Value and Reach of OCHA Field Presence
Strengthening the predictability and accountability of the international humanitarian system has been an OCHA priority since 2006, as reflected in the current Strategic Framework.
OCHA field and regional offices have been at the forefront of translating “humanitarian reform” into the normal way that humanitarian partners work together at the country level. In practice, resources are deployed to facilitate humanitarian country team development of inclusive humanitarian action plans and appeals, and contingency plans that, from the outset, build the cluster approach into planning. Day-to-day leadership is supported, so HC/RCs may effectively perform their complex duties. Millions of dollars are managed across the globe in country-based pooled mechanisms. Inter-cluster coordination and information management systems support crucial, time-sensitive decision-making processes. These are simply a few key elements that demonstrate the breadth of OCHA field presence support.
What is the value of OCHA coordination efforts in the greater scheme of the international humanitarian system? In 2008, OCHA work at the country level facilitated the coordination of humanitarian plans valued at $7.2 billion. OCHA field and regional presence cost less than 2% of that amount.
Field Offices: Europe
In August 2008, tension between Georgia and Russia erupted in a brief but intense military conflict. Although parties agreed upon a peace plan within a week, the clash left 135,000 displaced and affected, of which some 30,000 could not return to South Ossetia.
Beside a September OCHA-led inter-agency assessment mission, the de facto South Ossetian authorities refused the United Nations access for humanitarian relief and further assessment. Subsequent to the withdrawal of Russian troops from the areas adjacent to South Ossetia, the vast majority of the 135,000 IDPs returned home. Others occupied new settlements built by the Government of Georgia.
OCHA provided significant added value to the response, mainly in the areas of information management and inter-cluster coordination. A Flash Appeal was immediately issued in August to support winterization programs, food assistance, health care support, protection (including child protection), livelihoods, and other forms of humanitarian assistance. A revised Flash Appeal, totaling $115 million, was issued in October.
OCHA opened an office to support the United Nations RC/HC. In an effort to ensure a smooth transition, OCHA made it clear from the onset that the temporary office was scheduled to close by March 2009. Despite a few early reservations regarding the cluster approach in Georgia, its implementation principles were applied.
In addition, while the Tbilisi office supported RC/HC advocacy for humanitarian access to South Ossetia, the presence in Gori addressed coordination gaps.
Improved coordination structures at the global, regional, and national levels
OCHA assumed responsibility for Situation Reports and led cluster coordination. OCHA also supported coordination efforts by local authorities and the humanitarian community located in Gori, the primary humanitarian hub for supporting IDPs.
Strengthened information management based on common standards and best practices
OCHA produced the Who What Where (3W) database and maps. OCHA assisted with the humanitarian website established by UNHCR. OCHA helps update the website with maps, reports and contact lists.