WFPG Voices
VOICES, is a forum that highlights the expertise of those who make up and support the organization. WFPG members and partners are invited to submit blog posts on international affairs and foreign policy topics, women's leadership, and career advancement. Posts represent the reflections and personal views of members and guest bloggers and not those of their employers or of the WFPG. Interested in submitting a post? Guidelines | Membership
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Real Talk: Realities of Refugee Assistance and Resettlement
Tara Boyd, Student, George Washington University
Threats and Challenges to Global Governance in the 21st Century
Madison Dwyer, Student, Georgetown University
Protecting Ukraine: Public-Private Defense of Allies Abroad
Madison Dwyer, Student, Georgetown University

A panel of women invested in advancing the resettlement process for refugees in the United States shared their expertise on the evening of January 26th, hosted by the Humanitarian Action Initiative and No Lost Generation GW at the Elliott School of International Affairs. With a focus on the grim realities of refugee resettlement, the panelists discussed the main challenges for refugees: how the federal government, judicial system, and non-profit organizations work together, and what people can do to help those seeking refuge. The panel was followed by a brief audience Q&A, where panelists answered questions about entry-level jobs in resettlement work, how to influence change on a local level, and possible national solutions to the refugee crisis.

Manizha Azizi, the Family Services Manager at Homes Not Borders, discussed the importance of non-profit work for refugees. Homes Not Borders is an organization enlisted by resettlement agencies and individuals to furnish homes for incoming refugee families into the United States. Azizi emphasized that this allows the families to focus on more pressing tasks such as enrolling their children in schools, applying for healthcare, and applying for citizenship or green cards. In addition to furnishing their homes, Homes Not Borders has an artisan program to help refugees with specific skills such as sewing, painting, or knitting to find work. By creating spaces for refugees to find temporary employment and comfortable homes, Homes Not Borders eases families into their new lifestyle. Still, the hardest challenge that Azizi faces is the lack of resources. The influx of Afghani refugees since 2021 is a clear demonstration of the government’s lack of resources, Azizi reflected. She worked with many families who experienced bouts of domestic violence caused by stress, culture shock and language barriers, and bullying and discrimination of their children in schools. As an Afghani herself, she struggled to stomach these challenges, but they propelled her to keep moving forward.

Nicole Medved is an Immigration Attorney currently working at the William and Mary Law School Immigration Clinic, where she trains lawyers in humanitarian immigration law to represent refugees in a system that often works against them. The legal system is slow-moving with a lack of employees and interpreters to process forms and approve visa applications and work authorizations. Additionally, the strict definition of “refugee” is a major roadblock for attorneys like Medved due to the lack of tangible evidence. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requires that refugees demonstrate past persecution or fear of persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. The process of proving past persecution can be difficult, especially if a family immigrated before the persecution began. The increasing number of climate refugees fails to fit into this definition, leaving them without any defense. Lastly, the trauma and PTSD of having to retell one’s stories of persecution and torture is what Medved points out as one of the biggest flaws in the system. She reflected that “law is important, but is not the final decision or destination for refugees or paroles,” as simply obtaining a visa will not ensure a refugee’s stability. This is where organizations such as Homes Not Borders are essential.

Olivia Issa, the Program Lead at the Refugee Resettlement Initiative at the National Association of System Heads, explained the role education has in helping refugee students and families. She pointed out that one place that has all the resources a refugee needs in their first year can be found at universities. Between food, transportation, housing, health services, and career services, universities can support refugee families who previously had no access to these services. This is why the Refugee Resettlement Initiative started the Every Campus of Refuge program, which encourages universities to grant refugee families housing units for 6 months at little or no cost. With Kentucky leading the way with the most Every Campus of Refuge programs, Issa hopes more universities will follow in their footsteps. Furthermore, Issa emphasized the importance of incorporating refugees into schools’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs and budget. This would encompass more affordable English language exams such as moving away from using TOEFL exams and towards Duolingo’s cheaper alternative. Additionally, being lenient with previous official transcripts is essential, as many refugee families do not bring these documents with them. If their schools were destroyed during conflict, it is impossible to obtain these records. Challenges such as these are crucial for universities to address in order to grant migrants the support they need to succeed.

Moderator Dr. Maryam Deloffre, the Director of the Humanitarian Action Initiative, asked the panel a final question: “How can the government, non-profit organizations, and ordinary people work together to help refugee resettlement?”Azizi explained that everyone has a different role to play and that thorough communication is essential on a weekly, if not daily, basis. This could manifest on a personal level by welcoming a new refugee in your neighborhood or school, or with the government granting more federal resources to hire more employees to process documents. Medved emphasized the need for volunteers and experts to aid attorneys throughout the legislative process. There is a dire need for more interpreters to not only explain legal situations to the refugees, but to also translate birth certificates, resumes, and other essential documents. She also explored the value of country conditions research in proving the possibility of persecution in their home countries with expert affidavits from professors or mental health experts. These will often make or break a case in immigration law. Lastly, with President Biden’s new Welcome Corps program, groups of up to five individuals can now privately sponsor the resettlement of refugees. Issa explained that universities can easily tackle this job.

It is up to every sector to positively influence the way the United States conducts its resettlement program. Federal and legal policies directly affect the success of non-profit organizations' efforts. Ordinary civilians should continue to be intentional with their votes for elected officials locally and nationally. Universities and educational institutions should commit more time and resources to help refugees gain access to education and resources and should stress the importance of cross-cultural education and acceptance. Organizations such as Homes Not Borders always need more volunteers and donors. With the right initiatives, refugee resettlement can be reshaped for the better.

Tara Boyd is a student at George Washington University and a Programs Intern at the WFPG.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023, was a somber day for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists as they released the news that humanity's Doomsday Clock is now "90 seconds from midnight." The Bulletin first published its Doomsday Clock in 1947 as a representation of how close society is to "technologically or environmentally-induced catastrophe." The Clock brings awareness to the dangers of unrestrained technological advancement, particularly nuclear, but recently incorporated climate and other existential threats such as pandemics. Tuesday's declaration comes at the hands of Russia's war in Ukraine—pushing society 10 seconds closer to midnight than 2022's designation of 100 seconds to midnight. Gathered together at Georgetown University for a discussion on the Threats and Challenges to Global Governance in the 21st Century, Rachel Bronson, President and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders, were joined by two additional members of the Elders, Juan Manuel Santos and Elbegdorj Tsakhia.

Bulletin President Bronson opened the discussion with a clear indication that the new designation of the Clock at 90 seconds—closer than it has ever been, she added—was primarily the result of a P5 nation (permanent member of the United Nations Security Council) invading the sovereign territory of another state. Viewing this as a collapse of the international order, she stressed the possibility that this conflict between Russia and Ukraine may put nuclear weapons back into possible use. Additionally, Bronson expressed concern over potentially unrestricted innovation in AI and bioscience, which can also put humanity at risk.

During his tenure between 2009 and 2017, President Elbegdorj of Mongolia met with Putin 30 times. Personally, he was surprised by the war and expressed the international damage that Putin has done by instigating conflict. President Elbegdorj also elaborated on his concerns for Russian citizens, specifically that freedom of speech and overall prosperity has rapidly deteriorated and that ethnic minorities in the country are disproportionately affected by war by being sent to the front lines of conflict. Additionally, if Putin succeeds, President Elbegdorj argued, autocrats around the world will be encouraged. Therefore, it is imperative that the international order reasserts Ukraine's right to exist and choose its fate.

Former President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos, while discussing his recent meeting with the Ukrainian president, characterized President Zelensky as an incredibly charismatic, intelligent, and inspiring leader. The two leaders discussed President Santos' leadership of the peace process in Colombia, since President Santos believes that all armed conflicts have common denominators and can learn from each other. In his view, President Zelensky cannot yet discuss the possibility of peace negotiations publically, he must sustain his image of strength and enthusiasm vis-à-vis total victory. This can be complicated, though, because President Zelensky must communicate differently to each audience he faces: his people, his army, as well as the broader international stage. Maintaining wide support for Ukraine on a wider scale is crucial, not just from the United States and Europe, but from all over the world.

Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders and former President of Ireland, reiterated this point and expressed concern about 35 nations abstaining from United Nations General Assembly Resolution ES-11/1 to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine. In particular, she is worried about the African nations which abstained from this vote, many of which are dependent on military hardware and support from Russia and China. Simultaneously, other states used the vote to signal their disdain for the apparent double standard occurring with the proposition of a Nuremberg-style tribunal to address war crimes committed in Ukraine. These states question why tribunals have not been called for regarding armed conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, while the conflict in mainland Europe is being addressed with unprecedented momentum. Both of these concerns make multilateralism more complicated. Meanwhile, countries who voted yes on Resolution ES-11/1 hope to simultaneously punish the violators of human rights and reestablish the authority of international law and what President Robinson calls “common sense.” The Rome Statute, in her view, is crucial for creating norms of reparations, justice, truth, and non-repetition of violent large-scale crimes.

Regardless, all wars end at a negotiation table, President Santos said, so President Zelensky must begin preparations. Citing Nelson Mandela, President Santos invoked the adage that the most powerful weapon is being able to sit down and talk. Every decision in the peace process comes with a price, he explained. Where a leader draws the line between peace and justice is a difficult decision: what justice should a leader sacrifice for peace, and vice versa? President Santos cited his favor for the tribunal and its norm-setting behavior, which can lead to potential lives saved in future conflicts. President Elbegdorj agreed that war in the 21st century should be obsolete and that the tribunal would make a powerful statement to leaders around the world that war and irredentism is not the right path to establishing a legacy.

While discussing the possible improvements to turn back the Doomsday Clock to a greater distance from midnight, President Robinson also emphasized the lessons that many European countries are learning in the wake of the gas reliance crisis. She hopes the renewed focus on energy security will lead to serious conversations about expediting the transition to renewable energy. President Santos hopes to see the facilitation of peace over the continuation of war, and the re-establishment of peace as a global norm. President Elbegdorj, similarly, hopes to see more governmental investment in grassroots democracy and freedom of speech for all, to ensure that citizens are safeguarded against tyranny. To him, democracy isn't about pleasing everyone, but about respecting everyone's right to think differently—which is crucial for stabilizing the international community and turning back the Clock.

Madison Dwyer is a student at Georgetown University and a Programs Intern at the WFPG.

On January 19, the Women's Foreign Policy Group partnered with Beacon Global Strategies and the National Security Institute at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School to host a panel on the importance of public-private partnerships in cyber and tech-related fields. The event was held in the Rayburn House Building with a brief breakfast reception.

Founder and Executive Director of the National Security Institute Jamil Jaffer kicked the conversation off with a question for Jennifer Bachus, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the State Department Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy: "How does the State Department conceptualize the current challenges in Ukraine?" Bachus responded by detailing that long-standing support for Ukraine had been established far before the instigation of conflict in February 2022. Bachus explained that those firm relationships and a sense of trust were crucial to understand what Ukraine needed from its allies and how to obtain these resources rapidly during the early war period. Beginning in 2014, the State Department engaged with Ukraine and created open lines of communication to ensure that both sides worked toward the same goals. In the wake of the February 2022 invasion, the State Department fortified its support for the Ukrainian government, recommending migration to the cloud to secure information and respond effectively in a crisis. Bachus recognized the role of the private partnership during this time too; by donating resources and supporting the Ukrainian government, the private sector kept the government running during times of immense stress.

Similarly, Jeanette Manfra, Global Director for Security and Compliance at Google Cloud, weighed in on the role of the private sector during wartime. On the philanthropic side, Google has also raised $10 million for people affected by the war in Ukraine. From a technological security perspective, Google combated misinformation propagated by Russian-owned state media platforms such as RT by blocking monetization, abilities on Youtube videos and other apps. In addition, Google kept Google Maps updated with the most recent escape routes for civilians attempting evacuation, which proved paramount for many refugees, Manfra said. Furthermore, she asserted the importance of getting time-sensitive information into the hands of civilians publically and as quickly as possible because many Ukrainians now rely exclusively on digital information for resources such as maps. To achieve this goal, Manfra expressed that information sharing is critical. Operational collaboration allows the intelligence community to stay updated on civilians’ needs, which is the keystone for a successful approach.

Dave Luber, Deputy Director of Cybersecurity at the National Security Agency, chimed in from a government perspective. In his experience, cyber security and intelligence are not about “what you know,” but rather, “how you know it.” The capacity for collaboration on lower levels between governments and private-sector industries is a huge determining factor in whether these efforts are successful. Harnessing the best actors in both sectors leads to the most successful outcome. To develop a firm idea of "where we're at" in cybersecurity, we need communication of insights between analysts in open forums such as the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative (JCDC). Groups like the JCDC help make it more difficult for actors to achieve success in cyberwarfare, Luber argued, because if there is one thing to count on in cyber, it is change. Whether it is new types of malware or other threats, persistent engagement and collaboration are the keys to combating cyberterrorism.

Eric Goldstein, Executive Assistant Director for Cybersecurity at CISA reiterated the importance of organizations like the JCDC and its capacity to shift cultural norms toward information sharing between different organizations. This shift will work to drive a national movement with more broad organizations that are willing to participate. The potential benefits of investing in information sharing and cybersecurity more broadly outweigh the costs, according to Goldstein, because they can mitigate future potential issues. Specifically, Ukraine's dedication to modernizing its technological systems—its transfer to a global network rather than keeping all of its data inside the country— proved decisive in its ability to withstand cyberattacks from Russia. In addition, Goldstein made a point to acknowledge that it is the responsibility of all in the intelligence community to ensure that these newly opened doors and the ability to facilitate communication are not lost once the war in Ukraine has ended. In summary, a coordinated, long-term effort by the intelligence community to institutionalize these new norms so that they are not lost to time.

To conclude, private-public partnerships with foreign allies are crucial in developing reliable relationships with functional communication. Ukraine is a perfect case study of why creating these relationships early on can foster trust between local and international actors while vis-à-vis reinforcing cybersecurity and protecting from cyberattacks. The ongoing resilience of the Ukrainian government and resistance to cyberterrorism proves the effectiveness of these public-private partnerships, and hopefully, more examples will emerge in the future.

You can view pictures from the event here.

Madison Dwyer is a student at Georgetown University and a Programs Intern at the WFPG.

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