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HLSU Who We Are and What We Do

The Humanitarian Leadership Strengthening Unit (HLSU) works on behalf of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) to strengthen the humanitarian coordination leadership function, which is typically performed by:

Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinators (RC/HCs);
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General/Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinators (DSRSG/RC/HCs);
Stand-alone HCs;
Regional HCs (RHCs);
Deputy HCs (DHCs); and
RCs performing humanitarian functions.

Reporting to the OCHA Director of the Coordination Response Division (CRD), HLSU works on three tracks: (a) identifying, screening and grooming candidates for Coordinator positions; (b) ensuring that candidates with a humanitarian profile are selected for Coordinator positions; and (c) and improving the knowledge and skills of Coordinators, including in leading the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT).

HLSU works closely with the CRD Humanitarian Coordinator Support Unit (HCSU) on a fifth track: ensuring that Humanitarian Coordinators are properly managed, appraised, and supported by OCHA headquarters and field offices to lead effective humanitarian action.

The Humanitarian Coordinators’ Lifecycle refers to the key HLSU activities to select, prepare, deploy and support HCs.

Talent scouting: HLSU pro-actively identifies and attracts potential candidates to the Coordinator track through the Humanitarian Coordination Pool. Candidates should be humanitarian leaders with extensive field-based operational humanitarian experience (at least 10 years managing or coordinating operations), coupled with significant representative experience (at least five years as a country director or representative).

Screening: HLSU manages the IASC HC Pool, with 120 high calibre humanitarian professionals from 32 entities available for: (a) RC-track post (RC, RC/HC, DSRG/RC/HC); (b) Stand-alone HC posts, DHC posts; and (c) Surge deployment as HC/DHC. Candidates are screened and interviewed by IASC Emergency Directors and are considered qualified by the humanitarian community to perform humanitarian leadership functions. The HC Pool also includes a separate roster of individuals at the D2 level and above who are ready to deploy at 72 hour notice in case of a major emergency.
Grooming: HLSU manages a “High Potential Pool” of candidates who receive targeted career development support, in consultation with their parent agency, to further develop their leadership abilities.

Selection: HLSU works to harmonize the humanitarian community’s voice in the RC/HC selection process in favour of HC Pool members and other qualified humanitarian candidates, irrespective of their organizational affiliation.
Induction: Newly appointed RCs and HCs participate in mandatory leadership training, individualized orientation briefings in New York, Geneva and Rome, and on-the-job “mentoring” support from experienced former HCs, to prepare them for their new role.

Learning: OCHA sponsors selected RCs/HCs with limited humanitarian experience and Non-UN HC Pool members to “shadow” an experienced HC for 2-8 weeks to enhance their understanding of the function. Specialized workshops are offered to help RCs and HCs become better humanitarian advocates, and a learning referral system is in place to cater to individual HC learning needs.
HCT team development programme: HLSU is piloting a team development programme for HCT to foster collective leadership and thereby create a more enabling environment for the HC’s leadership.

End-of-assignment and knowledge management: HLSU arranges the end-of-assignment de-briefings for HCs and works to institutionalize and systematize knowledge management around the humanitarian leadership function.

Among others, action taken were:

- a template for induction of newly appointed RCs and HCs was developed.

- a concept paper on the ERC/HC Compact was drafted.

- A guidance on the relationship between the HC and the OCHA Head of Office.

- The standard HC Terms of Reference have been revised.

- A study and was commissioned to analyse the advantages and disadvantages of the various HC models based on field experience, to be followed by a substantive discussion among humanitarian partners.

Four other areas of activity are part of the Policy Development section:

- Addressing expectations and perceptions: to this end, more systematic opportunities for dialogue between Coordinators and their stakeholders will be created, in particular by organising: missions of Coordinators to IASC agency headquarters, to donor capitals and donors mission to the field.

- Management and support: the objective of this component is to enhance the way Coordinators are managed (by OCHA) and supported (by OCHA and IASC agencies).

- Engagement with the RC System: to build synergies with and address constraints arising from the other UN functions that Coordinators may perform (RC, DO, DSRSG). To this end, greater engagement will be sought with UNDG and DOCO¸ which respectively govern and support the RC system, as well as with UN entities that backstop other functions (DSS, DPKO, DFS) or that have a stake in the RC system (DPA). More specifically: a paper will be drafted identifying areas of engagement and possible courses of action and a joint meeting between the IASC HC Group and the UNDG Working Group on RC System Issues will be organised (possibly on an annual basis).

- Strengthen commitment to coordination: to this end, once an Accountability Framework for Coordinators, HCTs and Cluster Leads is developed a mechanism will be developed for monitoring stakeholders’ compliance with the Accountability Framework and an options paper will be drafted on possible mechanisms to review and address non-compliance.

There is a clear need to strengthen field coordination structures, notably by better preparing and equipping United Nations country teams, strengthening the leadership of the humanitarian coordinator and ensuring that sufficient and flexible resources are immediately available to support these field structures. Secretary-General’s report “In Larger Freedom”, March 2005.

Effective coordination of humanitarian action in the field hinges upon humanitarian coordination leaders: the Humanitarian Coordinators (HCs) or Resident Coordinators (RCs). In effect, while the primary responsibility for coordinating humanitarian assistance rests with national authorities, if international humanitarian assistance is required the HC or RC is responsible for leading and coordinating the efforts of humanitarian organizations (both UN and non-UN) with a view to ensuring that they are principled, timely, effective and efficient, and contribute to longer-term recovery.

Strengthening the humanitarian coordination leadership function – one of the three pillars of Humanitarian Reform and an integral part of the Transformative Agenda – is pursed on four tracks: (a) promoting dialogue and building consensus among humanitarian partners on key normative issues relating to humanitarian coordination leadership; (b) expanding the pool of potential Humanitarian Coordinators; (c) improving the leadership and coordination skills of Humanitarian and Resident Coordinators and Humanitarian Country Teams; and (d) ensuring that Humanitarian and Resident Coordinators get the support they need to be effective.