In Conversation With: Gordon Hughes

By 28 October 2019 No Comments

Gordon joined Oxford HR Consultants in May 2018. He has extensive military and international experience in Peacebuilding and Security Sector Transformation missions from service in Africa, Asia, and the Balkans. He now seeks to use this experience to recruit and match the most talented senior experts from around the World into the most challenging and influential appointments in conflict, peace and security.


1. What is your role within Oxford HR?

I joined Oxford HR to help the company expand its business into a new International Peacebuilding practice area.  Oxford HR instinctively knows that Peacebuilding will complement its other more mature business sectors, especially International Development.  Peacebuilding is concerned with preventing violent conflict before it starts, and also supporting transitioning countries, through their legal institutions, to build peace processes with resilience, which prevent relapses back into conflict.

Many public institutions and private security organizations have their own in-house executive recruiting systems and Expert Rosters.  But these systems and rosters come with challenges such as employing dedicated HR expertise to manage rosters and also maintain networks within the Global Community of Peacebuilders.  I believe there is a huge gap in the executive recruiting market around peacebuilding, conflict prevention and security sector transformation.  In the Search for a Better World we can do much more to build Peace and Security by getting the best people into the right jobs.

My role at Oxford HR as a Senior Adviser on International Peacebuilding is to support the creation of a natural home for professional Peacebuilders with international experience.  My ambition is to build a Peacebuilding Centre of Excellence at Oxford HR, which can deliver professional career development advice and provide opportunities for the best senior advisers, policymakers and practitioners to compete for the most influential peacebuilding appointments around the world.


2. What have been the highlights in your career before joining Oxford HR?

Looking back I was fortunate to have had a variety of careers – all connected to peacebuilding.  I am a former soldier with plenty of experiences from a wide range of military assignments around the world.  I have worked in the UK Ministry of Defence and major headquarters; commanded soldiers from troop to brigade level; and undertaken extended periods of preparation and operational training for war followed by some short periods of active service (and intense excitement!).   One of the most rewarding assignments during my service was Personnel Director for my Corps – managing the careers of around 1000 officers, including promotions, selection for assignments and personal development programmes.  Combined with peacebuilding, I am seeking to transfer my personnel management experience, especially job matching, into Oxford HR.

Since completing a full career in the British Army I have served with the United Nations in the broad areas of peacebuilding, conflict prevention and Security Sector Reform.  I have also enjoyed rewarding assignments in Academia and with International NGOs.

During my military service I particularly relished my command and leadership appointments on operational tours including Bosnia, Sierra Leone and Northern Ireland during the early days of the troubles.  In Sierra Leone I commanded an International Military Advisory and Training Team and was the Military Adviser to the President.   I also served in South Africa as an Adviser to the Minister of Defence, working at the interface between politics, diplomacy and security, and specifically on the integration of non-state forces into the South African National Defence Force.   This was followed by a 3-year assignment as the UK Government’s Regional Conflict Adviser in Southern Africa.

My career highlights with the United Nations were to lead on the design of its new emerging UN Security Sector Reform Strategy.  That was followed by a UN tour as the Chief Adviser and Deputy Head of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) where I worked closely with Government, the Nepal Army and the commanders of the non-state forces – the Maoist Army.  More recently in Burma/Myanmar I was the Ceasefire/Security Adviser for the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) working alongside a range of Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) helping to facilitate ceasefires and build support for the fragile Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  Throughout my peacebuilding assignments I have sought to identify, negotiate and agree workable options to prevent violent conflict in support of national governments, armed forces and non-state armed groups.


3. What qualities make a dream peacebuilding candidate?

My dream candidate for a peacebuilding assignment would have a wide range of international experiences across the key sectors of peacebuilding: politics, diplomacy, development and national security and defence.  They would appreciate the importance of contextual and conflict analysis; good governance, capacity building across state institutions; and how international peacebuilders can best work alongside local actors.

Regarding personal characteristics I am always looking for candidates who have proven integrity and effective negotiating skills. This dream candidate must be sensitive to local cultures, an active listener, and have tolerance, patience, adaptability with a readiness to travel and work in harsh and logistically challenging environments.


4. Which organization would you love to place a role for and why?

This is not an easy question.  There are many inter-governmental organizations around the World involved in peacebuilding from the UN agencies, programmes and funds to regional headquarters such as the African Union and its sub-regional organizations across the Continent of Africa.  Most national governments have joint structures working across diplomacy, development and defence departments dedicated to providing resources and expertise for peacebuilding.  There is also a plethora of international and national NGOs seeking to support initiatives from the highest global level right down to the community grassroots level.   Much excellent work is also undertaken by the vast array of companies in the private security sector where good business practice, tools and techniques are applied to complex peacebuilding challenges in the most difficult environments.  So which organization is going to have the most impact on peacebuilding?

For me, the key to a Better World is to place the right peacebuilders with the best experience and expertise in the most influential jobs around all these organisations, agencies and private companies.  So, I would love to work on building the Peacebuilding team at Oxford HR to ensure that our Company’s executive recruiting strategy in this new practice area is developed and sustained over the long term.  This is our goal in promoting Peace and Security.


If you are interested in learning more about our International Peacebuilding expertise, download our brochure here.

Ruth Davis

Ruth Davis

Ruth joined Oxford HR in 2018 after completing a BA in international history at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She completed multiple economic development courses, in addition to her dissertation which she wrote on the Anglo-American response to the AIDS epidemic, looking at international relations through a human rights lens.