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Cluster Activation

Clusters are established as part of an international emergency response, based on an analysis of humanitarian needs and coordination capacity on the ground, and in consultation with national partners.

The criteria for cluster activation are met when:

  1. Response and coordination gaps exist due to a sharp deterioration or significant change in the humanitarian situation
  2. Existing national response or coordination capacity is unable to meet needs in a manner that respects humanitarian principles

The procedure for activating one or more clusters includes consultation between the Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator and the Humanitarian Country Team, and then correspondence with the Emergency Relief Coordinator on the rationale for each cluster and the selection of cluster lead agencies based on coordination and response capacity. The proposal is transmitted to IASC Principals and Global Clusters for approval within 24 hours, and then the Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator is informed accordingly. For more information on the procedures, please see the IASC Coordination Reference Module.

The establishment of clusters should support national mechanisms for sectoral coordination, and take into account issues that cut across clusters, like age, gender, HIV/AIDS and protection.

Cluster De-activation

The de-activation of formally activated clusters may therefore be considered when at least one of the conditions that led to its activation is no longer present:

  1. The humanitarian situation improves, significantly reducing humanitarian needs and therefore the associated response and coordination gaps
  2. National structures acquire sufficient capacity to coordinate and meet residual humanitarian needs in line with humanitarian principles

Clusters should be a temporary coordination solution and the aim should be to either resume or establish national, development-oriented coordination mechanisms as soon as the humanitarian emergency phase ends. The efficient de-activation of clusters is based on a review, by the RC/HC and the HCT, which looks at the on-going need for clusters as well as the required planning to ensure transitional arrangements are put in place. The review of the cluster coordination architecture should take place within three months in sudden-onset emergencies and annually in protracted crises.

The criteria for the de-activation of clusters should mirror the criteria for activation, i.e. when the criteria applied to activate a cluster no longer apply, the cluster can be de-activated. However, in deciding on de-activation, the RC/HC and the HCT should consider the need to address any on-going humanitarian needs; the capacity and willingness of national counterparts to lead sectoral coordination; the maintenance of accountability for delivery in key sectors; and the possibility of recurring or new disasters. Clusters do not all have to be deactivated at the same time; some may need to remain longer, while others are deactivated.

⇒ De-activating clusters too soon could result in unnecessary costs in re-establishing them and would reduce the possibility for preparedness and transition arrangements.  

The procedure for de-activating one or more clusters includes a review of cluster arrangements by the RC/HC and the HCT, and then correspondence to the ERC outlining which clusters are to de-activate and transfer coordination responsibilities to national counterparts as well as the rationale (and transition plan) for those clusters which will remain in place. The proposal is transmitted to IASC Principals and Global Clusters for approval within 24 hours, and then the RC/HC is informed accordingly.