Back from retirement, Marie Staunton shifts focus from girls to leprosy

Marie Staunton, interim chief executive for International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations and former Plan International director. Increasing leprosy awareness is one vital component of her current work. Photo by: personal collection

If Marie Staunton were to identify the exact moment when the international aid architecture began to change, the former Plan International director would point to the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand in 2004.

Before this, “it was possible for development agencies like Plan to say, ‘We do not do emergencies.’ But no longer,” Staunton told Devex. The disaster swept away years of work in India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, leading the organization to incorporate not just humanitarian aid but also disaster resilience into its programs.

“Now, wherever you are — whether there are floods in Pakistan, typhoons in the Americas or election violence in many countries, emergencies affect your work everywhere,” she stressed. “You must be prepared and ensure those you work with are prepared for disasters.”

In 2012, Staunton left Plan after 12 years at the helm and was honored as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of her services to international humanitarian aid. This year, she was appointed interim chief executive for ILEP, the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations.

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  • Daphne davies profile

    Daphne Davies

    Daphne Davies is a London-based freelance journalist and consultant with more than 30 years' experience in international development. She has worked with the U.N., the European Union, national governments and global civil society organizations, including Amnesty, WWF and LDC Watch. Her expertise is in monitoring government policies in relation to international cooperation. Her interests are in sustainability, social and economic matters, women and least developed countries.