Daniel Maxwell

Daniel MaxwellHenry J. Leir Professor in Food Security, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy
Acting Director, Feinstein International Center

Working with Feinstein Since: 2006
Based in: Somerville, MA

Dan Maxwell leads the research program on food security and livelihoods in complex emergencies at the Feinstein International Center, where he also leads the overall strategy of the center. Dan works with governments, humanitarian agencies, and affected communities at the grass roots, national, and regional levels to build the evidence base for improved humanitarian and resilience programming and policy. He developed the coping strategies index (CSI), one of the most commonly used food security indicators that enables governments and NGOs responding to crises to quickly understand the food security status of large numbers of people.

From 2008–2011, he served as the chair of the Department of Food and Nutrition Policy at the Friedman School. Prior to joining Tufts, Dan spent twenty years in leadership positions with international NGOs and research institutes. He was deputy regional director for CARE International in Eastern and Central Africa, Rockefeller Post-Doctoral Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, and worked for the Mennonite Central Committee for ten years in Tanzania and Uganda.

He holds a B.Sc. from Wilmington College, a master’s degree from Cornell University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin.

For all of Dan’s publications, please download his CV at the top of page.

Research Interests:
  • Humanitarian action
  • Resilience, livelihoods, food security, and the measurement of food security
  • Food aid
  • Emergency preparedness, information systems and contingency planning
  • Humanitarian operations and policy
Regional Focus:
  • East Africa
  • Greater Horn of Africa
Courses Taught:
  • Humanitarian Action in Complex Emergencies (NUTR 229/DHP D230), Fall Term
  • Seminar in Humanitarian Issues (NUTR 223), Fall Term
  • International Humanitarian Response (NUTR 324/DHP D-21), Spring Term
  • Transnational Social Issues: Humanitarian Assistance (GMA P215)
Most Cited Books and Articles:
  • Daniel Maxwell. 1996. “Measuring Food Insecurity: The Frequency and Severity of ‘Coping Strategies.’” Food Policy 21(3): 291–303.
  • Daniel Maxwell, Carol Levin, Margaret Armar-Klemesu, Marie Ruel, Saul Morris and Clement Ahiadeke. 2000. Urban Livelihoods, Food and Nutrition Security in Greater Accra.  IFPRI Research Report 112. Washington: International Food Policy Research Institute.
  • Daniel Maxwell. 1995. “Alternative Food Security Strategy: A Household Analysis of Urban Agriculture in Kampala.” World Development 23(10): 1669–1681.
  • Christopher Barrett and Daniel Maxwell. 2005. Food Aid After Fifty Years: Recasting its Role.  London: Routledge.
  • Daniel Maxwell. 1999. “The Political Economy of Urban Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa.” World Development 27(11): 1939–1953.
Most Recent External Publications:
  • Daniel Maxwell and Nisar Majid. 2016. “Facing Famine: Somali Experiences in the Famine of 2011. Food Policy. Vol. 65 (December) pp. 63-73.
  • Daniel Maxwell and Nisar Majid. 2016. Famine in Somalia: Competing Imperatives, Collective Failures, 2011-2012. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Daniel Maxwell, Bapu Vaitla, and Jennifer Coates. 2014. “How Do Indicators of Household Food Insecurity Measure Up? An Empirical Comparison from Ethiopia.” Food Policy. 47: 107-117.
  • Daniel Maxwell, John Parker, and Heather Stobaugh. 2013. “What Drives Program Choice in Food Security Crises? Examining the ‘Response Analysis’ Question.” World Development 49(Sept): 68-79.
  • Helen Young and Daniel Maxwell. 2013. “Participation, Political Economy and Protection: The Governance of Food Aid in in the Darfur Region of Sudan.” Disasters 37(4): 555-578.
  • Daniel Maxwell and Merry Fitzpatrick. 2012. “The 2011 Somalia Famine: Context, Causes, and Complications.” Global Food Security 1(1): 5-12. Special Edition on the Somalia Famine 2011-2012.

Feinstein Publications

Planning from the Future: Is the Humanitarian System Fit for Purpose?

Does the humanitarian system have the capacity and vision to respond effectively to the crises of today, tomorrow, and deep into the future? This report analyses the failings of the…

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Key Lessons Learned on International Engagement

This paper explains that aid actors in South Sudan have largely failed because they applied technical solutions to political problems.

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Livelihoods and conflict in South Sudan

This briefing paper recommends a rethink in the way that aid actors approach questions of recovery and livelihood. Rather than a simplistic either/ or approach, what is needed is a much more localized and deeper analysis of conflict, inter-communal grievances and inter-communal relations.

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Complexities of Service Delivery and State Building

This paper describes the findings from research carried out in several areas of South Sudan in the context of armed conflict and raiding. The findings show that despite state-building efforts, service delivery remained inadequate in remote areas and that the interface between service delivery and people’s perceptions of the state is complex.

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Trajectories of international engagement with state and local actors: Evidence from South Sudan
trajectories of international engagement thumbnail

What can international aid policymakers and practitioners learn from the history of international engagement with South Sudan prior to and during the current conflict? This paper traces shifts in international…

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Narratives of Famine Somalia 2011

This paper is important reading for anyone working in or on Somalia because it presents the famine of 2011 from the perspective of those who lived through it in their…

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Sweden’s Feminist Foreign Policy: Implications for Humanitarian Response
By Dyan Mazurana, Daniel Maxwell | January 2016

This policy brief presents the implications of Sweden’s feminist foreign policy for the people they strive to assist, Sweden’s own humanitarian policy and operations, and more broadly the whole humanitarian…

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Facing Famine Somali Experiences in the Famine of 2011

In 2011–12, Somalia experienced the worst famine of the twenty-first century. Since then, research on the famine has focused almost exclusively on the external response, the reasons for the delay…

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The Return to Violence in South Sudan
By Daniel Maxwell, Phoebe Donnelly | August 2015

South Sudan became the world’s newest country in July 2011, but internal political struggles resulted in renewed violent conflict in December 2013, affecting nearly half the country’s population and displacing some…

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The Somalia Famine of 2011-2012

The Somalia famine of 2011 was the first instance of actual famine in nearly a decade, and to date the worst famine of the 21st Century. In retrospect the disaster…

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Questions and Challenges Raised by a Large-Scale Humanitarian Operation in South Sudan

This working paper analyzes the relationships between international humanitarian aid agencies and the government structures they engage with in South Sudan.

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Surveying livelihoods, service delivery and governance: baseline evidence from South Sudan

In 2012, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), with inputs from SLRC, implemented the first round of an original sub-regional panel survey in South Sudan aimed to produce data…

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From post-conflict recovery and state building to a renewed humanitarian emergency: A brief reflection on South Sudan
By Daniel Maxwell, Martina Santschi | August 2014

Since December 2013 – only two and a half years after becoming an independent country – South Sudan has been mired in a deep political, military, and humanitarian crisis. This…

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Another Humanitarian Crisis in Somalia? Learning from the 2011 Famine
By Daniel Maxwell, Nisar Majid | August 2014

After two reasonably good years of recovery, 2014 appears to be shaping up as a difficult year for Somalia. Donors and agencies are ringing alarm bells about deteriorating conditions. There…

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Looking back to look ahead? Reviewing key lessons from Operation Lifeline Sudan and past humanitarian operations in South Sudan

This paper reviews large-scale humanitarian operations in South Sudan, focusing on what lessons can be learnt from Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS). The paper is structured as follows: The first section…

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Lessons Learned from the Somalia Famine and the Greater Horn of Africa Crisis 2011-2012 Desk Review of Literature

On July 20, 2011, the UN declared a famine in South Central Somalia, which killed some 260,000 people (Checchi and Robinson 2013). Though Somalia was the worst affected country, the…

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Livelihoods, access to services and perceptions of governance: An analysis of Uror and Nyirol counties, South Sudan

This report is based on qualitative fieldwork conducted in Uror and Nyirol Counties, Jonglei State, South Sudan and a household survey conducted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)…

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Resilience, Food Security Dynamics, and Poverty Traps in Northern Ethiopia Analysis of a Biannual Panel Dataset, 2011-2013

Humanitarian assistance or safety net programs may be able to prevent mortality or reduce malnutrition in the face of shocks or crises, but households, their communities, and their institutions may…

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Disaster Risk Reduction and Livelihoods

According to the Hyogo Framework for Action, disasters affect over 200 million people annually, causing significant loss of lives, forced migration, and disruption of livelihoods and institutions. The trend over…

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How do Different Indicators of Household Food Security Compare? Empirical Evidence from Tigray
By Daniel Maxwell, Bapu Vaitla | August 2013

With recent food crises at both regional and global levels, and renewed commitments from major donor countries to address chronic hunger, food security is more prominent on the policy agenda…

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Response Analysis and Response Choice in Food Security Crises: A Roadmap
By Daniel Maxwell, John Parker | February 2013

The term ‘response analysis’ implies that response choices are made solely on the basis of evidence and analysis. However, many factors contribute to how agencies select a response, and ‘response choice’ does not always involve an evidence-based, analytical process.

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The Use of Evidence in Humanitarian Decision Making ACAPS Operational Learning Paper

This paper reports the results of a study undertaken during 2012 by Tufts University for the Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS), as part of the latter’s “Operational Learning” strand of work….

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Resilience and Livelihoods Change in Tigray, Ethiopia

Resilience is the ability of an individual, a household, a community or an institution to withstand a shock or setback of some type and recover, or “bounce back,” after a…

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Response Analysis: What Drives Program Choice?
By Daniel Maxwell, Heather Stobaugh | August 2012

This research considers “response analysis”: the analytical process by which the objectives and modality of program response options in an emergency are determined. The research question was whether improved analysis drives program response choices in humanitarian food security interventions?

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Livelihoods, Basic Services and Social Protection in Northern Uganda and Karamoja

This paper synthesizes current evidence on how people are recovering their livelihoods and accessing basic services and social protection interventions in the conflict-affected regions of Uganda’s Greater North.

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Livelihoods, Basic Services and Social Protection in South Sudan

This paper summarizes the existing literature on livelihoods, basic services and social protection in South Sudan; presents a brief analysis of this literature, and lays out potential research questions for the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC).

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Addressing Integrated Coordination in Food Security Crises A Brief Assessment of the Role, Mandate, and Challenges of the Global Food Security Cluster
By Daniel Maxwell, John Parker | October 2011

In May 2011, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) formally launched the global Food Security Cluster (FSC) as the UN’s global mechanism for coordinating food…

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Examining Linkages between Disaster Risk Reduction and Livelihoods Literature Review

In the disaster context emphasis has been generally placed on the initial humanitarian and emergency response. However, recently there has been an increasing recognition of the importance and value of…

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Final Report: Africa Community Resilience Project Tsaeda Amba Woreda, Eastern Tigray, Ethiopia Research Program on Livelihoods Change over Time

Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) programs encompass many different kinds of activities, but share the fundamental objective of enhancing the capacity of vulnerable communities to identify, reduce and manage risk, whether…

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Institutional Assessment Report: Africa Community Resilience Project Tsaeda Amba Woreda, Eastern Tigray, Ethiopia Research Program on Livelihoods Change over Time

Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) programs encompass many different kinds of activities, but share the fundamental objective of enhancing the capacity of vulnerable communities to identify, reduce and manage risk, whether…

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Baseline Report: Africa Community Resilience Project Tsaeda Amba Woreda, Eastern Tigray, Ethiopia - Research Program on Livelihoods Change over Time

Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) programs encompass many different kinds of activities, but share the fundamental objective of enhancing the capacity of vulnerable communities to identify, reduce and manage risk, whether…

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Targeting in Complex Emergencies: Darfur Case Study
By Helen Young, Daniel Maxwell | April 2009

Can community-based approaches to the targeting of humanitarian assistance in complex emergencies improve participation and reduce targeting error? Although the literature suggests that community-based targeting works best in slow-onset emergencies…

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Preventing Corruption in Humanitarian Assistance

Leaders in the humanitarian community have resolved to do more to address the risks of corruption in relief efforts. Preventing Corruption in Humanitarian Assistance documents perceptions of corruption in humanitarian…

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Targeting in Complex Emergencies: Somalia Country Case Study

Can community-based approaches to the targeting of humanitarian assistance in complex emergencies improve participation and reduce targeting error? Although the literature suggests that community-based targeting works best in slow-onset emergencies…

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Targeting in Complex Emergencies: South Sudan Country Case Study
By Daniel Maxwell, John Burns | May 2008

The population of Southern Sudan was caught in a civil war from 1983 to 2005. During the war, several major famines led to a massive food aid intervention by the…

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Review of WFP Food Assistance Programming Practices in Southern Sudan

The World Food Programme has been providing humanitarian food assistance to vulnerable communities and groups in Southern Sudan for over twenty years, but circumstances have changed following the signing of…

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Feinstein Research Projects

The Humanitarian Evidence Program

The Humanitarian Evidence Program produces a series of evidence syntheses to distill humanitarian evidence and communicate it to key stakeholders in order to enable better decision-making and improve humanitarian policy and practice.

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Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium Generating stronger evidence on conflict situations

The Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium aims to generate a stronger evidence base on how people in conflict-affected situations make a living, access basic services like health care, education and water, and perceive and engage with governance at local and national levels.

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Food Security and Resilience in Somalia
By Daniel Maxwell | December 2016

This project is a major retrospective study of the 2010-2011 Somalia famine. It considers the reasons for the delayed international response, the engagement of non-western humanitarian actors, and the agency and actions of affected communities and groups in protecting their own livelihoods and lives. The project also develops interventions to build resilience in the famine-affected areas.

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Planning From the Future

The Planning From the Future project aims to influence the direction of ‘non-traditional’ and traditional humanitarian actors to help them deal with a rapidly changing and potentially increasingly vulnerable world.

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Gender, Sex, and Age in Humanitarian Response

This page brings together multiple projects related to gender, sex, and age in humanitarian response.

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Promoting Agriculture, Health, and Alternative Livelihoods (PAHAL) in Nepal

This USAID-funded five-year project (2014-2019) aims to improve food security, resilience, and livelihoods for poor and marginalized communities in select areas of rural Nepal.

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Food Security Measurement

Under this project, a variety of food security indicators are incorporated into field surveys of other studies in order to assess their applicability, cost, reliability, and internal, external, and construct validity.

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Programming for Food Security
By Daniel Maxwell | September 2013

The Feinstein study on Targeting in Complex Emergencies led the WFP to rethink the way in which it involves recipient communities in the management and targeting of assistance in conflict and complex emergencies.

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Targeting in Complex Emergencies
By Daniel Maxwell, Helen Young | September 2013

This study documents existing practices and gaps, and builds the evidence base, for community-based targeting practices in complex emergencies. Program guidance materials were developed for WFP on the basis of the findings.

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Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS) Operational Learning

The ultimate goal of The Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS) is more effective, efficient, and appropriate humanitarian responses to crises. The aim is to achieve this by promoting better-informed and more evidence-driven responses, specifically by supporting a process of coordinated needs assessment which is timely, coherent, and appropriate to context, with results that are accessible and relevant to decision makers.

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Livelihoods Change over Time Responses of Communities and Agencies to Chronic Crisis

The overarching objective of the proposed research is to enhance the understanding of how livelihoods change in response to stress and crisis, and to improve humanitarian practice in responding to disaster and improving livelihoods.

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Corruption in Humanitarian Assistance
By Daniel Maxwell, Peter Walker | January 2012

This study was intended to compile the evidence base for improved practices by humanitarian agencies to mitigate the risk of corruption in humanitarian assistance. Case studies were conducted in seven disaster zones.

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News Items

Daniel Maxwell joins nine leading academics and humanitarian professionals to describe the urgent situation in Somalia
March 28, 2017

In an IRIN article on March 28, 2017, Daniel Maxwell joined colleagues to describe the dire situation in Somalia and what can be done about it. They write: Six years…

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News sources cite Dan Maxwell famine research in light of current and potential famine declarations
March 20, 2017

In light of the famine declaration in South Sudan and potential famine declarations in Somalia, Yemen, and Northern Nigeria, several news sources have cited Feinstein research. In IRIN’s March 30,…

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Dan Maxwell explains why famines still exist today in The Conversation
March 8, 2017

Famines in the 21st century? It’s not for lack of food Daniel Maxwell, Tufts University Famine killed nearly 75 million people in the 20th century, but had virtually disappeared in…

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Tufts Now highlights Karen Jacobsen and Dan Maxwell research on cash and food aid for refugees
March 2, 2017

Karen Jacobsen and Dan Maxwell recently shared their expertise on cash transfers and food aid with Tufts Now. The article begins: As the ongoing refugee and migrant crisis continues to…

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Food Policy publishes article on measuring food security by Dan Maxwell and team
February 27, 2017

Feinstein Research Director Dan Maxwell teamed up with Visiting Fellow Bapu Vaitla, Senior Researcher Jennifer Coates, Laura Glaeser, Christopher Hillbruner, and Preetish Biswal to publish “The measurement of household food…

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IRIN features Planning from the Future Report
January 30, 2017

Every week, IRIN’s team of editors curates a selection of humanitarian reports and opinion you may have missed, from in-depth analyses and features to academic studies and podcasts. On January…

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Feinstein faculty humanitarian course offerings Spring 2017 at Tufts
January 17, 2017

Feinstein faculty are teaching a variety of courses on humanitarian issues during the upcoming Spring 2017 Semester. We encourage students to check them out: Karen Jacobsen: Forced Migration (DHP D239)…

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Dan Maxwell and colleagues publish on the Somalia Famine in Food Policy
November 20, 2016

Dan Maxwell, Nisar Majid, Guhad Adan, Khalif Abdirahman, and Janet Kim published their article “Facing famine: Somali experiences in the famine of 2011” in Food Policy journal December 2016 issue….

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Friedman School launches its new strategic plan
November 15, 2016

On November 15, 2016, the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy (the school within which Feinstein is housed) launched its new strategic plan. The plan features eight strategic aims:…

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Dan Maxwell presents on the 2011 Somalia famine
October 19, 2016

On October 19, Feinstein’s acting director Dan Maxwell presented for the Friedman Weekly Seminar. Dan discussed his retrospective research on the 2011 famine in South Central Somalia, which culminated in the recent…

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Feinstein researchers share work with Tufts Nutrition Council
October 14, 2016

On Friday, October 14, 2016 Dan Maxwell, Anastasia Marshak, and Merry Fitzpatrick discussed recent Feinstein research projects and findings with the Tufts Nutrition Council. Anastasia discussed findings from an impact…

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Book on Somalia Famine receives high praise from LSE
September 28, 2016

On September 23, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) published a review of Famine in Somalia: Competing Imperatives, Collective Failures, 2011 – 12. The book, edited by Feinstein’s acting…

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World Peace Foundation hosts panel on civilian self-protection and humanitarian response
September 26, 2016

On September 23, the World Peace Foundation hosted a panel titled “Staying safe in armed conflict contexts: What do crisis-affected people prioritize and does it work? Do humanitarian actors and others take…

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Fall classes are starting soon!
September 2, 2016

Classes are starting soon, and Feinstein faculty, researchers, and visiting fellows will be bringing their vast experiences to the classroom! Look below for the list of courses. Friedman and Fletcher…

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Dan Maxwell assumes role of acting director
August 1, 2016

The Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy’s Dean Mozaffarian announced the appointment of Daniel Maxwell, Professor of Nutrition, as the acting director of the Feinstein International Center. Over his…

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Feinstein participation at WHS highlighted by Friedman School
June 21, 2016

On June 20, 2016, Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy featured the following article: The world is witnessing the highest level of human suffering resulting from conflict and…

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Dan Maxwell discusses Somalia Famine with Nutrition Magazine
June 9, 2016

In an interview with the Friedman School of Nutrition and Science Policy’s Nutrition Magazine, Dan Maxwell explains why the 2011 famine in Somalia did not have to happen. Read the…

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Dan Maxwell addresses the announcements plenary at WHS
May 29, 2016

On May 24, 2015 Dan Maxwell addressed the announcements plenary at the World Humanitarian Summit. The plenary was a forum that ran parallel to the main plenary at the summit…

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Feinstein faculty sign humanitarian scholars commitment at WHS
May 25, 2016

Dan Maxwell, Helen Young, and Antonio Donini joined the more than 60 scholars present at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) and signed the Statement of Commitments from Humanitarian Scholars at…

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Feinstein faculty participate in the World Humanitarian Summit
May 10, 2016

The first ever World Humanitarian Summit took place in Istanbul, Turkey on May 23-24, 2016. The summit aimed to set a forward-looking agenda for humanitarian action that addresses future humanitarian…

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Dan Maxwell discusses his recent book about the Somalia Famine
April 27, 2016

Dan Maxwell recently discussed his book, Somalia Famine: Competing Imperatives, Collective Failures 2011-2012, on several occasions.  In his remarks at Tufts, he noted that “while Somalia may be considered old…

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Dan Maxwell discusses upcoming World Humanitarian Summit
April 8, 2016

The World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) will be held in Istanbul May 22 – 24, 2016.  Hailed as a “once in a generation” opportunity, the WHS must come to grips with…

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Feinstein Research featured at the World Conference on Humanitarian Studies
March 8, 2016

Two Feinstein/Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC) research projects were presented at the World Conference on Humanitarian Studies: Teddy Atim helped organize the “Gender, Sexuality and Violence in Humanitarian Crises” panel….

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Feinstein International Center faculty course offerings – Spring 2016
January 20, 2016

The spring semester has begun at The Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and Feinstein International Center Faculty…

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Dan Maxwell, Rachel Gordon and SLRC colleagues release new Working Paper on South Sudan
May 28, 2015

Dr. Dan Maxwell, Rachel Gordon and their colleagues on the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC) project have just released a new working paper on questions and challenges raised by a…

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Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance students present capstone projects
May 7, 2015

On May 7, 2015, two students of the Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance (MAHA) program presented their capstone projects. Lulwa al-Khilani presented a thesis titled “Displaced and Stateless: Palestinian…

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