Annual Report 2017

Summary of impact

Statement from Chair & Executive Director

Arnold Tsunga
Arnold Tsunga - Chair
Andrew Hudson
Andrew Hudson - Executive Director

The world is currently experiencing the worst refugee and humanitarian crisis since World War Two.

The number, reach and complexity of wars is increasing and basic humanitarian and human rights norms are being eroded. The rise of populism and nationalism, and challenges to regional and multilateral institutions, are making conflicts more likely to occur and harder to resolve.

Intractable conflicts in Syria and South Sudan and the continued suffering of civilians meant that Crisis Action had to seek new ways of leveraging influence. A resurgence of fighting and unlawful attacks on civilians in Yemen caused us to re-engage on that conflict; while the threat of election-related violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo saw us launch a new emergency response.

However, the past year also saw impact on the conflicts Crisis Action worked on:

  • In Syria, millions of people received life-saving supplies thanks to aid delivered from outside Syria, a pioneering arrangement that Crisis Action coalitions were instrumental in renewing in December. Crisis Action collaborations helped evict Russia from the UN Human Rights Council due to their conduct in Syria, showing Russia there was a price to pay for its support for the brutal Assad regime. Our networks helped the UN to establish a new investigative mechanism to push for accountability for war crimes committed and reduce the culture of impunity in Syria. With Crisis Action’s help, our partner NGOs convinced the EU to condition reconstruction aid on a political transition, helping to push Assad to the negotiation table for perhaps the most promising peace talks yet.
  • Our efforts with partners to spotlight the humanitarian catastrophe of bombing Yemen’s vital Hodeida port, convinced the US, UK and others of the importance of protecting the port, averting an attack that enabled aid to continue to flow and may have saved thousands of lives.
  • By identifying the Catholic Church, women’s groups and DRC’s neighbouring countries as key pressure points on the Democratic Republic of Congo’s National Dialogue, we contributed to the successful negotiation of a political agreement in DRC that averted potentially widespread violence in 2016.
  • Our support for civil society and their determined demands for accountability and a revitalized peace process in South Sudan started to show promise.

As ever, our impact comes from the networks we have the privilege of convening, and we owe a sincere debt of gratitude to our partners, allies, staff, volunteers, and the brave activists and individuals who work with us. In these challenging times, it is ever more important that we come together to harness the transformative power of coalitions to change the world for the better.

Photo by Javier Manzano/Agence France-Press via Getty Images


Glimmers of light in an otherwise desperate year

The past year saw the suffering of Syrian civilians extend and intensify in ways that were both familiar and shockingly new. Sieges – most memorably and devastatingly in eastern Aleppo – were used as a tactic by the Assad regime and its allies, and in April 2017 the government dropped chemical weapons on a rebel-held town in Idlib province, killing over 70 people and injuring more than 550. This was the deadliest use of chemical weapons since 2013. The bombing of a UN aid convoy by the regime in September 2016 also shocked the world, and resulted in a damning UN report accusing the regime of war crimes.

Meanwhile, Russia increased its support for President Assad, putting troops on the ground and more planes in the sky, thereby strengthening the government’s position and challenging the influence of the US and its allies. Ceasefires and peace talks provided glimmers of hope but the dominant pattern was the repeated breakdown and violation of these agreements. Much of Crisis Action’s work through this period involved telling the stories of ordinary men and women enduring the assaults and acting within their power to save civilians - a rallying cry for world leaders to do the same.

Crisis Action gave our network of over 60 Syrian-led relief organisations a platform to unite with others to call for civilian protection. The voices of all were amplified, especially those of the local Syrian organisations who are on the frontlines of the response.

Doctor Kais Al Dairi

Regional Director, Syria Relief Network

Syria in news

Giving voice to Aleppo’s doctors

Our collaboration with doctors and other medical staff was central to these efforts:  focusing attention on the suffering and fear of Syrian civilians living under constant attack, reminding policymakers about the consequences of their failure to protect civilians at risk. During the assault on Aleppo in the second half of 2016, Crisis Action worked with most of the last remaining doctors in Aleppo to call on President Obama publicly, urging him to stop the indiscriminate bombing of the city. The initiative made global headlines including in the Guardian, the Washington Post, the BBC and CNN. The White House responded publicly the same day and Russia and the US agreed to a ceasefire shortly afterward, with the Aleppo doctors reportedly mentioned in their negotiations.

Crisis Action also supported Dr. Hamza Al-Khatib, a surgeon running one of the few remaining hospitals in eastern Aleppo, to author a piece in Germany’s most popular tabloid, Bild. Chancellor Merkel’s spokesperson described the piece as “a wake-up call”, and the Editor-in-Chief of Bild wrote on Twitter to his followers, “If you only read one text today, make it this.” Shortly afterwards, Chancellor Merkel persuaded the leaders of the UK, US, Canada, France and Italy to issue an unprecedented joint rebuke condemning Russia over its role in Aleppo. This and other collective work that Crisis Action co-ordinated also succeeded in convincing the EU and G7 to make a political transition a condition of reconstruction aid to Syria, increasing pressure on Assad to come to the negotiating table.

More than 600 civilians were killed during the battle for Aleppo, and many more terrorised by indiscriminate bombing and fighting on the ground. However, senior policymakers from the UK, US, UN and Germany all acknowledged that the interventions by Crisis Action-facilitated coalitions helped create pressure that influenced Russia to agree to a managed evacuation of Aleppo in December 2016, instead of a fight to the death. The managed evacuation is likely to have saved thousands of lives.

The voices of the Syrian people need to reach political leaders in order to urge them to push for peace, accountability and reconciliation. Crisis Action has been important in bridging the distance between them and European political circles.

Marietje Schaake

Dutch MEP

More than
More then 600 civilians killed
civilians were killed during the battle for Aleppo

Holding Russia to account

Throughout 2016-17, Crisis Action worked with a number of partners to increase the reputational damage to Russia for its role in the conflict by demonstrating that its active support for a government committing war crimes comes with a cost. In October 2016, we worked with Human Rights Watch to produce a statement, signed by over 80 human rights and humanitarian organisations, questioning Russia’s fitness to keep its seat on the UN Human Rights Council. The vote went against Russia, in what the media called a “stunning rebuke”, and the NGO intervention was credited for tipping the balance against Russia’s re-election. It was the first time a permanent member of the UN Security Council had been voted off the Human Rights Council and further increased the political pressure on Russia for its conduct in Syria.

Syria on TV

Building a platform for Syrian Heroes

Crisis Action also continued to amplify the voices of other heroic Syrians, including the White Helmets, Syria’s volunteer rescue workers, whose extraordinary bravery and ability to testify to the suffering of their fellow citizens has been an awe-inspiring feature of the last six years. We supported their candidacy for the Nobel Peace Prize (which they sadly did not win). We also worked with partners to organise a series of high-level meetings for them in Brussels, London and Paris. Following these meetings, the German Chancellery sent a letter saying that the meetings “left a deep and lasting impression”. We were delighted when a documentary about the White Helmets won an Oscar.

In December 2016, in an historic move, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution establishing a mechanism to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the worst crimes committed in Syria since the start of the war. Canadian and Liechtensteiner diplomats were among those that thanked Crisis Action for our role in coordinating a declaration from 223 civil society organisations calling on the UN General Assembly to step up where the Security Council had failed. The UN investigation mechanism has now been established as a warning to war criminals that their conduct is being documented for use in future prosecutions.

The prospects for Syria and its long-suffering civilians are deeply worrying. And yet, as this report was published, the civilian death toll was one-third that of the year before, kindling hopes that current efforts on ceasefires and political talks may be helping the war in Syria turn a corner. Thanks to the ground-breaking agreement allowing the UN to deliver aid from other countries into Syria, the UN estimates that many millions of Syrians have benefited from humanitarian operations. The coalitions that Crisis Action co-ordinated over the last number of years were instrumental in securing the cross-border aid regime. This is real impact in ensuring millions of desperate people have been able to receive life-saving aid.

Crisis Action are a steadfast ally in amplifying the voice of Syrian civil society in telling their story of the conflict and the impact on the future of their country.

Salma Kahale

Executive Director, Dawlaty

Syria Idlib
April 2017
The government dropped chemical weapons on Khan Shaykhun, a rebel-held town in Idlib province, killing over 70 people and injuring more than 550.
  • June Darayya and 18 other besieged cities receive first UN food delivery since 2012 after months of Crisis Action coalition campaigning. Shortly afterwards, the Syrian regime drops barrel bombs on the city, sparking international condemnation
  • June
    The Syrian army and its allies launch an offensive north-west of Aleppo, designed to cut off last rebel supply line
  • July
    Syrian government forces, backed by Russian airstrikes, complete encirclement of Aleppo; an estimated 275,000 people are under siege in the rebel-controlled east
  • Aug
    Last doctors in Aleppo issue a desperate plea to President Obama in open letter co-ordinated by Crisis Action: White House responds the same day
  • Mid
    Ceasefire agreed in Aleppo to let aid in
  • Sept
    Syrian regime bombs UN aid convoy of more than 18 trucks, killing 14 people
  • Oct
    Following a Crisis Action co-ordinated campaign by human rights and humanitarian NGOs, Russia is voted off UN Human Rights Council as a result of its actions in Syria
  • Nov
    Last remaining hospital in eastern Aleppo destroyed by airstrikes, the result of systematic targeting of medical facilities by Russian and regime planes
  • Dec
    Syrian government takes control of Aleppo; five days later 50 buses evacuate civilians and militants
  • Dec
    UN General Assembly adopts a resolution establishing a mechanism to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the worst crimes committed in Syria after Crisis Action delivered a declaration from 223 civil society organisations
  • Dec
    Peace talks between Turkey and Russia in Astana, Kazakhstan, result in the brokering of a nationwide ceasefire
  • Jan
    Astana Process talks end with an agreement between Iran, Russia, and Turkey to form a joint monitoring body to enforce the ceasefire
  • Mar
    UN Commission of Enquiry report concludes September 2016 attack on UN aid convoy was “meticulously planned” and “ruthlessly carried out” by the Syrian government, and calls it “one of the most egregious” of many war crimes committed during the Syrian government’s offensive on Aleppo
  • Mar
    Crisis Action co-ordinates a global civil society response to 6th anniversary of peaceful uprising that led to Syrian conflict
  • Apr
    Regime chemical weapons attack on the town of Khan Shaykhun
  • Apr
    President Trump authorises cruise missile attack on a Syrian airfield in response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons
  • May
    Russia, Iran, and Turkey sign an agreement in Astana to create four "de-escalation zones" in Syria
White Helmets
Photo by Javier Manzano/Agence France-Press via Getty Images

An Oscar For Syria’s Heroes

In February 2017, 'The White Helmets' won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short

The film provides a gripping insight into the daily lives of Syria’s volunteer rescue workers as they rush towards the bombs and pull victims from the wreckage even as another strike is threatened. Accepting the award, director Orlando von Einsiedel read a statement from White Helmets founder Raed al-Saleh:

We are so grateful that this film has highlighted our work […]. Our organisation is guided by a verse from the Quran: 'To save one life is to save all of humanity.'

Crisis Action was privileged to work with the White Helmets, providing them platforms to engage decision-makers from Berlin to Washington DC. Their powerful testimony of their work put a human face on a grim conflict, shattering the prejudice that all Syrians are refugees or rebels, and motivating politicians and individuals to act on Syria who wouldn’t have done so otherwise.

Dr Hamza

Surgeon at Al-Quds Hospital in Aleppo

From the start of the revolution until the end of last year, I served as a doctor in Aleppo. Often I'd be woken by a knock at the door: "Doctor, hurry, there is a massacre".

I would try to think positively, hoping the injuries would be simple. But every time I'd be shocked at the scene in front of me: patients filling the beds, the floor, the corridors. The children burnt, bleeding, choking. I'd curse my luck for my shift coinciding with such a terrible attack, until I remembered I was extremely lucky just to be alive.

The things I saw and the choices I made have stayed with me. One day I yelled at hospital workers to move four dead children’s bodies out of the way: they were taking up space and I had a lot of injuries to tend to. They said there was nowhere to put them, and I said “take them anywhere, outside even”. A few hours later I went for a quick break just to see the sky; I saw cats licking the blood off the little bodies and biting the children’s fingers.

In spite of the horror, I chose to stay until my last patient was evacuated. Then I too left. Since then, I've taken some time to rest and enjoy my family. In 2015, I had my first child. It wasn't an easy decision, but she changed our lives and gave us strength even during our worst days. Last month we had another little girl. My children inspire me to fight even harder for change so they and the rest of Syria's children can live their best life. With Crisis Action's help, I'll keep fighting for their future.

Dr Hamza
Photo by Svenn Torfinn/Panos

South Sudan

The fight for justice continues amid famine and fears of genocide

Crisis Action has been campaigning on South Sudan since it gained independence from Sudan in 2011, when what should have been a joyful new beginning quickly descended into civil conflict between former allies. A peace agreement brokered in August 2015 did not hold and the period covered by this report saw disturbing levels of violence against civilians and aid workers, disengagement by the main brokers of the peace agreement, a fracturing of the opposition into rival groups, and the onset of famine, described by the UN as “man made”

South Sudan Famine

Accountability and a court to prosecute war criminals

Crisis Action focused its efforts on demanding accountability, empowering and protecting civilians, and addressing the drivers and underlying causes of the conflict, including corruption. Specifically, we worked with partners and allies to continue to push for the establishment of a Hybrid Court to hold perpetrators of violence to account. We helped ensure the voices of South Sudanese people were loud enough so that the African Union (AU) had to keep the Court on their agenda. We did this by bringing delegations of South Sudanese activists to Addis Ababa; bolstering their demands by placing op-eds by South Sudanese and international authors in African and global media; coordinating joint letters by partners to the AU and UN; and producing a two-page briefing with South Sudanese civil society making the case for the Court. The campaign also sought to target the Chair of the AU Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma - the official responsible for overseeing implementation of the peace deal - to make justice in South Sudan a legacy issue for her as she departed her role in the spring of 2017.

As a result of these efforts, key players including the Madam Dlamini-Zuma, and the AU’s Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security came out in support of the court. In October, the US announced $3.3m for the AU to hire staff and technical experts. The AU has since drafted a legal framework, and there is a proposed Memorandum of Understanding. Thanks in large part to the work of Crisis Action and our partners, the Court has gone from an idea with little backing, to something that has funding and some momentum behind it. The prospect of the Court is vital as it diminishes the culture of impunity, which is one of the main causes of the horrific atrocities being committed in South Sudan.

Over the last year I have seen firsthand how Crisis Action uses its political insider role to maximum effect by mobilising the right mix of civil society voices at key moments to help policymakers look at the situation afresh.

Peter Biar

Senior Advisor, International Growth Centre

Stemming the flow of arms into South Sudan

In 2016-17, Crisis Action continued to enable partners and allies to push the UN Security Council for an arms embargo. Of note was a confidential briefing paper Crisis Acton helped to produce in December (with support from South African Judge Navi Pillay), debunking arguments against an embargo, which the US Director of African Affairs described as “super smart”. Arguments set out in the paper were reflected in the US Ambassador’s statement to the Security Council ahead of a vote on the embargo. While the UN Security Council refused to agree to an arms’ embargo, it did put in place a mechanism to monitor arms sales to South Sudan and impose sanctions on key individuals perpetuating the violence.

Crisis Action demonstrates the impact of strategic, coordinated advocacy in an era of increasing threats to civilians in conflicts around the globe. With new challenges to global cooperation, Crisis Action’s model of helping civil society work together is more essential than ever.

David Miliband

President and CEO, International Rescue Committee

Supporting women’s groups to demand international leadership on South Sudan

Crisis Action’s work bolstering civil society focused a lot on women’s groups. We worked with the AU to organise a display of portraits by US photographer, Robert Fogarty, during its 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence. The outgoing AU Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, attended the exhibition, and subsequently used her last speech to call on her successor, Moussa Faki Mahamat, to prioritise South Sudan. With our help, various women’s leaders sent the photographs in the form of postcards to UN Missions and high-level UN officials in New York. Both the new AU leader, Moussa Faki, and the new UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, announced South Sudan as their highest priority in early speeches.

Julie Gichuru

Encouraging Kenya to use its leverage to stop the war

Recognising the key role Kenya can play in ending the war in South Sudan, Crisis Action engaged in several Kenya-focused initiatives. First, Crisis Action collaborated with the Enough Project and others to highlight corruption as a main driver of the war, specifically by exposing the role of Kenyan banks in accepting money stolen by South Sudan’s warring factions. Second, Crisis Action worked with popular Kenyan TV presenter, Julie Gichuru, to raise South Sudan in the consciousness of Kenyans and ultimately to encourage Kenyan policymakers to engage more concertedly to stop the war. We planned a series of moments on television, social media and in print that enabled Gichuru to highlight the violence against women and girls in South Sudan and Kenya’s vital role in bringing about peace. This provides a new level of focus on the crisis in South Sudan so we can help partners to challenge Kenya to exercise its considerable leverage over South Sudan’s leaders to choose peace over war.

Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma
Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, views photographs from a Crisis Action-organised exhibition that sought to help South Sudanese people express their hopes and dreams in their own words

Seeking a revitalised peace process

By early 2017 it was clear that the 2015 peace agreement was moribund. Crisis Action enabled South Sudanese civil society representatives, including youth leaders, and African religious leaders, to urge senior officials from the African Union (AU) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) as well as key Kenyan, Ethiopian and Ugandan diplomats, to push for a new peace process. We were heartened to see these officials agree to an IGAD Summit tasked with revitalising the peace process, providing some hope that a new and more inclusive peace process might finally bring the fighting to an end.

Daily Nation
  • July
    Major fighting in Juba between government and opposition forces kills approximately 300 people, including 33 civilians. Five aid workers raped by government soldiers in Terrain hotel. Opposition leader Riek Machar flees South Sudan with many of his forces
  • July
    South Sudanese newspaper editor, Alfred Taban, is arrested and detained for writing articles critical of the country's leaders
  • July
    Machar officially removed as the country’s First Vice-President; replaced by Taban Deng, seen by many as loyal to the government
  • Aug
    UN Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 2304 authorising a Regional Protection Force for Juba informed by advocacy in New York that Crisis Action coordinated
  • Sep
    Report by UN Panel of Experts on South Sudan blames July violence on ‘continued belligerence’ of all parties to the conflict and warns of the intensification of tribal and ethnic aspects
  • Oct
    Chairperson of the African Union Commission announces AU backing for the Hybrid Court on South Sudan to deal with impunity, promote national unity and justice in the country, a key objective of Crisis Action’s campaigning
  • Nov
    UN sacks Kenyan commander of its peacekeeping mission over the failure to protect civilians in Juba during July violence
  • Nov
    UN Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, warns of potential genocide in South Sudan
  • Dec
    UN Human Rights Commissioner warns a process of ethnic cleansing is underway in several parts of the country
  • Dec
    Despite weeks of campaigning by Crisis Action partners, a US-proposed resolution on arms embargo and sanctions fails to pass at UN
  • Feb Famine declared in parts of South Sudan; UN says it is caused by civil war and economic collapse
  • Mar
    UN Human Rights Commission documents massive human rights violations including rampant sexual violence against women
  • Mar
    Six aid workers and their driver killed in ambush, taking total number of aid workers killed in conflict to 79
  • Apr
    UN Panel of Experts report blames government for most human rights abuses and policies that created conditions for famine
  • Apr
    Intense fighting breaks out in the town of Kodok, north-eastern South Sudan, displacing 25,000 people
  • May
    President Kiir launches national dialogue and declares a unilateral ceasefire in a ceremony attended by Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni. Fragmented opposition forces immediately reject the National Dialogue, which civil society criticises as non-inclusive

Mrs. Bineta Diop

Founder and President of Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS) and the African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson’s Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security

It is now seventeen years since the adoption of the landmark United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, that put women at the forefront of the global peace and security agenda. Yet women and girls continue to suffer the brunt of violence in conflict-affected countries in Africa. The abduction of more than 200 girls by Boko Haram from Chibok in Nigeria was perhaps the most telling illustration of how violence is unleashed on women and girls in times of conflict. But the truth is, violence against women continues unabated in countries like Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

Deeply concerned with this continued scourge, the same year as the Chibok girls were abducted, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission appointed me as Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security. I was given the mandate to raise the voices of women and girls, especially those in affected countries, and to enhance their influence in peace processes across Africa. It is such a privilege to promote women’s leadership in conflict prevention and resolution. When women are involved, they push for positive change and transformation.

Since that time, we have organised many solidarity missions and campaigns to support conflict-affected women and restore their dignity.  Crisis Action contributed immensely to a campaign from October to December 2016 to support the women of South Sudan by amplifying calls to end the cycle of violence against women, and to bring perpetrators to justice. The campaign featured also a photo exhibition raising the voices of people of South Sudan calling for peace, security, and expressing hope for a united and peaceful South Sudan.

Our shared mission is to return to a place where the story of just one girl or woman being sexually assaulted is enough to move people to act. To do this, we need to foster deeper connectedness, empowerment and accountability.

I am grateful for Crisis Action’s support and value its partnership in our efforts to end violence against women. I salute their ongoing empowerment of women to find solutions to conflict and commitment to promoting peace across Africa and beyond. I look forward to continued collaboration in the future.

Mrs. Bineta Diop
Photo by Kenny Katombe/Reuters

DRC Emergency Response

Averting violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo

In September 2016, Crisis Action launched an emergency response in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the face of escalating protests over President Kabila’s apparent reluctance to step down after his allotted two terms. Concern was rising that there could be widespread violence and atrocities. Advised by a coalition of NGOs, including Congolese women’s group SEPPAF; Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA); Human Rights Watch and International Crisis Group, we designed a strategy to prevent election-related violence through forging agreement on an electoral process with sufficient support from President Kabila, key opposition figures, and civil society. We focused on working with national and regional actors with the most influence on the DRC.

Crisis Action brought together a ‘who’s who’ of NGOs that played an important role in emphasising the importance of resolute action at the EU level to pressure the politicians in DRC towards democracy and human rights.

Guillaume Lacroix

Former Africa Adviser to the French Minister of Foreign Affairs

80 women
We brought together 80 women's groups from 25 countries to send a letter to President Kabila urging him to respect the constitution and take the "chance for the first ever peaceful transition of power in the country's history.

The collective strategy Crisis Action co-ordinated aimed to achieve an agreement on a political transition by using three sets of powerful messengers.

First, with partners, including Christian Aid and CAFOD (the Catholic international development charity of England and Wales), we identified the Catholic bishops of the DRC as having critical leverage, being the main non-state actors respected by the people, the opposition and President Kabila himself. Working with CAFOD, we shared insight and analysis from our Congolese and international partners with the bishops, as well as encouragement to use their influence to mediate for peace. In October, Crisis Action planned a trip to the African Union for the bishops, so they could make the case for a new approach to mediating the crisis. The trip was cancelled at the last minute when President Kabila himself asked the bishops to facilitate negotiations in Kinshasa.

Women as a force for peace

To complement the work of the bishops, we also identified key women’s organisations with the potential to influence President Kabila. Crisis Action brought together 80 women’s groups from 25 countries in an open letter to urge President Kabila to respect the constitution and take the “chance for the first ever peaceful transition of power in the country's history”. The coalition’s call, which referred to the widespread sexual violence experienced by women and girls, was covered by influential media and amplified globally by partners.

Lastly, participants at a roundtable in South Africa with Open Society Initiative for South Africa (OSISA) and other partners identified the influence of the Presidents of Angola and Congo-Brazzaville on President Kabila. Taking this insight Crisis Action worked with three prominent African women leaders to privately urge these presidents to use that influence for peace. Those leaders were Nobel Laureate, Leymah Gbowee; winner of the Ginetta Sagan award for women human rights champions, Julienne Lusenge; and African Union Goodwill Ambassador, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda.

On 31 December 2016, the bishops successfully brokered a landmark deal for political transition and elections by the end of 2017. The agreement reflected the demands of the women’s coalitions that Crisis Action had co-ordinated, reducing tension in the country and averting what was predicted to have been widespread violence.

Crisis Action’s work with women’s movements demonstrates the importance of women’s voices and our power to act as agents of transformative change in Africa

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda

General Secretary, World YWCA

Women 4 Congo
  • May
    Congo’s Constitutional Court rules President Kabila can remain in office “until the installation of the new elected president”, in spite of national statute prohibiting a third term
  • May
    Protests against delays in organising the election scheduled for November 2016 are met with teargas and live bullets from security forces; at least one person dies and at least 11 are injured
  • Jul
    Tens of thousands gather in Kinshasa to hear veteran opposition leader, Étienne Tshisekedi, returned from two years in exile
  • Aug
    The National Electoral Commission announces election delayed until at least July 2017, allegedly to enable voter registration
  • Sep
    National Dialogue talks launch to resolve political impasse; facilitated by the African Union and chaired by former Togolese President, Edem Kodjo
  • Sep
    Protestors take to the streets as Electoral Commission misses deadline to announce date for elections. Security forces respond with excessive violence, killing over 60 people
  • Oct
    Electoral Commission announces election will be further postponed to July 2018
  • Nov
    Radio France International and UN Radio Okapi taken off air by authorities ahead of planned protests in Kinshasa
  • Dec
    New round of negotiations launch as AU-backed National Dialogue falters; new talks to be facilitated by Catholic bishops
  • Dec
    Kabila’s mandate ends. Security forces are deployed throughout major cities and at least 40 protestors are killed and hundreds more arrested
  • Dec
    Bishops broker successful deal on political transition, with elections to be held at the end of 2017
  • Feb
    Opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, dies in Brussels aged 84, depriving the opposition of figurehead and casting doubt over the December agreement

Desiderata Furaha

Activist for peace and women's rights in eastern DRC

My name means “joy” in Swahili. Inspired by my mother, a social worker who was a pioneer of women’s empowerment, I have always lived to help others.

I grew up on the shores of Lake Kivu in the east. My friends and I grew vegetables to give to the sick and the elderly.

When war broke out in 1996, I was in Kinshasa in the west, far from my home and family. I felt so powerless. My friends implored me to stay away, they told me peace-making and negotiation was the business of men. But I knew nothing good could come from violence, so I defied them and reached out to the fighters’ parents – my former neighbours – to try to bring their sons back to a peaceful path. I became one of the very few women peace activists in the entire country. This way, as in others, the war changed my life forever.

My second calling was born after I lost my husband and his family tried to take my daughters from me. I had to fight with all my might to keep my family united. This injustice ignited a deeper passion and in 2001 I started ‘Women in Solidarity for Peace and Development’. Ever since, I’ve been working tirelessly to empower women and help survivors and victims of conflict.

Working with Crisis Action has helped me take my work to new levels. Together with women activists from across Africa, we wrote to President Kabila to urge him to respect his term limits. The letter didn't solve everything but it helped prevent a major conflict from breaking out.

I am still hopeful that, one day, peace will return to the Democratic Republic of Congo. But challenges remain. I have had setbacks, including many death threats. But I have to keep fighting: there are still so many problems to face. This is what I do now. This is in my blood.

Syria on TV
Photo by Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

Yemen Emergency Response

Attempting to get aid in while keeping arms out

Crisis Action re-engaged on Yemen in January 2017 following a breakdown of the ceasefire and political negotiations, and a resumption of attacks, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians.

Protecting Hodeida Port to ensure aid delivery

In March, policymakers warned Crisis Action of a potentially imminent aerial assault by the Saudi-led coalition on Yemen’s critical port of Hodeida, through which much of the food and aid was being imported for 17 million people in need. Crisis Action worked with our partner NGOs to increase the political costs for the Saudi coalition and its backers (including the US and UK) by galvanising an international outcry against the catastrophic humanitarian effects of such an attack on the port.

This included bringing together a group of over 40 ex-diplomats, humanitarian workers and experts to publicly highlight the risk of famine to British politicians. We also raised the alarm throughout our network, enabling partner NGOs to produce a joint statement, press releases, and to brief senior UN and UK policymakers. A UK government official told us that as a result of UK civil society pressure, the Prime Minister raised the importance of Hodeida and the humanitarian situation with Saudi King Salman and his defence minister.

A total of
17 million
people, or 60% of the country are now food insecure
23 May 2017
Cholera outbreak hits, with 35,000 suspected cases
Yemen Cholera

Crisis Action’s in-depth knowledge, active engagement and outreach have had a positive impact on the Security Council’s work on Yemen.

Ambassador Olof Skoog

Permanent Representative of the Swedish Mission to the UN

Yemen Almutawakel Yemen NGO's

The Times newspaper cited people close to the Saudi government saying that the international outcry on the humanitarian impact helped inspire them to step back from attacking the port.

Keeping up the pressure to avert an attack on Hodeida, in May, Crisis Action supported Radhya Almutawakel, Chairperson of Yemeni human rights organisation Mwatana, to brief the UN Security Council to call for the port to be protected. It was the first time a Yemeni civil society activist had ever done so. Crisis Action also organised a social media campaign with the hashtag #YemenCantWait, which reached over seven million people in a week.

After a year of near silence from the Security Council, it issued a strongly worded Presidential Statement to protect civilians, calling on the Hodeida port to be safeguarded as “a critical lifeline for humanitarian support”. The UK, French and Swedish governments told us that NGO pressure, which Crisis Action coordinated, was instrumental in this outcome. Given the US and UK supported this statement and are key backers of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, at the time of writing it seemed inconceivable that an attack could occur. Preventing the attack on the port has helped aid to continue to flow to millions in desperate need.

Shining the spotlight on arms sales to Saudi Arabia

To increase pressure on Saudi Arabia and the US to be more careful in protecting civilians in Yemen, Crisis Action coordinated partners to bolster US Congressional opposition to the renewal of US arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Crisis Action worked with Oxfam, the Friends Committee on National Legislation and the Yemen Peace Project to convene a roundtable on Yemen attended by 41 Congressional staffers that featured four US national security experts from conservative and progressive think tanks. We also enabled a former US ambassador to Yemen to privately urge senators to oppose the arms sales, and coordinating considerable media work in the US opposing the arms sales. While the US Senate ultimately approved the arms sales, they did so by a very narrow margin. The surprisingly high opposition (the highest ever opposition to Saudi arms sales) made clear the Senate’s concern for human rights violations in Yemen. It also increased scrutiny on how these arms were being used in Yemen and increased pressure on Saudi Arabia and the US to minimise civilian casualties in Yemen.

Yemen can't wait
  • Jun
    British High Court gives permission for judicial review into whether arms sales to Saudi Arabia breach UK arms export laws
  • Oct First outbreak of cholera; cases resurge again in April 2017
  • Oct
    Airstrike by Saudi-led coalition hits a crowded funeral in Sana’a, killing 140 mourners and injuring 500
  • Oct
    UK informs UN Security Council members it will prepare a new resolution including a call for a cessation of hostilities; this is never tabled
  • Dec
    US announces decision to halt some planned sales of precision-guided missiles to Saudi Arabia because of the high number of civilian casualties from Saudi strikes
  • Jan
    UN humanitarian chief, Stephen O’Brien, warns the Security Council that 18.8 million people in Yemen are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 14 million are food insecure
  • Jan
    UN Panel of Experts report finds "widespread and systematic" violations of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, some of which "may amount to war crimes"
  • Feb
    UK judicial review case is heard in the High Court into arms licences to Saudi Arabia; Crisis Action co-ordinates media briefings around the case to ensure the toll of these sales on Yemeni civilians are at the heart of reporting
  • Feb
    UN launches emergency appeal for $2.1 billion to avoid famine
  • Mar
    UN Food and Agriculture Organisation reports 60% of the country – 17 million people – lack reliable access to food, bringing the country closer to famine; Crisis Action co-ordinates briefings for media and MPs to increase pressure on the government
  • Apr
    Aid groups warn that a threatened attack by the Saudi-led coalition on Hodeida port could tip Yemen into famine
  • May
    Aid agencies and the WHO warn of major cholera epidemic; by time of writing, cases exceed 300,000

Crisis Action's Campaigns in the Digital Age

More than half the world's population is now connected to the internet, and digital communication is becoming an increasingly important way of engaging the public and influencing decision makers. In 2016, Crisis Action hired a digital campaign strategist to up-skill our staff and ensure we could advise and lead partners on digital campaigning and innovation.

Crisis Action challenges and galvanises us to take innovative collective approaches to address the world’s most complex and intractable political crises.

Laurie Lee

CEO of CARE International UK


Highlights of our digital work over the past year include:

A petition on from one of the last doctors in Aleppo, signed by over 700,000 people and counting. Dr. Hamza can now email the people who signed his petition and ask them to take action at other moments. This connects the petition signatories to a Syrian with profound insight into what needs to be done to protect people, and has resulted in thousands of online actions that targeted policymakers and others.

An organised takeover of celebrity Twitter accounts by Syrian activists to mark the sixth anniversary of the conflict, allowing them to reach over three million celebrity followers they wouldn't normally.

A creative ‘hackathon’ – a collaborative evening bringing together partners, policy experts, digital campaigners and designers to create new, visual and social-media friendly ways to tell the story of what is happening in Yemen.

A ‘call for action’ on South Sudan targeting high-level actors at the AU, EU and UN driven by East African partner organisations using digital content provided by Crisis Action and which was seen by millions of users on social media.

The next 12 months

Over the next year, we will seek to strengthen our relationship with digital natives and influencers within our network and beyond so that we can continue to innovate and use digital technology alongside more traditional techniques to support our change-making.

French flag
In France, Crisis Action supported efforts to ensure that foreign policy issues were not overlooked during the presidential campaign

Defending Internationalism and the Responsibility to Protect

During a turbulent year, Crisis Action also seized opportunities to work with allies in several key Western countries to remind governments of their responsibilities to protect people from atrocities and war.

The first was supporting the publication of a report started by the late MP and Crisis Action friend, Jo Cox, whose murder in June 2016, just ahead of the referendum on EU membership, shocked the world. The report, The Cost of Doing Nothing, was the result of Jo’s conversations and initial collaboration with fellow parliamentarian, Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, and King’s College London Professor of War Studies, John Bew.

Tom and Jo represented different political parties, but shared a concern that in the wake of interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Britain was becoming more introspective and less engaged in the world. The report, launched at Policy Exchange, with the support of former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and former Foreign Secretary William Hague, made the case for “a robust commitment to the prevention [of mass atrocities]” and active backing of the landmark 2005 UN doctrine, the Responsibility to Protect.

Alison McGovern, a friend of Jo’s and fellow Labour MP, stepped in to co-author the piece alongside Tom. Crisis Action staff, in their role as Jo's friends, supported Tom, Alison and John to finalise the report and help deliver widespread media coverage.

The British Prime Minister issued a statement in support of the report, saying it “will challenge politicians of all parties to consider how we can put [preventing violence and protecting people] at the heart of the decisions we take.” Tom and Alison committed to take forward their bipartisan work to change minds and prevent suffering, including through a re-vamped All-Party Parliamentary Group to Prevent Genocide.

Cost of doing nothing

Crisis Action also collaborated with BOND – the umbrella group for British overseas development agencies - to help shape a vision for Britain’s role in the world post-Brexit. In the face of growing nationalism and antipathy towards immigrants, BOND and Crisis Action helped partners produce a short statement in defence of internationalism and demand specific commitments, including on aid and climate change, from all the UK’s main political parties. All three main political parties responded to the statement and confirmed that 0.7% of Gross National Income would be spent on overseas aid, alongside other commitments sought by partners.

Crisis Action also supported efforts in France to ensure that foreign policy issues were not overlooked during the 2017 presidential campaign. Crisis Action facilitated private meetings between partners and the diplomatic advisers of leading candidates to provide candidates with new insights and recommendations how best to protect people caught up in the world’s most pressing international crises.  Positive feedback from partners suggested that these activities helped them hugely in their advocacy work.

As someone who spent over a decade campaigning for the world to adopt the Responsibility to Protect doctrine at the UN – we must now ensure that Governments the world over deliver on their promises on preventing genocide and other crimes against humanity. Never again can we let innocents suffer as they did in the holocaust. Never again.

Late Labour MP Jo Cox

Statement of Activities for the Year Ended 31 May 2017

Scroll to right to view full table

  2017 (£) 2016 (£) 2017 ($) 2016 ($)
Foundations 2,989,483 2,756,376 3,838,198 4,029,822
Partnerships 115,940 128,479 148,856 187,836
Interest 7,601 7,026 9,759 10,272
Total 3,113,024 2,891,881 3,996,812 4,227,930
Salaries & Related Costs 2,326,289 1,989,859 2,986,722 2,909,174
Occupancy 199,423 172,806 256,039 252,642
Travel & Travel Related Costs 261,724 291,932 336,027 426,805
IT, Comms & Office Supplies 176,752 168,195 226,932 245,901
Publications 31,071 25,071 39,892 36,654
Events 20,371 16,910 26,154 24,722
Professional Fees 82,867 82,860 106,393 121,141
Asset Write-Off 15,526 27,441 19,934 40,119
Finance Charges 10,958 39,132 14,069 57,211
Exceptional item - 43,469 - 63,552
Total 3,124,981 2,857,675 4,012,163 4,177,921
(Deficit)/Surplus Before Taxation (11,957) 34,206 (15,351) 50,009
Taxation (1,520) (1,406) (1,952) (2,056)
(Deficit)/Surplus After Taxation (13,477) 32,800 (17,303) 47,954
Total Funds brought forward 1,153,283 1,120,486 1,480,700 1,638,151
Total Funds carried forward 1,139,811 1,153,283 1,463,403 1,686,100
Exchange Rate at 31st May 2017 (USD) 1.2839  
Exchange Rate at 31st May 2016 (USD) 1.462  
  • NB: Significant devaluation of the GBP in 2017 when compared to 2016

Scroll to right to view full table

  2017 (£) 2016 (£) 2017 ($) 2016 ($)
Fixed Assets  
Debtors1 219,482 313,143 281,793 457,815
Cash at Bank 1,969,489 1,635,134 2,528,627 2,390,566
Creditors2 (1,049,160) (794,994) (1,347,017) (1,162,281)
Net Assets 1,139,811 1,153,283 1,463,403 1,686,100
Capital Reserves  
Operating Overhead Reserve 1,315,380 1,126,392 1,688,816 1,646,785
Restricted Funds - (217) - 317
Unrestricted Funds3 (175,569) 27,108 (225,413) 39,632
Capital & Reserves 1,139,811 1,153,283 1,463,403 1,686,100
  1. £112,500 ($144,439) of Debtors are grants due in 2016/17 but received in 2017/18
  2. £880,338 ($1,130,266) of Creditors is the amount of deferred income carried forward into 2017-18
  3. Unrestricted finds includes three shares with a nominal value of £1. These shares are owned by the directors and do not earn dividends.

Income 2016/17

Financial Piechart

Expenditure 2016/17

Financial Piechart

Donors and Philanthropic Partners

Crisis Action is an independent not-for-profit organisation that is funded predominantly through voluntary contributions. We receive financial support from a range of foundations, governments and private individuals, many of which provide unrestricted multi-year funding. In addition, all of Crisis Action's core partners make an annual financial contribution, with the exception of those located in the Global South. To ensure the organisation's financial viability and safeguard its integrity and independence, we are continuously expanding and diversifying our donor base. Crisis Action applies strict accountability and transparency standards to its funding relationships.


  • Adessium Foundation
  • Ford Foundation*
  • Greenbaum Foundation
  • Hand Foundation
  • Humanity United*
  • John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation*
  • Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust*
  • Kerfuffle Foundation
  • Nduna Foundation*
  • New Venture Fund
  • Oak Foundation*
  • Open Society Foundations*
  • Pears Foundation*
  • Rockefeller Brothers Fund*
  • Sigrid Rausing Trust*
  • Silicon Valley Community Foundation
  • Skoll Foundation
  • Stanley and Marion Bergman Family Charitable Fund
  • Sundance Institute
  • The Eagle Fund
  • Wellspring Philanthropic Fund*


  • Dept of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Canada
  • Federal Dept of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden


  • David Avital
  • Susan Gibson
  • Tatiana Maxwell*

* Crisis Action is especially grateful to these donors for providing us with unrestricted multi-year support

Our Network

Crisis Action network map


  • Network
  • Core Partner

Core Partners

View the complete network list on the main Crisis Action website.

Thank you

We would like to thank the following for their contribution to Crisis Action’s work over the past year:

  • Usha Allear
  • Elodie Andrault
  • Amy Barry
  • Anna Blum
  • Anouck Bronée
  • Ine Van Bastelaer
  • Javier Cuebas
  • Tom Dale
  • Vanessa Gathecha
  • Venitia Govender
  • Roxane Grisard
  • Louise Guillaume
  • Undleeb Iqbal
  • Oliver Hall
  • Ayushmita Hazarika
  • Natalie Jeffers and Richard Jackson from Matters of the Earth
  • Ellen Judson
  • Mugambi Kiai
  • Kelly Koop
  • Chloe McCrann
  • Richard Ndururi
  • Mina al-Oraibi
  • Lily Piachaud
  • Catherine Read
  • Lawrence Robinson
  • Hayat Abu Samra
  • Catherine Simon
  • Will Tanner
  • Elias Yousif
  • Fat Beehive
  • Product Forge
  • Nice and Serious
  • Manon Glaser
  • Ashley Rai
  • Katy Walsh
  • Irene Carpini
  • Isabelle Glimcher
  • Stephen Semler
  • Emily Parker

2017 Annual Report