Jonathan Whittall's journey in the humanitarian field has been nothing short of remarkable. His first encounter with LSTM was in 2005, where he pursued a Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance. With an insatiable thirst for knowledge, Jonathan went on to undertake an MSc in Humanitarian Studies in 2006, followed by a PhD in Humanitarian Studies in 2015. His doctoral research focused on the challenges facing humanitarian actors in the context of changing global power dynamics.
Jonathan's extensive experience in the field has seen him work in some of the most complex crises of the past almost two decades. Jonathan began working in the humanitarian field after the Tsunami in 2005, and then went on to work for Merlin in Darfur and GOAL in Northern Uganda. However, the majority of Jonathan's career has been spent with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
Starting out in his hometown of Johannesburg, South Africa, Jonathan provided operational support in emergency situations in Zimbabwe and for migrant and refugee communities and during an outbreak of xenophobic violence in South Africa in 2008. He then moved on to work in South Sudan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. When protests and conflict erupted in the Middle East and North Africa, he worked as an Emergency Coordinator on MSF's medical humanitarian responses in Libya, Bahrain, and Syria. His support to MSF operations has been nothing short of extraordinary.
Jonathan always combined direct field work in emergencies with work on advocacy and analysis. As the founding director of the MSF analysis department, Jonathan was able to bring together his operational, analytical, and strategic skills to manage teams in the areas of health politics, forced migration, conflict and humanitarianism and negotiated access.
He has also contributed to academic journals and newspapers on the politics of humanitarian aid recently co-edited "Everybody's war: the politics of aid in the Syria crisis," published by Oxford University Press in 2021.
When asked about his time at LSTM, Jonathan shares that it became his intellectual home. His PhD supervisor, Barry Munslow, has been his intellectual mentor and someone that he continues to share ideas with. The skills he gained at LSTM have been crucial in his work, particularly in critically reflecting and converting that reflection into strategies that improve how humanitarian action is delivered, especially in complex conflicts.
Jonathan's proudest achievement has been his work in responding to emergencies in places like Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq and then contributing to the strategic direction of MSF in Brussels. His ability to navigate complicated contexts requires a level of pragmatic creativity, which he enhanced during his time at LSTM and built through his now 17 years in the humanitarian sector.
Today, Jonathan Whittall is the head of the West Bank Field Coordination Unit as well as Head of the Research and Analysis Unit at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territory.