Humanitarianresponse Logo

A great number of actors are involved in the humanitarian coordination architecture.

Clusters coordination 

The Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) is the Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, and leads the IASC. The ERC is responsible for the oversight of all emergencies requiring United Nations humanitarian assistance. In a country affected by a disaster or conflict, the ERC may appoint a Humanitarian Coordinator (HC). The ERC ensures IASC endorsement of the HC proposal for Cluster activation and Cluster lead appointments.

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) is a unique inter-agency forum for coordination, policy development and decision-making involving the key UN and non-UN humanitarian partners. Under the leadership of the Emergency Relief Coordinator, the IASC develops humanitarian policies, agrees on a clear division of responsibility for the various aspects of humanitarian assistance, identifies and addresses gaps in response, and advocates for effective application of humanitarian principles.

OCHA works closely with global cluster lead agencies and NGOs to develop policies, coordinate inter-cluster issues, disseminate operational guidance and organize field support. At the field level, OCHA helps ensure that the humanitarian system functions efficiently and in support of the Humanitarian Coordinator’s leadership. OCHA provides guidance and support to the HC and HCT, and facilitates inter-cluster coordination. OCHA also helps ensure coordination between clusters at all phases of the response, including needs assessments, joint planning, and monitoring and evaluation.

The Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) is responsible for assessing whether or not an international response to crisis is warranted and for ensuring the humanitarian response efforts, if needed, are well organised. The HC is accountable to the Emergency Relief Coordinator. HCs lead the HCT in deciding the most appropriate coordination solutions for their country, taking into account the local situation. Agreement must be reached on which Clusters to establish, and which organizations are to lead them.

The Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) is a strategic and operational decision-making and oversight forum established and led by the HC. Composition includes representatives from the UN, IOM, international NGOs, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement. Agencies that are also designated Cluster leads should represent the Clusters as well as their respective organizations. The HCT is responsible for agreeing on common strategic issues related to humanitarian action.

Under UN General Assembly Resolution 46/182 of 19 December 1991, the affected State, i.e. the government and national actors, retain the primary role in the initiation, organization, coordination, and implementation of humanitarian assistance within its territory.

The Global Cluster Lead Agencies provide the following types of support to strengthen field response:

  • Technical surge capacity
  • Trained experts to lead cluster coordination at the field level
  • Increased stockpiles, some pre-positioned within regions
  • Standardised technical tools, including for information management
  • Agreement on common methods and formats for needs assessments, monitoring and benchmarking
  • Best practices and lessons learned from field-tests

The designated Cluster Lead Agency leads and manages the cluster. Where possible, it does so in co-leadership with Government bodies and NGOs. At country level, Heads of Cluster Lead Agencies are accountable to the HC, for:

  • Ensuring that coordination mechanisms are established and properly supported
  • Serving as a first point of call for the Government and the HC
  • Acting as a provider of last resort in their respective sector

Cluster Coordinators are responsible for ensuring that Cluster-specific concerns and challenges that cannot be solved within the Cluster are raised and properly discussed at the HCT, and that ensuing strategic decisions are shared and acted upon at operational level.

Cluster Members should adhere to the minimum commitments that set out what all local, national or international organizations undertake to contribute.They include:

  • A common commitment to humanitarian principles and the Principles of Partnership
  • Commitment to mainstream protection in program delivery
  • Readiness to participate in actions that specifically improve accountability to affected populations
  • Understand duties and responsibilities associated with membership of a cluster and commit to consistently engage in the cluster’s collective work as well as cluster’s plan and activities
  • Commitment to ensure optimal use of resources, and sharing information on organizational resources
  • Commitment to mainstream key programmatic cross-cutting issues
  • Willingness to take on leadership responsibilities as needed and as capacity and mandates allow
  • Contribute to developing and disseminating advocacy and messaging for relevant audiences
  • Ensure that the cluster provide interpretation so that all cluster partners are able to participate