The keys to effective coordination of humanitarian
organizations are mutual respect and recognition of
diversity. Each organization brings its own unique
mandate and strengths to humanitarian response in
support of national governments facing crisis situations.
As the humanitarian community grows, it is critical
to find ways to harmonize the work being undertaken – optimizing complementarity among actors without
jeopardizing the identities and mandates of individual
organizations (including United Nations Agencies, NGOs, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and other international organizations). The importance of partnership and complementarity transcends the technical agreements and memoranda of understanding which have often been used to frame relationships between organizations. Improved partnerships are at the foundation of strengthened predictability and accountability in humanitarian operations – concepts
that are central to humanitarian reform.
In 2006, a preliminary dialogue between humanitarian actors in Geneva brought together more than 40 leaders of humanitarian organizations from the United Nations, NGOs, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the International Organization for Migration and the World Bank. This was an impressive, cross-community effort to improve partnerships between diverse humanitarian organizations, and it saw the establishment of the Global Humanitarian Platform (GHP). The first meeting of the GHP was held in July 2007 and further meetings are scheduled for 2008 and 2009.
The overall goal of the GHP is to enhance the effectiveness of humanitarian action, based on the premise that no single humanitarian agency can cover all humanitarian needs. Collaboration among a diverse group of humanitarian agencies can take different forms, and the GHP aims to maximize complementarity, taking into account the range of mandates and mission statements. Another key element of humanitarian reform is the cluster approach, which strengthens humanitarian response by ensuring that roles and responsibilities of humanitarian partners are defined through transparent, inclusive and consultative processes. For this approach to be successful, there must be an improvement in partnerships between humanitarian organizations, promoting greater mutual respect and taking advantage of the vast resources and experience which have been accumulated by humanitarian actors.
In the context of the GHP, there is a commitment to look closely at current practices of partnerships in order to identify and resolve obstacles that stand in the way of improving relations among organizations, particularly between international and national humanitarian organizations. The GHP also places special focus on strengthening the involvement and engagement of national organizations, as they are often the first to respond to disasters, and have more detailed knowledge of the communities in which they operate.
An important achievement during the first year of the GHP was the development and endorsement of the Principles of Partnership which include equality, transparency, a results-oriented approach, responsibility and complementarity. Partners in the GHP have committed to incorporating these principles into their day-to-day operations and activities both at headquarters and in the field. Partners have agreed to the rapid rollout of the Principles at the field level. The Principles of Partnership are expected to be used as a guide for establishing broad-based, inclusive humanitarian country teams for strategic humanitarian planning and decision making.
The GHP envisages a fundamental shift in the attitudes of organizations and their staff – a true challenge in a world in which limited time often prevents practitioners from critically assessing their own behaviours and attitudes. OCHA plays a pivotal role in the humanitarian community and it advocates for the equity and inclusion of all humanitarian partners. It encourages the establishment of humanitarian country teams and provides support to cluster leads implementing their responsibilities. In 2008 and beyond, OCHA must lead the way in helping the community to work even more closely together, by promoting and demonstrating an inclusive and professional attitude to the involvement of all humanitarian partners – national as well as international, United Nations as well as non-United Nations.