Liberia - Humanitarian Information Centre
During 2005, political activity in Liberia was dominated by the successful completion of the two-year transition process set out in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 18 August 2003 and the handover from the National Transitional Government of Liberia to the new, democratically-elected government.
The humanitarian situation continued to improve although enormous unmet needs remain (in relation to basic social services almost countrywide, as well as the particular needs of remaining IDPs and returning refugees) given the toll that war has taken on people, infrastructure, livelihoods and coping capacities.
Liberia is unusual within OCHA in having the Humanitarian Information Centre (HIC) remain as an OCHA project after the closure of the typical OCHA field office structure at the end of 2004, following the assumption of humanitarian coordination responsibilities by the Humanitarian Coordination Section (HCS) of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
It was anticipated that, by the end of 2005, the HIC would transition into an information centre serving recovery, transition and development. However, with delays in the capacity of partners in-country to take over its stewardship amid continuing humanitarian needs and risks as Liberia moves to a recovery phase, the HIC remained with OCHA in 2005 and is now due to be handed over in 2006.
- Improve the coordination of humanitarian assistance to Liberia by providing the humanitarian community and government of Liberia with a tool with which to facilitate planning, designing and implementing humanitarian activities, in conjunction with other humanitarian organisations and activities
During 2005, the HIC (with one office, located in the capital, Monrovia , and employing three international and 14 local staff) continued to provide autonomous support to coordination, planning and implementation of activities by the broad humanitarian community, working closely with the HCS structure of UNMIL.
The HIC was a focal point for access to maps, reports, databases, updates and other information products generated by humanitarian organisations, including NGO partners. It maintained an operational internet café for members of the humanitarian community and a dedicated HIC website with relevant reports and information products, links to related services and a weekly e-mail update.
OCHA continued the promotion of standardized data collection to allow broader and longer-term use within the humanitarian community, and assisted sector working groups (education, water, health/cholera, agriculture, etc) to develop databases and information systems, including the use of P-codes and other standardised datasets for each sector.
The HIC provided humanitarian partners with technical services including database design and processing, GIS and map production, upon request. It also produced and updated a catalogue of all maps available, as well as briefing packs for donors and other visiting delegations.
Two dedicated field information officers worked with county administrative centres to attend coordination meetings and liaise with UNMIL, NGOs, the National Transition Government, UN Agencies and other partners. They also served as focal points within the HIC and the HCS structure for information gathering and dissemination, promoting a regular and systematic flow of data and the dissemination of information products between Monrovia and the field. With the newly-developed County Recovery Information System (CORE-SYS) database, for instance, the field information officers will liaise with several agencies at field level to ensure that data is regularly updated.
The HIC worked closely with UNMIL Civil Affairs to develop a system to allow county-level officials in both UNMIL and government structures better capture and report qualitative data for recovery and reconstruction. The HIC also coordinated with ECHO and USAID to capture information on the activities of implementing partners of these two major donors by sector and location. There have been requests since that the maps produced in this process be expanded to include other donors and their partners.
The HIC played a supporting role to humanitarian coordination at national and local levels. HIC representatives attended general coordinating meetings for the humanitarian community and sector working groups at both Monrovia and county (field) level, and provided follow-up support.
HIC staff managed to increase knowledge of the HIC and its products/services, improved adherence to standardised data collection in most sectors, and established recognition of the HIC as a key source of advice on data collection, surveys and other services. With the HIC, the humanitarian community has an easily identifiable place to go for technical advice, humanitarian information, reports and maps, and to post information such as assessments, which supports planning, implementation and monitoring of humanitarian assistance. The internet café was used at 85 percent of its capacity while all of the reports, updates and other information products posted on the HIC website were used.
In a country shattered by war and where local government officials have little training or capacity, the HIC trained 24 local government officials and 16 civil servants in seven of Liberia's 15 counties on how to populate the County Recovery Database, including the use of P-Codes, which will support the sharing and broader utility of data. In addition, local authorities are now actively providing feedback on boundaries and towns for future maps and related products. Major donors, UN Agencies, local government officials and NGOs have embraced the importance of P-codes in information management and are mandating the use of P-codes in all data collection activities.