PART Iii: performance in 2007
performance of headquarters
Donor Relations, External Relations and Liaison
The need to secure a wide support base for OCHA and for humanitarian financing in general became increasingly clear in 2007. With fast-emerging issues such as climate change and its impact on disaster-prone countries – alongside existing complex emergencies in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the occupied Palestinian territory, Somalia and Darfur – the scope of humanitarian requirements grew, and the mobilization of adequate resources to ensure effective response presented a major challenge. OCHA took close notice of the fact that while demand continued to increase, the amount of humanitarian funding available remained about the same.
The major lesson learned again in 2007 was that funding according to needs requires appropriate planning based on identified priorities and supported by reliable information. Evidence-based needs assessments, careful planning and prioritization help to reinforce the positive partnerships of trust that are needed between donors and humanitarian actors.
Significant efforts were made by OCHA throughout 2007 to engage with its partners in bringing humanitarian, political and economic situations and trends in countries of concern to the attention of the humanitarian community. Strategic engagement through briefings and consultations with United Nations Member States ensured that the key concerns of the humanitarian community were taken up at the working and capital levels. Regular dialogue with United Nations mission representatives in Geneva and New York took place, along with discussions in forums such as the OCHA Donor Support Group (ODSG), the Good Humanitarian Donorship (GHD) initiative, the Humanitarian Liaison Working Group and briefings to Member States on new or ongoing emergencies. With a particular focus on establishing links between United Nations humanitarian efforts and governments and organizations of the Middle East and North Africa, in July the United Nations Secretary-General appointed Abdulaziz Bin Mohamed Arrukban of Saudi Arabia as his Special Humanitarian Envoy. OCHA facilitated his engagement with the humanitarian community and the media.
Briefings given to the media and the public as well as high-level dialogue with Member States aimed to build more effective and principled humanitarian action at the global, regional and country levels. Dialogue with the G77 was pursued through informal consultations in New York, while a meeting in Geneva in June with a selected group of countries which have historically been affected by natural disasters led to a productive exchange on risks and how to better respond to them. This was seen as a first step towards more intensive dialogue with the G77 on humanitarian reform.
A humanitarian partnership meeting, co-convened in Seoul in June by the United Kingdom (as ODSG chair) and the Government of the Republic of Korea, and with the participation of eleven countries from the Asia-Pacific region together with Canada and the United States, set the foundation for future collaboration and increased regional support for OCHA’s role in the Asia-Pacific. An OCHA Liaison Office in Brussels was established in the second half of 2007 with the aim of promoting dialogue with the European Union and European institutions on the development of humanitarian policy and the adoption of international humanitarian law principles.
In working towards the greater engagement of non-traditional donors in humanitarian assistance, more productive relationships with the private sector were consolidated in 2007. The World Economic Forum (WEF) and OCHA initiated a year-long process to develop the ‘WEF-OCHA Guiding Principles for Public–Private Collaboration for Humanitarian Action’ (launched in Davos in January 2008), which promote principled and coordinated corporate engagement in support of strengthened humanitarian response. At the same time, OCHA continued to bolster its public–private sector partnerships by adopting an internal policy on cooperation with the private sector and by continuing its discussions and joint activities with corporate entities including Ericsson, DHL, Veolia, KPMG, Microsoft and Google.
In response to the sharp increase in requirements for resources to address sudden-onset emergencies – due in part to the greater frequency of small- and medium-scale weather-related disasters – fifteen flash appeals were issued in 2007. In the latter part of the year, efforts were made to understand better the implications of this increased number of flash appeals and a concept paper recommending an overhaul of the flash appeal system was developed. Following broad distribution of the paper for comment and discussion, it was presented at the Montreux Retreat for the consideration of donors, United Nations humanitarian agencies, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs. It was concluded that flash appeals should be undertaken in two stages: the first appeal to be released within 48 hours if possible (and no later than seven days) after the disaster, with a revision to follow within approximately one month. Donors will accept limited but credible assessments rating the severity of the disaster and magnitude of potential need along with a preliminary indication of funding requirements as the basis for the initial flash appeal. The CERF (a funding instrument) does not replace the need for a flash appeal (a planning tool), and the information included in both CERF proposals and flash appeals should be consistent in order to avoid delays in accessing funds from either the CERF or individual donors.
OCHA established an internal Humanitarian Financing Taskforce to draw out lessons learned from recent developments in humanitarian financing – looking in particular at the CERF, Common Humanitarian Funds and Emergency/Humanitarian Response Funds. The key recommendation made was that OCHA should establish dedicated capacity to support global efforts in humanitarian financing. With the management of these funds, OCHA’s responsibilities in relation to humanitarian financing have increased beyond ‘resource mobilization’, and its next challenge lies in how best to carry out this new role as a fund manager.
Improving the flexibility and timeliness of humanitarian response requires greater donor involvement and consistency in quickly honoring pledges. OCHA’s engagement with its partners, including the GHD Implementation Group, has been critical in developing relevant standards, establishing mechanisms for implementation and monitoring of funding support in emergencies, and ensuring cooperation in implementing the principles of GHD. In 2007, OCHA continued to promote the CERF by developing policy and practical guidance, templates and software, enhancing visibility, conducting an analysis of underfunding, and training OCHA field and headquarters staff on the use of the CERF. OCHA made improvements to its Financial Tracking Service in order to provide a more comprehensive representation of the status of humanitarian financing by crisis, and it bolstered its internal financial management practices with the development of the online OCHA Contributions Tracking system to allow better planning against estimated expenditure.
OCHA continues to work towards ensuring that the humanitarian system’s capacities are clearly defined, well understood and efficiently utilized, through the development and improvement of internal mechanisms such as strategic prioritization during cost planning, in tandem with performance monitoring. Ongoing dialogue with donors is also an essential part of the process of developing better common understanding of mutual priorities. Finally, the informed prioritization of emerging humanitarian trends is key to ensuring that OCHA’s funding levels allow it to fulfil its mandate for system-wide coordination of humanitarian response.