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.



Humanitarian crisis affect people differently depending on a number of factors, such as age and gender, residence, religion, ethnicity, disability, and their intersection. Furthermore, existing inequalities may be worsened during humanitarian crises when people become exposed to violence and/or face extra difficulties to access protection and assistance. Girls and women are more exposed to sexual violence during crisis when it becomes a weapon of war, children lose on education and persons with disabilities become easy targets and are at risk of being denied access to protection and assistance.

As stated in its Policy on Diversity and building on its members’ work, the aim of ICVA is to ensure a better implementation of diversity considerations in NGO interventions and to:

Contribute to strengthening global and regional normative frameworks and their transformation into actions that adequately reflect diversity considerations;

Feed action, policy development and multi-stakeholders’ partnerships by sharing peer to peer experiences, challenges, lessons learnt and good practices.

Although what can fall under diversity considerations will vary from situation to situation, based on its analysis of the main issues, ICVA believes on the need to zoom in on:


Climate & Environment 

During ICVA’s 2030 strategy consultations, members and partners highlighted the importance of the intersection between climate and environment change and humanitarian action. The changes taking place are not only threatening humanity and our environment as we know it, but it is also faster and more radical than expected.

ICVA will engage on this theme through our focus areas Forced Migration, Humanitarian Coordination and Humanitarian Financing, working in collaboration and drawing on the wealth of knowledge and experience of ICVA members and our partner networks. For ICVA to realise its full potential in serving humanitarian action, we need to evolve and transform our network building on the strengths of the past. The ICVA 2030 strategy (2022-2030) will be presented for adoption by the ICVA General Assembly in May 2021 the week before the Annual Conference on 25 and 26 May 2021.  The Strategy presents five transformations of which one has a focus on addressing the impact of “Climate Change” on humanitarian action.