ROMENA works in support of UN RCs and UNCTs in countries where there is no OCHA Country Office. It offers the entire suite of core support functions ranging from contingency planning, disaster risk reduction, disaster response, humanitarian funding, information management, humanitarian policy support and advocacy.
ROMENA is the first line of response to emergencies in countries and territories in the region without an OCHA Country Office. In 2010, ROMENA dedicated 345 person days on surge-capacity missions to support the response to new or deteriorating crises. As of 15 September 2011, 303 days of surge-capacity missions were performed by 12 national and international staff.
ROMENA has been instrumental in coordinating early response in the context of the Arab uprisings. At the onset of the Libya crisis in early 2011, the office established mechanisms for exchange of information and coordination through daily reporting, joint assessments, response planning and information management services.
Disaster Preparedness and Risk Reduction
ROMENA works with all main actors in the region to strengthen the response capacity of in-country humanitarian coordination systems. In the first six months of 2011, ROMENA provided support to five UNCTs and HCTs through staff training, data preparedness, early warning, contingency planning and crisis communications. A minimum preparedness package for UN and HCTs is being developed to ensure more effective preparedness.
ROMENA also supports inclusion of disaster risk reduction strategies in the UN Development Assistance Frameworks (CCA/UNDAF). The office has helped prepare six such frameworks in the region, ensuring they address the need for enhanced preparedness and risk reduction in accordance with international standards and agreements, such as the Hyogo Framework for Action.
The office works directly with national governments to strengthen their capacity to utilize international humanitarian assistance. Support has included training for national disaster management advisers and local responders, and technical advice for incorporating international response tools in national plans. By September 2011, four training events had been organized in Iran, Qatar, UAE and at LAS. Ten training and capacity-building events were organized in 2010, engaging humanitarian partners from the UN, NGOs and governments.
Regional Information Management Activities
ROMENA has developed and expanded its core baseline datasets and made them available to regional partners. In 2011 the office worked toward developing datasets for seven countries. The Information Management Unit maintains a regional network for the collection of key thematic data across the region. The unit can rapidly establish web-based portals to facilitate humanitarian information exchange among operating agencies and data analysis in rapidly evolving crises. This is combined with a strong mapping capacity to create situation maps, humanitarian snapshot maps and infographics in English and Arabic.
Advocacy in the region revolves around three main axes: direct and sustained bilateral diplomacy with Member States and regional organizations, public information and outreach to media, and regular donor briefings. Efforts in recent years to raise awareness of governments and organizations on the multilateral system have contributed to their inclusion in multilateral mechanisms, such as UNDAC and INSARAG. The office maintains a public information capacity, including a translator. Most important OCHA documents are translated into Arabic and shared with partners on a dedicated Arabic website.
Support to Regional Networks
ROMENA supports a coordinated regional approach to humanitarian affairs in collaboration with humanitarian agencies, Member States, and regional organizations such as LAS and OIC with whom Memoranda of Understanding have been established. Collaboration with LAS and OIC has focused on strengthening their role as enablers of humanitarian action and promoting close cooperation among western and Muslim organizations. ROMENA manages the MENA Group, which convenes the regional offices of main IASC partners to ensure effective preparedness across the region.
Operational and Administrative Support to HSU and OCHA Country Offices
ROMENA provides managerial, strategic and administrative support to Humanitarian Support Units (HSU) in Syria, Iraq and Iran. It has overseen the activities of the Liaison Office in UAE since July 2009. The HSU in Iran, established in 2005, facilitates inter-agency preparedness within the UNCT and coordinates Government support in disaster management. It plays a key role in incorporating relevant international disaster response tools in national contingency planning. The HSU Syria, established in 2008, has been expanded following the appointment of the UN RC as Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) in August 2011. The HSU provides critical support to the RC/HC in the context of the civil unrest that began in March 2011.
OCHA supports its three Middle East and North Africa Country Offices (based in Libya, oPt and Yemen) in disaster risk reduction, contingency planning, CAP facilitation, information management and advocacy. ROMENA was instrumental in setting up the Yemen Country Office between 2009 and 2010, and the Libya Country Office in 2011. ROMENA provided 184 mission days in support of the Libya operation as of 15 September, and 300 person days for remote support from the Cairo office. The office provided temporary office space for staff relocated from the Yemen Country Office.
Civil unrest in the Arab region has prompted ROMENA to enhance its support to RCs, UNCTs and HCTs to respond to emergency needs. This support will focus on the following priority countries:
Syria, which is highly volatile.
Libya and Yemen, where country offices may require additional support.
Lebanon and Jordan, which may be affected by spillover from Syria.
Iraq, which may require support to complete its transition.
Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Bahrain, which will continue to be closely monitored.
Within the new and challenging context in North Africa and the Middle East, ROMENA needs to strengthen its capacity to analyse developments and trends in order to interpret and fully appreciate the implications of the Arab uprising. ROMENA must increase preparedness support to most at-risk countries and enhance the capacity to deliver the full range of OCHA’s tools and services.
In 2012-2013, ROMENA will:
Strengthen its capacity to provide inclusive response coordination and rapid surge deployment in crisis-affected countries. This includes the capacity to coordinate joint needs assessments in accordance with IASC guidelines.
Increase staff training to deliver OCHA tools and services, particularly training of national staff.
Develop business-continuity plans to maintain essential operations in adverse conditions. These plans include accommodation of relocated staff from other OCHA offices, and any administrative and operational support that these offices may require.
Collaborate with Headquarters to ensure effective recruitment and deployment of staff, and ensure best use of UNDAC, INSARAG, standby partners and other surge arrangements.
Disaster preparedness and risk reduction
In collaboration with the Regional UNDG and the regional inter-agency MENA Group, the office will finalize a minimum preparedness package focusing on the key functions that RCs/HCs and HCTs will need in an emergency. The package will be delivered in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Bahrain. Part of this preparedness initiative is collaboration with national governments.
The office will contribute to specific guidance on addressing the humanitarian aspects of civil unrest for RCs, UNCTs and HCTs. Regional RC/HC workshops will be organized to discuss strategic and policy issues.
Assistance will be provided to UNCTs developing an UNDAF to ensure disaster management capacities are reinforced where appropriate. In countries undergoing transition, assistance will be provided so that the UNDAF addresses remaining humanitarian needs and reduces vulnerabilities of at-risk populations.
The office will provide assistance to Libya in the context of post-conflict transition, if requested.
Regional information management
Common operational datasets will be developed as a strategic priority to strengthen disaster preparedness.
ROMENA will enhance its capacity to monitor developments and analyse trends to anticipate potential emergencies and identify policy issues.
A priority is to develop a corporate advocacy strategy for the region in collaboration with the Liaison Office in the United Arab Emirates.
ROMENA will support and strengthen the enabling role of LAS and OIC in humanitarian action. Strategic consultations with both organizations will focus on encouraging Muslim and Arab organizations to participate in the international humanitarian system.