The OCHA Annual Report 2006 is the latest in a series of yearly documents aimed at keeping OCHA accountable to its donors and supporters. As in the past, the report aims to provide a comprehensive picture of how we have measured up to the goals we set for ourselves, and of how we have managed our financial resources.

As ever, none of what we were able to achieve would have been possible without the generous support of our donors.

In 2006, the world’s largest relief operation remained effective but fragile in Darfur, while political progress marked time at best. My predecessor visited three times during the year to keep relief efforts on track and the attention of international actors on the issue – including that of the Security Council. Likewise, the situation in northern Uganda continued to be of major concern. OCHA worked both on maintaining the humanitarian response and assisting in the search for a solution to the conflict by supporting the Juba Peace Process. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, pooled funding played a significant role in ensuring that the country’s massive needs were better met in 2006 than in the years before. Major sudden-onset crises in 2006 included the Yogyakarta earthquake and the Lebanon war; OCHA responded rapidly in both cases.

2006 saw fewer large-scale natural disasters and new major crises than in 2005. For OCHA it was more about implementing previous reform agreements than initiating new reforms. Nevertheless, OCHA was able to develop new tools and strategies, building on lessons of the past. In particular, the process of change which began with the Humanitarian Response Review in 2005 continued. The improved CERF was entrusted by donors with hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions, which was distributed with increasing speed and efficiency, and in many cases to programs that would not have received funding otherwise. OCHA was able to deploy three Humanitarian Coordinators from the new standby list,
most notably to Lebanon at the height of the crisis there. OCHA strove to drive progress in the implementation of the cluster approach: it was implemented in five countries at field level. A new Global Humanitarian Partnership was created in Geneva in July, which agreed to Principles for strengthening relations among United Nations agencies, NGOs and the Red Cross Movement – and creating a partnership of equals.

The path to humanitarian reform was by no means all smooth going. The CERF went through some inevitable growing pains. Many of the issues were addressed internally, while others were being worked through. Although the cluster approach was used to help build capacity and increase predictability at the global level, there were reservations about increased bureaucracy without commensurate results on the ground. On the reinforcement of Humanitarian Coordinators, OCHA did not make as much progress as it would have liked; for example, the development of an appropriate training programme was slow.

For OCHA, 2006 was a year of significant internal change. Ed Tsui and Kevin Kennedy, who were instrumental in developing the Office from its infancy, finished their long service. Yvette Stevens, the Director of OCHA Geneva, who had been responsible for managing the Humanitarian Response Review, also retired. Finally, OCHA’s longest serving and highest-profile Under-Secretary-General, Jan Egeland, left at the end of the year.

As I begin my tenure as Emergency Relief Coordinator, I will continue his total commitment to improving OCHA’s own performance as well as the wider humanitarian response to crises. I want, among other things, to take a close look at: where humanitarian reform needs to go next; our capacity to respond rapidly and effectively to sudden-onset crises; and what we are doing to reduce the risks of disasters. I aim to strengthen OCHA’s existing partnerships with the main humanitarian actors, both within and outside of the United Nations system. I will seek to maintain a strong voice in humanitarian advocacy.

The list of priorities easily becomes long. The challenges of better needs assessments and impact evaluation, and of maintaining humanitarian space, are ever present. But I am also determined that OCHA should focus on what it does well and where it can add most value. I look forward to the challenge.

John Holmes
Under-Secretary-General/Emergency Relief Coordinator Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs