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Sonia Zambakides

Senior Leader, International Development

Professional Status
Open to opportunities
About Me
I am a highly experienced leader in international affairs, with a passion for leading teams to make a real and lasting difference. My belief in development motivates me and drives my ability to make genuine change.

I lead large-scale operations with responsibility for hundreds of staff, and their welfare, with substantial budgets. This includes directing global missions, building country and regional programmes and running large scale emergency response programmes. My experience spans international organisations, senior donor and diplomatic engagement, and top tier commercial consulting.

I am currently the Crown Agents Fund Director and Asia and Middle East Regional Director. Prior to this I was London-based leading Crown Agents' global Humanitarian and Stabilisation team. From 2006 to 2017 I worked in East Africa and the Middle East, building, running and representing large scale, high-value country and regional programmes.

I am an innovator, who designs and delivers instruments that are designed for impact for the beneficiaries they serve. While my career spans the full humanitarian - to- development spectrum, I believe we should focus on responding to, and resolving, protracted crises which require sensitive, adaptable and multi-skilled approaches. I achieve results in these situations and have long been an advocate of designing interventions that have fluidity between multiple strands running in parallel (such as humanitarian response, recovery and resilience) in order to meet needs in often fast-changing landscapes.

My results speak for themselves:
  • In Myanmar, I lead the UK's main humanitarian response programme, a multi-sector fund providing £70 million in funds to over 50 national and international organisations, including in response to COVID and the ongoing military coup.
  • In Lebanon, I built a $45 million country programme, leading a team of more than 600 people.
  • In Somalia, I led a multi-sector programme valued at $60m over 18 months, reaching even the hardest parts of the country.

I build outstanding and high performing teams, often drawn from my extensive network of contacts. I have a 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. I empower my teams and organisations to achieve their potential, often in high pressure situations and achieve loyalty through doing so.

It is this combination of innovation, ambition, experience and leadership that make me an ideal leader in international development and I look forward to my next challenge.
  • Establishment and leadership of large headquarters and country teams. I am a motivational leader who takes decisive actions, applies positive affirmation and promotes accountability. I value diversity and have a talent for working inclusively with people of all backgrounds. I have long-standing knowledge and experience of human resources, including legal understanding of recruitment, personal development, safeguarding and disciplinary procedures.
  • I have a proven track record in mobilising stakeholders to agree complex advocacy strategies and approaches. This skill has been built over more than 20 years, starting at the Irish and European level where I was a key activist in the successful movement to recognise rape as a war crime. As the Country Director in Lebanon I worked on the development and implementation of the No Lost Generation movement.
  • Extensive experience representing organisations professionally and at the highest levels. I am adept at preparing press materials, statements and briefings and have organised and led international media visits. I have successfully given press and broadcast interviews. I am comfortable engaging with senior political figures, ranging from heads of international agencies and donors to ministers.
  • I have an incisive knowledge of programme cycle management, built on more than 20 years experience designing, implementing, monitoring and reporting on programmes across a range of sectors. I am an experienced financial manager who takes full and direct accountability for high-value budgets (up to $100 million in the most recent case). I have extensive monitoring and evaluation experience and promote innovation based on learning.
  • I have led teams (directly and virtually) across many countries and continents. I have a natural ability to adapt approaches to suit different groups or individuals, promoting cultural sensitivity and respectful working environments. My conflict resolution skills have been used to positive effect with warring factions, communities in crisis, competing teams and executive boards.
  • I am an instinctive leader, who responds to beneficiary and client needs, often responding swiftly but effectively. I have a demonstrated capacity to mobilise resources, (re-)structure teams and operate within national and international frameworks and conventions. I have a proven ability to remain calm and focussed under pressure and to both communicate and implement the actions necessary to achieve impact and results.