Aid worker with experience in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan to speak on politics of humanitarian assistance, refugee crises

Federico Motka along with Joel Shelton, assistant professor of political science and policy studies, will present, "Rethinking Humanitarianism in a Fragmenting World: Lessons from Syria and Beyond” on Thursday, Feb. 9.

International humanitarian assistance is more vital than ever – yet the humanitarian aid industry is beset by both internal and external challenges that make the delivery of aid to those in need increasingly difficult. As crises multiply, aid and humanitarian assistance have been politicized – both inside donor states and within countries plagued by instability and civil war, where international aid workers have increasingly been the targets of violence.

​Federico Motka, an international aid worker who spent a decade in the field, will reflect on all these challenges in the context of his experiences as a project manager “on the ground” both in Syria and elsewhere. Joined by longtime colleague Joel Shelton, assistant professor of political science and policy studies, Motka will present “Rethinking Humanitarianism in a Fragmenting World: Lessons from Syria and Beyond,” on Thursday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. in LaRose Digital Theatre in the Koury Business Center. 

Motka will present a critique of how humanitarian aid is organized and delivered in the conflict zones he worked in placing particular emphasis on the growing risks to aid workers as humanitarianism is bureaucratized and politicized – risks he experienced firsthand in Syria.

Since 2007, Motka has worked as an international humanitarian aid worker for a number of non-governmental organizations, including ACTED, Welthungerhilfe and Impact Initiatives. He has also worked to support the International Federation of Red Cross. Motka’s specialization in emergency response programming has taken him to the front lines of disaster relief and humanitarian assistance in a dozen countries, including Fiji, Sri Lanka, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, Haiti, Afghanistan, Peru, and South Sudan. Motka was in Jordan, Iraq, and Syria from 2012 through 2014 working to coordinate humanitarian aid to refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war.

The program is sponsored by the International and Global Studies Program, Center for Public Affairs, Department of Political Science and Policy Studies, Public Health Studies, The Truitt Center and Peace and Conflict Studies.