The Expertise Centre Humanitarian Communication (HuCom) is a non-profit organization committed to better communication on international development. We consider representation and discourse as integral to the production of the Global South and see the communication on (the needs of) developing nations and peoples by government, industry, NGOs and the media in the Global North as part of the problem of (the failure of) international development and worldwide issues of poverty, inequality and injustice. In other words, we do not consider humanitarian communication as a means to an end, but as part and parcel of the end itself.
We aim to contribute to an environment in which all players in international development can and will dare to learn more from each other, so that we can work more effectively and ethically towards a world without poverty, inequality and injustice that we all aspire to. On this website you can read how we try to make a contribution. Most visibly, we organize awareness events, notably the Humanitarian Communication Awards and the Humanitarian Communication Thesis Prize, and provide international development organizations with advice on how to do their humanitarian communication (strategies) better. In addition, we organize, host and/or participate in various workshops and other events throughout the year.
Better communication on so-called ‘developing countries’ in the Global South and an open discussion on international development (ID) are needed because the average citizen in the Netherlands (and the rest of the Global North) is too often confronted with a one-sided and stereotypical image of developing countries and their inhabitants. Our expertise centre helps development organizations (as well as news media) to avoid such unbalanced and ultimately harmful imaging. In addition, there is a lot of uncertainty among the general public about what ID organizations are. Too many discussions are based on a lack of historical awareness and current information. Our Expertise Centre Humanitarian Communication is therefore committed to an open and nuanced debate in which there is room for context and that is fed with facts and personal stories from different angles.
The Expertise Centre Humanitarian Communication is a recognized Dutch non-profit organization. Here you can find (in Dutch) our official mission statement (‘doelstelling’) as formulated in our statutes (‘statuten’). If you are interested in our annual accounts, you can send an email request to our treasurer at [email protected]. An overview of all our activities can be found under Advice and Events.
HuCom is affiliated to the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis (ASCA) of the University of Amsterdam. In addition, we are official partners of KUNO, the Platform for Humanitarian Knowledge Exchange, Disrupt Development, world’s first post-growth innovation academy in global development, and UCOS, the Universitair Centrum voor Ontwikkelingssamenwerking (University Centre for Development Cooperation).
Wouter Oomen is a Lecturer in Media Studies at Utrecht University, where he obtained his PhD in the field of humanitarian communication in 2023. Previously, Wouter obtained his master’s degree and worked as a Lecturer at the Department of Media Studies of the University of Amsterdam. In the past few years, Wouter took an active role in the PhD communities of the RMeS and UGlobe and went to study at the London School of Economics as a visiting PhD. As one of the Managing Directors of our expertise centre, Wouter aims to broaden discussions about what ethical communication on development cooperation actually means, and he does so through education, research, advice and advocacy.
Emiel Martens is a media lecturer, researcher, programmer and producer. He works as an Assistant Professor in Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam and as a Senior Researcher in Arts and Culture Studies at Erasmus University Rotterdam. His research interests span the fields of Postcolonial (Media) Studies, Popular Geopolitics, Alternative Media, Diversity & Migration Studies, Creative Industries, and Film (&) Tourism, with a particular focus on Caribbean film and visual culture. Besides his university posts and position at our centre, Emiel is also, among other things, the Founding Director of Caribbean Creativity and the producer of impact films such as Welcome to the Smiling Coast and Gifts from Babylon.
Farah Moreel is a final year International Relations MA student at Utrecht University. Previously she has completed a BA in History at the same university, where she followed the International Relations track and specialized in conflict, violence, and security. She wrote both of her theses on topics surrounding the environment-security nexus, where she explored the role of discourse in conflict prevention. Farah has a particular interest in conflict, crises, security, human rights, and how all this ties together with history. From September 1, 2023 until January 1, 2024, she is undertaking an internship at our centre, assisting the Managing Board with their activities and events, particularly the HuCom Thesis Prize 2023.
Anika Altaf has over a decade of experience in the field of international development with a strong focus on sub-Saharan Africa (Benin, Burkina-Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, South-Africa) and South-Asia (Bangladesh and Pakistan). She is trained as a human geographer and holds a PhD in International Development Studies from the University of Amsterdam. Her area of expertise is inclusive development and human wellbeing, specifically of the most marginalised people. She has ample experience in conducting participatory research, working with local communities and translating research into practice and policy. Anika is the author of The Many Hidden Faces of Extreme Poverty (2019).
Gigi Pasco Ong-Alok is a critical insider in the field of ID with a background in Conflict Studies and Human Rights. He currently works as an Innovation Facilitator for Partos and freelance diversity and inclusion advisor at Disrupt Development. Previously, he worked with grassroot initiatives in Rio de Janeiro and Nairobi, facilitated diversity and inclusion workshops in higher education, coordinated the innovation agenda on LGBTI+ advocacy at COC and worked on strengthening global civil society networks at Oxfam Novib. Beyond of ‘doing things good’, his inspiration to work in this sector is based on co-creating spaces for indigenous and minority voices to thrive and dismantling colonial perceptions, representations and practices in ID.
Having worked and lived extensively in various contexts in the Global South, Steyn Hoogakker began to develop a keen interest for documentary photography as a means to provoke a wider and more nuanced discussion around (mis)representation and foster dialogue and action around social and environmental injustices. He is the co-founder of iMPACT JOURNEY and iMPACT DOC, an audiovisual platform and interdisciplinary non-profit space (now online) for documentary visual makers respectively. They host masterclasses and screenings and co-curated various exhibitions. In 2020 Steyn moved to the UK to combine his practice with a PhD research in Human Geography at Loughborough University in Leicestershire.
Cynthia Kpozuxe has a background in both International Business and Languages (HZ University of Applied Sciences) and International Relations and Diplomacy (University of Antwerp). For her latter studies she wrote a thesis on diplomatic relations from a critical postcolonial perspective. At present Cynthia is working as a Business Advisor and Community Manager for the Foundation Rural Energy Services (FRES). Well aware of the issues around humanitarian communication and the need for a critical yet constructive approach towards it, she has joined both our Supervisory Board and Advisory Team (see below), in order to contribute to improving and enhancing communication on international development.
In his daily life Gabriel Ramirez Acevedo is working as Functional Manager at the University of Amsterdam. He holds a Bachelor in International Relations and a Master in International Development Studies. He has previously worked as a consultant for social and environmental projects in Colombia, as director of a non-profit organization aiming to safeguard gastronomic traditions in Colombia, and at an environmental NGO in the US. After being a nominee in the Humanitarian Communication Thesis Prize 2018, he wanted to continue exploring issues of power and representation in international development, and this is why he wanted to become a board member of our expertise centre.
Miriam Ocadiz is a PhD candidate at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. She is part of the project Engaged Scholarship Narratives of Change, where she focuses on the role of academia in contributing to the societal inclusion of refugees in South Africa. She has a bachelor in Hispanic Literature and Language (UNAM, Mexico) as well as International Studies (Leiden University, NL), and obtained a master in African Studies at the African Studies Center Leiden with a thesis on the Cuban medical cooperation in Mozambique and the embodiment of solidarity. As a board member Mimi aims to raise awareness around power imbalances in ID and support a more critical perspective on humanitarian communication.
Rodrigo Mena is a researcher, lecturer, and consultant. He currently works as Assistant Professor at the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam, focusing on humanitarian responses and risk reduction to disasters and their interaction with other crises. Mena also serves as a board member of the International Humanitarian Studies Association (IHSA) and has led humanitarian aid groups and conducted research in disasters and conflict-affected places such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Chile, Sierra Leone, and South Sudan. Before his current positions, he worked with (I)NGOs, the UN, ministries, and multiple universities and research centres.
With experience working and living in diverse contexts across the world, Josh McDonald’s work has focused on the intersection of sustainable development, digital media, and the non-profit sector. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Development from the University of Waterloo and a Master’s degree in New Media and Digital Culture from the University of Amsterdam. His thesis, which was nominated for the Humanitarian Communication Thesis Prize in 2021, focused on the representation of children within the aid sector in the Global South. After graduating in the Netherlands, McDonald moved back to Canada, where he is currently working within the charity sector as a program manager.
Vera Hendriks has been with us since the inception of our organisation. She has a background in both Liberal Arts & Sciences and International Development Studies. From her experience working in communications positions at several Dutch INGOs, she is well aware of the issues they are facing in trying to communicate ethical stories while being effective in fundraising. Currently, she is working as a Specialist Online Communication at the departments of Environmental Sciences, Animal Sciences and Marine Research at Wageningen University & Research, and she is still active for our organization by coordinating and contributing to the advisory reports for INGOs.
Martha Teijema has a background in International Law, Nursing and Health Sciences. Martha previously worked and lived in South Africa where she researched the collaboration between healthcare and religious structures for HIV service provision. At present, she is a PhD candidate at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and works for Doctors of the World Netherlands at the Right to Care Team. At Doctors of the World, she coordinates psychological care for undocumented migrants in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. Having worked for, and with, several INGOs, Martha brings a versatile skill set to analyze and interpret different forms of communication from organizations.
Maru Alurralde specializes in social impact communications for INGOs. She has worked in the communications teams of the UNHCR Regional Office for Southern Latin America and UNICEF in Argentina, her home country. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications (Austral University), a diploma in Migrants and Refugee Protection (UBA) and a master’s degree in International Development Studies (UvA). In her master’s thesis, she explored issues of white saviourism and Western ethnocentrism through research on the role of international volunteers in refugee camps in Greece. Currently, she leads the social media communications department of global NGO Generation.
Hannah Kampos-Green has completed a BA in International Relations at the University of Sydney and will start her MA in International Development Studies at the University of Amsterdam shortly. Kampos-Green is an Australian writer who has worked for a number of companies both in Australia and Europe, including 10×10 Philanthropy. Currently, Hannah is developing her career as a research writer in the humanitarian sector with a focus on gender rights and empowerment. Through language, Hannah hopes to challenge dominant modes of thinking in order to uncover more ethical solutions and contribute to the discussions and knowledge of international development.