HEADQUARTERS CORE ACTIVITIES AND PROJECTS
In 2006 OCHA’s Advocacy and Public Information Section (APIS), located in New York, and its Advocacy and External Relations Section (AERS), located in Geneva, supported the Secretary-General, the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC), HCs and OCHA broadly in advocating for effective and principled humanitarian action at the global, regional and country levels. Advocacy support was either undertaken directly or provided to other OCHA branches in interfacing with the Office of the Spokesperson of the Secretary-General (OSSG), the media, and international and regional bodies. Both APIS and AERS promoted advocacy on key humanitarian issues and worked towards the inclusion of humanitarian concerns in United Nations decisions and communications and in the decision-making processes of Member States. Regular contacts were maintained with the media, NGOs, civil society groups and academic institutions.
At the end of 2006 the AIMB in New York was divested of responsibility for AERS functions in Geneva.
In 2006 senior management approved OCHA’s advocacy policy, its field advocacy manual and its public information handbook. The policy and guidelines rollout in early 2007 will include headquarters briefings and hands-on support in selected field and regional offices – as a first step towards ensuring that these are incorporated into all field and regional office work planning for 2008.
OCHA’s extensive media outreach was maintained during 2006, ensuring that the ERC’s field missions and humanitarian priorities received maximum coverage. APIS arranged over 100 media interviews with the ERC, as well as numerous interviews with other senior officials. In addition to providing guidance for these interviews, APIS drafted statements by the Secretary-General on humanitarian issues, disseminated press releases, organized press briefings and provided regular inputs to the OSSG’s noon briefings. It also provided briefings on humanitarian issues at universities, United Nations diplomatic missions and private and philanthropic organizations.
In 2006, APIS wrote more than a dozen op-ed pieces and numerous articles focusing attention on forgotten emergencies and key humanitarians concerns on behalf of the ERC. These were published in some of the world’s leading newspapers, as well as a range of other international publications. AERS undertook 150 ‘oneto-one’ interviews with the media on various crises worldwide, and organized more than 20 press conferences in Geneva for the ERC, senior management and senior field representatives visiting Geneva.
Following the establishment in 2005 of the United Nations Secretariat’s first ever public information surge capacity roster (with 21 staff from OCHA, the Department of Political Affairs and the OSSG), in 2006 the Section deployed three surge staff for one month each– to Pakistan, Côte d’Ivoire and Southern Sudan. It also supported the deployment of public information staff to Yogyakarta, Indonesia, following the earthquake, and to Damascus, Syria, during the Lebanon crisis. In 2006 a memorandum of understanding was signed with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the Norwegian and Danish Refugee Councils for external public information surge capacity. APIS also undertook field missions to support the public information and advocacy capacity of UNCTs in Uganda, Nepal and Somalia.
In 2006 APIS highlighted the issue of sexual violence in conflict, organizing events with the US Institute of Peace, New York and Harvard Universities, Physicians for Human Rights and members of the United Nations Security Council. APIS continued joint advocacy activities with United Nations agencies and selected INGOs, hosting meetings with Interaction and advocacy counterparts on humanitarian developments in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, the occupied Palestinian territory, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Côte d’Ivoire and other countries affected by crises.
APIS undertook a complete review of the CERF website, and was instrumental in organizing the first annual high-level conference in support of the CERF – drafting and publishing a brochure and other public information support material. APIS also managed OCHA Online, OCHA’s corporate website, adding content to reflect changes in organizational structure and current priorities such as human security, gender equality, resolutions adopted by all the major United Nations bodies on humanitarian issues, natural disasters and forgotten emergencies.
In 2006, AERS focused its external relations activities
on strengthening OCHA’s cooperation with members of
the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Geneva,
as well as with European nations and institutions.
Having successfully negotiated an agreement between
OCHA and the European Commission on cooperation
and coordination in disaster relief operations, AERS
began negotiations for a similar agreement with the
Council of the European Union to address cooperation
in complex emergencies. A structured dialogue was
established with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg
and with its Parliamentary Assembly. AERS worked at strengthening OCHA’s dialogue with selected members of G-77 in the context of the humanitarian reform and on specific objectives related to improving natural disaster response and mitigation. OCHA’s cooperation with the private sector was enhanced, in particular with the World Economic Forum, to encourage more private sector companies wishing to participate in disaster preparedness and response activities.
AERS produced a travelling exhibition on natural disasters which was supplied to OCHA’s field offices for general advocacy purposes and special events. AERS distributed the quarterly Natural Disaster Bulletin to all permanent diplomatic missions in Geneva and through ReliefWeb, and it produced a special issue bulletin on humanitarian reform. In 2006 there was an increased number of requests from universities and study programmes to provide information and briefings on OCHA and humanitarian assistance.