Information and Advocacy

Managing information during a humanitarian emergency is a crucial part of any operation. The humanitarian community recognizes the importance of gathering reliable data on the locations of people in need, what they urgently need, who is best placed to assist them, and the value of this information for effective and timely humanitarian assistance.

A strong information management network that supports emergency coordination requires processes to collect, analyse and share information about the situation among the various organizations involved, and to ensure the coordination system runs efficiently. The network includes people affected by the emergency, as well as relief organizations, governments and media. Often the information is presented in easy-to-use formats, such as maps or tables, to support swift decision-making at all levels.

When an emergency occurs, OCHA’s information management officers immediately start working with key partners to produce standard information products to support coordination of all the humanitarian organizations and the response operation. These include the Who What Where (3W) database, contact lists and meeting schedules. Tools such as the information needs assessment and maps are made available to support better relief planning and action.

A clear information management structure also ensures that all the organizations involved work with the same or complementary information, and that this information is as relevant, accurate and timely as possible. The data collected and analyzed is used as a foundation for situation reporting and for crafting public information messages. In addition, properly collected and managed information during the emergency phase can benefit early recovery and disaster preparedness activities later.

Equally important are the preparedness and lessons-learned activities OCHA undertakes with key partners, especially through the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Task Force on Information Management.

Advocacy and Reporting

OCHA has a unique mandate to speak out on behalf of the people worst affected by humanitarian situations. As the organization tasked with coordinating international humanitarian response, our ultimate goal is to save more lives and reduce the impact of conflicts and natural disasters. Whether we’re mobilizing relief money after a massive earthquake, ensuring vulnerable communities are protected, or raising awareness of forgotten crises, it’s our job to keep world attention focused on humanitarian issues.

To OCHA, advocacy means communicating the right messages to the right people at the right time. These people include humanitarian agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations, national governments, local and international media, parties to conflict, companies, donors, regional bodies, communities affected by emergencies and the general public. The aim is that they increase urgent funding or support, change their policies or keep to their commitments.

The most visible methods include media interviews with the Emergency Relief Coordinator (the United Nations Humanitarian Chief), public speeches, press briefings, Web stories and social media campaigns. Private advocacy – through quiet diplomacy with governments or negotiations with armed groups – is also a crucial element in bringing about change, securing access or building support. Regardless of the approach taken, OCHA always promotes the principles of humanity, neutrality, independence and impartiality, and respect for international law.

Tools and mechanisms

Working with a wide range of partners, OCHA helps to identify the issues that need to be highlighted. These can range from a new crisis, such as a devastating cyclone, to chronic situations, such as unresolved conflict, or the humanitarian effects of problems such as climate change or food insecurity. OCHA provides analysis and policies to help shape the thinking around complex issues. We also produce reports and develop messaging that enables humanitarian leaders to make informed decisions and speak out effectively and coherently.

To communicate effectively with various audiences, OCHA has developed and uses all types of products, platforms and channels. These include standard tools such as press releases, publications, maps and media interviews; different web and social media platforms including our own humanitarian news network; multimedia products using video; photo and graphics; creative awareness-raising campaigns; and essential information channels for affected communities.