Interview with Hani Shannak, Senior ICT Advisor, Partnerships and Humanitarian Response at UNICEF

How is UNICEF involved in the humanitarian aid and development sector?

The United Nations Children’s Fund has been fighting for the rights of every child seeking safe shelter, nutrition, equality, and protection from disaster and conflicts for 70 years. UNICEF is funded by contributions from governments, private donors, and individuals. The institution has received up to $4.8 billion in funds during 2016. Approximately 92 per cent of UNICEF’s revenue is distributed to programme services. Humanitarian action is central to UNICEF’s mandate, encompassing effective preparedness, response and early recovery to save lives and protect the rights of children, as defined in the Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action. 

UNICEF supports country-level humanitarian action with its seven regional offices and 10 headquarter divisions. These branches are involved in facilitating global and regional inter-agency coordination and partnerships, contributing to the strategic response plans of humanitarian country teams, leading/co-leading global clusters for five sectors, facilitating policy guidance and strategic dialogue, mobilizing human and financial resources as well as communicating, monitoring and reporting on UNICEF’s humanitarian results.

How is UNICEF represented in North America?

The UNICEF’s main headquarters is in New York City.  There are also 36 national committees across the globe, which are nongovernmental organizations that help promote the rights of children and fundraise. UNICEF is active in at least 190 countries around the world. Its activities are divided by region and include Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, East Asia and the Pacific, Eastern and Southern Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, West and Central Africa. A regional office is located within each region.

Also in the United States is the US Fund for UNICEF, a non-governmental organization that supports UNICEF's work and other efforts to assist the world's children through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States.

What are the key initiatives being implemented by UNICEF in the region?

Within the Americas region, UNICEF implements initiatives and programmes focusing on adolescent development, child protection, early childhood development, humanitarian action for children, and more. The regional offices also engage in data gathering, research, analysis, and innovation to better support the mission of the organization.

What does Hani’s position entail?

Hani Shannak is the Senior Information and Communication Technology Advisor of Partnerships and Humanitarian Response at UNICEF.  His main role is to provide ICT leadership, technical support, oversight and stewardship for ICT-related humanitarian and emergency responses. This includes serving as the representative of the ICT Division in the UN interagency ICT bodies and with public and private sector partnerships to enable optimal humanitarian response. Mr. Shannak additionally supports UNICEF’s emergency programmes. Moreover, his position plays a key role in the implementation of the ICT strategy, ensuring standards, capacity building, and global response capabilities, while boosting regional cohesion and alignment.

What are your main priorities for 2017/2018?

In 2017 to 2018, Mr. Shannak’s plans for his department at UNICEF include the facilitation and prioritization of ICT partnerships, improvement of UNICEF ICT emergency preparedness, the creation of a defined UNICEF Emergency Telecommunications (ETC) Strategy. 

What are some of the latest trends/challenges you see in disaster response and disaster resilience?

Some of the most recent challenges in the field include the inability of on-the-ground responders to coordinate sufficiently, limited communication with the affected populations, and lack of funding at a national-level for preparedness building.  To tackle these issues, there needs to be additional training for responders on emergency management, focus on the provision of connectivity and WIFI to affected populations, and the establishment of partnerships with the local community.

What will your speaker panel at the Global Disaster Relief & Development Summit address and why is it important for those attending to engage in this topic?

Hani Shannak will share the expertise from his position at UNICEF by speaking on emergency communication, connectivity, and social networks at the 9th annual Global Disaster Relief and Development Summit on 6-7 of September in Washington D.C. Some of the insights he will share pertain to the importance of community engagement, accountability to affected populations, criticality and effectiveness of social media, and cooperative humanitarian efforts. 

Why is it important for you and UNICEF to engage in events like the GDRD 2017 Summit?

Like many other delegates, Mr. Shannak is attending the Summit to meet with current and future partners, to learn from other experts in the field of disaster relief and development, to share the knowledge and experience of his organization, and to learn about the latest in emergency tools and innovative solutions. 

For more information about the Global Disaster Relief and Development Summit, visit disaster-relief.aidforum.org; for all inquiries, please email Alina O’Keeffe at marketing@aidforum.org.

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