Cluster 2006 - Appeal for Improving Humanitarian Response Capacity

3 March 2006

Strengthening humanitarian action is a responsibility shared by all.  The Secretary-General’s report on ‘Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations’ identified significant gaps in sectors such as water and sanitation, shelter and camp management, and protection, as well as the need to reinvest in systemic capacity for humanitarian response.  It also suggested the establishment of more routine and formal approaches to sector coordination among United Nations (UN) agencies and partners.[1]  Member States concurred, calling in 2005 for more predictable, efficient and effective humanitarian action, for greater accountability, and for the UN to build the capacity and technical expertise to fill gaps in critical sectors and common services.[2]  The UN General Assembly in its 60th Session requested the Secretary-General to continue to explore ways to strengthen the response capacities of the international community to provide immediate humanitarian relief, building on existing arrangements and ongoing initiatives.[3]  The way forward as described during the Economic and Social Council and General Assembly, as well as in studies such as the independent Humanitarian Response Review, envisages:

a) mapping the response capacities of national, regional, and international actors;
b) strengthening response capacities, in particular human resources;
c) applying benchmarks to measure performance;
d) improving coordination; and
e) filling gaps in water and sanitation, shelter, camp management, and protection.[4]

Indeed, the Humanitarian Response Review (HRR) recommended assigningresponsibilities by sector to lead organisations and developing clusters of relevant partners to develop preparedness and response capacity.

In September 2005 the Principals of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) agreed to establish cluster leads in nine areas.[5]

First, clusters dealing with service provision:

a) Logistics, chaired by the World Food Programme (WFP); and
b) Emergency Telecommunications, chaired by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) as process owner, with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) as the common data communications service provider and WFP as the common security telecommunications service provider. 

Second, clusters dealing with relief and assistance to beneficiaries:

c) Emergency Shelter, chaired by UNHCR (for conflict-generated IDPs)[6];
d) Health, chaired by the World Health Organisation (WHO);
e) Nutrition, chaired by UNICEF; and
f) Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene, chaired by UNICEF. 

Third, clusters covering cross-cutting issues:

g) Early Recovery, chaired by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP);
h) Camp Coordination and Camp Management, chaired by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) (for conflict-generated Internally Displaced Persons [IDPs]) and by the International Organization for Migration (for natural disasters); and
i) Protection, chaired by UNHCR (for conflict-generated IDPs).[7]  (Because of the varying nature of the clusters, the scope and range of activities proposed by the different clusters also vary, and hence are presented in this appeal in the manner best suiting each.)

In December 2005, the IASC Principals agreed to implement the cluster approach in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, and Uganda.  In addition, the cluster approach would be applied in all new major disasters.  Key elements of the cluster approach were already applied in the response to the South Asia earthquake (and are the subject of a current evaluation that will analyse how to apply the cluster approach in sudden-onset disaster response).

The cluster approach aims to improve the predictability, timeliness, and effectiveness of humanitarian response, and pave the way for recovery.  It also aims to strengthen leadership and accountability in certain key sectors where gaps have been identified, and addresses the repeated requests of the General Assembly for a more predictable, effective and accountable inter-agency response to the protection and assistance needs of the internally displaced.  In essence, the cluster approach represents a substantial strengthening of the ‘collaborative response’ with the additional benefits of predictable and accountable leads – which in turn will enhance partnerships and complementarity among the UN, Red Cross Movement, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The cluster approach operates on two levels.  At the global level, the approach will build up capacity in the nine key ‘gap’ areas by developing better surge capacity, ensuring consistent access to appropriately trained technical expertise and enhanced material stockpiles, and securing the increased engagement of all relevant humanitarian partners.  Cluster leadership functions at the global level include:

a) up-to-date assessments of the overall needs for human, financial, and institutional capacity;
b) reviews of currently available capacities and means for their use;
c) links with other clusters, including preparedness and long-term planning, standards, best practice, advocacy, and resource mobilisation;
d) taking action to ensure that required capacities and mechanisms exist, including rosters for surge capacity and stockpiles; and
e) training and system development at the local, national, regional, and international levels.  Designated Global Cluster Leads are accountable to the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) for ensuring predictable and effective inter-agency preparedness and response within the concerned sectors or areas of activity.

At the field level, the cluster approach will strengthen the coordination and response capacity by mobilising clusters of humanitarian agencies (UN/Red Cross-Red Crescent/international organisations /NGOs) to respond in particular sectors or areas of activity, each cluster having a clearly designated and accountable lead, as agreed by the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) and the Country Team. To enhance predictability, the field-level cluster lead will normally be in line with the cluster lead arrangements at the global level. These measures will ensureenhanced partnerships between UN-Red Cross/Red Crescent-NGOs on the ground, improved strategic field-level coordination and prioritisation, and will introduce measurable accountability from the operational partners to the Humanitarian Coordinators. Cluster lead functions at the field level include:

a) predictable action in the cluster for analysis of needs, addressing priorities, and identifying gaps;
b) securing and following up on commitments from the cluster to respond to needs and fill gaps;
c) acting as provider of last resort[8]; and
d) sustaining mechanisms for assessing the performance of the cluster and individual participants.

In sum, the cluster approach represents a critical step forward in enhancing the ability of the Emergency Relief Coordinator (globally) and the HCs (on the ground) to manage humanitarian response effectively.  The approach introduces predictability and accountability into sector responses that have often been ineffective.  Accountability is a key feature of the cluster approach:under the system, the HC – with the support of OCHA – retains overall responsibility for ensuring the effectiveness of humanitarian response and remains accountable to the ERC.  Meanwhile cluster leads at the field level – in addition to their normal agency responsibilities – are accountable to the Humanitarian Coordinators for ensuring effective and timely assessment and response in their respective clusters, and for acting as providers of last resort.  In addition, cluster leads have mutual obligations to interact with each other and coordinate to address cross-cutting issues.

The present appeal covers only the costs of implementing the cluster approach at the global level in 2006.  While all organisations are maximising resources already at their disposal, clusters leads and cluster partners have recognised the need for varying levels of additional resources to fulfil their cluster obligations in order to ensure that effective response capacity exists in the identified areas.  These additional needs are outlined in the present document, which seeks $39,689,256[9] from January to December 2006.[10]Funding should be channelled directly to the respective agency appealing for funds. Costs associated with implementing the approach at the field level will be incorporated into revisions of the relevant consolidated appeals, and into flash appeals issued for new emergencies. A mid-year review of this appeal will measure progress against work objectives and resource mobilisation.

[1]    A/60/87-E/2005/78, 23 June 2005

[2]    E/2005/L.19, 13 July 2005; A/60/L.38, 12 December 2005

[3]    A/60/L.39, 12 December 2005

[5]    IASC Principals deemed it unnecessary to apply the cluster approach to four sectors where no significant gaps were detected: a) food, led by WFP; b) refugees, led by UNHCR; c) education, led by UNICEF; and d) agriculture, led by FAO.

[6]    IASC Principals agreed that, in cases of natural disaster, IFRC act as convener for Emergency Shelter (taking into account the IFRC’s obligations and independence).

[7]    The mechanism that will apply for protection in disasters, and in regard to other situations/groups requiring a protection response, are detailed in Section 10 (Protection Cluster).

[8]    The cluster leads are expected to serve as the provider of last resort. Obviously, this cannot be the case in some circumstance, for example when access is denied, insecurity reigns, or funds are unavailable. Further, recognising that early recovery is a complex, multi-sector and dimensional process, the IASC agreed that early recovery might need to be treated on an exceptional basis.

[9]    All dollar figures in this document are United States dollars. Requirements might change as the situation evolves. As such, readers are asked to refer to the Financial Tracking Service (FTS,, which will display the appeal’s requirements and funding on the CAP 2006 page under “Other Appeals.” Pledges and contributions to this appeal should, as always, be reported to the FTS.

[10]  There is likely to be a cluster appeal for 2007, but by 2008 costs will be incorporated into agencies' core programmes and budgets. 

Document History

3 March 2006

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