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Summer 2018: My Applied Field Experience in two parts

“We are in the business of aspirations. We are in the business of dreams. And optimism is synonymous with creativity. Furthermore, optimism is our responsibility” – Luis Miguel Massianu (quote to Francis Lethem)

Chris Lara at the International Peace Institute (IPI) offices in New York City facing the United Nations headquarters, New York (June 29 2018)

Foreword: One Summer – Multiple Applied Field Experiences

We live with constantly changing technology and a global economy that demands a versatile, mobile and multidisciplinary workforce, able to respond quickly to disruptions in many facets of our lives.

Since the beginning of my fellowship, I have been constantly and intentionally out of my comfort zone, and as a result, I have developed a particular understanding of career pathways at this mid-career point in international public service. I have realized that even for personal/professional development we need more connectivity awareness, planning, financing, leadership and coordination: professional management for superior impact.

During the last year at the Sanford School of Public Policy, I have undertaken academic projects related to the role of policy in responding to the shifts on nature of employment and the future of work. Specifically, in addressing the ways policy is responding to those changes and how personally we prepare for it. That is something that has triggered my curiosity and this applied field experience (AFE) was an opportunity to turn theory into practice.

My AFE encompassed a variety of interests that I have developed throughout my academic and professional careers. In addition to completing two academic courses, during the last three months, I have had the opportunity to work on two consultancy projects with two clients, operating from seven different cities1 I worked on the identification, outreach and coordination of the necessary partnerships, I held meetings with more than 30 stakeholders, and laid the groundwork for advocacy opportunities for future Rotary Peace Fellows (RPF) and Institute of Economics and Peace/Global Peace Index Ambassadors, as part of my role as IEP GPI Ambassador.

Chris Lara and Dorie Clark after completion of the Fuqua School of Business course on Communication and Leadership (May 11 2018)

One of the most interesting aspects of my AFE was the opportunity to explore the possibilities for use of technology for emergency preparedness and response with the PAHO-World Health Organization office for the Americas at its headquarters in Washington DC and The Hague Humanity Hub in The Hague and Zurich.

In addition to two consultancies during my AFE, I was a fellow with the Duke Global Policy Program in Geneva (blog on my experience) and I participated in an intensive summer course on communication and leadership at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. In Geneva, I participated with former and current RPFs in the founding meetings of the Rotary Geneva Peace Forum – hosted at the Geneva Center for Security Policy (GCSP), as well as in Tokyo and New York, where I advanced partnerships with key organizations (Peace Boat / EcoShip and IEP).

This blog will be divided into two parts: in part 1, I will present my personal and professional motivations, how this experience fits into the big picture and why it is an instrumental element and a benchmark of this two-year fellowship at Duke University as a Rotary Peace Fellow. In part 2, I will present my clients and give an outline of the substantive issues, and what are my expectations in regards to the impact.


PART 1 (a reflection)
Towards ‘The New Way of Working’2


“Back to the beginning –the ‘why?’

On World Humanitarian Day, Sunday 19 August 2018, the United Nations Chamber Music Society performed a benefit concert for Yemen at a church in heart of Manhattan. With opening remarks by the Ambassador of Yemen to the United Nations (UN) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), all proceeds from the concert were directed to Mercy Corps, to help support the most vulnerable people in Yemen. At present Yemen has a more than 2 million internally displaced persons, over 280,000 refugees, and 8.4 million people on the brink of famine.

UN Chamber of Music Society, benefit concert for Yemen – marking the International Humanitarian Day and commemorating the attacks to UN personnel in Iraq in 2003. Also this marked the end of my AFE experience just one day after the decease of SG Kofi Annan. New York (August 19 2018)

Exactly one day before my return to Durham, this event symbolically marked the end of my AFE, and couldn’t have been more well-timed: the concert for Yemen was one day after the unfortunate decease of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and the same day as the commemoration of the unfortunate events in Iraq, back in August 2003, where the Canal Hotel in Baghdad (UN compound) was bombed with a death toll of 23 UN officials/friends/colleagues, including, unarguably, the loss of a true role model: Sergio Vieira de Mello.

The heart of the eclectic repertoire performed by the chamber music was the ever-enigmatic sound of the oud3. It brought back memories of my first professional commitment with the humanitarian endeavor. It was the fall of 2009 in Ramallah, in the occupied Palestinian territories, when I was eager to engage in international cooperation work. But my fate was on different coordinates: a few weeks after arriving in Palestine, I received a job offer to serve the “we the peoples” mandate at the Emergency Services Branch of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

2009-2010 was a soothing winter in Geneva, and even though I was at the center of the UN global humanitarian coordination, no one could imagine the devastation and overwhelming effects of the emergencies which occurred in the following six months:

Between January and February 2010, two major earthquakes hit the Americas with catastrophic consequences: a 7.0 earthquake in Haiti on 12 of January and an 8.8 earthquake in Chile on 27 February taught us that we never know if we are actually prepared. The first earthquake, due to its impact and the second, due to its intensity, became turning points in the way the emergency response systems were to be implemented.

Additional ‘out of scale’ disasters occurred that year: as a result of heavy monsoons in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and, Balochistan regions of Pakistan, more than 20 million people were directly affected by large-scale flooding, and my office at the Surge Capacity Section of UN OCHA was at the forefront of the UN coordination.

Chris Lara and Jake Sherman, Director of the Brian Urquhart Center for Peace Operations at IPI, New York (August 16 2018)

The following year at New York HQ with the Coordination Response Division of UN OCHA, I worked first on the preparations for the hurricane season in the Caribbean, and then after, with the UN Peacekeeping Operations (UNDPKO) Office of the Rule of Law and Security Institutions on advocacy to ban antipersonnel mines and the first sketches of essential regulatory framework for a peace agreement in Colombia. That period epitomized the intermezzo of my participation in large crises: my next assignment was meant to be with the global Ebola outbreak response in West Africa… and the Crisis in South Sudan -right before traveling to Durham, exactly one year ago.

These experiences provided me with invaluable insights and the sense of urgency to improve our way of work. Bridging the spurious divide among development, humanitarian, peace & security and public health sectors never was a theoretical issue but a very tangible one: in order to save lives we should do more with less and at the same time tackle the determinant and amplifier factors of poverty, humanitarian crises and social unrest (climate change, attacks to multilateralism, weakening of international leadership and governance, corruption etc.).

My experience in past humanitarian complex emergencies, natural disasters and public health crises has shown me that no crisis is alien to political circumstances and there are not apolitical ways of responding to them. But there is a moral compass, a corpus of doctrine that supports the hard task of brokering and convening. A world organization that with all its imperfections represent the noblest aspirations of humankind serving as a moral and humanizing force through the powerful notion of ‘we the peoples’.

The oud has stopped, its enchanting sounds have faded away and I am here in the heart of Manhattan, with the firm conviction that now more than ever before, that multilateral mandate from humanity should be strengthened and protected, as we cannot turn back the clock to simpler times.

The triple nexus – the humanitarian, development and peace/security nexus

The Sustainable Development Goals agenda, the Agenda for Humanity and the World Humanitarian Summit outcomes are defining a New Way of Working (NWoW). The current trends and policy process that was unleashed by that collective determination are driving the change. The humanitarian endeavor is at the center, as said by Craig Valhoun “Humanitarianism flourishes as an ethical response to emergencies not just because bad things happened in the world, but also because many people has lost faith in both economic development and political struggle as ways of trying to improve human lot”4.

The reestablishment of hopes for a better world is work in the making, and practical steps are already being taken. The 2030 Agenda for sustainable development with its 17 SDGs and their 169 targets as well as the Agenda for Humanity and its five core responsibilities, introduced a new era in the aim of bridging the gap between the development, humanitarian, human rights and public health endeavors.

Chris Lara at the PAHO/WHO in Washington DC (August 1 2018)

The SDG framework is an opportunity to explore the potentialities of knowledge cross-fertilization between the different communities of practice in the humanitarian, development and public health sectors. These considerations are essential for the achievement of effective coordination and planning.

“Within the scope of the SDGs framework it is paramount to recognize that no development gains will be sustainable if they are not accompanied by increased preparedness and the corresponding improved capacity to respond to emergent critical events; regardless of whether those are secondary to human activity or occur because of natural phenomena, including outbreaks and public health emergencies of international concern”.5

The first core component of the AFE was structured as an inter-sectorial intervention that served as a platform to develop long-standing action while contributing to ongoing projects of my clients on two issues: a) innovation and b) policy design. The two other supportive yet instrumental components were: c) advocacy, and d) partnerships (stressing the role of new actors within the communities we aim to serve –Public Private Community Partnerships or PPCPs).

More than solutions by themselves, my consultancy work was about showing my clients the potential courses of action from different and unexplored perspectives. With the Health Emergencies Department of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization for the Americas, I strived to define the case from past experiences, the needs on the ground and the possibilities offered by an innovation ecosystem. With the Humanitarian Program and Protection of Civilians projects of the International Peace Institute, I worked on research for policy design and development.


PART 2 (a recount)

AFE Consultancies


A. The Clients

The Pan American Health Organization – Washington DC

Chris Lara with the Emergency Operation Center team of the Health Emergency Department of the PAHO/WHO in Washington DC (June 31 2018)

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is part of the Inter-American System and the United Nations system as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO). PAHO was founded in 1902, 17 years before the League of Nations (1919) and 43 years before the establishment of the United Nations (1945). PAHO is one of the oldest international organizations.

This consultancy was working directly with the Director of the Health Emergencies Department (PHE). PHE focuses on strengthening the health sector’s capacities in prevention, risk reduction, preparedness, surveillance, response, and early recovery for emergencies and disasters related to any hazard (natural, man-made, biological, chemical, radiological and others). Also, when national capacities are overwhelmed, PHE leads and coordinates the international health response to contain disasters, including outbreaks, and to provide effective relief and recovery to affected populations.

PAHO has a proven history of successful interventions, increasing the health sector’s resiliency and fostering technical cooperation for emergency preparedness and disaster relief in the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region. My work was about building on these capacities.


The International Peace Institute – New York

Chris Lara with Dr. Youssef Mahmoud, Senior Advisor for IPI and former Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad, and member of the UN Secretary-General High Level Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO). New York (August 17 2018)

The International Peace Academy (IPA) was founded in 1970, and since 2008 has been formally known as the International Peace Institute (IPI). This is a research institution that works with and supports multilateral institutions, governments, civil society, and the private sector on a range of regional and global security challenges. IPI is one of the most influential think tanks specialized on the United Nations.

This consultancy was working directly with IPI Brian Urquhart Center for Peace Operations, named for Sir Brian Urquhart, the former United Nations Under-Secretary-General who played a crucial role in the founding and development of UN peace operations. The center works within a framework of independence and the overall goal of managing risk and building resilience to promote peace, security, and sustainable development.

With its headquarter offices facing the United Nations complex in New York, and offices in Vienna and Manama, IPI carries out work in and on Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia. IPI partners with regional organizations, think tanks, universities, and NGOs to conduct research, produce publications, and convene meetings in many parts of the world. To achieve its purpose, IPI employs a mix of policy research, strategic analysis, publishing, and convening.


B. The Action

PAHO-WHO Sustainable emergency preparedness and response

My work was on the provision of innovative alternatives to address global challenges represented by the sustainability of emergency preparedness and response (EPR) within the SDG agenda, and capitalizing on the successes achieved by the PHE Department in supporting Member States to build resilient and responsive systems of Emergency Preparedness & Response. Special attention was to expand on the attainments of ongoing projects such as the Smart Hospitals project. This consultancy focused on the following:

  1. Highlighting the relationship between sustainable development and emergency preparedness and response (EP&R), based on the idea that no development gains will be sustainable if they are not accompanied by increased preparedness and the corresponding improved capacity to respond to emergent critical events; regardless of whether those are secondary to human activity or occur as a result of natural phenomena.
  2. (a) Knowledge cross-fertilization and translation between humanitarian, development, public and community actors; and (b) technological Innovation for strengthening existent preparedness and response mechanisms.
  3. This included proactive outreach and assessment of current innovation ecosystems in the sector of humanitarian preparedness and response, as well as partnerships that enable the development of novel technology application.


PAHO-WHO Emergency Operation Center –prior to an emergency briefing with the team in the Caribbean and Field Emergency Deployment Kit for Emergency Medical Teams


IPI – Policy research and analysis for more coherent policy frameworks for UN Peacekeeping and Humanitarian endeavors

Within the framework of IPI integrated approaches to humanitarian affairs and peace operations, my eight-week consultancy was to conduct background research and contribute to drafting analytical reports on two main IPI projects:

Chris Lara and Humanitarian Project team (Alice Debarre and Archie Henry) New York (August 9 2018)
  1. Peace operations and Protection of Civilians (POC Project): Commissioned by the United Nations Executive Office, the Protection of Civilian Project was working with IPI’s Research and Policy Analysts. The aim of this consultancy was to perform research on the relationship between the Integrated Approach for peacekeeping, and its implications for Humanitarian aid and the POC policy.
  2. Emergency Response Briefings research project (ERB Project): Funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Emergency Response Briefings project was working with IPI Humanitarian Affairs Policy Analysts to identify challenges and improve capacities for the delivery of healthcare in situations of armed conflict. Upon request of the client, the focus of the ERB project was on advancing research for an Emergency Response Country Briefing (ERCBs) on the Rohingya displacement crisis – Myanmar/Bangladesh.


C. The Deliverables – A Rotary Peace Fellow contribution

PAHO-WHO –Ecosystem mapping and theater of operations identification

  1. Analysis of the state of readiness of the global/regional system of crisis management and coordination in preparation for new/next emergencies.
  2. Project design and preliminary roll out for the development of an augmented reality tool prototype (Digital Twins) that allows analysis of data and monitoring of systems to head off problems before they occur, prevent downtime, develop new opportunities and even plan for the future by using simulations.
  3. Identification of research and development partners capable of developing the tools, and initial lay down of the critical path for the development of the tools -from design to testing implementation.
  4. Identification of potential theater of operations and liaison with field teams for collecting required datasets –potentially a Caribbean Island affected by Irma hurricane –Sint Marteen.


PAHO/WHO ‘Oval’, ‘Square’ and ‘Bunker’ rooms are three coordination areas of the Emergency Operations Centre, where emergency coordination for humanitarian and health emergencies in the Americas take place, Washington DC (July 29 2018)


PAHO/WHO – Emergency Dashboard and Situation Reports of current Emergency Operations at the Emergency Coordination Center at PAHO HQ, Washington DC.


IPI –Integrated approach and policy mapping of humanitarian and peacekeeping/protection spaces

On POC project:

  1. A policy memo was issued (as part of the last deliverable for the Geneva Global Policy Program), looking at the origins and evolution of the concept of ‘integration’ in the context of the work of the United Nations and more specifically in peace operations -integrated peace operations, the integrated approach and the integrated structures (triple hat DSRSG/HC/RC; coordination structures between the Mission and the humanitarian community etc.)
  2. Part of the policy memo was focused on the benefits and challenges of the integrated approach against the implementation of both, humanitarian and POC mandates, including a special mention to POC sites.
  3. Recommendations were proposed.

On ERB Project:

  1. Policy memo based on the analysis for impact maximization of humanitarian interventions in Myanmar, as well as to improve coordination, resource efficiency and support in current and future emergencies.
  2. Identification of how the BMGF (the founder) and other public and private actors can effectively leverage their knowledge, resources and capacity to improve emergency health response in humanitarian crises, in particular, those with a refugee/IDP/migration dimension, with a specific focus on Myanmar.
  3. I was instrumental in accessing practitioners in Myanmar and Bangladesh as well as in the preparations for the upcoming IPI mission to Nigeria.


As a closing remark

SH4 (Sustainable Healthy Habitats and Healthy Humans), a proud member organization of The Hague Humanity Hub –an innovation ecosystem focused on Peace, Justice and Humanitarian Action.

When I first started this fellowship at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, I never imagined that it would take off in the way that it did, driving me to the degree of epistemological humility quite the way it has.

Doing more with less, in work of this nature, is an urgent imperative that requires practitioners with the seamless match of communications skills, leadership, abilities to adapt in challenging situations and self-sufficiency in meeting needs and tasks in fast-paced environments –often under pressure and extreme circumstances. The carrying out of my AFE took me out of my comfort zone as an International Civil Servant and allowed me to reach the knowledge cross-fertilization frontiers.

According to Duke Social Innovation professors Paul Bloom and Gregory Dees, systemic change implies the creation of new public policy and regulations, establishing markets and changing the ways existing markets operate, and also establishing new cultural norms and social dynamics. Change requires both a shift in environmental conditions and the introduction and establishment of innovative practices6.

In addition to the formal consultancy projects, I also kick-started the project Sustainable Healthy Habitats and Healthy Humans (SH4), now an official member of The Hague Humanity Hub (THHH). SH4 and THHH ecosystem are the means to secure follow-up actions and the continuation of next steps towards technological innovation for emergency preparedness and response (with PAHO/WHO and other potential clients). THHH is an innovation ecosystem focused on Peace, Justice and Humanitarian Action, of which SH4 is a proud member.

Finally, with the aim of giving back to the priceless generosity of Rotary International and the continuous support of Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center, I worked on the preparations for a promising partnership that will contribute to the visibility and advocacy of the Rotary Peace Fellowship mission at the global scale that Peace Boat / EcoShip (a Japanese organization) can offer:

The Global Rotary IEP Applied Field Experience – at peace boat project is to rollout during the next academic year in collaboration with the Institute for Economics and Peace (in New York and The Hague offices), and Rotary Peace Fellows in ICU in Tokyo. (Next blog. Stay tuned!)

Without the support of Rotary International and Rotary Peace Center this Applied Field Experience wouldn’t have been possible. Special thanks to the Health Emergencies Department of PAHO/WHO, the United Nations Executive Office of the Secretary-General, and the International Peace Institute.

Once again: Thank you Rotary, thank you Duke/DCID!




Annan, Kofi, ‘’We the peoples’ – The Role of the UN in the 21st Century’, United Nations, 2000.

Bloom, Paul, and Dees J. Gregory, ‘Cultivate Your Ecosystem’, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2008

Calhoun, Craig, ‘The Idea of Emergency: Humanitarian Action and Global (Dis)Order’ in Contemporary States of Emergency, Zone Books, 2010

Hochschild, Fabrizio, In and above Conflict –A study on Leadership in the United Nations, Geneva, 2010.

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ‘Agenda for Humanity’,

Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization, ‘Smart Hospital Project: an opportunity to build back better’, in Disasters Magazine, issue 126, June 2018.

United Nations, Sustainable Development –Knowledge Platform at:


[1] Peace Boat and Ecoship in Tokyo; Pan American Health Organization in Bogota and Washington DC; World Health Organization and the Duke Global Policy Program in Geneva; McKinsey in Zurich; The Hague Humanity Hub, Sustainable Healthy Habitats and Healthy Humans (Sh4), and Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) in The Hague; The United Nations Secretariat, the International Peace Institute (IPI) and IEP in New York.

[2] The New Way of Working (NWoW) describes a concrete path to remove unnecessary barriers to collaboration between humanitarian and development actors, governments, NGOs and private sector actors in order to enable meaningful progress towards meeting needs. In a professional personal level it requires awareness of the multidimensional nature of work of this nature, recognition of the risk or working in silos, and the flexibility to navigate transversally different sectors across all levels (not only laterally and vertically).

[3] The oud is a short-neck lute-type, pear-shaped stringed instrument with 11 or 13 strings grouped in 5 or 6 courses, commonly used in Middle Eastern and North African including Chaabi, Classical, and Spanish Andalusian.

[4] Craig Calhoun, ‘The Idea of Emergency: Humanitarian Action and Global (Dis)Order’ in Contemporary States of Emergency, Zone Books, 2010, p. 30.

[5] Quote from Sustainable Healthy Habitats and Healthy Humans (SH4), a proud member of The Hague Humanity Hub.

[6] Bloom, Paul, and Dees J. Gregory, Cultivate Your Ecosystem, Stanford Social Innovation Review Winter 2008, p. 52.


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