The Problem of COVID-19 for International NGOs and How to Solve it

The natural obstacles brought to humanitarian work by the pandemic provide the opportunity to improve the nature in which humanitarian work is delivered

This blog focuses on the impact of Covid-19 on the work of international humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs). First, it explains the main ways in which Covid-19 has impacted the work of humanitarian officers. Then, it proposes a solution by focusing on the ability of local organizations to provide aid in substitute of international organizations.

Impact of COVID-19 on Humanitarian Organizations

Travel Restrictions

The Covid-19 pandemic has almost eliminated direct access to conflict-affected territories for international humanitarian organizations. Due to travel restrictions, many employees of these organizations do not have access to the affected territories and people living there.  Access to these territories was already hindered by the parties to the conflict, for example, by withholding visas to humanitarian personnel. 

The pandemic influences the humanitarian NGOs’ ability to provide accountability procedures as a systematic response to massive violations of human rights and international criminal law.[1] It also makes delivering conflict mapping impossible, which is vital in reconstructing the chain of events during a conflict by gathering information in the field.[2]

The natural effect of these difficulties for international organisations is to exaggerate the role of local organisations with direct access to the territories. It is through utilising this that the current problem can be solved.

Proposed Solution

It is often said that the disruption brought by change brings both inconvenience and opportunity. The same applies here, as the natural obstacles brought to humanitarian work by the pandemic could provide the opportunity to improve the nature in which humanitarian work is delivered. Local actors should lead communication and community engagement in the Covid-19 response to reverse all the adverse side effects profitably. International organisations should build up the capability of local organisations.

For a while, there has been rhetoric about developing the role of local organisations. The pandemic provides an opportunity to turn this rhetoric into action and secure more funding, support and recognition for national humanitarian organisations. The absence of on-site missions can lead to the preservation of the humanitarian NGOs budgets, which can be used to grow the capacity of local humanitarian actors.

If there was one pivotal action that humanitarian NGOs could take, it would be to broaden their partnership networks and provide leadership in supporting local humanitarian action not on-site but online.

One of the possible ways is to organise regular online lectures, seminars for human rights defenders and other local organisations staff and establish a forum for cooperation and dialogue between the representatives of government, local humanitarian organisations and citizens.

This would also contribute to the realisation of one of the central values of humanitarian NGOs, which is the more significant involvement of local actors. This would lead to many benefits. As far as the locals would be more willing to cooperate with their fellow citizens from local humanitarian organisations, it can trigger and boost accountability mechanisms. Local organisations demand to regularly consult with stakeholders on the ground and engage them in the “two-way interaction regarding their mandate and operations; promote the participation of stakeholders in their work and be transparent and accountable to victims and affected communities on the ground”.[3]

Moreover, building the capacity of local actors in international and transitional justice can influence the promotion of local efforts to narrow the impunity gap, including through non-judicial, quasi-judicial and neo-traditional accountability mechanisms.

Covid-19 is one of the most significant challenges facing NGOs. But in disruption lies opportunity. Covid-19 offers NGO’s the opportunity to digitalise all their processes to increase the influence of local humanitarian bodies.


[1] NPWJ strategy on international criminal justice// No Peace Without Justice. — [Electronic access mode]:

[2] Conflict Mapping// No Peace Without Justice. — [Electronic access mode]:

[3] NPWJ strategy on international criminal justice// No Peace Without Justice. — [Electronic access mode]:

Mykyta Pobiehun is a young but experienced lawyer. As a master's student at Vilnius University, a participant in the Jessup International Moot Court Competition, different national moot courts, models of the United Nations and legal competitions, he possesses in-depth knowledge of International and European law and has excellent oral pleading and research skills. Due to his internship at the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, he has already worked on legislation drafting and admires making it concise and transparent. Into the bargain, during his internship at the Independent Defence Anti-Corruption Committee, he was assisting in the creation of the primary draft of the Ukrainian National Security Strategy. Accordingly, Mykyta is acquainted with the legislation reviewing procedures, policy-making and legal drafting. In his scope of professional interests are indigenous people rights, International Humanitarian Law and Copyright issues.

Leave a reply:

Your email address will not be published.

error: Content is protected !!