Blog post by Andrew Gibson, HCRI’s Engagement Assistant

In academic year 2022/23, I have worked with Dr Sabah Boufkhed (Lecturer in Global Health) to deliver HCRI’s public events programme. Below is a selection of multimedia from our events to date.

Our latest event…

Hostile (2022) and Director Q&A,13th March 2023

Student speaking to live-stream video of Director

Maisy Vincent and Sonita Gale in the Q&A

At this event, we screened the documentary Hostile, a BAFTA-longlisted feature-length documentary, focusing on the UK’s complicated relationship with its migrant communities. Told through the stories of four participants from Black and Asian backgrounds, the film focuses on the impact of the evolving ‘hostile environment’ policies that target migrants.

Following this, attendees participated in a Q&A with the film’s writer and Director Sonita Gale about filmmaking and the issue’s raised in her work.

This event was co-organised by HCRI staff and students, with special credit to HCRI undergraduate Maisy Vincent who introduced and chaired the session with finesse.

A trailer for documentary can be found here and background can be found on the website here

Nuclear weapons and humanitarian risks, 7th March 2023

Dr Alexis-Martin discussed her award-winning book Disarming Doomsday: The Human Impacts of Nuclear Weapons Since Hiroshima, which critically assesses the global social, cultural, ​and spatial inequalities and harms perpetuated by nuclear warfare, covering the victims of nuclear tests, the hibakusha in Japan, and international movements for disarmament. Becky’s slide on ‘Further Reading’ is here

Dr Boulton introduced the technical/medical aspects of nuclear weapons, the risks of nuclear use in the present (with a focus on Ukraine), and recommendations for harm prevention.

Responding to the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria: Needs and challenges on the ground, 3rd March 2023

Speakers included: Zümrüt Sönmez, Executive Producer at TRT World (Türkiye); Nicolas Metri, Head of Programme (Türkiye) at the Danish Refugee Council; Ismail Alabdullah, Volunteer and Media Coordinator for The White Helmets (Syria); Nihad Sarmini, UoM student and humanitarian / development practitioner returning from volunteering in Türkiye with Action for Humanity; Raya Homsi, The Syria Campaign

Donations were encouraged to: The White Helmets (here), The Syria Campaign (here), Action for Humanity (here), DRC (here).

There was a lot of interest in local organisations involved in the response effort, so we have listed some here, here, and here

Grassroots responses to climate change: Voices from Pernambuco, Brazil, 7th Feb 2023

At this HCRI public event, we were joined by Maria Silvanete Lermen and Deybison Silva De Albuquerqe from the State of Pernambuco in Brazil. They are leaders of the two Afro-descendant grassroots associations: Chã da Terra (Maria) and Quilombo do Catucá (Deybison). Our guests talked about the community-led response to the floods that affected the State of Pernambuco in May 2022, which were the deadliest in 40 years in Brazil, as well as the everyday consequences of climate change in their territories. This was a unique opportunity to hear from people organising at the front line of climate change. A blog post about the flooding can be found at:

Maria’s slides / photos are available in PDF here

HCRI Panel: Attacked – Healthcare in the Ukraine and Syria conflicts, 8th Dec 2022

This public event saw updates from and comparisons between the humanitarian situations in Syria and Ukraine, with a focus on attacks on and the responses of healthcare systems and workers. Speakers included Dr Zahed Katurji (aka ‘Hamza Al-Kateab’), a Syrian doctor, human rights activist and public health advocate; Christina Wille is the Director of Insecurity Insight, founder of the Aid in Danger Project and the Security in Numbers Database; and Sophie Désoulières heads the humanitarian affairs, operational communications and advocacy department at MSF’s Operational Centre Amsterdam.

HCRI / MILC public Lecture: Guantanamo and the legal battle against torture, 22nd Nov 2022                              Speaker: Lisa Hajjar, Professor and Chair of the Sociology Department, University of California – Santa Barbara

Prof. Hajjar discussed her new book, The War in Court: Inside the Long Fight against Torture, with a particular focus on the legal battles over the treatment of people detained at Guantanamo. Those who took up the fight against the government over torture, forced disappearance, protracted incommunicado detention, and invented law-of-war offences for use in the military commissions were lawyers. Prof Hajjar explained why hundreds of legal professionals – JAGs and attorneys from corporate law firms, human rights lawyers and solo practitioners, law professors and their students – were galvanised to defend the rule of law that was upended by the torture policy and enlisted in what turned into a war in court.

HCRI book talk: The Vulnerable Humanitarian – Ending burnout culture in the aid sector
8th Nov 2022 // Speaker: Dr Gemma Houldey, writer, researcher and facilitator of wellbeing in the aid sector (website)

Dr Houldey introduced her new book, The Vulnerable Humanitarian, which challenges the prevalence of stress and burnout culture within the aid sector, laying bare the issues of power, agency, security and wellbeing that continue to trouble organisations and staff. Proposing new ways of addressing wellbeing that are sensitive to the multi-faceted personalities and lived experiences of people working on aid and development programmes, The Vulnerable Humanitarian is essential reading both for current aid sector employees and for prospective employees and students.

HCRI Landmark Lecture: Gender and disasters – Presence and absence in policy and practice
11th October 2022 // Speaker: Maureen Fordham BSc PhD is Professor of Gender and Disaster Resilience and is the Centre Director of the IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster at UCL (website).

There is now a considerable body of work that addresses a range of issues that connect gender and disaster (see resources at: For some parts of the disaster-humanitarianism-development nexus, it is no longer necessary to explain why we need to include gender; for others there is still much work to be done. For example, disaster warning systems often prioritise technical over social parameters, but we will see a UN Women video whose main protagonist (a grassroots Unit Leader in the Cyclone Preparedness Program Bangladesh), clearly articulates the gendered social context of warnings.

The disaster-humanitarianism-development nexus itself encompasses many differing aims, worldviews, tasks and approaches – even without the addition of gender. Bringing all these together can mean that we all may be starting at very different levels of understanding, interest or willingness to engage with this issue.

This presentation offers some examples of the ways the gender and disaster connection has been addressed, sidelined or simplified and some thoughts about continuing gaps, challenges and opportunities. For example, we explored how Bangladesh has made a major gender responsive input to their National Resilience Programme, the goal of which is ‘To sustain the resilience of human and economic development in Bangladesh through inclusive, gender responsive disaster management and risk informed development’,

In policy areas (e.g the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030), we have seen some enhancement of the gender focus since earlier Global Frameworks, but we still need to make the case for a vision that goes beyond a narrow focus on women and on women as vulnerable, and that addresses intersectionality.