OCHA in 2009 Cover

Coordination Activities in the Field

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Regional Offices

Regional Offices Overview

Following the adoption of the 2009 Policy Instruction on the Roles and Responsibilities for Regional Offices, OCHA ROs focus on three areas: (i) Response preparedness, including early warning and contingency planning, (ii) Support to emergency response and (iii) The development of regional coordination networks. Representing about 10 percent of the 2010 OCHA global budget and 18 percent of OCHA field-based humanitarian coordination entities, the ROs are particularly cost-effective with regard to surge capacity. In 2009 alone, ROs responded to approximately 30 emergencies, more than double the OCHA response of previous years.

In 2010, ROs will continue to serve as the OCHA first line of emergency response in countries where there is no CO. To improve response, ROs will deepen relationships with governments and regional organizations to strengthen overall levels of regional preparedness, building on successes including with the Southern African Development Commission (SADC) in flood response, and ASEAN on Myanmar. ROs will contribute to an OCHA-wide effort to further map the capacity of regional and sub-regional organizations in preparedness, enabling better targeting of response preparedness support.

OCHA is already a member of the UNDP-led Regional Director Teams (RDTs), established in conjunction with UN Reform in 2008, and comprised of all UN agency Regional Directors. The teams offer significant opportunity to align regional humanitarian coordination with in-country activities. In 2010, OCHA ROs will actively participate in shaping the RDT agenda, ensuring the inclusion of humanitarian issues. They will advise Regional Directors of corrective actions necessary in priority countries.

OCHA ROs will continue to work with RCs to support in-country inter-agency contingency planning in accordance with the cluster approach and ensure inclusivity based on the Principles of Partnership. OCHA will ensure that preparedness actions identified through contingency planning processes are continually reviewed and plans updated.

In 2010, OCHA will operate five ROs, following the decision to phase-down the Nairobi-based RO to a Sub-Regional Office (SRO), and place it under the existing regional leadership in South Africa. The Nairobi SRO will continue to support action for cross-border issues in the Horn of Africa and monitor the situation in the Great Lakes. OCHA will also ensure the full functioning of the ROMENACA office in Cairo, following the mid-2009 transfer from its location in Dubai. The Cairo base is expected to allow greater access to the most significant concentration of programme coordination activities in the region. Regional backstopping responsibility for the CO in Pakistan has been transferred from Bangkok to Cairo.

New OCHA Field Architecture

Over the past few years, OCHA has brought more consistency and transparency to its organizational structure worldwide. Following recommendations from three initiatives – the Regional Office Working Group, the Field Office Review and the Sub-Office Review, as well as an internal review of “field presences” – OCHA formalized in late 2009 definitions of its field-based organizational units. It also clarified reporting lines and set basic operating parameters for these unit types. They will take full effect on 1 January 2010.

Regional Office

A regional office (RO) is located in a strategic hub of regional humanitarian significance. For countries with no permanent OCHA unit, an RO concentrates on three sets of activities: response, preparedness and regional networks. ROs are the OCHA first line of emergency response in countries where there is no Country Office (CO), and provide surge capacity to COs when required.

Sub-Regional Office

A Sub-Regional Office (SRO, formerly called Regional Disaster Response Advisors – RDRA) enables an RO to extend their coverage to areas in the region of concentrated humanitarian requirements. SROs report directly to the RO, and follow their strategy and planning systems.

Humanitarian Support Units

The term “humanitarian support unit” (HSU) includes and replaces all current types of “field presence”, including national disaster response advisors, national officer presence, and international officer presence. An HSU also includes all deployments from the OCHA suite of surge capacity tools, including deployments from the RO, from the Emergency Response Roster and by stand-by partners. An OCHA HSU, reporting to a Resident Coordinator (RC), is an integral part of the RO and subject to the regional strategy.

Country Office

A CO, formerly known as “field office”, supports the Humanitarian Coordinator in leading a coordinated response to a humanitarian crisis. Each CO undertakes all OCHA core functions to a degree specified by the needs of the Humanitarian Coordinator and Humanitarian Country Team. The CO can manage one or several sub-offices and their antennae and centrally administers all OCHA operations within a country.


A sub-office (SO), reporting directly to a CO, is located in the vicinity of populations of concern. The SO extends the leadership of the Humanitarian Coordinator to provide coordination services to centres of humanitarian response or encourage humanitarian agencies to extend their operations into neglected areas. The SO receives its direction and strategy from the CO and is therefore included in the work plan and cost plan of the CO. Similarly, it is administered by the CO and can be headed by a professional or national officer.


An antenna is not an office in its own right, but a small extension of an SO, established to extend the presence of a sub-office or to provide operational flexibility on a temporary basis. Typically, an antenna is temporary in nature and co-located with other agencies or NGOs at the approval of the Designated Official. Depending on its size and capacity, an antenna can perform all the functions of an SO. An antenna is headed by a national officer, receiving direction from an SO.

Country Offices

Country Offices Overview

Country Offices: Africa

Country Offices: Middle East

Country Offices: Asia

Country Offices: Latin America and the Caribbean

The OCHA global footprint of COs is more consistent and better defined than ever before. The OCHA 2007 Review of Field Offices and the subsequent 2009 Review of Sub-Offices – as well as rigorous budgetary analysis on a bi-annual basis – have supported a rationalization of the 25 OCHA COs, to ensure global parity between humanitarian crises and resource allocation. New agreed upon terms and definitions of OCHA in-country units will reinforce the predictability of services in the field.

Resolving inconsistencies in information management, public information and coordination will be a focus for 2010. Such analysis and the associated efforts to develop a more predictable CO staffing structure is supported by the Field Roster Management Programme, which has reduced field staffing vacancies to about 12 percent from more than 20 percent earlier in the year. In early 2010, OCHA will conclude a Policy Instruction on the Roles and Responsibilities of COs.

In countries with an OCHA CO – including where a longer-term presence is envisaged (e.g., DRC, Somalia and Sudan) or new COs are opening (Philippines and Yemen) – OCHA will focus in 2010 on ensuring more systematic coordination of the common humanitarian programme cycle. OCHA COs will support HCs, HCTs and clusters to ensure that common humanitarian action plans are based on sound inter-agency needs assessments and analysis. These should be connected to a resource mobilization process, such as the CAP, and increasingly to an in-country resource allocation process, such as a Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF) or an Emergency Response Fund (ERF). Each OCHA CO now has a humanitarian financing unit of some sort, and OCHA currently administers 14 ERFs in the field. As a new and increasingly important area of work, OCHA COs must ensure that the allocation process is based on solid needs analysis and planning. The cycle should be completed with an appropriate evaluation or lessons learned exercise.

For the first time, OCHA has developed multi-year strategies for COs where transition is foreseen by mid-2011. Each strategy includes an approach to handing over substantive programming to local counterparts, including preparedness for response and coordination functions. The strategy also includes the management of human resources and assets, including intellectual capital. OCHA will also work on multi-year strategies for countries where there is a possibility for an improvement in the humanitarian situation (e.g., Colombia, Haiti, Kenya and Zimbabwe). OCHA will identify appropriate benchmarks for transitions, to be agreed with partners well in advance of actual transition processes. This will ensure that appropriate agencies are forewarned and prepared for their eventual responsibilities. Notably, the strategies will also entail a plan for phasing COs down to HSUs, for appropriate resource allocation and support to the HC for the remaining humanitarian needs.

Eleven of the 25 OCHA COs are situated in countries where the principle of integration applies, including CAR, Chad and Haiti. With the endorsement of the full Integrated Mission guidance package in 2009, OCHA HQ is gearing up to support OCHA COs to effectively implement and operationalise the guidelines. This means that the relevant CO must be informed and educated about integration developments. This also requires that these offices are able to fulfill OCHA integration obligations, including but not limited to participation in integrated field coordination mechanisms and shared analytical and planning capacities.

2010 Regional Offices