Author: Evaluation Office, UNICEF NYHQ
In September 1998, UNICEF held a global Consultation of UNICEF Representatives in Emergency Countries on Humanitarian Response to Children, in Martigny, Switzerland. The meeting was spurred by the recognition that there was a need to enhance the organisation’s capacity to predict and respond to humanitarian crises and unstable situations. The key was seen to be the definition of the elements of a minimum response that partners could count on UNICEF to fulfil and for which COs could count on the organisation, as a whole, to provide the necessary backing. Related to this was the need to ensure vulnerability analysis feeding into preparedness and response.
Much progress has been made since Martigny I. However, critical internal and external constraints to humanitarian response remain and the changing external context calls for new policies and strategies. This context has led to the preparation of “Martigny II - Global Consultation on UNICEF’s Humanitarian Response to Children and Women in Crisis Situations” that will be held in Copenhagen from 18-20 June 2003.
The purpose of this paper is to provide a quick overview of where the organisation is in terms of humanitarian response capacity. With this comes an overview of the critical challenges faced. The review will focus on a few broad questions: What evidence is there that capacity has changed? What measures are there of current capacity? What are the perceived current constraints and concerns? The paper is structured to examine what we do – looking specifically at UNICEF response vis-à-vis the programme commitments, including its advocacy role – and how we do that, covering the core support functions.
The review draws on a range of existing information and new data collection including: previous reviews and desk reviews on UNICEF humanitarian response capacity, preliminary results of an EMOPS survey on Emergency Preparedness and Response Planning undertaken in October 2002, data from Country Office audits, annual reports (2002), data from different offices' monitoring systems, survey of DFID Phase II emergency focal points, interviews with 13 staff, correspondence and fact checking with a wide range of regional and headquarters staff.
Findings and Conclusions:
There are a number of very concrete and indisputable changes in UNICEF humanitarian response capacity since the time of the Martigny Consultation. This is in no way attributed to Martigny alone. Changes in external context have been just as dramatic in bringing about change. However, it is clear that the organisation is different.
Shift in organisational culture - There is a growing proportion of UNICEF staff, including those working in stable contexts, ROs and headquarters, that understand and accept their responsibility in ensuring that the organisation responds to humanitarian crisis in line with the Core Corporate Commitments (CCCs). There is also an increasing understanding by UNICEF headquarters and field staff of the ethical and legal standards that underpin the work of UNICEF in humanitarian action and response.
Advocacy role expanded - The breadth and reach of UNICEF advocacy continues to expand. UNICEF has contributed to defining the agenda for Children Affected by Armed Conflict and has taken up its advocacy role in an increasingly broad range. This is not only the headquarters face of UNICEF. There is an increasing connection between high-level political advocacy on CAAC, in the Security Council and other inter-governmental bodies, and field office positioning and advocacy work with national partners. This has been observed in relation to country-specific issues that have come before the Security Council as well as on the implementation of SC Resolutions 1261 and 1314, on the humanitarian impact of small arms on children and landmines action, among others. Both headquarters and ROs have been active in building up networks of allies. Increasingly, COs are equipped with guidance and tools for this range of advocacy issues and close to half of COs are engaging in advocacy on difficult issues to some degree, some very strongly.
Emergency preparedness and response planning - 75 COs, 6 ROs and 10 headquarters divisions, units or functions have undertaken initial Emergency Preparedness and Response Planning (EPRP) exercises. "Mainstreaming" of the preparedness planning has been advanced both in policy and in practice. EPRP processes are widely considered to have contributed greatly to clarity about CO and individual staff accountabilities, to motivation and a culture shift.
Organisation-wide core training for better humanitarian response - Training packages on humanitarian principles and the human rights-based approach to programming, and on emergency preparedness and response have been established as part of UNICEF’s core learning strategy. A significant cadre of staff are now trained as trainers in both. This is the point where investment to-date will start to pay off with wider coverage of training.
Security infrastructure and standards - A clear, UNICEF security policy has been issued including Minimum Operating Security Standards (MOSS), establishing clear accountabilities and implementation targets. The Operations Centre (OPSCEN) provides a range of services to the field, including monitoring of security situations and a reliable 24-hour information and communications hub. 88 field sites are connected to the UNICEF Global Wide Area Network through SITA. 59 additional country sites are functioning with VSAT.
Selected advances in human resources management - Surge capacity, through both internal and external rosters, have been advanced by ROs (TACRO, ROSA, ESARO starting) as well as globally for external communications staff and logisticians. Similarly, ROs have pushed ahead with peer counselling and stress counselling services for staff (CEE/CIS, WCAR, ESARO and now TACRO), though DHR now has staff in place to support globally with policy and guidance.
Inter-agency coordination - Contrary to its persisting image as a loner, UNICEF is present and active in inter-agency collaboration and coordination.
Despite some of the highly significant changes mentioned above, constraints remain. Some of these, unfortunately, are not new.
Clarity on implications of CCCs - Especially as the organisation considers proposals to refine and essentially expand the CCCs, it is vital that there be clarity on the implications. Are the CCCs a minimum response always, in every region? What are the implications for preparedness planning at COs and ROs, particularly in terms of human resources?
Lack of consistency in advocacy role - While UNICEF has become a more active advocate on a wider range of challenging issues, there continues to be a range of positions in COs and ROs on how to balance this advocacy position with our relationship with national government partners and even whether to try, in some cases. This challenge emerged in the early 1990s. It has become more acute as some parts of the organisation have become more active on child rights' issues in the context of humanitarian response. The issues include attitude change, understanding of, and skills/knowledge in, developing advocacy strategies, as well as common positions and interpretation of policy at the level of senior management in COs, ROs and headquarters.
Level of preparedness - While EPRP has advanced, there continues to be a lag in implementing preparedness activities. It will be important to establish clearly what level and scope of preparedness is expected and find incentive systems to ensure it happens.
Early warning, rapid assessment - The organisation continues to be weak in accessing and processing information for early warning, including political/vulnerability analysis, as well as in rapid assessment. These information analysis functions are critical because they have the potential of triggering and directing early humanitarian response. These gaps have been identified from the time of the initial Martigny. Some elements are there but there is no global structure or framework, or clear technical lead in headquarters for any of these functions.
Results-based management - No significant change in CO M&E capacity has come about. The organisation has no practice of, or system for, assessing humanitarian response to crisis. There are critical support functions for which the organisation cannot easily take a measure of performance. There is little or no guidance on monitoring and evaluation of humanitarian response programmes in many of the newer programming areas.
Information/analysis of the impact of emergencies on children - While ROs and selected COs have advanced on a number of country and regional studies on the impact of war and natural disaster on children, there continues to be no global leadership. Current efforts to mend this gap are urgent if UNICEF is to protect its image as a leader in global knowledge development on the situation of children.
Security as a constraint to humanitarian response - While MOSS and the advances towards MOSS compliance are generally well-received, there is concern that the UN security system continues to constrain, rather than support, humanitarian assistance. There is also concern that attention to security infrastructure not take away attention to knowledge and practices of staff and COs.
Human resource management systems - DHR is about to roll out important human resource management systems – the skills inventory, the web-roster, both based on the newly-completed competency profiles. Making these systems work at all, including for HRM for humanitarian response, will require significant work by headquarters' divisions in concert with ROs. If these systems are to bring any benefit to humanitarian response capacity any time soon, it is critical that they be prioritised. This needs to be followed. Similarly, in terms of getting an overall view of how HR gaps are to be filled, it seems that some overall assessment is needed as to what different options – internal and external surge capacity, recruitment, and training – will be used to respond to which gaps. It will be important also to ensure continuity of DHR leadership on the issue of staff counselling after DFID Phase II.
Mainstreaming - While there is little difficulty with the vision of mainstreaming emergency preparedness and humanitarian response at the level of COs, there are many questions and much angst in the organisation about what mainstreaming will mean for headquarters and RO structures and staffing. There is general agreement that the organisation will always require a set of triggers and a mechanism to gear up an effective and timely humanitarian response. The issue is to ensure that the organisation, from headquarters to ROs to COs, has enough and the right triggers, including backups, and a gear box that is sufficiently powerful. The vision of what that should look like remains unclear.
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