The Broader View: "OCHA is our bridge into the UN system"

16 December, 2011
Elizabeth Rasmussen, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council.
Elizabeth Rasmussen, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Twenty years ago, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution, 46/182, to establish a global humanitarian system. The resolution called for governments and aid agencies around the world to work together to deal with the rising number of crises.  Two decades on, that system is more important than ever.

Elizabeth Rasmussen, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, explains how she learned the importance of coordination in Angola, in 1997 – and why OCHA is so important for non-governmental organisations.

From the point of view of NGOs and the humanitarian partners, it’s very important that OCHA exists, because OCHA is the one UN agency that is trying to bring all of us together.

We also feel that OCHA is in many ways our bridge into other parts of the UN system.

There is another thing which OCHA does well, and that is humanitarian advocacy. I think particularly with the last few emergency relief coordinators – and maybe particularly with Valerie Amos – we have seen that OCHA is really raising the profile of humanitarian action, of humanitarian actors, and of the importance of principled humanitarian activities.

That’s very important to all of us.

I truly realized how important coordination is, when I started as Field Coordinator for United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA) and Unit for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance in Angola (UCAH) in Angola in 1997.

After the war that ended a few years earlier; the needs were breathtaking and the resources minimal. It was critical that we coordinated closely the few resources we had, so that the humanitarian response could have as much impact as possible.
Coordination is no longer a voluntary effort. It is the way the humanitarian community does things. Coordination has become our methodology. At this point, we have some very good coordinators who understand the very purpose of coordination and are bringing actors together in an efficient way.

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