‘Working with the ICRC has been a truly fulfilling experience’


Daisaku Oka, Head of Office in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka


1)      Can you share about your ICRC journey so far?

I joined the ICRC in April 2014 as a detention delegate in Ivory Coast, Africa. In August 2015, I went to Cambodia as a polyvalent delegate and was responsible for implementing microeconomic initiatives (small economic projects) for people with disability. In 2016, I joined as a field delegate in Papua New Guinea, responsible for assistance to victims of tribal conflict. In 2018, I was posted to Myanmar (Rakhine) as a protection delegate. In 2019, I went to Bangladesh (Cox’s Bazar) as a protection team leader, followed by a mission in Southern Thailand. Then in April 2021, I joined in Sri Lanka (Batticaloa) as head of office.

2)      Over these years, which assignment has left the deepest impression on you?

PNG was a very interesting mission and has been the most memorable. Many people in the country have retained their traditional self-sufficient lifestyles. The ICRC had decided to expand our area of our field activities and I was in charge of the province. I thoroughly enjoyed setting up processes from scratch and building relationships with authorities and tribal leaders.

In a lot of remote areas where we worked, there was no mobile phone network. I remember during a dissemination session on one of the mountains, the community leaders alerted the local villagers and gathered them by shouting. It sounded like the leaders were singing.

3)      Which languages do you know?

I know English, French and German. I’m not very confident with French, thus have mostly been in the Asia-Pacific region.

In PNG, though the official language is English, they have over 800 local languages, with Tok Pisin (creole language) being the most widely spoken. Even in a same province different languages were spoken so we would work with the assistance of local volunteers.

4)      What has been the most challenging experience? 

The current situation is extremely challenging as we cannot visit the field and we’ve been forced to work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

   5)      How did your previous experience with the Japanese Embassy and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) help you at the ICRC?

I used to work with the Japanese Embassies (in Germany, Bulgaria, and Botswana). I was initially responsible for the arrangement of visits of VIP guests, then became a researcher. Thereon, I became a project coordinator and worked in Africa (Djibouti and Madagascar) with JICA. My previous experience of working with beneficiaries on economic assistance projects really helped me during my ICRC missions.

6)      How do you adapt to new contexts?

The first ask is to understand the local culture and context, as well as the needs of the local people. As an Asian, I am familiar with the cultures of many countries in this region. So, I haven’t found it very challenging to quickly adapt.

But a good way to learn more would be to observe the field officers and understand their behaviour and remarks.

"The culture shines through. Stay alert, keep your ears and eyes open to get a closer view of the cultural mores."

7)      What has been the most interesting aspect of your work?

Many of my assignments have been first-time positions and I have thoroughly enjoyed getting new projects off the ground. It’s important to remember that the efforts we put in might not bear immediate results. So, we focus on laying the groundwork and setting the wheels in motion.

I have been lucky to have worked with very knowledgeable, experienced and well-networked field officers. As a mobile delegate, I support my national staff colleagues to go one step further by sharing a more objective perspective.

8)      What are the top tips for someone who wants to join the ICRC?

If you’re interested in the ICRC and our work, try to find suitable openings. There are a variety of jobs in the ICRC.

Don’t hesitate to apply!