On 4 June 2015, PHAP hosted a special online consultation event on “Faith and religion in humanitarian action: Improving cooperation and effectiveness” in support of the World Humanitarian Summit.

Event description

Religious discourse has long been characterised by a concern for the immediate welfare of humankind, and faith-based organization play an important role in mobilizing the support of millions of people for whom religious values underpin their concern for their neighbours in the global village. Faith-based organizations can play a particular role where overt conflicts or less overt inter-group grievances are exacerbated by religious tensions, especially in bridging social or political divides with distinct religious dimensions.

Many humanitarian actors, defend their religious neutrality claiming that they can gain better access and offer unconditional help to people in need whoever and wherever they are. On the other hand, a majority of faith-based organizations do not see any incompatibility between their actions and the humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality. They highlight that they provide humanitarian assistance without proselytizing to those in need and regardless of their faith and that they can gain better access in certain contexts.

Following the Symposium on “Religions Together for Humanitarian Action,” hosted by the Order of Malta in Geneva, the International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP) will host a live online consultation in support of the World Humanitarian Summit focusing on the challenges and opportunities faced by faith-based humanitarian organizations and how we can overcome the obstacles hindering faith-based and other organizations from working more closely together.

The event focused on the following questions:

  • What are the particular challenges that faith-based humanitarian organizations face in their work?
  • Do faith-based organizations have a unique role to play in humanitarian action?
  • What are the main obstacles hindering faith-based and other organizations from working more closely together?
  • In general, is the way that religion is handled in humanitarian action currently appropriate?


Michel Veuthey Michel Veuthey is Deputy Permanent Observer of the Order of Malta to the UN in Geneva. He is also Vice-President of the International Institute of Humanitarian Law and Professeur associé at the Institut du Droit de la Paix et du Développement (IDPD) at Nice University (France). Mr Veuthey had a long and distinguished career with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), having held senior positions at headquarters and in the field. He also carried out short field assignments in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Mr Veuthey has lectured widely on international humanitarian law and is the author of a book and many articles on the subject. He holds a Doctor of Law degree from the University of Geneva.
Amjad Mohamed-Saleem Amjad Mohamed-Saleem is a free-lance consultant from Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom and was born in Nigeria. In this capacity he has advised the Commonwealth Foundation, International Alert, among others. In this capacity, he also worked as the Head of Communications and manager of Conflicts Programme for the Cordoba Foundation. He has been country director of the NGO Muslim Aid in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. He has also worked in Myanmar, looking at the role the private sector could have in reaching people that humanitarian organizations have trouble reaching themselves, and on issues of peacebuilding and the role of faith in conflict reconciliation in Asia.
Alastair Ager Alastair Ager is Professor of Clinical Population and Family Health at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. He takes up the position of Director of the Institute for International Health & Development at QMU, Edinburgh in July 2015. He has worked in the field of international development – with a focus on refugees and internally displaced communities - for twenty-five years, after originally training in psychology at the universities of Keele, Wales and Birmingham in the UK. He was head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Malawi from 1989-92, and has also held academic appointments at the universities of Leicester, Tulane and Queen Margaret, Edinburgh. He was a Research Associate with the Refugee Studies Centre in Oxford from 1998 to 2005. He has wide international experience across sub-Saharan Africa, south Asia, Europe and North America, having worked as a consultant for agencies including UNICEF, UNHCR, Save the Children, World Vision, Oxfam and Child Fund International. He is author of over one hundred scholarly publications, including papers in the Journal of Refugee Studies and the Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, the edited volume Refugees: Perspectives on the Experience of Forced Migration (Continuum) and, with Joey Ager, the forthcoming Faith, Secularism and Humanitarian Engagement (Palgrave).
Beris Gwynne Beris Gwynne was appointed to the position of Director and UN Representative for World Vision International in Geneva in August 2010. She served as WV Partnership Leader for Global Accountability from September 2008, continuing in that role until June 2014. From 2009 to 2014, she served on the Board of the International NGO Charter of Accountability Company, contributing to the development of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) NGO Sector Supplement and representing the International NGO Charter of Accountability Company on the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) Steering Committee. She has been an active participant in IASC Inter-Agency Task Forces on Accountability to Affected Populations and Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. Beris joined the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs in 1974, serving in Vietnam, Poland, Mexico (as Deputy Head of Mission) and Nauru where she served as Australian High Commissioner. She has since also held senior positions with the Australian International Development Agency (AusAID), World Vision Australia, the Global Water Partnership, and a privately funded development think tank based in Brisbane.

Event host

Angharad Laing Angharad Laing Executive Director, International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP)


Event recording (YouTube - faster loading time)

Event recording (Adobe Connect - higher quality)

Note that the recording of the consultation below is preceded by a 30-minuteOnline Learning Session with Alistair Ager on religion in humanitarian action.

Event recording (downloadable audio podcast)

Event report