Regional Office for the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asiahttp://ochaonline.un.org/romenaca
- The Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia region is characterized by broad political instability and protracted conflict, as well as a range of natural hazards.
- The presence of approximately ten million refugees and over three million IDPs place a great strain on the infrastructure of host countries and communities.
- Many countries are at risk of social and political unrest due to inadequate governance and deteriorating economic and environmental conditions, contributing to a difficult humanitarian operating environment.
- In several countries, staff security is at risk, and access constraints limit the ability of humanitarian agencies to provide assistance and protection to populations in need.
- Water scarcity and drought are increasingly prevalent as a result of climate change, compounding food insecurity and fueling the possibility of further social unrest.
- Several countries are also prone to earthquakes, floods and landslides, with varying degrees of preparedness and response capacity among national governments.
- The threat of an influenza pandemic looms, which may have significant societal impacts in poorer countries.
- Vulnerability to natural disasters is largely driven by physical, socio-economic, and environmental factors that negatively affect the capacity of people to secure and protect their livelihoods.
ROMENACA covers 28 countries and territories, over two continents. While it was previously situated in Dubai, ROMENACA is now based in Cairo, Egypt, and includes a SRO to cover Central Asia established in Almaty, Kazakhstan, a Liaison Office established in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, as well as HSUs in Iran and Syria.
National governments in the region are concerned by increasing risks. According to the 2009 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, countries in the region are making progress in making disaster risk reduction a priority and strengthening disaster preparedness. However, progress is uneven across the region, as it is related to governance capacity and socio-economic parameters. In many countries, current legislative systems are still not adequate to address the challenges posed by disasters, and institutional structures need to be adapted. Availability of funding for preparedness is another important constraint.
In 2010, ROMENACA will work with RCs and partners to strengthen disaster preparedness in countries with limited national disaster management capacities. Activities will include supporting data preparedness and creating data repositories, such as the 3W databases. Information on political, socio-economic and humanitarian trends will also be collected, analysed and disseminated to promote better understanding of vulnerabilities and risks. ROMENACA will facilitate contingency planning. It will also engage with partners to incorporate emergency preparedness as part of longer-term developmental approaches, where appropriate.
At the same time, ROMENACA will strengthen the capacity of the international humanitarian system to respond to emergencies. Coordination support will be provided to RCs/HCs in countries facing emergencies, as a key function of the office. Humanitarian actors from the region will also be encouraged to join international response systems such as the INSARAG and the UNDAC, and participate in the preparation of humanitarian response strategies. ROMENACA will also enhance its capacity to respond swiftly to emergencies by ensuring that contingency plans are in place; activating its emergency operating procedures; and deploying trained and experienced staff at short notice.
Enhancing collaboration with regional inter-governmental organizations, including the League of Arab States (LAS), the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) is paramount to strengthening preparedness in the region. These organizations provide important fora for sensitizing policy makers in the region. They garner the political support for disaster preparedness and respect for humanitarian principles. The facilitation of an Inter-Agency Coordination Network on Emergency Preparedness and Response in the Middle East and North Africa – a platform for United Nations ROs and IASC partners – is also a key priority, as well as increased engagement with the United Nations Regional Directors Team (RDT).
Increasing the Preparedness of Humanitarian Country Teams
In 2009, ROMENACA made substantial investments in increasing the institutional and organizational preparedness of HCTs in the region.
On 2-4 March 2009, a Regional Humanitarian Coordination Workshop for United Nations Resident Coordinators was organized in Cairo, Egypt, as part of a strategy to strengthen coordination of humanitarian response and preparedness. The workshop reviewed the policy and institutional aspects of humanitarian coordination. It focused on the leadership role, function and tasks of RCs in preparing for and responding to an emergency.
This initiative was complemented by two Regional Humanitarian Action Workshops in Almaty, Kazakhstan (8-10 March) and Cairo (2-3 June). The workshops, which targeted senior representatives from selected HCTs, aimed to further consolidate the humanitarian coordination architecture and increase the capacity of HCTs to effectively lead humanitarian action. Similar workshops were also conducted at country-level, such as in Yemen, where humanitarian coordination trainings were organized for local NGOs in April 2009 and cluster lead agencies in August 2009.
These activities provided an opportunity to increase the number of trained professionals in the region and enhance the knowledge, skills and capacity to prepare for and respond to emergencies. These workshops will continue in 2010, focusing on priority countries and priority areas. Attempts will also be made to tailor the workshops to meet the needs of anticipated participants to support capacity-building and the upgrading of humanitarian response skills.
OCHA Sub-Regional Office Almaty
Central Asia is a disaster and conflict-prone region of particular significance to OCHA. The region is experiencing the full impact of many emerging global threats: climate-related emergencies, conflicts over water and energy resources, increased occurrence of small- and medium-scale disasters, industrial and environmental hazards, migration, inter-ethnic tensions and growing security threats.
These vulnerabilities are not offset by strong national disaster response systems. Rather, the systems lack resources, coordination and institutionalization based on international standards. Regional collaboration remains weak and requires a contemporary legal basis.
OCHA will therefore focus its catalytic capacity on inter-governmental cooperation in areas of disaster management, one of the most effective ways to increase capacity in the region. In particular, OCHA will continue to support the establishment of a Regional Disaster Management Centre, mandated to support Central Asian member-states in joint early warning and cross border hazards management. With the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), OCHA will advocate for adaptation of International Disaster Response Law (IDRL). To promote minimum standards in international response, OCHA will continue to encourage engagement in international response mechanisms such as UNDAC and INSARAG.
Given the growing number of climate-induced small and medium scale disasters – in addition to the continual risk of devastating earthquakes – OCHA will reinforce coordination among potential international responders, by strengthening the cluster approach or similar local coordination mechanisms. In particular, support to sectoral information preparedness and preparedness for minimum response standards will be a priority.
Finally, the increased risk of a complex emergency given spill-over from Afghanistan and Pakistan requires intensified situation monitoring, analysis and preparedness. OCHA will use its convening power both at the country and regional level to support joint strategy development. In addition, given the developmental context in the region, training will be provided on issues related to complex emergencies such as protection, civil-military coordination and advocacy for humanitarian principles.