Regional Offices

2008 marked the third year in OCHA realignment and consolidation of its global architecture, including the maturing of its regional office network. Policy guidance developed served to harmonize and standardize the roles, responsibilities and core services of regional offices. The resulting policy instruction clarified reporting lines for countries within a region and defined primary activities for regional offices:

Throughout the year, the role of OCHA regional offices became increasingly critical. The impact of global trends demonstrated the need to prepare for and respond to emergencies driven by a broad range of intersecting hazards, including the effects of climate change. In particular, the food price crisis challenged the OCHA regional office network by placing new demands on regional coordination efforts and expanding the set of humanitarian partners. OCHA response to Hurricane Nargis evidenced the critical surge response of regional offices to new emergencies in locations without OCHA offices. Meanwhile, ASEAN’s instrumental role in response to Nargis emphasized the benefits of regional office engagement with regional bodies.

Finally, regional offices strengthened preparedness through their support to UNDAC preparedness missions, contingency planning and pandemic preparedness. Prioritization of countries within each region was spearheaded through the further development and use of the Global Focus Model, which provided a sound, analytical basis for focusing limited resources.

The Global Focus Model (GFM)

The Global Focus Model (GFM) is a risk analysis tool, comprised of 16 indicators to identify countries that combine high potential for hazards and vulnerability with low capacity. The GFM covers 148 countries that currently fall under any of OCHA six regional offices. While it is grounded in quantitative data, the model also reflects specific country conditions that can influence the extent and type of assistance OCHA might provide. A “Focus” indicator, pertaining to the United Nations role and used entirely at the discretion of each regional office, reflects regional priorities and realities.

The GFM was rolled out to all regional offices in August 2007. The success in mainstreaming it in such a short period stems from the fact that the process was driven from the regional offices, based on identified needs.

In 2008, the GFM was used extensively to prioritize OCHA support for preparedness activities, such as inter-agency contingency planning, training on humanitarian coordination, and UNDAC preparedness missions. The GFM helped identify where OCHA should situate National Disaster Response Advisors. Regional offices called on the GFM to identify priority countries during OCHA work plan process. At all levels within OCHA, this ensured a more efficient and effective approach to providing preparedness support to RCs and HCTs.

In 2009, OCHA plans to expand the GFM by creating an online platform that will provide more in depth information on hazards, vulnerability and capacity through additional datasets and sub-national data. The expanded GFM will also focus on broader issues, such as climate change and the global financial crisis. The overall aim is to provide higher quality information to staff at headquarters, regional level and field level on the humanitarian context.

The Tripartite Core Group Responds to Cyclone Nargis

Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar on 2-3 May 2008, affecting some 2.4 million people living in Ayeyarwady and Yangon Divisions. According to official figures, nearly 140,000 people were killed or remain missing. With OCHA’s involvement, an agreement was reached leading up to the ASEAN-UN International Pledging Conference on 25 May 2008, to establish a Tripartite Core Group (TCG) comprised of representatives of the Government of the Union of Myanmar, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the United Nations.

The purpose of the TCG is to coordinate relief efforts and provide a forum for resolving issues affecting the delivery of relief assistance. The TCG has been instrumental in fostering cooperation among the three parties and collaborative undertakings such as the Post-Nargis Joint Assessment (PONJA); PONJA identified key humanitarian needs in the affected areas and was fundamental to a focused and coordinated Nargis response. Laying out a three-year recovery framework, the Post-Nargis Response and Preparedness Plan (PONREPP) now provides a platform for the transition from emergency relief and early recovery to medium-term recovery.

The TCG continues to be seen as a model on how the United Nations and regional organizations can work together on humanitarian issues, disaster risk reduction and emergency response. At the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in July 2008, the presence of ASEAN was extended into 2009, enabling the TCG to continue playing a vital role in the early recovery phase. Beginning in the fall of 2008, OCHA and ASEAN initiated a process of devising a joint framework for future collaborative humanitarian response in the region based on the Nargis experience. A first UN-ASEAN working-level workshop was convened by OCHA with ASEAN at the latter’s Secretariat in Jakarta to formalize this process.

Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

The Asia-Pacific region experienced several major natural disasters in 2008. In addition to the devastating effects of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and the Sichuan earthquake in China, large parts of South Asia were affected by monsoon flooding, most notably Bihar province in India. Lao PDR and Viet Nam also suffered the effects of unusually destructive floods during the second half of the year. Towards year’s end, sea swells in the Pacific flooded coastal areas in Papua New Guinea and several Pacific Island nations.

Complex emergencies in North-Western Pakistan and the Southern Philippines caused massive displacement, leaving hundreds of thousands in need of humanitarian assistance. The situation in Sri Lanka deteriorated significantly during the last months of the year, with particularly severe humanitarian consequences for civilians trapped in the conflict zone in the north of the country. Compounded by the impact of the global food crisis, climate change and ongoing influenza pandemic, these events placed heavy demands on OCHA and its humanitarian partners. While governments in these regions continued to strengthen relevant capacity, their reluctance to seek international assistance presented significant challenges to timely and effective humanitarian response.

Performance Evaluation

Improved coordination structures at the global, regional, and national levels

The regional Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) network played a crucial role during the initial phases of the Cyclone Nargis response, when limited access made close coordination at the regional level essential. The Regional Disaster Response Adviser (RDRA) for the Pacific led a contingency planning process, which was a major step forward in sub-regional coordination. At the country level, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP) led or co-facilitated workshops on coordination in China, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka. The regional office further supported IASC structures in Pakistan, the Philippines, and Papua New Guinea through national staff, including National Disaster Response Advisors.

Strengthened OCHA emergency response capacity

ROAP deployed staff to seven emergencies in the Asia-Pacific region in 2008, despite continuing challenges in obtaining visas and travel clearances. The office was a key source of surge capacity in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, with 12 staff members deployed during various stages of the response. A range of training was offered over the course of the year to ensure continued staff deployability. ROAP staff participated in United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) and Humanitarian Field Coordination Programme (HFCP) training. A total of 10 staff members underwent training in humanitarian reporting, while six took part in a CERF workshop, alongside IASC partners from the region.

Greater incorporation of disaster risk reduction approaches and strengthened preparedness in humanitarian response

ROAP supported inter-agency contingency planning processes in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and the Pacific sub-region. The regional office participated in UNDAC and International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) preparedness missions to Bhutan and the Philippines. Three data preparedness missions were further undertaken, while the office’s Avian and Human Influenza (AHI) Unit supported the revision of AHI contingency plans in 10 countries. The Unit also worked with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to develop a system of common indicators for assessing national-level multi-sectoral pandemic preparedness in those countries.

Action-oriented analysis of humanitarian trends and emerging policy issues

ROAP piloted a new weekly reporting format in 2008 that provides concise analytical updates on key humanitarian situations. This ensured regular coverage of countries without an OCHA field office. A humanitarian reporting workshop in Bangkok also helped strengthen the links between reporting and information management activities.

More strategic advocacy of humanitarian principles and issues

ROAP contributed to more strategic public advocacy during several complex humanitarian responses in 2008. It also facilitated more prioritized and systematic coverage of cross-cutting issues. The office supported country-level communications strategies in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, and Pakistan. Regional-level cluster lead organizations benefited from briefings, trainings and workshops on key policy elements. The events included a workshop with the Government of China on humanitarian coordination. The activities familiarized over 2,000 regional military and civil defence staff and humanitarian actors with civil-military coordination tools and humanitarian principles. Guidelines on contingency planning, protection, gender and HIV/AIDS were distributed to Humanitarian Country Teams throughout the region.

Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean

The frequency of natural disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) appears to be on the rise, with a third of the population now exposed to such catastrophes. Despite common belief, natural disasters in LAC extend beyond the Atlantic hurricane season. And prolonged normal rains have had an insidious and devastating effect. In 2008, LAC registered 102 disasters, 80 percent relating to hydro-meteorological events such as storms and floods, with approximately half in South America (54 percent). Flooding affected 55 percent of the population, while hurricanes affected 31 percent. This resulted in approximately 1,400 deaths, 10 million affected people, and damages worth over US$ 60 million.

Since 2001, OCHA ROLAC has continued to support: (1) the formalization of 18 United Nations Emergency Technical Teams (UNETT) and three Humanitarian Country Teams (HCTs); (2) the preparation of Inter-Agency Emergency Response Plans; (3) national/regional workshops and meetings; (4) technical advisory missions and teleconferences; and (5) the establishment of four posts of National Disaster Response Advisors.

New humanitarian tools, mechanisms, and financial structures necessitate more frequent and in depth trainings, orientations and coordination activities. Lessons learned from the 2008 disasters reinforced the need for close advisory support to United Nations Country Teams (UNCT), UNETT, HCT, Resident Coordinators, humanitarian partners and national authorities involved in preparedness and response.

Performance Evaluation

Improved coordination structures at the global, regional, and national levels

OCHA prepared materials and carried out UNETT/United Nations Disaster Management Team (UNDMT)/Government trainings, including: disaster preparedness and response activities; minimum preparedness activities; lessons learned; and humanitarian coordination mechanisms. OCHA provided critical guidance for the update of the Inter-Agency Emergency Response Plans and supported the creation/formalization of the HCTs in three priority countries (Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Peru). OCHA actively assisted with UNDAC Team Induction, Refresher, and Team Leader Courses.

OCHA has been particularly instrumental in creating a framework to: (1) provide all in-country humanitarian actors (notably: United Nations agencies, civil defence, and the international community) with preparedness tools, humanitarian response mechanisms, and coordination tools; and, (2) build institutional capacity for timely and effective humanitarian response.

Strengthened OCHA emergency response capacity

OCHA ROLAC significantly increased its emergency surge capacity by strengthening the NDRA structure. ROLAC added two regional disaster response advisers and trained Red Humanitaria (Redhum) assistants, as well as other office staff. The regional office effectively supported the deployment of six UNDAC response teams (Bolivia, Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras, Panama, and Turks & Caicos) and the UNDAC Evaluation on National Capacity and Disaster Response Preparedness Mission to Honduras. During the 2008 hurricane season, OCHA deployed regional staff and NDRAs for emergency response and the preparation of two Response Plans of Action (Colombia and Cuba). In addition, an expert was mobilized to Bolivia to support post-disaster activities through the Stand-by Partnership Program. To ensure successful missions, further clarity is required on the funding and operational commitments of Stand-by Partnership Program experts.

Greater incorporation of disaster risk reduction approaches and strengthened preparedness in humanitarian response

The 2008 Operational Plan guided the regional offices inter-agency work. Four thematic working groups were created and convened throughout the year. The Risk, Emergency and Disasters Task Force (REDLAC) maintained regular monthly working meetings, eight emergency coordination meetings, and other special thematic sessions with senior United Nations headquarters representatives and donors. It carried out Preparedness and Response Joint Missions (e.g. Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Honduras, and Panama) and facilitated workshops, meetings, and seminars with 17 countries. REDLAC also produced and rolled out a key study on the effects of Hurricane Mitch, synthesizing vital input from 13 regional organizations. As a whole, ROLAC was successful in promoting a robust inter-agency platform for disaster risk reduction and strengthened humanitarian response.

A common approach to needs assessments and impact evaluation

OCHA was particularly helpful in bringing together partners and reinforcing a common methodology. ROLAC promoted the REDLAC methodology for Rapid Needs Assessment (RNA) in all UNETT trainings (national and regional) and inter-agency field evaluation missions in the aftermath of natural disasters (in Guatemala, Honduras, Bolivia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Panama).

The results achieved, both in the creation and use of the RNA, are a direct outcome of the coordinated, joint work achieved through REDLAC. Moving forward, the RNA will require continued revision and improvement.

Strengthened information management based on common standards and best practices

With the intensive participation of Redhum Information Assistants in several countries — as well as United Nations agencies, NGOs, government, and humanitarian partners — OCHA successfully strengthened information management based on common standards and best practices. OCHA strong support has enabled Redhum to:

OCHA has advocated and promoted common standards and best practices in information management. And ROLAC was instrumental in the creation, growth and wide acceptance of the Redhum platform. In fact, Redhum staff received more than 30 requests to provide information sessions to inter-agency groups on information management concepts and tools.

Regional Office for the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia

In 2008, escalating conflicts in oPt, Afghanistan, and Yemen resulted in massive population displacements, deteriorating humanitarian conditions, and increasing protection concerns for civilians.

Natural disasters continued to adversely affect other countries, particularly those with limited national disaster management capacities. In 2008, Iran and Kyrgyzstan suffered from strong earthquakes. More than one hundred people were killed by severe floods in Yemen; and, thousands more lost their homes and livelihoods. Tajikistan experienced a compound crisis, when severe cold weather was aggravated by an energy crisis. For the entire region, the increase in global food and energy prices, coupled with the consequences of the global financial crisis, led to increased humanitarian needs and economic instability.

Over 1,300 people were killed in Gaza and thousands more were injured during the conflict that erupted at the end of 2008. The regional office (RO) supported relief efforts, including the coordination of aid to Gaza through Egypt. In Afghanistan, the civilian population suffered from ongoing armed conflicts, while natural disasters and economic crises further aggravated the already precarious humanitarian conditions. In Yemen, a ceasefire brokered between the Government and Al-Houthi followers in Sa’ada remained fragile, with more than 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs). Although the violence in Iraq subsided, 2.8 million internally displaced remain, while another two million found refuge in neighboring countries.

In responding to these humanitarian needs, the regional office faced a number of constraints, including a broad misperception that United Nations humanitarian arms are pursuing “Western” political agenda. Others relate to inadequate national capacity in disaster management; low capacity of international partners to address emergencies; lack of coherence in donor resource mobilization; limited humanitarian access; and, inadequate integration of humanitarian and development interventions.

Improved coordination structures at the global, regional, and national levels

The RO continued to act as the secretariat for a regional IASC Network for the Middle East and North Africa, which met twice to address key issues related to preparedness and response, leading to enhanced agency discussions on strategic issues. In 2008, the RO provided support to the establishment of an Aid Coordination Office in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a structure that will be strengthened and extended elsewhere. The Abu Dhabi launch of the 2009 Humanitarian Appeal in November 2008 marked a significant shift in regional attitudes towards multilateral funding mechanisms, as well as closer cooperation with the United Nations. The RO also contributed to finalizing of flash appeal and consolidated appeal process (CAP) in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, oPt, Iraq, Yemen and Syria. The RO also supported the Special Humanitarian Envoy for the Secretary-General to promote regional government engagement in the multilateral humanitarian system.

Performance Evaluation

Strengthened OCHA emergency response capacity

RO deployed staff, in most cases within 24 hours, to satisfy requests for general and specialized support from national governments and United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinators for coordination, needs assessments, resource mobilization, contingency planning, pandemic preparedness, information management, and public information. In 2008, the RO deployed support missions to Iraq, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Syria, oPt, and Yemen.

Greater incorporation of disaster risk reduction approaches and strengthened preparedness in humanitarian response

During 2008, in collaboration with the Emergency Services Branch, the RO continued to roll-out OCHA response tools and services at the regional level. This included UNDAC and INSARAG familiarization workshops in Qatar, Russia, UAE, Libya, and Oman, as well as a second regional United Nations Civil Military Coordination (CMCOORD) course in Qatar. The UAE hosted an INSARAG Africa/Europe/Middle East Regional Meeting. Regional cooperation was reinforced through negotiations on a regional disaster response center for Central Asia; a legal charter for such a center had been adopted by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. The Pandemic Influenza Contingency Planning (PIC) Unit in Cairo held capacity-building and preparedness events, including workshops in Bahrain, Kuwait, and Cairo, and simulation exercises in Egypt and Jordan. The PIC also carried out missions to support pandemic preparedness in Syria and Morocco. The RO was instrumental in conducting contingency planning processes in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), Syria, and Yemen, and simulation exercises on the earthquake response in Iran and Uzbekistan.

Strengthened information management based on common standards and best practices

Over the course of 2008, the RO Information Management Unit (IMU) advocated the provision of products and services for improved information management and decision-making support in emergency response. A website serves as a key humanitarian gateway. A web-page developed by the RDRA’s Office in Almaty hosts contact information, a 3Ws database, maps, an events calendar and key documents. The RO collected and compiled baseline data to support effective information management in an emergency. Various regional, thematic, and humanitarian profile maps were produced and disseminated among partners. The RO also produced 3Ws databases for priority countries. An online Contact Management Directory of key humanitarian partners in the region was developed. Throughout the year, IMU staff were deployed to support OCHA offices in Iraq and oPt, as well as Resident Coordinators’ Offices in Yemen and Lebanon.

More strategic advocacy of humanitarian principles and issues

Along with key counterparts, the RO held humanitarian reporting workshops to equip regional journalists with knowledge of the international humanitarian system for accurate reporting. The RO produced a number of articles and op-eds with regional media outlets, and OCHA representatives conducted interviews on humanitarian concerns. In addition, OCHA staff presented to regional partners, including schools, universities and non-governmental organization (NGO) consortia. The RO continued to provide support to the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development (DIHAD) Conference and Exhibition, an important platform for knowledge-sharing. In addition to ad hoc situation reports and press releases, the RO produced and disseminated a monthly humanitarian update and a quarterly humanitarian funding update. The RO further advocated the increased engagement of regional governments and organizations through events such as quarterly donors’ briefings. Gender issues related to emergencies and climate change were also mainstreamed in the strategic objectives and advocacy initiatives.

Regional Office for Central and East Africa

Outbursts of armed conflict or violence engulfed several countries in Central and East Africa region during 2008, causing humanitarian emergencies. Flashpoints included the January post-election violence in Kenya and the June Eritrea/Djibouti border clashes. Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) also faced massive displacement as the result of sustained hostilities between the Congolese military and the armed group Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP).

At the same time, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) attacks on civilians spread across Southern Sudan and northern DRC. The violence resulted in numerous deaths and increased the number of IDPs and refugees. In 2008, an overall lack of civilian protection represented a serious and persistent concern throughout the region. The Chad-Cameroon-Central African Republic (CAR) sub-region lingered on as a protracted, complex emergency despite scaled-up humanitarian presence and interventions. This was also true in the Darfur region of Sudan, the Karamoja region of Uganda and the Somali region of Ethiopia. Some countries continued to strengthen their peace-building, such as Burundi; but these processes remained fragile.

By year’s end, the combined number of IDPs and refugees stood at a staggering 10.9 million. Their need for humanitarian relief and protection shows no sign of diminishing.

In parallel, vulnerable communities across the entire Horn of Africa descended into a humanitarian crisis driven by drought and soaring food and fuel prices. This affected the lives and livelihoods of more than 17 million people. Pastoralists were increasingly singled out as extremely vulnerable to climatic shocks, as well as inter-communal violence driven by scarce resources and political marginalization. Meanwhile, the urban poor emerged as a new major category of people requiring humanitarian assistance.

Humanitarian organizations carried out their challenging work in the face of increased insecurity and direct targeting of their aid workers. Thirty-four humanitarians were killed and 26 abducted in Somalia alone in 2008; over 100 security incidents targeting aid workers were recorded in Eastern DRC. Access remained severely constrained in many of these settings, putting populations at risk of more threats and less support.

In all areas of Regional Office for Central and East Africa (ROCEA) expertise, the number of country office and partner requests for support increased relative to previous years; and the consolidation of the Regional Humanitarian Partnership Team (RHPT) added significant workload. While the office reinforced its partnership building initiatives on a regional level, some requests had to be re-directed elsewhere. In addition, the volatile humanitarian situation regularly required immediate surge capacity missions to support field operations, which slowed down planned activities with regional counterparts. While the office does not maintain supervisory oversight for field operations, it nevertheless provided programming and technical support for the operations. The challenge remains the collection, analysis, and dissemination of good data, which affects the quality and timeliness of regional analysis used by a large number of partners and stakeholders.

Performance Evaluation

Improved coordination structures at the global, regional, and national levels

ROCEA established the Regional Humanitarian Partnership Team (RHPT — the equivalent to a regional IASC) in May 2007. The identification of a few key projects strengthened the RHPT. At the same time, the RO involvement with the Regional Directors’ Team for Eastern and Southern Africa became more predictable. ROCEA ensured the provision of humanitarian inputs for the Horn of Africa crisis. Moreover, the RO contributed to the reshaping of the Regional Emergency Preparedness and Policy Group; it brought INGOs and United Nations agencies together to increase focus on preparedness rather than response.

Greater incorporation of risk reduction approaches and strengthened preparedness in humanitarian response

ROCEA provided extensive support to countries in their preparedness and fundraising activities. This was achieved through direct and remote assistance, as well as training and workshops. Due to the high number of crises in this region, countries acknowledged the added value of support to joint preparedness.

Action-oriented analysis of humanitarian trends and emerging policy issues

ROCEA prioritized and improved existing humanitarian reporting products. It introduced the Horn of Africa Crisis Report in response to the drought and livelihood crisis in the Horn of Africa. ROCEA expanded the production and quality of custom maps to partners in support of decision-making. This was achieved through heightened collaboration and reporting practices with regional thematic and sector working groups.

Strengthened information management based on common standards and best practices

ROCEA strengthened information management based on common standards and tools, as well as the sharing of best practices. Activities focused on network-building and support to cluster coordination at the country level.

Protection advanced at global, regional, and national levels

ROCEA supported inter-agency and inter-governmental body initiatives and joint programming, and the office promoted protection as a cross-cutting issue.

Regional Office for Southern Africa

Southern Africa experienced a number of threats in 2008, including climate change, regional migration, higher food and fuel prices, and HIV/AIDS. For a second consecutive year, a combination of floods and cyclones battered Angola, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, affecting more than a million people. These natural disasters — compounded by rising food and fuel prices — brought food insecurity to nearly eight million. 2008 further saw a spike in water-borne diseases such as cholera, particularly in endemic areas.

Zimbabwe’s continuing economic decline and the contested March elections resulted in a significant number of internally and externally displaced. In South Africa, violence against foreign nationals and some South African citizens led to 60 deaths while 40,000 persons were internally displaced; another 41,621 fled to neighboring countries.

ROSA took numerous steps forward in strengthening preparedness and reducing risk. Still, difficulties remain in addressing multiple countries affected simultaneously. Describing the needs of migrants of humanitarian concern was increasingly critical in Southern Africa in 2008. This challenging task underscores the important requirement of a common humanitarian position on migrants.

Performance Evaluation

Greater incorporation of disaster risk reduction approaches and strengthened humanitarian preparedness

In 2008, OCHA provided surge capacity to Comoros, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zambia — countries affected by floods and civil unrest. A regional Flash Appeal was launched, which for the first time included disaster risk reduction and preparedness components. ROSA strengthened preparedness activities and provided technical support to nine countries for the revision of their Contingency Plans according to the IASC guidelines. Of these, seven countries completed contingency plans to integrate PIC — Botswana, Comoros, Mauritius, Madagascar, Namibia, and Swaziland. In partnership with the South African Development Community (SADC), ROSA convened a Regional Training Workshop for Flooding, Cyclone and Drought Preparedness for the 2008/09 flood/cyclone season. Additionally, ROSA and WHO convened a Regional Consultative Meeting on Pandemic Preparedness in Southern Africa for disaster managers, with full government and UNCT presence.

A strategy enabling seamless transition and early recovery

ROSA supported the development of a prioritized Regional Inter-Agency Coordination and Support Office (RIACSO) action plan through joint work planning with the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) and Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR). The aim of the plan was to strengthen linkages between humanitarian response and longer-term development, including disaster risk reduction. ROSA and UNDP/BCPR provided joint staffing to Resident Coordinators offices in two countries (Madagascar and Zambia) to support this approach. ROSA is a member of the Regional Directors Team (RDT) Quality Support Assurance cluster in Johannesburg. As such, it has provided technical support to the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) planning processes in Angola, Botswana, and the Seychelles. ROSA also supported Malawi and Namibia with media training focused on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) reporting.

Action-oriented analysis of humanitarian trends and emerging policy issues

The ROSA Information Management Unit, in collaboration with partners, established inter-agency working groups to improve humanitarian trend analysis and information-sharing in response to xenophobic violence, high food prices, cholera, and regional migration. This was achieved through contact management, consolidation of baseline data for the region, data repositories, and IM products such as 3Ws, mapping, event timelines, and public information. ROSA also strengthened information management capacity to support multiple coordination efforts in Madagascar, Mozambique, and Zambia.

Improved coordination structures at the global, regional, and national levels

The SADC increasingly identified the need for a stronger coordinated approach in disaster preparedness and response. National roadmaps for the completion of preparedness and contingency plans were developed at the 2008 SADC regional training workshop for flooding, cyclone and drought preparedness and contingency planning. Parties agreed that the SADC Secretariat would become focal point and clearing house for all DRR information. ROSA worked closely with SADC to promote sustainability of interventions. ROSA continued to chair bi-monthly meetings of regional humanitarian partners in RIACSO.

Protection advanced at the global, regional, and national levels

ROSA supported strategic and operational coordination for common advocacy, operational coordination and response. In particular, ROSA was instrumental in advocating for the human rights of IDPs, in regards to the attacks against foreign nationals in South Africa in providing technical advice and guidance on a reintegration plan. ROSA supported several initiatives that trained in total 149 disaster managers on various aspects of the protection agenda in the region. These included: training workshops by the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights of IDPs in Madagascar (30 people), Mozambique (25 people) and South Africa (45 people). In total, 100 disaster managers were trained on the human rights of IDPs. OCHA also supported a training workshop on Gender Equality and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Programming in Humanitarian Action for cluster actors in which 22 focal points from 11 countries participated. In addition, ROSA also supported a training workshop on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and 27 participants (United Nations and NGO) were trained from 12 countries.

Regional Office for West Africa

West Africa remained a highly vulnerable region in 2008. The threats to lives and livelihoods were numerous: natural disasters and climate change; food insecurity and malnutrition; youth unemployment and irregular migrations; rapid urbanization and acute urban vulnerability; coups d’état (Guinea, Guinea Bissau and Mauritania) and cross-border criminal networks (narcotics and arms smuggling). These realities severely affected ongoing poverty reduction programs. They further undermined the fragile progress toward peace and stability and the reduction of humanitarian need.

Following the kidnapping of the United Nations Special Envoy, the security situation in Northern Mali and Niger drew significant attention. Low intensity conflicts simmered, reducing humanitarian access, endangering civilians, and affecting food security. Compounded by the escalation in commodity prices, food security was a particular concern in the Sahel. The erosion of coping mechanisms there and elsewhere compelled governments, donors, and humanitarian actors to coordinate their efforts to minimize the destabilizing impact on social stability and cohesion. Meanwhile, a rise in narcotics smuggling and small arms trafficking presented further challenges.

The conflict and violence had serious repercussions on humanitarian relief operations and actors. The Regional Office for West Africa (ROWA) was confronted with a shrinking humanitarian space and diminishing access. As a result of the growing insecurity, the office was unable to carry out any joint assessment mission in Northern Niger and Mali. And due to the global financial outlook and associated budgetary restrictions, activities were cancelled or postponed.

Performance Evaluation

Improved coordination structures at the global, regional, and national levels

ROWA reinforced the coordination and use of humanitarian tools to 10 United Nations teams through support missions (contingency planning, field simulations, appeals and CERF, data preparedness, policy advice and early warning, advocacy, field assessments, etc.) — primarily emphasizing the cluster approach and CERF. At the regional level, the CAP remains the main frame for strategic and technical coordination processes (eight IASC-like thematic groups). In some instances, the Emergency Working Group convened stakeholders in 24 hours or less and provided effective guidance and support to field teams.

Greater incorporation of risk reduction approaches and strengthened preparedness in humanitarian response

In Dakar in April, ROWA organized a regional consultation to share lessons learned from the 2007 floods and prepare for possible 2008 floods. Natural disaster management officers from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member states and experts from the ISDR participated in this planning process. ROWA reactivated the regional platform on natural disasters, which focuses on early warning, information-sharing and coordinated responses. It handed over the chairmanship to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

A common approach to needs assessments and impact evaluation

West African Civil Defence specialists developed a rapid needs assessment form. The intention is to merge this tool with the one developed by OCHA Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean (ROLAC) for wider use during the 2009 rainy season. An online “Survey of Surveys” on food security and nutrition was integrated into the ROWA website. It provides completed, on-going and planned assessments throughout the region. And it also includes links to an online report library for completed assessments reports.

Protection advanced at the global, regional, and national levels

Continuous support to the regional inter-agency protection working group focused on strengthening the technical capacity of countries to collect, produce, and disseminate protection data (including GBV); ensure proper reflection in the CAP; and develop evidence-based advocacy.

African Union Liaison Office

Since its establishment in 2002, the African Union (AU) has assumed roles and responsibilities much wider in scope and more complex in nature than its predecessor, the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Important work includes leading efforts to mediate and settle crises in various countries such as Sudan and Somalia. Such commitment created unprecedented possibilities to enhance OCHA strategic partnerships with the African Union Commission (AUC) and respective regional organizations, particularly the Regional Economic Communities (RECs). It positioned the continental organization as the principal strategic entry point for the United Nations and other international organizations in Africa. Currently, some 21 non-African countries and organizations are accredited to the AUC, with established representation in Addis Ababa.

The groundwork having been laid, the OCHA-AU liaison office was established in September 2008 to support this cooperation and further facilitate AU interaction with the relevant OCHA regional offices, divisions, and branches. In effect, Africa bears the majority of current humanitarian crises — and constitutes approximately 70 percent of OCHA global presence.

Main areas of OCHA/AUC collaboration include:

OCHA functions are aligned with three AUC Directorates:

While the liaison office is still very new, the AUC is already benefiting from restructured relationships and more effective engagement focused on enriching humanitarian response through the establishment of processes, deliberations, and policies.

To enhance OCHA/AU collaboration vis-à-vis the wider humanitarian agenda, the office immediately initiated an assessment of relevant AUC Department/Directory capacity. Areas identified for potential collaboration include:

OCHA and the AUC are presently in the process of institutionalizing their cooperation through a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and action plan governing future collaboration.