Children play in the family tent at Al Mazraq IDP camp in northern Yemen © OCHA
For the past four years, OCHA has worked to achieve three broad goals, as set out in its 2010-2013 Strategic Framework: a more enabling environment for humanitarian action; a more effective humanitarian coordination system; and strengthened OCHA management and administration.
2010 to 2013 were marked by a number of major emergencies, starting with the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, sudden-onset natural disasters in Pakistan and the Philippines, and region-wide emergencies in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. OCHA also coordinated relief efforts in response to conflicts that affected millions of vulnerable people in Syria, Mali and CAR.
Against this backdrop, implementation of OCHA’s 2010-2013 Strategic Framework has resulted in a more effective international humanitarian response. The plan focused on supporting accountable humanitarian coordination leaders, promoting more systematic coordination of the common humanitarian programme cycle, and strengthening partnerships with Member States, regional organizations, operational partners and other relevant actors.
The implementation of the Strategic Framework precipitated the IASC Principals’ establishment of the Transformative Agenda to improve and speed up humanitarian response. In its role giving system-wide support, OCHA has played a key role in implementing this agenda with the agreement of protocols to underpin it, and the formation of the Executive Directors Group to monitor and evaluate response activities and support for strengthened leadership on the ground. The roll-out of the Transformative Agenda has translated into a more coordinated, effective and accountable collective response to major sudden-onset and chronic emergencies.
Goal 1 - A more enabling environment for humanitarian action
Closer relationships with Member States and other partners:
Increased support for humanitarian action from Member States in Africa, Asia and the Gulf region; new liaison offices opened for the Gulf region in Abu Dhabi and the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Expansion of global rapid-response networks with new Member States and organizations, with 10 additional Member States and 11 organizations joining the UNDAC system. UNDAC now includes 81 member countries and 25 organizations; INSARAG now includes 36 member countries.
Increased global engagement with military and civil-defense actors on the use of military and civil-defense assets in disaster relief.
Strategies for building national resilience developed in nine countries.
- Memorandums of understanding or plans of action with 13 Member States and regional organizations.
To strengthen and expand its partnerships, OCHA established the new Gulf Liaison Office in Abu Dhabi and the African Union Liaison Office in Addis Ababa. In the Gulf, OCHA established an annual conference on partnerships and information sharing to engage regional actors on humanitarian issues. OCHA also supported the establishment and development of the OIC’s Humanitarian Affairs Department and the United Arab Emirates’ Ministry for International Cooperation and Development.
OCHA also expanded its multilateral emergency response networks. Ten Member States and 11 organizations joined the UNDAC system, bringing the total to 81 Member States and 25 organizations by the end of 2013. UNDAC developed strong regional links on disaster preparedness and response, including with the ASEAN Emergency Response and Assessment Team and the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism, through common methodological approaches, trainings and joint deployments. The UNDAC system also developed, or in some cases enhanced, its specialized technical support partnerships, including with the International Humanitarian Partnership, the Americas Support Team and the Asia-Pacific Humanitarian Partnerships, and with organizations such as Télécoms Sans Frontières, MapAction, DHL and the White Helmets Commission, which provide complementary services in communications and logistics. The International Search and Rescue Advisory Group also grew to a network of more than 36 countries and played a crucial life-saving role in many high-profile disaster responses. For example, after the Haiti earthquake, 60 international teams saved 132 people trapped under collapsed buildings and provided first aid to hundreds of people before specialized medical teams arrived.
OCHA continued to increase its engagement with military and civil-defense actors to strengthen humanitarian response (see ‘Civil-Military Coordination’). This included promoting the Oslo Guidelines and the guidelines on the use of Military and Civil Defense Assets (MCDA). OCHA also helped to update the 2001 Non-Binding Guidelines on the Use of Armed Escorts for Humanitarian Convoys. In addition, OCHA provided UN civil-military coordination training programmes to relevant operational personnel. As a result of these efforts, many foreign providers of MCDA now systematically consult OCHA before deploying national assets.
OCHA also worked with IASC and UNDG partners to develop strategies for building national resilience and increasing planning capacity for longer-term recovery in Uganda, Guinea, Liberia, Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, Zimbabwe, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Memorandums of understanding or plans of action were agreed with 13 Member States and regional organizations.
In addition, OCHA worked with UN peacekeeping, political and peacebuilding entities to develop integrated mission planning guidelines and UN integration policy, i.e. the extent to which UN humanitarian actors should be integrated into UN peace operations. OCHA extended its outreach to and collaboration with NGOs, including through the establishment of a dedicated NGO unit. To strengthen its operational relationships, OCHA helped establish common normative standards, including through its work with UNDP and DOCO to develop guidelines on national transitions for RC/HCs and country teams.
Helping partners and Member States prepare for emergencies
A more uniform and systematic inter-agency approach to preparedness rolled out, with over 70 countries supported by OCHA in the development of Minimum Preparedness Actions.
- Adoption of a more coherent inter-agency approach—the IASC Common Framework for Preparedness—to building national capacities for preparedness as part of the Transformative Agenda.
Between 2010 and 2013, OCHA clarified its role in supporting preparedness. On the basis of its internal preparedness policy, OCHA developed a Minimum Preparedness Package (MPP)—a set of Minimum Preparedness Actions that are drafted to ensure effective response outcomes in an emergency. As a result, corporate preparedness is becoming more consistent across the organization.
OCHA also led IASC efforts to strengthen system-wide preparedness, which contributed to the adoption of the IASC Common Framework for Preparedness as part of the Transformative Agenda protocols. OCHA worked with IASC partners to promote emergency preparedness as a key enabler that underpins the humanitarian programme cycle. In addition, as co-founder of the Capacity for Disaster Risk Reduction Initiative (an inter-agency effort to build disaster risk reduction capacity worldwide), OCHA provided advisory services, technical guidance and training on emergency preparedness and disaster risk management.
Strengthened advocacy and policy
More than 1 billion people reached through social media for World Humanitarian Day.
More diverse global policy community established through systematic engagement with policy experts from a wider group of countries, including 150 experts from the global south.
Improved analysis of global humanitarian data and trends through the World Humanitarian Data and Trends Report, thematic policy reports, and the access monitoring and reporting system.
Seven major policy forums held.
- Continued advocacy to safeguard humanitarian principles and humanitarian access, including through inclusion of appropriate language in UN Security Council resolutions, ECOSOC and GA reports, and ERC statements.
Through World Humanitarian Day, OCHA extended its partnerships further and innovatively used social media and celebrity ambassadors to reach more than 1 billion people with key advocacy messages (see 'World Humanitarian Day').
OCHA strengthened its partnerships with academic institutions and global humanitarian thought leaders to effectively identify and analyse key trends in humanitarian action, including by helping to build a truly global policy community that counts over 150 policy experts from the global South.
OCHA improved analysis of global data and trends through the new “World Humanitarian Data and Trends Report”. OCHA also produced research and thematic reports on global challenges, including energy security, cash transfers in emergencies, resilience programming, risk, vulnerability, protection of civilians, internal displacement, UN integration policy, transition, humanitarian access, staying and delivering in insecure environments, and counter-terrorism legislation. An upgraded access monitoring and reporting system was rolled out across 15 country offices to provide humanitarian leaders with better data and analysis for decision-making and advocacy.
All in all, OCHA organized four regional policy forums and three global humanitarian policy forums during the 2010-13 period [see our story on the Global Humanitarian Policy Forum 2013].
OCHA also continued its advocacy to safeguard humanitarian principles and humanitarian access. This included advocating for the inclusion of appropriate language in UN Security Council resolutions as well as ECOSOC and GA reports and ensuring inclusion of such language in ERC statements.
In parallel to these efforts, OCHA’s humanitarian news and analysis service, IRIN, ramped up its analytical output to account for more than 35 per cent of its overall annual production, and it aligned its coverage of policy issues and global trends affecting humanitarian risk more closely with OCHA’s advocacy priorities.
Goal 2 - A more effective humanitarian coordination system
Supporting accountable humanitarian leaders
A broader and more diverse pool of humanitarian leaders established, with 150 potential candidates; half of the appointed HCs are from the pool.
A special L3-HC pool created, with 18 seasoned humanitarian leaders ready to deploy.
- More comprehensive support to humanitarian leaders introduced through the RC/HC learning system, mentoring support, better performance management and regular senior management support.
To strengthen the quality and diversity of humanitarian leadership, over 150 experienced humanitarian professionals were brought into the RC/HC track as potential candidates; half of the appointed HCs are from the pool.
In addition, a special L3 HC pool was created in 2012, with 18 seasoned humanitarian leaders ready to deploy within 72 hours of an L3 emergency.
OCHA spearheaded measures to improve performance management, introducing annual ERC-HC Compacts and performance appraisals that take partner feedback into account. OCHA provided training and mentoring support, including through the IASC Emergency Directors Group. In addition, OCHA has endeavoured to create a more enabling environment for leadership by establishing a clearer normative framework, with a view to mitigating institutional and policy issues that had hindered the effectiveness of humanitarian coordination. Under the Transformative Agenda, OCHA helped achieve collective inter-agency agreement on fundamental concepts (such as inter-cluster coordination and the “provider of last resort” role), which were then translated into IASC protocols that have clarified the respective roles, responsibilities and expectations of the actors within the humanitarian architecture. New tools and guidance, including the Inter-Agency Rapid Response Mechanism, Coordination Reference Module and Humanitarian Programme Cycle Reference Module, provided clearer direction on who is expected to do what on the ground in emergencies.
Improved information management
Improved quality and predictability of OCHA’s information management tools, such as the Global Product Catalogue and the information product overview reports. Increased accessibility of OCHA communications and IM products, with 5,000 situation reports and 5,200 maps and infographics produced, and 168,500 ReliefWeb subscribers.
Increased adoption of standardized approaches to data management, including the registration of 847 common data sets.
- Operational web platform (www.humanitarianresponse.info) launched in 15 countries, providing humanitarian responders with access to a wide range of operational data, information products and services to better inform decision-making.
Between 2010 and 2013, OCHA improved the quality and predictability of OCHA’s information management tools, such as the Global Product Catalogue and the information product overview reports. OCHA also increased the accessibility of OCHA communications and IM products, with 5,000 situation reports and 5,200 maps and infographics produced, and 168,500 ReliefWeb subscribers registered.
OCHA also increased the adoption of standardized approaches to data management. For example, OCHA and its partners served as guardians of key data sets (such as population statistics and the location of roads and bridges) to help facilitate rapid humanitarian response, with 847 common operational data sets managed on a public registry by the end of 2013.
In addition, OCHA launched an operational web platform (www.humanitarianresponse.info) in 15 countries, providing humanitarian responders with access to a wide range of operational data, information products and services to better inform decision-making.
OCHA also made progress in streamlining agency reporting requirements by introducing a single reporting form that covers all information needs, thereby eliminating multiple requests for similar information. To help address deficiencies in the humanitarian community’s collection and use of sex- and age-disaggregated data to inform its programming, OCHA ensured that sex and age data are considered in project template designs, target population projections for CAPs, CERF and pooled funds, and single request formats and indicator registries.
Inter-cluster support and the Humanitarian Programme Cycle
A more systematic approach to coordination of the HPC rolled out, with harmonized needs assessments, modified CAPs, a programme cycle reference module and operational peer reviews.
Improved cluster performance monitoring system rolled out in 12 countries.
Seven inter-agency real-time evaluations undertaken to provide feedback on coordination.
- OCHA-managed pooled funds became a critical source of funding for life-saving interventions, e.g. CERF supported 69 countries, granting over $1.4 billion.
OCHA helped roll out a more systematic approach to coordination of the humanitarian program cycle, with harmonized needs assessments, modified CAPs, a programme cycle reference module and operational peer reviews. This included the implementation of two new tools in 2013: the humanitarian needs overviews and the strategic response plans, which improved the CAP and made the HPC more evidence based and strategic.
To strengthen accountability through improved monitoring and evaluation, OCHA introduced the Cluster Performance Monitoring Tool, which was implemented in more than 12 countries by the end of 2013.
OCHA supported the development of methodologies for conducting Inter-Agency Real Time Evaluations (IARTEs), which later evolved into operational peer reviews. Between 2010 and 2013, seven IARTEs (triggered by the humanitarian disasters in Haiti, Pakistan, Kenya and the Horn of Africa) provided feedback on coordination and operational challenges on the ground to help inform humanitarian decision-making.
OCHA-managed pooled funds became a critical source of funding for life-saving interventions. The CERF, for example, supported 69 countries with grants totalling over $1.4 billion. In 2013, CERF allocated more than $482 million for humanitarian action worldwide. (see ‘CERF 2013 Allocations’)
Goal 3 - Strengthened OCHA management and administration
Efficient and transparent financial management
A broadened donor base, as shown by voluntary contributions from 40 donors in 2013.
Increased share of unearmarked contributions, which now account for more than half of OCHA’s budget.
Stronger financial management and monitoring systems introduced for country-based pooled funds.
Two-year cost plans introduced, enabling biennial fundraising.
- Enhanced internal controls framework.
OCHA achieved greater predictability and flexibility in its funding. Its extrabudgetary income, coming from a broader donor base, increased by $47 million between 2010 and 2013. Voluntary contributions were received from 40 donors in 2013.
By receiving half of its donor contributions unearmarked and receiving these contributions earlier in the year, OCHA was able to rapidly scale up its response in sudden-onset emergencies. Unearmarked contributions now account for more than half of OCHA’s budget.
To strengthen financial management of country-based pooled funds, OCHA implemented robust monitoring systems, introducing global guidelines for its ERFs.
In addition, the introduction of two-year cost plans enabled OCHA to fundraise for biennial cycles, thereby allowing for seamless transition from one annual budget to another. This significantly improved OCHA's ability to plan its cash flow.
OCHA emphasized the promotion of internal controls and the upgrading of existing procedures. For example, it improved income-and-expenditure reporting to programme managers, enabling more effective planning and budgeting.
Timely staffing and deployments
Broader and more diverse internal surge rosters comprising over 1,000 professionals, including more women and underrepresented nationalities.
- Reduced global vacancy rate to less than 10 per cent.
To ensure timely recruiting, OCHA has rostered over 1,000 people for professional functions over the past four years. It has also broadened its pool of applicants and reached out to qualified women and candidates from underrepresented countries, making increased use of its field offices and ReliefWeb, and of social media outlets such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. In addition, OCHA implemented a new field-staffing information management system to better manage its existing staff’s skill sets and profiles, and to improve its workforce-planning processes. OCHA drew on a range of surge mechanisms to ensure the rapid deployment of staff to sudden-onset emergencies (see ‘OCHA Surge Deployments in 2013’).
At the same time, OCHA reduced its global vacancy rate to less than 10 per cent. The field vacancy rate dropped from 16 per cent at the end of 2011 to 11 per cent at the end of 2013. OCHA headquarters’ average vacancy rate in 2013 was 8 per cent.
OCHA as a learning organization
More systematic implementation of recommendations from audits and evaluations, with over 90 per cent implemented.
Greater coherence among OCHA’s planning, evaluation and guidance functions.
- Comprehensive Organizational Learning Strategy rolled out, which introduced training programmes, including an online induction course paired with an on-boarding programme.
OCHA more systematically implemented the recommendations from audits and evaluations, with over 90 per cent implemented. This was facilitated by a new tracking and follow-up system to help ensure that critical recommendations are kept at the top of OCHA’s corporate agenda.
OCHA also achieved greater coherence among its planning, evaluation and guidance functions. For example, strategic planning considerations were used to assist decision-making on OCHA’s evaluation priorities, while learning from OCHA evaluations provided key inputs to strategic and management planning.
OCHA made significant progress in integrating lessons learned, instituting best practices and facilitating staff learning on key priorities. As part of its Organizational Learning Strategy, OCHA introduced a set of training programmes, including an online induction course paired with an on-boarding programme. OCHA expanded access to online courses and successfully piloted on-the-job training initiatives in the field. OCHA also introduced Communities of Practice as a key tool for learning beyond formal training, providing staff with a forum to share ideas and think outside the box.
- Goal 1 - A more enabling environment for humanitarian action
- Goal 2 - A more effective humanitarian coordination system
- Goal 3 - Strengthened OCHA management and administration
- Objective 1.1 - Member States and Regional Organizations
- Objective 1.2 - Operational Partners
- Objective 1.3 - Preparedness
- Objective 1.4 - Analysis and System-Wide Learning
- Objective 2.1 - Accountable Humanitarian Coordination Leaders
- Objective 2.4 - The Humanitarian Programme Cycle
- Objective 3.1 - Funding and Financial Management
- Objective 3.2 - Surge and Staffing Solutions
- Objective 3.3 - Organizational Learning for Results