Spotlights on Health and Rights

Key topics in the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health

Forced Migration

Major Actors

In this section you will learn who are the major actors in humanitarian relief including intergovernmental, governmental and non-governmental organizations as well as the Red Cross movement. In addition, you will be introduced to current topics in humanitarian discourse.

Intergovernmental Organizations

Girls in school in Afghanistan

Intergovernmental Organizations are organizations based on a formal instrument of agreements (like a treaty) between nations. To qualify as an IGO, this agreement must include three or more nations and must have a permanent executive body (or secretariat). The United Nations is the largest IGO; some UN agencies relevant to forced migration are:

  • UNHCR - United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
  • UNOCHA - United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
  • UNHCHR - United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • UNICEF - United Nations Children's Fund
  • UNFPA - United Nations Population Fund
  • WHO - World Health Organization

Governmental Organizations

Governmental Organizations are organizations/agencies that are dependent on funding from and controlled by individual political states/governments. Some examples of governmental organization are listed below.

  • USAID - United States Agency of International Development
  • BPRM - US State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration
  • DFID - UK Department for International Development
  • SIDA - Swedish International Development Agency
  • CIDA - Canadian International Development Agency
  • JICA - Japan International Cooperation Agency

Non-Governmental Organizations

Non-governmental Organizations or NGOs are organizations that are independent from government affiliation. In general, NGOs do not operate for a profit. Some examples of NGOs that work with forced migrants are listed below. Most direct services for displaced persons are provided by non-governmental organizations.

  • IRC - International Rescue Committee
  • MSF - Medecins Sans Frontieres
  • CARE -
  • SCF - Save the Children Federation
  • RHRC - Reproductive Health Response in Conflict Consortium
  • InterAction (a US NGO alliance) - InterAction
  • ICVA (an international NGO alliance) - International Council of Voluntary Agencies

The Red Cross Movement

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is the world's largest humanitarian network, with a presence and activities in almost every country. The Movement incorporates the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) and Red Crescent Societies (the International Federation), as well as National Societies in 178 countries.

Visit ReliefWeb for more information on international actors and specific relief efforts.

IOM Beitbridge Reception Center for Deportees, Zimbabwe, Photo: Owen Ryan

What are the major topics in current humanitarian discourse?

Accountability of Humanitarian Aid Providers

  • The Red Cross Code of Conduct
  • The Sphere Project
  • Humanitarian Accountability Project (HAP)

Humanitarian Ethics

Charity vs. rights: How is humanitarian aid provision guided - by charity and philanthropy or by human rights?

For further detail see, Slim, H. "Doing the Right Thing: Relief Agencies, Moral Dilemmas, and Moral Responsibility in Political Emergencies and War." (1997) Disasters. 21( 3): 244-257.

Distribution of Resources

How are the resources that are available to humanitarian aid missions distributed? How do donors make decisions about the amount/types of resources that are made available to manage the effects of complex emergencies?

For further detail see, Salama,P. Laurence B., Nolan ML. "Health and Human Rights in Contemporary Humanitarian Crises: Is Kosovo More Important than Sierra Leone? BMJ. 319(7224): 1569-71.