UNICEF aims to provide effective, predictable, and timely programmatic and operational support to humanitarian action. This core function is designed to ensure tailored, strategic and systematic support capacity regardless of the magnitude and cause of an emergency, or of any other situation that goes beyond national capacities and endangers the rights and wellbeing of children and women.

The organization’s humanitarian action encompasses risk reduction, including early warning and preparedness in development contexts, and rapid response to and recovery from humanitarian crises. With a focus on the long term and achieving results for children, UNICEF recognizes that humanitarian assistance provides a basis for greater national compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and for faster progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally-agreed development objectives.

In recent years, UNICEF and its partners have invested significantly in stronger emergency mitigation, preparedness, early warning mechanisms, and response and recovery systems. Steps have also been taken to fully integrate cluster responsibilities and accountabilities into UNICEF’s core functions at the country, regional, and headquarters levels. The dynamic and changing nature of the humanitarian context means that these systems and capacities will require consistent support and adaptation to ensure preparedness for future crises, and effective anticipation of trends for early action and recovery.

Investment in sustaining and expanding capacity, maintaining flexibility, strengthening strategic partnerships, and supporting technical excellence is critical to ensure that UNICEF and its partners can meet the needs and advocate for the rights of children and women affected by emergencies – wherever and whenever crises arise.

The key priorities below underpin the vision and core strategies of UNICEF’s medium-term strategic plan (MTSP) and support the organization’s Core Commitments for Children in Emergencies. UNICEF will engage in the following cross-cutting strategic areas to support the convergence of strategies, capacities and actions to protect children’s lives: advocacy and policy development; strategic country planning; knowledge management; enhanced response systems; and cluster leadership and coordination.

Advocacy and policy development

UNICEF will continue to engage actively in strengthening global norms, standards and policies for children affected by humanitarian crises and other emergency settings. This includes contributing to inter-agency processes of policy development and advocacy within the UN Security Council and other inter-governmental fora to strengthen international law and policies in relation to children and armed conflict, sexual violence in armed conflict, women, peace and security, and the protection of civilians.

Strategic country programming

As disasters and conflict are both humanitarian and development concerns, UNICEF has adopted a strategic approach towards risk reduction to prevent, mitigate, and prepare for disasters in all sectors, and through all phases of humanitarian action. The organization will continue to strengthen its policies and programming processes to ensure that country offices receive the guidance and support needed to implement a risk reduction approach as part of their
country programmes.

UNICEF will continue to enhance early warning, preparedness and contingency planning efforts and strengthen country-level capacities. Technical support from both programme and operational specialists will be provided to those countries at risk of or affected by humanitarian crises. The organization will work with regional offices to strengthen capacity and adopt integrated approaches to risk mitigation, reduction and preparedness. This is particularly relevant for the subregional level, as disasters and conflict often transcend national boundaries, requiring integrated cross-border approaches to providing assistance, mitigation, risks reduction and preparedness.

Leveraging the capacity of national stakeholders is pivotal to address the evolving challenges of disasters and conflict, reduce the threats they pose to children, and ensure a more reliable response and sustainable recovery. UNICEF will continue to strengthen its work with country offices to support capacity development of government authorities – both at national and sub-national levels – and non-governmental and civil society organizations.

In this context, particular support will be provided to country offices in post-crisis settings, and to countries with protracted and complex emergencies, including simultaneous humanitarian and recovery operations. These challenging environments require humanitarian and development interventions that are adapted to, and take full account of, the prevailing political and security context.

Knowledge management

The systematic monitoring and analysis of the situation of children and women is critical to effective humanitarian action and post-crisis recovery. UNICEF will continue to invest in processes, systems and tools to provide timely, relevant knowledge on the situation of children and women and on the results of its humanitarian action.

An important element of improving capacity for humanitarian response is to build on lessons learned from previous crises. UNICEF will continue to contribute to developing a solid evidence base for programming, and will seek to strengthen the tools and country – level capacities for vulnerability and capacity analysis – with a special focus on children and women.

The organization will support the development of broader risk-reduction strategies and humanitarian response consistent with its Core Commitments for Children in Emergencies. It will also revise and implement a performance-monitoring system that contributes to national systems and capacities for monitoring at the sector/cluster level, in line with wider inter-agency accountability mechanisms.

Enhanced response systems

Through headquarter initiatives and support, UNICEF has enhanced its internal response systems in recent years to improve reliability and timeliness. These measures include:

The solid progress made in each of these critical areas will be further refined through systematic application of new operational policies and systems, and strengthening of capacities at regional and country level.

Cluster leadership and coordination

UNICEF remains committed to further strengthening its cluster leadership and partnership roles as defined by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee. At the global level, UNICEF is the cluster lead agency for nutrition, WASH and education (co-lead with Save the Children Alliance), and the focal point agency for the child protection and gender-based violence (co-lead with UNFPA) working groups in the broader Protection Cluster.

UNICEF is an integral cluster member in the Health, Logistics and Early Recovery Clusters, and co-chairs the cross-cutting Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Reference Group. The organization will continue to work with cluster partners to build response capacity at both the global and country levels, develop standards, policies, and tools, and provide operational support. UNICEF recognizes that the cluster approach represents a key entry point for developing the capacities and systems of sector partners at the national level, and for strengthening the integration of risk reduction into preparedness, response and post-crisis recovery actions.

In order to undertake the actions outlined above and provide the necessary global support for the initiatives reflected in the regional and country chapters of the Humanitarian Action Report 2010, UNICEF requires US$49 million in 2010. Through this investment, UNICEF will be able to maintain the institutional capacity to ensure consistent quality interventions, implement organizational strategic approaches, work with national governments in building consensus and engagement, provide technical support, strengthen predictable humanitarian action through clusters, and build capacities at a national level with partners and governments across all sectors of work. Figure 2.1 below shows the total requirements for 2010 by MTSP Focus Area, which reflects the basis for response and operationalization of the cross-cutting UNICEF global support priorities outlined above. Of the total requirement of US$49 million, approximately 40 per cent can be funded through existing revenue streams, leaving a shortfall of US$29 million.


Medium Term Strategic Priority– Focus Area

US$ millions

Young child survival and development


Basic education and gender equality


HIV/AIDS and children


Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse


Policy advocacy and partnerships for children’s rights




Indirect Programme Support Costs








Source: UNICEF Programme Humanitarian and Transition Support Unit, end-2009.