Goal 2: Recognized OCHA leading role in humanitarian policy, advocacy and information management
2.1 — Action-oriented analysis of humanitarian trends and emerging policy issues
OCHA’s policy research agenda in 2009 aimed at providing more detailed analysis on the impact of global challenges to humanitarian action. In particular, OCHA’s research during 2009 focused on how global challenges, including food and financial crises, resource scarcities and climate change, affected humanitarian needs and operational environments individually and cumulatively. Drawing on a series of expert consultations, dialogue with field offices and partner agencies, and a survey of relevant research, OCHA released the “Occasional Policy Paper: Global Challenges and their Impact on International Humanitarian Action”. Findings from this research were reflected in the Secretary-General’s annual report, Strengthening of the Coordination of Emergency Humanitarian Assistance of the United Nations. This informed the 2009 ECOSOC Humanitarian Segment for Member States, and provided important background for developing OCHA’s Strategic Framework for 2010-2013.
On climate change, OCHA continued to play a key role in initiating research and sharing knowledge about the intersection of climate change adaptation and humanitarian concerns. Specifically, OCHA focused on obvious gaps in the research base, one of which was the effect of climate-related disasters on forced displacement. This resulted in a study, carried out jointly with the Norwegian Refugee Council, titled “Monitoring Disaster Displacement in the Context of Climate Change”. This quantified the number of people displaced by disasters in 2008 and developed a methodology for monitoring disaster replacement on an ongoing basis. OCHA also convened several workshops with participants from IASC agencies, research institutes and Member States to share analysis and discuss emerging climate change finance mechanisms; the effect of climate change on displacement and migration; and the International Panel on Climate Change special report on managing extreme events. The results of this work were used to strengthen the ERC’s advocacy on climate change, support IASC participation in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process, and therefore ensure humanitarian concerns are reflected in a new global climate change agreement.
Given the significant complexity of climate change and other global challenges, it is clear that OCHA — and indeed the humanitarian community — does not have sufficient research capacity to analyse fully their implications for humanitarian action. Therefore, OCHA’s approach in these areas has been to work closely with the climate change, development and academic communities, as well as IASC partners. This has often involved participating in consortia, such as the Climate Change and Environmental Migration Alliance. OCHA is currently initiating a consortium with a number of organizations to support its own work in understanding the humanitarian implications of global challenges and vulnerability.
OCHA’s policy research agenda also focused on the issue of protection of civilians. A joint OCHA-DPKO study was undertaken to review successes, setbacks and remaining challenges in protecting civilians in the context of United Nations peacekeeping operations. OCHA, in collaboration with UNICEF, also initiated a study on strengthening prevention of sexual violence in conflict, which is aimed at developing a set of tools and approaches for engaging with State and non-State parties in conflict. Also in close collaboration with DPKO and DPA colleagues, OCHA focused on translating the United Nations concept of integration into OCHA policy guidance and operational plans.
OCHA in 2009 presented an overview of the evolution of humanitarian legislation in United Nations inter-governmental fora since the adoption of General Assembly Resolution 46/182, which led to the creation of the Department of Humanitarian Affairs in 1991. Analysing the normative development and gaps in General Assembly (GA), ECOSOC and Security Council humanitarian legislation, OCHA’s study concluded that United Nations inter-governmental decisions had been able to advance normatively on the protection of civilians and IDPs, and the safety and security of humanitarian personnel. However, little progress had been made on rapid and timely access to communities in need.
The analysis identified the transition from relief to development as the area where the least normative progress had been made. The most progress had been made in humanitarian coordination. The study highlighted some of the elements that have either facilitated or hindered humanitarian development. It concluded that OCHA’s coordination function and the trust it enjoys from Member States place the organization in a unique position to support the GA and ECOSOC in advancing on access.
In 2009, OCHA continued to analyse policy developments with regional organizations. OCHA, through its regular engagement with the EU and NATO, succeeded in influencing humanitarian policy development. The policy dialogue with AU counterparts was reinforced, focusing on the issue of strengthening institutional arrangements with humanitarian actors, as well as the implementation of protection of civilians mandates, although the AU’s lack of capacity constrained these efforts.
2.2 — More strategic advocacy of humanitarian principles and issues
Advocacy is one of the five pillars of OCHA’s work and a central element of the OCHA mandate. As such, all OCHA staff members are responsible for advocacy and it is carried out in different forms throughout the organization on a daily basis. Over the years, against a backdrop of increasing global challenges, OCHA has continued to look for new ways to raise awareness of humanitarian concerns and policies, and speak out on behalf of those in greatest need.
Common messaging played an integral role in advocacy in 2009. The ERC continued to brief the Security Council on the humanitarian dimensions and impact of key crises, thus enabling the Security Council to factor humanitarian concerns into its deliberations and resolutions. The ERC frequently gave interviews and briefed the media at Headquarters and during field visits. An increased number of ERC op-eds were produced and disseminated in over 40 countries in 15 languages to amplify awareness of key issues and events. Other senior staff at Headquarters and in the field also continued to brief the media and provide them with background information on specific issues and countries of concern in less high-profile crises.
ERC Key Messages on particularly active crises were shared with Member States and cluster lead agencies to support the ERC in his role as chief advocate, and to form the basis of coordinated media outreach and communications products. These messages were developed in consultation with partners in the field and at Headquarters. In countries such as Sri Lanka and Pakistan, where effective humanitarian advocacy has to consider highly sensitive political contexts, ERC Key Messages enabled the humanitarian community to speak with a unified voice. RCs/HCs and OCHA country offices also used country-level key messages to highlight principal areas of concern.
Advocacy campaigns on climate change, gender-based violence and internal displacement were conceptualized in the early part of 2009 and rolled out progressively throughout the year. Further information on these is provided in the box below. With the effects of climate change taking their toll on already overstretched resources, the ERC led OCHA in supporting the implementation of the IASC media strategy for COP15 in December 2009. This was in order to raise awareness of the serious humanitarian concerns related to climate change, and to encourage people to understand that their governments need to play a role in reducing vulnerability through investment in preparedness at home, or in funding adaptation in developing countries.
As part of its efforts to advocate international humanitarian law and principles, OCHA played a major role in launching the first World Humanitarian Day in August 2009. Efforts focused on increasing public understanding of humanitarian assistance activities worldwide and honouring humanitarian workers who lost their lives or who were injured in the course of their work. In parallel with public advocacy, quiet diplomacy and dialogue continued with parties to conflicts to reduce the number of security incidents affecting humanitarian workers and to gain better access to people in need.
Throughout the year, OCHA placed a strong emphasis on training its own personnel on required skills in public information and advocacy. A Global Advanced Communications Training course, held in Nairobi in December 2009, was attended by 35 reporting and public information officers. The course was designed to help improve the quality of reporting from the field. It went hand in hand with one-on-one mentoring by staff from OCHA's Reporting Unit. A number of joint workshops, organized by OCHA, were also held in the Middle East to improve understanding of the United Nations role and humanitarian assistance in general. Media workshops, co-sponsored by IRIN, were also held in a number of Arab states to help young journalists improve the quality of their humanitarian reporting (see below box on training journalists).
IRIN also continued to enhance its reputation for unique analysis and reporting on trends and developments of concern to the humanitarian community. According to a reader survey, 78 per cent of regular users polled rated IRIN as good/very good at bringing attention to events, people and issues not widely covered elsewhere. Ninety per cent described IRIN as accurate and objective. Some 8 million page views were recorded on the website, and 5,432 news articles, special features, weekly digests and analytical reports were published. IRIN’s e-mail subscriber base reached 43,500 users, which was up 15 per cent from 2008.
The Gathering Storm was produced, which is a regularly updated compilation of video shorts and articles on the impact of climate change, produced in collaboration with UNEP. Other key products included Zimbabwe’s Humanitarian Crisis, a package of thematically linked articles; and TB+HIV: Deadly Allies and Countdown to Universal Access, both rolling productions maintained by the IRIN/Plusnews team.
ReliefWeb continued to enhance its products to support advocacy. A key product was the Humanitarian Snapshot of emerging crises and disasters, which provides an overview of what is happening where in affected countries. OCHA’s web platform (OCHA Online) continued to host OCHA advocacy materials, but required a long-overdue overhaul. This did not take place in 2009 due to budget limitations. However, it is hoped that the OCHA Portal Project, which will provide a gateway to all OCHA web services, can progress in 2010.
Training Journalists in the Middle East
Among its efforts to support Goal 2 of OCHA’s Strategic Framework 2007-2009 (“Recognized OCHA leading role in humanitarian policy, advocacy and information management”) and to improve humanitarian reporting in the Middle East, CISB held a number of media trainings in 2009. Topics included the media’s role in humanitarian crises; IRIN’s role in providing relevant and timely information to humanitarian partners; humanitarian standards; and reporting on the humanitarian implications of climate change.
Training was conducted for the media in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Dubai and Abu Dhabi, UAE; Jordan; and Tunisia. CISB staff also participated in several other Middle East workshops designed to foster a better understanding of humanitarian work and explain the roles and mandate of the various United Nations agencies.
Feedback on these trainings/workshops was positive. Many participants commented that the sessions helped them through practical examples to apply what they had learned. Following on from these trainings, it was agreed that OCHA should widen the groups and organize a larger workshop to help the flow of information between humanitarian organizations, media and other stakeholders for better humanitarian response, and to provide an opportunity to develop a more thorough understanding of the realities of managing information in a Middle Eastern context. Planning for this workshop started in late 2009.
Advocacy in Action: OCHA led two advocacy campaigns during the year and provided technical support to a third campaign, run collectively by United Nations agencies and their partners.
OCHA helped create a stronger inter-agency advocacy focus on internal displacement, raising awareness and promoting an exchange of experiences and concerns. A strong audio-visual campaign featured the use of slideshows and a video primer. IRIN produced a series of six films under the title Forced to Flee, portraying IDPs’ stories around the world. IRIN also released a longer film, Under the Gun — Displacement in the Central African Republic, bringing much-needed attention to an often-neglected crisis. IRIN posted some 593 articles related to IDPs and refugees during 2009. OCHA coordinated an inter-agency advocacy group on IDPs, bringing together United Nations and non-United Nations organizations, focusing on IDP human rights. Technical support was provided to a workshop organized by the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) on IDP Protocols in July 2009, and to the African Union Special Summit in Kampala in October 2009, at which the African Union Convention on Protection and Assistance for IDPs in Africa was adopted.
An advocacy campaign on climate change was launched leading up to the Copenhagen COP15 Meeting in December. OCHA developed a series of messages, supporting the insertion of humanitarian issues into the COP15 negotiations. An OCHA Climate Change Toolkit was produced and disseminated widely to partners and posted online. IRIN released eight films (in cooperation with UNEP) highlighting the impact of climate change in Asia. The Road to Copenhagen film was posted online, together with a slideshow on climate change. This project was recognized at the Copenhagen climate change conference in December and widely broadcast beforehand. It formed a key part of UNEP’s advocacy strategy. Ahead of COP15, OCHA coordinated the IASC Communications Sub-Group on Climate Change, and led coordination and public information planning at events in New York, Barcelona and Copenhagen.
OCHA’s contribution to the United Nations Stop Rape Now campaign was a Stop Rape Now Campaign film, which featured high-profile United Nations Goodwill Ambassadors and other eminent individuals as focal points for calls to action. The campaign will be fully rolled out in 2010.
2.3 — A common approach to needs assessments and impact evaluation
Work to improve the evidence base for humanitarian decision-making through needs assessment and evaluation continued on two parallel but closely interconnected tracks in 2009. Well-targeted humanitarian response needs to be based on credible needs assessment and analysis. However, humanitarian decision-making has been previously hampered by a lack of resources for needs assessment, a sectoral approach to data collection and difficulties in consolidating information in a systematic manner to help determine overall needs and priorities. A viable multi-sectoral approach depends on clear agreement between different partners on language, methodology and indicators. In 2009, OCHA led an inter-agency process to promote a harmonized approach to assessments and data consolidation. OCHA recognizes that this is a long-term process. However, tangible progress has been made, indicating that there is a humanitarian system-wide agreement on the need to work collectively to improve evidence-based decision-making.
In mid-2009, OCHA assumed the chair of the IASC Needs Assessment Task Force. It began leading an inter-agency process to produce practical operational guidance on coordinated assessments, develop a key set of assessment indicators and build capacity in assessments. Achievements in 2009 include the development of a framework for needs assessments in sudden-onset disasters. This framework provides the basis for further development of the operational guidance. In addition, a chapter outlining the responsibilities of RCs and HCs with regard to coordinating needs assessments has been included in the Emergency Handbook for RCs and HCs. OCHA also began work in 2009 on a web-based toolbox incorporating needs assessment tools and guidance documents for use by clusters and agencies at the field level. It also began working closely with clusters and sectors to establish key indicators for needs assessments.
Work on the Humanitarian Dashboard1 proceeded in 2009, although the need for extensive inter-agency consultations and buy-in delayed timely implementation of the intended development process. The purpose of the dashboard is to present needs assessment and other core information on an emergency in a standardized manner, ideally in a single- or double-page graphic format, supported by additional underlying layers of information, to make such core information more easily accessible to humanitarian decision makers. The dashboard provides an overview of key aspects of a humanitarian crisis, such as needs, response gaps, national capacity, humanitarian access and funding. This will aid a shared understanding of the severity of a crisis and the identification of priority areas and sectors for intervention. The tool was initially envisaged primarily as a global-level decision-making tool for the ERC, donors and heads of agencies to inform resource-allocation decisions across emergencies. However, the results of field testing and inter-agency consultations changed this focus towards developing a tool that is useful primarily for Humanitarian Country Teams, while other audiences would continue to benefit from its implementation.
During the year, three prototypes of the Humanitarian Dashboard were developed based on lessons learned from field testing, as well as feedback received during technical consultations. Efforts concentrated on better reflecting a rights-based approach, early recovery considerations, and greater emphasis on gender, protection and the quality of the humanitarian response. Although field testing was planned in four countries, only one field test took place in Kenya. Agencies at the field level in Kenya were generally supportive of the tool and provided useful suggestions for improvement. Further field testing was postponed due to the IASC Working Group’s request for further consultations at the Headquarters level to ensure greater inter-agency engagement and understanding of the dashboard. To this end, a three-day inter-agency workshop was held in November 2009, followed by technical inter-agency meetings and bilateral consultations. On this basis, a guidance note on the Humanitarian Dashboard was developed, specifying the purpose, scope and expected use of the tool.
At the end of 2009, the IASC Working Group added the Humanitarian Dashboard to the Task Force for Needs Assessments as its fourth objective. This consolidation of needs assessment work and the dashboard development further strengthened inter-agency collaboration and ownership of both processes, and emphasized the links between assessments and the dashboard.
Efforts to strengthen the evaluation component of the humanitarian programme cycle were focused on the development of new tools and approaches to joint evaluation, such as inter-agency real-time evaluations (IA RTEs) and impact evaluations, as well as OCHA’s internal evaluation functions.
At the IASC’s request, OCHA coordinated an inter-agency review on the future of joint evaluations. The review concluded that joint evaluation missions often produced higher quality results than single-agency evaluations, bringing more accountability and learning to the process. Based on these results, OCHA commissioned an options paper on Joint Humanitarian Impact Evaluations (JHIE). While the paper was discussed during the Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance 2009 Annual Meeting, it was concluded that in-depth consultations with a wide range of stakeholders were required before designing and implementing any new evaluations. A JHIE Working Group has been established and will begin work in 2010, chaired by OCHA.
The pilot phase of IA RTEs (which included Pakistan, Mozambique and Myanmar) was reviewed, and the IASC agreed to move beyond piloting to regular implementation. The learning from the pilot phase will be used to develop a set of standard operating procedures and methodologies for conducting IA RTEs. The latter half of 2009 saw significant progress in this regard. Proposals are expected to be discussed by the IASC WG in July 2010.
The Cluster Evaluation Phase II was the focus of significant OCHA and inter-agency attention in 2009. The process of conducting the evaluation highlighted the challenges of assessing the impact of coordination on meeting the needs of affected populations. Following extensive research and consultations with key stakeholders, the Cluster Evaluation 2 developed a model for assessing operational outcomes of clusters, using a set of 21 indicators.
The Cluster Evaluation II model is a significant advance towards measuring the impact of coordination. It represents the collective view of the IASC Cluster Evaluation II Steering Group, comprised of a cross-section of stakeholders. It is the most sophisticated attempt yet to assess higher-level outcomes of a coordination mechanism. There is significant potential for this model to be applied in other contexts. It has been used to inform the forthcoming evaluations of the CHFs and CERF.
During 2009, OCHA also strengthened its internal evaluation function. A new evaluation policy and strategy for 2010 to 2013 was developed and approved by senior management. The policy and strategy will help guide OCHA’s evaluation work over the life of the new Strategic Framework. The policy provides for a strengthened internal evaluation system within OCHA and a clear set of management accountabilities for conducting and using internal evaluation. A major emphasis will be on using independent evaluation to strengthen OCHA’s performance reporting and to provide in-depth and contextual analysis around key performance issues, especially as this relates to OCHA’s new strategic objectives for 2010 to 2013.
2.4 — Protection advanced at the global, regional and national level
Promoting the protection of populations in disasters and armed conflict continued to be a key priority for OCHA in 2009. OCHA provided critical analysis at the global level, and practical guidance and technical support at the country level.
Under the chairmanship of the UK Permanent Mission, the Security Council’s informal Expert Group on protection of civilians in armed conflict was established in January 2009. It met on seven occasions during the year, with consistent levels of participation by most Security Council Member States. OCHA’s role in relation to the Expert Group has been to gather and present information and analysis from humanitarian actors from specific contexts of armed conflict on the Council agenda. This new mechanism has contributed to a more transparent and rigorous consideration of protection-related issues, including the type of actions taken to address them, under Security Council mandates. The Expert Group is well positioned to provide the Security Council with information and guidance on protection-related issues, but would benefit from a greater participation of Security Council members.
In May 2009, the Secretary-General’s seventh report to the Security Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict outlined five core challenges to enhance the protection of civilians in armed conflict: (i) compliance with international humanitarian law and human rights law by parties to conflict; (ii) increasing compliance by non-State actors in particular; (iii) the implementation of protection of civilians mandates in peacekeeping operations; (iv) humanitarian access; (v) accountability.
For the first time, the report included an annex on issues related to humanitarian access to conflict-affected civilian populations. The report was based on access monitoring information from 15 situations of armed conflict, including Somalia, DRC, Sudan, Chad, Sri Lanka and oPt. It informed the new resolution on protection and civilians in armed conflict adopted by the Council later in the year. The Security Council welcomed systematic monitoring and reporting on access constraints. Systematic access monitoring and reporting in the absence of a database to accommodate and structure the information flow was a challenge in 2009. However, OCHA country offices that have established and maintained access monitoring and reporting activities are now well placed to provide precise input.
An important contribution to policy affecting the protection of civilians in armed conflict was the independent study jointly commissioned by OCHA and DPKO, titled “Protecting Civilians in the Context of UN Peacekeeping Operations: Successes, Setbacks and Remaining Challenges”. The study identified key success factors that need to underpin effective implementation of protection of civilians mandates by United Nations peacekeeping missions, provide an important basis for follow up in 2010 in conjunction with DPKO and through greater interaction between the humanitarian and peacekeeping communities. These include steps to develop an operational concept for protection of civilians and peacekeeping, guidance on development of comprehensive protection strategies, and benchmarks and reporting on protection of civilians to the Security Council.
In November 2009, the Security Council’s thematic resolution on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, S/RES/1894 (2009), strengthened reference to the obligations of parties to conflict towards civilian populations; underscored the need for comprehensive operational guidance on protection of civilians for peacekeeping missions; and sought to strengthen the Council’s working methods, not least through more consistent reference to the aide memoire.
Within the framework of the IASC Task Force on Climate Change, OCHA contributed to submissions on migration, displacement and climate change to the UNFCCC process. In addition, OCHA integrated protection and displacement issues into the Secretary-General’s report to the General Assembly on international cooperation in humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development. There have been difficulties in getting a predictable arrangement for the Protection Cluster’s leadership in natural disaster situations. OCHA was closely engaged in developing standard operating procedures to implement the current arrangement (agreed by IASC in 2005) and in building awareness and capacity among protection-mandated agencies on protection in natural disaster situations.
Through increased advocacy on internal displacement throughout 2009, OCHA contributed to the enhanced awareness and engagement of regional organizations on the protection of IDPs through support to the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region and the African Union (ICGLR) on regional legal and policy frameworks. In July, OCHA co-organized (with the Representative of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of IDPs) a conference for the ICGLR Secretariat and the Member States to develop an implementation plan (at the regional and national level) of the ICGLR protocols on internal displacement. Throughout 2009, OCHA provided technical guidance and advice to the African Union Commission on developing and endorsing the new Convention on Protection and Assistance for Internally Displaced Persons in Africa. The ERC participated in the Kampala Summit on this issue in October. In addition, OCHA held a number of global advocacy events on internal displacement targeting Member States, including a side event at ECOSOC in 2009 (see objective 2.2).
In collaboration with OCHA regional and country offices and the Protection Cluster, OCHA also worked with national authorities in Afghanistan and several countries in Africa, Central America, the Middle East and Asia to increase their familiarity and understanding of relevant legal frameworks and their responsibilities. Protection of civilians concerns were raised in the context of UN-NATO dialogue, where responses indicated an interest on the part of NATO members to engage in more systematic dialogue on this in 2010.
At the country level, OCHA provided consistent technical guidance and support for HCTs and protection clusters in all major emergencies in 2009, focusing strongly on protection and displacement issues. This resulted in stronger inter-agency responses in several countries. For example, OCHA helped facilitate dialogue between the parties in conflict in Darfur; deployed surge capacity on protection and displacement to Pakistan; provided training to OCHA staff in Sri Lanka; and advised OCHA Yemen on how to reinforce the Protection Cluster.
OCHA supported development of global operational policy on internal displacement, including acting as contributing author for the Revised IASC Framework for Durable Solutions, and the Protection Cluster’s revised Handbook on Protection of Internal Displacement.
ProCap deployments played a key role in developing and implementing protection strategies, supporting national capacity-building and an enhanced response to situations of internal displacement in Timor Leste, the South Pacific (including Samoa), Myanmar, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and oPt. ProCap also worked in partnership with NGO standby partners to build the relevant skills and knowledge within their rosters.
OCHA, together with DFS and UNDP, produced and disseminated most components of an inter-agency guidance package for focal points on protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA). While approximately 10 country teams took measures to set up or re-establish a PSEA network, failure to activate these networks prompted OCHA to persuade the IASC to undertake an inter-agency review to look at country teams’ performance in fulfilling their PSEA obligations. OCHA will facilitate the IASC’s consideration of the review's recommendations, once they are issued in 2010.
2.5 — Strengthened information management based on common standards and best practices
There was important progress in strengthening information management (IM) across OCHA and within the humanitarian community in 2009. The comprehensive 2007/2008 Information Management Review recommended that OCHA improve its internal oversight of information and take a service approach with its key stakeholders.
Efforts were made to introduce standards and regulation of information products and websites, with a view to being a more consistent and predictable information provider.
The Advocacy and Information Management Branch was renamed the Communications and Information Services Branch (CISB) to emphasize this transformation into a consciously service-oriented entity.
An internal inventory found over 700 individual information products and dozens of websites being operated under OCHA’s auspices, but confirmed that OCHA lacked a unifying visual design, with wide variations in quality. In 2009, OCHA took the first steps to rectify this situation.
A Visual Identity Guide was developed, with an agreed standard OCHA logo and colour palette. Templates and guidance were introduced for core products such as the situation report, press release and key messages. OCHA’s previously ineffective and neglected internal Note to Management was replaced by country and regional office internal weekly reports and a Headquarters overview of activities called the Weekly Actions for Management, which provides concise, actionable information for senior managers. Plans for an external global product with an overview of humanitarian situations were not met due to capacity constraints, but a pilot will be launched in 2010.
To improve the quality of OCHA writing and reporting, a global reporting and communications training took place in Nairobi in December 2009. Country-specific workshops were held with a number of country offices. This followed four regional-level reporting trainings at the end of 2008 and in early 2009 in Bangkok, Cairo, Nairobi and Panama. An OCHA Reporting Network was established as an avenue for circulating all new reporting guidance and to help staff share best practices across offices. Although most of the elements for a Humanitarian Reporting Handbook were in place by the end of 2009, production was delayed until 2010 due to the finalization of new supporting material.
On the web front, ReliefWeb developed a blueprint and business plan for a new, modern web platform for release in 2010. The new ReliefWeb service will draw on recent advances in web technology and offer highly improved information services for those engaged in humanitarian action. ReliefWeb also introduced customized briefing kits to allow users to get a concise overview of a humanitarian situation in a single PDF file. ReliefWeb saw a 12 per cent increase in the number of users in 2009 (9.9 million people) and a 7 per cent increase in the number of e-mail subscribers (152,000 people).
A Web Services Section was created to focus on OCHA’s web presence. OCHA’s corporate website, OCHA Online, was improved with a new look and feel and simplified navigation. The revised site was officially launched in early January 2010. Further improvements in its underlying technology were not made due to budget constraints.
At inter-agency level, OCHA supported the global coordination of humanitarian information management through the IASC Task Force on Information Management. The objective of the task force is to strengthen the management of information in humanitarian emergencies. It does this by supporting the development of inter-agency tools for the collection, processing and dissemination of information.
A wide range of actors participate in the task force, such as IASC members and global cluster leads. ICT4 Peace Foundation and Microsoft Corporation have participated as observers.
One of the task force’s main outputs in 2009 was a review of implementation of the Operational Guidance Note on Responsibilities of Cluster/Sector Leads and OCHA in Information Management. OCHA assessed the level of use of the Operational Guidance Note through regular teleconferences with field offices and through field visits. While approximately 70 per cent of field offices had made the guidance operational in some form, common constraints to implementation emerged, including lack of IM capacity within the clusters/sectors and varying levels of support for IM from senior leadership in the field.
The task force also agreed to undertake two pilots of the inter-agency web platform in 2009, provisionally called OneResponse. An initial pilot was undertaken in Pakistan in December 2009. The second pilot, planned for the Philippines, was not implemented due to technical problems. OneResponse was eventually rolled-out in Haiti in January 2010. A review will be undertaken to assess further implementation.
To build the IM capacity of OCHA and humanitarian partners, OCHA conducted a global IM training in Sweden in November 2009, and contributed IM components to UNDAC and OCHA ERR training. IM training modules are being planned for 2010 with technical support from UNITAR. The first pilot training is expected to start in the second half of 2010 and is likely to include six to seven modules.
In terms of mapping and datasets, there was agreement on standard map guidelines, and a review was undertaken of existing common operational datasets and their use in humanitarian emergencies. OCHA has also introduced a draft Policy Instruction on Records Management to ensure compliance with United Nations Archives and Records Management Section metadata standards.
Taken together, OCHA has progressed in meeting the IM Review’s recommendations to improve IM based on common standards and best practices. At an organizational level, OCHA has recognized that change only happens with a bottom-up approach that involves significant consultation with the field. At an inter-agency level, collecting and sharing information within the humanitarian community relies on partners’ active participation and contribution. OCHA will need to continue to strengthen partner collaboration and buy-in over time. The centrality of IM and reporting to an effective response also needs to be constantly reinforced at leadership level.