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Progress on the follow-up to ECOSOC resolution 1995/56

Executive Committee Meetings

Progress on the follow-up to ECOSOC resolution 1995/56

6 January 1997

6 January 1997

6th Meeting


1. The Economic and Social Council resolution 1995/56 noted in its preambular paragraphs 4 and 5 "the differences and the limitations in the capacity of agencies, organizations, programmes and funds of the United Nations system to address effectively and in a comprehensive and coordinated manner the need for preparedness and humanitarian response, as well as prevention, rehabilitation, recovery and development in accordance with their mandates" and recognized "the need to review and strengthen the capacity of the United Nations system for humanitarian assistance".

2. In compliance with this resolution, the IASC created an ECOSOC Task Force. This Task Force considered the indicative list of issues included in the ECOSOC resolution and decided that for a number of policy and strategic issues, the task of resolving any gaps and inconsistencies with respect to such issues should be delegated to a series of Sub-Working Groups, to be convened by DHA. The proposals emanating from these consultations will be submitted to the IASC through the IASC-WG for decision with a view to making recommendations to the Council.

3. In 1996 the Sub-Working Groups met on numerous occasions to define the scope of this analysis. The latest round of meetings of all six Sub-Working Groups around the beginning of December sought agreement on specific options and/or recommendations to strengthen the capacity of the United Nations system for humanitarian assistance. Substantial progress was made and the respective chairs of each Sub-Working Group were tasked, on behalf of their Sub-Working Group, with preparing a short concise list of options to be put forward to the IASC through its Working Group.

4. As regards member State involvement in the follow-up to Resolution 1995/56, the Chair of the ECOSOC Task Force has participated fully in several Governing Boards (all four UNHCR Standing Committee meetings during 1996, but also those of WFP, UNICEF, UNDP and WHO), in several ad hoc briefings with member States (March, July and October of last year), and through informal consultations. These fora provide an opportunity for States to be briefed and to comment on the IASC process.


5. The focus of the Resource Mobilization group has been determined by a number of priority areas identified by the April 1996 IASC meeting: prioritization in the Consolidated Appeal Process; relationship between various resource mechanisms for relief and rehabilitation programmes; synchronization of appeal time frames with calendar year programming cycles; regional dimension of emergency situations; use of flash appeals; involvement of NGOs in Consolidated Appeals.

6. The concept of prioritization in the CAP was re-endorsed by IASC members and the Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs subsequently sent a message to Humanitarian Coordinators emphasizing that the Consolidated Appeal Process should define a strategic framework outlining the objectives of the humanitarian programme through the phases of relief and rehabilitation.

7. An ad hoc meeting of the IASC-WG agreed that DHA, together with IASC members, should enhance fund-raising techniques to draw attention to typically under-funded sectors, for example agriculture and health, and to immediate recovery and rehabilitation needs. At the same time, DHA, in liaison with IASC members, should consult with donors on the problem of the funding gap between emergency and development needs and how to bridge the gap. It has been agreed that the IASC Sub-Working Group on Resource Mobilization would feed the results of its discussions on assistance in post-conflict situations into the CCPOQ process in early January 1997 to ensure a consistent approach to the two different audiences, ECOSOC and ACC respectively.

8. On the Central Emergency Revolving Fund (CERF), questions discussed have related to why the requests for utilization of the CERF has decreased significantly in the last two years, the purpose of agencies using their own emergency funds parallel to the CERF, how the CERF can be best structured to ensure its continued effectiveness and relevance in meeting the emergency resource requirements of the operational humanitarian organizations of the UN system. Other issues related to what emergencies and what aspects of emergencies the CERF should be utilized for; who should be allowed to draw from the fund; if the ceiling should be altered; procedures for advances; the possibility of non-repayment and in this latter regard the possibility of having a second window to be used in less visible emergencies.

9. On Flash Appeals, issues of when to use them, prioritization, follow-up, time frame and timeliness, as well as how they fit in with other appeals, most notably the Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeals, have been dealt with.

10. The Evaluation and Accountability Sub-Working Group identified the need for a simple and practical system for the monitoring of those aspects of a multi-agency humanitarian programme which are relevant to its overall coordination and direction, including the interface between the activities of individual agencies as they might influence or impact on each other. Whereas each operational agency involved in humanitarian programmes has a responsibility for monitoring and evaluating its own activities, there is at present no systematic attempt to monitor and evaluate multi-agency programmes as a whole, nor is there a common understanding and acceptance of the global objectives and strategies of such programmes. The consequence is that coherent coordination of the programme is rendered more difficult, and accountability is made more difficult to achieve.

11. On the basis of a report prepared by a consultant, the Sub-Working Group considered mechanisms by which the overall strategy and objectives of multi-agency programmes might be established and agreed in advance, and on which subsequent monitoring might be based and accountability thereby enhanced. Recommendations were made concerning: the establishment of a simple monitoring system, including the identification of appropriate mechanisms for the collation, analysis and dissemination of monitoring of information relevant to the overall coordination and direction of the programme; the mechanisms for the prior agreement of overall programme strategy and objectives, and those of the agencies involved; resource implications of systems and structures involved in the system.

12. At its meeting in December 1996, the Sub-Working reached broad agreement on the need for a joint strategic monitoring function and that if humanitarian agencies as a group could produce overall strategic objectives for any given humanitarian programme this would increase the coherence and effectiveness of the entire programme. At its next meeting the Sub-Working Group will finalize its recommendations and initiate a similar inter-agency cooperation process on the methodology of joint evaluation.

13. The Sub-Working Group on Coordination has concentrated on defining the different types of coordination and distinguished between strategic and operational coordination; the latter incorporates substantive coordination regarding sectors, geographic areas, or beneficiary groups, as well as provision of common services for humanitarian actors. The Sub-Working Group has also focused on the current situation regarding options for field coordination. Past coordination measures have tended to address the quality of the people called to work on coordination functions, rather than the quality of the coordination systems and mechanisms themselves. In order to enhance coordination mechanisms, the sub-working group has examined a number of distinct examples of existing field coordination mechanisms and structures, such as the role of the Resident Coordinator and/or Humanitarian Coordinator and the lead agency concept.

14. Significant progress has been made towards agreement on the conditions for when the lead agency option should be considered. These conditions appear to be: preponderant majority of mandate; required financial and operational capacity to respond to the emergency; ability to undertake coordination; and presence, or ability to mobilize rapidly. Agreement has also been reached on how the selection process and the designation of the Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator can be improved.

15. The principles and criteria which should be the underlying objective of the exercise of coordination have become clearer - principles, such as impartiality, neutrality, transparency and accountability, and criteria such as responsiveness, programme integrity, adaptability and flexibility. In turn, these standards will constitute a more rational basis for the establishment of coordination mechanisms appropriate for each unique situation.

16. This group has also discussed the relationship between a Humanitarian Coordinator and a Special Representative for the Secretary General (SRSG) in order to ensure the independence of the humanitarian aspects of the UN Mission in any particular country from the military and political aspects.

17. In the Sub-Working Group on Staff Development, it was agreed that the title, drawn from the indicative list of issues in the 1995/56 resolution, "Human Resources Development" should be changed to "Staff Development" in the humanitarian context to avoid overlap with other fora namely, CCAQ/Per and its sub-committee on training; the UN Staff College being launched by the Secretary-General with the International Training Centre of the ILO at Turin; and the "Complex Emergencies Training Initiative" facilitated by DHA.

18. It was agreed that the following issues would be brought forward in the final report to the IASC with recommendations as to which forum should deal with them: lessons learned and how to share them between institutions (main objective being institutional memory building); staff counselling with a special focus on stress management and post-traumatic stress; rotation of staff and how to ensure consistency despite different agencies approaches to rotation; and, a checklist for the evaluation of staff to help in identifying potential candidates and establish a common system pool of candidates (to be used as an additional tool). Agreement was reached in this Sub-Working Group that policy issues related to staff security should be handled within the appropriate ACC fora.

19. The group has had close communication with other fora within the UN system dealing with human resource issues. For example, the CCAQ calendar has been shared with the Sub-Group and opportunities will be sought to interact on relevant issues. The objective will be to create avenues for pursuing common objectives beyond the ECOSOC process by interaction with the Fifth Committee and, internal to each agency, with human resources managers. CCAQ informed the group that there are no meetings planned either of the subcommittee on training or of the CCAQ subcommittee for staff counsellors.

20. The aim of the group has been to produce options for change that would enable the UN system to provide higher quality service in a cost effective manner. In the context of different contractual conditions to determine different staff and their respective performance on the job, issues of how to improve cost effectiveness, selection and recruitment processes, and job evaluation have been discussed. Using individual agency initiatives on staff development, the group has dealt with the possibility for recommending the system-wide practice of some of these initiatives. Further, recommendations relating to the effect of short-term assignments on career development, on the high turn-over rate of staff and on job description and classification are in the pipeline.

21. Several training modules have been and are being produced within the system. The group has decided to designate CETI as the right forum for developing these training modules. Building on these, the group will propose options for improvement in training in conjunction with humanitarian emergency assignments. This will be geared towards raising the professional competence of staff members to perform their specific role in the field.

22. Internally Displaced Persons remain a major challenge to the coordination of the UN humanitarian community both because of the increasing number of people affected by internal displacement and because of the lack of any mandated overall responsibility in assistance and protection to them.

23. The work plan of the Inter-Agency Task Force on IDPs (Sub-Working Group on IDPs) has addressed gaps and imbalances in three subject areas: agencies' capacity, information issues and field coordination.

24. On capacities, each agency has submitted a review of its role and responsibilities to deal with IDP issues, as well as efforts made to increase its capacity. An effort will be made to consolidate this input into a system-wide capacity analysis on which improvement of the response to IDP needs can be based.

25. On information issues, a thematic group made up of focal points from various agencies looked in more depth into the policy and technical problems of information gathering on IDPs. Recommendations of the Task Force relate to the need for a common mechanism to be established to coordinate the collection, storage, documentation and exchange of information on IDPs.

26. On field coordination the Task Force stressed that any consideration of coordination issues concerning internal displacement situations should be based on a broader perspective of prevention and rehabilitation, on the analysis of concrete cases of internal displacement and on the link between assistance and protection. Recommendations focus on a better use of existing in-country coordination systems, a more systematic process of information sharing and reporting to the IASC mechanisms, coherence and predictability of agencies response.

27. The objective of this Sub-Working Group on Local Capacity/Relief and Development was to make recommendations on how the UN humanitarian system can: better identify, utilize and strengthen indigenous coping mechanisms; more effectively assess, strengthen or rebuild local capacities; define policies and identify better practices integrating relief and development; and improve its overall impact on communities at risk or those affected by crisis.

28. At the outset, two cardinal principles were adopted to guide the Sub-Working Group deliberations, namely: that recovery begins during an emergency; and, that in addressing the immediate needs created by an emergency, the overarching objective must be to begin laying foundations for recovery.

29. These objectives are being achieved through identifying and analysing: existing procedures and practices of UN agencies which strengthen local capacities and coping mechanisms; the obstacles and opportunities encountered by UN agencies in their effort to achieve these goals; practices and institutional frameworks which undermine these goals. A set of good practices are thereby being developed to improve the relief and development linkages. The issue of "handover" of operations between agencies is also being addressed in the above identification process.

30. A desk study was undertaken to survey and synthesize available literature addressing the above issues. Agencies were tasked with providing inputs through position papers on their past experiences. From these inputs, and given the fundamental importance of the issue of strengthening local capacity, many agencies have found that further thorough in-house consultations are necessary and that such follow-up activity should extend within an inter-agency forum beyond the current ECOSOC process.

31. Proposals to be put forward to ECOSOC include the entrenchment in all relief interventions of a philosophy of capacity building activities which strengthens relief and development linkages; the need to reduce dependence for assistance delivery through international organization by identifying and targeting local capacities more effectively; rethinking relief to development linkages in order that they promote relief with development; entrench policies and practices whereby emergency assistance modalities lay the foundations for recovery; and ensure that responders to emergency are better trained and equipped to undertake capacity assessments alongside their vulnerability assessments.

1 This paper is presented in accordance with ECOSOC resolution 1996/33 which specifies in its operative paragraph 5 that DHA, "provide a conference room paper on the status of Inter-Agency Standing Committee working group discussions prior to each meeting of the agencies, funds and programmes at which the follow-up to resolution 1995/56 will be discussed".