Goal 1:

A Better Coordinated, More Equitably Supported International Humanitarian Response System

1.1 A Predictable and Needs-based Humanitarian Financing System

2008 was marked by a significant increase in humanitarian funding needs due to several large-scale natural disasters, conflict situations, and the effects of the global food crisis. Humanitarian partners requested over $7 billion through consolidated and flash appeals, representing an almost 40 percent increase in funding requirements from 2007. To meet current and growing humanitarian needs, OCHA supported global efforts to move toward a more predictable and needs-based humanitarian financing system. OCHA focused on advocating sufficient and timely resources for humanitarian response and improving the manner in which the humanitarian system seeks and manages funding.

Funding humanitarian response

Through consistent engagement with member states/donors, the media, and humanitarian partners, OCHA stressed the importance of maintaining diverse humanitarian funding channels and providing predictable and timely support to these channels to meet humanitarian needs. Engagement also included regular dialogue with the Good Humanitarian Donorship (GHD) Initiative to encourage GHD donors to improve further the quality and quantity of humanitarian funding.

These efforts led to a substantial increase in overall international humanitarian funding, with almost $12 billion recorded by the FTS for 2008. This figure outpaced all previous years, except 2005, which was marked by the response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami. Almost half of the funding recorded for 2008 (or $5 billion) was provided to projects in consolidated and flash appeals, covering approximately 70 percent of the $7 billion appeal requirements. While the percentage of appeal requirements coverage was comparable to previous years (over 65 percent), the funding volume increased by almost $2 billion from 2007. Funding coverage across appeals was also more balanced: only three out of 22 appeals received below 50 percent, though funding remained even across sectors/clusters. The challenge is to ensure still that more funding is provided against appeals and balanced across crises and sectors/clusters.

While the bulk of the resources mobilized for the humanitarian response system was provided through direct donor contributions to aid organizations, an increasing amount of funding was channeled through humanitarian pooled funds managed by OCHA: the CERF at the global level, and CHFs, and ERFs at the country level. Due to OCHA concerted mobilization efforts at field and headquarters levels, donors contributed $859 million1 to these funds in 2008. This represents a 22 percent increase compared to resources obtained in the previous year. Particularly significant was the receipt of $453 million for the grant element of the CERF, just surpassing the annual $450 million target set by the General Assembly. Funding for ERFs almost tripled from $41 million in 2007 to $111 million in 20082. By securing adequate resources, OCHA enabled the proper functioning of these funds. For 2009 and beyond, the challenge is to ensure annual funding targets for the pooled funds are met with steady resources, through early and multi-year commitments and a broadened donor base.

Strengthening common humanitarian strategic planning

Improvements in the CAP in 2008 — such as greater prioritization, stronger NGO participation, clearer roles and responsibilities, and more strategic monitoring — indicate that implementing reforms such as the cluster approach and HC leadership are having a direct effect on the quality of country-level strategic planning and appeals.

OCHA led efforts to refine and strengthen the Consolidated Appeals Process, including flash appeals, to ensure it is the primary tool to coordinate the planning, implementation, and monitoring of humanitarian action. New guidelines on the development of flash appeals shortened the time for initial appeal publication and increased the proportion of appeals revised to reflect emerging requirements. This was part of a broader flash appeal overhaul endorsed by donors and the IASC. In addition, for the first time, a majority of consolidated appeals included prioritized projects based on a transparent scoring system that included peer review by clusters and HCTs.

With the inclusion of an increased number of NGO activities and funding needs, appeals also became more inclusive strategies as well as comprehensive barometers of humanitarian requirements. The CAP crossed a crucial threshold in late 2008; the new 2009 consolidated appeals were published with 52 percent of projects from NGOs.

To assist with performance measurement, OCHA developed a blueprint for strategic-level monitoring for the updated CAP guidelines. Although the IASC has not yet agreed on key indicators for the measurement of results of humanitarian action elaborated in appeals, seven of the 11 consolidated appeals in 2008 included reporting on outputs and indicators by cluster/sector.

To support the preparation of better formulated consolidated and flash appeals — including revisions of strategic plans and their associated funding requests, in line with evolving realities — OCHA will have to invest in further automation appeal development at the field level. OCHA must also take complete advantage of online information sharing and appeal dissemination to donors and other stakeholders.

Meeting humanitarian pooled funding objectives

Humanitarian pooled funds continued to meet the respective objectives for which each fund was created. CERF supplied advances from the loan element, as well as resources from the grant element. The latter is to enable rapid response to humanitarian crises and address critical humanitarian needs in under-funded emergencies. The CERF’s global reach expanded by eight countries in 2008. This brought the total number of countries benefiting from the fund since inception to 68, or one-third of the globe. Perhaps even more pertinent, the CERF served as a useful tool for early and essential funding for coordinated humanitarian action, providing the third largest source of emergency funding to flash appeals.

Of the more than $80 million in CERF grants for flash appeal projects in 2008, about 73 percent of funding was provided before or within two weeks of appeal publication. The grants therefore kick-started the response; and the majority of other funding sources came on board a month or more after flash appeal publication.

With respect to country-based funds, the ten ERFs that OCHA administered ensured increased support for small localized initiatives, primarily implemented by NGOs. Existing CHFs in Sudan and the DRC, as well as the recently established CHF in the Central African Republic (CAR), defined the consolidated appeal as a framework for allocation decisions. This provided predictable support to priority and/or under-funded projects, and covered sudden onset needs through an emergency reserve, the latter often in partnership with the CERF.

Predictable and Needs-Based Financing: External Evaluation of the CERF

Enhancing pooled fund management

By making resources available to RCs/HCs for priority interventions identified at the field level, pooled funds have a positive impact on humanitarian response. Of the 27 HCs currently deployed, all have benefited from a country-based pooled funding mechanism or a CERF allocation; 76 percent of the more than $1 billion in CERF grant disbursements since 2006 went toward life-saving activities in countries where a HC is deployed.

The identification of funding priorities closer to the implementation point has limited duplication, increased coverage, and heightened field-level coordination and partnership. However, challenges persist in ensuring that funding decisions are based on inclusive and transparent processes, with clear emphasis on needs assessment and priority-setting.

To strengthen the field-based decision-making process, a series of comprehensive efforts were undertaken throughout 2008. This included enhanced guidelines and training, as well as surge support and coaching for RCs/HCs and HCTs on the pooled fund mechanisms. These efforts deepened the understanding of the purpose and scope of pooled funds and strengthened the prioritization and allocation process. Moreover, the quality of grant requests improved, and participation of humanitarian partners in decision-making was broadened.

Along with these efforts, several steps were taken at the headquarters level to ensure a consistent and coherent approach to humanitarian financing. Humanitarian financing issues, including those related to United Nations and NGO partnerships, were systematically raised by the IASC Working Group to enable strategic policy discussions. OCHA established a Funding Coordination Section in the Office of the Director in New York to support the oversight of country-based pooled funds and reinforce coherence among pooled funding mechanisms. The CERF Secretariat was further strengthened to ensure that the Fund is managed in accordance with established procedures. Increased capacity over the last two years, coupled with improved CERF guidelines, reduced the CERF’s rapid response approval process time. The process was down to an average of three days from the receipt of a final grant request, which enabled humanitarian partners to respond quickly to time-critical emergencies.

Improving performance and accountability measures

As humanitarian reform became the humanitarian norm in 2008, efforts to improve the humanitarian financing system were supported by continued measures to improve leadership, capacity, and partnership. HCTs, as well as clusters, are now more inclusive and reflective fora; needs and coverage are mapped, projects are peer-reviewed and prioritized, and most major humanitarian actors are united in one strategic plan. The responsibilities of RCs/HCs with respect to strategic planning and pooled funds management, and their measurements of success, have been crystallized. Humanitarian pooled funds support established systems of common planning and concerted action. These trends are expected to continue.

Key to a more predictable and needs-based humanitarian financing system is developing a common approach to needs assessments and strengthening accountability measures, in line with OCHA work covered under Objective 2.3 of this report. These efforts should be coupled with increased advocacy and outreach to improve the quantity and quality of humanitarian funding, as well as greater coherence and complementarity among funding streams. By further ensuring that needs are reliably identified and coverage is planned and then resourced, OCHA supports the ultimate goal of providing effective protection and assistance for people in need, on time.

Predictable and Needs-Based Financing: 2008 Highlights

1.2 Improved Coordination Structures at Global, Regional, and National Levels

In 2008 the significant investments by donors and organizations to improve coordination through the various pillars of humanitarian reform began to achieve expected results. While work in 2007 centred primarily on the finalization of policy and guidance, partners in 2008 focused on implementing and further integrating the various pillars of reform, thus overhauling humanitarian coordination and ensuring a tighter, more robust delivery of humanitarian assistance. In playing a fundamental role in the development of the Secretary-General’s June 2008 Policy Committee decision on integration, OCHA also helped ensure that improved coherence and wider United Nations integration arrangements would not undermine principled humanitarian action.

Working actively with IASC partners, great efforts were made to ensure closer integration and coherence of the mutually reinforcing elements constituting reform — leadership, coordination, partnership, and financing — to sustain a stronger framework for humanitarian action.

Key improvements helped systematize and strengthen humanitarian leadership, including the revision of the Terms of Reference for both RC/HCs. The aim was to reflect more clearly humanitarian accountabilities and solidify the responsibility to lead and coordinate humanitarian action. More than 55 percent of RCs and 40 percent of HCs received specialized training in 2008. The HC pool was re-launched to develop a professional, transparent and participatory selection system. Individual compacts were agreed upon between the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) and HCs, and the humanitarian section of the RC/HC/Designated Official (DO) Performance Appraisal System was developed to strengthen accountability. Of the 27 currently deployed, 18 HCs had signed compacts with the ERC by end 2008, thus providing a basis for measuring performance and setting mutual expectations.

Significant progress on the implementation of the cluster approach was observed in 2008, particularly at the field level. Twenty-one of 27 countries with HCs reached agreement on using the cluster approach as the humanitarian coordination framework for both new and ongoing emergencies, thereby fully integrating the reform principles of predictability, partnership, leadership, and accountability into humanitarian community business practice. Improvements were evident in the response to the surge of humanitarian needs in Myanmar, Georgia, Haiti, Sri Lanka, and Gaza. During the early scale-up days of these humanitarian operations, HCTs agreed to implement the cluster approach in support of the national-led efforts.

In addition to strengthening partnerships on the ground through more inclusive and equitable coordination mechanisms, such as the systematic establishment of HCTs, OCHA bolstered partnership initiatives at the global level. Three new NGOs became members of the Principals Forum of the IASC, improving the balance between United Nations and non-United Nations membership. The Global Humanitarian Platform, which met for the second time in July 2008, stepped up its efforts to broaden the inclusion of national NGOs, particularly from developing countries, and strengthen their participation.

More predictable humanitarian financing at country level has helped to consolidate these structures and strengthen the efficacy of response. For instance, as noted in the previous section of this report, all 27 HCs currently deployed have benefited from a country-based pooled funding mechanism or a CERF allocation, and 76 percent of recent CERF grant disbursements have gone to countries where a HC is deployed. Meanwhile, OCHA established a Funding Coordination Section to better oversee country-based pooled funds and strengthen coherence among pooled funding mechanisms.

While OCHA facilitated more inclusive and coordinated humanitarian community work, it also sought to ensure that the broad drive for coherence and the integration of strategic objectives across the United Nations did not undermine principled humanitarian action.

The integration agenda has been an issue of concern for the humanitarian community since the notion of an “integrated approach” was first introduced in the Secretary-General’s 1997 report on UN Reform. Neither the 1997 report nor the 2000 Brahimi report made specific mention of the structural aspects of integration, i.e. the absorption of the HC and the OCHA humanitarian coordination support function into a United Nations peacekeeping or political mission. However, ensuing debate raised concerns that humanitarian action would be politicized in an integrated mission environment.

Supported by a dedicated team established in 2008, OCHA played a key role in the development of the Secretary-General’s June 2008 Policy Committee (PC) decision on integration. The decision reaffirmed “integration” as the guiding principle in an integrated United Nations presence — defined as all contexts where the United Nations has both a country team and multi-dimensional peacekeeping or political mission. It emphasized that integration means working together more coherently and supportively to enable the greatest impact in conflict and post-conflict situations, without necessitating the involvement of structured integration of all actors. The decision also stipulated that integration arrangements should take full account of humanitarian principles and safeguard humanitarian space, while facilitating effective humanitarian coordination with all humanitarian actors.

The PC decision introduced or strengthened a number of structures to improve coherence. At headquarters level, the decision created a senior Integration Steering Group to ensure implementation and progress on integration-related issues. The USG/ERC is the OCHA representative in this group, signaling the importance OCHA attributes to it. The PC decision highlighted the importance of strengthening inter-agency and inter-departmental taskforces so that coherent and consistent support and policy guidance is provided to all integrated United Nations presences. The decision also stressed the importance of strengthening country-level planning arrangements. To date, this area has received the least attention throughout the United Nations system.

Integration discussions within the United Nations emphasize the need for shared planning capacity where there is an integrated presence, to improve the coherence of United Nations country-level actions. This capacity will likely be situated in the RC/HC's office, particularly in situations where a peacekeeping office or political mission has yet to be deployed and the RC/HC must play a stronger leadership role. OCHA will need to support the RC/HC in this role, build up its strategic planning capacity in key countries, and serve as a critical link between the humanitarian community and the PKO or political mission.

The need to operationalize the PC decision also led to a new/invigorated stream of work at headquarters, both within OCHA and throughout the United Nations system. As part of this effort, OCHA initiated a Policy Instruction on OCHA Structural Relationships within an Integrated UN Presence. The instruction clarifies how and under what conditions decisions are made about the structural aspects of integration. OCHA also increased its engagement in the Integrated Missions Planning Process, including the revision of guidelines for both headquarters and field-level planning. OCHA participated in United Nations strategic and technical assessment missions to individual countries (Somalia, Sudan, Chad, and CAR) to make recommendations on United Nations strategic priorities and structures for specific contexts. This was done to ensure effective support to United Nations coherence in any given country, while safeguarding principled humanitarian action.

1.3 Strengthened OCHA Emergency Response Capacity

The multitude of new or worsening emergencies worldwide that required OCHA response in 2008 underscored the critical importance of reliable internal rapid response capacity. OCHA credibility and performance hinge on the proactive discharge of its coordination functions in support of partners during the initial stages of emergencies and disasters. In 2008, OCHA emergency response capacity was considerably strengthened and enhanced in numerous key areas: surge capacity mechanisms and internal surge management; equipment management; partnerships at the global and regional levels; and policy and guidance practices. Also in 2008, OCHA instituted a rapid after-action review of its emergency response to each medium-scale emergency, to identify lessons and improve future performance and internal coordination.

Surge capacity and deployments

OCHA recognizes that surge capacity is a key area that still warrants significant enhancements. During sudden onset emergencies, OCHA improved its ability to ensure a readily available number of humanitarian generalists and specialists for immediate response. Most of OCHA surge resources are versatile Humanitarian Affairs Officers, in line with needs at the field level. In addition, throughout 2008, an extensive range of professional skill-sets increasingly provided centralized surge capacity in: Information Management (IM); United Nations Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination (UN-CMCoord); Information Communication Technology (ICT); and Logistics and Administration.

In 2008, OCHA successfully implemented its Emergency Response Roster (ERR) to address sudden critical peaks in workload. The ERR is a central internal mechanism through which pre-cleared and prepared OCHA staff may be re-deployed from regular duty stations to newly emerging crises. In 2008, a total of 19 deployments serviced nine emergencies, including Myanmar, Georgia, Haiti, DR Congo, Yemen, South Africa, Kenya, Kosovo, and Afghanistan.

In addition, OCHA strengthened the Stand-By Partnerships Programme (SBPP) by which experts on mission are sourced through external partners. SBPP has developed into a 10-agency network that collectively provided 54 secondees in 2008. Operational improvements included the introduction of user-friendly SBPP request and deployment documentation and better adherence to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). OCHA further enhanced its strategic dialogue with SBPP agencies through the convening of the First Annual Consultations. Significant dialogue revolved around mission preparedness and training, line-management in the field, and the appropriate usage of Stand-By Partner secondees.

OCHA introduced the Whole Organization Approach (WOA) for surge capacity management within the organization at large. The aim was to enable stronger internal and external coordination, greater flexibility, better prioritization, and quicker decision-making. In 2008, WOA was initially employed in situations requiring several surge deployments from different parts of the organization. For Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, for instance, information on all surge deployments was centralized, providing an overview of the staffing situation and enhanced planning. WOA proved particularly useful in challenging large-scale crises declared a “Corporate OCHA Response” by the ERC.

The Civil-Military Coordination Section (CMCS) firmed up its UN-CMCoord Officer Concept and Deployment Plan. This resulted in 59 UN-CMCoord Officers registered on its roster, of which nine were newly deployed; additional UN-CMCoord trained personnel were included in the OCHA SBPP. For enhanced rapid response to sudden onset emergencies, CMCS further identified personnel trained by both the UNDAC system and UN-CMCoord.

Also notable, OCHA provided four deployments of advocacy and public information staff in 2008.

OCHA surge capacity clearly improved over the last year in quantitative terms; i.e. more resources were made available and procedures were rendered more systemized and efficient. Challenges remained, however, in the ability of OCHA to define staffing needs quickly, and coordinate and use all of OCHA internal and external surge resources. Other challenges include harmonizing and simplifying surge request modalities across OCHA, as well as ensuring more timely recruitment of staff so that surge does not become a substitute for regular recruitment.

Training and workshops

To strengthen emergency response capacity, OCHA must have a common corporate approach to coordination, as well as a common understanding of Stand-By Partner (SBP) procedures. To this end, in 2008, OCHA ensured that all training programmes managed by OCHA for OCHA staff and external partners fully integrated these concepts.

The Surge Capacity Section (SCS) organized two SBP trainings, targeting 50 potential secondees, and supported further training events organized by SBP themselves. SCS also conducted a pilot Emergency Response Training (ERT) for 20 ERR roster members.

All OCHA surge/response mechanisms, including training courses, were remodeled to include the principles and approaches introduced through humanitarian reform, and which now constitute normal practice within OCHA. As a result, all course participants should be capable of promoting and implementing these principles and approaches at the basic level.

For example, UNDAC training events fully integrated humanitarian reform into UNDAC methodology. Similarly, humanitarian reform was fully integrated in the UN-CMCoord Training Programme.

The HCSSP organized three regional workshops for RCs on the basic principles of and approaches to humanitarian coordination. The workshops highlighted the leadership role RCs have to play in areas such as the cluster approach, partnerships and humanitarian financing/CERF, as well as how OCHA might provide related support.

The Communications and Information Services Branch (formerly Advocacy and Information Management Branch or AIMB) led OCHA second external public information surge capacity training workshop, with participants nominated by standby partner Governments. Participants were given the opportunity to better understand how the United Nations system operates during a crisis, improve skills in emergency media relations and develop public information products. The workshop also considered modalities for surge deployment of advocacy and public information support to regional and field offices.

In 2008, the HRSU provided all regional offices with training and guidance to support country teams. RCs/HCs helped to best manage expectations and demands during the first phase of an emergency. Field Offices have sent staff to these events. In addition, guidance and training were provided to countries where clusters have been implementing operational support.

Procurement and interactive communications technology

To strengthen its capacity to respond to two simultaneous large-scale emergencies, OCHA finalized the procurement processes for equipment reserve items, including personal deployment kits, ballistic vests and helmets, and telecommunications equipment. With regard to vehicles, an agreement was discussed with WFP for the establishment of a virtual stock in Dubai. Furthermore, a customs agreement on facilitation measures was signed in 2008 with the Government of Honduras; and negotiations are far advanced with several countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

OCHA strengthened the ICT component of its emergency response initiative by defining standard ICT response SOPs, providing surge ICT capacity, facilitating the recruitment of new ICT officers in the field, deploying additional ICT kits, and developing and implementing consistent ICT policies and standards. Additionally, an ICT Workshop was held for all ICT staff in OCHA field offices. This streamlined existing ICT practices across all offices, increased awareness of corporate and inter-agency policies and standards, consolidated common projects, and ensured common guidelines for development and project management practices.

Private-sector partnerships

OCHA revised the 2001 OCHA-Ericsson agreement to include new services, such as the Wireless local area network (LAN) in Disaster and Emergency Response (WIDER) solution, and initiated an evaluation of the partnership to explore areas for greater cooperation. An evaluation workshop was conducted with DHL to further improve the OCHA/DHL partnership and extend the existing agreement in collaboration with UNDP. In 2008, OCHA also began to formalize partnership with Microsoft. Moreover, Google provided a grant to enhance the FTS with new visualization tools and in-kind assistance tracking features.

1.4 Greater Incorporation of Disaster Risk Reduction Approaches and Strengthened Preparedness in Humanitarian Response

In 2008, the frequency and intensity of storms, cyclones, torrential rains, and floods continued to affect severely lives and livelihoods across the globe. Strong earthquakes and severe droughts were also a significant concern. Other factors in 2008, such as dramatic food and fuel price fluctuations and the emerging global financial crisis pushed many chronically vulnerable people into acute crisis, while simultaneously diminishing national government capacity to respond. The combination of climate change and other trends — such as population growth and increased urbanization — has continued to raise questions about how OCHA and the international humanitarian system at large prepare for and respond to acute humanitarian needs that arise from a series of compounding hazards, but do not necessarily result in a sudden conflict or disaster.

OCHA was therefore prompted to rethink how best to focus its work in preparedness and disaster risk reduction. To that 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 OCHA new Strategic Framework for 2010-2013.

Meanwhile, in 2008, OCHA continued its preparedness work primarily to: (a) strengthen the response capacity of international stakeholders at the global and national level; (b) strengthen the response capacity of national and regional authorities; and, (c) develop its own internal capacity to respond (related to Objective 1.3 Strengthened OCHA Emergency Response Capacity).

Strengthening the response capacity of international stakeholders at global and national level

At the global level, OCHA continued its engagement in several inter-agency initiatives, including climate change, the IASC Sub-Working Group (SWG) on Preparedness and Contingency Planning, and the Capacity for Disaster Reduction Initiative (CADRI).

OCHA re-enforced its commitment to play a key role in preparing for and adapting to the impact of climate change. OCHA contributed to the IASC consultation process on the humanitarian impact of climate change, most prominently through two IASC-endorsed submission papers to the UNFCCC meeting in Poznan. The pieces promoted the inclusion of the humanitarian perspective on climate change in the UNFCCC negotiations, traditionally dominated by non-humanitarian stakeholders and emissions mitigation issues.

OCHA worked closely with IASC partners to promote the revised Inter-Agency Contingency Planning Guidelines, adopted in November 2007. The guidelines underline a multi-hazard approach to emergency preparedness, the cluster approach, partnership building, leadership, and accountability in humanitarian action. OCHA also continued contributing to inter-agency risk analysis, by helping draft the quarterly Early Warning Early Action report produced by the IASC SWG on Preparedness and Contingency Planning. This IASC early warning tool serves to foster enhanced preparedness and early humanitarian response, with particular attention to potentially new crises and changes in existing emergencies.

At country level, OCHA supported the response capacity of the humanitarian community in preparedness and contingency planning — mainly through the development of training and guidance material, as well as the preparation of modules on disaster preparedness for internal and external training. Drawing on the revised IASC Contingency Planning Guidelines and the Guidance and Indicator Package for Implementing Priority Five of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), OCHA directly facilitated or participated in specific workshops designed to strengthen preparedness and contingency planning in several countries. OCHA also contributed to the development of IASC Contingency Planning training modules, designed to help HCTs understand and implement the 2007 guidelines. Moreover, OCHA launched and disseminated the first version of the online OCHA Disaster Response Preparedness Toolkit, providing guidance to OCHA staff and RCs/HCs on disaster preparedness tools and services.

OCHA also continued co-chairing the Emergency Directors Meeting (EDM), a forum for key humanitarian actors on major and potential humanitarian emergencies. In 2008, the EDM held three formal and three ad hoc meetings. A series of consultations were held with key stakeholders including United Nations agencies, think-tanks, and women’s networks. Topics included gender and age components of emergencies.

Through the CADRI, a joint OCHA-ISDR-UNDP/BCPR initiative, OCHA supported the capacity development of two UNCTs in disaster risk reduction and disaster preparedness. CADRI also commenced work with the Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Initiative based in South-Eastern Europe.

OCHA functions as the secretariat of the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG), a global network of urban search and rescue providers that defines global standards for earthquake response. In this capacity, OCHA supported five INSARAG External Classification Exercises to determine response capacity of international urban search and rescue teams. This helps ensure adherence to international standards and facilitates decision-making on international assistance by governments during collapsed structure disasters. OCHA also organized four UNDAC/INSARAG Familiarization Workshops that brought together national, regional, and international responders. A session was held in Moscow for The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries, jointly with Emergencies and Elimination of the Consequences of Natural Disasters (EMERCOM) of Russia, and three others in the Middle East region, jointly with national disaster response organizations.

Furthermore, in 2008, to increase awareness of the pandemic threat and revitalize planning processes, PIC provided pandemic planning support to 90 UNCTs and conducted 44 simulation exercises for UNCT, national governments, headquarters inter-agency groups, and regional actors. In collaboration with the IFRC, PIC hosted and facilitated a high-level simulation for 22 senior managers from the United Nations, Red Cross Movement and NGO humanitarian organizations in Geneva, to look at how humanitarian partners would coordinate and divide labour in a pandemic.

Strengthening the response capacity of national and regional authorities

At the request of the Government, three UNDAC Disaster Response Preparedness Missions were fielded in 2008, to Bhutan, Honduras, and Uganda. The aim was to assist these governments in evaluating their national disaster response preparedness plans and make recommendations for improvement.

As a follow-up to the 2nd Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (Delhi 2007) and regional meetings held during the year, OCHA convened a special high level consultation on Central Asia regional cooperation in preparedness during the 3rd Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Kuala Lumpur (December 2008). Countries reconfirmed their intent to create a regional centre; they requested that OCHA continue supporting these efforts. They also requested assistance regarding regional risk assessment, mitigation and risk reduction measures, regional contingency planning, and joint simulation exercises — mechanisms for early warning information exchanges, as well as other preparedness and response measures.

With a view to supporting the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and its member states in strengthening national preparedness, response, and disaster risk reduction capacities, OCHA initiated a process for a Memorandum of Understanding between OCHA, ISDR, UNDP/BCPR and ECCAS, which will provide the cooperation framework.

Strengthening internal response capacity and coordination of preparedness activities

To help exchange and record good practices on disaster preparedness, OCHA organized the first Emergency Preparedness Forum, bringing together some 30 OCHA headquarters and field staff involved in preparedness activities. With the same objective in mind, three virtual conferences were also organized. Additionally, OCHA extensively used the tools developed in 2007 to prioritize its activities. The Global Focus Model, a multi-risk prioritization tool, served to identify priority countries for support in developing IA Contingency Plans and the Minimum Preparedness Actions to improve OCHA readiness to respond to rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crises. Additionally, OCHA started working on policy guidance on improved preparedness and risk reduction.

1.5 A Strategy Contributing to Seamless Transition and Early Recovery

The key to seamless transition and early recovery is for the United Nations system to enable systematic and predictable planning, with clear roles and responsibilities, as well as the appropriate guidance and resources allocated to support these roles. As crisis situations improve, the need for humanitarian action and the role of OCHA coordination diminishes. In turn, the roles of government and development partners increase. In 2008, OCHA continued to strategize with inter-agency partners and field offices to develop good policy and practice to ensure seamless transition and early recovery. In addition, OCHA developed comprehensive phase-out plans for all OCHA field offices in the process of transition.

At the global level, OCHA participated in a range of formal and informal inter-agency fora aimed at advancing both policy and practical approaches to improving planning, coordination and funding for transition.

Together with the United Nations Development Operations Coordination Office (DOCO), OCHA continued to co-chair the UNDG-ECHA Working Group on Transition (WGT). In 2008, the WGT worked with the World Bank and the European Commission to develop an inter-agency methodology for joint post-conflict and post-disaster needs assessments. The working group also played a proactive role in United Nations system-wide discussions on the role and capacity of the RC system regarding the management of transition and recovery situations. The WGT also sought to improve the levels and predictability of funding for transition activities. To address the issue of financing in transition contexts, in its role as co-chair, OCHA contributed substantively in numerous donor fora, including the Copenhagen Early Recovery Policy Forum and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development/Development Assistance Committee (OECD/DAC) Task Team on Financing and Aid Architecture in Situations of Conflict and Fragility.

OCHA continued to work with the inter-agency Cluster Working Group on Early Recovery to help raise awareness within the international community on a range of transition issues, and mainstream early recovery activities into the other clusters.

On country issues, OCHA worked closely with the UNDP/BCPR and DOCO, at both senior and working levels, to provide tailored support to country offices undergoing their own transition planning. Building on the efforts of the Joint Initiative on Recovery Coordination, which culminated in the endorsement of the Principles and Recommendations for Effective Recovery in 2008, OCHA reinforced United Nations partner support to field offices in Côte d'Ivoire, Georgia, Myanmar, Nepal and Uganda, to refine their transition strategies and exit timelines.

Internally, to help ensure a coherent approach to transition and early recovery planning and coordination, the OCHA Transition Working Group (OTWG) — established in 2007 and Chaired by the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs — continued to serve as the forum for the development of internal policy and practice. In 2008, OTWG efforts ranged from developing global policies on OCHA roles and responsibilities in transition situations to assisting individual field offices in developing country-specific guidance. For example, in close collaboration with RCs/HCs and partners, the OTWG helped offices in Burundi and Timor Leste manage phase-down, through the development of administrative guidance and exit strategies. OCHA offices in these countries were closed in 2008.

Seamless Transition and Early Recovery: 2008 Contributions to System-Wide Improvements