HomeThe CentreEvents 2021 Humanitarian Leadership Conference: Who are the humanitarians?

The people we don’t see.

The voices we don’t hear.

Who are the real humanitarians?

A pandemic, a climate crisis, and a global movement for racial equality, freedom, justice and the end of white supremacy. The consequences of inaction have never been more dangerous or more real.

The 2021 Humanitarian Leadership Conference was part of the global transition from rhetoric to action. More than 1000 delegates from across 80 different countries came together to determine where change is needed and what a reshaping of the humanitarian ecosystem might looks like, from the actors involved and ways of working to the very definition of what constitutes a humanitarian crisis.

The Conference challenged traditional humanitarian systems, actors and perceptions through the following sub-themes:

  • Decolonising the humanitarian ecosystem
  • Leadership in a world of upheaval and crisis
  • Transformative ways of working
  • The political economy of aid and solidarity.

A jam-packed digital program

The 2021 Humanitarian Leadership Conference featured two days of panels, workshops and presentations that challenged, explored and developed a new dialogue and understanding around the real humanitarians and how we can approach current challenges through systemic change.

The event was powered through Delegate Connect, a dedicated platform to create a seamless, virtual experience from anywhere in the world. Registered delegates have access to the online platform in order to re-visit presentations on demand, access resources and network with fellow participants.

Please keep checking this page for conference videos and wrap-ups.

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Who are the humanitarians?

The 2021 Humanitarian Leadership Conference critically challenged traditional humanitarian systems, actors and perceptions through the following sub-themes:

Decolonising the humanitarian ecosystem

Constructing an anti-racist and decolonised humanitarian system. Shifting power dynamics; dismantling colonialism in the humanitarian system; systemic racism and, specifically racism within the ‘aid’ system; reconceptualising the role of affected communities in humanitarian response; reimagining the role of international NGOs; wrestling with concepts of neutrality and impartiality.

Leadership in a world of upheaval and crisis

The impacts of climate change, pandemics, the Black Lives Matter movement, and protracted crises on our understanding of what constitutes a humanitarian crisis; current and future events are forcing systemic change – humanitarians are radically re-thinking who they are, how they work and how they should lead, or if they should lead at all.

Transformative ways of working

The devolution of power and funding to local organisations, governments and communities; new models of humanitarian financing, including anticipatory crisis financing, impact investment, social enterprise models; the impact of technology and development of innovative solutions; and unpacking the ‘triple nexus’ between humanitarianism, development, and peace; understanding the private sector role and engagement beyond the traditional humanitarian sector.

The political economy of aid and solidarity

What does genuine solidarity and movement building look like when we examine the root political causes of humanitarian crisis including global governance structures? Can power be devolved in solidarity without addressing the political economy of the aid system? Reconfiguring where leadership lies in humanitarian preparedness and response – including ethics, accountability, politics, participation, role of affected communities and governance.

View the program and register now

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Keynote Speakers

  • Dr Danny Sriskandarajah

    Chief Executive Officer, Oxfam Great Britain (UK)

    Dr Danny Sriskandarajah has been Chief Executive Officer of Oxfam Great Britain since January 2019. Prior to that he had been Secretary General of CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, for six years. He has previously been Director General of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Interim Director of the Commonwealth Foundation and held various posts at the Institute for Public Policy Research. Danny is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Global Public Goods in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. From 2018 to 2019 he was a member of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, co-chaired by Jack Ma and Melinda Gates, and from 2015 to 2016 a member of the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Finance. He has been a Trustee of the Baring Foundation, Comic Relief, and International Alert, and a member of the Lead Group of Scaling Up Nutrition.

  • Lina Sergie Attar

    Founder and CEO, Karam Foundation (Syria/US)

    Lina Sergie Attar is founder and CEO of Karam Foundation. She is a Syrian-American architect and writer from Aleppo. Named one of 50 Women Groundbreakers Changing the World in 2020 by Worth Magazine, her articles and essays have been published in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Foreign Policy, Politico, The Atlantic, and BBC. She has appeared on CNN, NBC News, BBC News, Huffington Post, NPR, and other media outlets. Lina has spoken about the Syrian humanitarian crisis at schools, universities, and institutions including RISD, Harvard, University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern University, The New School, Phillips Exeter Academy, King’s Academy in Jordan, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, New America, the Aspen Institute, and others. Lina is a co-founder of the How Many More? project, serves as Chair of the Board of Directors of The Syria Campaign, and is a non-resident fellow at New America.

  • Arbie Baguios

    Founder, Aid Re-imagined (Philippines)

    Arbie Baguios is a humanitarian and development professional, and founder of Aid Re-imagined, an initiative that helps usher the evolution of aid towards effectiveness and justice through an interdisciplinary lens. He is also a Fellow at IARAN, a collaborative hub of humanitarian professionals who provide independent foresight and strategic analysis to humanitarian ecosystem actors. Having worked for global organisations including ActionAid, Save the Children, the Red Cross and UNICEF, Arbie has experience in humanitarian response, programme management, policy, strategy, and research. Originally from the Philippines, Arbie is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Ateneo de Manila University. Arbie has a specific interest in evidence-based policy, complexity and systems thinking, and decolonising development and humanitarian aid.

  • Heba Aly

    Director, The New Humanitarian

    A multimedia journalist by training, Heba spent one decade reporting from conflict zones in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia before moving into management. Her work for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Christian Science Monitor, Bloomberg News and The New Humanitarian, among others, took her to places like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Chad and Libya; and she received a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting for her work in northern Sudan. Heba has worked with The New Humanitarian since 2007, including as field correspondent and Middle East Editor, and played a key role in planning and executing IRIN’s spin-off from the UN to become an independent newsroom. Her recent TEDx Talk —‘Stop Eating Junk News’—drives home the importance of responsible journalism from crisis zones. She is a regular commentator on humanitarian policy in her published work, in governmental briefings and at conferences around the world.

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