© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-1299/Ramoneda

A Haitian girl carries water in a Port-au-Prince camp for people displaced by the 12 January earthquake. The devastating Haiti quake and the Pakistan flood emergency were only two of more than 200 emergencies UNICEF responds to every year.

Major disasters in Haiti and Pakistan struck within six months of each other in 2010, eliciting an extraordinary global response that mobilized the full community of humanitarian organizations and partners. The scope of destruction and humanitarian need in these two countries alone, occurring in difficult geographical locations and affecting large populations (more than 22 million vulnerable people altogether), highlighted, once again, the need to strengthen humanitarian systems for a more effective response to major crises. On average, UNICEF responds to more than two hundred emergencies every year, informing and shaping these interventions as a global leader for children. Ultimately, stronger and better adapted systems will result in a more efficient response and lead to greater fulfilment of children’s and women’s rights.

For UNICEF, humanitarian action encompasses more than rapid response. It also involves reliable preparedness and calls for investment in early recovery from the very onset of a response. UNICEF increasingly recognizes the need for all its programmes (both development- and emergency-related) to build resilience and reduce risk. These aims are achieved in various ways that are fully reflected in the revised Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action (CCCs) and include supply and logistics, programming, human resources, policy and practice, communication and information technology.

UNICEF brings the full range of support from all corners of the organization to meet the humanitarian needs of children and women. Headquarters in New York, Geneva, Copenhagen, Brussels and Tokyo are centres of global support for country offices that require additional assistance in staffing, supplies and logistics, and identification of sources and mechanisms to better access financial resources to respond to emergencies. These offices mobilize external support and identify surge capacity from UNICEF offices worldwide. Supply hubs with strategic stocks in Copenhagen, Dubai, Panama and Shanghai enable quick delivery of life-saving supplies within the first few hours of a rapid-onset emergency and coordinated supply chain management for disaster- or conflict-affected areas. In addition, UNICEF’s seven regional offices provide leadership, advocacy, oversight, quality assurance and technical and operational support to country offices working to meet humanitarian needs.

Humanitarian funding at work: Global highlights from 2010

In April 2010 UNICEF adopted the third revision of the CCCs, its humanitarian policy for upholding the rights of children affected by crisis. The CCCs promote predictable, effective and timely collective humanitarian action, around which UNICEF engages with partners including host governments, Member States, operational and cluster partners, and staff. Key changes to the CCCs include the recognition that humanitarian action encompasses sound preparedness as well as an immediate emergency response, and an emphasis on the importance of applying an early recovery approach in the response. The policy now reflects UNICEF’s cluster accountabilities as a vital strategy to realize humanitarian results. It recognizes the importance of national capacity development, advocacy, partnerships and other key strategies throughout preparedness and response.

Strong collaboration with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is crucial to achieving results for children through humanitarian action. In 2010 UNICEF continued to expand the use of revised cooperation and small-scale funding agreements with NGOs. This expansion has created more flexible funding options, enhanced joint results, fostered capacity development of local institutions, and better aligned UNICEF’s work with that of partners.

Like other agencies with cluster leadership responsibilities, UNICEF mobilized significant capacity and support for timely and appropriate coordination in the face of unparalleled disasters in Haiti, in Pakistan and in 27 other countries where the cluster approach has been activated. UNICEF also strengthened gender and human rights programming in the context of humanitarian action through training, deployment of gender experts to advise clusters on mainstreaming, and dissemination of best practices. UNICEF headquarters provided guidance and on-demand advice to country and regional offices regarding the application of international humanitarian law and humanitarian principles in challenging operational environments and in complex emergencies such as Kyrgyzstan, the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Somalia.

During the first six months of 2010, more than four hundred surge capacity assignments were requested for the Haiti office. In comparison, during all of 2009, 259 internal and standby surge staff were deployed across the entire organization. For countries facing both large- and medium-scale emergencies in 2010, UNICEF mobilized a significant emergency staff surge to strengthen the capacity of country offices. This surge took the form of technical support, management and cluster coordination, and such operational support as human resources, supply and logistics, and information management. Emergency capacity from within the organization was complemented by expertise drawn from standby partners from government and private companies, as well as from 18 NGOs. These partnerships allowed UNICEF to deploy 185 personnel to 35 different offices, representing more than 23,000 days of deployment and an increase in standby deployments of more than 34 per cent.

In 2010 global emergency supply needs more than doubled, as compared to 2008 and 2009 combined. Through accelerated use of all its assets, the UNICEF Supply Division in Copenhagen met its commitment to pack and ship emergency supplies within 48 hours. Logistics networks in the field and at headquarters contributed to better information sharing between partners and better identification of what products were needed and where, as well as to renewed supply training and the release of crucial staff for temporary deployment. Competing demands for large quantities of similar supplies during simultaneous large- and medium-scale emergencies proved challenging, however, and ways to improve supply flow in such circumstances will be addressed during 2011.

In the immediate aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, which also damaged UNICEF’s premises, emergency information technology and telecommunications response kits were shipped to Port-au-Prince from in-house stockpiles and set up by emergency-trained experts from within UNICEF and standby partner organizations. While these kits enabled essential telecommunications links for the makeshift office, other key information technology services could not immediately be established on site. The office had to rely instead on a shadow office operating out of the Dominican Republic to host key UNICEF information systems which were accessed remotely from Port-au-Prince.

In 2010 UNICEF made considerable investments in developing a programming approach that is more in tune with and informed by emergency-related risks. A key goal of this transformation is for all UNICEF country programmes to increase their attention to disaster and conflict prevention, mitigation and preparedness. The new approach provides a strong platform for engaging governments and other partners in sustainable strategies for reducing humanitarian risks, with long-term benefits to communities potentially affected by emergencies. Mainstreaming risk-informed programming and providing guidance to country offices on disaster risk reduction are essential to strengthening practice in this area.

Investing in national capacity development before, during and after crises can help national actors fulfil their obligations to uphold and promote children’s and women’s rights in humanitarian situations. While not new to UNICEF, capacity development has not been systematically applied in emergency settings and has often not been comprehensive enough to ensure real and lasting change. UNICEF is now developing technical guidance on capacity development in humanitarian settings and has provided direct support to Southern Sudan and to the Uganda country offices in applying this approach, including in post-conflict and fragile settings.

Headquarters further provided guidance to UNICEF staff on the purpose, principles and key management entry points for applying an early recovery approach in humanitarian action. Staff surge support on early recovery focused particularly on Haiti and Pakistan to strengthen planning and response. UNICEF remained very engaged in policy development and country-level initiatives to ensure enhanced UN coherence in the context of complex emergencies. A technical note on engaging integrated UN presences was developed to complement inter-agency guidance and a peer reference group was established for UNICEF staff working in countries with these missions. UNICEF staff participated in a number of inter-agency integrated strategy planning and assessment missions, including to Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and Timor-Leste.

Global support: Looking forward

Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action and performance monitoring
UNICEF is continuing the rollout of the revised CCCs and is encouraging all country and regional offices to adopt a standard- and coverage-based approach to monitoring and reporting during emergency responses. The approach includes performance indicators aligned to the CCCs and global standards, which will also be consistent with Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) initiatives. This monitoring and reporting initiative is benefiting from experience acquired in Haiti and Pakistan and is now being piloted in Southern Sudan.

Humanitarian reform
Capacity building to strengthen UNICEF’s role as the global cluster lead in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); nutrition; education (along with Save the Children); and the child protection and gender-based violence areas of responsibility (the latter along with the United Nations Population Fund) will build on lessons learned in Haiti and Pakistan and during other emergencies. UNICEF will work with other IASC members to clarify expectations and chart a way forward to further enhance collective humanitarian action. In the clusters where it has global accountabilities, UNICEF will continue to look for more predictable funding arrangements for cluster activities, organize training on the roles of lead and members, and clarify cluster accountabilities within the organization. Human-resources rosters for quality cluster support will be further enhanced. UNICEF is also actively involved in inter-agency efforts to strengthen pooled humanitarian-funding mechanisms and other tools to improve response.

Emergency risk-informed programming
UNICEF aims to ensure that emergency risks are addressed in all phases of its planning and programming, with an eye towards identifying, assessing, reducing and managing risk in a more holistic manner. This process begins with harmonized risk assessments as a key tool to map programme priorities. At the same time, the United Nations Security Management System has shifted to a targeted model for specific high-risk situations; this model helps determine the kind and level of staff deployment required, as well as what programme activities should take place.

As part of this process, the organization continues to work with the members of the Programme Criticality Working Group, which UNICEF is chairing, on the development of a draft framework to enable effective prioritization in high-risk environments. In a related effort, UNICEF is developing a conflict-analysis tool to help its country offices better map conflict risks to inform programmes. UNICEF is also working to identify more specifically its contribution to peacebuilding and to provide country and regional offices with required guidance to ensure that this contribution helps societies evolve towards sustainable peace.

High-threat environments
Better delivery of quality programmes in environments with high security risks is a priority for UNICEF, while also ensuring that Member States and other actors understand and recognize humanitarian principles, and that UNICEF country offices receive the necessary support to decide on an effective strategy in highly volatile and complex environments. As part of this process, UNICEF continues to work with the members of the Programme Criticality Working Group on the development of a draft framework to enable effective prioritization of programme activities in order to ensure that their impact on the populations, and not on the organization, determines each activity’s criticality. UNICEF is also working with other humanitarian partners to find solutions to the many challenges faced in delivering humanitarian assistance in today’s crises contexts. Good practices and support, such as use of remote programming, will also be provided to country offices in high security-risk areas.
Efficiency of response
Building on the experience of 2010, UNICEF will further vet talent pools, streamline processes, and revamp and merge its surge roster to allow for a larger, high-quality group of external candidates and more rapid deployment to enhance country office capacity during single or concurrent emergencies. An internal review of business processes in sudden-onset emergencies – including of corporate emergency activation procedures, standard operating procedures and simplified processes – is under way. Support for countries at the onset or in the midst of protracted emergencies will become stronger with rollout of minimum human-resources management standards and regional surge-capacity training. UNICEF will also enhance its global supply strategy, preparedness and logistics network for rapid emergency response through ongoing coordination with partners and suppliers.

UNICEF is undertaking an analytical review of humanitarian advocacy practices to persuade decision makers to adopt policies and take actions to promote and protect the rights of children and women in humanitarian situations; to promote the international agendas for children in the context of emergencies; and to identify the role that other actors, including donors, can play in addressing sensitive advocacy issues such as humanitarian access. Advocacy work will strengthen engagement with the Security Council, including on the United Nations Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on Grave Child Rights Violations in Situations of Armed Conflict; capacity to monitor, report and respond to violations; and the development of key policy, guidance and tools. UNICEF will also engage the Security Council on issues related to children and women in conflict situations and will continue to advocate with international media, civil society partners and the public.

Funding requirements

In the midst of several large-scale emergencies, UNICEF is seeking US$22.4 million to support an effective and integrated response to today’s global humanitarian crises. This funding will complement the existing US$22.7 million that has already been earmarked for this purpose from UNICEF’s core budget and generous contributions from donors.

UNICEF will ensure implementation of strategic approaches, work with national governments, provide technical support, strengthen predictable humanitarian action through clusters, and build resilience at all levels with partners and governments across all sectors of work.

To accomplish these goals, carry out its responsibilities to children and families in crisis situations and meet the serious challenges of humanitarian action through sustainable and effective global support to regional and country offices, UNICEF is pursuing secure and predictable funding.