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A Synopsis of Unocha's Role in the World

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Tyler Blankstein

2.16.17

AEB 4323

UNOCHA

        The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA for short, is a organization committed to the coordination of Humanitarians to create responses to emergencies when it is most needed. Disasters including typhoons, earthquakes, and various conflicts are the focus of OCHA. The mission statement of OCHA is to mobilize, coordinate, advocate for those in need, promote preparedness and prevention, and finally to facilitate sustainable solutions. With over 30 offices all over the globe, OCHA is the main overseer of coordination in the humanitarian community. Working with international and national actors, OCHA aims to improve the efficiency by increasing predictability, accountability, and partnerships. The organization essentially serves to provide the frame of the house for the various humanitarian aid organizations to furnish. OCHA does this by working with community and regional offices, each prepared for short notice of emergencies. OCHA has a stronger role in emergency relief than in development as it aims to provide those effected by disaster with the quickest relief possible. Another main responsibility of OCHA is be the secretariat for cluster coordination systems such as Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), United nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) system, and the international Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG).

        One of the main tenants for how OCHA will execute their mission is to increase preparedness. Per OCHA, preparedness is the most effective ways to reduce the impact of a disaster on a community. This is especially true to those countries constantly effected by the same disasters. The three main ways OCHA aims to increase the preparedness of NGOs and government organizations is to; first increase OCHA’s internal response capacity, Increase the response ability of organizations within a nation. To implement these ideals, OCHA works with organizations like the Inter-Agency Sub-Working Group on preparedness, where OCHA works with other groups on contingency planning and such,

        Part of OCHA’s effectiveness is their ability to quickly and adeptly respond to crisis. This holds especially true when the local government’s capacity for relief is beyond that of what is needed. OCHA is an arm of the United Nations acting as the quarterback of humanitarian aid, coordinating the rest of the plays to score as efficiently and as much as possible. In order to decrease response time, OCHA implements several policies to benefit everyone. The first is the openness of information. If data and resources, such as maps and reports, are shared within organizations, each organizations ability to respond to aid problems can be improved. The second is to standardize response processes, as this allows organizations with different aims to execute aid, reducing issues such as overlapping aid and issues with policy.  This also applies to common strategies and implementation plans.

        The effective of these policies is increased efficiency and response time is the ability of the OCHA to have response teams in a matter of hours. The system that allows for this is the UNDAC system, where a database of volunteer and emergency response teams are able to be activated at any time. For example, during the search and rescue phase, INSARAG uses cluster coordination to standardize processes that allow local, national, and international organizations to efficiently execute search and rescues.

        Cluster Coordination is one of OCHA’s most important tools in organizing various groups to respond quickly and effectively during a crisis. Through this, response can become need based, with only the necessary amount of aid is being transmitted to those who made it. This process was initiated in December of 1991 by the General Assembly Resolution 46/182. This resolution basically stated the need for coordination of organizations to “Strengthen further and make more effective the collective efforts of the international community…in providing humanitarian aid assistance.” This was because of the idea that increasing coordination of humanitarian aid networks could decrease the amount of those displaced or lives lost. OCHA works with leaders of these clusters, to develop policies, disseminate organization support in the field, as well as take of any type of issues within clusters. These clusters are essentially organized by their main area of aid, for example: Shelter or Health. Then, some of these clusters may be grouped and activated together in the event of a crisis that requires multiple clusters from different areas. For example, in the event of an earthquake that destroys people’s homes, The health and shelter clusters may be organized in order to more effectively respond to the disaster.

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