Executive Summary

A better coordinated, more equitably supported international humanitarian response system

The impact of global trends and the broad range of intersecting hazards highlighted the need for increased emergency preparedness and response. As the number of humanitarian crises and partners expanded, significant new demands were placed on OCHA emergency response coordination efforts.

2008 was a year of near record resource mobilization for international humanitarian funding, with almost $12 billion registered. About half of the funding recorded was provided to projects in consolidated and flash appeals, covering approximately 70 percent of the over $7 billion in appeal requirements. To assist with performance measurement in consolidated appeals, OCHA developed a blueprint for strategic-level monitoring which will be strengthened in the year to come. In 2008, an increasing amount of funding — a total of $859 million — was channeled through humanitarian pooled funds managed by OCHA. Enhanced guidelines and training, as well as surge support and coaching for Resident Coordinators/Humanitarian Coordinators (RCs/HCs) and Humanitarian Country Teams on the pooled fund mechanisms strengthened the field-based decision-making process. The responsibilities of RCs/HCs with respect to strategic planning and pooled funds management, and their measurements of success, have helped to reinforce the other pillars of humanitarian reform.

Efforts to consolidate the gains of humanitarian reform contributed to more systematized and strengthened humanitarian leadership, including the revision of the Terms of Reference for both RCs/HCs. Of the 27 currently deployed, 18 HCs had signed compacts with the ERC by end 2008; and 21 countries had reached agreement on using the cluster approach. In addition to strengthening partnerships on the ground through inclusive and equitable mechanisms, OCHA reinforced and extended partnership initiatives at the global level through the likes of the Principals Forum of the IASC and the Global Humanitarian Platform.

OCHA emergency response capacity was rendered more systematic and efficient, while surge coordination and management were enhanced. Regional Offices, as one of the first lines of surge response, played a critical role in providing support to Myanmar and to rapid onset emergencies in Latin America. At the global level, OCHA introduced and implemented its Emergency Response Roster to address sudden critical peaks in workload due to shocks in the humanitarian environment.

Improvements were also made in managing equipment, leveraging global and regional partnerships, and improving guidance practices. The rapid and appropriate staffing of emergencies remains a pressing challenge for OCHA. As such, continued corporate focus on this area is expected to improve future performance.

OCHA pursued preparedness and disaster risk reduction work primarily to: strengthen the response capacity of international stakeholders at the global and national level; strengthen the response capacity of national and regional authorities; and develop its own internal capacity to respond. In 2008, with the combination of climate change and socio-economic shocks, such as the peaks in food prices, OCHA was further prompted to rethink how best to focus and internally coordinate its efforts. To this end, OCHA commissioned a strategic review of the disaster preparedness support that it currently provides. Expected to be completed in 2009, the review will feed into the new OCHA Strategic Framework for 2010-2013.

In close collaboration with RCs/HCs and partners, OCHA provided hands-on guidance and support to country offices to manage transition and exit. Clear-cut exit plans with administrative guidance were drawn up for Burundi and Timor-Leste, the two offices that were closed in 2008. In countries already in the transition phase or entering into the transition planning stages, including Côte d'Ivoire, Georgia, Myanmar, Nepal and Uganda, preliminary guidance and support was provided as required. OCHA also articulated its own position on the use of humanitarian resource mobilization tools for recovery programming and helped raise awareness regarding financing for early recovery and transition issues.

Recognized OCHA leading role in humanitarian policy, advocacy and information management

OCHA conducted, coordinated and supported analyses of humanitarian trends and policy issues. While formulating action-oriented recommendations addressed to member states, United Nations organizations and the broader humanitarian community, OCHA engaged with member states, through the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The ERC and the Director of OCHA Geneva continued to lead the IASC on issues such as climate change, rising food and fuel prices, the economic downturn’s effects on donors and beneficiaries, humanitarian principles, and the humanitarian reform agenda.

OCHA launched campaigns to address the issues of internal displacement and the humanitarian consequences of climate change. Moreover, enabling humanitarian access through strategic and targeted advocacy remained at the forefront of the agenda. OCHA regional and field offices worked with partners to develop advocacy action plans, which were endorsed by the RCs/HCs, leading to more consistent awareness-raising of the rights and needs of civilians affected by conflict or natural disaster.

OCHA worked alongside humanitarian actors to define common indicators and approaches for needs assessment, monitoring and evaluation. The development of common approaches served to strengthen predictability and accountability in humanitarian operations. Meanwhile, the development of a sound framework for an impact assessment of the cluster approach was well received, which prompted requests for similar frameworks for impact evaluations of pooled funds and other humanitarian reform initiatives.

Working with a broad range of actors, through the IASC and with member states, OCHA supported comprehensive responses, to best ensure human safety, security, dignity, integrity and rights. In 2008, significant progress was made regarding strengthening the predictability and accountability for protection of IDPs in conflict settings. The advances highlighted the need to improve response for disaster contexts and the potential role of the HC/RC regarding legal frameworks, negotiation channels, and inclusive advocacy. Building on the USG/ERC mandate to facilitate efforts to enhance humanitarian access, OCHA developed an Access Monitoring and Reporting Framework. This fostered a clearer articulation of specific access constraints and their manifestations.

To support evidence-based advocacy, decision-making and resource allocation vis-à-vis protection and other humanitarian concerns, OCHA sought to ensure information was made available in a more timely, relevant and reliable fashion. In 2008, OCHA built on the extensive review of its information products, services, and information management practices. At the field level, OCHA worked to become a more predictable and accountable partner. At the global level, OCHA similarly led inter-agency efforts to improve information management through the development of mutually-agreed tools, policies and practices. The Operational Guidance on Responsibilities of Cluster/Sector Leads and OCHA in Information Management outlined for the first time individual information management responsibilities.

An effectively managed and responsive organization

In 2008, improved management processes focused on more rapid recruitment, more cohesive planning, and financial accountability by programme managers. The new Roster Management Program — which endured certain growing pains — was initiated to establish and maintain a pool of qualified, pre-screened candidates for rapid field deployment. OCHA worked closely with United Nations colleagues towards the approval of significant United Nations-wide human resources management reform initiatives. During the second full year implementing the new planning and reporting system, OCHA focused efforts on establishing joint annual strategic planning across sections. Finally, to strengthen financial accountability and management, OCHA focused 2008 efforts on exercising greater budgeting discipline and enabling more effective budget monitoring. Responding to new emergencies, OCHA opened offices in Myanmar and Georgia, and following a period of transition, was able to close offices in Burundi and Timor Leste.

OCHA carefully managed its 2008 programme, planning in accordance with its mandate and developing a realistic budget to achieve its objectives. Throughout the year, OCHA monitored its income and expenditure. With zero growth at mid-year, and continuous cost management, OCHA ended 2008 with balanced expenditures over income. Programme activities fell short some $13 million, whereas administrative activities exhibited a surplus of $11 million.