Students from across the university met with humanitarian campaigners and Somerville alumni last week to hear frontline insights from Save the Children in Gaza.

The evening offered harrowing yet important contributions from a panel comprising Save the Children’s Humanitarian Director, Gareth Owen; Alexander Betts, Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs at the University of Oxford; and, as Chair, the broadcaster and Save the Children ambassador Natasha Kaplinsky. Guests also watched a specially recorded message from Save the Children team members in Gaza.

Following a brief summary of the deeply complex history of the region, the discussion focused on the current conflict and the unique challenges it presents for humanitarian aid. Gareth and Alex highlighted the tragic asymmetry of the current war for children and young people in Gaza before the discussion moved to the politicised nature of the response within the international community, and the difficulties this presents in providing humanitarian aid.

In a conversation darkened by terrible statistics and heart-breaking stories, our speakers nonetheless managed to find grounds – if not for hope, then at least for action. Lamenting the current war as an unravelling of the post-war liberal consensus, Gareth Owen called for a revival of internationalism. Recognising the contradictions inherent in trying to maintain neutrality while fighting for children’s lives, he described the necessity of becoming a ‘principled pragmatist’. Finally, in concluding, Gareth noted that this conflict and its global repercussions really are world history in the making, and that we all have an urgent role to play in advocating for humanitarian causes.

‘The question we must keep asking as this war continues,’ Gareth concluded, ‘is how do we bring the humanity back to the situation? That’s what should guide us.’

In her closing remarks, Principal Jan Royall thanked our speakers, noting that, ‘Conversations like these are not easy, yet they are so important. I am deeply grateful to Save the Children for sharing their experiences with us tonight,  for saying that there is never an option to despair and give up, and for reminding us of why it is so vital that we support them’.

Together for Gaza: Save the Children at Somerville
Together for Gaza: Save the Children at Somerville
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