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 and PhD candidate at Utrecht University, working on a dissertation on humanitarian communication. Prior to pursuing his PhD, Wouter obtained his master’s degree and worked as a Lecturer at the Department of Media Studies of the University of Amsterdam. Alongside working on his dissertation, 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 international development actually means, and he does so through education, research, advice and advocacy.
Emiel Martens (PhD) is a media lecturer, researcher, and producer. He works as an Assistant Professor in Film and Visual Culture at the University of Amsterdam and as a Postdoc Researcher at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. His research interests span the fields of Postcolonial (Media) Studies, Popular Geopolitics, Alternative Media, Diversity and Migration Studies, and Film (and) Tourism, with a particular focus on Caribbean film and visual culture. Besides his university posts and position as Managing Co-Director at our Expertise Centre, Emiel is also, among other things, the Founding Director of non-profit organization Caribbean Creativity and the producer of impact films such as Welcome to the Smiling Coast and Gifts from Babylon.
Anika Altaf (PhD) 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 (PhD) 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 local and international NGOs, the UN, ministries, and multiple universities and research centres.
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.
Daniel Hemink studied History and International Relations at the University of Amsterdam. His interests cover the dynamics of colonialism, capitalism and international development. In 2017, he founded Daniel Dutch, a language school for teaching Dutch to immigrants. In addition, he works as copywriter and blogger. He for example wrote a critique on capitalism, postulating an alternative participatory model to our current all-encompassing world system of individualistic profit-making. Through writings like these, Daniel aspires to challenge systemic capitalism by investigating different pathways to a more fair, sustainable and harmonious world.
Marjolein Polder has a background in Liberal Arts & Sciences (University College Roosevelt) and International Conflict Studies (King’s College London), with a focus on gender and transitional justice. Marjolein previously worked as a Human Rights Officer at the United Nations Human Rights Council, where she advised state and NGO delegations on participation in the UN body. Currently she is Communications Coordinator at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). In 2014 she helped draft the first version of the Humanitarian Communication Code and in 2020 rejoined the advisory team to put it into practice in discussions with Dutch ID organisations.