My thin veneer of alleged international expertise has been exposed this week in Limerick, Ireland. Not that I’m a complete fraud, mind you, although spending time with 25 authentic international experts has been a humbling experience.
These experts come from diverse NGO’s from Europe and the U.S., and have literally been deployed for long periods in the world’s most troubled countries. Want to learn more about splintered opposition groups in Syria? Several NGO personnel here just returned from Syria. Interested in hearing the story of the cholera outbreak in Haiti? One NGO expert can give first hand testimony.We’re all gathered in Limerick for the Sustained Humanitarian Presence Initiative, sponsored by Irish AID and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. This workshop for NGO leaders centers on operating effectively in a conflict zone. The first two days, we’ve discussed the importance of situational awareness and gaining acceptance from communities hosting NGO’s. As I’ve listened, I’ve noted that many of the issues and challenges facing humanitarian organizations are the same ones confronted by international journalists.
Tomorrow, I am leading a segment of the workshop that will center on communications, specifically crisis communications, NGO-media relations, peace journalism, and collaboration between NGO's and media on humanitarian and developmental issues. Given the participants’ expertise and experience, the smart thing for me to do will be to lay out some concepts, and listen as the NGO leaders prioritize their communication needs.