This week marks an exciting juncture for Dóchas as the new Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Keatinge takes up her post. If you’re involved in the development sector no doubt you will meet Suzanne in the coming weeks and months, but in the meantime, we thought you might like to get to know the new CEO – what motivates and excites her and what her vision is for the sector.
First, a little professional background: Suzanne Keatinge is an experienced international development practitioner and senior manager, with over fifteen years’ experience in the sector and an impressive career path to date. She comes to Dóchas from Plan International Ireland where she held the position of Head of Programmes. Prior to that, Suzanne spent ten years with Trócaire serving as Regional Manager for Asia with a focus on governance, gender and humanitarian programming in Myanmar, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, India and Pakistan. Keatinge also previously worked for the United Nations in Iran and Somalia. She holds a Master’s Degree in African Politics from SOAS University of London and a Master’s Degree in History from Cambridge University.
As Suzanne settled in on her first day in Baggot Court, she had barely sat down at her new desk when we took the opportunity to ask her a few questions about herself. Here’s how it went…
1. What are you most excited about in your new role as CEO of Dóchas?
Having worked with NGOs within the Dóchas network I am looking forward to being part of the collective force that brings the sector together with a shared vision for change. I am excited about working with the Dóchas membership and continuing to foster and develop this vital network to strengthen and extend its reach and impact. Through the new Dóchas Strategic Plan, we can continue to connect, collaborate, challenge and change!
2. What do you see as the greatest opportunity for the Irish development sector in the coming years?
We are at a unique point in international development as we begin the journey of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, a new and ambitious plan for the world to end poverty and tackle climate change by 2030. People are angry at the inequality, the lack of political will around resolving conflict and lack of resolve around climate change. But at the same time they want to be part of the solutions to injustice. There is a vibrancy and opportunity for collective action. Now, more than ever, we see the importance of civil society in driving that positive change. We must also be determined and remain vigilant in ensuring that we follow a rights-based approach, every step of the way. Human dignity is and should be at the heart of our work, keeping the rights of marginalised people at the core of what we do.
3. What would you say is one of the major challenges you see for the international development sector as a whole?
I think the greatest challenge to the sector will be the relevance and legitimacy of INGOs as active members of civil society that are fighting for global justice. We need to keep reimagining the role of civil society as a vibrant space for creativity and innovation and it is vital that we hold the duty bearers to account. I think Dóchas can play a key role in facilitating that space for connection, creativity and action.
4. What would you most like to say to the Dóchas membership?
I am privileged to have been chosen as the Dóchas CEO. I am very much looking forward to working with the diverse and dynamic group of people and organisations that make up the Dóchas membership, as well as the Board, staff team, Irish Aid and the sector as a whole. As I say, it is a very exciting time for the international development sector and for Dóchas, as we embark on a new strategy. I look forward to working together to shape and increase the impact of Ireland's contribution to global development and justice.
5. Is there a story/moment or someone you met on your travels overseas or in your day to day work that you would like to share? Something that reminds you why the work of international development is so important?
On a personal level, there is one image that will never leave me. For some reason, it has remained imprinted on my mind. I remember seeing a young Somali boy in Mogadishu. He was pushing through the streets, selling bric-a-brac. I’ll never forget the energy, hope and excitement in his face. And yet, here we were in what was, at the time, the most bombed out city in the midst of a conflict as vicious as you can imagine. That image has always stayed with me and it always reminds me that it is a privilege to work in the sector. We get inspiration from young people and people we meet in our work. But it is also a reminder to me that we have a huge responsibility to those people. In places like Somalia, in those very complex, violent situations it could be very easy to walk away. But we cannot afford to do that. We cannot walk away. We have to find the courage to confront that complexity, to ensure that boy, and so many others, can live in security and hope.
6. You’ll notice there are a few inspiring quotes on the walls of the Dóchas office. Will you be adding to the wall? Do you have a favourite motto/ quote that you’d like to share with us?
There is a quote that continues to inspire me. I first heard it used by a human rights defender when I was living in Cambodia- ‘The opposite of poverty is not wealth, it’s justice.’