CMES is pleased to present the 2017 Hilda B. Silverman Memorial Lecturer
Former Country Director, Save the Children, Syria
Martha Myers has lived and worked in the Middle East for the better part of the last four decades. Although she has worked in Oman, Yemen, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt, most of her focus has been on Palestine and, since 2011, Syria. While her interests have evolved over the years, she has an enduring interest in the question of justice and governance at all levels in the region.
Martha has been a Country Director for CARE and for Save the Children in Palestine and Syria respectively. She was also the Director for Relief and Social Services at UNRWA with oversight of the regional portfolio that provides food and cash assistance as well as social services. She was a Democracy and Governance Team Leader for USAID in Palestine, Malawi, and Egypt. She has been actively involved in humanitarian coordination, the elected Chair of the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) in Palestine and the co-Chair of the NGO Forum for humanitarian agencies working cross-border in Syria from southern Turkey.
Her work with international non-governmental organizations, local NGOs, the UN, and donors has provided Ms. Myers with a diverse and in-depth view of how international assistance to fragile and conflict-affected countries works – and how it doesn’t work. One of her concerns with the aid system is that despite decades of apparent commitment to allowing beneficiaries, communities, and countries to take control of the agenda, empowering local civil society and including groups likely to be marginalized from the discussion and decisions – such as women, minorities, and the disabled -- very little has changed. Despite talk of south-south agendas, the global north and its citizens continue to dominate the aid agenda and assistance delivery methodologies and targets.
Together with other experienced practitioners, Ms. Myers has recently founded a non-profit, Eye to the Future, which will attempt to address some of the glaring inequities and model ways of working that improve the ability of host national groups to set the agenda. Eye to the Future will work with communities impacted by conflict in the Middle East, particularly, although not exclusively, with young people.
Related to her work to improve the development prospects and address emergencies and humanitarian need in the region – and the question of importance of understanding and respecting context in order to program effectively – Martha has always seen gender as a focus. As with aid agendas and assistance delivery methodologies, the address of gender issues in the Middle East and mainstreaming gender have often failed to recognize local contexts and the necessity of pathways that are responsive to community priorities.
Through writing and speaking, Martha works to convey a better appreciation of the Middle East and its people than that portrayed in popular stereotypes and mainstream media.
Click here for more about the Hilda B. Silverman lecture series.
Contact: Liz Flanagan