Regional Office for the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia (ROMENACA)
- The RO led the establishment of a humanitarian coordination system in Yemen, in response to the deteriorating situation in the country.
- Surge capacity was deployed to Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan in response to requests for coordination, resource mobilization, pandemic preparedness, IM and public information expertise.
- The SRO in Almaty supported Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in creating the regional inter-governmental Disaster Management Centre, including its legal status and management principles. Discussions are ongoing with donors to support the centre.
- The RO assisted the Syria UNCT in developing consecutive drought appeals and mobilizing assistance to drought-affected populations in the east of the country, augmenting Syrian authority efforts.
- The RO continued to strengthen regional inter-agency collaboration in support of emergency preparedness and response in the Middle East and North Africa through facilitating a regional network bringing Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) partners together.
Several countries in the region required a rapid and expanded RO response to fast-developing humanitarian challenges in 2009. In Yemen, worsening political instability led to the displacement of some 250,000 people and huge humanitarian needs. To help plug the gaps in humanitarian coordination, ROMENACA deployed staff to prepare consolidated appeals and liaise with donors, resulting in much improved prioritization of needs and mobilization of resources. Prompt action was critical. For example, with RO support, the Yemen Flash Appeal was produced within two weeks of the outbreak of fighting in Sa’ada Governorate in August 2009. The RO also supported the HCT in preparing the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan for 2010, which targets the humanitarian needs of 1.4 million vulnerable people throughout the country.
In Syria, the RO assisted the UNCT in developing two consecutive drought appeals in 2008 and 2009, which allowed the United Nations to mobilize assistance to drought-affected populations in the east of the country, supplementing and augmenting the Syrian authorities’ efforts. The RO also provided technical advice and expertise to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and country teams in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon in developing a Consolidated Appeal for the Iraqi refugees in the Middle East. The RO has also supported a number of HCTs in preparing appeals, including teams in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The RO assisted UNCTs in Morocco and Syria in preparing contingency plans, while conducting two emergency preparedness and response workshops targeting national disaster management authorities in Egypt and the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). The RO also supported pandemic influenza preparedness in Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and Tunisia.
Progress was also made in integrating MENACA Member States into international response structures, notably the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG). A regional UNDAC induction workshop was organized in Oman in April 2009, while two MENACA countries, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, were scheduled to join INSARAG. OCHA provided a joint analysis of threats in the region and the prioritization of preparedness actions. ROMENACA’s SRO in Almaty collaborated with IFRC in promoting adherence to International Disaster Response Laws, Rules and Principles (IDRL).
OCHA continued to bring together a network of regional offices of IASC organizations in the Middle East and North Africa. Its main role has been providing coherent support to HCTs in emergency preparedness and response. In December 2009, the network agreed on an action plan for 2010, identifying priority countries and thematic areas for collective action. From April 2009, the RO has been a member of the United Nations Regional Directors’ Team (RDT), facilitating discussions on strategic humanitarian issues. Responding to the crisis situation in Yemen, ROMENACA, in consultation with United Nations Regional Directors, advised the RC and UNCT on establishing appropriate humanitarian coordination architecture. Similarly, in Central Asia, with increased tensions over scarce resources, OCHA focused on inter-governmental cooperation as one of the most effective ways to increase capacity in the region, supporting the establishment of the Central Asia Disaster Management Centre.
To improve disaster preparedness and build a platform to advocate humanitarian principles, OCHA also enhanced collaboration with regional inter-governmental organizations, including the League of Arab States (LAS), the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Organization of Islamic Conference, and the Economic Cooperation Organization. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been finalized with LAS and will be signed in the second quarter of 2010.
ROMENACA continued to work on consolidating humanitarian reform, promoting a better understanding of the cluster approach within the United Nations and among local NGOs, civil society representatives and non-traditional actors.
Insistence on the importance of the cluster approach, particularly its relevance in preparedness and in development settings, helps ensure an improved overall capacity for emergency response. In Yemen, for instance, an early roll out of the cluster approach was seen to have tangibly improved humanitarian coordination and response, particularly via the CAP. There is now a firmer engagement of cluster leads within the region, while follow-up training and inter-cluster priority-setting exercises have taken place in several countries. They have successfully engaged local NGOs, civil society and non-traditional actors in the coordination mechanisms.
Sub-Regional Office: Almaty
Central Asia is experiencing the full impact of many emerging global threats: climate change; an increase in small- and medium-scale disasters; conflicts over water and energy resources; financial and food-price crises; migration; inter-ethnic tensions; and growing security threats. These vulnerabilities are not offset by strong national emergency response systems and present a serious challenge, even in small-scale emergencies. In addition, despite these risks and frequent small- and medium-scale emergencies, Central Asia remains predominantly a developmental context, with only a handful of United Nations humanitarian agencies and NGOs present — all with limited staff for whom emergency response is not the first priority. Regional collaboration also remains weak and requires a contemporary legal basis.
With increased tensions over scarce resources, the promotion of regional cooperation remained a key priority in 2009. In support of Member States, OCHA focused its catalytic capacity on inter-governmental cooperation as one of the most effective ways to increase capacity in the region. In particular, OCHA continued to support the establishment of the Central Asia Disaster Management Centre. Progress was also made in integrating Central Asian Member States into international response structures, with three new UNDAC members from the region and two countries on the verge of joining INSARAG. To increase regional cooperation between operational partners, OCHA fostered a joint analysis of threats in the region and subsequent prioritization of preparedness actions. In cooperation with IFRC, OCHA promoted adoption of IDRL as a contemporary legal basis for humanitarian action in the region.
At the country level, OCHA reinforced coordination among humanitarian responders by strengthening the cluster approach or similar local coordination mechanisms. OCHA organized regional induction training on the cluster approach, reaching over 40 participants from five countries in the region. The training led to greater engagement of global cluster leads in a region previously somewhat overlooked, leading to several in-country follow-up training and inter-cluster priority-setting exercises. The combined efforts have led to a greater understanding of the role of clusters in preparedness, and an adaptation of strategies to ensure the cluster approach is relevant in developmental settings that experience frequent small- and medium-scale emergencies.
Strengthening the cluster approach as part of preparedness has enhanced the overall capacity for emergency response by successfully engaging local NGOs, civil society and non-traditional actors in the coordination mechanisms.
Humanitarian financing is a key outstanding issue of humanitarian reform still to be addressed in the region. Central Asian Member States are increasingly engaged with humanitarian action as donors. Better understanding of humanitarian financing may help them optimize their resources for humanitarian response. Information dissemination in the languages of the individual countries is crucial.
New Country Office: Yemen
The Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) visited the country in October 2009, following the deteriorating situation in the northern part of Yemen, as well as additional needs related to the presence of refugees and the population’s overall vulnerability. In consultation with the main humanitarian actors in-country, the ERC decided to open an OCHA Country Office in Sanaa. This was done to support the RC and HCT in addressing the needs of the affected population by strengthening field coordination, IM, analysis and advocacy.
In a first phase, the office’s main objective was to create conditions conducive to humanitarian action, including establishing adequate coordination architecture at national and governorate level. The office also focused on strengthening advocacy to gain access to affected populations and increase awareness of the humanitarian situation in Yemen.
In the last three months of the year, following the opening of the office, the OCHA team established and maintained good working relationships with key partners, including Government counterparts, on issues related to humanitarian action. By the end of 2009, clusters were set up in Sanaa and the RC had been nominated HC. OCHA also supported the HCT in devising a joint strategy to respond to the crisis, culminating in the November 2009 launch of the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan as part of the global Consolidated Appeal. OCHA initiated discussions with key stakeholders about a possible Emergency Response Fund (ERF) in Sanaa to provide a quick, coordinated response to unforeseen emergencies and cover funding gaps.
The logistical set up of the office, including the procurement of necessary equipment, was completed before the end of 2009. However, OCHA had to rely on surge and temporary deployment mechanisms to ensure continued coverage of core coordination functions. Security conditions in Yemen, as well as the complexity of the operational and humanitarian context, create important human resource constraints. In this context, it has proven difficult to deliver suitable Arabic-speaking staff members on a medium- to long-term basis. In 2010, OCHA will continue its efforts to strengthen the existing structure and ensure continuity of ongoing activities.