PART Iii: performance in 2007
Performance of the Field
Field Offices - middle east

Middle East (map)



On 19 January 2007, the international community and the United Nations Secretary-General publicly recognized Iraq as a humanitarian crisis. Since early 2006, humanitarian needs had been rising significantly and millions of civilians across the country were suffering, due primarily to acute deficiencies in essential services, lack of protection, human rights violations and limited access to impartial humanitarian assistance.

The number of IDPs rose to 2.4 million in 2007, and the cumulative effects of displacement took their toll on both IDPs and host communities. In neighbouring countries, mainly Syria and Jordan, another 2 million Iraqis remained in refuge. While displacement rates did slow during the year (compared to 2006) and there were some return movements, it was only a small fraction of Iraq’s displaced that returned, and among those who did there were early signs of secondary displacement due to occupied or destroyed homes, or ongoing sectarian violence.

Humanitarian space remained limited and impartial aid delivery was made difficult due to lack of security and access. The humanitarian community also faced challenges in the coordination of activities and in accessing the funding necessary for timely and effective response. In light of these factors, the decision was made to re-establish an OCHA presence to cover Iraq (based in Amman) in May 2007.

Initially, OCHA was constrained by not having a clear role and mandate to exercise humanitarian coordination, as the previous cluster system was mostly focused on reconstruction and development and did not lend itself to the effective implementation of humanitarian action nor the introduction of the required partnerships (in particular with NGOs). With the establishment of a new United Nations Assistance Strategy to better balance development and humanitarian activities in Iraq and to strengthen NGO participation and equitable partnerships, by the end of the year OCHA had managed to substantially clarify its role within the coordination structure.

Performance Evaluation

As the OCHA Iraq field office only opened in May, it was not included in OCHA in 2007. The Objectives below are taken from the Strategic Framework for Iraq, April 2007.

Promote concerted humanitarian action by strengthening coordination or partnerships

In September, following the arrival of the new Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General/Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator, the notion of reviving an ‘Emergency Cell’ within the Prime Minister’s Office was discussed with the Government, and it is now planned for 2008. A Humanitarian Working Group comprising United Nations Agencies, key NGO partners, the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq and the International Committee of the Red Cross was established in conjunction with the adoption of the new humanitarian coordination structure. With close links to the Government of Iraq’s planned Emergency Cell, the Humanitarian Working Group will ensure rapid response capacity across all sectors as well as coordination between agencies.

Establish a centralized information collection, management and analysis system

In terms of tangible outputs, little progress was made in the area of information management in 2007. The Office’s efforts were mostly focused on building up capacity and mapping existing information management tools in order to identify gaps and complementarities among relevant agencies.

Develop and implement an advocacy strategy

An Inter-Agency Advocacy Working Group (IAWG), chaired by OCHA, was established and developed a strategic framework as well as a set of key messages. While an inter-agency advocacy strategy was not approved by the United Nations Country Team in 2007, the IAWG agreed on a work plan, including developing common tools and other key priorities for 2008.

Promote resource availability for agencies operating in Iraq, especially NGOs

An Expanded Humanitarian Response Fund was established in May, and during the year it provided US$ 1.8 million for NGOs undertaking urgent humanitarian activities in Iraq.

Establish appropriate humanitarian coordination mechanisms

Following the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1770, and in response to the deteriorating humanitarian crisis, a new coordination structure consolidating and facilitating the interface between humanitarian, reconstruction and development objectives was agreed upon in December 2007. OCHA started defining the humanitarian mandate of the sectors, and each was provided with a range of common services and tools for effective and inclusive cross-sector coordination – in information management, advocacy and resource mobilization, and disaster preparedness and response. In addition, OCHA took on the role of co-deputy lead of the Protection Sector.

occupied Palestinian territory


Throughout the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), civilians continued to bear the brunt of Israeli–Palestinian violence as well as Palestinian in-fighting. Six months of closure left the Gaza Strip’s economy facing potentially irrevocable damage, and the population was more reliant on aid than ever before. An estimated eight out of ten households were living under the poverty line by the end of the year. The deterioration of infrastructure put essential services in danger of complete collapse, and aid agencies predicted that the need for food and direct assistance would continue to rise in 2008.

Crossings from Israel into the Gaza Strip were mostly closed from June onwards. Compared to the first half of the year, imports into Gaza dropped by 77 per cent and exports from Gaza by 98 per cent, and anything other than the most basic food items were beyond the buying power of a large proportion of the Gazan population. In December, severe fuel shortages meant that Gaza’s water authority only received half the amount of fuel required to operate its water and waste-water systems. Limited fuel supplies also destabilized the delivery of electricity and essential services.

In the West Bank, the Barrier, permit regimes and checkpoints continued to undermine Palestinians’ livelihoods. As of December, there were 561 Israel Defense Forces obstacles in the West Bank, considerably restricting Palestinian access and movement. Entry into East Jerusalem across the Barrier became increasingly difficult with the reduction in the number of entry points to four – further restricting access to employment, services (especially those related to health) and religious sites, and dividing families.

Although humanitarian agencies in oPt maintained the term ‘sector coordination’ rather than clusters, the majority of the basic principles of the cluster approach were adopted and implemented. The Humanitarian Coordinator ensured that lead agencies took on the responsibilities and accountabilities of each sector, and OCHA proceeded to ensure that all sectors were actively involved in the Needs Analysis Framework (NAF) and Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP). Due to this improved dialogue and coordination, NGO representation in the CAP more than doubled.

OCHA’s focus in 2007 was on a much more inclusive, participatory approach across sectors and with agencies, particularly during the CAP. OCHA had a presence in all sector coordination groups and offered support both in terms of improving coordination mechanisms at the national level and identifying and supporting appropriate response to needs on the ground. Across all sectors, Palestinian Authority representation was strong, allowing effective coordination with the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan. US$ 6 million from the CERF was used by key United Nations Agencies to address emergency needs and US$ 3 million from the Humanitarian Emergency Response Fund was accessed by United Nations and NGO partners.

Access to the Gaza Strip and to, and within, the West Bank remained a major obstacle in addressing needs, and significantly increased project implementation costs. The closure of the Gaza Strip and the inability to import goods other than food and basic medicines meant that the United Nations and NGOs in the Gaza Strip were unable to implement humanitarian projects. For the United Nations alone, projects of a total value of more than US$ 213 million were on hold from June, and sector coordination and response in the Gaza Strip were severely limited.

Performance Evaluation

Strengthened in-country humanitarian coordination

In 2007, OCHA continued to research, map and disseminate detailed analyses on the humanitarian impact of the prevailing crisis. Key outputs included in-depth reporting on the humanitarian impact of Israel’s settlement policy and closure-related issues in occupied East Jerusalem. OCHA’s ‘fragmentation’ map and analysis played an important role in establishing the humanitarian impact of closure activity. The Office’s reporting on the impact of the closure on the Gaza Strip after mid June was pivotal in shaping the humanitarian and donor communities’ understanding of urgent humanitarian needs. OCHA also established a monthly United Nations/inter-agency publication entitled the ‘Humanitarian Monitor’.

Strengthened Consolidated Appeals Process

OCHA facilitated a significantly more inclusive process in preparing the 2008 CAP for oPt, resulting in a much more comprehensive, accurate analysis of current needs and greater coordination among key humanitarian actors. The Palestinian Authority was included in the process at each step, at the level of line ministries within the NAF workshop and sector working groups as well as at the level of direct coordination between OCHA and the Ministry of Planning.

OCHA placed increased emphasis on district- and headquarters level coordination with sectoral working groups, assigning a staff member to represent field issues in each group – in addition to OCHA’s ongoing representation within the Protection, Child Protection and Socioeconomic working groups.

Increased efficient partnerships for humanitarian action

In 2007, OCHA developed stronger district and national coordination through enhanced CAP procedures; for example, participating in a joint inter-agency assessment of vulnerability caused by drought in the southern West Bank, the formation of a sub-sector working group on IDPs, and the formation of a sub-sector working group to address the needs of farmers who lost crops due to frost. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and OCHA undertook joint assessments of Barrier-affected communities. Two protection-related missions by staff from OCHA were carried out to support the Protection sector and provide training to key United Nations staff. OCHA also provided and made available on its website geo-spatial data on protection issues.

Improved, and publicly profiled, information products and advocacy efforts

In 2007, OCHA initiated a daily review of Palestinian, Israeli and international media, which was disseminated to United Nations partners in the Country Team. Sector leads in the Gaza Strip submitted information on a regular basis for compilation into a monthly Fact Sheet to raise awareness of humanitarian needs. OCHA materials were distributed through a mailing list of more than 2,000 recipients grouped into specialized categories such as media, decision-makers, donors, NGOs and interested individuals. The Office’s newly launched website proved to be more user-friendly and experienced a steadily increasing download rate.

OCHA made humanitarian presentations to over 160 groups (more than 1,250 individuals), including NGO staff, diplomats, parliamentarians and religious associations. Many of OCHA’s outreach activities are reflected in this increase, not least the establishment of an emergency information network with Israeli NGOs (part of OCHA’s efforts to increase its advocacy in Israeli civil society). These figures also highlight the importance attached to the humanitarian consequences of the conflict by the international media (as measured by the seniority of media partners who were briefed – more than 15 per cent of media representatives were directors or senior editors) and by decisions-makers (OCHA was asked to brief numerous political delegations, including more than 30 per cent of senior-ranking politicians).