Who we are

The Centre for Humanitarian Action (CHA) is a Berlin-based think tank founded in 2018, which engages in independent analysis, initiates debates and spreads the word about humanitarian action and principles amongst the general public. The CHA is an initiative of humanitarian non-governmental organisations to strengthen German and international humanitarian action.

Why do we need the CHA?

Humanitarian action has rarely been more essential than today: The number of people in need worldwide is rising year by year. Never have more people been on the run. Effective humanitarian assistance can mean the difference between life and death for millions of men, women and children. At the same time humanitarian action, actors, and the humanitarian principles are under attack and at risk of being undermined or underfunded.

Germany’s humanitarian engagement has multiplied in past years and it is today the world’s second largest donor country. The role of German humanitarian organisations is also internationally growing and the impact of German humanitarian action is substantial. At the same time German actors’ analysis and reflection capacities have not been growing on the same path as financial expansion. For this reason an independent institution is needed, which engages in this ever more important field, as do similar think tanks in other countries.

Three core areas of the CHA

Analysis and reflection
The CHA will engage in self-critical reflection of humanitarian action by the German government, the parliament, NGOs and other civil society, academic and political actors in Germany and German speaking Europe. Analysis and studies will build on international research, inspire German debates by the latter, and feed German perspectives into the international arena. 

Debate and policy engagement
The CHA will serve as a forum for controversial and open discussion with national and international humanitarian actors and with academic networks. Based on its independence it will raise sensitive issues and challenges for humanitarian principles in action. Initiated debates will also serve as policy and practical advice for humanitarian actors.

Imparting knowledge and know-how
The CHA will promote communication and education on humanitarian action, its challenges and principles in public and in political discourse and will build partnerships in this arena. The imparting of knowledge and know-how, for instance in civic education, comprises the necessity and dilemmas of humanitarian action.

Building bridges

The CHA is not meant to be a purely academic institution, nor to represent humanitarian organisations vis-à-vis the German Federal Government. The Centre rather builds a bridge between academic analysis of humanitarian action and projects and programmes in the field. It will also bridge and connect international discussions and the debate in Germany. The results of this work and the related recommendations will be freely accessible to all actors.

“German humanitarian action in particular is today more important than ever. We want to strengthen and further improve it.”


How is the CHA funded?

As it is crucial that the CHA can work independently with a strong civil society basis, key funding comes from humanitarian non-governmental organisations: Its core funding is provided by Doctors without Borders Germany, Caritas Germany and the Protestant Agency for Diakonie and Development. Next to the full membership as cooperation partner, CHA is supported by an endorsing member through financial means. Since July 2019, Islamic Relief Germany supports CHA with a recurring annual contribution. Our diverse funding sources allow for the CHA to be an independent body. The CHA is open for further partnerships from civil society organisations, academic institutions or individuals. Please contact us for further details.


Ralf Südhoff has started in his role as Founding Director of the CHA in January 2019. Together with his team, he is establishing the Centre, its staff and its facilities in Berlin. Previously, Ralf Südhoff served as Director of the Regional Bureau for the Syria crisis of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Amman, Jordan. Prior to this role, he was the WFP representative in Berlin for Germany and German speaking Europe for 10 years. He has also worked for WHO and between 2003-2005 he served as Advisor of the State Secretary of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Uschi Eid. He finished his journalism career after his assignment as correspondent of “Die Zeit” in Rio de Janeiro. Südhoff supported Oxfam Germany for 10 years as member of its management board. 

What is the legal status of the CHA?

The CHA is part of German Maecenata Foundation, which also serves as its legal body. Maecenata Foundation and the NGOs Doctors without Borders Germany, Caritas Germany and Protestant Agency for Diakonie and Development each delegate a member to the CHA Advisory Board.

Content and statements on this website, in our publications or social media channels do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the founding or supporting organisations.


Sonja Hövelmann
Research Associate

Phone: +49 (0)30 2838 7911