Navigating change: cross cutting issues

The environments in which NGOs operate are fundamentally changing.

In many places, respect for humanitarian principles is eroding, and so too is NGOs’ space to operate. The pressure for humanitarians to align with development and peace priorities is mounting.

As NGOs compete for scarce resources, schisms in the community have emerged, particularly related to localisation. These trends require safe spaces for diverse NGOs to come together to discuss their differences, learn from one another, and consider solutions and help one another.

ICVA will seek to ensure dynamic support to NGOs in developing strategic thinking around issues related to localisation, the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, shrinking civil society space, safeguarding, and other cross cutting issues, while promoting Humanitarian Principles and the Principles of Partnership.  We aim to create safe spaces for NGOs to come together to learn from one another and consider solutions.


Civil society space

Civil society space is increasingly a key issue for humanitarian organisations. It was the theme of the 2017 ICVA annual conference, and since then there are a growing number of crises where civil society actors have been denied access to a population in need. As a network, ICVA is grappling with the issues of erosion of humanitarian space, negative perceptions of civil society action by governments, and uncertain regulatory environments.

An independent research carried out for ICVA in the summer of 2018 provides a collective perspective of civil space needs and defines the potential of ICVA in strengthening and supporting a more inclusive and diverse civil society. The study identifies a wide variety of civil society needs, which include: accessibility and translation of documentation, support to national organisations and to NGO fora, advocacy support, research and data on the closure of civil society space, capacity building, among others. The research included a global survey with ICVA members and non-member humanitarian organisations and conducted 30 interviews with a range of actors across ICVA staff, NGOs, INGOs, NGO fora. The report was the basis of a meeting held in Copenhagen with Danish NGOs to discuss civil society space as a wider issue and the impact on shrinking space is further exacerbated in humanitarian contexts.

You can access ICVA's Civil Society Page and for ICVA-PHAP webinar on "How do NGOs navigate shrinking civil society space?"


The humanitarian, development and peace nexus 

The “triple” nexus refers to the interlinkages between humanitarian, development and peace actors. Following the recommendations from the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), the UN’s “new way of working”, Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there has been a lot more reference to the “triple” nexus, and how the humanitarian, development and peace actors are expected to work towards collective outcomes over multiple years.

The 2018 ICVA Annual Conference and the Learning Stream webinars both focused on the Humanitarian, Development and Peace Nexus. Aware that many in our community lacked clarity and understanding on the conceptual discussions behind the triple nexus and the implications at practical level, the annual conference and the webinar series provided opportunities for further discussions with actors from across the nexus. 



Localization is the process through which a diverse range of humanitarian actors are attempting, each in their own way, to ensure local and national actors are better engaged in the planning, delivery and accountability of humanitarian action, while still ensuring humanitarian needs can be met swiftly, effectively and in a principled manner.

Localization creates an opportunity to critically examine and improve the overall structure and functionality of the humanitarian system by:

  1. Strengthening inclusion of, accountability to, and acceptance by affected populations
  2. Increasing resilience through linking preparedness, response and recovery efforts
  3. Enhancing the speed, quality and scale of humanitarian response
  4. Adding value through improving the efficiency and effectiveness of humanitarian action
  5. Promoting diversity and supporting innovative and contextual approaches

Click here to access ICVA briefing paper and webinar on localisation.


Safeguarding: Advancing protection from sexual exploitation, abuse (PSEA) and sexual harassment in the workplace (SHW)

Sexual exploitation and abuse of crisis affected populations and humanitarian staff by actors who provide aid is neither a new nor a standalone issue.  However, since the media disclosure of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) cases by humanitarian actors in February 2018, attempts across the sector to address the issue and increase protection against SEA have multiplied. PSEA cuts across the issues of gender, protection, accountability, localisation, power dynamics, faith and culture, and the nexus.

In March 2018, the ICVA General Assembly re-affirmed accountability towards the people its members serve, partners, supporters and the public at large. ICVA members adopted a Commitment and Motion to Action on Prevention of Sexual Abuse and Exploitation and Sexual Harassment mandating the secretariat to document and voice the PSEA work, challenges and good practices existing among members and identify recommendations to feed efforts at international, regional and national level. In further discussing the mandate, it was agreed to focus specifically in national and local NGOs. Localisation is one of the core commitments of World Humanitarian Summit and the Grand Bargain, thus efforts to strengthen PSEA build upon local knowledge and capacities.

The framing of ICVA’s response on not just the technical but also the cultural, root causes and political dimensions contributes to solutions-orientated reflections. ICVA is a critical and constructive voice of the new polices and their impact on resourcing and capacity building of smaller organisations.  Our two publications The Long Run to Protection Against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse”  which shares the experiences of ICVA members on PSEA, and our discussion paper on “Humanitarian Ombudsperson” also contribute to the debates.

In 2007, ICVA hosted the Building Safer Organisations project which was one of the earliest attempts to address PSEA in the humanitarian sector. The Building Safer Organisations Handbook contains training materials on receiving and investigating allegations of abuse and exploitation by humanitarian workers. The Building Safer Organisations Guidelines were designed to assist NGO colleagues who conduct and manage investigations into sexual exploitation and abuse of people of concern by humanitarian staff.

ICVA also signed up to the “Disclosure of Misconduct Scheme”. This inter-agency scheme, led by the Steering Committee on Humanitarian Response (SCHR), establishes a minimum standard for humanitarian, development and other civil society organisations to share information as part of their recruitment process about people who have been found to have committed sexual harassment, sexual abuse or sexual exploitation during employment. Documents related to this scheme can be found here. Contributing to this scheme is part of our commitment to prevent and address abuse in the humanitarian sector.

ICVA's commitments and motion to action adopted by the ICVA General Assembly in March 2018 also included systems for preventing, detecting, and responding to misconduct. Read more about ICVA's internal and external reporting and communication on alleged misconducted by ICVA Secretariat staff and associates.

Key platforms for ICVA members to engage will be issues specific working groups (the Nexus and PSEA), and the regional working groups.



  • Child Rights
  • Inclusion of persons with disabilities
  • Gender