The Global Humanitarian Platform: Opportunity for NGOs

Elizabeth Ferris
Elizabeth Ferris
Elizabeth Ferris Former Brookings Expert, Research Professor, Institute for the Study of International Migration - Georgetown University

December 1, 2007


While often confused with the larger humanitarian reform process – with its clusters, revised funding instrument and plans to strengthen the Humanitarian Coordinator system – the Global Humanitarian Platform (GHP) is a stand-alone initiative which seeks to strengthen relationships between the major humanitarian actors. The development of the GHP has its roots in the recognition that the challenges facing those involved in humanitarian response are simply too great for agencies to be able to go it alone.1

Until now, the international humanitarian community has been structured around a UN core with non-UN actors on the fringes. The UN has taken the lead and other actors either followed or opted out and continued to carry out their own programmes. The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC)2 is made up of all the UN agencies working on humanitarian issues, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, IOM, the World Bank and three NGO consortia: the Geneva-based International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA)3, the Washington DC-based InterAction4 and the Geneva- and New York-based Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response (SCHR).5 While non-UN actors are included in the IASC, the agenda of IASC meetings is largely UN-centric.

The GHP starts with a different premise: that the international humanitarian community is made up of three equal families. Recognition of this would be both a radical change for the UN system and an affirmation of the reality that NGOs and the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement mobilise more resources for humanitarian assistance than the UN, have more field staff and have greater capacity for humanitarian advocacy. Donors are increasingly channelling funds through NGOs who are perceived as more cost-effective and flexible than UN agencies. The two largest governmental donor agencies – the Humanitarian Aid Department of the European Commission and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) – each channel between 60-70% of their assistance through NGOs.6

1For more information on the GHP, see
6 Abby Stoddard, Humanitarian Alert: NGO Information and Its Impact on US Foreign Policy, Bloomfield CT: Kumarian Press, 2006.