Background and methodology
Between 2003 and 2008, the Middle East and North Africa Regional Office (MENARO) commissioned a number of evaluations to assess emergency responses, both natural and human-made, in the region. Building on this comprehensive body of work, MENARO led this “Summary Review” of lessons learned and recommendations to inform future humanitarian preparedness and response actions at Regional Office, Country Office (CO) and Headquarters (HQ) levels.
The methodology included a desk review of evaluation reports, additional literature such as the global evaluation of DFID-UNICEF collaboration, and outcome documents from relevant workshops. Out of approximately 400 recommendations, about 100 have been distilled and then discussed with key informants in MENARO and EMOPS to help fine-tune them for follow-up.
The global rollout of the UN Humanitarian Reform has greatly influenced the humanitarian operating environment. It has created momentum to undertake major shifts in the way the United Nations and its partners prepare for and work in humanitarian emergencies. In medium to large-size crises, the Cluster Approach is proving to be an extremely useful tool for coordination. Increasingly, Resident Coordinators are becoming aware of their responsibilities with regards to emergency preparedness and response, and the selection process for Humanitarian Coordinators is resulting in a greater pool of highly qualified candidates. Donors are also supporting the Reform process, including through the Central Emergency Response Fund, or through the Consolidated and Flash Appeal Process.
UNICEF’s recent emergency preparedness and response have been of an increasingly higher standard. Several recommendations emanating from previous evaluations have been acted upon, with leadership provided by the Regional Office, demonstrating that the MENA region provides numerous challenges but also opportunities for heightened emergency preparedness and response efforts.
Preparedness is one of the main factors influencing the success of a Country Office in its immediate response to a new crisis. Country offices have the responsibility to lead preparedness process and emergency responses, while the Regional Office has the responsibility to underscore the importance of UNICEF emergency preparedness and to help decide upon response scope and scale. The Regional Office must ensure sound coordination between country offices in the event of cross-border crises.
The oversight role of the Regional Office for the preparedness processes at country level needs to be clarified, as well as the formal triggering of a Regional Office response, especially in countries reluctant to acknowledge, or unable to identify a humanitarian crisis.
Interagency (IA) coordination has greatly improved in the framework of the UN Humanitarian Reform. However, in many cases, especially in non-emergency-prone countries, IA coordination for emergency preparedness and response is still a challenge. UNICEF can play an important role by advocating with other actors for sound and inclusive preparedness processes and for leveraging partnerships.
Assessment, monitoring and planning are still weak areas of UNICEF work in many countries. UNICEF Country Offices must dedicate more resources to strengthen the link between its monitoring work in the regular programmes and the preparedness and response processes.
The political complexities of the MENA region, as well as the increasingly vibrant and vocal regional media, necessitate for UNICEF to develop, refine and systematize its communications and advocacy strategies related to child rights and the broader UNICEF mandate. UNICEF as a voice for children in the region is critical to preserving humanitarian space and neutrality in complex operating environments such as Iraq.
UNICEF should ensure that staff wellbeing and rights are safeguarded and supported in the most difficult circumstances.
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