PART Iii: performance in 2007
performance of headquarters
Humanitarian Policy in Action

Humanitarian Policy in Action


In 2007, it became increasingly clear that the four pillars of humanitarian reform (improving accountability, predictability and capacity of response; enhancing the leadership of Humanitarian Coordinators (HCs), Resident Coordinators (RCs) and cluster leads; establishing equal partnerships; and ensuring needs-based, predictable and timely humanitarian financing) are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. Better coordination cannot be achieved without stronger partnerships, more effective leadership without a coordination platform, nor greater capacity without improved financing. As a result, OCHA stepped up efforts to strengthen the international humanitarian architecture based on four core principles: partnership, leadership, accountability and predictability.


Given the changing humanitarian operating environment and the proliferation of actors, the strengthening of existing ties and establishing of new partnerships were especially important for OCHA in 2007. Partnerships were enhanced between OCHA and NGOs, regional organizations, governments and United Nations Member States, as well as with corporations and individuals.

OCHA supported the Global Humanitarian Platform (GHP) process to develop and endorse the ‘Principles of Partnership’ – a set of five principles to guide and create a more balanced relationship between the United Nations system and NGOs and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The GHP seeks to bring these three main groups of players together on an equal footing, with a particular focus on strengthening the role and capacity of national NGOs and other local organizations in strategic planning, decision-making and implementation of emergency response. Some 40 organizations participating in the GHP have committed to ensuring that these principles are embedded in all of their humanitarian operations. Piloting of the Principles of Partnership in Indonesia, Zimbabwe and Panama began in the last quarter of 2007.

Intergovernmental Partnerships
  Through the Emergency Relief Coordinator, OCHA collaborated with IASC partners to define the intergovernmental humanitarian policy agenda and to advance it through United Nations forums and bilateral consultations with Member States delegations.
  OCHA reinforced IASC policy priorities through intergovernmental resolutions: General Assembly and Economic and Social Council resolutions highlighted humanitarian financing mechanisms, disaster preparedness (with special focus on national-level initiatives), early warning and preparedness best practices, and a strengthened mandate for the Representative of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of IDPs.

The implementation of thematic policies – including gender equality, sexual and gender-based violence, protection of civilians and access, and climate change – was a key priority for OCHA in 2007. Achievements included: activating the gender specialists roster (GenCap) and reinforcing the protection specialists roster (ProCap); ensuring that humanitarian priorities are taken into consideration in the context of emergency response planning; strengthening United Nations efforts to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations and related personnel; and addressing sexual violence in conflict through the United Nations Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict coalition.

OCHA maintained its focus on transition and recovery through participation in the Joint Initiative on Recovery Coordination, aimed at promoting continuity in coordination support throughout recovery. The Joint Initiative enabled OCHA, the UNDP Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery and the United Nations Development Group Office to issue joint position papers on transition, and strategies were developed for eight OCHA field offices where the situation is transitioning to a recovery phase: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.

OCHA continued its commitment to strengthening the sharing and exchange of information between humanitarian partners through the improvement of its information management products, and began a major internal Information Management Review.


The Humanitarian Coordination Strengthening Project was established in mid 2007 to support HCs and RCs in disaster-prone countries to perform humanitarian coordination functions. A three-year work plan was developed and adopted by the IASC HC Group and the induction process for newly appointed HCs was standardized to ensure that all incoming HCs are thoroughly briefed by humanitarian partners before being deployed. Compacts between the Emergency Relief Coordinator and HCs were piloted to help HCs identify priorities and to provide a documented basis for mutual accountability. A workshop on coordinating humanitarian emergencies for RCs in the Asia-Pacific region familiarized RCs with the humanitarian coordination function and the tools available to them in case of disaster. To support the standardization of the HC function, several policy papers were drafted on the establishment and disestablishment of HC positions, HC designation and the interface between HCs and OCHA field offices. The performance appraisal system for HCs was also further developed. Finally, work was begun on both a mentoring support system for newly appointed HCs and a handbook on coordinating humanitarian emergencies that will provide RCs with normative guidance on their role and the tools available to them in case of disaster.


Policy in Action
  Integrated Mission Planning Process Guidance
  IASC Policy Framework
  Use of Military Assets in Emergencies and Civil–Military Coordination Procedures
  Revised IASC Contingency Planning Guidelines
  IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings
  The IASC Rome Statement on the Cluster Rollout
  IASC Gender Handbook
  GenCap and ProCap Rosters

In addition to providing support to the HC function, OCHA made progress in consolidating the necessary inter-agency agreements and commitments required to sustain humanitarian reform in the long term. Operational guidance for rolling out the cluster approach was agreed upon and disseminated. With a policy framework in place, OCHA accelerated communications and training programmes for those involved in leading the cluster approach. The Humanitarian Reform Support Unit led an inter-agency task force to design and deliver a cluster/sector lead training programme and launched a humanitarian reform website. Three trainings were delivered as well as country-based workshops and regional workshops for field teams.

Promoting the protection of civilians in armed conflict remained central to OCHA’s work in furthering the humanitarian policy agenda and fostering strategic and operational coherence within the United Nations Secretariat, the IASC and Member States. In 2007, OCHA focused in particular on key protection concerns on the ground. Constraints on humanitarian access, the perpetration of gender-based violence and the humanitarian impact of the use of cluster munitions were priority issues highlighted in the Secretary- General’s sixth report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict and discussed by the Security Council in November 2007. Practical recommendations made in the report are being taken forward by the Protection of Civilians Section, most notably the proposed establishment of a Security Council Expert Group on the protection of civilians.

OCHA continued to address the growing issues of climate change and HIV/AIDS in humanitarian action through completing Hyogo Guidance and Indicator Package, undertaking a study of slow-onset disasters and developing a number of tools related to HIV/AIDS in humanitarian mechanisms, including in the Consolidated Appeals Process. It also initiated two new research projects on the humanitarian implications of climate change.


Improving humanitarian response demands greater accountability on the part of humanitarian actors. In 2007, OCHA continued to lead efforts to improve accountability in the international humanitarian system through improved assessment and classification frameworks, evaluations and reporting.

Strengthened emergency response
  System-wide emergency response will be strengthened by:
  the Assessment and Classification in Emergencies Project – for strengthened development of a common humanitarian classification system; and
  the real-time evaluation process – for evaluation results that can immediately inform humanitarian decision-making.

Early in the year, work on developing techniques to capture the effectiveness of humanitarian responses to emergencies in real time led to a one-year pilot trial of inter-agency real-time evaluations – a tool designed to enable humanitarians to adjust their response as necessary to ensure beneficiaries’ immediate needs are met. The initiative was launched by the IASC and OCHA was tasked with managing the evaluations along with UNICEF and with the support of a steering committee composed of NGOs and United Nations Agencies. Inter-agency real-time evaluations were carried out on the humanitarian response to the floods in Mozambique in February and in Pakistan in June. While the capacity of the real-time evaluations to feed into emergency decision-making on the ground proved limited, considerable interest was generated and maintained in the evaluations at the global and country levels because of their fast turnaround and dissemination after the emergency phase of the response.

Recognition of the essential role of assessments in strengthening humanitarian action as well as the need to address inconsistencies in allocating humanitarian funding according to need has led to a number of new assessment initiatives. Several clusters/sectors have begun work on improving the reliability of their data collection and analysis methods. However, recent evaluations continue to highlight problems in needs assessment practice, including a lack of standard, universally accepted indicators to gauge vulnerability, the lack of a workable framework and related processes for integrating sectoral information, a lack of comparable, reliable data (including baseline data), and ‘over-assessment’ and duplication among multiple actors. The pressing need to ensure greater coordination and common approaches led the IASC to request that OCHA map the various assessment initiatives and facilitate the development of a single, overarching framework. Donors also urged OCHA to take the lead in improving assessment practice, and the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO) agreed to the inclusion of two activities of the Assessment and Classification in Emergencies Project in OCHA’s Information Management Thematic Funding proposal to ECHO: to map major needs assessment initiatives and consult with agencies on how to harmonize and improve linkages between them; and to identify a limited set of indicators and related thresholds for determining needs with the longer-term goal of arriving at a common humanitarian classification system. This is a long-term project which will require the buy-in of, and consultation with, a wide range of humanitarian decision-makers from implementing agencies, donors and clusters. This work will tie in with other activities being undertaken by OCHA to develop standards for baseline data and a framework for rapid assessments.

In line with its commitment to strengthen humanitarian action, in 2007 OCHA facilitated an evaluation of the cluster approach and a review of the CERF. The evaluation of the cluster approach provided useful insights into the real and perceived ‘bottlenecks’ hampering wider application of the approach, and identified practical steps for moving forward with its implementation. The CERF review allowed OCHA to implement a number of changes that have improved the overall functioning of the system, including better staffing.


Another core goal of humanitarian reform is to establish adequate capacity and preparedness in all key sectors of humanitarian action to ensure a more predictable response. OCHA continued to support system-wide efforts to ensure that emergency response is undertaken in a timely, comprehensive and adequate manner, regardless of the nature and severity of the crisis.

OCHA maintained support for global clusters by facilitating the development of a global appeal (53 per cent funded by the end of 2007) and a performance management framework. OCHA also worked with regional and country-level teams to increase awareness of the cluster approach and its potential to address gaps and strengthen accountability, predictability and effective partnerships. Although rollout of the cluster approach continued in 2007, it was hampered by continued differences within the IASC about the scope and pace of rollout. As a result, by the end of the year the cluster approach had only been used in three of eleven new emergencies in which a flash appeal was issued, and was rolled out in only three additional ongoing emergencies. More positively, in November the Humanitarian Reform Support Unit helped to broker an agreement within the IASC (known as the ‘Rome Statement on the Cluster Rollout’) on some practical steps for accelerating rollout and linking the cluster approach to other complementary initiatives (such as the Global Humanitarian Partnership and strengthening the humanitarian coordination function). OCHA also played a leading role in mainstreaming the cross-cutting issues of gender and HIV/AIDS in humanitarian action.

The profiling and fine-tuning of emergency rosters, including GenCap and ProCap, allowed OCHA to boost system-wide stand-by capacity and expertise – which is being called upon increasingly often with the recent upward trend in the frequency and severity of natural disasters. 2007 saw OCHA take up its dual responsibilities of providing relief now and planning for what might be ahead, by implementing several key policies and strategies related to disaster preparedness and prevention – activities that have helped to reduce the loss of lives as disasters strike.

As most humanitarian and life-saving activities cannot be implemented without appropriate material and financial support, OCHA has also bolstered its efforts to secure adequate and predictable funding for humanitarian activities in advance of requirements. Several new Emergency Response Funds were established for ongoing emergencies, and at the same time donors recognized the added value of the CERF by supporting it much earlier and more generously then ever before – with nearly US$ 420 million secured for 2008 by early December 2007 towards the grant facility target of US$ 450 million.

In 2007 there was increased appreciation of the fact that the Common Humanitarian Funds established in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have played an important role in supporting coordination, funding neglected sectors and complementing other financing mechanisms. A key lesson was that given the right country context and based on comprehensive contextual analyses, assessed needs and commonly agreed priorities, Common Humanitarian Funds can improve resource allocation decisions under the leadership of the HC in collaboration with the Humanitarian Country Team.

With increased demands for humanitarian funding, OCHA acknowledged the need to make significant improvements to flash appeals in order to provide a more timely and evidence-based tool for prioritization (see p. 44 for more detailed discussion of flash appeals).

Ways forward

Despite many challenges, 2007 has seen OCHA’s steady progress in strengthening the foundations of a more robust and comprehensive humanitarian architecture. OCHA was able to build on its previous accomplishments and focus on the implementation of policies and structures developed in 2006. In 2008, OCHA will focus on fine-tuning these newly established operational mechanisms and continue strengthening the international humanitarian architecture through the development of new, cross-cutting policy initiatives – translating them into action for strengthened partnership, leadership, accountability and predictability.