UN and intergovernmental actors

The UN and other key intergovernmental institutions, such as the World Bank or IMF, play an integral role in the funding, development of policy and practice, building of the logistical architecture and in program implementation. While impossible to track the voluminous developments across these actors they are the central institutions in the system, and it is necessary to keep abreast of major events, key announcements/decisions and publications.

The United Nations office in Geneva (Palais des Nations) with the flags of all member states

Photo: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Key UN aid agencies

Part of the UN Secretariat, responsible for bringing together humanitarian actors for a coherent response to emergencies

Lead UN agency fighting hunger worldwide, providing emergency food aid as well as working to improve nutrition and community resilience

Defends the rights of children, helps respond to their basic needs, and work towards their development

Provides international protection and assistance to refugees, and helps them reintegrate into their home country or third countries

Provides services and advice concerning migration and since 2016 a related organization of the UN

Responsible for the direction and coordination of the UN system’s efforts in terms of international health, including in emergency response

Supports the development of countries, coordinates between development actors, and is a lead agency for operational activities for natural disaster mitigation, prevention, and preparedness

PHAP certifications

Knowledge about UN agencies and other intergovernmental bodies is covered by the Understanding the Humanitarian Ecosystem (UHE) certification (competency statements 2.3 and 3.6).

UN organs

Main deliberative, policy-making, and representative organ of the UN. Among its six specialized committees, the First Committee deals with disarmament and international peace, and the Third Committee deals with social, cultural, and humanitarian issues.

Primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. Calls upon parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means, and may resort to imposing sanctions or authorize the use of force.

A platform aiming to promote collective action for a sustainable world. Its Humanitarian Affairs Segment brings together UN Member States, UN organizations, humanitarian and development partners, the private sector, and affected communities.

Key intergovernmental actors

Involved in crisis response, peace and security, development, and other related fields, and established a Department of Humanitarian Affairs in 2008

The Assembly of the African Union (AU) can take decisions to address urgent matters related to peace and security, including emergency situations.

The EU’s European Council has set in place the EU’s humanitarian policy with in the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid. The EU channels its humanitarian work through ECHO, a component of the European Commission and an important source of policy and funding in the humanitarian sphere.

Signed the Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER), and established a coordination center for humanitarian assistance and disaster response (AHA Centre) as its operational arm, to monitor and respond to crises in the region

Conducts research aimed at improving humanitarian assistance and donorship. Its Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members are important donors for humanitarian aid.

Global partnership fighting poverty worldwide through sustainable solutions. Co-launched the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Initiative (see Development, Peace and Governance) and the Famine Action Mechanism (FAM) (see innovation)

While not an intergovernmental body in the normal sense, the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent brings together the components of the Movement with the state parties every four years to discuss international humanitarian law, disaster law, and the work of the Movement

Key references

Overview and information on the funds, programs, and specialized agencies of the UN system

Organigram of the UN System, focusing on the top-level structure of the UN

Compilation of resolutions (from 1998 to present) of the major UN Organs (General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council) that are specifically concerned with humanitarian issues

Study examining the roles of regional organizations, providing an overview of the interdependence of international, regional, and local organizations in the humanitarian sector

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