OCHA in 2009 Cover Download Hi-res PDF (6.4 MB)

In Memoriam

OCHA Annual Report 2009 is dedicated to the memory of all those we lost in the devastating earthquake in Haiti


In over three years as Emergency Relief Coordinator, I have seen OCHA’s strong partnership with the humanitarian community help produce effective responses to major emergencies. These include Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, massive displacement in Pakistan and the earthquake in Haiti, as well as continuing efforts in the protracted crises that unfortunately show few signs of ending, such as in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

This essential progress is possible only because the humanitarian community is working together today in ways that were unimaginable a decade ago, or even five years ago when the Asian tsunami hit.

The humanitarian architecture that helps the system meet these challenges is now bedded in. Humanitarian Coordinators are stronger, Humanitarian Country Teams are more representative of the communities they represent, cluster coordination is more effective, and we have a toolbox of funding mechanisms that allow us to provide financial resources more quickly and predictably than ever.

In 2009, OCHA-coordinated CAPs and Flash Appeals had a value of some US$9.9 billion. Flash Appeals are now published and revised more quickly. Consolidated Appeals became more inclusive strategies, as well as more comprehensive barometers of humanitarian requirements, and outcomes are increasingly monitored. Pooled funding is more cost effective, promoting prioritization and coordination, while reducing gaps and overlaps, and thus avoiding wasted resources. The CERF in particular fills the critical gap between appeals and release of funds, allocating funds within days of an emergency to kick-start relief efforts.

OCHA’s advocacy efforts, both public and behind the scenes, have helped secure enhanced access for humanitarian actors in a range of conflict situations, including in Sri Lanka, Sudan and Somalia. Through media outreach, IRIN reporting and Member State briefings, OCHA’s advocacy efforts also helped draw attention to neglected emergencies, bringing much-needed political and financial support.

In the months and years ahead, OCHA will deepen these efforts and continue working to strengthen the humanitarian system further, so it can better prepare for and respond to ever more demanding and complex humanitarian emergencies.

Through its new Strategic Framework for 2010-2013, OCHA aims to engage with a wider group of Member States and regional organizations, to generate greater support for humanitarian action, and make better use of national and regional operational capacities in preparing for and responding to emergencies.

OCHA is also focusing on getting the right people to the right place at the right time. We have country offices in the 25 most difficult humanitarian situations, supporting national and international coordinated response. Our five regional offices represent our first line of humanitarian response when disaster strikes where we have no country office. But we need to do more. We are introducing a “suite of surge solutions” to ensure the right people are on the ground immediately after a new disaster, and a continuous OCHA presence thereafter. This will be coordinated with transition to longer-term staffing. We are already witnessing the first fruits of this effort in the Haiti response.

Now that the OCHA global footprint is better defined than ever before, we can focus on ensuring that our partner services and support evolve to meet the needs. To reflect the ever-changing context and increasing demands, OCHA wants to provide more predictable support to partners. This includes further reinforcing humanitarian coordination leaders on the ground to ensure that they possess the skills, knowledge and experience necessary to carry out their work, and strengthening coordination mechanisms. OCHA must also be in the lead on the framing and resolution of policy issues and the reduction of institutional frictions. And it must improve the evidence base for humanitarian decision-making, planning and resource allocation, as well as help devise better ways of measuring the real impact of humanitarian operations on the people we are trying to help.

OCHA’s cost is a small fraction of the overall humanitarian effort — around 2 per cent. But in my judgment, and the judgment of many of you, it is a critical one. We are the small cog that keeps the engine turning. So I ask you to continue to support us generously. Ninety-five per cent of our funding comes from voluntary contributions, and only 5 per cent from the United Nations regular budget (a proportion I want to see increase in the coming years).

To assist in further improving timely and effective humanitarian action, I therefore call on you, our stakeholders, our Member States, to do three things: provide more unearmarked funding for OCHA so that we can deliver on our mandated responsibilities; provide earlier disbursements of your pledges so that we can keep our services running across all our field locations without cash-flow problems; and to commit, when possible, to multi-year funding to allow us a predictable basis on which to plan for the years ahead.

John Holmes
May 2010