Skoll Foundation


Crisis Action

Skoll Awardee(s): Gemma Mortensen
Award Year: 2013
Issue Area(s) Addressed: Peace and Human Rights

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  • One in four people on the planet – more than 1.5 billion people – live in countries affected by societal fragility, conflict or large-scale violence.
  • These people are twice as likely to be undernourished, 1.5 times as likely to be impoverished, and their children are three times as likely to be out of school.
  • The initial response to armed conflict usually entails humanitarian assistance and relief, but sustainable solutions are decided at the political level. It is difficult for civil society to significantly influence these policies if they speak with disparate voices, rather than a collective, unified voice.


Remaining entirely behind-the-scenes as a catalyst and coordinator, Crisis Action brings human rights and humanitarian organizations together across continents to protect civilians from armed conflict. By enabling civil society to speak as one at moments of crisis, it is able to spur the world’s most powerful decision makers into action. They harness the relative strengths of individual organizations to maximum effect on specific conflict situations.  Crisis Action only works on a handful of conflicts at one time, chosen against strategic criteria.

Impact since joining the portfolio in 2013:

  • In less than a decade, Crisis Action grew from a start-up with a single employee to an international organization with almost 30 staff in eight offices.
  • Since its establishment in 2004, the collective advocacy it has facilitated has helped save thousands of lives by altering the course of government policy on armed conflict.
  • Crisis Action has helped to:
  • Secure one of the largest UN peacekeeping forces for Darfur: Crisis Action coordinated part of the global Darfur campaign (consisting of major popular mobilization and high-level advocacy in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and at the UN) that brought Darfur to the very top of the global political agenda and pressured the UN Security Council to establish a major peacekeeping force to protect civilians.
  • Prevent President Mugabe torturing civilians – stopping supply of bank note paper to Zimbabwean regime: Crisis Action helped coordinate a joint public campaign (consisting of protests in Germany and media work) against the German company responsible for supplying the Zimbabwean central bank with banknote paper. Giesecke & Devrient bowed to the pressure and immediately stopped its supply, forcing the Zimbabwean Government to stop paying some of its security forces. This led to the closure of several security camps where torture of civilians was reportedly occurring.
  • Secure first ever UN Security Council Presidential Statement on Burma: Following the Burmese regime’s brutal suppression of peaceful mass protests in September 2007, Crisis Action helped coordinate a global day of action across five continents, including the largest ever UK demonstration on Burma. Crisis Action worked successfully with partners to convince the EU to impose targeted EU sanctions. UN Security Council members responded to the pressure by passing the first Presidential Statement on Burma.
  • Prevent renewed civil war in Sudan: Ahead of South Sudan’s independence, Crisis Action coordinated the Sudan365 campaign in 2010, mobilizing a network of over 100 organizations in 20 countries to take part in a global day of action. Crisis Action also coordinated the release of a celebrity music video that featured across international media. The campaign helped bring about unprecedented unity from the international community and helped ensure South Sudan’s independence referendum passed peacefully.
  • Convince the UN to take decisive action to stem civilian massacres by the Lord’s Resistance Army: In 2012, Crisis Action helped partners publish the ‘Getting back on Track’ report and brought local Congolese activists from areas subject to LRA atrocities to brief the UN, the US Congress, and EU policymakers. As the advocacy had sought, the UN adopted its first ever comprehensive strategy on the LRA.
  • Help improve humanitarian disaster in the Central African Republic: Following the 2013 coup in the Central African Republic (CAR), Crisis Action coordinated media work with humanitarian organizations in CAR to highlight that the entire population of CAR was affected by the crisis (including a front page feature in the New York Times). The CAR coup leader’s direct response to the NGO calls underscored that the Crisis Action-facilitated advocacy cut through to the highest levels. In response to the campaign, the UK and EU pledged a further $8 million each in aid and France announced 2 million Euros of aid.



© 2015 Skoll Foundation.