For 2012 and 2013, OCHA’s work in the field will be driven by several critical priorities. As always, we must make the case for people in need. We must document the humanitarian response in crisis situations, providing comprehensive information on actions taken and their impact. We must support more-effective coordinated assessments, joint strategic planning, and monitoring and reporting of results. We must ensure prompt financial support for humanitarian operations through the management of pooled funds. We must strive to implement the IASC’s reform agenda in the field and ensure more rapid staff deployment. This has become ever more critical in the face of more sudden-onset emergencies.
Adapting to needs
At the outset of 2012, OCHA plans to be present in over 50 countries, working through 24 country offices (COs), eight regional offices (ROs) or sub-regional offices, and various humanitarian support units (HSUs) and liaison offices. Our biggest operations will continue to be in countries with long-standing, highly complex humanitarian problems, such as Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, occupied Palestinian territory, South Sudan and Sudan. OCHA will also retain a strong presence in countries such as the Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Colombia and the Philippines, where protracted humanitarian crises have often been overlooked, but needs remain significant. We will continue responding to emerging crises, increasing our presence in countries such as Yemen and Syria if required.
Where feasible, OCHA will support development solutions, helping the transition from emergency to early recovery in collaboration with partners. Throughout 2012 and 2013, OCHA will look to scale down or phase out operations in several countries that are making the transition to recovery, e.g. Guinea, Haiti, Iraq and Libya. However, we will remain flexible, vigilant and ready to respond, monitoring developments in those countries and looking out for any setbacks on their path to recovery.
To achieve this, we will maintain a small presence where required. This may take the form of an OCHA national staff member being located in an RC’s office, or a small HSU to assist in response preparedness. This limited but important in-country presence will enable OCHA to work on preparedness and early warning, ensuring that we are ready to respond quickly if a setback or new crisis occurs. For example, OCHA’s national officers in El Salvador and Guatemala were indispensable in responding to the devastating floods in Central America in October 2011. It is also planned that in 2013, IRIN reporting will be extended to cover four countries in Latin America and the Caribbean by opening a small bilingual editorial desk in Panama. The desk will be co-located with the OCHA regional office.
Supporting humanitarian partners
OCHA will continue to push for enhanced coordination everywhere we work, particularly at the local level. Improved coordination will be complemented by more-effective information sharing. Access to better data and analysis will lend more conviction to our advocacy as we highlight needs and priorities, and will help ensure humanitarian financing mechanisms are accountable and effective.
A more-effective OCHA presence will have clear benefits for HCs and HCTs. In 2011, OCHA’s response to several crises, for example Côte d’Ivoire, Libya and the Horn of Africa, highlighted the critical role of our ROs as first-line responders, coordinating humanitarian activity, managing information and mobilizing financial support. In 2012 and 2013, we will strengthen our response system in line with the IASC Principals’ reform agenda. ROs will play an enhanced role in surging experienced and expert staff into places where OCHA does not have an in-country presence, or where a crisis has escalated beyond the capacity of the existing OCHA presence.
With highly dedicated and experienced field staff and strong emphasis on swift, effective action, OCHA is better placed than ever to make a substantial contribution to the global humanitarian response in 2012 and 2013.
Planning for improved field performance
OCHA has shown versatility and flexibility in its field activities, adapting quickly to local requirements. Our stakeholders, including Governments, humanitarian partners and donors, rely on OCHA offices to provide a predictable set of coordination services.
Moving into a two-year planning cycle, OCHA needs to push for the adoption of best practices, particularly at the field level where OCHA’s work has the greatest impact. Recent evaluations have highlighted areas where OCHA needs to improve. A series of studies, notably the Cluster II Evaluation, the real-time evaluations for Haiti and Pakistan, and OCHA’s internal evaluation of its corporate responsein Haiti, have focused OCHA’s attention on performance areas that were repeatedly identified as problematic.
Complementing its two-year budget, OCHA has launched standardized two-year performance frameworks for ROs and COs as part of the commitment to improve the communication of results, and ensure a clear alignment of budgets and results. The performance frameworks communicate commonly agreed OCHA results and indicators, and outline priorities for OCHA. Multi-year strategies set OCHA priorities within the wider context of political, economic and humanitarian drivers in each country or region. Risks are better assessed and actions for mitigation have been set out. The common performance frameworks and strategies will assist in better planning, monitoring and reporting, helping OCHA clearly identify trends in underperformance and communicate successes.
Changes to OCHA’s presence in 2012 will include:
Kenya: In 2011, the OCHA Kenya CO merged with the former OCHA Sub-Regional Office for Eastern Africa and IRIN’s headquarters in Nairobi. This was in order to create a more streamlined and effective OCHA presence in Kenya, working across Eastern Africa. In 2012 and 2013, the former Kenya CO’s functions will be performed by the proposed OCHA Eastern Africa Office.
Uganda: During 2011, OCHA closed its office in Uganda. OCHA’s proposed Eastern Africa Office will continue to monitor the situation in Uganda and provide necessary support to the RC/HC.
ReliefWeb Geneva: The office will be phased out of Geneva and Kobe and relocated to Nairobi in early 2012. This reflects a decision to move out of relatively expensive duty stations to less expensive locations in Nairobi and Bangkok. This approach is in line with plans to reduce fixed operating costs so that more funds can be channelled into ongoing Web development and innovation for the aid community’s benefit. There are several benefits of having ReliefWeb co-located with the IRIN and OCHA presence in Nairobi.
Liaison Offices: To deepen partnerships with a wider group of Member States, OCHA will open a Gulf Liaison Office in Abu Dhabi in 2012. It will coordinate humanitarian assistance with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and with the Gulf Cooperation Council and its Member States. The office in Brussels will continue to engage with the EU and NATO on policy and operational matters. The office in Addis Ababa will implement a plan of action with the African Union, focusing on humanitarian financing, policy development and civil-military coordination. OCHA will retain a presence in Kobe, whichh will focus on partnerships with the Government of Japan and Japanese civil society in disaster management.
OCHA’s Country Offices
OCHA’s CO performance frameworks focus on seven key results, which OCHA commits to deliver on wherever it maintains a full-scale office. Working in support of HCs and in close collaboration with partners, OCHA will set up the coordination system and keep it running smoothly; keep abreast of key developments and plan accordingly; ensure plans are resourced and monitored; unblock obstacles so people get the help they need; ensure clarity and consistency in messages, explaining what is needed, who needs it and where; prepare for future emergencies; and ensure a smooth transition with development partners once an emergency is over and OCHA prepares to scale down and withdraw.
In most countries where OCHA operates, well-functioning humanitarian coordination mechanisms are already in place. There should be inclusive HCTs and clusters, bringing together humanitarian actors from the UN, international and national NGOs and other stakeholders in support of national Governments. The structures are now familiar, but the primary focus of many HCTs on information gathering can detract from other priorities. This leaves little room for analysis and tackling difficult strategic issues. Too often, problems emerging at the provincial level are not properly identified and moved onto the HCT’s national agenda. Over the next two years, OCHA COs will support Resident and Humanitarian Coordinators in leading decisive and effective HCTs, ensuring that the most-critical issues are addressed. OCHA will monitor the implementation of decisions to ensure the actions taken are having a positive impact on the lives of crisis-affected people. Participation in the HCT will be more selective, reserved for decision-makers, with HCT members urged to act on behalf of the clusters or NGOs they represent.
The heart of operational coordination is the humanitarian programme cycle of needs assessment, common planning, resource mobilization and allocation, implementation and monitoring. It is a prerequisite for strengthening accountability for collective results. Building on recent improvements in needs assessments, OCHA offices will work to harmonize assessment tools and provide better information and analysis to support decision-making in 2012 and 2013. Consolidated plans will provide donors with clearer choices, zeroing in on the highest-priority projects.
Effective management of the humanitarian-programme process relies on solid information and analysis. OCHA plans to strengthen field-level IM to improve the quality of data and other information being collected. It is planned that in 2012, pilot information and assessment cells will be created in larger emergencies, bringing together IM experts under one roof. These cells will comprise OCHA staff and people recruited temporarily from clusters and/or agencies who will collect, collate and process information for multiple purposes, including needs assessments, situation reports and analysis. Introducing new IM systems will help link key data across the different phases of the programme cycle, from needs assessment to project monitoring.
In addition to supporting the CAPs, OCHA manages country-based pooled funds in more than 15 countries. During the next two years, OCHA will work with partners to ensure that funding is better allocated in accordance with agreed priorities. OCHA will promote greater accountability and programme quality. It will look to increase the number of projects monitored and ensure that all humanitarian partners, led by clusters, monitor not just activities but also outcomes.
Humanitarian organizations increasingly rely on OCHA to facilitate access to affected people, regardless of security constraints, logistical impediments or administrative complications. OCHA will continue to back HCs in addressing obstacles and pushing for humanitarian access. OCHA COs that have established access monitoring and reporting systems will draw on them to provide sharpened analysis and devise solutions.
Beyond access issues, OCHA must use its convening and advocacy role to influence others to uphold humanitarian principles, and promote the protection of civilians. OCHA will help identify and amplify messages of direct concern to vulnerable communities, engaging with military actors, peacekeeping missions, non-state actors, regional bodies and national Governments.
With natural disasters and other shocks becoming more common, Member States and national Governments increasingly ask OCHA for help in preparing for the next crisis and the potential corresponding humanitarian needs. Response preparedness is primarily led by OCHA ROs in countries where the organization does not have a presence. However, OCHA COs will increasingly use their presence to enhance local capacities and knowledge about how to trigger and use international humanitarian tools and services. OCHA will continue working with its international partners to ensure that inter-agency contingency plans are kept up to date and address identified risks and priorities.
Humanitarian organizations cannot work in isolation from development partners, either national or international. Early recovery must be part of even the earliest humanitarian response plans. In the longer term, OCHA will work to ensure that development planners take into account residual humanitarian needs. OCHA’s decision to scale down or withdraw from a country does not mean humanitarian problems no longer exist. It also does not rule out the potential for future crises and the possible need for OCHA to re-establish its presence.
OCHA COs will use their data-gathering and analytical skills to identify a country’s vulnerable pockets and the communities most affected by humanitarian problems. Wherever OCHA is scaling down its operations, it will ensure that national authorities and development organizations maintain the coordination services that remain essential.
OCHA’s Regional Offices
OCHA’s ROs have become increasingly important in implementing OCHA’s mandate at regional and country levels. Throughout 2011, the ROs’ ability to respond rapidly to new needs and priorities was invaluable in addressing regional humanitarian crises, particularly in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. OCHA’s RO performance frameworks focus on five key results.
In 2012 and 2013, ROs will roll out OCHA’s minimum preparedness package (MPP) in disaster-prone countries where there is no OCHA presence. The packages seek to build national and HCT capabilities to respond to crises with greater speed and efficiency. The MPPs support regional reinforcement for crises by helping to share information and align approaches among international, regional and national partners. They will also enable OCHA to track its preparedness work, and monitor and report on the impact of preparedness work when a disaster occurs.
The MPPs ensure that OCHA staff have the necessary training and equipment to provide high-quality coordination services when deployed to emergencies. ROs will work to increase their pools of qualified and experienced staff ready for rapid deployment in countries with no OCHA presence, or in deteriorating humanitarian situations. Provision will be made for short-term and long-term deployments.
Building on tools such as the Global Focus Model, OCHA ROs will continue to refine their analysis of risk and vulnerability, tailoring it to regional specificities to focus on countries where OCHA’s support can truly add value.
ROs will work with national, regional and global response organizations to increase their awareness of how the international humanitarian system works, and the services and tools they can use in a crisis. This should result in better operational coordination between Governments and regional and international organizations, helping create a swifter, more comprehensive response to emergencies.
Recognizing the increased capacity and expertise of many Member States and regional organizations, ROs will help them expand their participation in multilateral humanitarian response. ROs will seek more operational support through improved participation in UNDAC and the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group, and will continue to work to expand the number of Member States who contribute to multilateral humanitarian financing through CERF, country-based pooled funds and CAPs.
A tool for analysing disaster risk
- Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
- Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean
- Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa
- Regional Office for Southern Africa
- Regional Office for West and Central Africa
- Regional Office for the Caucasus and Central Asia
- Regional Office for the Pacific
- OCHA Nairobi
- Central African Republic
- Côte d'Ivoire
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- South Sudan