Recognized OCHA Leading Role in Humanitarian Policy, Advocacy and Information Management
2.1 Action-oriented Analysis of Humanitarian Trends and Emerging Policy Issues
OCHA conducted, coordinated and supported analyses of humanitarian trends and policy issues. OCHA subsequently formulated action-oriented recommendations addressed to member states, United Nations organizations and the broader humanitarian community including NGOs. Policy engagement with member states continued throughout 2008, through various fora such as the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) — as well as the OCHA Donor Support Group (ODSG) and Humanitarian Liaison Working Group (HLWG). The ERC, as Chair of the IASC Principals, and the Director of OCHA Geneva, as the Chair of the IASC Working Group, continued to lead the IASC, the primary humanitarian policy making body for the international humanitarian system with strong support and significant resources from all parts of OCHA, 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.
In 2008, OCHA bolstered its contribution to the development of sound analysis and policy on the humanitarian implications of climate change. An informal IASC Task Force, which included OCHA/ISDR (International Strategy for Disaster Reduction), developed a written submission to the UNFCCC Secretariat. The purpose was to draw attention to the humanitarian consequences of climate change to negotiators of member states in Poznan in December 2008. Together, OCHA and the IFRC led an IASC delegation to these negotiations. OCHA was also part of an informal IASC group that composed a working paper (also submitted to UNFCCC) conceptualizing the effects of climate change on migration and displacement. The piece identified the legal frameworks that may apply to each of the types of displacement caused by environmental degradation and the potential protection gaps, particularly relating to cross-border movements.
On the reform agenda, OCHA led the inter-agency process. This resulted in significant progress and agreement on aspects of the cluster approach and the strengthening of the HC system. In relation to the cluster approach, following extensive consultations, the IASC Working Group endorsed Operational Guidance on the concept of “Provider of Last Resort”, setting out specific responsibilities of cluster leads in the field. OCHA also led the IASC to agree to continue the HC Pool for a further three years and create an IASC Humanitarian Coordination Assessment Panel (HCAP) to undertake the selection of HC candidates to strengthen humanitarian leadership in the field.
On the issue of access, the OCHA Policy Development and Studies Branch (PDSB) and UNHCR led a core group to analyze the effect of limited humanitarian access and new factors complicating humanitarian work. OCHA conducted a study based on field consultations with country teams in Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar, oPt and Sudan to analyze specific challenges. The results fed into November 2008 discussions by the IASC Working Group, which tasked OCHA and UNHCR to develop an action plan for workshops on the assertion of humanitarian principles in the field in 2009. Regarding integrated missions, the IASC continued its dialogue with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), and DPKO presented its overarching policy document on peacekeeping operations in March. Pursuing dialogue with DPKO throughout the year, OCHA reflected humanitarian community concerns regarding integrated peacekeeping missions expressed through IASC discussions.
In the fall of 2008, the IASC developed the document: Towards a More Strategic and Relevant IASC. Its aim was to ensure a strategic shift of the IASC over the next few years. The November 2008 Working Group agreed on five proposed strategies/actions: (a) to respond to policy gaps and challenges identified in the field, such as humanitarian access and HC strengthening; (b) to engage with external policy networks and other expert entities; (c) to examine current tools and instruments for coordination to reflect longer-term strategies, addressing future vulnerabilities, risks and threats; (d) to collaborate more systematically with partners that address preparedness, transition, recovery and development; and (e) to reinforce regional strategies, including partnership with regional organizations. As it develops its new Strategic Framework for 2010-2013, OCHA will consider how best to position itself and support leadership in relation to these proposed strategies.
During the reporting period, OCHA continued to engage strategically with member states on emerging policy issues through the intergovernmental processes. The highlight of this engagement is the annual ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment (HAS), which is well attended by member states and humanitarian partners. In 2008, and during the ECOSOC HAS, OCHA organized two formal panels on the issue of the food crisis and the humanitarian implications of climate change. The panels provided comprehensive analysis of the selected topics, identified priorities and formulated possible strategies for consideration by all stakeholders. The ECOSOC segment also included eight side-events organized by OCHA, which highlighted issues such as the effectiveness of foreign military assets in natural disasters and gender equality programming in humanitarian action. OCHA also facilitated side-events organized by humanitarian partners. This provided a valuable advocacy opportunity to amplify partner policy recommendations on issues such as protecting persons affected by natural disasters and reducing disaster risk as a climate change adaptation strategy.
In preparation for the GA and ECOSOC Segment in 2008, OCHA prepared analytical policy reports on behalf of the Secretary-General on strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (A/63/81 — E/2008/71); International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development (A/63/277); Humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation for selected countries and regions (A/63/659); Humanitarian assistance and reconstruction of Liberia (A/63/295). The Secretary-General reports are an important policy tool for OCHA and the international humanitarian community, whereby humanitarian actors can present their major policy concerns, analyses and recommendations to member states. The reports and subsequent humanitarian deliberations by member states — which are substantively supported by OCHA — have throughout the years produced GA and ECOSOC resolutions that have normatively and operationally advanced the frameworks for the provision and coordination of humanitarian assistance.
Humanitarian Trends and Emerging Policy Issues: The Global Food Crisis
The consequences of the volatile food price peaks of 2008 triggered global recognition that an immediate and comprehensive response was necessary. The availability and higher cost of food had come with extra humanitarian, economic, political, and social consequences: increased risk of malnutrition, inflation and recession, violence and unrest, and possibly new waves of migration. Yet, if properly addressed, the crisis might prove an opportunity for the international community to formulate new partnerships and approaches to jointly tackle the deep-rooted problems of the global food system and food insecurity. Given the potential ramifications and opportunities, OCHA was called to action in both traditional and innovative ways.
At the headquarters level, OCHA demonstrated its leadership in bringing together relevant stakeholders to devise rapid response strategies. In April 2008, OCHA led a Secretary-General Policy Committee discussion that resulted in recommendations for the formation of a High-Level Task Force (HLTF) to coordinate information, advocacy and policy initiatives. The USG/ERC was subsequently asked to assume an additional role as the Coordinator of the HLTF in support of the Secretary-General, from 28 April 2008 to 1 January 2009. Supported by dedicated OCHA staff, he coordinated development, humanitarian and financial actors. In particular, he oversaw the main HLTF task of developing a Comprehensive Framework for Action (CFA), bridging the humanitarian and development agenda, and addressing both the immediate food crisis and broader food security.
At the country and regional level, OCHA offices reacted quickly. They provided analysis of the humanitarian impact, participated in inter-agency country-level food security assessments, and coordinated responses to increased humanitarian caseloads and complex operating environments. As the effects of the crisis varied from country to country, OCHA was asked to respond to differing challenges: increases in malnutrition; incidents of unrest requiring advocacy; demand for new fora and assessments; and the establishment of new partnerships.
OCHA drew on its various financial coordination mechanisms. Many 2008 Consolidated Appeals increased their food security and nutrition requirements at the mid-term. Four special food security appeals and action plans were issued during the year (Afghanistan, Haiti, Syria and Tajikistan) to combine short and medium-term actions. In May 2008, the USG/ERC announced that $100 million of existing CERF resources would be set aside; and many OCHA field offices intensified their roles in coordinating the additional CERF requests.
The global food crisis demonstrated that humanitarian needs continue to appear in countries with no obvious “triggering disaster” to attract humanitarian concern and funds. The USG/ERC has now focused on the role of the HLTF in coordination. Still, for OCHA and its partners the challenges will persist, as well as the expectations to reduce vulnerability.. These crises will oblige humanitarian and development organizations to work in parallel, not in succession — and donors to fund humanitarian stresses in development situations.
2.2 More strategic advocacy of humanitarian principles and issues
In 2008, the USG/ERC, senior managers and staff continued to raise awareness of humanitarian concerns and policies, promoting respect for humanitarian principles through systematic engagement with member states, regional organizations, the IASC and with counterparts in the United Nations Secretariat. Through various channels and mechanisms, OCHA pursued the primary aims of its advocacy and outreach: to speak out on behalf of people affected by humanitarian crises; to promote the protection of civilians; to prevent and end displacement wherever possible; and to maximize the effectiveness of humanitarian response. The development of context- and country-specific “key messages”, and their circulation to OCHA humanitarian partners, assisted in ensuring clearer and more unified messaging on these issues.
To increase awareness of humanitarian principles at the field level, OCHA regional and field offices developed advocacy action plans in consultation with humanitarian partners. These plans, endorsed by the relevant RCs/HCs, led to Humanitarian Country Teams more consistently raising awareness of the rights and needs of civilians affected by conflict or natural disaster. OCHA encouraged governments and parties to armed conflict to protect civilian populations in accordance with international humanitarian law, ensure the safety and security of aid workers, and allow access to affected populations for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
OCHA embarked on two strategic campaigns to highlight major humanitarian concerns: the humanitarian implications of climate change and the plight of internally displaced persons. These strategic campaigns aim to leverage the entire advocacy potential of OCHA, on the basis that a sustained and coherent approach across the organization is more likely to lead to a tangible outcome. Guidance and materials — including multimedia and online content — enable OCHA staff and partners to effectively promote campaign aims. The campaigns took advantage of the growing visual media capacity of OCHA, and its links with IRIN, to produce multimedia products to better convey campaign messages to target audiences.
Following extensive consultation and research, climate change campaign messages and multimedia materials were produced and released in December 2008, in time for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference in Poznan. Campaign materials and resources were distributed to OCHA staff and made public in preparation for a sustained campaign — in collaboration with IASC partners — in the run up to the Copenhagen Conference in December 2009.
The campaign on internal displacement was also launched in late 2008. OCHA continued to work closely with partner agencies — particularly the UNHCR, Norwegian Refugee Council, the SRSG on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons — on raising awareness of the plight of internally displaced through a series of high-level events, notably the 10th anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement in Oslo. (See www.ochaonline.un.org for more details of both campaigns).
OCHA continued its outreach to the media and the general public through strategically placed op-ed articles and a number of television, radio and print interviews, with a special focus on non-western outlets. The OCHA public information team gave or supported over 100 interviews covering all of the major complex emergencies and natural disasters that occurred over the course of 2008. The aim was to raise awareness and understanding of humanitarian action, and advocate for the needs of those affected and seeking funds for relief programmes. This work ensured that the USG/ERC’s humanitarian priorities and field missions received maximum attention and coverage. OCHA also provided briefings on humanitarian crises to universities, diplomatic missions and private and philanthropic organizations.
In order to strengthen the capacity of the organization’s Public Information Officers, OCHA held its first specialized training in April 2008 in Nairobi. The purpose was to bolster the skills required by staff for effective communication and outreach. Moreover, the aim was to deepen staff understanding of the humanitarian reform process, as well as issues such as internal displacement and the protection of civilians. Agreement was reached on the need to standardize the organization’s public information work through the development of policies and procedures, which is now well underway.
Member state engagement
Two-thirds of the G77 Member States were engaged throughout the year through targeted events in New York. The focus included such topics as the presentation of the Secretary-General’s report on Strengthening of the Coordination of Emergency Humanitarian Assistance of the United Nations. In Geneva, OCHA convened Member State briefings and advocated with donors in order to deliver key messages on humanitarian crises and to mobilize resources and political support for emergency situations around the world.
Humanitarian news and information
During the year, IRIN produced over 5,900 multi-lingual news and feature reports on issues of humanitarian concern identified by its Africa, Middle East, and Asia regional editorial staff. A strong continuing interest in IRIN's reporting was reflected in a 40 percent growth in subscriptions to the email service, with a total of 35,000 registered users at the end of the year. At least two million online readers accessed the website; millions more accessed IRIN material through newspapers, websites, radio and TV stations that use the service for free. IRIN produced five full-length film documentaries and 11 short features covering a range of issues including internal displacement (in DR Congo and the Philippines), HIV/AIDS, and climate change adaptation. In addition, some 1,800 free print-quality photographs from the field were made available for use by humanitarian partners with almost 25,000 downloads recorded during the course of the year. IRIN also published a number of new media products, including a number of “sound slides”, and a range of improved maps and graphics.
In 2008, IRIN continued to produce radio content for local broadcast, but phased out its projects in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, and Uganda to focus on enhancing humanitarian radio content and broadcast services in Afghanistan and Somalia.
The OCHA platform for sharing humanitarian information on natural disasters and complex emergencies, continued to act as a community-wide vehicle for timely and reliable advocacy on emerging crises. In 2008, ReliefWeb enhanced its products to support advocacy for OCHA strategic priorities, as well as highlighted under-reported situations through improved user experience, rigorous selection and framing of issues, maps, and other visual products. New products and features — such as interactive vacancies, collaborative filtering and RSS feeds — enhanced accessibility to information.
2.3 A Common Approach to Needs Assessments and Impact Evaluation
As the number of humanitarian actors grows, the key is to harmonize the work being undertaken. Harmonization ensures the complementarity and optimization of competitive advantage, without jeopardizing individual actor identities and mandates. Consistent with its responsibility to take a leadership role in humanitarian policy, OCHA is working with humanitarian actors to define common indicators and approaches for needs assessment, monitoring and evaluation. The development of common approaches strengthened predictability and accountability in humanitarian operations — both central elements of humanitarian reform.
The Assessment and Classification of Emergencies (ACE) Project was launched in October 2007 as the first step towards implementing OCHA’s strategic priority to develop “a common approach to needs assessments and impact evaluation”. The project aims to improve the basis on which relief actors identify needs and make decisions on the prioritization and allocation of resources, by supporting, harmonizing and improving the comparability of inter-agency assessment and analysis activities. This is an ambitious, long-term project, and its emphasis in 2008 was on mapping major needs assessment and humanitarian classification efforts; identifying commonly agreed indicators and definitions; and piloting the use of these indicators in two countries to help determine the severity of the humanitarian situation.
The Assessment and Classification of Emergencies (ACE) project conducted two interrelated consultation processes in 2008. The first process, to harmonize the supply side of humanitarian information, focused on mapping existing multi-sectoral needs assessment initiatives and key sectoral indicators. This process involved intensive bilateral consultations with clusters and agencies, as well as three multi-stakeholder meetings. The main results of the mapping were shared with the IASC WG for its commentary. The mapping report included a suggested framework for the sequencing of needs assessment activities, in accordance with the emergency timeline.
The second process, to address the demand side of humanitarian information, focused on the development of a tool to consolidate needs assessment and other core information for humanitarian decision-makers in a standardized and accessible manner. Based on a concept note developed by the ACE project, a multi-stakeholder workshop led to a consolidated humanitarian situation and response analysis tool. This “humanitarian dashboard” serves to inform decision-making on a real-time basis. A revised strategy for piloting the dashboard was developed with the goal of pilot testing of the tool by the end of 2009.
At its November 2008 meeting, the IASC endorsed the role of OCHA in facilitating the development of this consolidation tool. Meanwhile, the volume of input on needs assessment demonstrated a consensus regarding the necessity for more work in this area. Specifically, the IASC Working Group requested that OCHA pursue further complementarities between the clusters’ and sectors’ respective needs assessments initiatives. Greater harmonization of methodologies, indicators and collected information is being actively promoted by OCHA to improve inter-cluster assessment approaches.
In 2008, OCHA created and piloted a rough severity estimation tool for internal use in the event of disasters; this experience will be borrowed for developing the dashboard. The internal tool was piloted in five countries: Haiti, Honduras, Yemen, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. To improve needs assessment, OCHA worked with partners to integrate HIV as a priority cross-cutting issue into needs assessment and other areas of humanitarian action. These included emergency preparedness, response, and financing. In 2008, an Induction Package was created by a small inter-agency group within the IASC Task Force on HIV in Humanitarian Situations, incorporating OCHA, UNDP, WHO, UNHCR, and UNAIDS. The package clarified the main coordination arrangements, tools, and resources for addressing HIV in humanitarian contexts.
In 2008, OCHA developed a strategic-level monitoring system for appeal situations and guidelines for project prioritization. For the first time ever, a majority of CAPs were prioritized: each project in the appeal was given a priority score based on peer reviews by clusters and humanitarian country teams. The prioritization was further extended for the 2009 Consolidated Appeals, published in late 2008. The CAP Section developed a blueprint for strategic-level monitoring (with an additional module specifically for pooled funds) incorporated into the 2009 CAP guidelines.
The remaining challenges, namely of building consensus in the IASC on key indicators, thresholds and methods, are being addressed by the work of the ACE Project on needs assessment.
In 2008, OCHA and its partners developed a framework to conduct the second phase of the cluster evaluation and provide a clear conceptual basis for future impact evaluations. This evaluation framework was developed through broad-based multi-stakeholder consultation to guide the 2009 Cluster Phase 2 evaluation. The framework established a common set of indicators for assessing cluster effectiveness, by mapping impact across the individual clusters. The framework prompted requests to develop similar frameworks for impact evaluations of pooled funds and other humanitarian reform initiatives.
2.4 Protection Advanced at Global, Regional, and National Level
Protection of civilians is a core element of all principled humanitarian action, in both conflict and disaster settings; as such, it is central to all of OCHA primary functions. As conferred by the General Assembly and the Security Council, in particular, OCHA supports the USG/ERC and his mandate to: address issues of protection and assistance for internally displaced populations; report on the protection of civilians; advocate for adherence to international law; and, advocate for the rights of people in need. With a broad range of actors, through the IASC and with member states, OCHA works to mobilize and support an integrated response, ensuring that safety, security, dignity, integrity, and human rights are at the foundation of all humanitarian intervention. To strengthen predictability and accountability with partners and the organization’s wide range of stakeholders, OCHA also seeks to integrate protection as a core component of OCHA staff members’ skill set.
During the course of 2008, OCHA undertook a series of consultations with partners and member states. Negotiated through these consultations, and revised to reflect more adequately civilian protection developments with the Security Council, the Aide Mémoire on the Protection of Civilians was adopted in Security Council in January 2009.
To consolidate the interest generated during these consultations and the high level of engagement with member states, an informal Security Council Expert Group on the Protection of Civilians was also established in 2008. The group serves as an informal forum for timely discussions on pressing protection concerns, particularly in the context of the renewal or establishment of peacekeeping mandates.
As mentioned under Objective 2.2, in 2008, OCHA launched a global advocacy campaign to raise international awareness regarding the growing number of IDPs worldwide. The campaign seeks to strengthen multilateral response to internal displacement, including significant efforts to prevent displacement; end long-term displacement through durable solutions and dependency reduction; and, promote the meaningful participation of displaced populations in decision-making.
OCHA continued its institutional commitment to address sexual violence in conflict as a particular protection priority, with dedicated resources for the UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict initiative. Staff worked specifically to strengthen the operational coordination mechanisms of the Protection Cluster’s “area of responsibility” on on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) by: sharing inter-agency good practice; drafting assessment tools; and, contributing to the GBV coordination training efforts (led by UNFPA on behalf of the cluster). In June, OCHA further organized a meeting of academic experts and field practitioners. Its aim was to develop a common agenda to link study and practice for stronger policy and programming in 2009 and beyond.
OCHA hosted a global meeting of experts working on protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA) committed by humanitarian actors (UN, NGO, IGO) and supported the training of 90 field-based PSEA focal points. OCHA continues to provide inter-agency leadership in its role as Co-chair of the ECHA/Executive Committee on Peace and Security taskforce on PSEA. Working with partners, OCHA contributed to the Victim Assistance Policy adopted by the General Assembly. A detailed guide for implementation was developed for OCHA staff and IASC partners, to be piloted in 2009.
Building on the USG/ERC mandate to facilitate efforts to enhance humanitarian access, OCHA developed an Access Monitoring and Reporting Framework. The Framework aligns OCHA monitoring and reporting of access with a common standard, and informs both policy and operations related to access, particularly in situations of armed conflict. The Framework has received positive feedback within OCHA and from other humanitarian actors. Access monitoring results will serve as the basis for a report on humanitarian access, to be annexed to the Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council on the protection of civilians.
Within the framework of the humanitarian reform process and in view of the humanitarian implications of climate change, humanitarian protection actors stressed the need for increased focus on protection in natural disasters. Such protection represents a gap inadequately addressed during the humanitarian reform process. Subsequently, a global Protection Cluster working group on protection in natural disasters, with strong technical and staffing support from OCHA, was established in April 2008. Its main objectives are: (1) to strengthen accountability, leadership capacity and predictability for the protection cluster in disaster situations; and, (2) to strengthen preparedness and technical capacity to respond to disaster situations, and ensure that capacities are in place in the cluster to meet these responsibilities.
Throughout 2008, OCHA engaged with the AU to support their preparations for a summit on forced displacement, proposed for early 2009. As a key component of this initiative, OCHA provided legal, policy, and practical advice to the AU concerning a draft Convention on internal displacement, as well as other key summit background documents. The Convention, to be further elaborated and ratified in 2009, will provide clarity and consistency regarding the principles and approach for protecting the rights of those displaced by conflict, disasters, or other causes in the AU. The Convention should provide a far-reaching model for potential development in other regions.
OCHA has also offered significant support to the Secretariat of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). OCHA planned a workshop (to be held in 2009) for the development of a work plan to implement the Protocol on the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons, signed by member states of the ICGLR. Building on lessons learned, the workshop is key to ensuring that written commitments will be accompanied by well-considered and pragmatic steps for full implementation.
At the country level, protection was strengthened through the establishment/reinforcement of protection clusters, clear designation of accountable leadership, and development of consolidated protection strategies in more than 20 emergencies. OCHA provided support to the Protection Cluster globally to improve field linkages and country-specific support: guidance development, field deployments, and inter-agency consultations for improved field capacity. For instance, in Kenya, during the response to post-election violence, OCHA worked with the global protection cluster to deploy senior protection staff and field-based protection officers. OCHA strengthened capacities on the ground, drew on ProCap resources to complement agency activities, and actively linked advocacy strategies with the RSG on Human Rights of IDPs.
Protection Advanced: A Few Insights
- The advances in strengthening the predictability and accountability for protection of IDPs in conflict settings highlight the need to improve response for disaster contexts. A new framework for achieving heightened response is emerging for 2009.
- The potential role of the HC/RC in advocating the rights of affected populations and facilitating and integrated protection response has thus far been relatively overlooked in systems reform. A survey of a diverse range of actors served to identify necessary HC skills or knowledge for challenging field environments (legal frameworks, negotiation skills, inclusive advocacy strategies, etc.).
- The IDP Campaign was developed to reinforce displacement issues/solutions and ensure they remain at the top of the ERC agenda. The campaign resulted in clearer identification of policy and operational gaps, including displacement prevention, and contingency planning and preparedness.
- OCHA has also identified the need to support member states in assuming a leadership role in instituting principled policies and legislation for IDP protection. OCHA may facilitate greater peer support among member states in similar situations, thus exploiting regionally available capacities, resources, and expertise.
- The updating of the Aide Mémoire for the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict presently requires considerable research and consultation, and thus time/commitment. Bilateral consultations on the structure and content of the Aide Mémoire with Security Council member states are essential.
In addition, OCHA strengthened protection support for HCs at country level; this included the systematic integration of protection elements into the HC’s reporting to the USG/ERC. To best address outstanding HC/RC needs, OCHA also undertook a scoping project of HC/RC protection challenges, capacities, priorities, and expectations related to (field-specific) protection advocacy and legal frameworks. Building upon these consultations with the United Nations, HC/RCs, and INGOs, a scoping report was produced as the basis for a series of 2009 workshops.
During 2008, OCHA continued to host the secretariats for both Protection Stand-by Capacity (ProCap) and Gender Stand-by Capacity (GenCap) for inter-agency strategic deployments in new and prolonged emergencies. Through ProCap, 20 senior protection officers were deployed — to UNHCR, UNICEF, OHCHR, DPKO, as well as OCHA and HC/RC offices — in support of efforts to develop an integrated protection response to 15 crises. In addition, 80 stand-by protection experts were trained from seven NGOs and roster partners. GenCap deployed 26 advisors to support HCTs and clusters in 18 crises. This ensured that gender perspectives were incorporated into all humanitarian activities and violations were actively prevented. Consistent with humanitarian reform, both of these mechanisms directly benefit national operations, while also strengthening the predictability and protection response quality at the systems level.
OCHA capacity to support protection strengthened
OCHA continued its efforts to build strong capacity among field and headquarters staff to integrate support for protection activities into their core functions, consistent with OCHA internal policies and guidance. A series of workshops and capacity-building activities were undertaken for staff and with partners to address issues related to applicable legal frameworks, protection analysis tools, protection coordination mechanisms, advocacy, strategy development, preparedness and contingency planning, humanitarian access, support to HCs’ mandates, and working in stronger partnership with protection-mandated agencies. Workshops were held in two regional offices and nine country offices. Four more workshops were held specifically on GBV concerns.
Building on the need to integrate protection into all areas of OCHA work, specific emphasis was placed on internal training programmes which were developed in the course of the year, particularly for Emergency Roster deployments and for the revision of the Humanitarian Field Coordination Programme, ensuring that they contained explicit modules on protection. In support of field response, surge capacity for protection functions was also provided in new emergencies including Kenya and South Africa.
During each of these capacity-building efforts, consultations were also held with colleagues about their own work in supporting and promoting protection as a component of humanitarian action. Outcomes of these consultations have been used to strengthen and revise internal policy guidance and SOPs (approved 2009) so that OCHA protection support to HCs, partners, authorities and member states will be increasingly predictable and integrated into all functions.
2.5 Strengthened Information Management Based on Common Standards and Best Practices
The humanitarian community’s ability to share, manage, and exchange information continues to be characterized by challenges and opportunities. Timely, relevant and reliable information is increasingly expected to support evidence-based advocacy, decision-making and resource allocation. In 2008, OCHA addressed these challenges and opportunities at three levels. Firstly, OCHA built on the extensive 2007 review of its own information products and services, as well as that of its information management practices. Secondly, in collaboration with cluster/sector leads and their members, OCHA led inter-agency efforts to improve information management through the development of mutually-agreed policies and practices at the global level. Thirdly, OCHA strove to be a predictable partner through the application of global policies at the field level.
Building on the recommendations from the 2007-2008 Information Management Review, the Information and Communication Technology Review and the ERC’s Five-year Perspective, the Advocacy and Information Management Branch initiated a remodeling plan in the middle of 2008 to transform itself into the Communications and Information Services Branch (CISB). CISB provides a range of services to the organization to manage its information and to communicate it strategically to influence the policies and practices of key actors, e.g., through advocacy. The new structure for the branch reflects a streamlined approach to communication and information services that emphasizes building partnerships to meet the information needs of the humanitarian community, donors, affected governments, and the public.
Inter-agency collaboration at the global level and on the ground 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 WG in December, for the first time outlines the different information management responsibilities between OCHA and cluster/sector leads in emergencies.
The Operational Guidance also outlines information management responsibilities for intra-cluster coordination by the Cluster/Sector Leads, as well as OCHA information management responsibilities for inter-cluster coordination. Building on the outputs of the Inter-Agency Information Management Working Group, participating agencies recognized the need for continued efforts to improve humanitarian Information Management at the global level through the IASC. At the end of 2008, the IASC therefore established an 18-month Task Force on Information Management to strengthen inter-agency information exchange before and during emergencies. Consultations with humanitarian partners on the Humanitarian Information Centre (HIC) led to the IASC WG formally endorsing the revised ToR for HICs in May 2008.
With the introduction of the Online Projects System (OPS), OCHA also sought to strengthen the information management aspects of the CAP development process. Organizations can now post proposed CAP projects directly into a web-based system, which allows clusters (and agency headquarters, HCs, and OCHA) to peer-review them. The system also enables running totals for CAP and cluster funding requests, as well as OCHA publication of the projects electronically through the FTS. Introduced in September 2008, the first version of the OPS will be further refined in 2009, including a function for CAP revisions. The value of OPS has already been proven through better CAP selection and prioritization. The OPS also allows a more efficient transmission of project information from field to agency HQs, and then automatically into FTS.
In 2008, ReliefWeb continued to promote common standards and best practices by providing timely coverage of 28 emergencies and 124 natural disasters. This included the posting of over 39,000 response documents and 3,200 maps from humanitarian sources and partners. The outcomes of the Global Symposium +5 on strengthening humanitarian information management [http://www.reliefweb.int/symposium/] informed the development of its 2008 and 2009 work plans. This was reflected in the development of a ReliefWeb Handbook to promote web governance and capture best practices through OCHA Policy and Guidance initiative. The handbook incorporated agreed web content management policies, guidance, and standard operating procedures.
As part of improving web governance, OCHA improved the online CERF database and introduced an expanded search feature that allows for the easy extraction and manipulation of data, including time series analysis. All data on project applications, approval of projects, disbursement of funds, and contributions and pledges are updated daily in the database and pushed to the CERF website in real time. The CERF website is updated almost hourly as information becomes available, and the country pages on the CERF website include allocation information through I-frames.
OCHA further strengthened information management practices by improving the GDACS and the VOSOCC through automatic alerts, impact estimations, and real-time online information exchange among international responders in major sudden-onset disasters. Most donor countries and disaster response organizations worldwide assigned their Operation Centres to exchange operational information in all major disasters throughout 2008 and coordinate their activities with other actors.
In sum, OCHA took multiple steps to strengthen information management in 2008. The development of mutually-agreed information management policies and practices at the global level was and will continue to be fundamental to OCHA predictability and accountability. To strengthen information management in support of decision-making, OCHA recognizes it must further improve internal standards for humanitarian reporting. For instance, an inventory of existing OCHA websites located over 60 sites and applications with different visual designs and conflicting content. A review of these sites suggested that OCHA web presence is inefficient and contrary to best practices. Based on the findings, a new web portal will be developed integrating the multitude of OCHA sites, thus forging a cohesive online web space and identity.