The Global Humanitarian Platform (GHP) was an initiative flowing from a July 2006 dialogue between the United Nations (UN) and non-government organisations (NGOs).
40 leaders of humanitarian organisations from the UN, NGOs, the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, the International Organization for Migration and the World Bank came together to discuss ways to improve partnerships between diverse humanitarian organisations.
At the same time as this dialogue the humanitarian reform process was well underway. Due to a failure of the majority of UN and non-UN humanitarian agencies to respond in a timely and appropriate manner to the crisis in Darfur, Sudan in the first half of 2004, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) proposed a series of ambitious and far reaching reforms with the aim to improve the quality and predictability of response through enhanced leadership, timely and flexible financing, and the establishment of sectoral cluster coordination mechanism. Partnership was added as a fourth pillar in the reform process, not only as a strategy to improve results but also as a commitment to change the way in which international humanitarian actors worked together.
The GHP was founded on the premise that the international humanitarian community was made up of three equal families: UN agencies, Red Cross/Crescent movement, and NGOs. This was a radical change for the UN system and an affirmation of the reality that NGOs and the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement mobilised more resources for humanitarian assistance than the UN, had more field staff and a great capacity for humanitarian advocacy. The underlying belief was that no single humanitarian agency could cover all humanitarian needs and that collaboration was, therefore, not an option, but a necessity.
The participants of the dialogue agreed to seek ways to strengthen collaborative work at both the global and the field level, and committed themselves to work together in a spirit of partnership.
The dialogue, co chaired by Jan Egeland, (Emergency Relief coordinator) and Elizabeth Ferris, from the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response, representing the non-UN organisations, was held in Geneva from 12-13 July 2006, and is summarised in the Chairs’ Report.
What was the GHP?
The GHP was a stand alone forum bringing together the three main families of the humanitarian community - NGOs, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and the UN and related international organisations.
Three annual meetings of the GHP were held in 2007, 2008, and 2010. In between these meetings a steering committee, a working level group, and latterly a task force team were assigned to oversee the GHP process and implementation of activities. Documentation related to these meetings can be found below.
What was the purpose of the GHP?
The overall goal of the GHP was to enhance the effectiveness of humanitarian action.
A key commitment was to look closely at current practices of partnerships, to identify practices that could improve relationships between humanitarian organisations. The GHP also placed a special focus on strengthening the involvement and engagement of national organisations, as they are often the first to respond to disasters, and have more detailed knowledge of the communities in which they operate.
The humanitarian reforms of the time were also looking to strengthen humanitarian response through improved partnerships between humanitarian organisations, promoting greater mutual respect, and ensuring that roles and responsibilities of humanitarian partners were defined through transparent, inclusive and consultative processes.
The key activities of the GHP were to:
Achieve a common understanding on the concept of partnership by developing "Principles of Partnership" (PoP), which will include principles such as diversity, mutual respect, responsibility, and transparency. Partners in the GHP will ensure that these principles will permeate their operations and actions.
Invest in implementing the Principles of Partnership (PoP) in a growing number of countries. In the countries where the Principles of Partnership are implemented, organisations will need to take ownership of the process by which the Principles are put into practice.
Engage in a dialogue on strategic issues of common concern and express views that seek to address these common concerns. They included: our accountability to the populations for and with whom we work; our strengthening of the capacity of local actors; the safety and security of our staff; and our roles in situations of transition.
Meet annually to take stock of the progress to date and make adjustments, where appropriate.
What did the GHP achieve?
Principles of Partnership – a statement of commitment
An important achievement during the first year of the GHP was the development and endorsement of the Principles of Partnership (PoP). Leaders of UN agencies, NGOs and the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement, agreed to base their partnerships on the principles of equality, transparency, a results oriented approach, responsibility and complementarity. The PoP were endorsed at the July 2007 Global Humanitarian Platform meeting, co chaired by the Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, and ICVA’s Thomas Getman. At the same meeting leaders of the GHP partner organisations agreed to implement the principles within their own organisations policies, and to provide feedback to the GHP on the applications of the PoP.
Translations, tools and promotional material relating to the Principles of Partnership can be found here.
During 2008 regional workshops, held in Jordan and Thailand, discussed the progress to date of the implementation of the PoP, highlighting the need for coordination mechanisms to be more inclusive of humanitarian partners. Case studies in Myanmar and Chad in the same year illustrated some of the major challenges of implementing the PoP, in particular the difficulties around civil-military relationships, a lack of experienced humanitarian staff, and the complexities of working with national and local NGOs.
PoP in Practice
A number of tools were developed to encourage partners to use and evaluate the implementation of the PoP. Since their endorsement the PoP became a common point of reference, however there was general agreement at both the 2008 and the 2010 GHP meetings that there was still much to be done if the PoP were to be mainstreamed into all aspects of humanitarian work. Key challenges to putting PoP into practice included: lack of awareness of the PoP by many national NGO; the lack of reference in the PoP to partnerships with other key actors in humanitarian aid – governments, private sector, military groups; and the poor access of national and local NGOs to funding mechanisms. Discussions at the IASC Principals meetings about the importance of partnerships, the growing complexities of the humanitarian military relationships, and the need for more diverse funding channels have kept the strategic dialogue on the importance of partnerships and how to improve them very much alive.