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ActionAid International

Director Humanitarian Response

About the Role

  • To provide overall leadership on emergency preparedness, response and resilience building within the wider federation and ensure compliance with organisational requirements and standards;
  • To be accountable for the delivery of all ‘Red Alert’ emergencies;
  • To promote continued learning from emergency and crises experience, developing best practice and using it to advocate for alternative humanitarian models;
  • To engage in humanitarian policy debates to influence the policies and practice of all actors (including governments, donors, CSOs etc.) towards political, social and economic change that reduces the vulnerabilities of the communities that we work with;
  • To lead and manage the International Humanitarian Action & Resilience Team (IHART) and its resources to achieve appropriate emergency and crises response and policy development;
  • To be a spokesperson on emergency response; resilience building and related policy issues, building the profile of ActionAid in the media and stimulating fundraising from a wide variety of sources;
  • To work directly with, and hold to account through appropriate mechanisms, any country within the ActionAid Federation delegated to lead international humanitarian work;
  • To represent ActionAid on relevant external bodies/ governance committees where appropriate.

Key Activities

Strategic/ Functional Leadership

  • Ensure AAI has a clearly-defined strategic direction for work in emergencies and crises; risk reduction; preparedness and resilience building to guide our expanding work, and to be informed by ActionAid’s experience and analysis of the external environment;
  • Link strategic direction for emergencies and crises to longer term programming work through the organisation’s Human Rights Based Approach; promotion of humanitarian alternatives and through sound links to other strategy objectives and engaging with international strategy formulation;
  • Lead the development of thinking around the emerging issues in our approaches to keep AAI at the cutting edge of emergencies and crises; risk reduction; preparedness and resilience building;
  • To provide strategic leadership for operationalising the Federation’s commitments to delegation of certain international secretariat roles for humanitarian and resilience work to members and to ensure appropriate accountabilities are in place.

Policy Development

  • Identify areas where ActionAid needs new and clear agency-wide policies within the context of emergencies and crises; risk reduction and resilience building – leading their formulation, roll out and compliance;
  • Update and guide the adoption of the AA international policy on the security of communities in emergencies;
  • Ensure policies and procedures are reviewed, updated and compliant e.g. Standard Operating Procedures; Alert System; Disaster Preparedness and Response Fund, Emergency Handbook;
  • Ensure ActionAid’s risk reduction, preparedness, response and resilience building work conforms to internationally approved standards to which it has signed up and is accountable.

Humanitarian Policy Research, Influence and Fundraising

  • Frame and oversee humanitarian policy research and advocacy work internationally;
  • Represent AAI in key networks and policy forums at the highest levels;
  • Maintain good networks and institutional relationships with other NGOs, donors, and UN agencies;
  • Raise AAI’s profile on emergency issues through personal presence in civil society networks and public spaces;
  • Work with fundraisers to generate interest in ActionAid’s way of working, to enable AAI to raise appropriate and adequate funds for emergencies.

Leadership and Management

  • Lead the extended team (including surge capacity and delegated Members) and mobilise resources from across the organisation for preparedness and response, risk reduction and resilience building;
  • Hold direct accountability for emergency responses for ‘red alert’ level emergencies;
  • Ensure the right skills, experience and resources are developed in the team and across the organisation (through ActionAid’s internal surge capacity roster);
  • Set objectives and plans with other Directorates and Unit Heads (such as Finance, HR, Accountability, Institutional Development, Funcomms etc.) to ensure effective support to emergency preparedness and response; risk reduction and resilience building;
  • Ensure the communication channels and tools are maximised from within the team to the rest of the organisation and to key external stakeholders to communicate fast and effectively on key crises and challenges;
  • Chair Oversight Groups for disaster responses as set up by Director of Programmes or Chief Executive;
  • Participate in Programme Directorate Senior Management Team, the Humanitarian International Platform and other strategic internal boards/committees as appropriate;
  • Participate in and ensure that the Member Platform for the Disaster Preparedness and Response Fund (DPRF) and Accountability in Emergencies Steering Group are run effectively;
  • Participate in International Crisis Management Group;
  • Ensure appropriate responses to an emergency situation through support visits, guidance, planning workshops, assessments etc. as appropriate;
  •  Accountability for the safety and security of internationally deployed ActionAid staff in emergency response.

People Management

  • Performance management and staff development of both direct reports and staff in extended matrix teams, proactively supporting women’s leadership and development;
  • Support both the professional and personal development of staff ensuring they are able to be proactive on all matters thus maximising and integrating the effectiveness of the service they provide to fulfil corporate goals and plans;
  • Foster the necessary consultation, communications and good relations within the wider community including staff of member organisations.

Accountability and Learning

  • Ensure that AAI is conforming to accountability standards that the organisation is signatory to (in humanitarian context) and build country capacity to implement these standard;
  • Lead and promote continued learning from our emergency and crises experience. 

Financial Responsibilities

  • Responsible for managing delegated budget responsibility for resources within approved limits. Delegation to other team members can be done but overall responsibility remains with Budget holder;
  • Responsible for preparing activity based budgets and monitoring actual monthly spend against these budgets, including providing relevant accruals and explanations for variances;
  • Responsible for approving all transactions (including amendments) to their budget;
  • Act within the parameters set by the International Secretariat financial policies and procedures.


  • Value Practice – A strong commitment to develop, promote and practice AAI’s vision, mission, values and strategy;
  • Women’s Leadership and Gender – Committed to Gender issues with a strong focus on women’s leadership;
  • Collaboration – Make use of cross functional learning, participate (where applicable) in international platforms and cross functional project initiatives within AAI;
  • Accountability – Promoting, practicing and contributing to the continuous improvement of transparency and accountability in the federation in line with the AAI Accountability Charter.

Person Specification

Essential Knowledge and Experience

  • Proven commitment to, and understanding of, women’s rights and human rights based approach in emergencies;
  • Extensive operational and management experience in either conflict-related or natural disasters including direct management of emergency responses at scale;
  • Extensive operational experience in both conflict and natural disasters in developing countries in at least two of the following three regions: Asia, Africa and Latin America. Must include working in insecure environments and managing security issues;
  • Extensive knowledge and understanding of the development and humanitarian context, including applying humanitarian standards, principles and humanitarian law;
  • Experience of working in/with local civil society organisations/ community networks;
  • Proven success in fundraising for humanitarian and development programmes and donor engagement at the highest levels;
  • Proven and strong management and leadership experience, including ensuring programme quality and impact and accountability, and excellent strategic planning and analytical skills;
  • Extensive experience in designing and implementing humanitarian response, linked to longer term development programming, using a human rights based approach;
  • Strong financial management skills;
  • Ability to adapt to pressure and change to operate effectively within humanitarian contexts;
  • Research and/or documentation experience, particularly in emergency, conflict and rehabilitation work;
  • Experience of, and commitment to, policy influencing and advocacy work in the humanitarian context;
  • Strong representation and spokesperson skills;
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills;
  • Willingness to travel regularly often at short notice (40% of the time), sometimes under stressful conditions including conflict-related emergencies;
  • A strong commitment to develop, promote and practice AAI’s vision, mission, values & strategy;
  • Ability to develop and maintain collaborative and coordinated relationships with stakeholders and staff, including multicultural, multidisciplinary and geographically dispersed teams.

Education and Certifications

  • Postgraduate qualification in subject related to humanitarian and/or development field (e.g. Disaster Management, Development Studies, Social Sciences, Human Rights, Gender Studies, Humanitarian Law etc.) or equivalent experience.

Job Specific Technical Requirements

  •  Experience of working in a similar capacity for an international organisation;
  • Ability to communicate in languages other than English, particularly French, Spanish, Portuguese, Urdu/Hindi or Swahili, Arabic etc.

Competency Profile

  • Strategic Perspective – Demonstrate understanding of AAI’s priorities and goals and effectively analyses complex problems;
  • Change Management – Uses effective strategies to facilitate organisation change initiatives and overcome resistance to change by involving others, listening and building commitment;
  • Decisiveness – Prefers quick and appropriate actions in many management situations;
  • Leading Employees – Attracts, motivates, and develops employees;
  • Building Collaborative Relationships – Builds productive working relationships with co-workers and external parties, whilst valuing people of different backgrounds, cultures and demographics;
  • Communication – Expresses ideas clearly and concisely; disseminates information about decisions and plans;
  • Leading with Purpose – Has personal direction and is not easily sidetracked by details or workload;
  • Credibility – Acts in accordance with stated values; follows through on promises; uses ethical considerations to guide decisions and actions;
  • Taking Initiative – Takes charge and capitalizes on opportunities.

 Reporting Lines

  • Reporting to: Director Programme Development, Quality & Impact, AAI
  • Direct Reports:
    • 2x International Humanitarian Response Managers – Asia, Africa/America
    • 1x Regional Advisor Middle East
    • 1x International Humanitarian Operations Manager
    • 1x Philippines Country Programme Manager
    • 1x Humanitarian Accountability Co-ordinator