How governments can re-imagine humanitarian aid systems to meet global challenges

July 11, 2024

In the age of uncertainty, the frequency and complexity of the challenges that governments face is increasing. This means that governments – and wider public sector organisations – need to be ready for the impact of this uncertainty across many different policy areas.

This is particularly vital in the field of international development and humanitarian aid, where issues such as forced displacement, protracted armed conflict, food insecurity, natural disasters, and health emergencies mean aid programmes must be made both more efficient and more inclusive to effectively deliver.

This Global Government Forum webinar, held in partnership with knowledge partner Visa, looked at how governments can work across borders and with non-governmental organisations to reimagine aid for the digital age.

This session brought together public servants and aid experts to discuss how to build robust humanitarian aid systems, and how collaboration between government, non-governmental organisations, and the private sector can deliver more effective, responsive and adaptive aid delivery systems.

Join this webinar to find out how governments around the world can build an accessible, adaptable and sustainable approach to aid disbursements – driven by technological advances.

Together we discussed:

  • How government can build flexible, inclusive and accessible solutions to ensure aid can meet needs on the ground.
  • How to develop more effective international aid approaches that can accelerate aid delivery during crisis.
  • How government can build partnerships across public and private sector to develop and implement next-generation aid programmes that include innovations such as direct cash payments.


Ferid Belhaj, Former Vice President, Middle East and North Africa, World Bank

Ferid Belhaj took up the position of World Bank Vice President for Middle East and North Africa on July 1, 2018. Prior to this, he served as the Chief of Staff of the President of the World Bank Group for 15 months.

From 2012 to 2017, Mr. Belhaj was World Bank Director for the Middle East, in charge of work programs in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Iran, based in Beirut, Lebanon. In this capacity, he led the Bank’s engagement on the Syrian refugee crisis and its impact on the region, including the creation of new financing instruments to help countries hosting forcibly displaced people; the ramping up of the Bank drive towards the reconstruction and recovery of Iraq during and after the ISIS invasion and the scaling up of the Bank’s commitments to Lebanon and Jordan.

Before taking up his Mashreq assignment, Mr. Belhaj served as World Bank Director for the Pacific Department (2009-2012), where he developed a regional strategy that scaled up Bank engagement in small and fragile states, and tripled lending operations of the International Development Agency, one of the five institutions under the umbrella of the World Bank Group that provides interest-free loans and grants for Low-Income Countries.

From 2007 to 2010, Mr. Belhaj was the World Bank’s Special Representative to the United Nations (UN) in New York, where he engaged with various UN agencies on a range of programs, mainly climate change, the Millennium Development Goals, fragile and post-conflict states and the global financial and food crises. He also served as World Bank Country Manager for Morocco (2002-2007), where he developed a new and multifaceted dialogue with one of the best performing Middle-Income countries.

A Tunisian national, Mr. Belhaj joined the Bank in 1996 as Senior Counsel in the Legal Department, managing a number of legal and judicial reform projects. He also served as Bank Counsel for countries, including Egypt, Morocco, Iran, Algeria and Thailand. From 1992 to 1996, was the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Tunisian Embassy to the United States of America. Between 1988 and 1992 Mr. Belhaj served as the Legal Adviser to the Permanent Mission of Tunisia to the UN. Mr. Belhaj joined the Tunisian Foreign Service in 1986, and took on the task of Special Assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Marcia K. Wong, Deputy Assistant to the Administrator, Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, US Agency for International Development (USAID)

Marcia Wong is a Deputy Assistant to the Administrator of USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), the U.S. Government lead for international disaster response. With a mandate to save lives, alleviate human suffering, and reduce the impact of disasters, BHA monitors, mitigates, and responds to global hazards and humanitarian needs. The Bureau also promotes resilience by preparing communities for disasters before they strike, and by helping people recover and move beyond crises.

Prior to BHA, Ms. Wong was Head of Policy for the International Committee of the Red Cross/Regional Delegation for the US and Canada, where she led efforts to advance humanitarian policies which addressed conduct of hostilities and needs of people affected by conflict. She has over twenty-five years of experience with the U.S. Department of State, where she was a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. Her previous experience with USAID includes an assignment from State Department to the USAID Mission in North Macedonia, where she served as Economic Growth Director (and provided support to the USAID Mission in Kosovo). She served in USAID again in 2015 as a Senior Policy Advisor in the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Affairs. Before joining USAID in 2013, she was the Intergovernmental Affairs Director at the U.S. Institute of Peace, and led the Civilian-Military Relations Working Group.

Over the course of her government career, Ms. Wong was an Associate Dean at the Foreign Service Institute, overseeing training for U.S. personnel assigned to Iraq and Afghanistan. She helped strengthen the State Department’s crisis response capacity, with the establishment of the Secretary’s Office of Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Stabilization (now CSO), and served as its first Deputy, then Acting Coordinator. She also helped establish the Secretary’s Office for Foreign Assistance. Overseas assignments include Macedonia, Russia, and Japan. She has traveled extensively on short missions to the former Soviet Union, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Ms. Wong was also Deputy Executive Secretary to two Secretaries of State. Early in her State Department career, Ms. Wong focused on energy and security sector reforms. She was a MIT Seminar XXI Fellow (class of 2020), and holds B.A. degrees in International Relations and Political Science from Brown University.

Louise Holden, Global Head of Government Partnerships, Visa

Louise Holden leads the global government partnerships team at Visa and is based in London, UK.  Louise is a digital payment specialist who builds sustainable programmes for organisations including governments, humanitarian and development NGOs, and the private sector.  Louise’s team builds and manages Visa partnerships with organisations including financial institutions, multilateral organizations, NGOs, and fintech/govtech organisations, with a current focus on creating Visa’s humanitarian and development practice. She has 30 years’ experience of working in large multinational organisations, including roles at Barclaycard, American Express and Mastercard.  Louise has worked across Europe, Africa and Australia, and is a Life Fellow at the RSA and on the Leadership Circle of ARISE and Action Aid.    

Alan Robbins, Co-Founder and Executive Vice-President, Devex

Alan has played a key role in Devex’s journey from a small start- up to the leading media platform covering global development, health and humanitarian issues.    Along with a talented group of editors, reporters, and communicators, he is driving growth and engagement through partnerships with organizations working on the SDGs and social good – aid agencies, major corporations, leading NGOs and everyone in-between.  Through events, visual stories, content series, special reports and more, Devex’s award-winning partnerships help drive the development agenda and create awareness on key global issues, from disability inclusive development, to health worker safety, to inclusive food systems and much, much more.   

Alan has a graduate degree in international affairs from George Washington University and an undergraduate degree in history and political science from Rutgers University.  In his spare time, you can find him reading historical biographies, coaching his sons’ sports teams and adjusting to no longer being the tallest in the family. 

Webinar chair: Siobhan Benita, Facilitator, Global Government Forum

Siobhan Benita was a senior civil servant with over 15 years’ Whitehall experience. She worked in many of the major delivery departments, including Transport, Environment, Health and Local Government. She also had senior roles at the heart of Government in the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury, including supporting the then Cabinet Secretary, Lord O’Donnell to lead work on Civil Service reform and strategy. Siobhan left the Civil Service to run as an independent candidate in the Mayor of London election. She subsequently joined her alma mater, Warwick University as Chief Strategy Officer of Warwick in London and Co-Director of the Warwick Policy Lab.