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The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) French: Le Bureau de la coordination des affaires humanitaires, is a United Nations body formed in December 1991 by General Assembly Resolution 46/182.[1] The resolution was designed to strengthen the UN's response to complex emergencies and natural disasters by creating the Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA), and replacing the Office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator, which had been formed in 1972. The OCHA was therefore the result of a 1998 reorganisation of the DHA and was designed to be the UN focal point on major disasters. Its mandate was also expanded to include the coordination of humanitarian response, policy development and humanitarian advocacy.

OCHA is therefore an inter-agency body, serving UN agencies and NGOs in the humanitarian domain. Its main product is the Consolidated Appeals Process, an advocacy and planning tool to deliver humanitarian assistance together in a given emergency.

Contents

Staff

OCHA is headed by the Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, currently John Holmes.

OCHA has some 1,064 staff[2], distributed across the world. Major OCHA country offices are located in Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Ivory Coast, the Palestinian territories, Sri Lanka and Sudan (including a sub-office in Southern Sudan's capital Juba), while regional offices are located in Panama City, Dakar, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Dubai, and Bangkok. OCHA also has some liaison and support staff in New York City and Geneva.

Services

OCHA has built up a range of services in the execution of its mandate. Some of the larger ones are:

  • IRIN, Integrated Regional Information Networks, a humanitarian news and analysis service[3] (1995)
  • INSARAG, International Search and Rescue Advisory Group
  • ReliefWeb time-critical humanitarian information on Complex Emergencies and Natural Disasters (1996)
  • Central Emergency Response Fund (2006)
  • Humanitarian Information Centers, an emergency-specific, data exchange platform[3], supported by the Field Information Support Unit. On 15 May, the United Nations [OCHA] launched the Myanmar HIC website (http://myanmar.humanitarianinfo.org). The purpose the site is to improve information exchange and collaboration between operational agencies responding to Cyclone Nargis. Based in Bangkok, the HIC is providing support to the Humanitarian Partnership Team and other humanitarian partners in Yangon, as well as those based in Bangkok.
  • Humanitarian Reform seeks to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian response by ensuring greater predictability, accountability and partnership.
  • Who does What Where Database and Contact Management Directory, To ensure that appropriate and timely humanitarian response is delivered during a disaster or emergency situation, information must be managed efficiently. The key information that are important to assess and ensure that humanitarian needs are met in any emergency/disaster are, to know which organizations (Who) are carrying out what activities (What) in which locations (Where) which is also universally referred to as the 3W (Who does What Where). The Who does What Where database (3W) is one product that is universally agreed to be the most important priority for any co-ordination activity. The integrated Contact Management Directory, complements the 3W database, making it easy for the user to navigate through the application.(2006)
  • Geonetwork A large database of map information using eponymous GeoNetwork opensource software.
  • Since 2004, OCHA has partnered with the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance to facilitate OCHA’s Civil Military Coordination (UN-CMCoord) course in the Asia-Pacific Region. The UN-CMCoord Course is designed to address the need for coordination between international civilian humanitarian actors, especially UN humanitarian agencies, and international military forces in an international humanitarian emergency. This established UN training plays a critical role in building capacity to facilitate effective coordination in the field by bringing together approximately 30 practitioners from the spectrum of actors sharing operational space during a humanitarian crisis and training them on UN coordination mechanisms and internationally recognized guidelines for civil military coordination. [4]

Criticism

In addressing natural disasters like the Asian tsunami, the earthquakes in northern Pakistan and China, and the cyclone in Myanmar, OCHA is charged with coordinating United Nations agency response and to an extent that of associated bilateral and NGO donors. In the months immediately following such disasters this is a mammoth task, and the record has been mixed. OCHA has been criticized for parachuting in under-qualified staff to "coordinate" on-the- ground UN and other agency staff with considerably more experience.

References

See also

External links

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