World Humanitarian Day: It takes a village to raise a child
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Generation Amazing and IFRC celebrate this year’s World Humanitarian Day by reflecting on the capacity-building they have rendered to humanitarian workers in their four pilot projects.

A local village within the global humanitarian village

This year’s theme to celebrate the World Humanitarian Day (WHD) on 19 August is based on an African proverb which states: It takes a village to raise a child. The phrase has, at its core, a strong emphasis on collective effort to ensure that children are given a chance to flourish in a safe environment. The creation and sustaining of such an environment is a responsibility not only of the biological parents, but rather all members of the village.

Hence, this year WHD reminds us all to recognize and appreciate the work of humanitarian agencies and their personnel who continue to deliver services to populations in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. A Global Humanitarian Overview 2022 report by the United Nations reveals that 274 million people, compared to 235 million in 2021, will be in need of humanitarian services through the support of several donors and implementing organizations around the world symbolizing the global humanitarian village. 

Our article focuses on the importance of humanitarian capacity building and partnerships with local organizations, to ensure that humanitarian and development sector actors, within a local village consisting of local organisations, can sustain the current services meeting the needs of the local populations. The current humanitarian challenges the world is facing, such as the Afghanistan political conflict, the Russian-Ukraine war, Yemen and Myanmar human security concerns, harsh climate conditions and natural disasters, and the socio-economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, remind us all that those at the frontline of humanitarian services need replenishing now and again, as long as these challenges remain. 

The need to prioritise local humanitarian capacity development is key to ensure that what we envisage as a local village does not perpetually look externally (such as traditionally to international agencies) for support. Rather, the village should be capacitated to shape its own development or humanitarian response using resources within its local constituency. One such resource would be its well-equipped human capital.

Human capital theory, according to a CIPD report produced in partnership with Ulster University’s Business School, is concerned with the human elements of the organization capable of learning, changing, innovating and creativity to ensure the long-term survival of the organization. When local organizations receive human capital investment support in the form of skill and knowledge transfer, short-termism is likely to be tackled when international humanitarian organizations withdraw their support. By doing so, meeting the needs of target groups accessing humanitarian support can foster sustainable development.

Strengthening local partners: Are we there yet?

A 2007 Forced Migration Review (Issue 28) themed: Enhancing Southern capacity: rhetoric and reality, challenged us all to re-examine our mechanisms of ensuring sincerity and authenticity in local humanitarian capacity-building activities with Southern partners. The issue debates among other key topics - who owns and drives capacity building; on whose terms are capacity-building activities hinged; and the nature of capacity-building partnerships that may be deemed effective.  

However, as we join the world in a global celebration of people helping people, the question remains regarding advancing practices pertaining to how international humanitarian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) work collaboratively with national NGOs to enable programme efficiency and sustainable development. Such capacity development activities need to be hinged on enhancing local participation in activities such as developing a vision, agenda setting, designing, implementation and measuring of impact of disaster responses or socio-economic interventions.  

Evidencing humanitarian capacity-building

Authentic local participation of Southern partners in all the programme phases aforementioned continues to be a challenge in the wider international development sector, including humanitarian contexts. For example, providers of financial resources, based in the Global North, have monopolized the conceptualization or defining what entails development, resulting in the lack of Southern partner voices. Consequently, Southern partners’ active participation tends to mainly occur at the implementation phase, as implementing partners and not equal partners.

The power imbalance identified above, between the Global North and Global South partners, donors, and recipients, respectively, has implications on how capacity development can be effectively shaped to encourage Southern agency. As authors, we recently were involved in shaping such debates working with an international humanitarian organization. This came about through our association with the Generation Amazing Foundation (GA), which began as a human and social legacy programme of the Supreme Committee for the Delivery and Legacy (SC), the organizing committee of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM. While still under the auspices of the SC, GA is a now a Foundation.

GA partnered with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), which is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network with 192-member Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies and 14 million volunteers worldwide. The two organizations joined forces to address humanitarian issues such as discrimination, gender inequality, social exclusion, and violence by harnessing the power of football and humanitarian education. They engaged vulnerable youths, particularly those from communities at-risk of exclusion, conflict and violence. The target groups comprised of refugees, hosts, or internally displaced communities. The projects aimed at equipping participants with leadership and socio-emotional life skills.

This innovative project – named ‘Uniting through the Power of Football’ – was pilot tested in in four countries with different contexts: Argentina, Iraq, Myanmar and Uganda, with the support of their respective Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies – the Argentine Red Cross, Iraqi Red Crescent Society, Myanmar Red Cross Society, and the Uganda Red Cross Society.

GA philosophy and methodological approach to building the local organization capacity is strongly informed by the current debate within mainstream development sector and its ramifications upon new actors that have become part of the wider development sector. For example, the sport-for-development field has recently been active in stating its case for the power of sport to enhance contributions towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Co-creation, local participation and bottom-up

Considering the ongoing political crisis in Myanmar and the COVID-19 restrictions worldwide, the IFRC and GA have delivered capacity-building educational packages to the national societies to help them deliver the hybrid curriculum co-created by both organizations. The hybrid curriculum demonstrates the spirit of collective effort from the micro level to the macro level. Staff based at the IFRC headquarters in Geneva worked closely with GA staff based in Doha to bring together two unique programmes.

The IFRC’s Youth as Agents of Behavioral Change (YABC) and those GA’s Football for Development (F4D) curriculum were reassessed, and components purposively selected to co-create a new educational package known as the YABC & F4D hybrid curriculum. At the core of this curriculum is a critical pedagogy approach to empower young people and, subsequently, their local communities through young people’s micro projects.

Since the newly created hybrid curriculum was unfamiliar to National Societies, capacity building involved online training workshops and coaching of trainers conducted jointly by both Generation Amazing and IFRC staff. Further digital adaptation and contextualization of the curriculum content and methodology in each of the four countries was conducted at both macro and micro levels, in close consultation with local YABC & F4D facilitators. This co-creation ensured that skills and knowledge transfer was attuned to the local contexts and needs as participants socially negotiated practices that were more appropriate to their context.

Local and regional participation were key to ensure that YABC-F4D facilitators were actively engaged and made contributions to the processes of contextualizing the hybrid content and pedagogical approaches. Further opportunities, besides the live coaching workshops for a question-and-answer session, included the creation of a WhatsApp group between YABC & F4D trainers and local trainers as a support mechanisms for local capacity development. 

A local village and its capabilities

As we celebrate WHD 2022, recalling that it takes a village to raise a child, this also reminds us of the responsibilities of different communities within a global village. While the YABC &F4D case study has stressed practices of working collaboratively initiated by international partners, practices that fuel mistrust and bred micro-managing acts by Global North partners need to be tackled.

Equally, local partners need to demonstrate a sense of strong responsibility in their practices to nudge international partners towards more trusting relations. Trust will have huge implications upon the authentic intentions aimed at supporting the transfer of skills and knowledge essential for enabling the local communities to be primarily responsible for continuing to shape their recovery or development after crises. Local humanitarian workers, people helping people, have a responsibility to ensure their services hinge on building resilient local communities, to challenge old practices of perpetual dependency on outside support. Generation Amazing and IFRC are proud of celebrating this year’s World Humanitarian Day and the capacity-building they have rendered to humanitarian workers in the four pilot projects.



  • Davies Banda – University of Edinburgh
  • Nasser Al Khori, Generation Amazing Foundation - Executive Director
  • Michael Richardson – Generation Amazing Foundation – Master Coach

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the official policy of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies or of individual National Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies. They represent the views of the authors. The designations used do not imply the expression of any opinion on the part of the IFRC or National Societies concerning any of the topics herein discussed.


Myanmar (Burma)
Middle East
Latin America and the Caribbean
All sports
Sustainable Development Goals
17 - Partnership for the goals
Target Group

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