Paul Wise heads up global initiative to boost humanitarian health response to violent conflict

The American Academy of Arts & Sciences recently appointed Stanford professor of pediatrics PAUL WISE and two other global health experts to lead a new initiative, Rethinking the Humanitarian Health Response to Violence Conflict, to develop new strategies to protect civilians, health care and cultural heritage in areas of extreme violence.

Paul Wise
Paul Wise. (Courtesy: Stanford Health Policy)

The initiative will be a collaboration among political scientists, international human rights lawyers, physicians, academics and even the curators of major museums. They will develop strategies to prevent civilian harm and deliver critical health services in areas plagued by violent conflict, most notably in the Middle East, central and north Africa and parts of Asia.

“We also want to address the humanitarian and protective frameworks that operate in areas that are extremely violent but wouldn’t necessarily be defined as being in armed conflict, like in the northern triangle of Central America. The human toll in these areas is at least as great as some of these other more traditionally defined areas,” Wise said.

Another of those areas is Myanmar, where nearly 700,000 ethnic Rohingya Muslims have fled to neighboring Bangladesh amid sectarian violence in the northern Rakhine province, in what the United Nations calls a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Rethinking is also headed up by global health expert Jaime Sepulveda of the University of California, San Francisco, and Jennifer M. Welsh, a global governance and security expert at   McGill University in Canada. Their work will result in a series of publications, blog posts, videos, podcasts and op-eds as a means to reach not only a general audience but also local and field-based humanitarian health providers. The initiative will also seek the engagement of those directly victimized by violence in the areas of greatest concern.

“We will come up with new strategies to protect civilians and deal with their needs when protection fails in the real world,” Wise said. “The goal is to make a difference in the real world. That’s a much more ambitious goal of course, but it’s the only goal that’s worthy of this kind of initiative.”

A professor of pediatrics in the Medical School and core faculty member at Stanford Health Policy, Wise is also appointed in several international security programs at Stanford, including the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, and the Center for International Security and Cooperation and is a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI).

Read the full article on the FSI website.