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  Emergency Response Coordination

Coordination and Response Division

The Coordination and Response Division (CRD) was formed in March 2005 with the merger of the former Response Coordination Branch (RCB) in Geneva and the Humanitarian Emergency Branch (HEB) in New York. In the new division, the New York office has primary responsibility for managing the response to complex emergencies and the Geneva office has
primary responsibility for natural disasters.

CRD has three major responsibilities: to provide direct support to the ERC in his role as principal advisor on humanitarian issues to the Secretary-General and coordinator of the international humanitarian response; to provide support and guidance to UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinators on complex emergencies and natural disasters; and to provide support to OCHA field offices on operational and policy matters. It also facilitates the advocacy, financial and human resources work of OCHA’s other Branches. The surge capacity section was substantially reinforced in 2005 to provide more systematic and comprehensive support to field offices experiencing gaps in their staffing level or in new emergencies. The Consolidated Appeals Process continues to be a key component of CRD’s portfolio.

In 2005, CRD focused on clarifying OCHA’s role in natural disasters and confirmed that its primary responsibility lies in disaster response and response preparedness. CRD consequently strengthened its capacity to fulfill its role, in particular through reinforced regional offices and improved synergy with other branches in OCHA and partners such as ISDR and UNDP. CRD spearheaded OCHA’s response to the major disasters that marked 2005, in particular the Indian Ocean tsunami and the South Asia earthquake. CRD also advocated for and supported a UN system-wide response to the drought in the Sahel. As a follow up initiative, CRD undertook consultations on the Sahel with a wide variety of partners aimed at reviewing the UN and its partners’ roles in slow-onset disasters such as droughts. The continuing crises in Sudan (Darfur in particular) and Zimbabwe took much of CRD’s attention, while concerted efforts were made to provide adequate coverage to all countries or regions in need of OCHA support. In particular, CRD provided strong support to countries in West Africa and advocated for better coverage of the situation in this region, which is oneof the most volatile in the world.

Key objectives

  • Implement all aspects of the CRD merger
  • Improve support to Humanitarian Coordinators and OCHA offices by strengthening policy, administrative and logistical support arrangements
  • Refocus activities on natural disasters and establish coordination with other tools and services available within OCHA
  • Redefine and standardise the work of the Regional Offices and RDRAs
  • Work toward ensuring that humanitarian principles are fully considered and respected in the establishment, structure and strategies of UN missions

Following the reorganisation of CRD, the two parts of the division had to develop their capacity and expertise in order to fulfill CRD’s role vis-à-vis natural disasters and complex emergencies. A CRD retreat in July contributed to greater understanding of t henew division of responsibilities and set concretecommon goals.

In addition to its core activities of supporting the field and the ERC, CRD was under intense pressure to increase the speed and size of OCHA’s response to disasters and emergencies by immediately deploying its own staff from headquarters. In 2005, over 200 missions were undertaken by 60 staff, mostly to support new or ongoing emergencies.While the high number of deployments stretched CRD, at times in an unsustainable manner, this direct support was greatly appreciated by the RC/HCs and UNCTs.

In addition to this direct support, CRD continued to improve on delivery of its other core functions. Despite extremely high demand, staff were identified and deployed more smoothly and speedily than during the previous reporting period. However, the issue of staff turn over remains unsolved and is being addressed.

CRD also increased its strategic partnerships. Particularly, the division played an important role and represented OCHA in inter-departmental processes such as those dealing with coordination during recovery or Avian and Human Influenza. CRD also played a key role in setting up and strengthening of the offices of the RC in several tsunami-affected countries. Close coordination with UNDP and UNDGO was achieved and will have to be maintained, if not further reinforced. In 2005, CRD staff led or participated in various inter-agency and inter-departmental missions, including DPKO missions, to Sierra Leone, Sene gal, DRC, Côte d’Ivoire, Burundi, and Sudan. CRD staff also provided direct support to Special Envoys for the Horn of Africa, Zimbabwe and the Tsunami.

In addition to improving networking with partners within the IASC system and beyond, CRD continued to work closely with all other branches of OCHA.

CRD worked with PDSB to prepare the inputs for the country-specific reports to the General Assembly and ECOSOC and contributed to various evaluations (tsunami, Angola), as well as briefings to the Security Council on the Protection of Civilians. CRD worked closely with IDD on IDP-related issues and on the implementation of the cluster approach, in both cases undertaking joint field missions to the field. CRD also worked closely with AIMB on advocacy efforts and on the establishment and management of the HICs in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Niger, Liberia, Sudan and Pakistan.

The division also played an active part in RC/HC training events, helping to put together the training modules, contents, presentation as well as the logistics. The training gave the RC/HCs exposure to disaster response tools that they may have to utilise in case of a disaster striking.

In enhancing its activities on natural disasters, CRD took the initiative to consolidate further the natural disaster tools and services available within OCHA by creating a joint operations matrix with the Emergency Services Branch. This provided OCHA with a comprehensive view to its own role in natural disaster, and linked this with the broader UN action on natural disaster prevention and reduction by UNDP/BCPR, ISDR and Member States that adhered to the Hyogo Framework of Action. The matrix was also a useful tool in bringing together and standardising the work of the Regional Offices. A retreat of the RDRAs in the summer started the process of “cross-fertilisation” of ideas and methodologies between the RDRAs to bring some consistency in the type of services provided by OCHA in the different regions. CRD initiated the expansion of the functions of the Regional Offices, both in terms of the geographical reach (through antennae in Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau and Mali, for example), or through more targeted focus on previously neglected crises such as Laos and Myanmar. Regional Offices have also taken a greater lead in responding to natural disasters, as was shown by the Regional Officefor West Africa’s pivotal role in the Sahel drought crisis.

CRD actively participated in the humanitarian reform process, lending support to the Humanitarian Response Review, as well as participating in the cluster meetings in order to help ensure a coherent and integrated approach. In addition, CRD staff participated in assessment missions to DRC, Liberia and Uganda in the context of the cluster system roll-out in these three pilot countries.

Through its security focal point, and close interface with the UNDSS, CRD led OCHA towards greater recognition of security requirements in the field. A Minimum Operating Security Standards and Minimum Operating Residential Security Standards survey was carried out in all OCHA field offices. This resulted in a strengthening of existing security measures and implementation of new safety and security procedures. The ASFP also put together an OCHA-wide Security Policy that was endorsed by senior management and disseminated to all staff.

Performance evaluation
Clarified division of responsibilities (and reduced administrative workload from the creation of FSS) allowed CRD desk officers to concentrate on more substantive policy support and guidance to field offices. Early indications from the field offices show some recognition of greater support, with a gradual improvement throughout the course of the year.

The natural disaster operations resulted in better utilisation of OCHA resources and enhanced planning capabilities, particularly through the lessons learned from the tsunami. In Pakistan, for example, CRD steered the operation to be focused and time-limited. Clear planning was achieved from the outset with measurable objectives to be attained, and an exit strategy.

The expansion of the functions, staffing and geographical reach of the Regional Offices resulted in a more efficient network for information gathering, early warning and early humanitarian intervention in countries previously less well covered in Asia, West Africa and in the Americas particular.

With no new Security Council-mandated integrated missions in 2005, CRD concentrated on delineating a greater humanitarian space in existing missions, particularly in Sudan, DRC and Liberia. While humanitarian space was retained with a separate OCHA identity in Sudan and DRC, the experience in Liberia has been less positive. CRD also contributed to the formulation of the guidelines for integrated missions agreed with DPKO and endorsed by the Secretary-General.

The deployment time of staff members going to the field continued to vary depending on factors outside of CRD’s control. While EO and FSS helped greatly in streamlining procedures and making deployment times more predictable, the process still takes too long due in good part to existing rules and regulations. CRD New York conducted a regularisation exercise whereby 12 staff went through the recruitment process and received better contracts.




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