PART Iii: performance in 2007
performance of headquarters
Information Management

Information Management

Challenges and opportunities continue to characterize the humanitarian community’s ability to share, manage and exchange information. While timely, relevant and reliable information remains central to effective humanitarian coordination and response, information is increasingly expected to support evidence-based advocacy, decision-making and resource allocation. In 2007, OCHA addressed these challenges and opportunities at three levels. First, OCHA undertook an extensive review of its own information products and services as well as of its information management practices. Second, OCHA – in collaboration with cluster/sector leads and their members – established agreement on the roles and responsibilities of partners operating in emergency contexts in managing information according to the principles and goals of humanitarian reform. Third, at the international level, OCHA hosted the successful Global Symposium+5 on information for humanitarian action in order to build consensus across the humanitarian community on ways forward.

OCHA’s Information Management Review evaluated the quality, consistency and cohesion of the many information products and websites offered by OCHA in support of advocacy, coordination and resource mobilization. The findings of the review confirmed that while OCHA has a strong reputation for delivering information services, there were exceptions among the large number of products and services that did not meet adequate standards in quality. The Emergency Relief Coordinator challenged OCHA to ‘revolutionize the way information and analysis are used to drive and support humanitarian relief efforts and advocacy’, and made this goal a key priority in his vision for OCHA over the coming years.

With the aim of becoming an ‘intellectual leader and knowledge broker’ among the international humanitarian community, OCHA established a three-year plan to implement the key recommendations of the Information Management Review, focusing on: how information is governed at management level; how quality can be enhanced through standardization and managed innovation; and what knowledge and capacity staff require (through learning and guidance) in order to raise the standard of information produced. The need to underpin effective decisions with appropriately detailed analysis and the monitoring and assessment of trends will be addressed with the creation of the new Assessment and Classification in Emergencies project within OCHA.

Inter-agency collaboration at the global level and on the ground during emergencies has allowed the humanitarian community to work together better across clusters, among partners and with national governments. The ‘Operational Guidance on Responsibilities of Cluster/Sector Leads and OCHA in Information Management’, which was prepared by the Inter-Agency Information Management Working Group and endorsed by the IASC Task Team on the Cluster Approach in October, clearly defines – for the first time – the delineation of humanitarian information management responsibilities between OCHA and cluster/sector leads in emergencies.

Despite this progress, some major challenges in the management of humanitarian information remain. The field-level application of the ‘Operational Guidance’ and cluster-based information exchange mechanisms has tested OCHA and its partners as they aim for a more coherent, cost-effective and predictable response to ongoing and new sudden-onset emergencies. The absence of an authoritative inter-agency forum tasked with the implementation of guidance and standards in information management in emergencies risks undermining the consolidation of a predictable information system.

In hosting the Global Symposium+5 on information for humanitarian action, OCHA brought together more than 300 professionals with an interest in creating a culture of information-sharing that promotes the systematic collection, use and free flow of data, information and ideas, facilitates informed decision-making and builds trust and commitment among stakeholders. The key outcome of the Symposium was a statement by the participants endorsed as ‘a common vision of the central role of information in support of effective humanitarian preparedness, response and recovery’, while best practices and lessons learned were also identified and shared. Consensus among participants was that the community must work together, using common standards and sound analytical methods, to produce information that represents the full spectrum of humanitarian requirements among affected populations. Today’s technology offers many solutions, but real progress remains possible only with the willingness of organizations and their staff to collaborate through sharing, managing and exchanging information as a community.