Enabling humanitarian action through wider partnerships
Partnerships and policy agendas – an inclusive humanitarian approach
Our overall priority is to build an international humanitarian system that can anticipate and effectively respond to crises. OCHA is uniquely placed to lead a global dialogue on how this can be achieved. The Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) has initiated debate on the new global challenges we face and their impact on the world’s most vulnerable people. Discussions within the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) have focused on the scope for partnerships between Member States, regional organizations, civil society and the private sector as the reformed international humanitarian system takes shape.
OCHA will continue to broaden its partnership base with Member States, regional organizations, non-IASC NGOs and the private sector. Our focus will be on those who have already demonstrated a willingness and operational capacity to work productively with multilateral humanitarian actors. These partnerships have three broad aims: to enhance inclusive operational humanitarian response capacity around the globe; to strengthen political support for and commitment to multilateral humanitarian action; and to give increased financial security to coordinated humanitarian action through instruments including CERF, CAP and country-based pooled funds.
Spreading the network
By building a global network of regional and liaison offices, OCHA is now better placed to share its expertise with new partners, demonstrating how they can benefit from OCHA’s presence and the tools available through the international humanitarian system. By familiarizing new partners with OCHA’s range of tools and services in areas such as coordination, information management, humanitarian financing and advocacy, we can increase partners’ confidence and capacity in preparing for and responding to emergencies. OCHA can also help new partners influence the international humanitarian response system and ensure they receive proper support where needed.
Working on preparedness can give OCHA a crucial entry point for our engagement with Member States and regional organizations. OCHA will seek greater support and stronger financial backing for the preparedness work of our humanitarian and development partners. In 2012 and 2013, OCHA will introduce a set of minimum actions that will help to focus OCHA’s preparedness support, and improve reporting and tracking of the impact of that work in countries and regions hit by emergencies and natural disasters.
The IASC has made building national capacity for preparedness a key element in its efforts to transform and strengthen the international humanitarian response system. In 2012, OCHA will work with IASC partners to develop an agreed common framework for engaging development and humanitarian actors in supporting national preparedness and response capacity.
OCHA is partnering with Member States who want to increase their engagement in the multilateral humanitarian system. In 2011, two major regional players (Argentina and Saudi Arabia) joined the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) system, and membership negotiations are underway with Brazil. A new OCHA Liaison Office in Abu Dhabi will further strengthen OCHA’s relationship with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Islamic NGOs.
Getting the right analysis
For humanitarian response to work properly, it must be based on a sound analysis of the drivers behind different crises and the needs they produce. This is particularly important in a shifting global context, where issues such as climate change, rising food prices, rapid population growth and urbanization all have serious humanitarian implications, making millions of people more vulnerable. While there is a widespread recognition of the need to factor these mega-trends and phenomena into planning, there is little consensus on how to deal with the problems ahead and the new imperatives they bring for international humanitarian response.
OCHA is looking to build that consensus, drawing on the expertise of academics and humanitarian practitioners from around the world. The dialogue intends to encourage the development of a joint policy agenda that looks at current and future humanitarian priorities, taking into account the new challenges we confront. It would provide the ERC, OCHA and our partners with a more coherent and confident platform to engage with national and international stakeholders.
Getting the message out
Having helped create a shared policy agenda, OCHA will seek to publicise that agenda through its wide range of advocacy and information products. A new publication will highlight key policy issues. Improvements in OCHA’s situation reports, dashboards and information graphics will provide our audience with an analysis of humanitarian situations and trends. By boosting the content of these products and developing better distribution channels, including a more imaginative use of the international media, the joint humanitarian policy agenda should have a better chance of being adopted by the UN General Assembly, ECOSOC and the IASC.
These efforts will be supported by OCHA’s multimedia platforms, such as ReliefWeb and the IRIN news service. IRIN will maintain the level and quality of existing reporting services, providing more analysis, maintaining its traditional readership on the website and e-mail services, while also catering for an audience that is increasingly on the move. More active marketing of IRIN reports, photos and film materials is expected to result in further positive growth in audience figures. This will be largely generated by increased use of mobile devices and traffic generated from social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter.
ReliefWeb will introduce a Web-publishing layer to enable users to browse content in a more visually appealing way. It will also establish humanitarian user profiles and an ID system through mobile phones that will give users access to ReliefWeb data without Internet connections.
World Humanitarian Day in August 2011 saw the creation of a dedicated song “If I could change…”, which brought together celebrities and artists to celebrate the day. OCHA also helped to lead outreach to young people through a citizen ambassador competition, which gave them the opportunity to tell us how they would change the world to make it a better place. This advocacy work and outreach will continue and develop over the next two years to build lasting relationships with popular culture leaders. A major ingredient in these efforts is our increased use of social media, mobile phone technology and online video sites. These tools will help to spread the messages further afield and to wider audiences.
OCHA’s information channels and platforms, such as ReliefWeb and IRIN, have already made it a leader in new information techniques and products. Through increased use of mobile phone applications, both are aiming to provide users with quicker access to vital information as new crises happen over the next two years. New technology will also be used to strengthen our needs assessments and information collection. As these become more rigorous and sophisticated, we can provide better data and analysis. This, in turn, will enable better-targeted humanitarian assistance, and inform our advocacy campaigns and reporting.
Working with the private sector
OCHA plans to extend and develop its relationships with private-sector partners. It will secure more input from private companies in the operational provision of humanitarian assistance on the ground, and raise funds from the wider public. OCHA is also cooperating closely with technology experts and media organizations.
OCHA must learn to make more of the technology and social media available, which can have a striking impact on humanitarian action. In Haiti, for example, people were pulled from the rubble on the strength of a geo-located text message. There are numerous other opportunities. Real-time maps can be drawn on the basis of crowd-sourcing, SMS text messaging is being used as an early-warning device, Facebook is connecting victims of disasters in ways never seen before, and virtual platforms to support inter-agency coordination are a reality. OCHA is leading the engagement between the humanitarian and technology communities to harness the potential of these new technologies in the way we provide life-saving assistance.
To better reach a wider public not traditionally involved in humanitarian action, OCHA has also established a new Campaigns Unit. It will develop partnerships with the music, film and fashion industry, the private sector and other key partners who have the capacity to reach non-traditional audiences. The unit will use film, photography, music and special events to support public advocacy and fund-raising for major emergencies, while also bringing to the fore key humanitarian policy issues that warrant increased coverage and public debate.