Mohamad Al Asmar was appointed Director of the Middle East Academy Centre as of November 1st 2017.
What is your background?
I join the Humanitarian Leadership Academy from Save the Children International, having worked in the Middle East region for the past 8 years.
I am a humanitarian aid worker specialising in humanitarian emergency responses, covering major political and humanitarian contexts. Lastly, I was deployed as the team leader for the Libya Response with Save the Children, responsible for the overall leadership and set-up of the response operations from Tunisia.
I progressively held several senior management and leadership roles with Save the Children with a specific focus on the Syria crisis, including leading the cross-border operations into Southern Syria with the Middle East Regional office as the Southern Syria Programme Director and before that as the Programme Operations and Advocacy Director in Jordan, responsible for the direction and field implementation in camps and host communities.
I worked on advocacy, policy change and partnerships, particularly on child rights, with a background in communications and advocacy having studied at the American University in Cairo and worked on a regional project covering Palestine, Lebanon and Yemen with Save the Children.
I’m from Palestine and enjoy football and tennis.
Why the Humanitarian Leadership Academy?
There are 8 ongoing conflicts according to the Global Conflict Tracker, 3 of which are unchanging in status and 5 are in worsening situation. The humanitarian situation in Syria remains volatile; after more than five years of conflict, there are over four million Syrian refugees in the region and counting. Elsewhere, violence and instability are triggering new waves of displacement.
The Middle East region is witnessing unprecedented levels of human suffering and vulnerability, whereas 0.4 % of international humanitarian funding was channelled directly to local and national NGOs.
The mounting cost of humanitarian aid, donor fatigue, and deteriorating security conditions are also threatening the ability of humanitarian organisations to effectively respond to crises in the region. At a structural level, the sector suffers from often inadequate capacity-strengthening of local actors. This region is one of the most youthful, with very high unemployment rates.
This is a fertile ground for both learning and engagement in the aid sector in particular, as it is becoming a big employer in the region with its diverse chronic crises.
I am from the region and as a humanitarian, I fully understand the gaps and challenges facing other humanitarians or humanitarians to be hindering employment and career progression in the sector.
What are the gaps in the learning and capacity strengthening areas found in your region?
A few studies were conducted at a global level in addition to one just recently finished by the Middle East Centre in relation to the Syria crisis. All indicated that the following:
1- Language gaps in available training
2- Poor contextualisation and Arabisation
3- Financial and security barriers to learning
4- Lack of Arabic-speaking high quality trainers
5- Inadequate publicly-available information
How shall you overcome the gaps?
The Middle East Academy Centre will support local humanitarian actors and improve the access to, and quality of, humanitarian knowledge and learning.
The Centre will achieve this through supporting local organisations and communities to overcome capacity barriers to better fulfil their role as leaders in humanitarian and development action in the Middle East. The Academy will always keep crisis-affected people and communities at the centre of everything it does.
What are your plans for 2018?
Operating from Jordan, we are establishing a networked presence in the Middle East region. Engaging with various organisations across the humanitarian, government, learning, and corporate fora, we shall create collaborations across the region to generate and aggregate good contextualised content in Arabic responding to the needs of humanitarians. The Centre covers in its engagement and outreach activities the Levant and the GCC, yet the learning coverage is targeting all Arabic speakers globally.
We shall focus on creating a roster of Arabic-speaking trainers, mentors and coaches from the region. We also plan to spread best practice and knowledge of what works so that humanitarian aid is more effective and has much greater impact. We plan to identify innovative approaches in humanitarian learning that can be incubated and brought to scale meeting the current needs.
Welcome Mohamad to the Academy!