Disasters are becoming more complex and interlinked, and in many parts of the world the impact of natural disasters on people is exacerbated by conflict. More than 300 natural disasters were recorded worldwide during the year. Cyclones, floods, droughts and earthquakes affected more than 106 million people. Wars, revolutions and violent political upheaval put millions more people at risk.
In Syria, opposition to the Government escalated into civil war. By December 2012, an estimated 4 million people urgently needed humanitarian assistance, and it was clear that the crisis was getting worse. Over half a million Syrians fled the country in 2012, seeking safety in Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt. The volatile security environment constrained the operational context, and the lack of capacity meant that humanitarian organizations struggled to reach all the people in need inside Syria.
In Myanmar, natural and man-made disasters converged. Unresolved ethnic tension, inter-communal violence, floods and an earthquake affected over 750,000 people, and access to people in need was limited. Large groups of people remained out of the reach of humanitarian organizations in rebel-controlled areas.
In Yemen, despite progress towards political stability, renewed hostilities resulted in a widening of the gap between needs on the ground and the ability of humanitarian organizations to deliver an effective response commensurate with the needs. Conflict, chronic poverty and repeated outbreaks of infectious diseases meant that 13 million Yemenis required humanitarian assistance at the end of 2012.
In many other countries, humanitarian workers faced threats to their safety. In recent years, most aid-worker deaths have been concentrated in highly politicized aid environments, e.g. Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan, where humanitarian work is seen as part of a broader political agenda and there is a question of the impartiality of humanitarian actions. These perceptions need to be addressed, and humanitarian workers have to work to gain the acceptance of local communities to enable them to do their jobs more effectively.
The line between complex emergencies and chronic vulnerability is becoming increasingly blurred. Poverty, non-existent or poorly functioning basic services and deepening food insecurity mean that in some countries, it takes very little to tip people from coping to crisis. In Mali—one of the world’s poorest countries—a coup d’état and a military insurgency in the north with the food and nutrition crisis led to eventual displacement, insecurity and refugee flows into neighbouring countries.
In the Sahel—a region covering eight countries, from Chad in the east to Senegal in the west—18.7 million people faced widespread hunger for the third time in seven years, reaffirming the need for lasting solutions to be found for food-insecure regions of the world. As a result, stronger links have been developed between humanitarian relief and long-term development work to give livelihoods support to families and communities.
We need to be quicker and more flexible in responding to early warning signs and tackling bad situations before they become full-blown crises.
In the Philippines, Typhoon Bopha claimed more lives than any other natural disaster anywhere in the world in 2012. More than 1,000 people were killed and 6.2 million affected as it devastated Mindanao—an island where a peace agreement between the Government and the country’s largest insurgent group hangs in the balance.
The response, led by the Government of the Philippines, was widely commended for being quick and effective, underlining the important role of national Governments, local communities, regional organizations and neighbouring countries in responding to emergencies. More countries in 2012, such as Fiji and Samoa, led the response efforts to disasters in their countries, requesting targeted assistance as needed.
Hurricane Sandy had the greatest economic impact in 2012. After cutting across the Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica, Sandy made landfall on the eastern coast of the United States, causing $50 billion worth of damage and demonstrating that even rich, well-prepared countries are at risk from climate-related disasters.
Pakistan was hit by large-scale seasonal flooding again in 2012, causing widespread damage and affecting about 5 million people. In the Tirah Valley of the country’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, renewed conflict between rival non-state armed groups displaced over 40,000 people, nearly 80 per cent of them women and children.
And serious humanitarian needs persisted due to conflict and natural disasters in other countries, including the Central African Republic and Somalia, In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), renewed fighting between Government forces and rebel troops in the east left 2 million people newly displaced and 1 million vulnerable children at even greater risk.
Violence continued in Sudan’s Darfur region in 2012, as well as in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States. A total of 1.3 million people were displaced in the country by the end of the year. South Sudan’s first year of independence was marked by high rates of hunger, ongoing political tension with Sudan and inter-communal violence affecting up to 170,000 people. This included border-demarcation issues, oil-transit fees and the ongoing need to resolve the status of the contested Abyei area.
Improved humanitarian action in 2012
In 2012, OCHA worked with hundreds of partner organizations—including Governments, UN agencies, NGOs, charities and private companies—in often dangerous and unstable environments to deliver life-saving assistance. We brought organizations together, and helped them to collaborate, pool resources, raise funds and reach people in need quickly.
At the beginning of the year, OCHA was present in more than 50 countries, with our field presence adjusted to meet the dynamic nature of humanitarian work.
We increased our presence in Syria and established operations in Lebanon and Turkey to respond to the impact of the Syria refugee crisis. We opened a new office in Mali and increased our presence in Burkina Faso and Mauritania. We also expanded our Regional Office for West and Central Africa in response to the complex emergency in Mali and the food security and nutrition crisis in the nine countries of the Sahel. In Myanmar, we expanded our operations to respond to growing humanitarian needs in Rakhine and Kachin States, and in Yemen to support the humanitarian response to the crisis in the north of the country.
At the same time, we maintained our operations in countries with large-scale, protracted and complex humanitarian crises, including Afghanistan, DRC, Pakistan, oPt, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.
Following a handover to the respective Governments and other partners, OCHA closed its offices in Libya and Iraq in 2012. We have also identified a number of countries where we intend to gradually scale down our operations, including Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Haiti, Kenya, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.
As the scale and complexity of humanitarian emergencies continues to grow, aid organizations have worked to strengthen established response systems in an effort to become more effective.
During 2012, global humanitarian organizations began the implementation of the IASC Transformative Agenda (ITA): a series of concrete actions focused on improving and strengthening the leadership, coordination and accountability in major crises. The following sections provide details of how OCHA contributed to the implementation of the ITA by ensuring:
A quicker, more reliable response.
Stronger, better-supported leadership.
Simplified coordination in complex environments.
Dedicated support for NGOs.
Enhanced accountability for collective results.
Advocacy for humanitarian action.
A quicker, more reliable response
When a crisis hits or the situation on the ground suddenly deteriorates, OCHA deploys coordination experts and specialized personnel (such as logistics and search-and-rescue experts) to ensure that aid operations are able to keep pace with growing humanitarian needs. In 2012, OCHA deployed 252 surge missions to new or escalating emergencies.
Requests for additional staff to supplement capacity on the ground varies depending on how quickly they can arrive, how long they are needed and the skills required (see box on OCHA-manged surge mechanisms below). In 2012, 62 per cent of surge deployments were from regional offices. These offices are OCHA’s front line surge support. In addition to the regional offices, OCHA has recruited external and internal crisis-management talent to join OCHA surge mechanisms, which includes a new senior-level surge programme developed in 2012.
Surge missions need to be managed and sustained until long-term personnel solutions are in place. In 2012, the average surge mission lasted eight weeks (up from six weeks in 2011). A new dedicated field-recruitment team reduced the field vacancy rate to 7.3 per cent (from 9.1 per cent in 2011). It also reduced the time to hire regular fixed-term staff in the field to an average of 100 days (from 130 days in 2011).
Mindful of its responsibility to strengthen system-wide response capabilities, OCHA also worked to grow the capacity of local first responders and other international surge mechanisms in 2012. Surge-specific trainings were held for partner organizations in Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. OCHA also participated in pre-deployment training and simulation exercises with key military forces, including the NATO International Security Assistance Force, and developed guidelines on how best to use military support in sudden-onset emergencies in the Asia-Pacific region. Partnering with the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG), OCHA helped ensure that international urban search-and-rescue teams complied with international standards and norms and, working with UNDAC, strengthened standards to train and select UNDAC team members.
OCHA also deployed specialized environmental emergency experts in 2012. For example, experts were deployed to Italy to assist with the fuel recovery from a sunken ship (the Costa Concordia), and to the Philippines to assess the environmental impact of Typhoon Bopha.
OCHA-MANAGED SURGE MECHANISMS IN 2012
• UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) teams deploy within 48 hours of a sudden-onset emergency to support early coordination and needs assessments. In 2012, eight UNDAC teams worked in the Comoros, Paraguay, Guatemala, Nigeria (twice), the Philippines and the Republic of Congo.
• Emergency Response Roster (ERR) members are OCHA staff who can deploy to the field for six to eight weeks. In 2012, 31 ERR deployments supported crisis operations in 13 countries. The deployments included civil-military coordination expertise in Mali and information management in Syria.
• Standby Partnership Programme (SBPP) participants are professionals working outside OCHA in areas such as coordination and public information, and whose employers sponsor them to assist us in acute crises. Usually available within four weeks, SBPP staff remain in the field for up to six months. In 2012, nine standby partners supported operations in 19 countries with 31 deployments, including IT and public information in Mali.
• Associate Surge Pool (ASP) staff help bridge the gap between surge and longer-term staff. They are non-OCHA experts with specific skills and are recruited for up to six months per rotation. In 2012, 16 ASP staff supported operations in 11 countries, including Chad, DRC, Egypt, South Sudan and Yemen.
• Roaming Surge Officers (RSOs) are part of a new surge initiative. At present, three experienced OCHA staff members are expected to serve on surge deployments at least 80 per cent of the time. In 2012, this flexibility ensured that in rapidly changing emergencies, such as in Mali and Syria, our offices received immediate senior-level support.
Stronger, better-supported leadership
The leadership shown by Humanitarian Coordinators (HCs) is essential to the successful coordination of the humanitarian response. They are expected to be leaders, consensus builders, diplomats, team workers, politically astute and operationally effective. They convene diverse partners, help the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) balance competing priorities and put in place a rigorous strategy for the response. In the past, OCHA has offered ad hoc assistance to HCs. However, in 2012 we made the provision of consistent support to all HCs a major priority.
OCHA has put in place a dedicated service to improve how we identify and screen potential HCs, with an eye to diversifying the pool of HCs. By the end of 2012, the HC Pool had grown from 39 to 62 qualified
professionals, including more women and leaders from the global South.
Recognizing the need to ensure flexible, high-calibre leadership for large-scale emergencies, OCHA established a roster of 18 experienced leaders able to deploy within 72 hours to manage a major crisis. Regional HCs were also deployed for the first time, boosting the leadership in crises with a significant regional impact, such as Syria and the Sahel.
OCHA has also kept in close contact with each HC, offering advice and support throughout the year. Part of this included tracking each HC’s priorities and support needs to ensure practical operational solutions, and strategic guidance was provided consistently. OCHA also managed a range of HC training-and-mentoring programmes. For example, all HCs were trained on the practical applications of international humanitarian law. They are now better able to speak with confidence on behalf of vulnerable people and hold armed groups and Governments accountable for rights violations. Individual learning programmes were developed as needed, and OCHA’s mentoring system paired newly appointed HCs with experienced former HCs who offer support and advice. Ten mentoring missions took place in 2012, including to Afghanistan, Haiti, Somalia and Yemen. Feedback from HCs suggests that mentoring makes it easier to deal with managerial, structural and strategic challenges easier.
With more consistent support in place, OCHA also improved the tools to evaluate HCs’ performance and accountability. In 2012, nearly all of the 32 HCs (97 per cent) completed a formal review process (up from 17 per cent in 2011). This process incorporates feedback from field-based NGOs and UN agencies.
Simplifying coordination for complex environments
A major challenge in coordinating humanitarian assistance is to ensure a coherent response without coordination becoming too bureaucratic. Despite major improvements over the last decade, the coordination systems that have evolved are not always well suited to operating flexibly and quickly to emergencies. Therefore, OCHA simplified coordination systems in 2012.
Clusters need to be agile enough to adapt to changing circumstances. OCHA trained three HCTs in Sahel countries on how to set up and phase out clusters, and on their key functions and commitments. To prevent permanent “clusterization”, OCHA reviewed cluster activities and advised how to adapt the cluster presence to local situations. In Afghanistan, OCHA reduced the number of national clusters from 11 to three and formed provincial, rather than regional, humanitarian teams. In the Philippines, OCHA supported national leadership and ownership by helping to tailor the clusters to Government priorities.
A well-functioning cluster system requires collaboration between clusters. In 2012, OCHA helped HCTs to prioritize resources, address operational concerns and identify gaps through inter-cluster coordination, including in Pakistan during complex emergencies in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
Humanitarian crises do not necessarily respect borders, and this has an impact on coordination efforts. As a result, following the crisis in the Kivus in DRC, OCHA coordinated relief organizations working in DRC, Rwanda and Uganda. OCHA also promoted coordination among aid agencies working with IDPs and refugees in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Somalia, Syria and across the Sahel.
Support for NGOs
Full and unimpeded humanitarian access is essential for effective humanitarian action. Access constraints are caused by a variety of factors including bureaucratic restrictions imposed on personnel and humanitarian supplies, violence and insecurity, direct attacks on humanitarian personnel and theft of assets.
In 2012, OCHA provided operational support to address access-related challenges. In oPt, OCHA helped the HCT develop a common approach to negotiating access—using the same arguments and data with all interlocutors—and set up an Access Coordination Unit to track violations and incidents to add weight to negotiations. We hope to replicate this model in other operations.
In Afghanistan, OCHA used a reporting tool to track access-denial incidents. This improved our risk assessment and our ability to plan and carry out our work. We worked on more sophisticated methods of analysis, which included a mapping tool to analyse access denial in 12 countries and the impact on humanitarian response. The tool looks at the reasons for access problems, e.g. military operations, bureaucratic obstacles or denying the existence of humanitarian needs. Getting the facts straight will enable aid workers to focus on designing the best response.
OCHA also led or supported negotiations with authorities and armed groups in conflict settings, such as DRC, Syria, Sudan and Yemen.
NGOs are on the front line of humanitarian assistance, and they are the main operating partners for UN agencies. To support the HC, OCHA has sought to develop its support to NGOs at the field level by assisting with operational issues and administrative and logistical obstacles, including visa delays, customs clearance and taxes on NGO work. For example:
With OCHA's support, the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum (an NGO consortium) collected data on visa delays for international NGO (INGO) staff. The data strengthened collective advocacy efforts with the Pakistani authorities to speed up the process. In Yemen, OCHA helped the HC convince the Government to expedite visas and registration for INGOs. As a result, more international humanitarian organizations were available to support relief efforts. The 2013 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan includes 89 INGOs—a 44 per cent increase from the previous year.
The Access Working Group in Ethiopia, chaired by OCHA, conducted a study on the challenges to importing medical supplies into the country. The results helped convince officials to review import restrictions on priority drugs and medical supplies for NGOs’ emergency programmes.
In DRC, OCHA negotiated with the M23 rebel group to reverse a tax imposed on NGOs working in areas under its control in North Kivu. The tax would have crippled the work of 11 INGOs and hundreds of local NGOs who help some 300,000 people.
In Afghanistan, OCHA worked with the World Food Programme to reduce passenger and freight airfare for NGOs using the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS). UNHAS provides safe passenger and cargo air transport for humanitarian and development organizations.
To assist Chad with its sustainable recovery and stabilization, OCHA helped newly arrived NGOs to better support early recovery work. Following the addition of new NGOs, including Medair, Merlin and Lawyers without Borders, the Early Recovery Cluster is now a key forum to address the structural causes of Chad’s crisis. The cluster is now working on solutions such as building local authorities’ capacity and establishing conflict-resolution mechanisms to avoid intra-community violence.
Enhancing accountability for collective results
WHAT IS A CAP?
A consolidated appeal is the result of a joint planning process that presents a needs analysis, agreed humanitarian strategy, individual cluster response plans, detailed implementation responsibilities, financial requirements and monitoring reports on the previous year. Each CAP helps inform donor decisions by providing clear evidence for humanitarian needs and funding allocations.
As part of this process, OCHA ensures that all partners are aware of the differing needs of men and women in crises by incorporating the Gender Marker* into all appeals. It is already showing good results, with more countries and clusters incorporating it into project design. For more information on the CAP process, visit www.unocha.org/cap.
* The Gender Marker is a tool that codes, on a 0-2 scale, whether or not a humanitarian project is designed well enough to ensure that women/girls and men/boys will benefit equally from it, or that it will advance gender equality in another way.
Humanitarian partners need a thorough understanding of people’s needs in order to mount an effective response. This understanding underpins our ability to plan, mobilize and allocate resources, implement programmes and evaluate their success. Together referred to as the Humanitarian Programme Cycle (HPC), OCHA promotes coordination initiatives around these steps. At Headquarters, support for these critical functions was previously dispersed across several branches, at times leading to inconsistent field support. In 2012, OCHA centralized this support in the new Programme Support Branch.
Better assessments lead to smarter response. Gaps and duplications in assistance can easily emerge when dozens of agencies each conduct their own needs assessments. Recognizing this, OCHA developed a methodology for coordinated assessments in emergencies. The new Multi-Cluster Initial Rapid Assessment (MIRA) helps HCTs to assess and analyse people’s needs within the first two weeks of a crisis. The results determine response priorities.
To promote this approach, OCHA trained over 500 humanitarian workers on coordinated assessments in 12 countries and four regions in 2012. This training has led to change on the ground: MIRAs in Chad, Guatemala, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, South Sudan and Yemen helped relief organizations reach a common understanding of needs and shape response strategies.
Understanding needs facilitates planning. Crisis environments are often complex, and successful response programmes require careful planning. The Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP) continued to serve as the humanitarian community’s main planning tool in 2012, bringing together 520 aid organizations to seek $8.5 billion to help 51 million people in 16 countries. Based on the feedback that CAPs often read as funding “wish lists” instead of setting clear priorities, OCHA incorporated more strategic thinking into the common planning process. This work included helping HCTs to better state their strategic objectives, linking them to measurable indicators and setting out clear responsibilities for implementation and monitoring. In DRC, for example, partners designed common projects covering multiple sectors. In Afghanistan, the HCT adapted the CAP into a much shorter Common Humanitarian Action Plan that focused solely on strategy.
Solid planning simplifies spending decisions. With evidence-based response plans in place, it becomes easier to mobilize and allocate resources. OCHA manages a range of funding mechanisms, all of which pool advance contributions from donors in order to make money available quickly in crises. Together, these pooled funds provided $920 million in life-saving relief in 2012. The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) allocated $477 million to 49 countries, with 90 per cent of all CERF underfunded emergency grants going to projects ranked as highest priority. In the field, country-based funds empowered HCTs to give rapid funding to frontline responders in DRC, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan and Syria. Common Humanitarian Funds (CHFs) allocated $368 million in five countries in 2012, with 83 per cent of funds awarded to projects ranked as highest priority. Emergency Response Funds (ERFs) allocated $74 million, mainly to NGOs. In Yemen, 69 per cent of ERF funding went to NGOs. (For 2012 CAP, Flash Appeals, CERF, CHF and ERF funding figures click here.
Effective monitoring increases accountability. OCHA currently manages 18 country-based pooled funds, all of which were established in the last 10 years. As this side of our work has grown, OCHA has developed stronger accountability measures to ensure that pooled funds improve the lives of crisis-affected people. In 2012, OCHA increased visits to CHF- and ERF-funded projects in the field for monitoring purposes. In Sudan, this included visits to 89 CHF-funded projects, in addition to four visits to all areas in DRC with projects in 2012.
OCHA improved its Financial Tracking System by making it easier to access and extract large funding datasets. It also signed on to the International Aid Transparency Initiative—a global effort to make spending information easily accessible to all. For in-kind contributions, OCHA worked with global logistics firm Deutsche Post-DHL to monitor hard-to-track in-kind donations, giving a more complete picture of total humanitarian assistance.
Supporting system-wide preparedness
Preparing for emergencies before they strike saves lives and protects livelihoods. It also saves money, with recent research showing that every dollar invested in preparedness saves $7 in response and recovery costs. Integrating preparedness into humanitarian response requires a cultural shift for many humanitarian partners—from reactive to pro-active. As a result, preparedness efforts have remained inconsistent at times, further hampered by a lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities. In 2012, OCHA continued to promote emergency preparedness, both internationally and within crisis-prone countries, working with humanitarian partners, Governments and communities.
Our first priority in 2012 was to expand support to preparing for disasters in the field. To make this support more consistent, OCHA developed a Minimum Preparedness Package (MPP)—a basic framework that sets out roles and responsibilities and provides a checklist of activities, such as contingency planning and disaster simulations. The MPP promotes a more coherent approach to preparedness, and it supports national disaster management authorities, and RCs, HCs and HCTs. By the end of the year, OCHA had trained local partners in 29 of the most disaster-prone countries on using the MPP.
In 2012, we worked with HCTs and Governments to develop early warning systems and preparedness plans, and we tested these systems through simulation exercises, for example in Madagascar. An independent evaluation of these activities in countries where OCHA works closely with Governments (such as Indonesia and the Philippines) concluded that our work had facilitated faster, better-coordinated emergency response. The report also noted that OCHA “has become the go-to partner amongst the agencies and key donors for preparedness work.”
OCHA analysed the state of preparedness of 70 countries in 2012. The results have allowed humanitarian partners to prioritize preparedness support programmes based on sound evidence. OCHA also worked with the World Customs Organization and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to improve collaboration between national customs authorities and disaster management agencies during emergencies.
Given the increase in climate-related disasters and slow-onset crises linked to food security and nutrition, it is important to link immediate humanitarian relief with longer-term development to help people withstand future crises or shocks, such as rising food prices. The 2011 Horn of Africa and 2012 Sahel crises underlined the need to move beyond the idea of “humanitarian response”, “early recovery” and “development” as distinct phases, and instead view our work as a continuum. People do not experience their needs in phases, but in a joined-up way.
In 2012, OCHA worked with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Member States and humanitarian partners to address people’s life-saving needs in tandem with the root causes of crises, taking a more integrated approach.
In the field, OCHA promoted resilience by linking humanitarian and development plans more closely, and by working with national Governments to align national resilience priorities with international assistance. For example, the 2013 Somalia consolidated appeal links life-saving aid to strengthening livelihoods, and OCHA supported the Somali Government’s plan to invest in agricultural productivity and water management as a way to promote longer-term recovery. OCHA’s work in the Sahel resulted in the publication of the Sahel Resilience Strategy, covering nine Sahel countries. The objective is to strengthen local communities’ ability to manage the risks they face. OCHA also mapped households across the Sahel who regularly face drought and food insecurity, allowing humanitarian partners to better target the most vulnerable with relief and prevent their relapse into food insecurity.
Making the humanitarian case
IRIN – HUMANITARIAN NEWS AND ANALYSIS IN 2012
In 2012, OCHA’s humanitarian news and analysis service, IRIN, supplied original and insightful reporting and multimedia material on issues and countries often neglected by mainstream media and other information sources.
In terms of output, IRIN increased the analytical content of its coverage, including country-specific and thematic reporting. In 2010, analysis stood at 15 per cent of production, but in 2012 that increased to 27 per cent of English-language output. The value and strength of that capacity was underlined by a readership survey in May (75 per cent of respondents were satisfied/very satisfied with the quality of analysis).
IRIN’s readership continued to grow throughout the year. Its website (www.irinnews.org) averaged 775,000 unique visitors a month, with 57,000 e-mail subscribers and 16,400 Twitter followers. New syndication agreements with online media in the north and global south, plus links to think-tanks and research bodies, adds to IRIN’s diversifying audience, as does its unique humanitarian Arabic-language service. The launch of an IRIN mobile website and improvements to IRIN’s RSS feed increased access to news stories and features.
On the administrative side, all IRIN staff are now located in OCHA regional offices. In Nairobi, a new hybrid office provides common management, sharing administrative and technical support. A similar level of integration is envisaged for all IRIN units in 2013, delivering cost savings, coherence and greater connectivity with OCHA field presences.
IRIN retains its reporting independence at the regional level, but a closer working relationship with OCHA headquarters was developed. A better-aligned IRIN can help to raise the visibility of OCHA's corporate advocacy and messaging and that of the United Nations.
RELIEFWEB: A ONE-STOP SHOP FOR THE HUMANITARIAN COMMUNITY
In 2012, OCHA’s ReliefWeb developed a new strategy and roadmap that will make it a one-stop shop for humanitarian information. With over 9.5 million users in 2012, and with a proven business model, ReliefWeb is positioned to be the platform on which OCHA grows and expands its outreach with the humanitarian community.
The approach is two-fold: first, we will extend the ReliefWeb service to offer a wider portfolio of products and services, including access to humanitarian data sources. Second, ReliefWeb will be more integrated with www.humanitarianresponse.info, OCHA’s new field-information service.
To support this new roadmap, the ReliefWeb team created “ReliefWeb Labs”—a virtual space to explore new and innovative opportunities to improve information delivery to humanitarian workers. In keeping with its commitment to strengthen engagement with clients, ReliefWeb started a regular blog and conducted mini surveys every time it rolled out new features and enhancements. It also piloted several new initiatives, including interactive maps and ReliefWeb mobile.
In March 2013, ReliefWeb published its 500,000th report: that’s half a million reports in 16 years.
OCHA collects information from response partners, donor and recipient Governments, affected people, the media, academia and others. OCHA staff verify and organize the data and information, and then use it to help decision makers understand what is happening on the ground and what actions need to be taken to help people in need. In 2012, OCHA agreed a list of corporate information products to be produced across all OCHA offices. These include:
Situation reports: these give a detailed overview of the needs and response in different sectors in an acute crisis.
Humanitarian bulletins: in protracted crises, these use data and narrative analysis to substantiate advocacy messages.
Humanitarian snapshots: a full-page map focusing on one to three key messages, combining geographical information, graphics and textual summaries of the needs and response in an emergency.
Humanitarian dashboards: they help clusters and the HCT monitor implementation of the appeal during a crisis.
By the end of 2012, all offices were consistently producing these products and an increase in quality was evident. In addition, a third of all offices introduced an e-mail distribution tool—MailChimp—to professionalize how products are presented to audiences and to better understand the metrics around their use.
To enhance products’ analytical content, OCHA began developing a better understanding of the data we have and use. Offices now bring together operational datasets, which include geographic data, population statistics and data on people affected by crisis. More work is required to make this data comparable across emergencies and link it with other datasets, such as those on preparedness and financing, to create a more complete picture of a humanitarian environment.
OCHA made improvements to its two main community web platforms: ReliefWeb and IRIN. Ten OCHA country offices also launched humanitarianresponse.info sites to enable the sharing of operational information among humanitarian actors. These field sites will be more fully integrated into ReliefWeb in 2013 to create a one-stop shop for humanitarian information. OCHA’s corporate website, www.unocha.org, consolidated most of OCHA’s corporate field websites on one platform to ensure consistency and oversight.
OCHA produced a wide variety of public information products, including Key Messages to provide guidance on issues related to acute crises and chronic emergencies. OCHA also developed more people-focused web stories and photo galleries to highlight humanitarian issues and bring attention to the plight of communities affected by emergencies and the aid workers assisting them.
OCHA significantly expanded its social media activities in 2012, and platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have become major outlets to raise awareness of humanitarian issues with a diverse audience, including humanitarian partners, journalists, academics and the public. On Twitter, OCHA’s corporate profile (@UNOCHA) and profile for the Emergency Relief Coordinator (@ValerieAmos) had a combined following of 27,000 people (up from 7,250 in 2011), and the number of fans on OCHA’s Facebook grew to 19,000 (up from 11,250 in 2011). OCHA also created profiles on new platforms to reach new audiences, including Google+ and Pinterest, and organized a live “Twitterview” in which the ERC answered the public’s questions about humanitarian crises.
In 2012, OCHA raised awareness of humanitarian causes through a major advocacy campaign for World Humanitarian Day. The goals were to brand the day and highlight the importance of humanitarian work and reach a global, public audience with a simple message: "Do something good, somewhere, for someone else." The message was delivered via a new social media amplification platform, supported by hundreds of celebrities and brands. It reached over 1 billion people around the world. The unit also produced numerous high-quality video products to amplify the voice of the USG/ERC and help tell the story of OCHA and the people it serves.
EM-DAT: The OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database – www.emdat.net – Université catholique de Louvain – Brussels – Belgium
 The IASC HC Pool is a roster of senior humanitarian leaders from the UN, Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement, International Organization for Migration and NGOs who have been screened by the IASC as potential candidates for humanitarian coordination leadership positions.