NEW YORK — U.N. General Assembly President Jan Eliasson delivered the commencement speech to the 2005 graduating class of the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs’ (IIHA) International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA) program on Friday and stressed the importance of collaboration as they embark on their road ahead.
“Congratulations. You are 40 [humanitarians]from 24 nations,” the former U.N. undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs told the graduates. “You bring about the power of collective strength. You can’t do it alone.”
Father Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University, told the humanitarians they should be honored to follow in footsteps of former graduates that reach across the globe, and invited them back in the future to share with younger generations their expertise on the “struggles of the human heart and the triumphs of the human soul.”
“We are very proud of you. You are now part of a family that includes more than 650 people from 55 nations,” McShane said.
Eliasson, who participated in U.N. missions to Sudan and Somalia, reminded the graduates of two significant words – “passion” and “compassion.”
“In life nothing happens without passion. But without compassion, the wrong things happen,” he said.
Officially beginning his presidency of the U.N. general assembly in September, Eliasson pointed to the need to make the organization more streamlined, accountable, transparent and coordinated.
He said one area in need of immediate attention is the growing divide, or what he called “gaps,” between nations. “We are seeing more fear and less hope,” he warned. “If you decrease the gaps, you increase the hope.”
He ended the speech with the same quote he used to conclude his June 13, 2005 speech to the general assembly of the United Nations, the words of Dag Hammarskjöld from his book Markings:
“Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step: only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find his right road.”
The IIHA was created at Fordham in December 2001 to forge partnerships with relief organizations, publish books and host symposia related to humanitarian aid issues.
The IDHA program, a monthlong postgraduate diploma course, is a collaboration between Fordham and the Center for International Health and Cooperation (CIHC). The program, held in Geneva, Switzerland in March, at Fordham University in June and in Cairo, Egypt in September, simulates a humanitarian crisis, with lectures, workshops and the exchange of field experiences. The graduates received their diplomas from Kevin Cahill, M.D., president of the CIHC.