Increased local action: Investing in sustainable and strong National Societies


Strong, independent, self-sustained and trusted local organizations are key to supporting community resilience, providing life-saving humanitarian action and contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In an interconnected world, the scale, quality and effectiveness of our collective local action is, however, directly linked to the capacity of all components of the Movement, including National Societies and their branch network, to be fit for purpose.

The continuous development and transformation of National Societies to achieve this is the essence of National Society Development (NSD) work.

The role of National Societies as auxiliaries to the public authorities in the humanitarian field is a unique area of comparative strength in the humanitarian ecosystem, with most National Societies reporting strong communication and coordination with their public authorities, coupled with a good understanding of their neutrality and independence. At the same time, the COVID-19 experience saw growing demands from government authorities for National Societies to act in support of their operations and in response to humanitarian crises – in most cases, without any substantive investment in capacity enhancement. Supporting National Societies in their engagement with their national authorities about their role (especially in emergencies and protracted crisis compounded by the effects of climate change, pandemics and/or armed conflict or large-scale internal strife) and negotiating the necessary investment in capacity enhancement is a key priority for the overall sustainability of National Societies.

The 2019 Council of Delegates approved the new Guidance for National Society Statutes and committed all National Societies to revising their statutory or constitutional base frameworks within a period of five years (i.e. by the end of 2024). The IFRC and the ICRC have been working on developing new tools and approaches, including the establishment of a pool of specialists to support National Societies that require support in their revision process. Now, nearly halfway through this timeline, there is a need to further support this process in order to ensure that all National Societies have had the chance to adapt their statutes in line with the new standards and with evolving realities in their respective contexts.

Supporting National Societies in ensuring their financial sustainability at national and branch level, with a special focus on strengthening their capacity to generate sustained income by leveraging existing assets, ensuring strong financial management capacities and developing their comparative advantage in service provision, is another key priority for sustainable National Societies. The recent developments spearheaded by the IFRC with the involvement of other Movement actors in areas of financial sustainability (for example, establishing the first Community of Practice on Financial Development and developing a financial sustainability dashboard) need to be further expanded and consolidated. The experience of the Movement Virtual Fundraising Hub and the National Society Investment Alliance and the recent development of the IFRC resource mobilization strategy are cornerstones on which to build better support for National Societies and effective peer support and learning.

The full potential for support from peer National Societies and other Movement partners has yet to be deployed. The 2019 IFRC NSD Compact, endorsed by the ICRC, sets four collective commitments to ensure the alignment of all NSD support to the identified priorities of National Societies. While steady progress has been made, more needs to be done to avoid inefficiencies and duplications in overall NSD support (which includes support from non-Movement actors, such as UN agencies), ensure the predictability and quality of such support and maximize the impact of those collective efforts.

The rich discussions during Network:RED, the Global National Society Development event which took place in December 2021, surfaced key learnings , namely:

  • the powerful link between community needs and local action
  • the potential of an efficient and sustainable branch network and self-sustainable, learning National Societies
  • how relevance in changing times would ultimately impact the legal base of the National Society and the redefinition of its auxiliary role when needed, to ensure its sustainability
  • how trust plays a key factor in National Society sustainability, with donors, governments and partners but also as importantly, with the community.

Any discussion needs to identify concrete avenues and must be followed by acts and long-term actions to leverage knowledge and support for better practices within the Movement , for the delivery of enhanced, principled and impactful services by National Societies to their communities.

Read more:

Capacity Building Fund – IFRC – FedNet

The International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the Standing Commission of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, in its function as Trustee of the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (the Conference), cannot be held responsible or liable in any manner for any user-generated content or posts on this Database. In the event that the Website team considers any post or content to be incompatible with the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and/or with the objectives of the Conference, it reserves the right to remove such content.