Andrés Lizcano is a Colombian profiling advisor and our newest team member. His diverse professional background includes experiences with just about all types of partners JIPS usually collaborates with during profiling exercises.
As part of a new series aimed at introducing JIPS’ team members, we sat down with him to hear more about his past work, as well as the fresh take he can bring to our work with different stakeholders in often sensitive displacement contexts. Here’s what he told us:
Andrés, you have a rich professional background that includes working with government institutions, private sector companies and non-profit organisations. Tell us a bit more about your past work?
Andrés Lizcano: I grew up in Germany and moved to Bogota when I was 9 years old. After studies in mathematics at the university I went to New York for a masters in international affairs.
During that time, I started working on economic development in Latin America with Professor José Antonio Ocampo, which got me involved in working on a lot of data analysis on different indicators from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Later, when Professor Ocampo was commissioned by the President of Colombia to advise the government on rural policy, I joined him to develop a strategy on agricultural competitiveness. I then briefly worked at the Ministry of Planning and with the Deputy Minister of Primary Education in the country, before focusing on internal displacement by working for IDMC and now joining JIPS.
What made you shift from your work on economic development and agriculture to the field of internal displacement?
Andrés Lizcano: In 2016, I was working in Bogota on agricultural policy, out of a 17th floor office, and I felt quite removed from the realities in the field. At the time the situation in the Mediterranean worsened, with almost 1 million people arriving by sea to Europe.
I remember seeing the news about this, and I was very touched and thought that in Colombia, where over seven million people have been displaced by conflict according to official figures, we, as a civil society, should be more open and kinder with these people.
I started becoming interested in the topic of internal displacement, and that’s when I ran into the job posting by IDMC, who were looking for a data analyst.
Where do you see the key challenges faced by data specialists like yourself in the broader context of displacement situations?
Andrés Lizcano: Whether you’re working on displacement or other humanitarian or development issues at the international level, the biggest issue in my view is the lack of data.
In many places the data is just not being collected. On the one hand, government or local agencies often don’t have the resources or the time to develop, organise and systematise data, and they also lack standards on how to do so. They’re in the field, they need to get the work done now, and sometimes data is deprioritised.
I’ve used data and reports from JIPS for a while now. When working in the northern triangle of Central America, I heard about what JIPS was doing in El Salvador and Honduras, and I thought it was really good work.
Furthermore, data is not necessarily comparable. When I was working at IDMC, we collected global data, with the aim to paint a picture of the displacement situation in the world.
That’s very difficult because the government of, say, Colombia doesn’t have the same standards or the same needs in terms of data and information as the government of Syria. So the figures that are published are just the best available ones but are, in most cases, not comparable.
What brought you to work for JIPS, and what do you see yourself bringing to the organisation’s work?
Andrés Lizcano: I’ve used data and reports from JIPS for a while now. When working in the northern triangle of Central America, I heard about what JIPS was doing in El Salvador and Honduras, and I thought it was really good work.
At IDMC, I was working at the global level, trying to obtain comparable data on internal displacement and to influence the way data is collected. I look forward to diving into JIPS’ work and to engaging more in depth with what happens in the field, and with the actions and policies and operations that governments and humanitarian agencies are carrying out.
I feel that coming to JIPS brings me a step closer to that action, and puts me in a position where I have the opportunity to influence national processes by working on understanding the situation through evidence.
If you’re going to be sitting at the table with UN agencies, members of governments and members of local civil society, I think it’s very important to speak their language, to know how they function and what drives them.
Regarding my contribution, I think being a trained mathematician and having worked with a wide range of stakeholders is helpful in the work that JIPS does – in our role as an ‘honest broker’ and technical expert.
I bring in useful experience when it comes to abstracting, understanding and easily digesting analytical and statistical processes involved in sampling and in profiling. And if you’re going to be sitting at the table with UN agencies, members of governments and of local civil society, I think it’s very important to speak their language, to know how they function and what drives them. Having worked with all of them gives me a bit of an understanding of the subtleties of each one of them.