ICVA is committed to improving the effectiveness and quality of humanitarian coordination mechanisms to ensure they meet the needs of those affected by crisis. In line with the 2015 – 2018 Strategy, ICVA’s efforts in strengthening humanitarian coordination is focused on three key areas:

  • Influencing global humanitarian policy around coordination and leadership, particularly through the Inter-Agency Standing Committee

  • Influencing inter-agency coordination mechanisms at country/regional level by providing constructive analysis and advocacy on NGO participation, and particularly national NGOs

  • Supporting effective NGO coordination bodies through peer-support mechanisms, and sharing and analysis of best practice and resource documents

“Humanitarian coordination involves bringing together humanitarian actors to ensure a coherent and principled response to emergencies. The aim is to assist people when they most need relief and protection. Humanitarian coordination seeks to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian response by ensuring greater predictability, accountability and partnership” (

NGOs are widely recognised as key actors in an effective and efficient emergency response, because they are frontline implementers for the majority of humanitarian operations.  Humanitarian response to larger disasters is usually subject to an international coordination system led by either UNOCHA or UNHCR.  The complexity of the international system and the large number of organisations that can be involved, challenge how the different humanitarian actors work together during international response efforts.

The current coordination mechanisms seek ways to strengthen partnerships between NGOs, international organisations, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and the UN, and recognise that appropriate engagement of NGOs, in particular national NGOs, is a critical component for success.


1. Influence global humanitarian policy on coordination and leadership, particularly through the IASC

Inter-agency Standing Committee  (IASC)

The IASC, established in June 1992 in response to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 46/182 on the strengthening of humanitarian assistance, is the primary mechanism for inter-agency coordination of humanitarian assistance, involving the key UN and non-UN humanitarian partners. Under the leadership of the Emergency Relief Coordinator, the IASC develops humanitarian policies, agrees on a clear division of responsibility for the various aspects of humanitarian assistance, identifies and addresses gaps in response, and advocates for effective application of humanitarian principles.    For more information on the IASC please see their website, this two pager about the IASC, and organigram of the structure.

As a a "Standing Invitee" to the IASC, ICVA actively engages in the following IASC bodies, ensuring its members and NGO perspectives are tabled and considered, and contribute to the global policy discussions.  ICVA feeds back key information from these meetings to its members and the NGO community ensuring a continued dialogue.

IASC Principals  -  to see documents relating to their meetings click here.

IASC Working Group -  to see documents relating to their meetings click here

IASC Emergency Directors Group - to see resources related to IASC EDG meetings click here

IASC Transformative Agenda (TA) - a concrete set of actions adopted by the IASC Principals in December 2011 to improve the humanitarian community's strong response to major emergencies.   ICVA works with our members and the IASC  on how the TA connects policy to practice, the relevance of the TA to members work on the ground, and promotes discussion and understanding of the TA.  ICVA caried out two surveys on  NGO perceptions of the humanitarian leadership, coordination and accountability in more than 20 countries- (Survey on NGO Perception of Transformative Agenda,  Survey on NGO perception on state of humanitarian leadership)

ICVA also commissioned a review of NGO perceptions of level 3 declarations, the results of which were presented to the IASC EDG and Principals.


ICVA's Working Group on Partnerships and Coordination

ICVA convenes the Partnerships and Coordination working group. This members only working group provides an important communication channel between NGOs and the various IASC platforms at both regional and global levels, and covers key issues related to both humanitarian partnerships and coordination.

Members who would like to join the Partnerships and Coordination working group can contact for further information. This group meets on an ad hoc basis (usually monthly). Please visit here (members only).


2. Influence inter-agency coordination mechanisms at country and regional levels

ICVA’s work supporting interagency coordination mechanism involves monitoring coordination activities, and providing constructive analysis and advocacy on NGO participation, particularly by national NGOs. Recent initiatives include:


National NGO involved in Humanitarian Country Teams:

National NGOs play a key role in the frontline operation of humanitarian responses, yet often find themselves marginalized from what are predominantly international decision- making bodies. According to OCHA’s 2013 review of membership on Humanitarian Country Teams (HCTs), all 40 HCTs included international NGOs, yet only 40% of them included national NGOs. While National NGOs’ attendance at HCT meetings is often limited due to time and location constraints, there are additional challenges that national NGOs face in their interest and effort regarding contributing to HCTs’ decision-making.

In response to these challenges, ICVA is support NNGO’s to actively engage in HCTs, through increased dialogue and networking with NGO colleagues, and increasing understanding of the humanitarian architecture.


Symposium to strengthen role of national NGO on HCTs

In November 2014, ICVA brought together 15 national NGOs who engage with HCTs, providing a forum to exchange views on the challenges they face regarding their engagement as well as to identify opportunities for their contribution. Please click here  to access the report. and watch the video


Refugee Coordination Model

UNHCR’s refugee coordination model (RCM) and the interface with broader humanitarian coordination structures and the IASC cluster system. It draws on current UNHCR practice and the Transformative Agenda’s focus on leadership, accountability and coordination, while seeking to ensure complementarity and flexibility.

ICVA is engaged at strategic points throughout the RCM roll-out process, supporting NGO engagement in RCM missions and feedback. Key information will be posted here when available.


Saving Lives Together

Saving Lives Together, or SLT, is a series of recommendations aimed at enhancing security collaboration between the United Nations, International Non-Governmental Organisations and International Organisations (“SLT partner organisations”). It recognises the collectively experienced security threats and the importance of collaboration to ensure the safe delivery of humanitarian and development assistance.

  1. The Saving Lives Together Framework – October 2015: the core SLT document
  2. The Saving Lives Together Implementation Guidelines – July 2016: outlines how the Framework should be implemented
  3. A short Saving Lives Together Q+A – March 2018: addresses some of the key issues that have come up as the SLT Framework has been rolled out


3. Enhance NGO coordination

ICVA is heavily involved in supporting regional and country-based NGO coordination bodies, through peer-support mechanisms, analyzing and disseminating best practice and developing relevant resources.

NGO Coordination Resource Centre

The online NGO Coordination Resource Centre (NGOCRC) was launched by ICVA in April. The NGOCRC provides NGO Coordination Bodies with a range of resources and support for successful NGO coordination. The NGOCRC provides:

  • Guidance in establishing and managing coordination bodies
  • Support to NGO Coordination bodies to engage in broader humanitarian mechanisms (HCTs, clusters and sector working groups)
  • A dedicated section for networking and learning, including a Community of Practice, a growing list of NGO Coordination bodies, trainings and vacancies.

In the coming months, the online centre will host relevant webinars. Please visit the NGOCRC website at

Regional NGO Consortia meetings

In support of increasing the effectiveness of NGO coordination mechanisms in humanitarian contexts, on an annual basis, ICVA convenes regional meetings of NGO coordination bodies. These meetings provide a useful platform to:

  • Exchange constructive ideas for strengthening the collective action of the humanitarian NGO community,
  • Identify and discuss common challenges involved in humanitarian coordination. 
  • Develop stronger relationships between various NGO coordination fora.

Links to reports following three recent regional meetings can be found below:

  • ICVA West Africa NGO Coordination forum meeting, 21-22 July 2015, Dakar, Senegal.
  • ICVA MENA NGO Coordination meeting Held on 16-17 June 2015 in Amman, Jordan. Final Report.
  • ICVA MENA NGO Coordination meeting held 2-3 July 2014 in Amman, Jordan. Final report
  • ICVA West Africa meeting of NGO coordination bodies in August 2014, held in Dakar, Senegal. Final report in French.
  • ICVA Asia meeting of NGO Coordination Fora held in Bangkok, Thailand, in September 2014 - agendasummary report and video footage.