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Inter-Agency Standing Committee/Executive Committee on Humanitarian Affairs (IASC/ECHA) Secretariat

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), established by Resolution 46/182, is a unique interagency mechanism for humanitarian dialogue and decision-making involving a range of UN and non-UN humanitarian partners. Under the leadership of the Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, in his capacity as Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC), the primary role of the IASC is to shape humanitarian policy as well as to ensure a coordinated and affective response to emergencies. The Executive Committee on Humanitarian Affairs (ECHA) is chaired by the USG for Humanitarian Affairs and brings together UN humanitarian agencies and the political, peacekeeping and security departments of the UN Secretariat to address issues related to humanitarian crises.

A joint Secretariat based in OCHA Geneva and in New York serves both the IASC and ECHA, ensuring that discussions in the two committees are based on a common understanding of problems and effective decision-making processes. The Secretariat supports the Under-Secretary–General as the chairperson of both committees, and the Assistant ERC in her capacity as chairperson of the IASC Working Group.

Key objectives

  • Facilitate inter-agency collaboration in the development and implementation of the three main areas of the Humanitarian Reform Agenda
  • Support inter-agency discussions and decision-making on all major humanitarian policy issues and situations through the IASC and/or ECHA, including protecting humanitarian space in Integrated Missions and implementing the Humanitarian Reform Agenda
  • Ensure effective communication regarding the work of the IASC and ECHA with other interagency bodies, notably the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) and the Executive Committee on Peace and Security (ECPS), in order to strengthen the linkage among humanitarian, political and development actors

In addition to work plan objectives, major new emergencies required increased attention by all humanitarian actors, particularly in response to the Indian Ocean tsunami and the South Asia earthquake. Many new initiatives were also launched within the framework of the humanitarian reform process, which required the Secretariat’s engagement and support, including advancing the discussion and implementation of the cluster approach within the reform agenda.

The Secretariat provided support to the nine Cluster Working Groups: Camp Coordination and Camp Management; Early Recovery; Emergency Shelter; Emergency Telecommunications; Health; Logistics; Nutrition; Protection; and Water and Sanitation. Nine IASC Working Group meetings and three IASC Principals meetings were held in 2005, though only four Working Group meetings and two Principals had been planned.

The IASC actively supported the Humanitarian Response Review process by organising consultative meetings during and after the issuance of the report to agree on follow-up actions. The IASC encouraged agency participation in the consultative process on global benchmarking and linkages between the DfID-led process and other processes, such as Sphere. Through OCHA and the ERC, the IASC facilitated inter-agency consultations on negotiations for the ECOSOC Humanitarian Segment and the General Assembly, and contributed to discussions on the upgraded CERF and flexible funding mechanisms
such as pooled funding.

Throughout 2005, the Secretariat supported the work of 11 IASC subsidiary bodies: CAP, Emergency Telecommunications, Preparedness and Contingency Planning, Gender, Human Rights, Training, HIV/AIDS, Good Humanitarian Donorship, Humanitarian Security, Natural Disasters, and Mental Health and Psychosocial Support – the latter established in 2005 to develop guidelines on such support during humanitarian crises.

The IASC issued a number of publications in 2005, including the Guidelines for Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings, available on the IASC website in English, French, Spanish and Arabic; and the Human Rights Guidance Note for Humanitarian Coordinators. The Secretariat designed and launched a new interactive website to provide easier access to and discussions on the inter-agency agenda.

The IASC/ECHA Secretariat in New York organised ECHA’s monthly meetings and a series of ad hoc meetings of the ECHA Core Group, focused on a broad range of humanitarian issues. These ranged from policy matters, such as the humanitarian reform agenda and preserving humanitarian space in Integrated Missions, to more specific discussions on particular crises. In addition, an ECHA/ECPS Task Force on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse was established and tasked with developing a comprehensive policy on assistance.

The IASC/ECHA Secretariat in New York provided support to the DERC in her capacity as the Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for Tsunami-affected Communities and to the Office of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery during its first months.

Performance evaluation
The IASC facilitated broad and inclusive discussions among its 17 members (including the NGO Consortia representing a few hundred organisations) at all levels: Principals, Working Group, weekly meetings in New York and Geneva, as well as IASC Subsidiary Bodies on the humanitarian reform agenda, resulting in significant progress in the development and implementation of its three components. The IASC, with support from the Secretariat, was instrumental in developing, piloting and streamlining the cluster approach, which is expected to increased the predictability of humanitarian response.

A simple ECHA database was established in 2005 compiling discussions and decisions, and efforts are now being made to integrate this in the OCHA Document Management System. The IASC maintained its own decision matrix, regularly updated, to ensure progress on decisions and action points between meetings.

In November, the IASC Working Group reviewed and endorsed in principle the 2005 progress reports of the subsidiary bodies on CAP, Preparedness and Contingency Planning, Emergency Telecommunications, Good Humanitarian Donorship, Gender, Human Rights and Humanitarian Action, and Mental Health and Psychosocial Support, as well as final reports from Training and HIV/AIDS Task Forces. It endorsed the closure of the Task Forces on Humanitarian Security and Natural Disasters, the latter having finalised the In-Country Self Assessment Tool for Natural Disaster Response Preparedness and reviewed the capacity of IASC agencies and organisations in selected disaster-prone countries.

The IASC also facilitated wide-ranging consultations on the establishment of the upgraded CERF, including for the establishment of its Advisory Group. The Humanitarian Coordinators segment also progressed, with the IASC decision to establish a pool of HCs, including non-UN partners, and to develop a long-term Action Plan.

Through extensive consultations at all levels, Principals, Working Group, weekly meetings in New York and Geneva, the Subsidiary Bodies and ad hoc Task Forces, the IASC was the main forum of discussion to ensure coordinated response to the Indian Ocean tsunami and the South Asia earthquake, and in the development of guidance on matters such as gender-based violence interventions in humanitarian settings.

Through ongoing consultations with the offices responsible for supporting the ECPS and the UNDG, the Secretariat ensured complementarities in the topics discussed, and more effective engagement of the most senior management of the United Nations on important issues on the humanitarian, political and development agenda.




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