The OCHA Myanmar Country Office was established in May 2008 in response to cyclone Nargis. OCHA focused on supporting inter-cluster coordination, resource mobilization, support to the RC/HC in his advocacy efforts with the Government and donors including through the Tripartite Core Group mechanism. OCHA’s six hub offices performed the function of liaison with local authorities and coordination among partners.
Following the end of the Cyclone Nargis response, the hub offices in the delta region were closed and OCHA shifted its focus to address other humanitarian concerns in the country. At the request of Government and partners, a sub-office was established in Chin State in 2009, along the border with India, to deal with a rodent infestation that threatened local food security. The opening of this office boosted confidence with the Government and demonstrated how OCHA could add value to humanitarian operations in the field.
Since then, a temporary OCHA presence was established in Eastern Rakhine State following Cyclone Giri and in Shan State in response to the earthquake, as well as in Kachin State where renewed instability since June 2011 has triggered displacement and human suffering. These deployments resulted in several Government and partners' requests for OCHA to engage in supporting the authorities to support coordination and response, preparation of contingency plans, and development of preparedness measures, as well as capacity building for response to a variety of disasters. Among other activities, OCHA has been asked to support the development of the national disaster management law, to review and update the Government’s disaster management curriculum and to take a leading role in the coordination of emergency response and contingency planning in areas affected by disasters.
Currently, OCHA in Myanmar consists of a main office in Yangon and a sub-office in Chin state. Plans are being made to increase its presence in sensitive areas to respond to requests from Government and partners for increased coordination support. OCHA Myanmar is finalizing a formal agreement with the Government to ensure a framework for operations in the country. Finalization of the agreement will be a key determining factor for OCHA’s presence in Myanmar.
OCHA provides strategic advice and support to the HC including for:
Coordination of response to chronic and emerging humanitarian needs through humanitarian partners (including government, donors, humanitarian and recovery organizations). This includes facilitation and support of coordination settings; preparation of briefings, analysis and strategic documents; deployment of staff to support field-based coordination and preparedness and response initiatives; and liaison with the Government to foster coordination initiatives;
Advocacy - addressing access constraints, through monitoring of trends and advocacy, including with the Government;
Reporting and information management, the latter in close collaboration with the Myanmar Information Management Unit;
Fundraising for essential needs for humanitarian operations and administration of Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) grants, as well as of the Humanitarian Multi Stakeholder Fund (HMSF). The HMSF targets humanitarian interventions in difficult to access areas, where there are no or limited other options for funding exist. Whenever possible, OCHA is heavily engaged in forming common strategies or appeals as seen necessary by partners;
Disaster management is an important part of the day-to-day activities of the OCHA CO, and includes:
support to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement on disaster preparedness and response, including policy formulation, capacity building, day-to-day liaison in case of events, as well as support to overall coordination and information management;
coordination of preparedness and response initiatives to support local and international humanitarian actors ensuring timely and appropriate response to events, even small in scale;
leading discussions, coordinating initiatives included in the UN Strategic Framework priority 3, reducing vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change, in collaboration with UN-Habitat;
close collaboration with the Regional Office for Asia-Pacific (ROAP) and other Country Offices in the region, especially regarding the promotion of regional approaches and methodologies and liaison with regional entities.
OCHA also works closely with Resident Coordinator Office (RCO) staff to ensure discussions on humanitarian/recovery/development programming as well as other relevant initiatives, as part of the support to the RC/HC functions.
In 2012-13, OCHA will continue to provide coordination and support to the humanitarian community through the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT), which is chaired by the Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator (RC/HC) and focuses on strategic decision-making and information sharing.
Due to the lack of common humanitarian strategy, OCHA will raise with the HCT the prospect of drafting a nationwide strategy to serve as an overarching humanitarian framework for consistently addressing humanitarian challenges, countrywide.
OCHA will continue to strengthen its coordination and preparedness efforts to ensure a more effective response to humanitarian needs arising from natural and man-made disasters. Coordination architecture in Yangon and at field level will be enhanced and information flows will be tailored to both humanitarian and development coordination needs. This approach will be rolled out in parallel with the Government’s ongoing decentralization policy, in the wake of the April 2011 formation of the new central and State/Region government.
Recent OCHA deployments to Rakhine, Shan and Kachin States have proven successful in bringing stakeholders and the Government together. Capitalising on renewed interest and the Government’s new openness to collaborate with humanitarian and development partners, an increased field presence will help to strengthen dialogue with the Government on priorities as well as on access.
Field-based coordination will be strengthened with OCHA opening additional field presence in priority locations. These offices will support local coordination efforts and liaise with local authorities on humanitarian issues as they arise. The Chin field office will be maintained in 2012 and the OCHA presence in this region will be reassessed during the course of the year. Roving Field Coordination Officers, information and administrative officers will be deployed in case of emergencies and will regularly visit the hubs to support local coordination efforts and effective information flow between the centre and the field.
OCHA, in collaboration with the HCT members, will continue to work with key Government counterparts at the central and regional level to identify areas of collaboration in the enhanced coordination of humanitarian response and preparedness including sensitization to the cluster/sector approach.
Efforts will be made to ensure that humanitarian concerns are highlighted in key strategic instruments such as the UN Strategic Framework (2012-2015). This will help to reduce vulnerabilities and contribute to a seamless transition to longer-term recovery and development and will support internal and external reporting. Advocacy efforts to expand service provision and access of humanitarian partners in border areas will continue and be expanded as needed.
Humanitarian coordination can also be strengthened through advocacy for civil-military coordination initiatives. In 2012 OCHA will need to conduct an analysis of opportunities for engagement in civil-military coordination-related issues. It will initiate a discussion with ROAP and CMCS on possible initiatives at local and regional levels and on required capacities within the CO.
OCHA is discussing with donors a revision of the HMSF mechanisms to include potential funding of countrywide humanitarian response to man-mad and natural disaster-affected areas. This will respond to emerging and intermittent displacement needs in border areas as well as to small-to-medium-scale natural disasters across the country. OCHA will promote coordination among donors and responding agencies and will advocate for early recovery and preparedness funding commitments.
OCHA established a small information management unit (IMU) in the last quarter of 2011. The IMU will closely collaborate with the UNDP-administered Myanmar Information Management Unit (MIMU), particularly for components beyond the MIMU capacity/mandate. These include: strengthening relationships with the Government IM entities; addressing IM needs in sensitive areas; support the development of key humanitarian indicators and monitoring and evaluation systems; and delivery of OCHA-specific products. Further discussion to define the future relation between MIMU and OCHA IMU is pending the result of a MIMU evaluation, the OCHA IMU establishment and guidance from the newly appointed HC/RC. A clear strategy for OCHA IMU, including scope of interaction with MIMU is expected to be available in the first quarter of 2012.
The TCG is a coordination mechanism created in response to cyclone Nargis, which included the Government of Myanmar, the United Nations and ASEAN and facilitated humanitarian operations. The TCG was officially shut down by the Government in July 2010.