Children and women are most affected by humanitarian situations. Complex emergencies and natural disasters worsen children’s nutritional status; increase the risk of excess illness and death from common killers such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria; strain already stretched water and sanitation systems by poor hygiene conditions; increase the risk of disease outbreaks; interrupt learning; expose children to increased threat of violence, abuse and exploitation, including grave violations; and increase the risk of HIV infection.
Over the past six years, UNICEF has responded to an average of over 250 humanitarian situations annually, guided by its Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action (CCCs). In partnership with national governments, civil society partners and other United Nations agencies, UNICEF works in some of the most challenging environments in the world to deliver results for millions of children and women whose rights are threatened by natural disasters or complex emergencies. The UNICEF programmes that lead this response in over 150 countries and territories are present before, during and after crises and leverage existing partnerships and programmes for response as well as for preparedness and resilience building. Though the bulk of UNICEF’s US$1 billion humanitarian expenditure1 occurs in the field, considerable support is provided by regional offices and headquarters (as described in the following illustration). This system enables UNICEF to mobilize its global resources in support of country-office-led responses to deliver results for children and women in all emergencies and fragile settings.
UNICEF’s global architecture for humanitarian action provides the core infrastructure to support the field’s response to: save and protect lives in accordance with the CCCs and humanitarian principles; strengthen national systems to build preparedness and resilience at the community level; and support sector and cluster coordination and good humanitarian partnership initiatives. Headquarters capacity and systems for programmes and operations underpin and complement regional support mechanisms so that country offices can deliver results for children and adapt to emerging challenges.
The main functions of this global architecture are:
- Headquarters has a role in providing overall strategic direction and guidance linked to the wider United Nations and policy guidance of the Executive Board, with responsibility for strategic planning, advocacy and oversight for the organization as a whole. Headquarters also provides leadership in developing UNICEF’s global perspective by integrating the experiences and contributions of all parts of the organization and by ensuring that the global perspective informs planning, policy development and guidelines for management and quality assurance.
- Regional offices have a role as mechanisms for guidance, support, oversight and coordination of country offices within regions. This includes leadership and representation, strategic planning and policy development, country programme support, performance monitoring and administration.
Global support is coordinated by a dedicated team in UNICEF’s Office of Emergency Programmes (EMOPS) as well as emergency focal points across headquarters divisions. EMOPS aims to strengthen UNICEF capacity to advocate for and assist children in emergency situations effectively and to provide policy, technical and operations support to field offices dealing with complex emergency situations. This includes development and implementation of systems and procedures, for example to strengthen organizational capacity for results-based monitoring in humanitarian situations jointly with regional offices. A global security team as well as a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week information gathering and dissemination operations centre (OPSCEN) and deployment mechanisms provide direct support to the field. Global policy capacity also supports UNICEF’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance consistent with humanitarian principles articulated in General Assembly resolution 46/182,2 including in conflict-affected or highly insecure environments, and to improve quality of response through knowledge management and use of innovations. This has included, for example, documentation and application of lessons from major emergencies such as those in Haiti and the Horn of Africa, to inform systems change and future responses.
Headquarters is also central to mobilizing UNICEF’s global response for larger emergencies and advocating for silent emergencies. It leads efforts to strengthen the organization’s emergency-risk informed programming toward more resilient communities and hosts the global cluster coordination capacity for nutrition; water, sanitation and hygiene; education; and the child protection and gender-based violence areas of responsibility within the child protection cluster.
Global technical support is provided through dedicated emergency focal points in each programme area that develops policies, provides guidance and tools, and advocates and promotes evidence-based interventions to be practised in the field. These staff liaise with regional and country level technical staff to strengthen UNICEF’s capacity to make strategic and appropriate decisions, while providing direct field support through capacity building, monitoring and surge support during emergencies.
The supply function is centralized in Copenhagen with supply hubs in Dubai, Panama and Shanghai, as well as others at regional levels, for the rapid mobilization and shipment of essential life-saving supplies during the first 24 to 72 hours of a crisis. In 2011 this included UNICEF undertaking one of its largest supply pipelines in its history for the Horn of Africa response. A dedicated emergency human resources unit coordinates surge deployment and recruitment for emergency countries, so UNICEF has the right people in the right place at the right time. Global stand-by partnerships also support the field with key additional human resources, technical expertise and direct services. Headquarters provides further support through focal points in evaluation, communication, resource mobilization, finance and administration, and information and communication technology. If the situation calls for a very large-scale response, like the Horn of Africa crisis, UNICEF can apply its Corporate Emergency Activation Procedure to mobilize resources widely across the organization and globe even more quickly than usual.
Regional offices provide frontline backstopping, direction and advice for UNICEF country offices to prepare for and respond to emergencies. They provide direct programme and operational support through dedicated technical and cross-sectoral advisers, with increased capacity in emergency-prone regions. Regional office capacity is also critical in significant cross-border or regional emergencies, as seen recently in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, as well as in promotion of nationally led adoption of standards for response to protect children in emergencies. The regional level also reinforces UNICEF country capacity for emergency preparedness, response and disaster risk reduction, while ensuring that programmes are ‘risk informed’. Regional programme specialists therefore have a lead role in promoting evidence-based interventions, capacity building and direct support to country offices on programmatic issues, including implementation of the CCCs and building linkages between development and humanitarian programming. Regional offices also support inter-agency preparedness and contingency planning initiatives.
As part of its enhanced structure of accountability, UNICEF has strengthened its support mechanisms for large-scale ‘Level 3’ emergencies, which require an organization-wide response, as well as reinforcing the regional oversight and support role in ‘Level 2’ emergencies. This has included development of standard operating procedures.
UNICEF’s global architecture relies on collaboration with other United Nations agencies and civil society organizations, so that humanitarian action collectively achieves stronger results for children. This includes the organization’s contributions to the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Transformative Agenda, an ongoing process to strengthen international humanitarian systems that builds on lessons from the 2010 responses in Haiti and Pakistan and has so far focused on leadership, coordination and accountability. UNICEF has made it a priority to support this agenda globally and by mobilizing the organization’s resources to deliver in the field effectively. Doing this requires dedicated capacity.
This global humanitarian architecture supports rapid response, technical excellence, preparedness and accountability for the nearly US$1.4 billion in humanitarian requirements in the field, as reflected in this Humanitarian Action for Children funding document. The cost of the support is roughly 2.2 per cent of UNICEF’s overall humanitarian work, or US$31.2 million annually.3 UNICEF continues to mainstream its humanitarian action as part of its core work and core resources4 and more than half (US$16.4 million) of the above cost is covered through its regular resources. Another US$7.4 million has been raised to fill the necessary capacity for 2013. That leaves a funding gap of US$7.5 million at the global and regional levels to support UNICEF’s commitment to humanitarian action in the field and to deliver results for children.5 Providing sustainable global support to country offices requires secure and predictable funding.
1 In 2011 emergency expenditure amounted to US$999 million from the Other Resources Fund.
2 General Assembly Resolution 46/182, Strengthening the coordination of humanitarian emergency assistance of the United Nations,19 December 1991.
3 This does not include additional requirements in regional chapters of Humanitarian Action for Children 2013.
4 Another example of mainstreaming is the Emergency Programme Fund, which uses $75 million over two years of UNICEF’s own core resources as a revolving loan to support countries in response or underfunded crises.
5 The amounts do not total US$31.2 million because of rounding.