Objective 2.3 – Tools and Services

OCHA is committed to providing its partners with consistent support during each phase of a response, regardless of the size and scale of the disaster. The organization has incrementally put in place a broad set of tools and services in support of its coordination mandate. These include inter-cluster support services, managing the UNDAC system, supporting the Humanitarian Coordinator, civil-military liaison, issuing situation reports and providing Web platforms for information exchange.

The 2010 “Policy Instruction on OCHA Country Offices” defines five operational priorities at the country level: building a shared situational awareness; building a common approach; building a common strategy and plan; facilitating implementation and monitoring; and developing shared lessons learned. This provides a framework for reviewing and better defining the support OCHA should provide its operational partners.

OCHA must be able to make adjustments to its suite of tools and services, ensuring they are appropriate and standardized but also scalable to meet varying contexts. In 2010, reviews were completed of OCHA’s role in emergency preparedness and the tools and services managed by the Emergency Services Branch. As a result, several services were either consolidated or phased out, including pandemic preparedness and the central registries. A detailed review of the UNDAC system is planned for early 2011. The review is aimed at ensuring UNDAC is better integrated with the rest of the humanitarian system, including search-and-rescue coordination and needs assessments.

In 2011, OCHA will initiate a comprehensive mapping of all existing tools and services and assess them against the five operational priorities. The findings will determine what should be continued, updated or phased out and what should be newly offered in the future. The review will be informed by recent real-time evaluations in Haiti and Pakistan, the Cluster II Evaluation, country-level innovations, and systematic feedback from partners through surveys and consultations. A revised suite of OCHA tools and services will provide the basis for a standard set of performance indicators, against which all country offices will be subsequently assessed.

OCHA will also work to strengthen several specific initiatives. The previously piloted access monitoring and reporting system will be upgraded and rolled out in all conflict countries, providing humanitarian leaders with the data and analysis they require for better advocacy. As part of OCHA’s overall strategy to improve gender equality in its work, it will ensure that key tools used by country offices, such as contingency planning and reporting, are informed by sex- and age-disaggregated data and other gender analysis.

Although the OCHA Product Catalogue is now available to help readers find the information they need, OCHA will improve its distribution mechanisms so that all products are shared through easily accessible communications channels. A new ReliefWeb platform will be launched, providing easier access, lower bandwidth, more intuitive navigation and more relevant information to partners. To help improve information sharing and analysis in crises, ReliefWeb will also identify and integrate new Web-based services, such as an interactive mapping tool and supporting a networked environment for aid workers.

IRIN will continue to deliver to the humanitarian community, the media and the general public a tailored range of original information products aimed at developing humanitarian awareness, understanding and principled action. Over 3,000 reports, along with photos and related video material, will be produced in 2011 in English, French and Arabic, based on the inputs of freelance contributors and the work of experienced staff reporters and editors.

View Key Outputs and Indicators (PDF, 72kb)

OCHA and Social Media: Helping Make Connections

Social media has transformed how humanitarian organizations communicate about and respond to emergencies. People around the world used Twitter to raise funds after the massive earthquake in Haiti. Collaborative platforms linking mapping and mobile phone technology like Ushahidi show great potential for disaster-affected populations to share critical information with aid workers. Multimedia sites can provide a near-real-time glimpse of life on the ground: UNHCR provided an intimate under­standing of life in a refugee camp through YouTube, Flickr and Google Earth; the Red Cross used Facebook to warn thousands of people in the Philippines about approaching Typhoon Megi.

Many media users now expect to be part of the conversation, to “like", to “follow” and to contribute to news and emergencies as they unfold. They share what they have done with their friends online and expect them to care offline. Social media has quickly become the first place where millions get information about large-scale emergencies.

OCHA has embraced social media as an important resource for connecting with key target audiences: from donors and beneficiaries to aid workers and the “just curious”. In 2010, OCHA launched its official Facebook page to mark World Humanitarian Day, attracting over 2,600 followers in the first three months. OCHA has since established its own channel on YouTube and a photo-sharing platform on SmugMug to showcase its humanitarian multi-media products to a much wider audience.

In 2011, OCHA will expand its social media activities to include Twitter feeds. It will work with selected country and regional offices to set up or expand their own dedicated social networks. OCHA will also continue using social media to highlight important humanitarian issues and engage directly with audiences to solicit input and debate. Central to this will be using social media to strengthen the voice of the new Emergency Relief Coordinator, enabling her to influence the public agenda, build support and galvanize action, when needed.

Two of OCHA’s key websites, IRIN (www.irinnews.org) and ReliefWeb (www.reliefweb.int), have also found social media and social networking invaluable to reaching a broader audience. Their followers range from the general public interested in humanitarian and development issues to humanitarian workers, media, donors and partner organizations across the world. In 2011, ReliefWeb will use social media to share more targeted information and analysis with aid workers worldwide.

Ben Parker, Director of IRIN, explained: “IRIN gets more visitors arriving from Facebook than from any other website, including Google. Twitter referrals have more than doubled this year, too. People are increasingly relying on social media to determine their media diet. They don’t ‘browse’, their news ‘finds’ them through recommendations and links from colleagues, friends, and friends of friends.”

The stats as of November 2010:

Facebook: 2,617 people like the OCHA page
Facebook: 2,567 people like the IRIN page
Twitter: 2,182 people follow IRIN
Facebook: 3,638 people like the ReliefWeb page
Twitter: 2,442 people follow ReliefWeb
Follow us on:

World Humanitarian Day 2010 was commemorated much more widely than in 2009, with events in over 50 countries. This was in large part due to social media, as well as productive partnerships established to promote the day globally. The World Humanitarian Day (WHD) website (www.worldhumanitarianday.info) received a large number of unique visitors, with Facebook the third highest driver of traffic to the site. Thousands of “tweets” were streamed on Twitter from organizations and individuals, and more than 1,500 people linked their Facebook pages to the WHD website. The WHD film received more than 100,000 views through Web and social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. For 2011, OCHA will seek to further leverage social media to promote WHD to an even broader global audience.