Let’s start with a short introduction on Mercy Corps and yourself
Mercy Corps is a leading global organization powered by the belief that a better world is possible. In disaster, in hardship, in more than 40 countries around the world, we partner to put bold solutions into action — helping people triumph over adversity and build stronger communities from within. Read more about Mercy Corps mission here.
I started my career in the relief and development during the conflict in former Yugoslavia, working for the UN mission in Croatia. I have worked for Mercy Corps since 1996 in Bosnia and Croatia, Serbia, East Africa, Palestine and Ukraine in the field of finance, compliance & administration, and since 2010 in developing and managing programs. I love working for Mercy Corps because of the exciting and dynamic working space, the possibility to work on today’s toughest challenges like conflict, poverty, and inequality through an integrated approach. With that, I mean investing in communities and designing solutions that focus on the future - such as conflict prevention and management, food security, education, access to finance and employment.”
Why did Mercy Corps come to the Netherlands?
Mercy Corps was established in Scotland in 1996 and our growing presence in Edinburgh, London and Geneva has enabled us to build our partnerships, profile and engagement in key debates in the UK and Continental Europe. However, we have been conscious of the limits, certainly of our ability to engage in key policy discussions, without a presence in or near key European capitals. Over recent years we have considered a number of options to build that presence. This became more urgent because of uncertainty over the future relationship between UK headquartered NGOs and the European Commission post Brexit. The establishment of Mercy Corps Netherlands presents significant opportunities to increase Mercy Corps’ global influence in both Den Haag and Brussels.
Why was Den Haag a good option for Mercy Corps?
When we were researching for a place to setup a new European office, Den Haag offered us good assistance. Den Haag Municipality and the Hague Business Agency helped arrange and hosted meetings with lawyers, accountants, banks, etc., and assisted us with the search for office space. Furthermore, Den Haag is designated as a city of peace and justice – areas in which Mercy Corps has significant experience. Mercy Corps’ programming explicitly tackles the drivers of conflict and instability by addressing Grievances, strengthening Governance, and promoting Growth. Mercy Corps has pioneered programming to reduce conflict among young people and conducted cutting edge research into the links between grievances and violence. Den Haag has already more than 200 NGOs, which gives the opportunity to work together. We felt that there is a vibrant sector where the right discussions are being held around the future of NGOs and innovation in the development sector.
What are your experiences?
The first months we focused on completing various administrative processes (banking, legal, HR), finding office space, and introducing Mercy Corps to the various communities of practice linked to humanitarian and development work in the Hague. It has been a great experience to work at the Humanity Hub. I am really enthusiastic about the potential to collaborate and partner with new organisations (and individuals) that we meet at the Hub and in other venues in the Netherlands. I feel the community of NGOs is open minded and eager to discuss themes on power relationships, new partnership models, innovation and new sources of financing. It is encouraging to have the support of peer NGOs, the municipality of Den Haag and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to cocreate and collaborate. We are already pursuing some potential partnerships and collaborations.
What are the plans for the future?
MCNL is already engaged with donors and partners in the Netherlands and is actively pursuing new relationships to increase our global impact and influence. For example, we have a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate with the University of Wageningen, and Rabobank Foundation is contributing to Mercy Corps’ Agri Finance initiative in East Africa. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is one our major European donors, and we partner with a number of Dutch organisations on project implementation.
We are recruiting new team members, but it is a carefully thought through process and the growth of this office will depend on the Brexit process. Our priority here is to protect Mercy Corps’ ability to receive EU funds. EU funding has enabled Mercy Corps to help thousands of people in some of the world’s most challenging crises. We do not want to jeopardise this vital work.
However, the establishment of MCNL is not just about receiving EU funds. The presence of MCNL in The Hague also opens up exciting opportunities for increasing Mercy Corps’ influence and partnerships on a range of important issues, especially in the fields of peace and justice, cash and markets, agriculture and agrifinance, climate, and humanitarian programming in complex crises.
What do you expect from membership of Partos?
We are still in a phase that we are exploring how we can best contribute and participate in Partos activities, events and initiatives. When we have more capacity and resources we would love to contribute more to research, the policy agenda, share program knowledge, participate in learning sessions etc. We want to focus on the themes of conflict and peacebuilding, agriculture and agrifinance, innovation in general and use of technology for improved efficiency and increased impact in particular. We would love to engage with others here on these themes.