PART Iii: performance in 2007
Performance of the Field
Regional Offices

Regional Offices

In 2007, following the establishment and consolidation of OCHA’s regional presences in 2006, OCHA worked towards strengthening the activities of its regional offices and making the services provided consistent across the regions – with a view to ensuring a coherent approach to planning, support and response.

OCHA’s regional offices continued to play an important role in ensuring that humanitarian needs in countries with no current crisis are not neglected and that sufficient humanitarian knowledge and disaster preparedness exist in United Nations Country Teams to form the basis of immediate response. Regional offices facilitated the prioritization and rationalization of response and support in countries without an OCHA field office, and continued to provide critical surge capacity to field offices where required. In addition, regional offices advocated regional concerns and facilitated training.

Emergency Preparedness and Contingency Planning

In 2007, regional offices added value to emergency preparedness, disaster risk reduction, early warning and multi-hazard contingency planning (including avian human influenza) through the convening of several contingency planning workshops to develop standard responses to common scenarios and identify potential humanitarian consequences. Partners were able to engage in contingency planning through a number of workshops, allowing for a much more professional approach to the process. As a result, regional networks and partnerships were strengthened and common understandings of regional humanitarian priorities and concerns were reached.

During 2007, each regional office worked with at least five of the countries in its purview to activate and support regional contingency planning processes. Regional offices ensured that each process followed the IASC Contingency Planning Guidelines (updated in 2007) and incorporated disaster risk reduction principles.

A model to rank countries worldwide according to hazards, vulnerability and response capacity was developed in 2007 by ROAP and shared with all other regional offices. This ‘Global Focus Model’ will assist OCHA in further prioritizing humanitarian support requirements on a regional basis.

OCHA’s regional offices cover:
  Asia and the Pacific (ROAP)
  Central and Eastern Africa (ROCEA)
  Southern Africa (ROSA)
  West Africa (ROWA)
  the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia (ROMENACA); and
  Latin America and the Caribbean (ROLAC).
    OCHA also has two standalone Regional Disaster Response Advisers in Kazakhstan (covering Central Asia) and Fiji (covering the Pacific).

Surge Capacity

OCHA’s regional offices have developed capacity to deploy support staff who are familiar with the regional context, the inter-agency response plan and the partners themselves – as well as being experts in OCHA service provision (including, in particular, the cluster approach and humanitarian financing).

In 2007, surge capacity was coordinated effectively with OCHA’s other tools and services, including the Emergency Response Roster. The response to the Bangladesh floods in November highlighted successes in this area. In eight of nine United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) deployments to Latin America and the Caribbean, regional office staff were deployed as part of the UNDAC team or as additional support to the Resident Coordinator and United Nations Country Team to assist in coordination, including the drafting of appeals or CERF requests.

The ability of each of the regional offices to respond to surge requirements varies. The resources to continue development of this capacity that were initially targeted for 2007 are now being directed to ongoing work in this area in 2008.

Partnerships and Regional Coordination Structures

Regional offices add significant value to timely and efficient humanitarian response through the promotion of strengthened partnerships at the regional level, ensuring that coherent response frameworks exist and that appropriate deployment mechanisms are in place ahead of potential emergencies. For example, following the 2006 floods in southern Africa, agreements on a framework for ongoing collaboration were made with 33 partner agencies at the regional level, which significantly improved the response to seasonal flooding in 2007.

Strengthened partnerships with regional organizations have increased regional disaster management capacities and resulted in better working relationships. In 2007, ROMENACA established robust dialogue with regional entities (including the Organization of Islamic Conference in Saudi Arabia and the League of Arab States in Egypt), contributing to effective joint planning on the Middle East crisis. ROCEA strengthened its relationships with the African Union and assisted OCHA at the headquarters level in the establishment of the OCHA African Union Liaison Office in Addis Ababa – moving the protection agenda forward in ongoing crises such as Darfur.

Regional training initiatives have further strengthened informal regional networks. Participants from the Economic Community of West African States, the Southern African Development Community, Central America’s CEPREDENAC, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the European Union and NATO have undertaken UNDAC training, United Nations Civil–Military Coordination training and International Search and Rescue Advisory Group training (led by OCHA). Humanitarian partners have also taken part in OCHA’s Emergency Field Coordination Training, the Consolidated Appeals Process, cluster/ sector leadership training, and humanitarian reform and CERF trainings.

Information Management

Regional information management officers were deployed to a number of emergencies in 2007 to provide critical data management and cartographic services. Country-specific data preparedness plans were developed by ROAP (for Indonesia, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste) to enable local data management capacity to be supported during a crisis and common datasets to be used.

ROLAC and ROMENACA expanded the dissemination of humanitarian information in their regions through websites and products published in Spanish and Arabic. The development of the regional humanitarian network and website by the regional office in Panama, RedHum (established in close cooperation with national emergency authorities and closely associated with ReliefWeb), was a notable achievement in 2007.

OCHA Presences

The strategic placement of national officers and National Disaster Response Advisers in fourteen countries, fully integrated within the offices of the Resident Coordinators and with oversight from regional offices, ensures that adequate capacity and knowledge of humanitarian tools and services exists within the United Nations Country Team. OCHA presences bring together OCHA at the regional level and in relation to the United Nations Country Team and national authorities to ensure that effective operational partnerships are in place and represent cost-effective use of regional resources.

Field offices are usually known as ‘presences’ as they are scaled up or scaled down

Regional offices support: the scaling up of OCHA operations to field offices (such as Niger, Chad and the Central African Republic in 2007); the development of transitional plans (such as for Burundi in 2007); and the scaling down of offices (such as the Republic of Congo and Southern Sudan in 2007).