The fifth session of the online Humanitarian Diplomacy diploma course, run by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and DiploFoundation, has just come to an end. One of the participants was Richard Slade, Assistant/Project Officer for International Humanitarian Law and Movement Relations at the Australian Red Cross. In this short interview Richard tells us more about attending the course, and the highlights of this experience for him.
How did you hear about this course, and why did you decide to apply?
I was at the International Meetings of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement and heard Christopher Lamb make a presentation on the course, alongside former students. I decided to apply after seeing this presentation, and hearing very positive reviews of the course from both my Manager and a colleague.
How would you describe the approach of this course to teaching and learning?
The course is a nice balance of practical knowledge and implementation, and theoretical and conceptual work. In my experience, rather than providing specific skills, the course illuminated the genuine strength of humanitarian principles, in particular neutrality and impartiality and evidence-based approaches to issues. Rather than restricting your ability to influence decision-makers, the humanitarian perspective empowers your advocacy, by freeing you from political influence and ideological limitations.
Was the course relevant to work in your region? Was there sufficient discussion and examples related to your own needs and interests?
The course was relevant to my region and the work I undertake everyday. There was a nice mix of local and global examples used from Australia and the Pacific. The nature of 21st century communication means that global examples were easily discussed and followed, and learning from the experience of others in local situations was a true highlight of the course.
Was this online course interactive? Did this interaction help you to learn? Can you give an example of how?
The course was incredibly interactive, with a high-level of participation from both students and teachers alike. One of the best things about the level of interaction was the willingness of teachers to welcome free and frank discussion from students, especially where people have very specialised or local knowledge of humanitarian diplomacy efforts in their regions or work-places. Teachers were open to hearing new approaches or evidence that challenged the status-quo, and were always happy to say when they too had learned something new!
Was this method of online learning convenient for you? Was the online classroom easy to use?
The online learning method is a great tool. It gives you the freedom to jump online whenever you feel the urge to contribute, and update your thoughts and opinions in ‘real-time’. Like any course, finding the balance between studying and working full-time is a challenge, but the online classroom helped reduce the barriers to participation immensely because the online-learning platform is so user friendly and intuitive.
What was the most valuable or useful aspect of this course for you?
The most valuable part of the course was learning from the contributions of other students. I am a ‘desk-jockey’ and have limited field or delegate experience. The classroom was filled with people from all over the world with tangible experience in responding to disasters, armed conflict, health issues, and development and emergency situations. Their experiences highlighted where humanitarian diplomacy and advocacy works in reality, and where the theory needs to be re-worked or re-conceptualised to fit the real-world.
What are the challenges in attending this course? What do you recommend to applicants to consider, before applying?
Students need to ensure most importantly that they have a good internet connection at all times! I found the course challenging and rewarding. Students should be aware that the course is demanding, especially because the depth of experience of students means what you thought you knew for certain is often challenged. Don’t be afraid to rethink what you know of humanitarian principles and perspectives, and what they can help you achieve in your day-to-day work.