Geneva is often called the humanitarian capital of the world: many humanitarian organizations have their headquarters or regional offices in Geneva. Finland's Permanent Mission to Geneva attends to cooperation between Finland and these organisations and coordinates the humanitarian assistance granted to the organisations by the Finnish Government.The mission works in close cooperation not only with international humanitarian organizations but also with members of other donor communities based in Geneva, including NGOs.
The Member States of the European Union foster their mutual contacts in issues related to humanitarian issues: they convene on a regular basis in order to discuss humanitarian aid and their views on such aspects as the relief organizations' operation. In meetings called together by the humanitarian organizations, the Presidency of the EU usually first presents the EU's common position, after which the Member States can express their own national viewpoints. In many cases, the Member States share more or less coinciding views on humanitarian questions.
To ensure as effective assistance by the numerous humanitarian actors as possible and to avoid overlap, the donor countries lay special emphasis on the coordination of aid. One concrete example of cooperation is the annual Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP), a strategy that allows the UN specialized agencies to jointly present their funding needs for the next year. This process has contributed to improved cooperation and coherence between organizations. As well as improvement of coordination of humanitarian aid, Finland highlights the needs of children, women and other disadvantaged groups, respect for human rights, empowerment of local inhabitants and individual governments' ownership of the assistance of their citizens. Finland has also undertaken to observe the so-called Good Humanitarian Donorship principle.
Millions of individuals that have been afflicted by natural disasters or armed conflicts or crises in different parts of the world receive assistance from humanitarian organizations every year. Humanitarian aid workers arrive in the hot spot areas first: the organizations' goal is to provide as rapid assistance as possible in a time of crisis. Humanitarian aid comprises both food and non-food items, such as medicines, blankets, fuel and shelters. Other forms of aid include, for example, education, mine awareness programmes and strengthening health, water and sanitary services. Humanitarian aid also aims at preventing conflicts and covers emergency preparedness.
Humanitarian aid is normally meant to last a short time only. As soon as the worst is over, humanitarian actors give way to more long-term development cooperation, which may concentrate on such aspects and reconstruction and regional development. Throughout the period of time when humanitarian aid is given, it is important to make sure that the local population's capacity is enhanced and that their government is committed to development. In this manner the people will, after the crisis is over, be capable of themselves. Crises, especially natural catastrophes, are usually unforeseen and hard to predict. However, it is possible to prepare for probable crises by, for example, training relief workers.
Crises and catastrophes often lead to mass influx of people: people may have to leave their homes and escape to more peaceful areas in their own country or abroad. Humanitarian organizations help refugees become self-reliant in their new conditions and environments.
Humanitarian organizations active in Geneva
Several such specialized agencies of the UN are located in Geneva as focus on the provision of humanitarian aid and help to refugees.
- OCHA (layout.types.url.description) (Opens New Window)(Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) is in charge of the coordination of humanitarian aid. Humanitarian relief workers form a large group of actors, and coordination of their activities is therefore an essential aspect of effective operation.
- UNHCR(layout.types.url.description) (Opens New Window) (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) has its headquarters in Geneva. As is implied in the name of the organization, UNHCR concentrates on helping refugees when they flee from areas of crisis or natural disaster. In addition, the organization helps refugees return to their home countries and home regions as soon as the conditions are peaceful enough.
- WHO(layout.types.url.description) (Opens New Window) (World Health Organisation) also provides humanitarian assistance, such as medicines and vaccines, to victims of conflicts and natural disasters.
- ISDR(layout.types.url.description) (Opens New Window) (International Strategy for Disaster Reduction) is an international strategy designed to reduce damages. The organization's principal interest is to help victims of natural disasters.
- UNICEF(layout.types.url.description) (Opens New Window) (United Nations Children's Fund) concentrates on children and women in need of humanitarian aid.
- UNDP(layout.types.url.description) (Opens New Window) (United Nations Development Programme) tries to prevent crises from erupting and to alleviate the repercussions of possible crises.
- WFP(layout.types.url.description) (Opens New Window) (World Food Programme) channels food for victims of conflicts and natural disasters whose first problem is often hunger and lack of foodstuffs.
UNICEF, UNDP and WFP don't have their headquarters in Geneva: UNICEF and the UNDP are based in New York and the WFP in Rome. However, each organization has an office in Geneva.
- The Red Cross movement works outside the UN system but in close cooperation with it. Both the International Committee of the Red Cross(layout.types.url.description) (Opens New Window) and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (layout.types.url.description) (Opens New Window)have their headquarters in Geneva. The latter is an umbrella organization of the national Red Cross and Red Crescent movements.
- IOM(layout.types.url.description) (Opens New Window) (International Organisation for Migration) helps migrants in their new home countries and also whenever they return to their former regions of residence.