Your browser is outdated!

To ensure you have the best experience and security possible, update your browser. Update now


Sonia Zambakides

Senior Leader, International Development

Professional Status
Open to opportunities
About Me
I am currently the Crown Agents Fund Director and Asia and Middle East Regional Director. Prior to this I was London based leading their global Humanitarian and Stabilisation team. From 2006 to 2017 I worked in East Africa and the Middle East running large scale emergency responses and building country/regional programmes.

I have a deep passion for development and a core belief in the ability to make a difference. These are my primary drivers for the work I do and result in me being highly motivated and driven to effect change where change is needed.

My career has spanned the full spectrum of humanitarian response to long term development: however, I believe that these traditional divides are no longer relevant in todays context where 80% of the conflicts are protracted crisis. For a number of years I have been an advocate of designing strategic, and operational approaches which have fluidity between multiple strands running in parallel, such as humanitarian response, recovery and resilience in order to meet the needs in the changing development landscape.
  • English - mother tongue; Bosnian - fluent.
  • French - beginner (currently engaged in refresher language course)
  • To lead and manage the £75 million HARP Facility, which is the instrument for the FCDO to deliver the UK Government’s humanitarian and resilience portfolio across Myanmar.
  • I built an entirely new team and led a change management process from January 2019 which resulted in growth from 12 to 53 partners, including a 70% in partnering with local organisations
  • To to the highly effective results of the change management process, DfID, and then FCDO after the merger, extended the HARP-F contract both in value and timeframe to the maximum permissible under the contract rules.
  • Under my leadership, HARP-F is at the forefront of both the COVID and subsequent post-coup humanitarian response in Myanmar, supporting local partners to access funding and respond to the rapidly increasing needs
  • HARP-F provides leadership in knowledge brokering across national and international bodies in Myanmar and the region
Learn more

Director, Humanitarian and Stabilisation

Crown Agents
May 2017 to December 2018
  • To establish, lead and manage a team of Humanitarian and Stabilisation professionals, building on Crown Agents 25-year history of running the UK Government Conflict, Humanitarian and Security Department Operational Team (CHASE-OT)
  • To develop and manage innovative programmes around the world for key donors and governments, such as the HARP Facility in Myanmar:
  • Use Crown Agents unique 183 year footprint with governments of developing countries around the world to support them to find, resource and implement solutions to humanitarian and stabilisation challenges
  • Research, develop and roll out products to support frontline humanitarian actors such as start to end humanitarian supply chain, fund management, remote management systems and tools
  • Co-led on developing 'Humanitarians Behind the Headlines':
Learn more

All of Syria Co-Ordinator

International Medical Corps
December 2014 to May 2016
  • Developed the All of Syria Strategy for International Medical Corps (IMC)
    From December 2014 to June 2015 I worked with IMC's newly established Middle East Regional Team, Country Offices and Response Teams to develop a 2015/16 All of Syria Strategy. This encompassed all programming inside Syria as well as the programmes in Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq/KRI and Jordan.
    A key component of the work was to support programmes transitioning from first phase emergency response to a chronic humanitarian situation.
  • Once the strategy was completed in June 2015, I continued my work with International Medical Corps supporting their teams across the region who were working cross border into Syria. The focus was on bringing these teams together to look at improving communication, systems and processes including monitoring and accountability.
  • In July 2015 I was asked to support the Jordan Country and Cross Border Programmes alongside my work of facilitating the strategy implementation. IMC were facing challenging times and I was required to lead on in country donor and related agency relationships. I did this successfully until January 2016.
Learn more

Country Director

Save the Children Lebanon
May 2013 to November 2014
  • I started as the Country Director in May 2013 and scaled up the programme from $5 million to $45 million by December 2013 to respond to immediate and longer term needs of Syrian refugees and host populations in Lebanon.
  • Save the Children Lebanon had to be built up from a small development programme to a multi sector response and development programme. This involved establishing a new country office. I led in recruiting and appointing the entire Lebanon Country Office SMT and then supported in building the teams underneath them. At peak capacity there was a staff of 450 people full time and 250 people part time.
  • Created, maintained and operationalised a strategic vision for Lebanon and ensured the the vision was translated into actions both internally and externally.
  • Over 2013 I took the lead in repairing fractured donor and Save the Children member relationships ensuring all concerns were addressed and then successfully achieving buy in to the vision and strategy for the coming 18 months.
  • I managed a innovative and creative inside Syria programme which delivered life saving assistance in parallel to building civil society; emergency response through a development lens. Further details on request due to need for confidentiality of this programme.
Learn more

Response Team Leader/Humanitarian Director

Save the Children Somalia
February 2010 to April 2013
  • I led Save the Children's famine response in Somalia during 2011/12. This was part of Save the Children's International East Africa Emergency Appeal. Due to the scope and scale of this response and the fact the existing country programme was continuing to deliver its development work, I was mandated to establish and lead an entirely new and seperate team to run all aspects of the response, including fundraising, media, programmes, HR, operations, finance and grants.
  • Over $60 million was raised for the response in Somalia . I held primary responsibility and accountability for this budget, as well as fundraising, donor relationships and the implementation of the response programmes.
  • I managed a team who developed and implemented a response strategy which trebled emergency programming across affected regions.
  • I was the focal point for all Save the Children International members in this response taking the lead on fundraising, advocacy and ensuring clear communications.
  • I have done extensive media representation acting as the in country spokesperson and have accompanied high profile journalists to Somalia.
Learn more

Humanitarian and Development Consultancies - varied

United Nations and international NGO's Sudan, Kenya, Somalia
January 2007 to January 2010
Nairobi - Darfur - Somaliland
  • United Nations Human Settlements Programme Sudan (UN-HABITAT Sudan). I co-ordinated a team of local consultants and university graduates to carry out an economic profile of two cities in Darfur. This led to the development of a local economic development and micro enteprise programmes.
  • United Nations Development Programme for Somalia (UNDP Somalia). I worked with the Armed Violence Reduction team on the Community Safety Strategy for Somalia. I co-ordinated and ran training/workshops for local government representatives and worked with local NGO's to build capacity to deliver a Community Safety programme. The programme seeks to reduce and prevent armed violence through the involvement of State actors in a partnership with the local communities and NGOs.
Learn more

Humanitarian and Development Consultancies - continued

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
September 2009 to January 2010
  • I provided support to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Division of Early Warning & Assesment (DEWA) for changeover in global programming for 2010-2012. UNEP was changing to a matrix system and had for the first time to develop programmes using results based management methodologies.
  • I developed procedures in monitoring and evaluation, project management and implementation for the changeover strategy.
  • I trained and coached management and teams in change management, and developed staff capacity to support the development of two year global, regional and sub-regional projects.
Learn more

Country Director

Cradle international NGO
September 1992 to July 1997
Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • I was a founder member of Cradle and led operations in Mostar, Bosnia and Hercegovina in 1992 to secure safe delivery of humanitarian aid to children affected by the conflict.
  • I established logistics and supply chain protocols for aid coming from Ireland to Mostar and subsequently managed them.
  • I was responsible for developing and implementing life saving programmes such as nutrition and health in partnership with local organisations.
  • I held responsibility for security management, including rapid security assessments to inform programmes on how to adapt and ensure safe delivery of services in a highly volatile environment.
  • I developed a network of local NGO's, local administrations, international NGO's and community representatives to promote collaboration of services.
  • I represented and advocated for the organisation in the field and gave regular briefings to the Irish Foreign Affairs Committee.
  • I supported local NGO's and community groups to secure funding and implement programmes in a post-conflict environment.
Learn more
  • I have managed up to 600 staff and trained senior management on key leadership skills. Experience in using motivational leadership through decisive actions, positive affirmation and promoting team and individual accountability. A key component of effective leadership is promoting a wide reaching ethos of accountability.
  • Talent for working in an inclusive manner with people of all backgrounds. I value diversity by recognizing the differences and using these to draw out individual and team strengths.
  • A strong track record of successful change management skills with an ability to bring diverse organisations and individuals together to focus on a common goal.
  • Strong belief in forging links and networks with governments, peer organisations, local communities and authorities to improve collaboration, avoid duplication, build staff and local capacity in order to ultimately provide more effective service delivery.
  • A clear experiential understanding of the role advocacy and policy reform play in the development arena. A proven track record of using these mediums to effect change at local, national and international level.
  • Ability to create dynamic strategies to ensure that affected populations have a voice at international and national level.
  • Demonstrable capacity to work effectively with media including preparation and delivery of press statements/briefings, leading on international press visits and long term experience in press and broadcast interviews.
  • Over 20 years of experience in advocating for policy change starting at the Irish and European level where I was a key activist in the successful movement to have rape recognised as a war crime. As the Country Director in Lebanon I worked the development and implementation of the No Lost Generation mo
  • Proven track record in bringing together all stakeholders to agree complex advocacy strategies and approaches, ensuring the common theme is maintained and clearly articulated throughout .
  • In-depth knowledge of programme cycle management. 20+ years experience of designing, implementing, monitoring and reporting on programmes. I have trained senior managers on all aspects of programme management.
  • Extensive experience in financial management. I have designed, monitored and reported on a large scale budgets since the start of my career and I have held direct accountability for budgets up to $60 million.
  • Extensive monitoring and evaluation experience, including design of equality proofing templates for social inclusion programmes.
  • Proven capacity to develop and maitain donor relations: I have developed and implemented development and emergency proposals for the European Union, the UK Department for International Development (DfID), United Nations bodies and all other major donors.
  • I have a proven track record of fundraising in challenging environments; for example I maintained and increased funding for Somalia in 2010 during a time of diminished donor engagement and heightened risk aversion due to the political context.
  • Demonstrated capacity to mobilize resources through rapid assessments, familiarity with humanitarian/emergency funding sources, rapid proposal development and emergency management systems.
  • Extensive experience in leading and managing rapid response teams. I was a key member of a crisis management team during a kidnapping in Somalia which had a fast and positive result.
  • Knowledge of development and implementation of emergency preparedness plans, and familiarity with Humanitarian Accountability Principles (HAP), Sphere standards, and the Red Cross/Crescent Code of Conduct.
  • Proven ability to remain calm and focussed under pressure and to both communicate and implement the necessary actions.
  • Development of humanitarian strategic plans including support and capacity building of teams to ensure effective implementation.