Access to clean, sustainable, reliable, and affordable energy is an important enabler for sustainable development for all. However, the majority of displacement-affected communities (i.e., refugees, internally displaced people, returnees, stateless people and asylum-seekers) have limited access to energy for household, productive and community uses. It is observed that stakeholders at all levels must take action for energy implementation to achieve large-scale impact and long-lasting sustainable outcomes. The Humanitarian Energy Exchange Network (HEEN) is the central platform for coordination and collaboration between humanitarian and development agencies working on improving sustainable energy access of displacement-affected communities at the country or regional level. Hence, the HEEN supports not only a holistic approach to programming, but also fosters inter-agency collaboration including joint assessments, evaluations, knowledge sharing, strategic planning, program design, and project implementation.

The HEEN builds upon the SAFE Working Group with its focus on the practical and operational level humanitarian energy programs in countries that lack an existing coordination mechanism among the humanitarian and development agencies. In 2020, the Global Platform for Action on Sustainable Energy in Displacement Settings (GPA) and Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) Humanitarian Working Group structures agreed to join forces to strengthen the link between global and field levels and improve knowledge and expertise sharing among practitioners. The HEEN was launched during the GPA briefing session on humanitarian energy at Humanitarian Networks and Partnership Weeks on 28th April 2021. The HEEN meets monthly, in which the practitioners exchange knowledge and expertise, synthesise lessons learned from experiences, express the need for supports from the network, and explore opportunities for collaboration to develop sustainable energy programmes.

UNITAR - Project Image

Membership in the HEEN is open to all relevant stakeholders contributing to energy access for displacement-affected communities. Member organisation representatives are typically from (but not limited to) the organisation’s headquarter offices. Interested organisations can join the HEEN by submitting their application through the online form, which will be submitted to the current chairs of the HEEN. Membership in the HEEN requires a simple majority approval vote by the current members.

The HEEN holds an online meeting for all members every month. The HEEN holds either a coordination or learning session at each meeting, depending on the requests from the network and the availability of presenters for the learning sessions.

1. Improve coordination and share information and knowledge

  • Exchange and share information during regular monthly calls and once yearly in-person strategic planning meetings if possible.
  • Maintain and update mapping of the 4Ws (Who is doing What, Where, When) in key areas related to energy for displacement-affected communities.
  • Update information for the HEEN page hosted by the GPA (
  • Identify and document key achievements, best practices, lessons learned, and other information on the effective mechanisms to address energy needs and challenges and utilise the information for future planning and programming.
  • Support connection with and learning from private sector actors to increase public-private partnerships and more effective humanitarian energy programming.

 2. Build evidence through standardised monitoring and evaluation

  • Document and share lessons learned from ongoing and previously implemented energy projects and programmes in humanitarian contexts.
  • Support partners by providing common energy and humanitarian indicators to integrate into planned and ongoing programming.
  • Support commissioning of independent evaluations that build evidence on impacts and inform the humanitarian sector on improved ways of working. 

3. Provide technical support, tools, and guidance for implementation

  • Serve as a technical resource to governments, non-governmental organisations, inter-governmental organisations, and practitioners, using lessons learned captured through the HEEN and other key resources (e.g. IASC Matrix and Decision Tree).
  • Provide technical support and advisory to country or field level working groups and implementing organisations (e.g. providing standard working group TOR templates, coordinating and building partnerships, providing good practice approaches, etc).
  • Coordinate with the NORCAP Experts for effective programming.
  • Disseminate relevant guidance and tools to practitioners to member and relevant non-member groups.
  • Develop new guidance and tools, as needed, to facilitate quality program design and implementation.

The HEEN is chaired by one or two member organisations for one-year terms, with the option of renewal. The chairs are responsible for managing and coordinating the network, which includes leading discussions, organising meetings, and drafting group documents including strategies, terms of references, agendas, and meeting minutes.

Chairing organisations also manage roles and responsibilities for joint deliverables, follow up on deadlines with members, and promote information sharing among members. Chairs serve as the main points of contact for all members of the HEEN.

Organisations may volunteer to chair the HEEN for a one-year term with an option for renewal. The appointment is determined by approval from the majority of the network members in early December to take effect on January 1st of the new calendar year.

For additional information regarding the HEEN, please contact Elif Demir at

In March 2007, the United Nations Inter-Agency Standing Committee Task Force on Safe Access to Firewood and Alternative Energy (IASC Task Force on SAFE) was established 'to reduce exposure to violence, contribute to the protection of and ease the burden on those populations collecting wood in humanitarian settings worldwide, through solutions which will promote safe access to appropriate energy and reduce environmental impacts while ensuring accountability.'

The task force was co-chaired by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UN World Food Programme (WFP), and the Women's Refugee Commission (WRC). Fourteen other IASC members and non-member agencies participated in the task force to help create a formal commitment to addressing the pressing needs and challenges relating to cooking fuel in humanitarian settings. Over the course of two years from 2007-2009, the task force worked to place cooking energy needs on the map and create guidance material on how to develop a coordinated, multi-sectoral fuel strategy for humanitarian settings. Participation of numerous agencies with various areas of expertise was meant to ensure responses across multiple sectors of invention, as well as long-term sustainability and implementation.

The SAFE task force created two critical tools for the humanitarian system aimed at ensuring the predictable development of holistic fuel strategies in diverse regions around the world:

  • SAFE Matrix on Agency Roles and Responsibilities
    The Matrix is a framework for addressing cooking fuel needs in emergency and protracted response settings. It sets out who (which agency and/or cluster) is responsible for what (which fuel-related activities), and when (emergency preparedness and contingency planning; acute emergency; and protracted crises, transition and durable solutions).
  • SAFE Decision Tree Diagram
    The Decision Tree outlines factors affecting the choice of fuel strategy in humanitarian settings to help determine which cooking fuel options will be most appropriate in diverse response settings.

Both tools reflect the need for humanitarian actors to coordinate their fuel-related activities across all eight traditional response sectors. By doing so, each sector can play its part to ensure that displaced women and girls have safe access to one of their most basic needs—cooking fuel—from the start of every emergency.

It is a consortium of key partners including FAO, the Global Alliance for Clean CookstovesUNHCRUNICEFWFP, and Women's Refugee Commission, among others.

Safe and sustainable access to energy is increasingly recognized as a human right—essential for the safety, well-being, and productivity of the people that the humanitarian community serves. It is also essential for social and economic development, offering opportunity for improved lives and economic progress. SAFE formally expanded in early 2014 to become Safe Access to Fuel and Energy, thereby incorporating humanitarian energy needs more broadly.

Last updated: 26/02/2024