Andrew Rizk

How long have you been involved with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement?

I have been with the Movement for four years. First, as the director of business support with the Canadian Red Cross and now as the head of finance at the IFRC. I guess I am young by Red Cross Red Crescent standards having spent 14 years at KPMG prior to joining the Movement.

What is most challenging about this role?

I arrived at the IFRC following the recent global financial crisis. It was an uncertain time and there was a great deal of concern about the potential impact on the secretariat, the members and our collective ability to mobilize resources. It is always difficult to juggle competing financial interests, but with solid advice from the finance commission, the secretariat made some hard yet important decisions to ease the burden on members, for example, keeping statutory contributions constant for 2010 and 2011 rather than increasing them with inflationary pressures.

What financial advice (personal and professional!) would you give to your peers?

When it comes to personal finance, I recommend reading a book called The Wealthy Barber by a Canadian author named Dave Chilton. The advice that he gives is this: pay yourself first. I have interpreted that as save what you need first, and enjoy life with the rest!

What has been your most memorable moment (so far) in your job?

My most memorable moment (so far) was the Red Cross Red Crescent International Conference which took place in Geneva in 2011.  The International Conference is the supreme deliberative body for the Movement.  At the International Conference, representatives of National Societies, the IFRC, and the ICRC meet with representatives of the States Party to the Geneva Conventions.  Together we examine and decide upon humanitarian matters of common interest.

There is something awesome about seeing a plenary with the Afghan Red Crescent Society sitting as a peer to the government of Afghanistan, the Canadian Red Cross sitting as a peer to the government of Canada, etc.  It is the most powerful example of the Movement’s convening power.

What qualities do you feel are necessary to be a successful employee at the IFRC?

The two most important qualities  to be a successful employee at the IFRC are antifragility and passion. Nasim Taleb wrote that ‘some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty’.  Taleb calls this antifragility noting that it is beyond resilience or robustness.  Passion is the fuel that drives one to do so.

What are the positive things about working at the IFRC?

The most positive things about working at the IFRC are its people and its members. The IFRC has a diverse and multicultural staff, and there is much to be learned from colleagues from all over the world.

What advice would you give to an aspiring aid worker?

My advice is two-fold.  Firstly, dream real hard.  I used to work at KPMG, one of the world’s largest professional services firms. On my walk to the office I passed-by some graffiti under a bridge.  Someone had spray-painted ‘dream real hard’ and this has always struck a chord with me.  But dreaming is not enough. Secondly, one needs to also work hard.



Head of finance, IFRC, Geneva