Whether in an emergency context or in on-going operations, DRC has an organizational commitment to engage actively in coordination work in line with the 2011 Transformative Agenda (TA) protocols.
In emergencies in particular, early and consistent coordination is essential for improved collective action. When coordination is working, it can dramatically increase the overall effectiveness of a humanitarian response and save lives. It is DRC’s general policy to always engage in coordination at field and country levels. To support the overall effectiveness, DRC participation in coordination fora should be by colleagues with decision making authority and relevant technical capacity. Our involvement will focus on bringing observations on gaps in protection and service delivery, findings from field assessments, challenges to implementation etc. to the coordination table with a view to develop joint solutions, harmonise and engage in advocacy. It is also about informing of our actions and ensuring they are not duplicated or duplicating.
When engaging in coordination fora, DRC should remain focused on increasing the effectiveness and impact of the collective response, and should avoid using the fora to promote the organisation unduly. We acknowledge that coordination fora can be ineffective and theatres of turf wars. In such cases DRC should remain constructive and focus on operational and strategic issues. In extreme circumstances where the malfunctioning of a coordination forum has severe operational implications DRC staff in country should solicit HQ support in raising awareness at the global level.
As a minimum requirement all DRC field operations must seek to engage in the relevant country and field coordination structures: Humanitarian Country Teams (HCTs), relevant clusters, working groups and NGO Forums if these exist.
It is best practice to ensure that more than one person attends cluster meetings or that as a minimum a back-up participant is identified. This ensures that DRC will always have a representative at meetings, even when the main participant is unavailable or on leave. It is also essential to document the decisions and priorities raised in coordination meetings and disseminate these to other DRC colleagues; the knowledge gained is of minimal use if it is kept only in the mind of the participant! This also ensures the consistency of information and positions across different coordination fora and meetings where different DRC staff participates.
Coordination is not only something which takes place between different humanitarian actors, but also with national, regional and local duty bearers, de-facto authorities, and communities. From a legitimacy and sustainability perspective their involvement and buy-in can significantly reduce or increase the longer term impact of humanitarian action.
Active participation in coordination structures is an essential part of developing and tapping into a joint evidence base for advocacy purposes at field, national and international level.
Coordination in emergencies
The objective of coordination in emergencies is to improve the quality and effectiveness of the collective humanitarian response.
- At the global level DRC is active in policy development in some of the core clusters: namely the Global Protection Cluster (represented by the GSL on protection) and the Global CCCM cluster (represented by the GSL on Emergency response).
- In IDP operations DRC should actively engage with the IASC cluster system in the sectors of relevance to DRC’s concrete operation. This would typically be in the Shelter/NFI cluster, the WASH cluster, the Protection cluster, the Food Security cluster and the CCCM cluster. If DRC has the capacity to do so we should strive to co-lead clusters. In many contexts DRC co-leads the protection cluster with or without external funding. Bear in mind that being a cluster co-lead is time consuming and requires a dedicated resource.
- In refugee operations DRC should participate in the Refugee Coordination Model (RCM), which is similar to the cluster system but usually operates with Sector Working Groups involving relevant line-ministries and the UNHCR.
- DRC has been and is a member of a range of HCTs, which under the leadership of the Humanitarian Coordinator offers a unique position to engage in country strategy, policy, coordination and preparedness action. DRC participation in an HCT should be at the highest level, i.e. either the Country Director or the Head of Programme.
- Participation in technical working groups where we have the capacity to do so
- At the global level DRC is a member of the Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP). If cash is part of the portfolio, DRC should always strive to be part of cash coordination structures at regional, national and field levels. DRC Global Technical Advisor on Cash and Market Based Programming can support in defining DRC positions and priorities at country level coordination fora.
- DRC should actively feed into the development of Humanitarian Response Plans (HRPs) and sector and Refugee Response Plans (RRPs) and should use these for planning and fundraising purposes.
- DRC is open to actively participate in alternative coordination mechanisms where existing ones are not functional. These can be NGO coordination mechanisms, INSO and other.
- When relevant DRC will always coordinate with local communities and authorities.
Common challenges in coordination
- Cluster members not engaging or lacking leadership/cluster coordinators
- Members of coordination structures will often keep their cards close due to competition – which risks turning the coordination structure into a territorial/competitive forum
- Human resources. Active participation requires regular participation by senior staff with specific skills, who often have cluster participation as one among many priorities.
- The location of clusters in the capital can make it difficult to participate when DRC is only based in field locations.
- Engaging in all relevant clusters can be very time consuming, taking managerial focus and resources away from implementation. It will be important to maintain proportionality between efforts put into coordination and direct implementation for the benefit of the affected population.
Core guidance and standards
- IASC, 2011, Transformative Agenda Protocols
- IASC, 2015, Reference Module for Cluster Coordination at Country Level
- IASC, 2006, Guidance Note on Using the Cluster Approach to Strengthen Humanitarian Response
- OCHA, Coordination
- UNHCR, 2014, Joint UNHCR-OCHA note on Mixed Situations Coordination in Practice
- IASC, 2017, Standard Terms of Reference for Humanitarian Country Teams
- UNHCR, UNHCR Refugee Coordination Model (RCM)
Contact the HQ Emergency Unit: [email protected]