Coordination Activities in the Field
OCHA’s 34 field and regional offices continued to provide humanitarian coordination support to United Nations agencies, NGOs, the Red Cross Movement and other members of the humanitarian community. The rollout of the new humanitarian reform tools – CERF grants, the cluster system and a strengthened HC system – was significant in bolstering the activities of many existing and new field operations. Progress was achieved in OCHA’s efforts to work more closely at the field level with its humanitarian partners – the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, national and international NGOs, and in particular United Nations agencies. In the various locations in which OCHA works, new humanitarian mechanisms are referred to as either humanitarian country teams, or as IASC country teams where the IASC is represented.
The response to the devastating earthquake of October 2005 in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan continued into 2006, primarily in Pakistan. From January, OCHA’s office supported the shift from relief to recovery planning, and monitored the return of the affected population to their homes. To ensure smooth transition to recovery, OCHA’s remaining staff were incorporated into the RC’s office in June 2006. The drought and then flooding in the Horn of Africa (Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia) elicited a robust OCHA response. OCHA provided direct support to the Secretary-General’s Special Humanitarian Envoy for the Horn of Africa, and enhanced its coordination activities in the affected countries – most notably through improved information management. In one of the first uses of the CERF, US$ 25 million was released to accelerate the response to this crisis. In May, a major earthquake struck the area surrounding Yogyakarta, Indonesia. OCHA quickly dispatched an UNDAC team and instituted coordination mechanisms using staff already in Indonesia as part of the response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami. The cluster system was established promptly, and OCHA provided a cluster coordinator to ensure that the system was effectively implemented.
During 2006 the Darfur crisis began to have serious
spillover effects in the sub-region, with the numbers of
refugees and IDPs increasing in Chad and the Central
African Republic. In response, OCHA strengthened its
presence in both countries. The humanitarian situation
in Sri Lanka deteriorated dramatically as a result of
renewed fighting between the government and the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. OCHA reoriented its
focus from coordinating tsunami operations to assisting
the humanitarian community’s response to population
displacements and humanitarian needs resulting from the
internal conflict. The conflict in Lebanon required OCHA to mount a regional response: in the face of the largescale displacement and destruction, it established bases initially in Syria and Cyprus, and then within Lebanon in Beirut and Tyre. OCHA drew extensively on its existing staff to rapidly establish coordination mechanisms during the active phase of the conflict, and to facilitate access for humanitarian goods into southern Lebanon. Following the cessation of hostilities, OCHA handed over its coordination responsibilities to the United Nations RC’s office.
Elsewhere, significant operations continued in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Somalia, Uganda, Colombia and Cote d’Ivoire. Despite political progress in some of these countries (successful elections in DRC and promising peace talks in Juba between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army), there has not yet been a significant reduction in humanitarian needs in these countries; OCHA’s operations there remained constant. The need for sustained attention to countries emerging from conflict was reinforced by the situation in Timor-Leste, where fi ghting resulted in almost 10 per cent of the population being displaced and forced to move to IDP camps. In response, OCHA sent three staff members to reestablish its presence in Dili after an absence of almost five years. At the same time, several offices were closed in 2006: most notably, the last OCHA staff member left Sierra Leone in April 2006 after a presence of more than ten years. The Humanitarian Information Centre in Liberia was handed over to the government, and residual coordination duties in Pakistan and Lebanon were handed over to other United Nations actors.
OCHA’s regional offices played a growing role in surge capacity, contextual analysis and early warning, and support to ensuring coordinated responses to cross-border issues.
OCHA’s revised field budget requirements rose from US$ 74.2 million in 2005 to US$ 85.8 million in 2006. Income rose to US$ 83.6 million, from US$ 56.7 million in 2004.
While the world did not experience a ‘mega-disaster’ like the Indian Ocean tsunami or the South Asia earthquake, 2006 still proved to be a challenging year for OCHA: the implementation of humanitarian reform had significant impact on the evolution of OCHA’s role in the field. OCHA field and headquarters staff put considerable effort into implementing the cluster system in the pilot countries and in new large-scale natural disasters, and establishing effective procedures for quickly disbursing the US$ 259.3 million in CERF grants in both rapid-onset and underfunded emergencies.