Humanitarian affairs officer
Working as a humanitarian affairs officer (HAO) with us can be tough but hugely rewarding.
HAOs help Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) to expose the impact that conflict and neglect have on the people we serve and to advocate for them. They also ensure we maintain access to our patients. From carefully building a sensitive advocacy strategy to writing reports on the exclusion of certain communities from medical care, the role of an HAO is incredibly varied.
Our HAOs are usually based in the capital city with frequent travel to our projects, and are responsible for gathering information from all actors involved in the situation they are working in.
They then use this to strategically advise on how MSF operates and communicates in situations that jeopardise our access to patients, our voice and our principles.
The primary job of an HAO is using the ‘witnessing’ component of MSF’s work to advocate for MSF and the people it serves, documenting disasters and conflicts without bias in order to bring the plight of their victims into the public eye.
This can include beneficiaries, other INGOs, UN agencies, MSF staff and parties to the conflict.
The information they gather is then collated, analysed and used to draw up unbiased reports on a wide variety of issues.
These could include: the efficacy of the response of humanitarian actors to a crisis, speaking out about war crimes committed against civilians by armed actors or collecting testimonies from women who have experienced sexual violence due to poor security in displacement camps.
An HAO will be responsible for some or all of the following:
- Participate in the definition and targeting of advocacy messages to raise awareness of medical-humanitarian issues at local/national levels, such as:
- Violence, displacement and protection issues.
- Availability, access, quality of medical assistance
- Principled humanitarian action
- Prepare analysis and advocacy written material for internal and external use (briefings, letters, position papers)
- Develop and maintain relationships with local authorities (state-based and traditional) and communities, UN agencies, and other humanitarian actors and international stakeholders to promote MSF priorities and concerns
- Establish working relationships with relevant local and regional non-state actors, think tanks, academic institutions, human rights organizations to coordinate and time initiatives
- Collaborate with Project Coordinators, the Medical Coordinator, and the Head of Mission to support the development of coherent operational strategies addressing the medical-humanitarian situation
- Perform targeted research and provides data analysis concerning the local context to support projects and inform medical-operational programmatic orientations
- Undertake stakeholders’ analysis (power, resources, and key actors) seeking to provide a better understanding of local dynamics to increase acceptance and improve operational and advocacy responses to populations in need
- Monitor and compile regular updates on humanitarian aid system dynamics (NGO/Donor planning) and interactions with local authorities (both state-based and traditional) to increase the local impact of MSF lobbying in line with its operational plans, regular activities and overall medical-humanitarian advocacy objectives
- Review data collection system already in place at project and mission level
- If needed, design and implement data collection systems with regards to medical and humanitarian issues in order to provide reliable information for the development of both operational and advocacy strategies
- Where appropriate, support the Medical Coordinator with adding a humanitarian affairs/advocacy angle to the design of operational research.
- Lead discussions, trainings, briefings, etc. about MSF principles, international humanitarian law, medical ethics, and advocacy at project level to raise awareness of MSF national and expatriate staff on these topics
Read our guide on the application process for all overseas roles
Academic background to Master level in one of the following fields: anthropology/social/political sciences, law, gender studies, protection
- Training in writing and research in the field of humanitarian affairs
- One year of field experience
- Experience in humanitarian advocacy
- Strong organisational and communication skills
- Excellent interpersonal skills
- Ability to work under pressure to tight deadlines and strong ability to multi-task
- Good understanding of current humanitarian debates and of the dilemma/compromise nature of modern humanitarian interventions
- First-rate writing skills and excellent research / analytical skills
- Willingness to work and travel in unstable security environments
- Fluency in English
We're currently looking for humanitarian affairs officers with good French or Arabic skills.
If you can speak French or Arabic you're much more likely to be accepted onto our register.
Your language level may be tested during the recruitment process.
In their own words
Read first-hand accounts from MSF humanitarian affairs officers in the field
Before you apply
Make sure you read our application process guide for an overview of what to expect when you apply for an overseas role with the UK.
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Apply to be a humanitarian affairs officer
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