 2008, author of some of the key technical papers and was a member of the coalition’s international steering committee. McGrath lectures widely on conflict, civil society and humanitarian issues, but insists stubbornly that expertise and lessons must be drawn from field experience and in the past fifteen years, since leaving MAG, he has spent the majority of his time managing responses to conflict-based and natural emergencies, including Indonesia following the 2004 tsunami in Aceh, and in Yogyakarta following the 2006 earthquake. For the past three and a half years Rae has worked as an emergency response manager with Save the Children and has managed emergency responses in Ethiopia, West Sumatra, Puntland/Somalia, Liberia, Tunisia, Libya and most recently managing Save the Children’s programme for Syrian refugees in Za’atari Refugee Camp in North Jordan.

In 1998 he received a civic award from his home city of Liverpool for his humanitarian work.

Location: Ron Cooke Hub

Admission: Admission is free and open to all. No ticket required.

Email: publiclectures@york.ac.uk