2010 has been unprecedented. There were over 250 natural disasters during the year, starting with the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in January. Like most years over the past two decades, global humanitarian needs continued to rise, triggered by conflicts and natural disasters. Complex emergencies such as Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo demanded ongoing attention, and global forces including population growth, resource scarcity and volatile food and fuel prices compounded an already difficult situation in many countries.

Climate change played its part. Unpredictable and unprecedented weather patterns across Africa, Central America, and South and East Asia displaced tens of millions of people. As the frequency and intensity of natural disasters increase, mega-crises such as the flooding across Pakistan may well become the new normal, making us think again about the speed, scale and effectiveness of our response.

Humanitarian work has also become more dangerous. The level of threats and the number of deliberate attacks on aid organizations – our people, equipment and facilities – have risen dramatically. Reaching populations in need to deliver essential services has become more difficult. Sixty-three humanitarian workers lost their lives during the year. The core principles that guide our work – independence and neutrality of action – have become harder to maintain as many countries where we work have become increasingly volatile and insecure.

And if negotiating these challenges was not enough, the humanitarian community is also dealing with increasing financial pressure. We are being urged to do more with less not only because of the global economic downturn, but also because countries that give us support must account to their populations for the way they have spent their money.

Given the complexity of the environment in which we operate, the theme for OCHA in 2011 is “Responding in a Changing World”. Our job is to save lives and build livelihoods. More people than ever before need our help, because in the chaotic aftermath of any emergency, identifying needs and planning effective response requires leadership, management and coordination. That is our core task.

Our agenda for 2011 is ambitious. The following pages lay out our financial plan, strategic plan and activities in the field.

We will coordinate responses, mobilize resources for the humanitarian system through international appeals, manage quick-response funds, act as a voice for victims, vigorously defend the principles that underpin our work, negotiate access to those in need, and provide critical information and analysis as crises unfold.

We will also work with our partners – over 350 aid agencies now actively participate in joint planning exercises. Thirty-nine Member States fund OCHA’s work and 120 Member States support the Central Emergency Response Fund. We will also work in partnership with others on disaster preparedness, improving the relationship between emergency response, recovery and development, and with national governments to support them in reducing risk.

In a changing world there can be no organizational status quo. In 2011, OCHA’s structure, in the field and at headquarters, will be more adaptable to the evolving nature of crises. By the end of 2011, OCHA will be a more focused organization. It will be better at managing its human resources and there will be greater clarity between the field and headquarters in terms of who does what. 2011 will also see improved leadership on the ground in affected countries.

OCHA alone cannot provide a complete solution to the challenges we face today. To achieve our aims in 2011, we are asking for US$208 million in voluntary contributions.

The need for principled, coordinated humanitarian action is as clear today as it ever was – 20 years after the passing of the United Nations General Assembly resolution that laid the foundation for OCHA. I hope our donors (old and new) will support us. Together we can make a difference.

Valerie Amos
December 2010