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Humanitarian Leadership Academy: transforming crisis response

A Save the Children aid worker in the response to Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.
A Save the Children aid worker in the response to Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

Humanitarian crises are becoming more frequent, more widespread and more complex. Mass urbanisation, population growth and climate change are combining to increase the risk of hundreds of millions of lives every year.

These problems aren’t going to go away. And responding when disaster strikes, while vital, is only part of the picture – we can only do so much, especially when global spending on emergency relief has stagnated in recent times.

More than ever before, the world needs to think of new ways to ensure that there are people on the ground who can help communities prepare for an emergency and deal with its aftermath.

A unique initiative

The Humanitarian Leadership Academy, which launches today in London, will be a central pillar in the effort to make this happen.

It will train 100,000 aid workers from more 50 countries, empowering a new generation of humanitarian leaders and responders who can act quickly and expertly when disaster strikes where they live.

The first academy of its kind, it has the potential to transform humanitarian response.

A first step

We’ll be hosting the academy’s hub in London, which will be chaired by former UN head of humanitarian affairs and emergency relief Jan Egeland.

A global consortium of aid organisations has also lent its backing the initiative, with the UK Department for International Development contributing an initial £20m funding.

This is only a first step though: later this year, we’ll be opening up centres in Kenya and the Philippines and, by 2020, we aim to have 10 centres up and running.

Each will offer classroom and virtual training for people in the surrounding regions, helping ensure a fast response following a disaster in the region that’s tailored to each community’s unique needs.

Transforming the system

Our Director of Emergencies, Gareth Owen, who’s been working on this project since 2007, says: “This is potentially one of the most transformational projects I have been involved in.

“It is based on the recognition that many studies of humanitarian disasters and emergencies point to leadership and decision-making as the critical factor.”

Save the Children chief executive, Justin Forsyth saw the impact an approach like this can have first-and when he visited the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan, where the relief effort was supported by graduates of our Humanitarian Leadership programme.

He’s in no doubt of the academy’s potential: “If we are to save more lives in some of the toughest places in the world we need to train and support local people themselves to become the humanitarian workers and volunteers of the future.

“The academy will do this by bringing together an extraordinary and unique coalition of actors to train and share best practice, transforming the humanitarian system,” he said.

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