OCHA Organizational Structure — Annotated
OCHA’s executive management consists of the Offices of the Under-Secretary-General/Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Assistant Secretary-General/Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, as well as the Offices of the Directors of New York, Geneva and the Coordination and Response Division.
The Under-Secretary-General/Emergency Relief Coordinator serves as the principal adviser to the Secretary-General on all humanitarian issues. The Under-Secretary-General/Emergency Relief Coordinator has three primary tasks: humanitarian policy development and coordination in support of the Secretary-General; advocacy of humanitarian issues and provision of guidance and direction to United Nations Resident Coordinators and Humanitarian Coordinators; and coordination of international humanitarian response. The Under-Secretary-General/Emergency Relief Coordinator oversees the Executive Office, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) and the Executive Committee for Humanitarian Affairs (ECHA). In the area of disaster risk reduction, he also oversees the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), and provides leadership through his chairmanship to the ISDR Management Oversight Board and the Global Platform for Disaster Reduction. With an emphasis on key policy issues, strategic planning, management and staff security, the Assistant Secretary-General/Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator supports the work of, and is principal adviser to, the Under-Secretary-General/Emergency Relief Coordinator. The Assistant Secretary-General provides direct managerial supervision of OCHA, ensuring effective cooperation between headquarters (New York and Geneva) and field offices. The Assistant Secretary-General oversees the Strategic Planning Unit, which was established to manage the development and implementation of OCHA’s corporate strategic planning processes and promote the application of results-based management within OCHA.
Executive and Administrative Offices
The Executive Office in New York and the Administrative Office in Geneva work closely together and are primarily concerned with: finance and budget; human resources; and staff development and training.
The Executive Office is OCHA’s internal authority on policy issues, interpreting United Nations Staff and Financial Regulations and Rules and providing overall guidance on related administrative instructions and procedures. The Executive Office supports senior management in formulating human resources development initiatives including training and development strategies, succession planning, staff mobility and rotation, and rostering. The Executive Office coordinates departmental programme budgets and presentations to legislative bodies and manages the Trust Fund for the Strengthening of OCHA and its related Special Account for Programme Support (which funds administrative activities in New York).
Under the overall strategic direction of the head of the Executive Office, the Administrative Office manages the Trust Fund for Disaster Relief (the main source of funding for field activities) and its related Special Account for Programme Support (which funds administrative activities in Geneva). It manages the receipt and expenditure of funds, provides management and (financial) donor reporting, guides field staff and desk officers on the availability and use of funds, supports the procurement of goods and services, and undertakes the recruitment and deployment of field staff.
Office of the Director, New York
The Director, New York, oversees the functioning and daily management of the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) Secretariat, the Funding Coordination Section (FCS) and the Trust Fund for Human Security. The Director, New York also manages the New York Donor and External Relations Section and the IASC/ECHA Secretariat. The Director, New York has overall management responsibility for the Communication and Information Services Branch (CISB) (formerly AIMB) and the Policy Development and Studies Branch (PDSB).
Funding Coordination Section
The Section was established in September 2008 to provide support and guidance to OCHA field offices in the establishment and management of field based pooled funds; and to harmonize the establishment and management of these funds. It will ensure complementarity between the field based (Common Humanitarian Funds and Emergency Response Fund) and global (CERF) pooled funds, as well as ensure linkages between global and field discussions on humanitarian financing.
Communications and Information Services Branch
The Communications and Information Services Branch, previously known as the Advocacy and Information Management Branch, was remodeled in Fall 2008 as a result of the recommendations from the 2007-2008 Information Management Review, the Information and Communication Technology Review and the Emergency Relief Coordinator’s Five-year perspective.
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., advocacy. The branch works with OCHA entities at headquarters, as well as with regional and field offices. It maintains alliances with donors and member states; IASC member agencies including cluster leads; NGOs, international media, research, think tanks and academia, humanitarian information source and partnership networks and communities of practice; and geographic/ geospatial source and partnership networks.
The new structure for the branch reflects a streamlined approach to communication and information services. Within CISB are the Communications Services Section (the former Advocacy and Public Information Section), which is comprised of the Public Information Unit, the Advocacy Unit and the Visual Media Unit; the Information Technology Section, the Information Services Section (an expanded Field Information Service, which is comprised of the Field Information Services Unit, the Strategic Information Services Unit and the Reporting Unit), the Web Services Section, ReliefWeb and the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). These sections offer a wide range of products and services including communications; public information and media services; online platforms and web-based tools in support of advocacy; coordination and policy; information management; and technology and telecommunications support. CISB emphasizes building partnerships and meeting the information needs of the humanitarian community, donors, affected governments and the public. Quality standards and best practices inform CISB service delivery and are promoted by the branch to strengthen the capacity of partners to deliver information in support of effective and principled humanitarian action.
Policy Development and Studies Branch
The Policy Development and Studies Branch supports effective emergency response coordination and advocacy efforts by providing leadership on humanitarian policy, evaluation and best practice, and ensures the integration of humanitarian principles, protection concerns, lessons learned and agreed policies into operational planning. In cooperation with other OCHA branches, United Nations Secretariat partners and the operational agencies of the United Nations system, as well as with the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement and humanitarian NGOs, think tanks and the academic community, PDSB identifies emerging humanitarian trends and supports the development of common policy positions among humanitarian agencies. PDSB also works with OCHA field and regional offices in providing policy advice and identifying emerging policy issues at field and regional levels and adapting them into concrete guidance and analytical tools for use by field practitioners.
The Protection of Civilians Section promotes the systematic consideration of protection of civilians’ issues by the Security Council as well as regional organizations at policy and operational levels, and provides advice to the field on how to respond to specific issues affecting civilians in times of armed conflict. The Adviser to the Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons supports him in policy development and in his dialogue with governments and his missions.
The Evaluation and Studies Section is responsible for planning and implementing evaluations both as learning tools to improve OCHA’s response and as accountability tools to measure the performance and effectiveness of humanitarian action (beyond OCHA). The Policy Planning and Analysis Section strengthens OCHA’s capacity to link humanitarian policies and practices more directly with operational decision-making at the country level. The Disaster and Vulnerability Policy Section focuses on the development of guidance and tools to make policy more effective, specifically in relation to disasters associated with natural hazards. The Intergovernmental Support Section supports the work of intergovernmental bodies, contributes to greater awareness and application of humanitarian policies and principles by promoting systematic and informed policy dialogue among Member States, including through United Nations organs (the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council) as well as regional and sub-regional organizations.
PDSB also manages three projects: the Assessment and Classification in Emergencies Project, to support the inter-agency development of a common humanitarian classification system and definitions; the Guidance Management Project, which oversees the development of normative corporate guidance for greater organizational coherence and professionalism; and the Gender Advisory Team, which supports the mainstreaming of gender equality programming into humanitarian action. An additional limited capacity was added to PDSB in 2009 to better equip OCHA and its partners to deal with the effects of the global food crisis.
Coordination and Response Division
The Director of the Coordination and Response Division (CRD) oversees the day-to-day management of all OCHA field and regional offices and is responsible for coordinating all country-level humanitarian strategies. The Director assumes the lead role within OCHA in advising the Under-Secretary General/Emergency Relief Coordinator on operational decision-making for response.
Through the geographic desks, the CRD provides technical support to Humanitarian Coordinators and Resident Coordinators, OCHA offices and Humanitarian Country Teams. In particular, the Division supports OCHA’s in-country efforts to promote effective and inclusive coordination mechanisms in humanitarian contexts, including in highly insecure environments, environments with a multi-dimensional peacekeeping operation or special political mission, and humanitarian crises in transition.
The Division serves as the main conduit of information and support between the field and headquarters, facilitating effective interaction amongst all OCHA branches and its regional and field offices.
In support of the Under-Secretary General/Emergency Relief Coordinator, CRD contributes to the work of IASC and ECHA and to the shaping of inter-agency policies. CRD is also the working level interface with Secretariat departments, in particular the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Political Affairs regarding humanitarian operations and promotes coherence amongst United Nations strategies.
Office of the Director, Geneva
The Director, Geneva, has management responsibility for: the Displacement and Protection Support Section; the Humanitarian Coordination System Strengthening Project; the Humanitarian Reform Support Unit; and, as chair of the IASC Working Group, the IASC Secretariat. The External Relations and Support Mobilization Branch and the Emergency Services Branch also fall within the overall management responsibilities of the Director, Geneva. The Director, Geneva, serves as the focal point for liaison and networking among OCHA’s Europe-based partners.
Displacement and Protection Support Section
The Displacement and Protection Support Section (DPSS) was established in 2007 to build on the success of the former inter-agency Internal Displacement Division. Working with field offices and country teams, as well as with the Global Protection, Camp Coordination and Camp Management and Early Recovery Clusters, DPSS has three key priorities. The first is to support the implementation of the ERC’s mandate to monitor and strengthen the inter-agency response to internal displacement. The second is to support the implementation of OCHA’s policy instruction on protection at international and field levels and to strengthen OCHA’s capacity to incorporate protection into core functions. The third priority is to augment and maintain inter-agency capacity to respond to protection crises particularly situations of internal displacement through the Protection Standby Capacity Project (ProCap) initiative.
Humanitarian Reform Support Unit and Humanitarian Coordination System Strengthening Project
The Humanitarian Reform Support Unit (HRSU) and the Humanitarian Coordination System Strengthening Project (HCSP) work closely together to assist OCHA and its partners in implementing humanitarian reform — thereby strengthening field-level coordination, partnership and leadership. HRSU has three main areas of responsibility. The first is to facilitate the development of IASC policies, guidelines and the tools necessary to operationalize the cluster approach. The second is to communicate key messages and ensure appropriate training of primary stakeholders. The third main area is to advise relevant actors on how to use the cluster approach and other reform-related initiatives during contingency planning and in response to emergencies and disasters. HCSP provides effective and coherent support to Resident Coordinators and Humanitarian Coordinators on key humanitarian issues. It also aims to enhance their leadership and coordination skills as well as expand the pool of Humanitarian Coordinators.
Inter-Agency Standing Committee/Executive Committee on Humanitarian Affairs Secretariat
The Inter-agency Standing Committee is an inter-agency forum for humanitarian dialogue and decision-making among key humanitarian partners, involving the United Nations, international organizations, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs. Under the chairmanship of the Emergency Relief Coordinator, the primary role of the IASC is to shape humanitarian policy and ensure coordinated and effective response. The Geneva-based IASC Secretariat facilitates the work of the IASC. The Emergency Relief Coordinator also chairs the Executive Committee on Humanitarian Affairs, which brings the humanitarian components of the United Nations system together with the development, human rights, political, peacekeeping and security arms of the United Nations Secretariat and Agencies to address important humanitarian issues and crises. The IASC/ECHA Secretariat in New York facilitates the work of both the IASC and ECHA in New York, and reports to the Director, New York.
External Relations and Support Mobilization Branch
The External Relations and Support Mobilization Branch is responsible for strengthening OCHA’s partnerships with humanitarian actors. It is the catalyst for mobilizing support for humanitarian action by liaising with partners in support of prioritized and strategic common humanitarian action plans for crises worldwide. It promotes the humanitarian agenda and OCHA-specific activities in headquarters and the field. The Public Information Officer provides the media with timely and relevant information on emergencies and OCHA activities.
The Consolidated Appeals Process Section supports field offices and desk officers in appeal development and review. The Donor and External Relations Section is primarily responsible for securing support and resources for the effective implementation of OCHA’s activities. It is the first point of contact in OCHA for the donor community. The Geographical Coordination and Monitoring Section is the substantive focal point in OCHA Geneva for all matters pertaining to humanitarian operations. During sudden onset disasters, GCMS backs up the desk outside New York working hours, thereby enabling round the clock OCHA coverage. The OCHA Liaison Office in Brussels focuses on influencing policy and decision-making related to humanitarian affairs, and strengthening partnerships with European-based organizations particularly the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, NGOs and the United Nations system in Brussels. The Liaison Office also monitors humanitarian policy debates and promotes the adoption and use of United Nations principles, guidelines and operational standards among partners.
Emergency Services Branch
The Emergency Services Branch (ESB) ensures OCHA’s quick and effective response to natural disasters and other rapid-onset emergencies, using an integrated package of internationally recognized services and tools.
The Civil-Military Coordination Section is the United Nations system’s focal point for civil-military coordination and use of foreign military and civil defence assets in humanitarian emergencies. The Section is responsible for the United Nations Humanitarian and Civil-Military Coordination Training Programme, supports military exercises and is the custodian of related United Nations and IASC guidelines and documents.
The Emergency Preparedness Section (EPS) implements disaster preparedness work in a coherent and systematic manner within OCHA and works in partnership with the disaster management community. EPS works to promote the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action, in particular to strengthen disaster preparedness for effective response at all levels (priority five). Within EPS is the Environmental Emergencies Unit, a partnership between OCHA and the United Nations Environment Programme to provide international assistance to countries facing environmental emergencies and natural disasters with significant environmental impact. The Pandemic Influenza Contingency Project assists United Nations and Humanitarian Country Teams and national governments to prepare and plan for pandemics using a coordinated, multi-sector approach — improving readiness in the event of a mega-catastrophe. It also has the additional responsibility of helping OCHA in Geneva, field and regional offices to develop robust business continuity plans.
The Emergency Relief Coordination Centre (ERCC) is designed to support the organization’s coordination role in disasters and humanitarian emergencies. ERCC acts as the Secretariat for the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System, which provides alerts and impact estimations after major sudden-onset disasters and serves as a platform for operational information exchange and coordination to disaster responders worldwide. The Logistics Support Unit is the focal point within OCHA for non-military logistics issues. It manages a stock of basic relief items and the global mapping of relief stockpiles. Additionally, it contributes to inter-agency discussions on logistical aspects of emergency relief.
The Field Coordination and Support Section’s role is to strengthen the coordination capacity of OCHA and affected governments during the emergency phase following a disaster, while more generally contributing to OCHA’s mandate to boost response preparedness in developing countries.
The Surge Capacity Section plays a central coordination and advisory role on surge within OCHA. It is responsible for the timely deployment of humanitarian professionals from the Stand-by Partnerships Programme and OCHA’s Emergency Response Roster during the initial phase of emergencies and disasters in support of Resident Coordinators and Humanitarian Coordinators, Humanitarian Country Teams and field offices.
Regional, Field and Regional Disaster Response Adviser Offices
In 2008, OCHA had 24 field offices of which fourteen were in Africa. Offices in Georgia and Myanmar opened in 2008. Offices in Timor Leste and Burundi closed. Through its coordination activities on the ground and interaction with governments and other partners, OCHA field offices advocated for the preservation of humanitarian space and humanitarian access and promoted international humanitarian law. When there was a lack of political engagement or an absence of media attention, OCHA field offices advocated for forgotten or under-funded emergencies.
OCHA also has six regional offices: Central and East Africa; Southern Africa; West Africa; Asia and the Pacific; Latin America and the Caribbean; and, the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. In addition, the OCHA African Union Liaison Office was established in September 2008 to support regional cooperation and facilitate interaction with the African Union. The regional offices extend the implementation of OCHA’s mandate by providing support to Resident Coordinators and governments not serviced directly by an OCHA field office. In particular, OCHA regional offices provide support with inter-agency contingency planning processes and, through regional coordination platforms promote regional and sub-regional contingency plans, incorporating the principles of humanitarian reform. Regional offices allow OCHA to respond flexibly to needs at regional and country levels by rapidly deploying appropriate capacity for emergency response. They provide surge capacity and expertise to backstop OCHA’s ongoing emergency operations. Each regional office has a Regional Disaster Response Adviser (RDRA) who provides the technical expertise on contingency planning and preparedness and advice on monitoring and responding to natural disasters. Two RDRAs are located independently in the Pacific and in Central Asia, providing sub-regional support; however, both report to their respective regional offices.