Needs Assessment: Background
A coordinated approach to assessment helps improve the quality, comparability, and evidence base for humanitarian response. Assessments are carried out in partnership by humanitarian actors and document the scope of a particular crisis. More importantly, coordinated assessments illustrate the needs of affected populations and inform needs planning and system wide monitoring.
Coordinated assessments follow the principle of humanitarian accountability and can enhance the quality of inter-agency collaboration. They can also improve donor funding levels and relationships with governments, local NGOs, and disaster-affected populations. Humanitarian Country Teams (HCTs) benefit from using coordinated assessments when responding to a disaster.
IASC Needs Assessment Task Force (NATF)
The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) promotes the coordination of needs assessments to enhance the quality of humanitarian response. The IASC Working Group created the IASC Needs Assessment Task Force (NATF) which worked in partnership with IASC members to strengthen multi-sector coordination of needs assessments by:
- Developing tools and products to unify needs assessment approaches and methods within the humanitarian community.
- Supporting humanitarian capacity building for in country humanitarian actors and standby partners.
The NATF prepared two key outputs, endorsed by the IASC Working Group In November 2011:
- IASC Operational Guidance on Coordinated Assessments in Humanitarian Crises
- Multi-Cluster/Sector Initial Rapid Assessment (MIRA) Manual
The coordinated assessments guidance and MIRA approach manual above make the following recommendations:
- The Humanitarian/Resident Coordinator (HC/RC) establishes coordination mechanisms for cross-cluster/sector needs assessment and analysis.
- Country-level cluster/sector leads ensure effective and coherent sectoral needs assessment.
- Operational agencies have the primary responsibility for undertaking assessments. They do so in a coordinated manner and adhere to the definitions, principles, methodologies and approaches set out in the Operational Guidance.
- Plans for implementation of coordinated assessments are part of preparedness and contingency planning work.
- Coordinated assessments are part of on-going processes guiding operational decision-making. They complement monitoring of the overall humanitarian situation, and monitoring of the performance of the humanitarian response.
- Coordination mechanisms applied to needs assessments differ depending on the phase and nature of a crisis. A Multi-Cluster/Sector Initial Rapid Assessment is recommended during the first two weeks following a disaster, followed by joint or harmonized intra-cluster/sector in-depth assessments.
This approach aims to ensure the collection of consistent, reliable, and timely data regarding needs in humanitarian settings. Additionally, it strives to strengthen informed decision-making. It is integral to the IASC Transformative Agenda which seeks to improve the humanitarian response system in emergencies.