History of ICVA

Honoring the past, facing the present and welcoming the future

The International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) was established in 1962 as the successor organisation of the Conference on Non-Governmental Organizations interested in Migration, the Standing Conference for Voluntary Agencies Working for Refugees, and the International Committee for World Refugee Year. The goal was to build cooperation in refugee matters and extend this out to other areas.  

ICVA at 60 Years

Six Decades of Impact

Today, 60 years after our establishment we have remained committed to our vision of a world in which crisis-affected populations are effectively protected, assisted, and enabled to rebuild their lives and livelihoods with dignity.

Our mission is to make humanitarian action more principled and effective by working collectively and independently to influence policy and practice. 

Discover ICVA’s work of making humanitarian action more principled and effective over the last six decades through the below 60th anniversary commemorative timeline.

ICVA History Timeline

The Beginning

The 1960s to 1970s

The International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) was formed in Geneva in March 1962. It began with 60 members as one of the first cooperation mechanisms for non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and by the 1970s its membership had grown to 87.

ICVA’s initial purpose was:

“To build cooperation in refugee matters and extend this out to other areas.

To open doors to work in all areas of voluntary agency activity that could benefit from a structured liaison, coordination information exchange and professional services.”

Key activities

 

Growth and Expansion

1980s

ICVA grew in confidence, reach and membership. It elected a governing body of 20 members, who appointed an Executive Director. Two working groups emerged to address refugee and migration and development issues, and their sub-groups focused increasingly on Africa, Central America, China and the Middle East.

Areas of focus

ICVA continued to work in both the areas of humanitarian assistance and development. The effect of the international debt crisis on people living in poverty came into sharp focus, and efforts were made to improve humanitarian responses to natural and man-made disasters.

 

 

Key activities

 

Crisis and Rebirth

1990s

ICVA continued playing an important role in the NGO sector. It was recognised as a unique global forum for NGOs to discuss opinions, share strategies and information, coordinate actions and forge partnerships. It provided an essential interface with governmental and inter-governmental bodies, enabling NGOs to participate in UNHCR’s Partnership in Action Programme (PARinAC). ICVA generated an income of $1 million and its membership increased to almost 100 organisations.

Areas of focus

ICVA continued to support its members to provide humanitarian assistance to people affected by conflict and disaster. Until its rebirth at the end of the decade, ICVA was also promoting the development of economic, environmental, social and cultural sustainability. There was collaboration on advocacy, constituency building, capacity building, and other external challenges, such as building relationships with governments.

Key activities

Humanitarianism and Human Rights

2000 – 2010

ICVA arrived in the new millennium refreshed and with a clear purpose. Its 2003 mission statement focused on promoting and advocating for human rights and bringing a field-based humanitarian perspective into global debates and responses. There was no longer any reference to the development agenda. ICVA’s membership fluctuated during this time, beginning and ending the decade with 71 members, and it had an average income of about CHF 767,000.

Areas of focus

ICVA worked tirelessly to strengthen humanitarian principles and standards. It focused on protection, security and human rights, and the interface between NGOs and the military, all within the context of the ‘War on Terror’. Information-sharing, community-building and advocacy were core aspects of ICVA’s work.

Key activities

Diversity, Inclusion and Global Reach

2011 – 2021

ICVA became more diverse and inclusive than ever during this period, enabling local and national NGOs to get more involved and be better heard. It brought diverse actors together, respecting their differing views and harnessing the power of the collective. It expanded its global presence by establishing member-hosted regional hubs as a framework for national NGOs to engage internationally.

Areas of focus

ICVA’s key focus areas were forced migration and displacement, humanitarian coordination and finance, strategic partnerships, and cross-cutting issues.

 

Key activities

ICVA History Documents

ICVA history
15 November 2007
ICVA at Forty-Something
Subject/ ICVA /
ICVA at 40
Description

Reaching middle age prompts many to start reflecting on their past. The same has been true with ICVA as it moved well into its forties. Over the years, ICVA, like any organisation, has kept track of its history, growth, and development. Two short histories of ICVA were previously written – the latest one being when ICVA turned 25. We felt that, more than 20 years later, it was time to produce a more comprehensive narrative of the story of ICVA.

ICVA history
23 February 1987
ICVA at Twenty Five
Subject/ ICVA /
ICVA at twenty five
Description

In 1987 we commemorated our 25th anniversary. This was a testimony of our growth in membership and our work around addressing key issues of concern to NGOs involved in humanitarian assistance and development cooperation.

Annual reports
30 May 2021
ICVA Annual Reports
Subject/ ICVA /
Copy of AR 2020
Description
ICVA history
13 April 1977
A Brief History of ICVA Published in 1977
Subject/ ICVA /
A Brief History of ICVA
Description

A brief history on the beginning of the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA). This document was published in 1977.

In Photos: The History of ICVA

We have selected several photos and documents in honour of the historic breadth of the ICVA’s work in the areas of forced migration, humanitarian coordination, humanitarian financing and cross cutting issues..

Nansen medal award

Nansen medal award

1964 ICVA general Conference

1964 ICVA general Conference

1964 ICVA general Conference

1968 Cyril Ritchie

ICVA news

ICVA news

The global NGO alliance

The global NGO alliance

 

A Brief History of ICVA