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Coordination is vital in emergencies. Good coordination means less gaps and overlaps in humanitarian organizations’ work. It strives for a needs-based, rather than capacity-driven, response. It aims to ensure a coherent and complementary approach, identifying ways to work together for better collective results.

The basis of the current international humanitarian coordination system was set by General Assembly resolution 46/182 in December 1991. The Humanitarian Reform of 2005 introduced new elements to improve capacity, predictability, accountability, leadership and partnership.

The most visible aspect of the reform is the creation of the Cluster Approach. Clusters are groups of humanitarian organizations (UN and non-UN) working in the main sectors of humanitarian action, e.g. shelter and health. They are created when clear humanitarian needs exist within a sector, when there are numerous actors within sectors and when national authorities need coordination support.

Clusters provide a clear point of contact and are accountable for adequate and appropriate humanitarian assistance. Clusters create partnerships between international humanitarian actors, national and local authorities, and civil society.

OCHA’s role

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 (HC) leadership. OCHA provides guidance and support to the HC and Humanitarian Country Team, and facilitates inter-cluster coordination. OCHA also helps to ensure coordination between clusters at all phases of the response, including needs assessments, joint planning, and monitoring and evaluation.