The demand for humanitarian assistance is growing rapidly around the world, as are the number and diversity of humanitarian response actors. OCHA has witnessed the growth in response capacity of regional organizations, Governments, local communities, NGOs, civil-society groups and private-sector corporations.
Technological innovation and capacity are also changing the way these groups work together, and forming strategic partnerships with emerging actors is not only desirable but necessary. By strengthening humanitarian partnerships, OCHA seeks to leverage its resources, experience and capacity to reduce duplication, improve response effectiveness, and build political support for humanitarian principles and action.
OCHA’s three liaison offices (LOs) play a central role in working with partners to build humanitarian networks. They also facilitate dialogue on policy priorities and humanitarian principles.
To support OCHA’s field priorities, LOs communicate OCHA country office policy and operational positions so that they are more widely understood. They also provide feedback to headquarters on partners’ concerns and share ideas on how to improve operations in a variety of situations, including most recently Syria and the Sahel.
The humanitarian landscape has changed significantly and humanitarian action needs to become more effective and more flexible to keep pace with growing needs. The first-ever World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), to be held in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2016, will set an agenda for the future of humanitarian action—one that recognizes the diversity of today’s humanitarian community and helps form stronger partnerships for more effective response. At the sixty-eighth session of the General Assembly, OCHA organized a high-level event to support the Secretary-General’s formal launch of WHS. The event mobilized support for WHS from over 90 organizations, including Member States, agencies, NGOs and the private sector. The summit will focus on four themes: humanitarian effectiveness, reducing vulnerability and managing risk, transformation through innovation, and serving the needs of people in conflict. OCHA has developed a three-year project plan that will help guide a series of regional, online, thematic and global consultations between 2014 and 2016 in the lead-up to the summit. These consultations will bring together experts, practitioners and affected people in eight regions to share knowledge and best practices on the four summit themes. A thematic planning meeting in Germany and global consultation in Switzerland will be the final stages of the preparatory work in advance of the summit.
NATIONAL, REGIONAL AND GLOBAL PARTNERSHIPS
In 2013, OCHA worked with Member States and other partners to advance their expertise in humanitarian response. As a result, five countries (Chile, Colombia, Hungary, Luxembourg and Ukraine) became UNDAC members, bringing the total to 81. Two countries (Jordan and Belarus) were recognized as having externally verified international urban search-and-rescue teams in 2013, bringing the total to 36.
Working with the Governments of Kuwait and Oman, and in partnership with the International Islamic Charitable Organization and Direct Aid, OCHA organized the annual Humanitarian Information Sharing and Partnership Conference in Kuwait City in September 2013. The conference and its overarching initiative are administered by an advisory board that prioritizes activities and manages the Arab Humanitarian Portal (Arabhum.net). The portal is a bilingual platform for dialogue between Arab humanitarian actors and their non-Arab counterparts. The website is the first of its kind in the Arab world and provides access to the Financial Tracking Service (FTS) in Arabic. This has contributed to better reporting of aid by Arab donors, especially NGOs.
At the Pledging Conference for Syria in January 2013, OCHA helped bring together UN Member States and multiple regional organizations. At the event, 42 Member States and regional organizations pledged more than $1.5 billion in assistance. OCHA also organized outreach to countries in the Gulf region on behalf of humanitarian teams in the occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, the Sahel, Syria and Yemen.
In Africa, OCHA worked with UN representatives and regional bodies to improve coordination and communication. In partnership with the African Union (AU), OCHA organized a civil-military round table in Johannesburg, South Africa. The success of the round-table meetings led to the development of a continental civil-military network, with a goal to support the AU’s peace-and-security architecture.
In Central Africa, OCHA partnered with the UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region to strengthen response preparedness, advocacy, analysis and coordination in the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for DRC and the region. With the Office of the Special Envoy, OCHA convened a high-level meeting of humanitarian partners to assess political, security and humanitarian trends in the region. The meeting focused on strengthening advocacy for protection and humanitarian assistance in DRC, and it resulted in the creation of an OCHA-facilitated high-level working group based in Nairobi. The working group will seek to improve information sharing and the strategic coordination of funding mechanisms.
OCHA also entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Economic Community of Central African States to strengthen collaboration on disaster preparedness and response, and it hosted the eleventh consultation of regional disaster managers in West Africa.
In the margins of the 2013 UN General Assembly, OCHA co-hosted the African Humanitarian Champions event and a disaster management forum with the African Union Humanitarian Segment of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Each event brought together high-level Government, private-sector and civil-society representatives to discuss humanitarian action from an African perspective.
In the Asia-Pacific region, OCHA hosted the fifth Regional Humanitarian Partnerships Forum in November. With 104 participants representing 20 Member States and 47 international, regional and non-governmental organizations, and private-sector and academic institutions, the forum provided an opportunity for a broad-based dialogue on six humanitarian themes: cash transfers, public-private partnerships, communications with affected communities, technology and humanitarian innovation, humanitarian action in conflict, and humanitarian action in urban settings. The forum contributed substantively to OCHA’s goal of charting a consultative forward agenda for its work in the region over the next two years.
With the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), OCHA has strengthened its partnership in disaster management by focusing on interoperability with the ASEAN Co-ordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management. This has included trainings for ASEAN’s Emergency Rapid Assessment Team, civil-military cooperation, training ASEAN professionals as UNDAC members and jointly participating in disaster relief simulation exercises.
On behalf of the Regional Coordination Mechanism/Thematic Working Group on Environment and Disaster Risk Management, ASEAN and OCHA staff also provided a joint interim report on implementing the Strategic Plan of Action on Disaster Management. They will jointly review the plan in 2014.
OCHA co-led a partnership mission between the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Government of the Philippines, exploring practical ways to prepare for and respond to recurring natural disasters.
In the Latin America and Caribbean region, OCHA supported the sixth Meeting on Enhancing Humanitarian Partnerships (MIAH), hosted by the Government of Jamaica. Leaders from 22 countries made a commitment to enhance regional cooperation in disaster preparedness and humanitarian response. A plan of action was adopted to support countries and regional organizations to strengthen early warning systems, preparedness and response across the region. Agreements were reached to support the establishment of a Regional Logistics Centre for Humanitarian Assistance for the Americas in the Republic of Panama and a subregional hub in Jamaica. These hubs will improve the efficiency and management of regional and international humanitarian supplies for fast and effective delivery of humanitarian assistance in disaster situations in the region.
To encourage the cross-regional exchange of experiences, OCHA co-hosted (with Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Jamaica) a high-level panel debate on MIAH issues in New York in December. This was the first formal discussion of early warning systems, preparedness and response at the global level, with specific reference to the Latin America and Caribbean region. Based on this success, the aim is to continue to raise awareness and encourage more regional exchanges.
OCHA strengthened its partnership with Brazil in 2013 through two events: the joint commemoration of the anniversary of Sergio Vieira de Mello’s death, and the launch of World Humanitarian Day from Rio de Janeiro.
In 2013, the Under-Secretary-General (USG) frequently briefed the United Nations Security Council on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria. These briefings were integral in the development of the Presidential statement on Syria and informing Council members about humanitarian issues. Along with information sharing, OCHA regularly engaged with Council members on the critical issue of humanitarian access in Syria.
OCHA also gave 11 briefings in 2013 to the Security Council’s Informal Expert Group on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, addressing protracted conflicts in areas such as Afghanistan and Darfur, as well as emerging protection crises in Mali and CAR. The Expert Group briefings informed discussions on improving the United Nations response to protection issues in these situations. The outcome of these discussions ranged from implementing already comprehensive mandates (UNAMA, UNAMID) to mandate changes (MONUSCO), or establishing new Council-mandated missions (MINUSMA).
OCHA strengthened its private-sector engagement in 2013, increasing outreach to individual corporations and building relationships with key private-sector institutions and leaders.
The response to Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines highlighted the private sector’s ongoing involvement in humanitarian activities. Following systematic outreach to private-sector networks, OCHA recorded the contributions of 80 businesses to the humanitarian response through OCHA’s FTS in 2013. Nearly a quarter of all humanitarian assistance received for Super Typhoon Haiyan came from private individuals and organizations. For the first time, OCHA deployed a private-sector adviser who helped to facilitate communication between private-sector organizations and humanitarian actors in the Philippines.
OCHA staff also increased their engagement with senior business leaders. This included the USG’s participation in the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, her co-chairmanship of the WEF regional meeting for Latin America and the Caribbean in Peru, and extensive engagement by OCHA senior management at other WEF regional meetings.
OCHA commissioned four country studies on the private-sector’s role in emergency preparedness and response in 2013, which were funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID). The studies mapped private-sector engagement in crises in Haiti, Indonesia, Jordan and Kenya, and provided specific recommendations to the UN, the private sector, Governments and other stakeholders. The studies recommended engagement beyond the traditional financial support to build collaborative and innovative partnership models that leverage private-sector operational expertise and resources. The outcomes of the studies and of the deployment of a private-sector expert to the Philippines will inform consultations and outreach in the run-up to the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016.
In 2013, OCHA consolidated and refocused its portfolio of private-sector partnerships to ensure alignment between corporate priorities and results. OCHA currently has three active institutional private-sector partnerships providing pro-bono services at the headquarters level, two operationally focused partnerships and 16 campaign- or event-specific partnerships. During 2013, the value added from OCHA’s private-sector collaboration, excluding the major but unquantified value derived from partnerships linked to World Humanitarian Day, exceeded $1.5 million.
During the year, OCHA developed a partnership-planning tool to ensure existing partnerships are properly managed and evaluated. An OCHA-wide private-sector network was also launched to provide a platform for sharing best practices on managing partnerships.
OCHA continued its ongoing work with local and international NGO partners in country-specific situations. This involved encouraging these partners to share innovative ideas, engage in research and discuss policy initiatives.
The Regional and Global Humanitarian Policy Forum Series continued to provide an excellent opportunity to engage with NGOs, build a policy network and foster debate. OCHA engaged with approximately 80 local and international NGOs at two regional policy forums in West and Central Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, and at the Global Humanitarian Policy Forum, which resulted in a mutually agreed research-and-policy agenda in support of the World Humanitarian Summit.
In 2013, OCHA provided opportunities for NGOs to develop studies on several critical humanitarian issues through the Humanitarian Research and Innovation Grant programme. The research subjects were broad, ranging from a study on the disconnect between research and innovation for water, sanitation and hygiene technologies, to an analysis of entrepreneurial partnerships in response to conflict in Colombia.
OCHA partnered with DFID to bring together NGOs, Governments, UN agencies and independent experts for a workshop on innovation in humanitarian response. The workshop established an agreed network of stakeholders interested in humanitarian innovation, identified the key focus areas for innovation in the lead-up to the World Humanitarian Summit and considered the most prominent factors that could enable or hinder innovation in the humanitarian sector.
OCHA also engaged with Oxford University and Brighton University in the United Kingdom to launch two major research projects studying humanitarian innovation partnership. The researchers are working with NGOs and international organizations to map innovative practices in humanitarian response.