How did you start with NOHA?
Almost ten years ago I started atthe Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict (IFHV) at Bochum Universitywhere the NOHA programme is hosted. In the early stage of my post I was notengaged in NOHA. However throughout the years I became more involved with NOHA,starting teaching and then taking the role as coordinator of NOHA Bochum. OnceNOHA was awarded the Erasmus Mundus in 2004, I got even more engaged and in2005 I took over the Erasmus Mundus coordination for the NOHA programme at Bochum university. In 2007I was appointed the NOHA director by Professor Fischer, the academic directorof the IFHV who currently is on academic leave.
What comes to your mind while thinking of your years working in the NOHA programme?
First of all I think of professionalism as well as young and engagedminds. The commitment for human principles and the enormous responsibilities thateach of us has for those affected by disasters, I believe is of utmostimportance. Here NOHA aims to make a difference by educating people accordingto ethical and international humanitarian standards and constantly conveyingthe sensitivity to understand how complex humanitarian work is.
What are the top qualities that you consider essential for any humanitarian worker to develop?
I would not want to rank any top qualities; rather I see that a set ofdifferent qualifications and competencies are required to perform as best aspossible. To give an example: Those who are working in the field of internationalhumanitarian action undoubtedly need to know well the respective interculturalsetting, to understand the human diversity and to show the sensibility that everysituation is unique. Humanitarian workers must be able to analyse the contextand design in relation to other professions in order to find the most appropriateway of addressing problems. I also see the importance of strong leadership andmanagement qualities and to adhere to international standards, as for example,the Sphere standards and other quality initiatives. I see a clear value inhaving a set of qualities, including a mix of academic skills, practical andpersonal skills
What advice would you give to new graduates to last as a humanitarian worker?
The first advice I would give to NOHA graduates is to get into the worklife. This is why the NOHA programme values so much the possibility for internships,which is essential part of the third semester. This unique opportunity should bothbe seen as a link and an entry point from the NOHA programme into the humanitarianworld. I do think that NOHA equips new graduates quite well with thosecompetencies that are required by and needed in a professional setting.
Have you identified some specific challenges for new humanitarian to find jobs?
I would say that academic formation and qualification is of tremendous importance.Once being in the working life personal abilities become increasingly importantespecially in regard to the ability to translate those qualifications andacademic potential into concrete ation in the work field.
What main problems have you encountered in teaching humanitarian action in a more "academic" way?
One of the main challenges is to raise awareness for humanitarian issues ingeneral and humanitarian action in particular. There are many confusing picturesin minds and existing ideas of what humanitarian work actually instils. Since humanitarianaction is very practical it sometimes can be difficult to find answers to manyof the complex questions that rise during the NOHA programme. For example, in anacademic setting we use certain indicators to find the root cause to aconflict. But what becomes very clear in the day to day work in thehumanitarian field is that the root cause can not be easily isolated and thisis essential to convey to new NOHA students.
Can you see results in the humanitarian world because of the increased professionalism as a result of the NOHA programme and similar educations?
Oh, certainly! Over the years we have seen a change in many ways. Today, NOHAis in the frontline and one of the main drivers that puts professionalism,education and training on the humanitarian agenda. We can see an increasingcommitment to professionalism in the way that organizations are becoming moreand more accountable to both beneficiaries and donors, while they followcertain standards as e.g. Sphere, HAP order People in Aid – to name only a few.In order to increase accountability I believe it is important to enhance andoffer more training opportunities and to work towards a culture of life long learningin humanitarian action.
What do you think will be the main challenge for the sector in the upcoming decade?
We all need to find a commitmenttowards the Millennium Development Goals and work towards reducing poverty sinceit is one of the root causes that trigger many humanitarian problems around theglobe. We also see that the climate change nexus needs to become a substantialpart in humanitarian action while mainstreaming Disasters Risk Reduction (DRR)in programmes and projects.
Can you tell us about a country that has particularly marked you? Please elaborate on both professional and personal aspects.
There is no single country that particularly marked my interest. From myprofessional background the African continent has aroused my interest as it revealsmany the mentioned challenges human mankind is facing today. As for example theongoing climate change that might lead sooner or later to an increased desertificationand water stress will certainly have repercussion in migration and potential conflict.And the growing trend to massive urbanization will bring along new challengesin terms of mega-citiescreating new obstacles on how to care for people's rights and vital needs.
What will you mostly miss not being at Bochum University?
First and foremost I will certainly missthe day-to-day work with the NOHA-students. Since I have never pursued astudent-professor role I have had a great exchange with the students. I imaginethat sometimes I will miss the academic discourse and exchange from studentsand co-workers.
Do you have anything else you would like to add?
Those who know me, will know that I willbe engaged in NOHA, whether it is on teaching, in NOHA driven projects,refresher courses for humanitarian workers, or in trainings in line with the initiativeto build a European Humanitarian Voluntary Aid Corps (EVHAC). I do not like towork on the discrepancy of academia and work field. I believe it is of mostimportance to link these two "arenas" to enhance the overall quality of internationalhumanitarian action. This would be a tremendous step forward in the professionalismand I believe that NOHA with its spirit will contribute to bridge this gap.