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About the conference

Humanitarian Leadership and the Future of Humanitarian Action

The 2019 Asia Pacific Humanitarian Leadership Conference brought together leading humanitarian thinkers from around the world for three days of plenary sessions, panels, presentations and networking opportunities.

Participants critically reflected on the challenges facing good leadership in the humanitarian space and the future of humanitarian action in the Asia Pacific and fragile states.

The key themes that the conference explored were:

  • Humanitarian leadership in a shifting system
  • The future of humanitarian action
  • Climate change and leadership
  • Localisation

The program included over 25 separate sessions where delegates heard from over 60 international and national speakers. Our keynote speakers presented in morning plenaries, and the afternoon sessions were held across four breakout rooms.

Keynote Speakers

Our keynote speakers were:

  • Per Heggenes – CEO, IKEA Foundation
  • Degan Ali  – Executive Director, Adeso and founder of NEAR
  • Dr Hugo Slim – Head of Policy, International Committee of the Red Cross; and
  • Lan Mercado – Asia Regional Director, Oxfam

Find out more about our conference keynote speakers in the speakers tab.

Our attendees were humanitarian practitioners, academics, researchers and stakeholders from government, NGOs and the private sector. This was a truly international conference and our delegate list included nationals from over 25 countries.

Networking events

Networking opportunities included a welcome reception, a farewell afternoon tea; and the official conference dinner on Thursday night under the iconic Spire at the Arts Centre Melbourne.


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Keynote Speakers

  • Mr Per Heggenes

    Chief Executive Officer, IKEA Foundation (Sweden)

    Per Heggenes is the CEO of the IKEA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of INGKA Foundation, the owner of the IKEA Group of companies. As CEO, Per sets and drives the Foundation’s funding and innovation strategies, and is a tireless advocate for children living in some of the world’s poorest communities. Since becoming the Foundation’s first CEO in 2009, Per has presided over the Foundation’s evolution into a global, grant-making philanthropy that funds programs in more than 35 countries. In 2012, Per was appointed to the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children by UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who created the commission to increase access to lifesaving medicines and health supplies for the world’s most vulnerable people. Previously, Per was the Global Head of Corporate Affairs for the shipping and logistics company Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics. Before joining WWL, he was the UK President and CEO for the global public relations firm Burson-Marsteller and Co-CEO for Europe. He also held different global roles for Burson-Marsteller based in their New York headquarters. Per served in the Norwegian Air Force and graduated from the University of Augsburg in Germany with a “Diplom Oekonom” (MBA).

  • Ms Degan Ali

    Executive Director, Adeso (Kenya)

    Adeso recognised early on the interconnection between humanitarian crisis and environmental degradation and climate change and is a leader in advocating for strong policies to reduce the negative impact of environmental degradation and climate change, and environmental justice, both in Somalia and around the globe. Adeso also pioneered cash transfers as the most effective, timely, and dignified means of delivering aid to vulnerable populations. Under Degan Ali’s leadership, Adeso has become a pioneer in conducting innovative humanitarian and development programming. Degan Ali is a passionate advocate at the global level on the mainstreaming of cash as the primary response mechanism to humanitarian crisis. She sees cash as not only an efficient and less costly response tool, but also as a more dignified aid response that gives power to affected people to make decisions based on their needs. Degan believes that cash transfers have many positive multiplier effects including boosting economies in affected communities. Under Degan’s leadership, the first large-scale cash transfer program led by NGOs was successfully implemented in Somalia in response to the famine of 2011. This paved the way for the large-scale use of cash transfers in the Syrian crisis and continues to grow as the primary response tool around the globe, including the rise of new technology to digitise monetary transfers and the use of mobile money infrastructure. Degan founded NEAR, the first global south civil society network advocating for the transformation of humanitarian and development aid architecture, which launched in Istanbul at the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016. In more recent years, Degan’s advocacy efforts focus on challenging the power dynamics of humanitarian response and creating equitable solutions, such as the direct financing of local actors in the global south.

  • Hugo Slim.

    Dr Hugo Slim

    Head of Policy, International Committee of the Red Cross, (Switzerland)

    Before joining ICRC in 2015, Hugo was Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict (ELAC) at the University of Oxford where he led research on humanitarian ethics and the protection of civilians. Hugo has combined a career between academia and practice. He was Chief Scholar at the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue from 2003–07 and Reader in International Humanitarianism at Oxford Brookes University from 1994–2003. Between 1983 and 1994, Hugo worked for Save the Children and the United Nations in Morocco, Sudan, Ethiopia, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Bangladesh. He received his PhD in humanitarian ethics from Oxford Brookes University in 2002. His most recent books are Humanitarian Ethics: A Guide to the Morality of Aid in War and Disaster (2015 Hurst/OUP) and Killing Civilians: Method, Madness and Morality in War (2007 Hurst/OUP).

  • Lan Mercado

    Ms Lan Mercado

    Asia Regional Director for Oxfam

    Lan Mercado is an activist and is the Asia Regional Director for Oxfam. She oversees a portfolio that spans 14 countries and multi-country and regional programmes including advocacy and campaigns. In Asia, Oxfam is focused on addressing inequalities and vulnerabilities in a region that boasts of economic growth. Under her leadership, Oxfam is implementing a future-oriented strategy for an inclusive, sustainable and resilient region. Lan returned to Asia after serving as Oxfam’s Deputy Director for Global Campaigns. Prior to this, she was Country Director in the Philippines and served as Advisor to the ASEAN on disaster management and emergency Response. For many years before joining Oxfam, Lan held various positions in Philippine consumer groups, human rights and anti-dictatorship movements, and an international women’s NGO. She practiced as a journalist and radio broadcaster. Now back in her home country, Lan has picked up her involvement in Philippine social movements. Lan has a degree in mass communication and pursued post-graduate studies on sustainable development. She had won an award for investigative journalism. She was recently recognized by the University of the Philippines as a Distinguished Alumna and conferred the inaugural Glory Award by the UP College of Mass Communication for social advocacy and leadership in the development sector.

  • Ms Akuol Garang

    Refugee Advocate (Australia) - Conference dinner guest speaker

    Akuol Garang is a Melbourne-based refugee and human rights advocate. As a Registered Migration Agent, Akuol provides advice and assistance in the preparation and lodgement of Australian visa applications. While studying towards her Masters in Human Rights Law, Akuol also volunteers for a number of organisations, including the Asylum Seeker Resource Center where she advocates for the Sudanese-Australian community, multiculturalism and for people seeking asylum in Australia. Akuol and her parents escaped her country of birth, resulting in 11 years of her childhood being spent in refugee camp.

All presenters are listed below A-Z by first name.

(Last updated 3 June 2019)

Plenary Sessions

Andrew Henck University of San Diego (USA) | Plenary 4
Daniel McAvoy Centre for Humanitarian Leadership | Plenary 4
Dr Ghassan Elkahlout Doha Institute for Graduate Studies (Qatar) | Plenary 2
Judy Slatyer Australian Red Cross (Australia) | Plenary 6
Lars Peter Nissen ACAPS (France) | Plenary 2
Sandie Walton-Ellery ACAPS (Australia) | Plenary 2

Breakout Sessions

Amaia Sotés InsideOut Adventure Ltd (UK) | Session C
Alice Banfield Centre for Humanitarian Leadership (Australia) | Session D
Ancilla Bere Oxfam (Indonesia) | Session J
Andrew Bidnell InsideOut Consulting (UK) | Session C
Annie Ingram Australian Red Cross (Australia) | Session J
Aradhana Gurung World Vision International (Nepal) | Session F
Belinda Lauria Anglican Overseas Aid (Australia) | Session R
Caelin Briggs World vision Australia (Australia) | Session M
Chandan Kumar Save the Children (India) | Session H
Clare Condillac Bongo HR (Thailand) | Session H
Claire Beck World Vision International | Session E
Cornelia Walther | Session Q
Cris Birzer The University of Adelaide (Australia) | Session G
Dan McClure Practical Clarity (USA) | Session A
Daniel McAvoy Centre for Humanitarian Leadership (Australia) | Plenary 4
Dino Argianto Oxfam (Indonesia) | Session J
Elsa Carnaby Oxfam (Australia) | Session B, Session J
Ethel George Anglican Church of Melanesia | Session R
Claire Beck World Vision International (Australia) | Session E
Emily Chapman
UNSW Canberra (Australia) | Session L
Emily Dwyer Edge Effect (Australia) | Session B
Emma Watton Lancaster University Management School (UK) | Session E
Eri Tayama Columbia University (USA) | Session E
Ethel George Anglican Church of Melanesi (Vanuatu) | Session R
Gerald S. Brown Tufts University (USA) | Session O
Gopinath Parayil The Blue Yonder (India) | Session J
Greg Barton Deakin University (Australia) | Session O
Helen Martin Centre for Humanitarian Leadership (Australia) | Session N
Howard Harris University of South Australia (Australia) | Session Q
Isikeli Vulavou Rainbow Pride Foundation | Session B
Jade Legrand Save the Children (Sweden) | Session F
Jason Brown Australian Humanitarian Partnership (Australia) | Session I
Jeevika Vivekananthan Centre for Humanitarian Leadership (Australia) | Session H
Jeremy Wellard ICVA (Thailand) | Session I and Plenary 6
Jessica Lees Humanitarian Advisory Group (Australia) | Session I
Joanne Durham Queensland University of Technology (Australia) | Session K
Joelson Anere Department of National Planning and Monitoring (Papua New Guinea) | Session B
Juhi Sonrexa Plan International Australia (Australia) | Session G & Session O
Karen Flanagan AM Save the Children (Australia) | Session N
Katherine Phillips Plan International Australia (Australia) | Session G
Dr Kristen Beek University of Technology Sydney (Australia) | Session K
Dr Laarnie Calindas Philippine Military Academy (Philippines) | Session L
Lana Wolff, Edge Effect | Session B
Lazarus Kenni
Humanitarian Advisory Group (Australia) | Session N
Leo Cusack Aspen Medical (Australia) | Session N
Louise McCosker Australian Red Cross | Session I
Masood Ul Mulk Sarhad Rural Support Programme (Pakistan) | Session D
Meg Northrope DFAT (Australia) | Session L
Melanie Book Centre for Humanitarian Leadership (Australia) | Session F
Melita Smilovic HOST International (Australia) | Session A
Mike McCusker Invisible children (US) | Session A 
Dr Mirwais Khan
International Committee of the Red Cross (Pakistan) | Session G
Mohammed Abul Kalam | Session C
Naima Weibel Centre of Competence on Humanitarian Negotiation (Switzerland) | Session E
Nazanin Zadeh-Cummings Centre for Humanitarian Leadership (Australia) | Session O
Nils von Kalm Anglican Overseas Aid (Australia) | Session R
Nora Charif Chefchaouni Save the Children (Australia) |  Session M
Paul Bailey Fire & Rescue NSW (Australia) | Session L
Peter Zwide Khumalo | Session S
Pip Henty Humanitarian Advisory group (Australia) | Session B
Rachel Coghlan Centre for Humanitarian Leadership (Australia) | Session K
Rahmawati Husein Muhammadiyah Disaster Management Centre (Indonesia) | Session I
Raymond Lopinski Green Plain Promotion Ltd (Hong Kong) | Session S
Rebecca Barber Centre for Humanitarian Leadership (Australia) | Session K
Dr Saima Ahmad Monash University (Australia) | Session G
Samantha Davis Save the Children (UK) | Session P
Sonia Brockington Centre for Humanitarian Leadership (Australia) | Session K
Spyros Schismenos Western Sydney University (Australia) | Session F
Subadhra Rai National University of Singapore (Singapore) | Session M
Subhashis Roy Lutheran World Relief (India) | Session C
Tanya Stelmach School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University (Australia) | Session N
Tobias Bienz University of Gallen (Switzerland) | Session A
Uma Nepal Muna Foundation on Nepal (Nepal) | Session H
Vandra Harris RMIT University (Australia) | Session L, Session Q
Veronica Bell Lancaster University Management School (UK) | Session E

Plenary & Breakout Session Chairs

Degan Ali Adeso (Kenya) | Session D
Hugo Slim Committee of the Red Cross  (Geneva) | Session G
Jeremy Wellard ICVA (Thailand) | Plenary 6
Kathryn Harries Centre for Humanitarian Leadership (Australia) | Session Q
Lan Mercado Oxfam (Philippines) | Session O
Lauren Harris Save the Children (Australia) | Session L
Lizzie Irvine Save the Children (Australia) | Session K, Session N
Mat Tinkler Save the Children and CHL CEC (Australia) | Plenary 1
Melanie Book Centre for Humanitarian Leadership (Australia) | Session A
Nazanin Zadeh-Cummings Centre for Humanitarian Leadership (Australia) | Session B, Session E
Dr Phil Connors Centre for Humanitarian Leadership (Australia) | Plenary 2, Session H, Session M, Plenary 5
Rachel Coghlan Centre for Humanitarian Leadership | Session R
Rebecca Barber Centre for Humanitarian Leadership (Australia) | Session C, Plenary 4
Sophie Perreard Centre for Humanitarian Leadership (Australia) | Session J, Session Q
Steve McDonald Centre for Humanitarian Leadership (Australia) | Session F, Plenary 3



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Final Program

The Final Program (PDF) is now available for downloading here (updated 21 May 19).

Please note that the Final Program may be subject to change without notice. (Updated 3 June 2019)

  • Plenary
  • Breakouts
  • Networking

Registration desk opens | Light breakfast available


Plenary 1:  Welcome Session

Chair – Mat Tinkler – Save the Children Australia and CHL CEC

Boon Wurrung Foundation
Welcome to Country

Prof Jane den Hollander AO – Vice Chancellor, Deakin University
Official Conference Opening

Steve McDonald and Assoc Prof Phil Connors
CHL Directors and Conference Co-Convenors
Opening Address

Degan Ali – Executive Director, Adeso
The Future of Truly Localised Aid: A vision beyond 2020

Morning tea

Plenary 2:  Localisation

Chair – Assoc Prof Phil Connors

Dr Ghassan Elkahlout
(via video link)
Remotely Managed Localisation of Humanitarian Action: Yemen as a case study of disconnection between theory and practice

Sandie Walton-Ellery and Lars Peter Nissen
The Interface Between Localisation and Improving Our Understanding of Humanitarian Needs

Response – Degan Ali; Panel discussion/Q&A


Session A
Transformative Practice

Chair – Melanie Book

Tobias Bienz
Humanitarian Entrepreneurship and Employee Shares

Dan McClure
(via video link)
Solving the Hardest Problems, Together: A framework for working collaboratively

Melita Smilovic & Project Stand Up Youth representative
(via video link)
Creating Opportunities for Refugee Youth to Participate in Designing and Implementing Local Solutions

Michael McCusker
(via video link)
Using HF Radio as a Medium to Prevent and Detect Ebola in Low Resourced, Rural and Geographically Isolated Communities

Session B

Chair – Nazanin Zadeh-Cummings

Pip Henty
Drawing on Diversity – Humanitarian Leadership

Lana Woolf and Isikeli Vulavou
Down by the River: Addressing the rights, needs and strengths of Fijian sexual and gender minorities in disaster risk reduction and humanitarian response

Session C
Climate Change

Chair – Rebecca Barber

Roy Subhashis
Integrated Multi-Year Organisational Preparedness Plan to Combat Humanitarian Crisis

Andrew Bidnell and Amaia Sotés
(via video link)
Extraordinary Times Require Extraordinary Leaders

Session D

Chair – Degan Ali

Masood ul Mulk
(via video link)
Building Local Capacity to Undertake Humanitarian Work: Learning from the experience of Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) in Pakistan

Alice Banfield
When ‘Acts of God’ Strike: Faith responses and leadership in Vanuatu natural disasters


Afternoon tea

Session E
Transformative Practice

Chair – Nazanin Zadeh-Cummings

Eri Tayama
What is the Impact of Psychosocial Support Provided by the Red Cross?

Claire Beck
Improving Quality of Child Friendly Spaces to Strengthen Education and Protection in Humanitarian Settings

Emma Watton and Veronica Bell
GroundHog Day: Using intensive simulations to develop humanitarian leadership capability

Naima Weibel
(via video link)
Creating a community of practice to develop negotiation capabilities of humanitarian practitioners across Asia through critical reflections and experience sharing

Session F
Technology and Data

Chair – Steve McDonald

Aradhana Gurung
Sikka: Working at the intersection of blockchain and field focused humanitarian innovation in Nepal

Spyros Schismenos
Hydropower for Disaster Resilience Applications (HYDRA)

Jade Legrand and Melanie Book
The Political Economy of Humanitarian Data

Session G

Chair – Dr Hugo Slim

Dr Mirwais Khan
Health Care in Danger: Research as a tool for humanitarian action

Juhi Sonrexa and Katherine Phillips
Amplifying the Voices of Adolescent Girls: Changing how data is collected

Cris Birzer
Complexities of Interdisciplinary Research Groups Focusing on the Humanitarian and Development Sectors

Dr Saima Ahmad
Re-invigorating Human Well-being at Work Through Ethical Leadership: An Asia-Pacific study

Session H

Chair – Assoc Prof Phil Connors

Clare Condillac
Localisation: Ready or not? Leading and managing the internal transformative changes implied by localisation

Chandan Kumar
Her Survival in Humanitarian Crisis is Her Message for Resilience

Jeevika Vivekananthan
Pacific Diaspora in Humanitarian Response to Natural Disasters: Motivations, characteristics and humanitarian actions

Uma Nepal
Youth Inclusive Approach to Localisation Agenda


Informal welcome reception | Deakin Downtown

Registration desk opens


Plenary 3:

Chair – Steve McDonald

Per Heggenes – CEO, IKEA Foundation
How We Think About Leadership At the IKEA Foundation

Lan Mercado – Asia Regional Director, Oxfam
Humanitarian Futures for Asia

Morning tea

Plenary 4:  Leadership in a Shifting System

Chair – Rebecca Barber

Andrew Henck
Changing Cultures: Strengthening humanitarian leadership in a VUCA world

Daniel McAvoy
Narratives of Success: Crowding out local leadership?

Response – Lan Mercado and Per Heggenes; Panel discussion/Q&A


Session I
Interactive Panel Session

Facilitated by Humanitarian Advisory Group

Jason Brown
Rahmawati Husein
Jessica Lees
Louise McCosker
Jeremy Wellard

Charting the new norm: finding our feet under local leadership in Sulawesi and Lombok

Session J
Disaster Preparedness

Chair – Sophie Perreard

Annie Ingram
Localisation – A Global Commitment in an Australian Remote Indigenous Context

Gopinath Parayil
Situational Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Innovation During Disasters – The Chekutty Doll Story

Dino Argianto, Ancilla Bere and Elsa Carnaby
Beyond the Partnership Approach

Session K

Chair – Lizzie Irvine

Dr Kristen Beek
Capacity to Deliver Sexual and Reproductive Health in Humanitarian Crises in the Philippines: Lessons on preparedness, governance & localisation

Rachel Coghlan
Remembering the humanity of humanitarian response: The place of compassionate palliative care in conflict settings

Jo Durham
Understanding and Improving the Humanitarian Response to Toxic Remnants of War

Sonia Brockington
Outcomes of Untreated Severe Acute Malnutrition in India: A study of children aged 6-59 months in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan

Session L
Military and Emergency Services

Chair – Lauren Harris

Vandra Harris
Military Humanitarianism: NGO and military perspectives

Emily Chapman
Civil-Military Leadership During Natural Disaster Responses

Dr Laarnie Calindas
Kant’s Categorical Imperative in Military Disaster Response

Paul Bailey and Meg Northrope
Flexible Responses to Humanitarian Disasters in the Indo Pacific Region

Afternoon tea

Session M
The Rohingya Response

Chair – Assoc Prof Phil Connors

Nora Charif Chefchaouni
The Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh: A comparative analysis of the humanitarian action in the field of emergency education

Subadhra Rai
Building Capacity of Rohingya Refugees: Training community mental health practitioners and health champions

Rebecca Barber and Caelin Briggs
Government Leadership in Preventing and Responding to Conflict-Related Humanitarian Crises

Session N
Humanitarian Response  

Chair – Lizzie Irvine

Tanya Stelmach
Carving Space: Why violence against female aid workers matters for the delivery of the Australian Humanitarian Strategy

Lazarus Kenni
Extractives and Emergencies: The Papua New Guinea earthquake response

Leo Cusack
A Private Sector Response in a Conflict Zone: Aspen Medical’s support to the humanitarian crisis in Northern Iraq

Helen Martin and Karen Flanagan AM
Complex Emergencies/Complex Trauma

Session O
Humanitarian Response

Chair – Lan Mercado

Gerald S. Brown
Policy Recommendations From the Implementation of the West Africa Disaster Preparedness Initiative (WADPI)

Greg Barton and Juhi Sonrexa
The Value of INGOs Engaging in Prevention of Violent Extremism

Nazanin Zadeh-Cummings
Humanitarianism in the DPRK: Sanctions and future directions

Session P
Humanitarian Career Continuum

Samantha Davis
Implementing an Economically, Socially and Environmentally Sustainable Professionalised Global Humanitarian Career Continuum

Per Heggenes will be in this session

6.45pm onwards
Conference Dinner | Arts Centre Melbourne

Registration desk opens


Plenary 5: Keynote presentation 

Chair – Assoc Prof  Phil Connors

Dr Hugo Slim – Head of Policy, International Committee of the Red Cross
Leading Big and Small: Balancing scale and detail in humanitarian leadership today

Morning tea

Plenary 6:  Panel Session

Localisation and Complementarity in Different Humanitarian Contexts

Chair – Jeremy Wellard

Judy Slatyer – Australian Red Cross, CEO
Dr Hugo Slim – ICRC, Head of Policy
Degan Ali – Adeso, Executive Director


Session Q

Chair – Kathryn Harries

Howard Harris and Vandra Harris
Humanitarian Ethics 101: On learning ethics by coursework

Cornelia Walther
(via video link)
Compassion 4 Change: Leadership from the inside out

Session R

Chair – Rachel Coghlan

Belinda Lauria and Ethel George
Church Networks and Localisation Practice in the Pacific

Nils Von Kalm
It’s All in the Framing: Religious belief and the call to humanitarian action

Nurhayati Marman, SH. M. Hum
Promoting NU Care and humanitarian Islam to prevent violent extremism religious and state in Indonesia

Session S

Chair – Sophie Perreard

Raymond Lopinski and Edward Chan
Engineers without Borders – Hong Kong – Global Citizenship Program

Peter Zwide Khumalo
Relief Food Aid Organisations and Traditional Leadership Nexus in Empowering Recipients and Improving Delivery


Plenary 7:  Closing Session

Assoc Prof Phil Connors
Closing Remarks

Farewell afternoon tea | Deakin Downtown

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