OCHA’s work in 2010 helped to bring life-saving relief to millions of people affected by natural disasters and conflict around the world. But a series of daunting challenges tested our capacity, our readiness to act and our ability to find the right resources at the right time.
When I joined OCHA in September, Pakistan was caught in the grip of massive flooding. It was already clear from events in the months before, most notably the earthquake in Haiti, that 2010 would be an exceptionally challenging year for humanitarian workers. We tackled highly complex emergencies, dealt with conflicts and natural disasters, and many of us were exposed to serious risks.
In 2010 OCHA took on operations that required substantial and increased levels of financial support and a huge mobilization of skilled personnel and technical resources. I was struck by our ability to manage multiple emergencies, bringing together a wide range of organizations, large and small, national and international, UN and nonUN, to deliver help to those in need.
It is not always easy to show the value of coordination.
But our efforts, collating and managing information, providing guidance, coordinating appeals and making the case for access to those in need, clearly demonstrated OCHA’s central role in supporting the delivery of humanitarian aid.
We showed ourselves capable of getting staff into new crisis situations quickly, but we still suffer from human resource constraints. It is essential that we get the right seniorlevel staff on the ground when and where they are needed as quickly as possible. We continue to work towards this goal.
Demonstrating effective leadership is at the heart of the humanitarian response, and OCHA’s country and regional offices have a key role to play. Reviews of our operations over the last year have shown us to be more reliable, more relevant and more predictable in our response. Our job now is to build on that.
An expanding donor base is proof of growing faith in OCHA’s ability to deliver. Financial management and accountability have improved at every level of the organization and it is crucial that we continue to receive the resources we need to make a difference.
There is a lot to do. To fully respond to today’s shifting humanitarian landscape, we need to find ways of doing our job. We need to embrace and use new technologies. We need to be more imaginative in our choice of partners and the ways that we develop our relationships with them. We need to work with a broader range of Member States. We need to make more of the possibilities for collaboration offered by non-traditional humanitarian actors, including the military (when appropriate) and the private sector. And we need to build global support for our work.
Events in 2010 showed the continuing and critical importance of humanitarian work. In particular they showed the need for decisive leadership, teamwork and a strong sense of priorities and purpose — essentially a need for strong and effective coordination, because coordination saves lives.
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.