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Policy Development and Studies Branch

The mandate of the Policy Development and Studies Branch (PDSB) is to provide policy guidance and clarity on humanitarian issues and to develop policies and tools that improve the effectiveness and efficiency of humanitarian action. To achieve this, PDSB engages with states, UN humanitarian organisations, states, humanitarian partners, field colleagues and academics to develop relevant and practical policies.

2005 saw the branch focus strongly on developing the humanitarian reform agenda, specifically in the elaboration of the new Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the Cluster Leadership Approach. PDSB also sustained its core activities of further developing the humanitarian agenda through the main organs of the UN, namely the General Assembly, ECOSOC and the Security Council. Recognising the increasing number of natural disasters, the branch stepped up its activities in the areas of risk reduction and response preparedness. New support was provided on gender mainstreaming and protection from sexual exploitation and abuse.

Key objectives

  • Elaborate the main elements of a humanitarian reform agenda that will provide more predictable and effective humanitarian response to crises

    Identify and address the challenges to humanitarian operations in the context of an increasing proliferation of assistance providers and new threats to humanitarian staff

    Offer guidance on relationships and terms of engagement with armed groups
  • Further develop and disseminate policy guidance on key elements of civil-military relationships, and the planning, design and management of humanitarian components in multidimensional peace operations
  • Maintain a watching brief on the potential humanitarian impact of sanctions and provide guidance on mitigation measures to sanction authorities
  • Support policy development in natural disasters and risk reduction
  • Develop policy in the areas of humanitarian and broader system wide UN reform


PDSB's efforts in 2005 were focused on the identification of emerging humanitarian trends and changes in the humanitarian environment, and on the development of common or harmonized humanitarian policies.Work with Member States in the humanitarian segment of ECOSOC was practically oriented to address the reform of the Central Emergency Revolving Fund and other improvements to the humanitarian system. The branch also engaged with Member States in the General Assembly on matters of humanitarian principle and their implementation by governments. The Security Council was the main focus of the branch's work on the protection of civilians, where activities focused on better integration of protection concerns into peacekeeping mandates and the preparation of recommendations for a new Security Council resolution.

To facilitate engagement with armed non-state actors and enhance negotiations on humanitarian access, PDSB developed a practical and user-friendly guide on negotiations. After research, extensive consultations and field visits, PDSB finalised the work on a manual, a companion set of field guidelines and a CD-ROM including relevant background material. See http://ochaonline.un.org/ humanitariannegotiations/index.html.

To improve civil-military liaison in disasters and complex emergencies, and, where appropriate, collaboration between civil and military actors, PDSB continued to disseminate and promote guidelines and reference and policy papers. The branch seconded a staff member to the civil-military coordination cell for the tsunami response in January and February. PDSB also participated in conferences, seminars and workshops to promote understanding of civil-military relations in the humanitarian context.

The need for clearer guidance on relations with the International Criminal Court arose out of the ICC's engagement in Uganda , Sudan and the DRC, where humanitarian organisations may be called on to support the IASC or to give testimony. PDSB initiated a series of meetings with ICC representatives and, together with the UN Office of Legal Affairs and other UN humanitarian agencies, instigated the drafting of practical guidelines for UN-ICC cooperation.

PDSB contributed substantively to the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe by drafting the Cluster Five background paper and report, organising the Panel on Disaster Preparedness and actively participating. It also contributed to rethinking OCHA's role in disasters; conceptualised and participated in the organization of post-tsunami lessons learned workshops in affected countries; helped conceptualise the regional consultative process on the Sahel; and provided policy support to the IASC, OCHA field offices, and the Office of the Director of OCHA Geneva.

The branch participated in the IASC Human Rights-Humanitarian Action Sub-Working Group, the Protection Cluster and other fora concerned with human rights mainstreaming and/or the development of tools and guidelines to enhance protection, including in relation to disasters. The work on gender mainstreaming was carried out on an inter-agency basis and with the extensive involvement of the IASC Gender sub working group, resulting in common guidance and training material.

Performance evaluation

PDSB successfully developed some of the main elements for the humanitarian reform. Following extensive consultation with all stakeholders and Member States, PDSB drafted a report to ECOSOC and the General Assembly outlining the operation of the enhanced CERF. This was later adopted unanimously by the General Assembly, forms the legal basis for the operation of the CERF and constitutes the first major revision to the institutional architecture since the adoption of GA resolution 46/182.

With PDSB support, the humanitarian response review resulted in strong inter-agency buy-in and commitment to broader reforms. A direct outcome of the process has been the IASC adoption of all nine recommendations regarding the cluster approach for all future emergencies. Future responses should thus become more predictable, with lead agencies for each cluster, and more effective.

In September 2005, the informal UN Working Group on humanitarian negotiations endorsed the PDSB draft of the Manual and Field Guidelines on Humanitarian Negotiations with Armed Groups. An official presentation and launch will be held in New York and Geneva in 2006.

An independent study undertaken on Integrated Missions formed the basis of key policy recommendations for improving their planning, design and management. There have been two key outcomes: a new SG's note of guidance on integrated missions that outlines how human rights and humanitarian issues should be addressed; and a revision of the Integrated Mission Planning Process that will lead to more appropriate mission design and better engagement of UN humanitarian and development organisations.

The Evaluation and Studies Unit within PDSB initiated and supervised a number of evaluations and reviews in 2005. The real-time evaluation in Darfur helped to establish agreed performance standards and led to the IASC commitment to initiate realtime evaluations at the earliest opportunity in all major crises. The response to the tsunami garnered sufficient international attention to warrant a major multi-donor and inter-agency evaluation, in which ESU played a key management and design role.

PDSB worked extensively with the UN Development Group Office on transition issues. A number of joint guidance products have arisen, including a review of funding mechanisms in transition and development of coordination handover processes.|




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