Deputy head of mission: a mediator in humanitarian mission


The head of mission is sometimes supported by at deputy dedicated to support departments. The Deputy Head of Mission coordinates teams and departments in the field. Its purpose is to maximize every missions’ activities.

A warehouse of Première Urgence Internationale in Nigeria – © Gottay Photography, 2018.

The deputy head of mission, is responsible for all the departments that support the activities. It’s the right hand of the humanitarian mission leader. In short, he or she leads the human resources, finance, logistics and mission administration teams.

Currently, Première Urgence Internationale offers this position on three of its missions: in Syria, Nigeria and the Central African Republic. “This is quite a new position at Première Urgence Internationale, but it might develop,” explains Romain Gautier, Recruitment and Trainee Manager. “Especially on the missions with several teams, and where the different bases are very distant geographically from the mission.

“No programs without support”

Bianca Sarah Lemieux was deputy head of mission in Iraq [1], for almost a year. Both, with the Assistant Program Manager, supported the HOM on strategic decisions. “When this support assistant position exists, it allows to have a truly balanced and interesting decision-making trio,” she says. “We were working together with the program assistant. Indeed, there is no support without programs, and no programs without support.

On a daily work, the support assistant coordinates many teams. His or her goal is to : “create a real support dynamic, and facilitate meaningful dialogue so that all departments go in the same direction“. In short, this translates into a variety of responsibilities; from budget monitoring of the mission to recruitments ; going through the strategic choices to merge two bases. “There is no routine, it is a very transversal position,” says Bianca Sarah Lemieux.

A springboard function

The deputy head of mission in support is also the guarantor of the institutional and ethical policies of the mission. He or she ensures that the action taken fight against fraud and corruption. “You have to know how to impose a framework and standards. But also be flexible in emergency situations! Says Bianca Sarah Lemieux. In Iraq, the presence of performance indicators allowed it to rely on regular monitoring data. She says, “I could learn from analyzing this data to adapt programs. This gives a fairly macro view of the current mission. “

The position of support assistant makes it possible to take an overview. “We manage experts in their field, at the highest level of the mission. This means that every day, we rely on highly qualified people, who have strong technical expertise,” says Bianca Sarah Lemieux. “This makes it possible to offer solutions to optimize the operation of the activities“. The function also has many interests as part of a professional development path. In particular, with a view to assuming a head of mission role thereafter.

  [1] Following a restructuring, this post has since been removed from the Iraq mission.

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