HomeThe CentreEvents 2021 Humanitarian Leadership Conference: Who are the humanitarians?


The people we don’t see.

The voices we don’t hear.

Who are the real humanitarians?

A pandemic, a climate crisis, and a global movement for racial equality, freedom, justice and the end of white supremacy. The consequences of inaction have never been more dangerous or more real.

The 2021 Humanitarian Leadership Conference will be an important event where we transition from rhetoric to action. Where we come together to interrogate what a genuinely transformed humanitarian system can look like based on economic, environmental and political justice for affected communities. Where the affected communities, local organisations, the business community and their national governments are the ‘humanitarians’.

The 2021 Humanitarian Leadership Conference will work to determine where change is needed and what a reshaping of the humanitarian ecosystem might look like, from the actors involved and ways of working to the very definition of what constitutes a humanitarian crisis.

The Conference will challenge traditional humanitarian systems, actors and perceptions through the following sub-themes:

  • Decolonising the humanitarian ecosystem
  • Leadership in a world of upheaval and crisis
  • Transformative ways of working
  • The political economy of aid and solidarity.

Were going digital

An immersive online event, the 2021 Humanitarian Leadership Conference will be our most accessible conference yet. With a heavily reduced registration fee, our premier event will be a fully inclusive experience for all humanitarians.

Powered through Delegate Connect to create a seamless, virtual experience from anywhere in the world, the Conference offers two days of panels, workshops and presentations that will challenge, explore and develop a new dialogue and understanding around the real humanitarians and how we can approach current challenges through systemic change.

Break-out sessions will utilise digital technologies for an interactive and immersive experience, and there will be networking opportunities via group and 1:1 video meets and messaging, and discussion boards.

You will also have exclusive access to the online platform for six months after the event so you can go back to re-visit your favourite presentations on demand, access resources and network with fellow participants.
Register Now

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Who are the humanitarians?

The 2021 Humanitarian Leadership Conference will critically challenge traditional humanitarian systems, actors and perceptions through the following sub-themes:

Decolonising the humanitarian ecosystem

Constructing an anti-racist and decolonised humanitarian system. Shifting power dynamics; dismantling colonialism in the humanitarian system; systemic racism and, specifically racism within the ‘aid’ system; reconceptualising the role of affected communities in humanitarian response; reimagining the role of international NGOs; wrestling with concepts of neutrality and impartiality.

Leadership in a world of upheaval and crisis

The impacts of climate change, pandemics, the Black Lives Matter movement, and protracted crises on our understanding of what constitutes a humanitarian crisis; current and future events are forcing systemic change – humanitarians are radically re-thinking who they are, how they work and how they should lead, or if they should lead at all.

Transformative ways of working

The devolution of power and funding to local organisations, governments and communities; new models of humanitarian financing, including anticipatory crisis financing, impact investment, social enterprise models; the impact of technology and development of innovative solutions; and unpacking the ‘triple nexus’ between humanitarianism, development, and peace; understanding the private sector role and engagement beyond the traditional humanitarian sector.

The political economy of aid and solidarity

What does genuine solidarity and movement building look like when we examine the root political causes of humanitarian crisis including global governance structures? Can power be devolved in solidarity without addressing the political economy of the aid system? Reconfiguring where leadership lies in humanitarian preparedness and response – including ethics, accountability, politics, participation, role of affected communities and governance.

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Keynote Speakers

  • Dr Danny Sriskandarajah

    Chief Executive Officer, Oxfam Great Britain (UK)

    Dr Danny Sriskandarajah has been Chief Executive Officer of Oxfam Great Britain since January 2019. Prior to that he had been Secretary General of CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, for six years. He has previously been Director General of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Interim Director of the Commonwealth Foundation and held various posts at the Institute for Public Policy Research. Danny is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Global Public Goods in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. From 2018 to 2019 he was a member of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, co-chaired by Jack Ma and Melinda Gates, and from 2015 to 2016 a member of the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Finance. He has been a Trustee of the Baring Foundation, Comic Relief, and International Alert, and a member of the Lead Group of Scaling Up Nutrition.

  • Lina Sergie Attar

    Founder and CEO, Karam Foundation (Syria/US)

    Lina Sergie Attar is founder and CEO of Karam Foundation. She is a Syrian-American architect and writer from Aleppo. Named one of 50 Women Groundbreakers Changing the World in 2020 by Worth Magazine, her articles and essays have been published in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Foreign Policy, Politico, The Atlantic, and BBC. She has appeared on CNN, NBC News, BBC News, Huffington Post, NPR, and other media outlets. Lina has spoken about the Syrian humanitarian crisis at schools, universities, and institutions including RISD, Harvard, University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern University, The New School, Phillips Exeter Academy, King’s Academy in Jordan, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, New America, the Aspen Institute, and others. Lina is a co-founder of the How Many More? project, serves as Chair of the Board of Directors of The Syria Campaign, and is a non-resident fellow at New America.

  • Arbie Baguios

    Founder, Aid Re-imagined (Philippines)

    Arbie Baguios is a humanitarian and development professional, and founder of Aid Re-imagined, an initiative that helps usher the evolution of aid towards effectiveness and justice through an interdisciplinary lens. He is also a Fellow at IARAN, a collaborative hub of humanitarian professionals who provide independent foresight and strategic analysis to humanitarian ecosystem actors. Having worked for global organisations including ActionAid, Save the Children, the Red Cross and UNICEF, Arbie has experience in humanitarian response, programme management, policy, strategy, and research. Originally from the Philippines, Arbie is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Ateneo de Manila University. Arbie has a specific interest in evidence-based policy, complexity and systems thinking, and decolonising development and humanitarian aid.

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Get Involved

Get involved

Submissions for the 2021 Humanitarian Leadership Conference are now closed. 

The conference programme will feature presentations in a variety of formats:

Presentation (Call for Abstracts)
  • Oral presentation: Standard oral presentation in a break-out session. Accepted submissions will be allocated to sessions with similar papers, with live Q&A.
  • Poster presentation: Posters will be available on the conference website. There may be an option for a pre-recorded presentation with Q & A for each accepted poster.
  • Creative Encounters: Traditional storytelling artforms (i.e. music, dance, poetry). We are open to all creative ideas, so please get in touch to see if we can accommodate your submission.
Interactive Sessions (Expressions of Interest) 
  • Panel session: The facilitation of a panel session. You will need to include information on the background, objectives, format and the proposed panelists (name, title and organisation) in your submission.
  • Learning labs: Facilitation of a workshop. This would be a practical and interactive session that must be adapted for digital delivery. Please include all information, such as maximum capacity and other key information to help our team understand your proposal.
  • Other: Dynamic session proposals for engaging with a digital audience to share, challenge and discover.

Conference themes

All submissions must address one or more Conference sub-themes:

  • Decolonising the humanitarian ecosystem
  • Leadership in a world of upheaval and crisis
  • Transformative ways of working
  • The Political Economy of Aid and Solidarity

A full description and breakdown of the sub-themes can be found on the ‘themes tab’. 

Publication options

Successful papers will be considered for two publication avenues after the Conference:

The Humanitarian Leader

An independent and bold voice for people working in the aid system, the Humanitarian Leader provides a platform for humanitarian professionals to test ideas and insight gained in the field in an academic setting. Published by the Centre for Humanitarian Leadership.

The Journal of Humanitarian Affairs

An exciting, new open access journal hosted jointly by the Humanitarian Affairs Team at Save the Children UK, and Centre de Réflexion sur l’Action et les Savoirs Humanitaires MSF (Paris) and the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute at the University of Manchester. Full peer-review process upon acceptance at the discretion of the Editorial Board.

Authors who do not want to be considered for publication are not required to submit a full paper, prior to or after the conference.

Please email the Events Team if you have any queries regarding your submission or the submission process: events@chl.org.au.


Sponsorship of the 2021 Humanitarian Leadership Conference presents a unique opportunity to increase brand exposure to a global humanitarian audience, to share innovative solutions, and build new connections and alliances in the humanitarian system. The Centre for Humanitarian Leadership is excited and committed to work in partnership to create real impact and to inspire humanitarian leaders from around the word to learn, challenge, grow, and innovate.

Download the sponsorship prospectus or email our Events Team to discuss becoming a sponsor: events@chl.org.au

Sponsorship prospectus

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