OCHA in 2007
Activities and Extra-Budgetary Funding Requirements

 

Foreword

Looking back over my past three years as Emergency Relief Coordinator two things stand out most prominently in my mind. The first is that we as the humanitarian community in general, and OCHA specifically, are better prepared than ever before to respond to emergencies and disasters. We are more generously funded, we have more qualified staff than before and we have a more developed field structure and better surge capacity. Over the coming year, we will further develop our surge and field capacities to continue to build on our ability to immediately respond to crises and suffering.

The humanitarian reform process that I initiated in 2004 has better equipped us to deal with disasters and emergencies, and 2007 will see increasing gains. I feel certain that if we are again faced with an emergency or disaster such as those we faced in Darfur, Sudan, northern Pakistan or Aceh, Indonesia, areas with very limited access and few response structures in place, we would be able to deploy more predictably, faster and with more resources.

Unfortunately, despite our growing capacity to respond, too often we are restricted from using all of the response tools and personnel at our disposal by politics, by restricted access and, still, by limited resources. Even when we are successfully reaching and assisting people in need I have often felt, as ERC, that in our jobs we are working to create the perfect bandage for the wound but that we are far from doing what we must do to heal it. For example, we begin the year 2007 with access problems in Darfur that are similar to those we faced in 2004. Almost four years have passed, and although we have greatly improved our capacity to respond we are not allowed to do our work. Instead, we are forced to be increasingly passive bystanders to the growing violence and death because of inadequate conflict resolution, the national and international inability to provide protection and the national unwillingness to allow unimpeded access.

Our ability to respond adequately is also increasingly hampered by the targeting of our colleagues by those who do not agree with, and work to undermine, humanitarian principles, endangering civilians and aid workers alike. While we have made the technological and logistical advances necessary to send teams rapidly anywhere in the world, there has been no corresponding moral and ethical revolution by the global community to make it possible to assist and protect everyone everywhere in accordance with humanitarian principles and our agreed responsibility to protect.

Additionally, the growing global vulnerability to disasters has made us aware that slow on-set disasters are as crucial a focus for our attention as is conflict management. Disaster risk reduction, pandemic preparedness, and strengthened support to regional disaster networks will continue to be areas of growing attention for OCHA in 2007.

More predictable and immediate humanitarian funding was one of our priority areas in 2006, and led to OCHA's establishment of the Central Emergency Response Fund. By December of 2006, the CERF had committed US$ 230 million for more than 320 projects in 30 countries, including for drought and floods in the Horn of Africa, rapid response in Afghanistan, Cote d'Ivoire and Timor-Leste and under-funded emergencies such as those in the Central African Republic and Haiti. 2007 will be the first full year of the CERF and, as we saw at the High Level Conference on the CERF in December 2006, we are entering it with increased commitments from more donors, representing a strong global commitment to improved flexibility of humanitarian financing and to OCHA as the fund manager.

This year will also see OCHA working toward further strengthening of the humanitarian system with the ongoing work of the Humanitarian Reform Support Unit toward strengthening Clusters and Humanitarian Partnership teams, the establishment of OCHA's Humanitarian Coordinator System Strengthening Project and the second NGO- recruited HC taking up her position in Kampala, Uganda.

Another element of the reform for OCHA in 2007 will be our emphasis on strengthening partnerships with NGOs. We are pleased with the growing role and increasing numbers of NGO actors in the humanitarian field, but also recognize that we need to engage them better as serious, predictable and long-term partners. 2006 saw a strong beginning with the July UN non-UN meeting, leading to an agreement to hold a yearly Global Humanitarian Platform meeting to provide a forum for strategic dialogue on urgent humanitarian issues.

Last year, one of OCHA's main internal priorities was strengthened operational and administrative support to the field, and this process is ongoing in 2007. This year, we are continuing to strengthen the administrative and financial capacity of our field offices as well as building on the increased information management capacity for the field that we put in place over the past year. We are also strengthening our Regional Offices with regional pandemic preparedness capacity for inter-agency support and surge capacity, including equipment for rapid deployment.

At headquarters, we will continue to strengthen our internal structures. Toward this end, we are re-aligning our headquarters field capacity and disaster management structures and are creating a permanent strategic planning capacity.

Looking back over my three years as ERC, what impresses me most about OCHA is the flexibility and willingness of the organization to meet challenges and solve problems. From Darfur to northern Uganda and from the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo to Aceh, our OCHA staff has, with equal degrees of professionalism and enthusiasm, taken on new tasks and speedily and effectively met new challenges. At times this has led us to work at the outer limits of our mandate and capacity. But OCHA should not and will not become an operational agency.

We have now handed over protection and shelter responsibilities in Darfur to others and have looked to the UN Department for Political Affairs to take the lead in the northern Uganda peace process. However, it has been and will be good that OCHA is willing and able to jump start activities to help people in great need. It is equally important for us that our donors have always flexibly responded when we have needed funding for pioneering work.

It is with great pleasure that I welcome OCHA's two new Directors, Rashid Khalikov and Kasidis Rochanakorn, and our new head of the Coordination and Response Division, David Kaatrud. We will not be without strong leadership as our ASG, Margareta Wahlstrom, is ideally placed to lead OCHA in the coming transition period when I return to Oslo. I welcome in advance our new USG and assure all of our partners that OCHA is looking forward to ever stronger working relationships with our donors and other partners in the coming year.

I would like to thank our colleagues, partners and donors for their continued support and commitment to the humanitarian reform and to OCHA's work. Your contributions to the Office's work in 2006 are much appreciated, as is your partnership and dialogue on how best to fulfil the goals of our shared mission of humanitarianism.

  Jan Egeland
  December 2006