Intervention in a new country: challenges and priorities

Published on Tuesday 26 October 2021

Xavier Lauth, Head of SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL’s Emergency Desk, talks about the challenges his teams face when opening a new country office.

Throughout the year, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL monitors the various countries in which it does not yet operate. This monitoring consists of assessing various humanitarian situations, analysing the political and security components, and evaluating the benefit of the intervention in the country concerned. This last stage involves both a detailed analysis of the actors involved, as well as the nature and scale of the needs, in order to determine the region in which the organisation should intervene, in line with its mandate and expertise. Finally, the feasibility of the operation must be determined: the Emergency desk teams study the constraints on access, particularly in terms of security and administration, consider the resources available (financial, HR, logistics), and calculate the risks. This information is gathered through interviews, reports and, if necessary, an exploratory mission in the field. The latter will allow SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL to collect valuable data and subsequently decide whether to open a new country office.

Once this decision taken, there are several priorities to consider. Firstly, the Emergency desk is committed to translating the strategic positioning of our NGO into concrete humanitarian projects, then presenting these to our financial partners. Then, we must deal with the logistical aspects of setting up our office: finding workspaces, accommodation, stocks, buying equipment, renting vehicles, etc. Our teams also have to deal with administrative requirements such as registration, understanding the tax framework, and applying for permits. We also need to promptly open a bank account and subsequently secure a supply chain in local currency. Finally, as our NGO works mainly with locally recruited staff, opening a new Country Office means recruiting a new national team and therefore understanding the recruitment networks, local labour laws, and security issues around recruitment.

Opening a new Country Office is a long process. While our teams are sometimes able to set up activities in a very short time, it often happens that we have many surprises in all areas for several months after our arrival. Our ability to adapt to this is one of the main strengths of our organisation.

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