ICVA’s Vision

The vision of the International
Council of Voluntary Agencies
(ICVA) is a world in which
crisis-affected populations are
effectively protected, assisted,
and enabled to rebuild their
lives and livelihoods
with dignity.

ICVA’s Mission

ICVA is a global network of
non-governmental organisations
whose mission is to make
humanitarian action more
principled and effective by
working collectively and
independently to influence
policy and practice.


Our thanks go to the ICVA Secretariat for their support and guidance as we produced this document to commemorate our 60th anniversary. In particular, we would like to thank Robert White, who conducted the interviews and recorded the history of ICVA. We are grateful to our interviewees for sharing their valuable time, knowledge and insights: Jane Backhurst, Nan Buzard, Elizabeth Ferris, Thomas Getman, Penny Lawrence, Steven Muncy, James Munn, Eunice Ndonga, Paul O’Brien, Faizal Perdaus, Cyril Ritchie, Ed Schenkenberg, Rudiger Schoch, Anoop Sukumaran, Wossen Tesfaye, and Roger Yates. The resources we used in our research can be found in the ICVA archives. They include publications and notes from annual conferences and general assemblies, past editions of ICVA News, Forum, Talkback and Bulletin, annual reports, case studies, impact studies and previously published histories. Most of the documents can be found at www.icvanetwork.org


Celebrating a legacy of impact

The International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) turned 60 in March 2022. It was founded in 1962 through a merger of three organizations working tirelessly for refugees and on migration issues. Since then, building cooperation on these issues has been at the heart of ICVA’s work and will continue to be in the future. Beginning with 60 members, ICVA was one of the first mechanisms for international non-governmental organization (NGO) cooperation. In the ensuing decades, it has expanded its focus to include protection, security, information sharing, UN and humanitarian reform, accountability, protection against sexual exploitation and abuse, complaints and investigation, humanitarian financing and capacity strengthening. It has grown into a diverse network of almost 140 NGOs, with an outreach of 8,000, operating in 160 countries at global, regional, national and local levels.

Forging a collaborative future for effective humanitarian action

Throughout our 60th anniversary celebration, we will highlight examples of ICVA’s impact over the past six decades and thank the members, donors and staff who make our work possible. The next step in our evolution begins in 2022 with the ICVA 2030 strategy – which will root us more deeply in our vision and mission. As we celebrate our legacy of impact, we will continue to examine the critical challenges of the future and redouble our commitment to making humanitarian action more principled and effective. ICVA will forever seek to promote and advocate for human rights and a humanitarian perspective in national, regional and global debates and responses. Our success will be defined by the degree to which we can grow together as a network, deliver an impact for people in crisis, and remain relevant and principled. All of this is so much more than the sum of its parts.

Jane Backhurst Chair of ICVA Board
Wossen Tesfay Chair of ICVA at 60 Steering Committee

60 years of advocating as a collective NGO body to improve the quality and effectiveness of humanitarian response! 

We were established in 1962 as the successor organization of the Conference on Non-Governmental Organizations åinterested in Migration, the Standing Conference for Voluntary Agencies Working for Refugees, and the International Committee for World Refugee Year.

ICVA is constituted today of 140 NGOs, with an outreach to 8,000 NGOs, operating in 160 countries with an estimated income of over USD 20 billion. 

A lot has changed in 60 years.

The scale and complexity of the humanitarian work is very different to the 60s. Globally, humanitarian crises – such as armed conflict, forced displacement, natural disasters and major disease outbreaks – affect more people today than at any point in recorded history. These crises have immense acute and long-term impacts on hundreds of millions of people, predominantly in low and middle-income countries. The results over the decades achieved by staff of NGO and of other national and international organizations are a credit to the determination and capability of the humanitarian system and to those who support it. However, the effects of the climate change and the response to the current pandemic have highlighted the fundamental cracks in the global system. It has brought inequality within and between countries into sharp relief, and severely tested our resilience as individuals, nations and as an international community. The ICVA Strategy 2022-2030 (ICVA 2030), is the next step in our evolution as an NGO community, rooting us more deeply in our vision and mission. While retaining our rootedness in principled humanitarian action we must take full advantage of our collective diversity, the value we all bring, our proximity to people in crises and our collaborative advantage to increase our impact; and to confront and respond to the impact of climate change and take our responsibilities in mitigating the root causes. For ICVA to grow and achieve its potential we need to evolve and transform our network to grow and deliver the full potential. More than an organizational shift, this transformation is about the position we want ICVA to occupy in the sector for greatest impact, affirming our collective values and being clear what this means in practice. The ICVA@60 commemoration events are an opportunity to learn from the past and make sure the aspirations in our ICVA2030 are ‘evolutionary’ in so much that we will build upon some directions already started and are ‘transformative’ because the changes will result in an ICVA Secretariat and ICVA network that works and feels quite different to ICVA today.

Ignacio Packer Executive Director

ICVA – International Council of Voluntary Agencies

Asia - Pacific

Latin America

As from 01 July 2022 
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