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    Discuss your ideas and thoughts with other forum members regarding professional, competency-based training, for humanitarian practitioners in both Australia or overseas.


    Wow what a great couple of readings
    this has challenged a few of my own thoughts good bad and the unqualified, here is me living overseas wanting to do well in areas of development unskilled and my wife who is has done uni degrees in these areas and now with experience.So i guess this is a similar thing when you might say University Education degrees V On the Job Practical experience which of the two is the way to go, well my personal response would be either or ….. both have great outcomes as long as the particular person in these positions are 1.) competent in their role and 2.) always striving to learn understand and achieve better practices and professionalism, if we understand organisations frame works goals, policies and objectives and remain willing to learn and grow within that professionalism will develop.


    Hi Matt, I agree…I think the ELRHA reading is particularly pertinent. I sometimes worry that all this good work regarding humanitarian professionalism is somewhat undone by all the aid cuts over the past few years. I also teach (as Unit Chair) on the Charles Sturt University (CSU) Emergency Management program, EMG 309 (Humanitarian relief). For one exercise we get the students to measure (thru’ self-assessment) their existing competencies against the humanitarian ones as mentioned from about p.34 onwards…interesting ! There are also some useful teaching tips in the reading ‘Teach like a Champion’ in Module 4.4.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 3 months ago by Chris Piper.

    I have no experience in disaster management.
    The executive summary of the ELRHA doc is interesting when it states there is no international core curriculum in training, with often only a Master’s degree on offer. Nothing at the bottom.
    Professionals from medicine, engineering, logistics etc may never have had training in humanitarian work.
    There is a need for an international level certification.
    It makes me wonder whether study should be combined with in the field work, rather than taking a sole academic or in the field route.
    But how can this be done when each cluster has its own requirements?
    Personally I believe that any humanitarian workers need a formal psychological exam before any placement in the field. The extent of the problems and sights seen at disasters may be too much for many to function well, or they may be too individualist to work in a group setting leading to further problems.


    Hi everyone,
    I’m enclosing below some recent information from PHAP – which attempts to address this issue of humanitarian professionalisation. I actually filled in the three surveys named, but found (sorry to say) some of the material a little bland. It would help if they used some clear diagrams like the DRMC/DRR/PMC etc ! Before I ‘paste & copy’ this material, just want to refer Michael B’s last point – about psycho-social issues. Check out the Melbourne-based Mandala Foundation – which offers training in this area. Here’s the PHAP material !

    In June this year, the PHAP membership adopted the association’s new Strategic Framework. Putting this strategy into practice, we are now creating a program that offers something new for the humanitarian sector in the area of professional standards and recognition of competency. As an experienced practitioner in the sector, and a member of the association, your input will be crucial to the development of this program.

    In this e-mail, I would like to introduce PHAP’s new Credentialing Program and some of the process and thinking that led to its creation. I am also attaching a two-pager that outlines the main aspects of the program. In the coming days, we will contact you about the next step in the program’s development, in which we would ask for your input.

    The challenge
    There have long been concerns about capacity issues across the humanitarian sector, including gaps in the understanding and application of key concepts for humanitarian action. In a complex sector, with a greater number and variety of actors and increasing external pressures, the confusion and coordination problems arising from lack of mutual understanding impact the effectiveness of humanitarian action.

    In addition, there have been concerns about professional development offerings specific to the humanitarian sector being of mixed quality, lacking consistency, and lacking in clear progression, leading to duplication and waste of scarce resources for staff development.

    Humanitarian practitioners have long been interested in having ways to both demonstrate their relevant knowledge and skill and raise professional standards in humanitarian action – but most reject the idea of an all-encompassing “certified humanitarian professional” designation as unsuitable to an area as complex and varied as the humanitarian sector. Agencies, too, are keen to have robust external verification that their staff and volunteers possess the required foundational knowledge and know how to apply it in humanitarian contexts, while retaining in-house the role of assessing “soft skills” critical to humanitarian response.
    There is a call for something new. And we know that humanitarian practitioners overwhelmingly wish to have a voice in its development.

    Identifying a flexible and robust solution
    Through extensive environmental scanning and surveying (which you may have participated in earlier this year), as well as a highly collaborative strategic planning process with its members all over the world, PHAP has identified a way forward in this area that promises to meet the sector’s need for credentials that are robust and verifiable, while also being practice-oriented, cross-sector, inclusive, and accessible.

    The concept is a “micro-credentialing” program which identifies essential applied knowledge in specific areas relevant to humanitarian practitioners. It combines two critical aspects:
    1. The program is developed according to the established and rigorous international standard for professional credentials: the ISO/IEC 17024:2012 standard for personnel certification.
    2. To meet the specific needs of the humanitarian sector, instead of a single large certification, the program is designed around the idea of a number of narrower certifications in specific areas of knowledge and skills.
    The ISO standard provides a very strong basis for offering credible credentials, laying out best practice and setting a very high standard for their development. It requires, among other things:
    • That the certification content be based directly on actual field practice and what humanitarian practitioners say they need to know and be able to do;
    • That the assessment be fair, robust, and invigilated for the purpose of verifiability of results;
    • That there be maintenance and re-certification requirements based on how often the needed knowledge and skill for humanitarian practitioners is expected to change over time;
    • That the quality and reliability of the assessment be monitored over time and refreshed as needed; and
    • That the organization offering the certification has a robust governance structure and strong prospects for long-term sustainability.

    The first three specific areas for certification include:
    • Understanding the humanitarian eco-system
    • International legal frameworks for humanitarian action
    • Applying humanitarian principles in practice

    The certifications also, necessarily, are independent from any specific learning program or pathway. This gives individuals the flexibility to prepare for the assessments however they choose – by studying recommended reading and resources, following an intensive course offered by another training provider, or an academic course. It also allows for practitioners who already have the requisite knowledge and skills to take the assessment directly. A self-assessment option provides you with a diagnostic report identifying areas for improvement and helps you determine whether you are ready to take the official invigilated assessment to earn the certification.

    Complementary to organizational standards
    The credentialing program is complementary to organizational-level standards initiatives. It will provide tools that organizations can use to clearly demonstrate that they are meeting their commitments. This is particularly relevant, for example, for Commitment 8 of the Core Humanitarian Standard. It is also a way to improve inclusivity and help promote fair, equitable, and dignified partnerships for humanitarian action, by giving donors greater confidence in local capacity, and to support collaboration among practitioners as peers with a shared humanitarian purpose across organizational and geographic divides.
    We are developing this program in the context of collaboration with CHS Alliance and the Humanitarian Leadership Academy, which have complementary aims related to standards and capacity development, as a program of the Collaboration Center for Recognition of Skills, Experience, and Learning in Humanitarian Action. Financial support for the Center is provided by the Academy.

    We are documenting everything about the process and gathering lessons learned, as well as developing general guidance, to share with other organizations in the humanitarian sector who may wish to establish additional certifications in specific areas, in compliance with the international standard.
    Development process and next steps
    The three certifications are being developed this year, for launch in early 2017.


    Just a couple of other thoughts (and this is a little plug for this online DRM), following on from Michael B’s comments. the idea of the DRM is to provide some humanitarian training for practitioners from a variety of fields, and thus we’re looking at increasing it’s accredited status:
    – For development people (and this the link to the Murdoch Univ Master of Comm Dev)
    – For Emergency Managers (and the link to the Charles Sturt University EM course)
    – For health people (we’re currently awaiting a final decision from a Master of Int. Healthy university provider); Water/WASH (another university); and shelters after disaster (another course !)> If you have any bright ideas or suggestions, please contact me !
    – We’re also looking at accreditation from a south Pacific institution (eg USP); and ones from Singapore and the UK. Again, any input from you guys (USP, Catharine ?) . .


    Very thought-provoking comments and thank you Chris for all your work building our capacity!

    Some organisations, e.g. the Red Cross, ensure all dispatched aid workers receive standardised / overall competency training as well as a handover / etc. more specific to the work they will be undertaking. However, with the diverse array of humanitarian organisations that operate worldwide, there are certainly many challenges to ensuring everyone has the same standardised level of training – particularly given there has been a historical tendency for many to operate in ‘silos’. All things discussed in earlier modules though, before I retread that familiar turf!

    There are some common-ground things that can (or should) be taught to humanitarian workers across all clusters – things like cultural capacity training, dealing with stressful situations, dealing with some common emergencies, etc. It would be difficult to help others if you were unable to help yourself! I’m reminded of an example with the earthquakes in Nepal – an organisation of doctors from the Asia-Pacific dispatched a team of volunteers to provide medical assistance, but a lack of preparation beforehand ensured they rapidly ran out of food and became a further liability in Nepal, draining much-needed resources to be able to sustain basic amenities for themselves (they ended up leaving…).


    Funnily enough I’ve been in contact today with Beasley Intercultural –, which provides some really useful cross-cultural orientation. I was contracted by them to join their team a number of years back when they provided cross-cultural training to the Australian Youth Ambassadors of Development (AYAD) Volunteers in Canberra. Check out their website !!


    This is being written in the week after Tropical Cyclone (TC) Debbie struck the NE coast of Queensland, and then this weather system morphed into some really heavy rainfall which floods down much of the coast to NE NSW. I’ve written a blog for churches who may be gearing up volunteers to work in the recovery process. This blog (which can be found on the TorqAid blog website under Humanitarian Issues) is called , and there is some really useful and practical material there for the training up and managing of volunteers.

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