The World Humanitarian Action Forum (WHAF), formerly the Humanitarian Forum, was founded in 2008 in part as an effort to support the collaboration of international organisations working with Muslim NGOs & communities.

Whilst the forum’s growing global network is inclusive regardless of faith orientation and location, WHAF and a number of its partners bring an experienced view to discussions on re-shaping an aid sector that frequently marginalises organisations and communities less able to conform to its norms. The expertise of WHAF and its network include, for example,an understanding of ‘non-traditional’ models of aid financing as well as having experienced the impact of de-risking as a result of their proximity to Islamic identities.

These, and other frequently side-lined experiences, can contribute to the plurality of views currently being welcomed into the sector wide re-shaping aid discussions.

The World Humanitarian Action Forum (WHAF) is a global initiative, organised by several humanitarian and development organisations (65 partners over the last three forums), that aims to encourage effective collaboration to better serve affected communities.

WHAF engages a wide spectrum of views, experiences, and commitments to partners to provide many deep insights from grounded practice, careful research and compassion that they bring to their work and care for people in need. WHAF includes an innovative platform to encourage an open exchange of ideas and structured opportunities for networking and partnership building.

At times of major global crises, change is inevitable and questions need to be asked. COVID-19 has indeed changed the way the world works. Could COVID-19 be the latest opportunity for the much-needed change to happen in the aid sector too? How do we reimagine aid through the “core responsibilities” that were set out in the “Agenda for Humanity”?

The acknowledgement to give greater control to local groups has seen little progress and during this crisis there are examples of local actors who did and continue to do much of the work and take the risk but were given very little if any credit or direct funding to do so.  How will our leadership responses to the economic and geopolitical shift and the narrative of global economic trends shape the future of aid and humanitarian financing in particular? What should the humanitarian space and aid sector in general look like and more importantly feel like?

In particular, most of our work aims to address the following key question:

How can aid organisations proactively reshape the aid sector such that it is fit for purpose to protect and address the needs of the most vulnerable communities?

WHAF is open to all, with a non-membership-based network involving representatives from local and national NGOs from the global South, international NGOs, Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, government authorities, philanthropists, donors, academia, media and the private sector.

Biennial meetings of WHAF provide continuing attention to key themes in order to keep the momentum for policy changes and action in crucial areas, especially on localisation, financial access and humanitarian protection.

Key objectives

  • Develop strategies for informing policy on key issues affecting humanitarian organisations particularly those from the global ‘South’ .
  • Develop joint initiatives and campaigns for collaborative working at local, national and international levels.

Added value

WHAF approaches the re-imagination of the aid sector with a focus on collaborating with and elevating the voices of actors from the Global South. While international powers shape most reform agendas, WHAF will centre perspectives from the Global South to create an environment of inclusive and

equal exchange and ideation. Additionally, WHAF aims to address the system as a whole, breaking down silos within the aid sector in order to better understand how our focus areas span across issues and efforts.

We hope that the WHAF series can act as a catalyst for a hole-system approach to the reimagining of aid that allows for increased collaboration, coordination, and inclusion.

WHAF adds value by being…

  1. Led and managed by partners.
    Steering groups of NGOs manage the Roundtables to develop the focus on key issues for the sector. The WHAF Advisory Group, representatives of the steering groups, leads the overall Forum.
  2. Action orientated.
    WHAF facilitates discussion around what needs to be done to improve efficacy in humanitarian work. These recommendations are then translated into campaigns and initiatives.
  3. Inclusive.
    WHAF aims to achieve a balance of representatives from the global ‘North’ and ‘South’ to foster greater communication and relevance.
  4. Collaborative.
    WHAF initiates joint campaigns and projects with partners to address throughout the year thereby facilitating improved collaboration and coordination in humanitarian work.

our trustees

Adam Leach

Dr Hany ElBanna




Dr Hany ElBanna (MBBCh, MD, OBE, DUniv)

the chairman


Born in Egypt, Dr Hany El-Banna completed his MBBCH Medicine at Al Azhar University, Cairo and a Doctorate of Medicine (MD) in foetal pathology from the University of Birmingham Medical School in 1991.

Dr Hany El-Banna is the founder of Islamic Relief, the largest Western-based Muslim international relief and development NGO. Dr. El-Banna visited communities in over 80 countries and 370 cities in pursuit of relieving people from suffering, encouraging better understanding and aiding bridge-building work.


Dr El-Banna has been recognised by several awards and bodies for his contribution to humanitarian work, most notably an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2004 for his services to the community. Other awards include: 

  • Ubuntu Award for Social Responsibility from the Republic of South Africa (2020)
  • GPU Lifetime Achievement Award 2010, Contribution to Muslim Heritage (2010)
  • Honorary Degree from the University of Birmingham, Doctor Honoris Causa (2007)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Muslim Power 100 Award (2007) ● Asian Jewel Awards (2006)
  • Hamilton Bailey Prize, Dudley Road (City) Hospital Birmingham (1981)



Adam Leach

MBA, MA (Cambridge). Director and Trustee for The Humanitarian Forum for 11 years with over 35 years’ experience in humanitarian assistance and sustainable development, principally in Africa and Asia, at field operational and strategic levels. Formerly Oxfam Regional Director for Middle East, Russia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe; CEO for a cross-sector corporate platform and youth action NGO; participated in numerous conferences on humanitarian issues worldwide. Now trustee/director with independent foundation and private commercial organisations and international consultant for aid evaluations. Enjoys a range of personal interests in cultural, sport, social and artistic pursuits.




Saleh has headed up the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) since 2012, which brings together 15 leading UK aid agencies in times of major humanitarian crises overseas.

During Saleh’s tenure, the DEC has launched 11 national emergency appeals raising over £523m for crises that included Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, the Rohingya refugee crisis, and most recently,  Covid-19 in the world’s most fragile places.

Before joining the DEC Saleh held a number of senior positions in the NGO sector and led on local public sector partnerships in the UK, including an innovative programme to promote access to new learning and social activities through the use of digital technologies.

In 2013, Saleh was awarded an OBE for services to humanitarian work and in 2019, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Birmingham City University.

In his hometown of West Bromwich, Saleh co-founded  The Yemeni Community Association,  which has been recognised with a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services for its work in supporting women, children and refugees of all ages and backgrounds.

Saleh is Vice-Chair of the Emergencies Appeals Alliance – a unique global partnership that unites national joint appeal organisations like the DEC in a common purpose to increase funds raised from the global public for disasters overseas, and to raising standards in aid delivery.