Global support

What is the global architecture of UNICEF’s humanitarian action?

In partnership with national governments, civil society and other United Nations agencies, UNICEF delivers results for children in some of the most challenging environments in the world. UNICEF responds to more than 250 humanitarian situations each year. Leveraging existing partnerships and programmes, UNICEF teams are present on the ground before, during and after crises. The architecture that supports country-level humanitarian action is provided by UNICEF’s seven regional offices and various headquarters divisions. These offices provide the core infrastructure to support field preparedness and response in order to save lives and protect rights; systematically reduce vulnerability to disasters and conflicts; and support sector and cluster coordination and humanitarian partnerships.

What does the global architecture cost?

UNICEF’s 2014 global humanitarian appeal is for US$2.2 billion, its largest ever. Over 98 per cent of requirements will directly support field responses to diverse contexts such as cholera in Haiti, conflict in South Sudan and malnutrition in Mauritania. The global support for this response costs US$34.4 million,1 less than 2 per cent of the overall appeal. Nearly half of the cost (US$16.8 million) will be covered through core, or regular resources. Another US$9.5 million has been raised by early 2014, leaving a funding gap of US$8.1 million.

Why invest in global architecture?

Humanitarian action is central in the UNICEF Strategic Plan 2014–2017. UNICEF’s headquarters divisions across the world and regional offices work to strengthen organizational systems and capacity based on knowledge gained from past experiences and engagement with the wider humanitarian system. Examples include the development of corporate emergency activation procedures for large-scale, ‘Level 3’ emergencies, drawing on prior experience from contexts like Haiti and Pakistan. These were activated three times in 2013 for crises in the Syrian Arab Republic, the Philippines and the Central African Republic. The organization also outlined steps in 2013 to enhance its response to ‘Level 2’ emergencies that require enhanced support, including procedures for simplification and fast-tracking human resource deployments and partnership agreements. Headquarters and regional office work in 2013 also focused on strengthening organizational capacity for results-based monitoring in humanitarian situations.

Global architecture of UNICEF's humanitarian action

UNICEF contributes to the Transformative Agenda (TA) of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), in particular by guiding developments on performance monitoring across the United Nations System, playing a key role in simulations to test the TA, and helping to define its protocols. UNICEF leads the nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) global clusters and co-leads the education global cluster. The organization also co-leads the child protection and gender-based violence areas of responsibility within the protection cluster. Global cluster capacity, including for information management, is ready to be deployed upon activation of a ‘level 3’ emergency, as it was in November 2013 for the Philippines. UNICEF also contributed to the wider United Nations system through its role in the follow-up to the Secretary-General’s Internal Review Panel on United Nations Action in Sri Lanka, co-leadership of the IASC task force on preparedness, and expanded work on risk management in high-threat environments.

Headquarters provides overall strategic direction and guidance, and is responsible for strategic planning, advocacy and oversight for the entire organization. Headquarters also leads the development of UNICEF’s global perspective, based on experiences and contributions from all parts of the organization, to inform planning, policy and guidelines for effective humanitarian action. Global support is coordinated by a dedicated team in UNICEF’s Office of Emergency Programmes (EMOPS), including a global security team and a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week Operations Centre (OPSCEN). Dedicated emergency focal points in each area of the Programme Division develop policies, guidance and tools, provide direct field support and technical assistance remotely or on the ground, and advocate for and promote evidence-based interventions for the field. The organization is also prioritizing and investing in strengthening the resilience of children, communities and systems to multiple shocks and stresses. The supply function is centralized in Copenhagen, with supply hubs located in Dubai, Panama and Shanghai for the rapid mobilization and shipment of essential life-saving supplies during the first 24 to 72 hours of a crisis. A dedicated emergency human resources unit coordinates surge deployment and recruitment for emergency countries, alongside global standby partnerships. Focal points in evaluation, communication, resource mobilization, finance and administration, and information and communication technology provide further support.

Regional offices provide guidance, support, oversight and coordination to country offices to prepare for and respond to emergencies, including leadership and representation, strategic planning and policy development, and performance monitoring and administration. Dedicated technical and cross-sector advisers provide direct programme and operational support, with increased capacity in emergency-prone regions. This includes strengthening country-level capacity, providing quality assurance and facilitating surge deployment. Regional office capacity is also critical during significant regional emergencies, as seen in the crises in the Syrian Arab Republic and throughout West and Central Africa. This capacity can enable the nationally led adoption of standards for protecting children in emergencies. Regional offices also support country-level (including inter-agency) capacity for preparedness, response and disaster risk reduction.

Looking ahead, UNICEF is also critically reviewing its role in humanitarian action to meet the challenges of the next five years amid diverse country contexts and an evolving environment of humanitarian needs and capacities.

1 This does not include additional requirements in regional chapters of Humanitarian Action for Children 2014.