COORDINATION ACTIVITIES IN THE FIELD
Currently, OCHA has a presence in 40 countries, maintaining nearly
50 field offices, six Regional Offices (RO) and eight Regional Disaster
Response Advisers (RDRA). Field offices provide direct support to the
United Nations, IOM, non-governmental organizations and the larger
humanitarian community by coordinating humanitarian action and analysis
and disseminating information related to humanitarian crises. OCHA
opens its offices to respond to natural and human-made emergencies,
and continues to provide services and meet needs until the situation
has entered the recovery phase. Clear indicators, such as the return
and resettlement of refugees or the engagement of development actors,
are used to determine when an office will be closed and coordination
responsibilities handed over to other actors.
The single focus of OCHA in the field is to facilitate and support
the coordination of humanitarian assistance by governments, UN Agencies,
NGOs and the Red Cross/ Crescent Movement, through direct support to
the office of the UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinators. This support
is designed and configured based on the scale of need, the existing
capacity of other actors, and existing coordination mechanisms. OCHA
field staff develop and sustain coordination mechanisms at both capital
and local levels, develop and disseminate information products,
coordinate needs assessments and resource mobilization activities,
manage access negotiations with local actors, and advocate on behalf
of the humanitarian community for the most vulnerable.
OCHA saw major expansion in 2005 in response to large emergencies
including the Darfur crisis in Sudan, the Indian Ocean tsunami and
the South Asia earthquake. 2006 was a year with more variance, as
some operations increased in size and some wound down, particularly
those related to the tsunami and South Asia earthquake. In 2007,
OCHA will consolidate and spread its resources more evenly across
emergencies while placing a major emphasis on strengthening the roles
and functions of the Regional Offices to enhance response capacity.
OCHA has six Regional Offices (ROs) currently based in Nairobi,
Johannesburg, Dakar, Dubai, Bangkok and Panama. ROs act as regional
centres of excellence, complementing HQ support to OCHA field offices,
and providing support on disaster preparedness and response to
countries where OCHA does not have a presence. The Regional Offices
take the lead in analyzing developments with cross-border and regional
implications in addition to enhancing regional partnerships and
initiatives both within and outside the UN system.
During 2007, all but one Regional Office will increase in size to
accommodate new responsibilities, including the support of core
functions such as information management, advocacy, policy, administration,
surge capacity and coordination. This includes the establishment of a
regional humanitarian network and website (RED-HUM) in the Latin America
and Caribbean Region, enhanced support to humanitarian coordination in
Myanmar in the Asia Region and increased surge capacity and administrative
backstopping to OCHA Field Offices from all ROs. Regional Offices will
also play a greater role in regional contingency planning, ensuring
that early warning signs of humanitarian needs are translated into early action.
OCHA has Regional Disaster Response Advisers (RDRA) in each Regional Office,
(except Johannesburg), and in Fiji, with a new adviser to be established
in 2007 to cover Central Asia. RDRAs provide technical, strategic
and training expertise, assistance with contingency planning and
preparedness, and advice on monitoring and responding to natural
disasters. They also assist effected governments, UN Country Teams
and the non-governmental community through direct support in the response
and post-crisis phases.
A major decrease in size of operations came from OCHA's draw down
in tsunami-affected Aceh, the gradual handover of coordination
responsibilities in Southern Sudan to UNDP and the United Missions in
Sudan (UNMIS), and the complete withdrawal from assisting in the South
Asia Earthquake in Pakistan. Additionally, the situations in Burundi,
Guinea, Republic of Congo, Lebanon, Nepal and the Russian Federation
(North Caucases) have shown considerable improvement, with local
humanitarian communities becoming increasingly focused on transitioning
from humanitarian work to early recovery. Thus, OCHA is phasing down
in Indonesia, the Russian Federation, Nepal and Burundi and is closing
its offices in Pakistan, Niger, the Republic of Congo and Guinea
(which will be covered by the Regional Office for West Africa).
During 2006, as the crisis related to the Indian Ocean Tsunami moved
from emergency relief to the early recovery and reconstruction phase,
OCHA began gradually handing over its coordination responsibilities
in the tsunami-affected areas of Indonesia to the joint Office of the
UN Recovery Coordinator (UNORC) and UNDP office structure. This
transition process in Aceh, while not without challenges, has resulted
in a coherent structure at headquarters level between OCHA, UNDP and
the United Nations Development Group Office (UNDGO) to look at the
practical aspects of the handover of coordination activities. This
approach has worked well already in Pakistan and in Lebanon.
However, the Darfur crisis continued to spill over its borders in
2006, fueling instability in neighboring countries. Given the current
regional dynamics, OCHA will expand its presence in both Chad and CAR
in 2007. In addition to supporting on-going humanitarian activities
in Sudan, Chad and CAR, OCHA will promote a better coordination
between relief operations in the three countries and move toward
defining a comprehensive regional strategy.
OCHA will continue to be fully engaged responding to the humanitarian
needs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Côte d'Ivoire,
Somalia and Sri Lanka. In all of these situations, there remains a
threat of conflict that would potentially result in the displacement
of tens of thousands of people. Thus, OCHA will continue to have a
significant presence and engagement.
OCHA will continue to monitor closely the humanitarian situations
in the occupied Palestinian territory, Iraq and Afghanistan and will
review its presence in Timor-Leste during the course of 2007 due to
Indeed, OCHA continually reviews its field presence to ensure its
coordination services are relevant and effective for the contexts
in which it operates. A more robust review process has been put in place
at the HQ level through an improved work planning process. Mid-year
there will be a comprehensive review of the size, mandate and focus
of each of the Field Offices and if necessary, priorities will be
readjusted to Field Offices most in need.
All OCHA offices at regional and country level will place particular
emphasis next year on implementing the humanitarian reform at the field
level by establishing the Humanitarian Partnership Teams, ensuring
the roll-out of the cluster system, and facilitating the application
for CERF grants and loans.
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
The Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) is a humanitarian
news service covering sub-Saharan Africa, parts of Asia and the
Middle East. Editorially independent, IRIN's principle role is to
supply nonpartisan, relevant information to a diverse audience of
humanitarian actors, including decision-makers in governments,
vulnerable populations, and local and international media, with the
aim of promoting a better understanding of persistent crises and new emergencies.
With today's reduced budgets, few media organisations can afford
to provide comprehensive coverage beyond the first days of a crisis
or disaster, and most do not focus on humanitarian response to disasters.
Therefore many stories make headlines or hit TV screens and then quickly
disappear, leaving readers and viewers with little or no contextual
understanding of the crisis. In Africa in recent years, this has been
compounded by the closure or reduction in the number of Western media
organisations, reducing even further any attention paid to a continent
that is already poorly covered by the media.
Distinct from UN public information units, IRIN provides a daily
flow of relevant news and features to the wider humanitarian community
on a broad range of issues, countries and events. IRIN is unique in
providing sustained, complete and thorough coverage of crises by
focusing on the plight of civilians.
IRIN is the only information agency of its kind with headquarters
in a developing country, and most of its writers are based in and
report directly from the field. In recent years, IRIN has expanded
its multi-media output by producing award-winning video documentaries,
film footage, still images and specialised publications to highlight
key concerns or issues, such as emerging or neglected crises, sexual
violence and the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
IRIN also operates a radio service that provides timely information
to vulnerable communities affected by crises. To date, several hundred
radio news programmes have reached tens of millions of people in
Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Cote D'Ivoire, Liberia, Somalia and Sudan.
A radio service will be launched in Northern Uganda in 2007. In addition,
IRIN operates a specialized HIV/AIDS service, PlusNews, which is
distributed in English, French and Portuguese.
IRIN delivers much of its content electronically via its online
platform - www.irinnews.org - and directly by email. Traffic to the
website has grown by 50 percent since 2005, with 1.2 million visits
per month in 2006. IRIN content is re-posted on popular internet-based
news services such as Reuters Alertnet and AllAfrica.com, while some
6,380 websites are linked to the IRIN website. Current estimates
place global readership at more than 1 million people. In early 2007,
IRIN will launch a new website that aims to enhance online access
to its news and multi-media content.
Against this background, IRIN's key objectives in 2007 are as follows:
Improved tools and services: IRIN will strengthen access to timely, accurate and balanced information
and improve the quality of IRIN humanitarian news output with the
establishment of an integrated and multi-media newsgathering, production
and editing capability.
Improved, and publicly profiled, analysis of global and country
humanitarian trends and issues: IRIN will promote better informed humanitarian decision-making by
a) placing greater emphasis on providing contextual information and
analysis of humanitarian issues and events; b) focusing on neglected
emergencies; c) strengthening IRIN's surge capacity, and d) using
film and photography to highlight key humanitarian issues.
More coherent and sharpened advocacy on humanitarian issues: IRIN will improve the delivery of all products to an expanding readership.
This will entail greater use of technology and internet delivery as
well as systematic outreach to ensure information reaches key end-users.
Strengthen in-country coordination: IRIN will improve access to information for affected communities
by developing links with local groups and civil society and reinforcing
multi-lingual text and audio services.
Effective human resources planning and management: IRIN will restructure operations to achieve greater flexibility and
efficiency, scaling down offices where required and making better use
of human resources.
Key Indicators for 2007
- Number of reports and analyses, films and still images produced; corresponding level of user satisfaction in readership survey, ah-hoc and systematic feedback; number of media sources and advocacy groups regularly using IRIN material; website results (e.g. the number of page requests per month)
- Integrated news production capacity established by end 2007, with a multimedia approach applied to all major humanitarian events and issues
- Number of high quality reports, analyses and multimedia output that contributes to improved analysis of global and humanitarian trends and issues by the humanitarian community, particularly in relation to sudden-onset and neglected crises
- Percent of rise in readership levels; percent of IRIN information products that are available directly via the internet
INTEGRATED REGIONAL INFORMATION NETWORKS
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