Objective 2.4

Humanitarian Programme Cycle

  • Inter-agency agreement on coordinated needs assessment has been codified and is being rolled out globally.
  • All CAPs are more evidence based and are screened to promote gender equality in programme design.
  • CERF and country-based pooled-fund processes aligned with needs assessments and priorities set out in CAP and flash appeals.

In 2009, OCHA recognized the need to review critically the inter-agency programme cycle. At that time, clear programmatic decision-making and advocacy were being held back by deficiencies in coordinated needs assessments. Despite annual improvements, the CAP mechanism also suffered from inadequate needs assessments. The resulting lack of strong evidence made it difficult to prioritize needs within a crisis and weakened the Consolidated Appeal. As humanitarian pooled funds became a more essential part of humanitarian financing, it was increasingly necessary to ensure that funding decisions were based on thorough assessments and clear priorities. But systematic monitoring was largely confined to the agency level, affording no vision of progress at the cluster or system levels. Output and process indicators remained the primary focus, with little to no outcome monitoring.

Over two years later, OCHA and its partners have made significant progress by creating inter-agency agreements on needs assessments, designing more evidence-based and strategic appeals, linking  resource allocations to priorities and initiating monitoring at the outcome level. The focus on improved programme cycle management has not only become a top priority for OCHA, but now plays a central role in the IASC Transformative Agenda. The resulting agency commitment towards addressing these often contentious issues is expected to galvanize policy agreement at the global level and facilitate roll-out at the country level.

Following several years of inter-agency negotiations, the IASC endorsed key guidance on coordinated assessments and on the Multi-Cluster Initial Rapid Assessment (MIRA). The former outlines the collaborative approach to collecting, analysing and sharing information on humanitarian needs throughout the cycle of an emergency. It identifies a phased approach to assessments as well as SOPs, including the assignment of roles and responsibilities for each phase. The guidance also recommends the use of MIRA, a joint multi-cluster assessment and analytical framework for use during the first phase (72 hours to two weeks) of an emergency. The result has been improvements in the quality of shared analysis and assessments, drawing strongly on beneficiaries’ views and enabling better-informed prioritization and planning.

OCHA sent experienced personnel to serve as assessment coordinators, or in associated support roles, in Pakistan, Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti, Chad, Mongolia and Papua New Guinea. These deployments enabled OCHA to provide leadership on joint assessments, establish coordination mechanisms and develop preparedness systems and tools. To increase field capacity for assessments and related activities, OCHA initiated a training programme to cultivate the necessary skills and knowledge for its staff. A similar programme for cluster coordinators and cluster members was piloted in 2011. It will be revised and applied in 2012. Efforts to strengthen the links between assessments, planning and monitoring were channelled through the Humanitarian Dashboard. In 2011, Humanitarian Dashboards were produced for every CAP country.

OCHA has provided guidance to HCTs and country offices on developing humanitarian strategies. This acknowledges the emphasis placed on stronger humanitarian strategies by the IASC principals and the CAP. As a result, each 2012 CAP presents an overall humanitarian strategy with clearly defined goals and objectives, targets and indicators. This should provide a clearer framework for CAPs, helping them become more needs based, systematic and accountable.

With donors arguing for more focus on gender equality in humanitarian projects, a wider use of the IASC Gender Marker has signaled the humanitarian community’s willingness to address past imbalances. The Gender Marker was introduced in 2010 to promote equality in programme design and monitoring. It was applied to all 2011 CAPs and to pooled funds in six countries. Gender capacity advisers trained cluster teams in nine countries and at agency HQs on using the Gender Marker. Many countries used the tool as a filter for inclusion of projects in the CAP. In six countries with 2010 baseline data (Kenya, Niger, oPt, Somalia, Yemen and Zimbabwe), there was a striking improvement in the quality of projects addressing gender equality. Fifty-four per cent of projects, up from just 14 per cent the previous year, now receive the code “2a”, meaning they contribute significantly to gender equality. Only 6 per cent, down from 45 per cent, were rated code “0”, which is applied when there is no sign of gender consideration in the project design.

OCHA continued to strengthen the integration of CERF processes into the overall programme cycle at country level. A revised grant application format has been introduced, and field staff have received guidance on a step-by-step process for grant applications. OCHA has highlighted the need for CERF submissions to be aligned with country-level needs assessments and the priorities set out in CAP and flash appeals. Submissions should consider country-level pooled-fund processes to ensure complementary and maximize the impact of funds. The independent five-year evaluation of CERF concluded in 2011. It found that in countries with a CHF, CERF funding integrated well into existing prioritization and monitoring processes.

The CERF Performance and Accountability Framework, endorsed in August 2010, introduced annual independent country reviews. They are intended to assess CERF’s added value, test the integration of CERF processes into the programme cycle at country level, and highlight good practices and areas for improvement. The findings of these reviews, conducted so far in eight countries, have led to specific recommendations to RC/HCs, agencies and other partners. They have also helped inform and strengthen CERF guidance, training and policy at the global level.

Major evaluations and audits conducted on country-based pooled funds in 2010 and 2011 highlighted two main priorities: the need to strengthen monitoring and reporting, and the need to tackle inconsistency in fund governance and management. In 2011, OCHA started to ensure 100 per cent compliance in pooled-fund management, standardization and harmonization policy. This was in order to improve coherence among the funds and combat potential risks.

A parallel process has been initiated with the ERF. To provide better streamlined guidance to OCHA offices and HCs, ERF Global Guidelines were developed in 2011. They will standardize management and governance of the ERF and ensure mitigation of risks. A governance and management review of ERFs was also conducted, focusing on areas of improvement and compliance of country-based pooled funds.

The elements and configuration of a crisis-wide monitoring system started to become clear in 2011; crystallizing that system was a firm objective for 2012. OCHA and its partners determined the scope of such a framework, the roles and responsibilities within it, the tools required for implementation, and the specialized monitoring and reporting needs of pooled funds. OCHA will collaborate with IASC bodies to outline and field test the full framework in 2012.

The CERF five-year evaluation and the PAF country reviews confirmed the need to improve reporting and monitoring by recipient agencies and HCs on the use of CERF grants. In late 2011, CERF overhauled its narrative reporting framework, and it introduced stronger support to field colleagues and a more rigorous system for the review and analysis of submitted reports. It is expected that the 2011 annual CERF country reports by HCs will see a marked improvement in quality, providing more comprehensive details on results.

To address shortcomings in monitoring country-based pooled funds, OCHA led the development of the CHF Monitoring and Reporting Framework in consultation with all major stakeholders at HQ and the field level. This framework is part of OCHA’s broader efforts to standardize CHF operating procedures. Implementation will be initiated in 2012.

An effective humanitarian programme cycle depends heavily on an efficient information management system. By late 2010, OCHA and the IASC had defined the datasets required to effectively prepare for and respond to new emergencies.  In 2011, a registry was launched on the Humanitarian Response platform. By the end of the year, nearly a quarter of the information required on roughly 400 datasets had been uploaded. As a result, key baseline information is now available for 24 priority countries. This is expected to improve the quality, consistency and timeliness of needs.

Performance Framework 2011
OUTPUT NATF tools and guidance used to support a coordinated approach to assessments and are revised based on lessons learned.

NATF guidance package is operationalized to support assessments and analysis in at least four new emergencies.


NATF guidance package was operationalized in Pakistan, Côte d'Ivoire, Haiti and Somalia through OCHA technical staff and members of the inter-agency Coordinated Assessment Pool and Roster (CASPAR).


Eighty per cent of OCHA country offices in protracted crises with CAPs have HCT-endorsed operational plan for needs assessments.


The extent to which HCTs coordinated assessments in an organized campaign before CAP development was not clear in all cases. However, all 2012 CAPs presented lists of the specific needs assessments on which the appeals were based and the information gaps they still needed to fill.

OUTPUT An enhanced tool and guidance to assist RC/HCs and humanitarian partners to better prioritize humanitarian activities within and (where necessary) outside CAPs, in support of decision-making for OCHA-managed funds and other funding channels.

Tool piloted in at least two countries by Q4.


In implementation, this output has been addressed through a two-pronged approach. First, OCHA strengthened the guidance on prioritizing CAP projects, with the aim of lowering the proportion of projects that clusters award the highest-priority score, so that the scores guide donors more effectively. As a result, two of the 16 CAPs for 2012 are prioritized effectively, in the sense that they reserved the top-priority rating for less than 50 per cent of the appeal projects. The second approach has been to explore a more refined level of planning (detailing planned activities in specific locations), which in turn allows for more meaningful prioritization. The current method, which assigns a priority score for whole projects, does not cope well with the heterogeneous nature of many projects as collections of activities of varying priority. This explains clusters’ difficulty in prioritizing projects strictly. This more refined planning method will require extensive software development, which will be a focus in 2012.

OUTPUT Strategy for better-aligned country-level monitoring systems for pooled funds and CAPs.

Mapping of existing country-level practices with recommendations for better-aligned monitoring systems by Q4.


Review of monitoring information presented in 2011 CAP mid-year reviews and 2012 CAPs showed good progress: most clusters are reporting on outputs achieved versus cluster targets.  Some are also measuring at outcome level. About half the HCTs with CAPs set targets for outcome-level strategic objectives and managed to measure those. The Humanitarian Dashboard presents a clear distillation of needs and objectives convenient for future monitoring. It was embedded in each 2012 CAP.

The CERF secretariat reviewed findings from the 16 country studies of the CERF five-year evaluation, and from the independent country reviews conducted under the CERF Performance and Accountability Framework (eight countries by end of 2011) in order to map country-level practices for monitoring CERF-funded activities. The review outcomes will help inform CERF guidance, training and policy in 2012, and they will be included in Community of Practice discussions in the form of good practices. 


Selection and monitoring of strategic-level humanitarian indicators conducted in 50 per cent of CAP countries.


The majority of 2012 CAPs presented credible, meaningful and feasible strategic indicators. This was due to the NATF’s work in identifying standard indicators, plus revamped guidance and support for the field in selecting strategic indicators.

OUTPUT Support the use of a gender-tracking tool in humanitarian crises with a CAP.

CERF and CHF allocations tracked against gender-marked projects in all CAPs that have piloted the Gender Marker system by Q4.


In the ERF, the Gender Marker was implemented in eight countries in 2011.

CERF tracks all allocations against gender-marked projects in CAPs. Of the total CERF allocations worldwide in 2011, 54 per cent (some $228 million) went towards projects that did not have a gender-marker score. These included projects in countries without appeals, or with flash appeals or CAPs that did not officially use the GM in 2011. Of the remaining $193 million in allocations, 5 per cent went towards projects that received a "2b", 54 per cent went towards projects marked as "2a" and 28 per cent went to projects with a score of "1". Approximately 12 per cent ($23 million) went to projects marked "0".


All country offices using Gender Marker coding in funding mechanisms (CAP, pooled funds).


Gender Marker implemented in all 17 CAPs for 2012 and in four CHFs.