Answering the Tough Questions 1: humanitarian solutions vs. political solutions

I read an article today in the New York Times with Filippo Grandi, the commissioner general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN agency created for Palestinian refugees. Grandi makes several important points throughout the article, but I nearly missed his best message when I skimmed quickly over the end. The last line of the piece says,

“‘We need to keep sounding this warning,” Mr. Grandi said. “A political solution needs to be found.'”

This is a terrific message and it brings me to my first post in a series (hope I’m not setting expectations too high for myself here!) on answering the tough questions. As an advocacy and communications professional, I constantly face tough questions about the work of the organization I’m representing. Why did this happen? Why didn’t you prevent it? What are you doing to help? Why is this issue you’re telling me about important? Continue reading

When the humanitarian worker becomes the story

I heard an interview this morning on National Public Radio with the World Food Programme’s regional emergency coordinator for Syria. He had a compelling voice and a lot of empathy, plus good legitimacy when it was mentioned that he was based in Syria even before the crisis broke out.

But the funny thing about the interview was that the key message, and indeed the story headline online, was “risks increase for humanitarian aid workers in Syria.”

I was cooking lunch when I heard it, but it sure did get my attention. Since when do humanitarian aid workers talk about ourselves to the press?

We all know that humanitarian workers face tremendous risks in the field. I’m not debating that point whatsoever. But is it good communications practice to make those risks the point of an interview? Continue reading