Alumni Profile | Philip Tanner

Philip Tanner in NepalWinner of the 2011 Arts Alumni Achievement Award. This award recognizes Waterloo Arts alumni who have made outstanding contributions to their professional field and in community and public service.

Philip currently works as the Director of International Programs at Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC), where he was appointed in March 2010. He is responsible for supporting and overseeing program development, implementing emergency preparedness and humanitarian assistance activities, strategic planning, child rights and protection programming, and leading CCFC’s grant initiatives.

As a boy, Dr. Tanner grew up in developing countries around the world, where his Father was serving as a UN veterinary expert. Being exposed to war, famine and extreme povertyfrom the age of 4, his passion for development probably first emerged at 10 years of age as he traversed the streets of Saigon, Vietnam, during the last days of the war. Passing victims of violence and napalm attacks in the rural villages, and now seeking refuge in the city, numerous beggars lined the streets on his route to school every day and he recalls the vivid pictures of helplessness and despair and being unable to do anything about it. The trigger was the woman begging for food outside the school gates, with her face and hand melted together, as she must have slept that way following one such attack. He recalled this image in many subsequent postings throughout his life.

Upon returning to Canada, Dr. Tanner graduated from Waterloo with a Hons. B.A. in Political Science and History (focusing on comparative politics) and, an MA in Public Administration, (focusing on third world production cooperatives). Immediately upon receiving his degree, he was offered a job with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which began many years of overseas work with various organizations.

He began work with the UN in Algeria and Nepal and then was appointed by the UN Secretary General’s office to set up a UN presence in Vilnius, Lithuania, after the fall of the Soviet Union. He was tasked to work with the Resident Representative to establish the logistical and HR functions for the UN, World Bank and IMF and, he drafted Lithuania’s first Human Development Report for the country. His last function there was to design a strategy for suitable housing in order to relocate Russian troops back to their homeland, as they were still located on Lithuanian sovereign soil in 1993.

Following his posting in Lithuania, Dr. Tanner was determined to advance his qualifications and pursued a Ph.D. at the University of Bradford in the UK in Psychological Empowerment (PE) and Community Participation. He spent a year in the UK, at the Development and Project Planning Centre of Bradford University and, 3 years doing his research in the Western Development Region of Nepal.

After qualifying, he decided to move to the NGO sector and broaden his experience in development. He began work with World Vision International in Burundi/Rwanda where he was tasked with providing food and supplies to tens of thousands of children in displaced and dispersed camps in the NE area of the country and, in South Sudan he was appointed food security coordinator under Operation Lifeline Sudan to bring food, seeds and tools into the country via air and ground transport. He designed one of the first cooperative farming systems for women’s groups, with easily transportable seed storage systems for conflict affected areas (to allow for mobility and safe transport). Following this, WV asked Dr. Tanner to open a new Country Office for them in Nepal, which he accomplished in 2001, as well as setting up the initial programmes and funding for their activities. He then sought a new challenge with CARE Canada, spending 3 ½ years managing one of CIDA’s largest bilateral projects in the world, the Rural Maintenance Programme (RMP) in Bangladesh, with a budget of 32 million per year and 650 staff. He also set up one of CARE’s first Making Markets Work for the Poor Programmes – a rural sales strategy with Bata Shoe Company that now provides employment for over 12,000 women and involves half a dozen companies. At the close of the project, he was invited to join CARE Canada as their Asia Regional Director in Ottawa, responsible for performance management of CARE’s Asia programming.

Throughout his career, Dr. Tanner gained over 21 years of international development experience, working in development, reconstruction and relief activities, and 12 of those years working in conflict affected areas - most recently Northwest Pakistan and Afghanistan. Including his childhood, he has lived in 12 countries worldwide and worked and visited in over 50 countries.

Active in his community, Dr. Tanner is also an accomplished performer and musician, which he attributes, in part, to many years living in the company of musical students at Conrad Grebel and Renison College at Waterloo and being a member of several choirs there. In addition, he is a civilian member of the Royal Military Institute of Canada, (part of the Cooperative Defense Association) where he has represented the institute in Ottawa and in numerous discussions around civil and military engagement/dialogue in common theatres of operation (e.g. Afghanistan). He is also a Board member for the Canadian Christian Relief and Development Association (CCRDA) and works on ‘positioning and ‘advocacy’ on behalf of its membership.

Philip obtained an Honours Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science Co-op from the University of Waterloo in 1988, and a Master of Arts in Political Science in 1990.