‘It fuels your curiosity in the world'

10 minutes with Logistics Cluster Information Management Officer, Lila Ricart.
08 October 2018

What do you want to be when you grow up?  For most 10-year-olds, this question is almost rhetorical, the answer is either unknown or constantly changing. But Lila Ricart wasn’t your average 10-year-old. 

“When I was 10 I wanted to be a lawyer at the International Criminal Court. Growing up in West Africa, I witnessed inequalities that never left me. As a child and a teenager, I felt I needed to make sense of it all, to learn more about the context both personally and professionally.”

14 years later and 24-year-old Lila isn’t your average 24-year-old either.

Her raw passion and interest in international affairs shines through as she speaks to us about her second deployment as an Information Management Officer with the Logistics Cluster, and the shift from human rights to humanitarian.

“I maintained an interest in human rights throughout my studies, but at some point I just became frustrated by the theory and the challenges you face in creating tangible change. I realised I wanted to move into the core of a problem. That’s what led me to an interest in complex emergencies. It’s what led me to South Sudan.”

When did your career with the Logistics Cluster begin?

It was 2016, and my application for an internship was succesful with the Logistics Cluster Information Management (IM) team at WFP headquarters in Rome. My experience in the humanitarian sector prior to this was limited, but I just thought okay, let’s try.

I wanted to work on projects that were more pragmatic. And I loved it. Supporting the field teams with reviewing and sharing critical information – from air schedules, logistics SOPs, operational overviews, and communication pieces – I just wanted to absorb every learning opportunity I could.

 From here, I was lucky enough to be offered my first deployment as an IM Officer for the cluster, supporting the ongoing and complex crisis in the Central African Republic. It’s hard to put the reality of your first field mission into words but it was life changing. There were challenges of course but the incredible people I met and worked with in Bangui will always be part of my life.

The speed that you gain knowledge in field operations is nothing short of impressive. The pace is quicker and the learning curve far steeper. It fuels your curiosity in the world.

 

And now?

I’ve just arrived in Juba in South Sudan for my second deployment with the Logistics Cluster. The new impressions are constant and it can be overwhelming.

From a logistics point of view it’s going to be more challenging for me than previous roles. Logistics in South Sudan is a huge operation and can be very demanding, comparable to navigating a logistics rubik’s cube.

As an IM Officer I’m doing more than reporting and communicating. I have started coordinating Logistics Cluster convoys and will soon travel within the country. A normal day in Juba is far from predictable. Meetings, reports, emails, social media, emergencies popping up, ad-hoc requests, everything comes together and you need to be both alert and flexible.

What are the key logistics constraints facing responding agencies in South Sudan at the moment?

Security is the major constraint in the country.

Even though the Logistics Cluster does not deal directly with this type of constraint, it is at the core of our decisions and our planning. Each situation must be looked at with the highest level of caution at all times. We can’t forget that lives are at risk.

Communication is another one. A silo approach can be really common in this kind of context, enhancing information sharing and exchanges among responders is a day to day challenge and a tale of patience.

It’s been a diverse two years for you. How do the different roles compare?

When I look back on my experience in HQ, to my role in CAR, and now my current position in South Sudan, it has been a continuous learning curve through quick and intense changes. The role and responsibilities you end up with are mainly based on your immediate team and counterparts but I now also feel part of a broader professional family and I want to start sharing what I am learning.

Context wise, after spending most of my teenage years in Senegal and studying West African politics, I have slowly moved my focus towards the great lakes and Central African Region. DRC, CAR and South Sudan are all highly complex, and they are places that need to be listened to and truly understood. These are ongoing crises, ones that often become forgotten and have much deeper and much more complicated roots.

What advice would you give to others?

Be curious and give it a try.

 

Go to the field, and go where you may not have expected yourself to be. You’ll have doubts but trust in yourself, trust in your freedom to make decisions and accept uncertainties, they're part of the experience. Just give it a try.

The Logistics Cluster is currently looking for an Information Management intern, applications close 31 October. Learn more about the Logistics Cluster South Sudan operation here.