NGOs operate in a complex space involving many actors. A variety of coordination mechanisms have been created to help different actors operate more efficiently and effectively in relation to one another. However, it can be challenging to understand and engage these mechanisms.

ICVA's objective by 2021 is to strengthen the collective ability of NGOs to actively engaged in and influence coordination mechanisms to ensure they are inclusive, contextualised and provide effective assistance and protection to those affected by crises.

“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 often led by UN agencies.  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.


1. Engage in and influence existing coordination mechanisms at the global, regional and country level

Inter-agency Standing Committee (IASC)

The IASC, established in June 1992 in response to the 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 (ERC), 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, you can refer to the IASC website.

As 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 to the NGO community, ensuring a continued dialogue:IASC Emergency Directors Group (EDG) - to see resources related to IASC EDG meetings click here

2. Enhance NGO coordination

ICVA supports NGO Fora to undertake their collective responsibilities, across three key areas:

  1. Supporting organisational capacity development of NGO Fora in strategic planning, governance, and human resource management;
  2. Strengthening NGO Fora advocacy and echoing their views at global and regional levels;
  3. Promoting the pivotal role of NGO Fora amongst the broader humanitarian community (including donors, governments, UN agencies, and NGOs).

Learn more about ICVA’s programme to support NGO Fora here.

Access ICVA’s NGO coordination resource centre: This site aims to help improve humanitarian preparedness and response by increasing the effectiveness of NGO coordination in humanitarian contexts and their links with other humanitarian coordination mechanisms.

Are you an NGO fora wanting to achieve active member engagement? Read ICVA's guide for NGO fora member engagement, also available in French.

NGO Fora: the power of collective action - check out our ICVA video about the importance of collective action in delivering humanitarian assistance:
This video also exists in French and Arabic