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Creating hope in conflict: a Humanitarian Grand Challenge

Time (GMT +00) 14:00 15:00
Hero image description: US Marines and Philippines Armed Forces help civilians displaced by Typhoon Haiyan Image credit:U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Anne K. Henry Image license:CC BY 2.0

Contributing chair

Sara Pantuliano @SaraPantuliano - Managing Director, Overseas Development Institute (ODI)

Keynote speakers

Mark Green @USAIDMarkGreen - Administrator, USAID

Penny Mordaunt @PennyMordaunt - Secretary of State for International Development of the United Kingdom


There are more than 136 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Crises fueled by conflict, disasters and displacement are growing in complexity and cost. The humanitarian system is, at best, buckling under the pressure, and at worst failing the people who need it most. Currently, only 1% of humanitarian aid is estimated to be focused on innovation. Radical change is needed.

Donors are rethinking how aid is spent in complex humanitarian crises. There is growing recognition of the crucial role local affected communities and the private sector play in responding to crises and protracted situations. New approaches, products and mechanisms are urgently required to offer more efficient ways of delivering assistance.

This event launches the Humanitarian Grand Challenge – an initiative to identify, support and transition to scale humanitarian innovation and harness the power of new technologies. The Challenge calls upon leading donors, investors and private sector partners, with input from affected communities, to submit their bold ideas.

Join Mark Green, Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, Penny Mordaunt, Secretary of State for International Development of the United Kingdom and Sara Pantuliano, Managing Director at ODI for an engaging and interactive conversation regarding the challenges facing the humanitarian system and how donors are changing the way humanitarian assistance reaches the world's most vulnerable populations. The speakers discuss innovative financing models, including the Humanitarian Grand Challenge, and their commitment to bring together new voices, partners, and affected communities to solve these pressing challenges.

The event is followed by a networking reception 15:00-16:00.


Ambassador Mark Green (ret.) was sworn in as the 18th Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development in August 2017. Prior to joining USAID, he served as president of the International Republican Institute, president and chief executive officer of the Initiative for Global Development, and senior director at the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. A recognized leader in the foreign policy and business communities, Green served as the U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania from mid-2007 to early 2009. Prior, Green served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives representing Wisconsin’s 8th District. While in Congress, he helped craft key policy initiatives including the Millennium Challenge Act and President George W. Bush’s history-making AIDS program. He also served as an Assistant Majority Whip. Green is currently serving his third term on the Board of Directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, having been appointed to that post by President Barack Obama in 2010. Green holds a law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire.

Penny Mordaunt was appointed Secretary of State for International Development in November 2017. She was Minister of State for Department for Work and Pensions from July 2016 to November 2017. She was elected Conservative MP for Portsmouth North in 2010. Earlier in her political career, Penny worked for Conservative Central Office, becoming Head of Broadcasting under William Hague. In 2000 she served as Head of Foreign Press for George W. Bush’s presidential election campaign. In Parliament, Penny served on the European Scrutiny Committee, Defence Select Committee, and as chairman of the APPGs for Life Science and for Ageing and Older People. In autumn 2013 she was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Defence, Rt Hon. Philip Hammond MP. She served as Minister of State for the Armed Forces from May 2015 until July 2016. Outside of politics, Penny worked as an aid worker in post-revolutionary Romania before and during university. She was director of communications at Kensington & Chelsea Council and the Freight Transport Association and was a director of Diabetes UK, the Community Fund and the Big Lottery Fund.

Sara Pantuliano is a Managing Director at ODI, where she has led the humanitarian team for six years. She is a member of the Global Future Council on the Humanitarian System of the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Managing Editor of Disasters Journal and a Trustee of IRIN news and SOS Sahel. She has recently been appointed as the Vice-Chair of the Board of Muslim Aid, and has served on a range of advisory boards, including Oxford University’s Refugees Studies Centre and the UN Association of the UK. She was a member of the ‘Independent Team of Advisers’ established in 2016 by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) to formulate recommendations on the long term positioning of the UN Development System. Sara previously led a high-profile UN response in the Nuba Mountains, acted as an observer at the IGAD Sudan peace process and lectured at the University of Dar es Salaam. She holds a PhD in Politics and has written extensively on Sudan, conflict and humanitarian affairs. 

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