• Awarded: 2013
  • Issue Areas: Human Rights · Peace · Peace and Human Rights
  • Region: Eastern and Southern Africa · Europe · Middle East and North Africa
  • Web:
  • About the Organization

    Crisis Action works with individuals and organizations from global civil society to protect civilians from armed conflict. The organization has offices in Brussels, Johannesburg, London, the Middle East and North Africa region, Nairobi, New York, Paris, and Washington, DC.

    Crisis Action is a catalyst and convenor of joint action whose work behind the scenes enables coalitions to work quickly and effectively. As a coordinating body they seek no public profile or media spotlight; it is the voice of the coalition that matters.

    Crisis Action works to support a diverse range of partners to campaign against conflict and for the protection of civilians. They aim to amplify the impact of collective campaigning and enhance partners’ efforts to avert conflict, prevent human rights abuses and ensure that governments fulfil their obligations to protect civilians.

    Crisis Action’s only agenda is the protection of civilians. They are open about their objectives, welcoming scrutiny from anyone who wishes to understand who they are and what they do.

    A quarter of the world’s people live in areas threatened by conflict or violence.

    Crisis Action brings human rights and humanitarian organizations together to protect civilians from conflict.

    Gemma Mortensen's vision is that coordinated engagement by civil society organizations can empower some of the most vulnerable people on Earth.

    Crisis Action has engaged with more than 50 partner organizations and United Nations agencies to protect civilians in difficult conflicts in Africa and the Middle East.

    Ambition for Change

    Coordinated engagement by civil society institutions in humanitarian crises protects the human rights of civilians and leads to sustainable outcomes.

    Path to Scale

    A quarter of the world’s people live in countries where they are threatened by conflict or large-scale organized criminal violence. Civil society organizations are limited in their capacity to hold governments accountable to protect these civilians’ human rights, in part because their diverse agendas and messages drown each other out.

    Business Model

    Primarily philanthropic funding supplemented by membership dues.

    Gemma Mortensen has had a long-standing interest in conflict prevention, working first as a journalist and then in diplomatic capacities at the International Criminal Court, UK Mission to the UN, and the European Commission. Gemma took over leadership of Crisis Action after founder Guy Hughes died in a climbing accident in 2006. Remaining entirely behind-the-scenes as a catalyst and coordinator, Crisis Action brings human rights and humanitarian organizations together to protect civilians from armed conflict. At moments of crisis, Crisis Action harnesses and unites the strengths of international organizations and local civil society, enabling them to speak as one and to spur coordinated action that is more sustainable than what they could achieve working separately. Crisis Action builds coalitions and mounts campaigns, both in response to a careful selection of immediate crises and situations requiring longer term engagement. At the time of the Award, Crisis Action had provided emergency response in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali, and was coordinating ongoing campaigns in the DRC, Afghanistan, and the territory of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Gemma had been recognized as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and Crisis Action had received the MacArthur Foundation’s Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. In 2015, Gemma announced her departure from Crisis Action upon selection as a Yale Global Leadership Fellow.

    Impact & Accomplishments

    • As of 2015, conducting ongoing campaigns in Syria (securing a UN resolution on the protection of civilians) and Sudan/South Sudan (where they have helped facilitate access for an international inquiry).
    • Has exited campaigns in Lord’s Resistance Army territory and Israel/Palestine. The UN has adopted a strategy to address LRA; Crisis Action helped with Palestine’s ascension to the International Criminal Court.
    • Built relationships with 50 partners, including The Elders, Oxfam International, International Rescue Committee, and Global Witness, as well as 61 network partners.
    • Helped to secure a UN peacekeeping force deployed in March 2014 to prevent atrocities in the Central African Republic.
    • Currently focusing on Boko Haram campaign in Nigeria.


    Gemma MortensenExecutive Director, Crisis Action
    Nicola ReindorpCampaign Director, Crisis Action

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