Appeal for Building Global Humanitarian Response Capacity


1 The Cluster Approach and the Wider Humanitarian Reform

The Humanitarian Reform Agenda aims to dramatically enhance humanitarian response, including through ensuring increased capacity, predictability, accountability, and partnership among humanitarian actors. It represents an ambitious effort by the international humanitarian community to achieve more effective and timely humanitarian responses, with better prioritisation of resources, and more comprehensive, needs-based relief and protection. The reform is predicated on the foundation stone of more effective partnerships between United Nations (UN) and non-UN humanitarian actors, and has three pillars:

  • Sufficient humanitarian response capacity and enhanced leadership, accountability and predictability in all sectors/areas of response (ensuring trained staff, adequate commonly-accessible stockpiles, surge capacity, agreed tools, standards and guidelines);
  • Adequate, timely and flexible humanitarian financing (including through the Central Emergency Response Fund [CERF]);
  • Improved humanitarian coordination and leadership (more effective Humanitarian Coordinator [HC] system, more strategic leadership and coordination at the inter-sectoral and sectoral levels).

The cluster approach is one element of the reform package. It aims to strengthen overall humanitarian response, including response capacity as well as effectiveness in five key ways:
  • First, the approach aims to ensure sufficient global capacity is built up and maintained in key gap sectors/areas of response;
  • Second, the approach identifies predictable leadership in the gap sectors/areas of response;
  • Third, the approach is designed around strengthened 'partnerships' (i.e. 'clusters') between UN agencies, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (1), international organisations, and NGOs;
  • Fourth, the approach strengthens accountability for response, as well as accountability to beneficiaries through commitments to participatory and community-based approaches, improved common needs assessments and prioritisation, and better monitoring and evaluation;
  • Fifth, the approach helps to improve strategic field-level coordination and prioritisation in specific sectors/areas of response by placing responsibility for leadership and coordination of these issues with the competent operational agency.

Since July 2005, cluster working groups have been meeting regularly at the headquarters level to map capacity gaps at the global level, and to elaborate and implement action plans to address these gaps in consultation with key partners.

2. The Present Appeal

The present Appeal consolidates the budgets for eleven clusters'/sectors' global-level capacity building requirements for the period 1 April 2007 to 31 March 2008. Field-level costs associated with implementing the approach have been/will be incorporated into revisions of Consolidated Appeals and into Flash Appeals for new emergencies.

The resources identified in the Appeal include the priority requirements needed to address capacity gaps, which cannot be covered by existing or previously mobilised resources. Activities/projects included in the Appeal cover global-level capacity-building to address response capacity gaps of the following type:

  • Trained, deployable staff/surge capacity;
  • Adequate commonly-accessible stockpiles;
  • Agreed standards, guidelines, frameworks, systems, and tools.

The total requested for cluster/sector capacity-building in the present appeal cycle, 1 April 2007 to 31 March 2008, is US$61,545,200. All dollar figures in this document are United States dollars. Funding for this appeal should be reported to the Financial Tracking Service (FTS,, which will display its requirements and funding on the CAP 2007 page. In addition, the Appeal also seeks funds for capacity-building on gender (through the IASC Sub-Working Group [SWG] on Gender and Humanitarian Assistance) and for an IASC External Evaluation of the Cluster Approach. The grand total sought in this appeal is therefore $62,510,700.

The present Appeal is the second and final appeal for global capacity-building. The Report on Global Cluster Capacity-Building (1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007) presents an update on successes and challenges in the first twelve months of the capacity-building effort. The Report is available for download at

3. Response Capacity Planning Parameters

The work plans in the present Appeal reflect the cluster/sector working groups' assessment of how best to address response capacity gaps identified both in the Humanitarian Response Review (HRR) of 2005, and subsequently. Acknowledging that parts of the humanitarian system were significantly under-capacitated and fragmented, the cluster/sector working groups have set about mapping capacity, tools, policies, stockpiles and technical expertise, and pooling resources to ensure sustainable improvements are realised.

The planning parameters that guided the capacity-building proposals contained in the present Appeal were laid out by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Working Group (IASC WG) in late 2005. All cluster leads, it was agreed, should work with cluster partners to build and maintain capacity to respond effectively to 'major new emergencies' as they occur (at a minimum planning for three 'major new emergencies' per year each involving approximately 500,000 beneficiaries), as well as to ensure improvement in the response to 'ongoing emergencies', through implementation of the cluster approach, at a pace to be defined following further IASC consultation. In the period October 2005 to March 2007, the cluster approach has been implemented in five 'major new emergencies' (Indonesia [Yogyakarta], Lebanon, Mozambique, Pakistan, Philippines) and five 'ongoing emergencies' (Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo [DRC], Liberia, Somalia, Uganda). In addition, in 2006 the cluster approach was adopted in Cote d'Ivoire, initially only in the area of protection. The IASC WG has agreed that the cluster approach will be applied in all major new emergencies and will also be gradually rolled out to all ongoing emergencies where an HC has been designated, and that this should be a field-driven process to ensure full ownership by humanitarian actors on the ground. Consultations on this are ongoing, and further clarity on the pace of implementation of the approach will be achieved by the summer of 2007. In essence, however, it is clear that the global capacity-building efforts outlined in this second and final Appeal aim to ensure that adequate capacity exists to respond to an average annual number of major new emergencies plus eventual roll-out to address identified gaps in all ongoing emergencies where an HC has been deployed. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) will ensure that information is regularly updated on the relevant websites regarding the status of cluster approach implementation in the field.

It should be noted that while parameters are important for planning purposes, a number of clusters/sectors have stated their intention to make the cluster approach business as usual for an enhanced humanitarian response in all crises.

Detailed operational guidance on procedures for designating cluster/sector leads in ongoing emergencies as well as in major new emergencies is currently being finalised by an IASC Task Team on Implementation of the Cluster Approach. This will be sent to the field in the coming period, and will be shared with stakeholders once agreed.

4. Increased Partnerships and Cluster Lead Accountability

The HRR of 2005 strongly critiqued the lack of a coherent approach between UN and non-UN humanitarian actors in ensuring effective response preparedness, particularly in the areas of stockpiling, training/surge capacity development and adherence to common standards/guidelines. Over the past year, cluster leads have taken this criticism seriously, and have expended significant effort on attracting and developing solid partnerships so as to pool resources and expertise towards a more effective, timely and coherent response. This broadening of partnerships, it should be noted, does not in any way reduce the ultimate accountability of cluster leads for the agreed responsibilities.

The intention of the cluster approach is to strengthen overall levels of accountability for humanitarian response and to ensure that gaps in response do not remain un-addressed. At the global level, cluster leads are accountable to the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) for ensuring system-wide preparedness and technical capacity (both internally and among partners) to respond to humanitarian emergencies, and for ensuring greater predictability and more effective inter-agency responses in their particular sectors or areas of activity. At the country level, the Resident Coordinator (RC) and/or HC – with the support of OCHA, where present – retains overall responsibility for ensuring the effectiveness of the humanitarian response and is accountable to the ERC. Sector/cluster lead organisations at the field level are accountable to the HC for ensuring, to the extent possible, the establishment of adequate coordination mechanisms for the sector or area of activity concerned, adequate preparedness, as well as adequate strategic planning for an effective operational response.

5. Broadening the Scope of the Capacity-Building Exercise

In line with IASC decisions on the importance of enhanced mainstreaming of cross-cutting issues into humanitarian response, the present appeal marks a watershed in the endeavour to ensure effective expertise and required tools/guidelines are developed and/or utilised consistently in the areas of gender, HIV/AIDS and environment (the so-called 'cross-cutting issues'). While most clusters have sought – as requested by the IASC WG – to address sector-specific cross-cutting capacity gaps in their work plans, the inter-agency focal points for these issues have proactively strategised to ensure close engagement with the cluster working groups to achieve more effective mainstreaming. The proposed strategies are summarized in Chapter 1 of the present Appeal.

Education is an important part of humanitarian response as it significantly contributes to the stabilisation and protection of children, families and communities, and a key sector in early recovery. While not initially included as a global cluster, education clusters or sector groups were formed in cluster roll-out countries, leading to a greater understanding and acknowledgment of the value of including education in the cluster approach, as a means to address capacity gaps and bring actors together at country level to ensure a more predictable, timely and effective education response with inter-sectoral links to other relevant clusters/sectors. Key and interrelated gaps exist in the education sector for emergencies – in human resources, technical capacity, financial resources and equity of provision, each with global- and country-level dimensions. These gaps are due to human resource capacities and preparedness, response and coordination mechanisms not keeping pace with the increasing prioritisation of education within humanitarian emergencies, as well as the number of actors and the variety of approaches, lack of standardisation, and gaps in increasingly important technical areas (including psycho-social support, gender analysis, physical re-construction etc. Recognising the importance of early and coherent interventions in support of education in emergencies, the IASC Principals meeting on 12 December 2006 endorsed the recommendation from the IASC WG meeting on 15-17 November 2006 for the cluster approach to be applied to the education sector. Education has a strong foundation to build on, through the work of the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) on normative standards, technical tools, and guidance, in particular the Sphere compatible Minimum Standards for Education in Emergencies, Chronic Crises, and Early Reconstruction. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Save the Children (SC) have jointly facilitated a three-month gap analysis and strategy development process, working with an inter-agency advisory group, and building on the existing INEE network, leading to the submission of this cluster appeal.

The agriculture sector has been an active participant at the global level in IASC efforts to advance the humanitarian reform agenda. Agriculture is the core survival strategy for the majority of rural households threatened by humanitarian crises. It follows that protection and recovery of agricultural based livelihoods is an essential aspect of the overall humanitarian assistance and for this reason is one of the 13 sectors/clusters in the humanitarian coordination architecture (e.g. the CAP). While the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has a clear mandate to lead on issues related to agriculture, FAO conducted an analysis of capacity gaps and has concluded, together with its partners, that capacity to provide predictable and effective leadership and response in the agriculture sector in the context of humanitarian emergencies needs to be improved. This is consistent with the IASC-endorsed Guidance Note on Using the Cluster Approach to Strengthen Humanitarian Response, which states that the aim of the cluster approach is to strengthen system-wide preparedness and technical capacity to respond to humanitarian emergencies by ensuring that there is predictable leadership and accountability in all the main sectors or areas of humanitarian response. The Guidance Note also states that a cluster is essentially a sectoral group and there should be no differentiation between the two in terms of their objectives and activities; the aim of filling gaps, and ensuring adequate preparedness and response should be the same. In line with this FAO has fully signed up to the responsibilities of cluster/sector leads as outlined in the Guidance Note.

6. Supporting National Capacities

A key responsibility of sector/cluster leads at the country level is to ensure that humanitarian actors build on local capacities and maintain appropriate links with Government and local authorities, state institutions, civil society and other stakeholders. The nature of these links will depend on the situation in each country and the willingness and capacity of each of these actors to lead or participate in humanitarian activities. By designating clear focal points within the international humanitarian community for all key sectors or areas of activity, the cluster approach should help governments and local authorities to know who to approach for support, where required, and this should help to ensure more timely, predictable and adequate responses. In a number of countries where the cluster approach has been used, national authorities have already recognised its value in bringing more structure, accountability, and professionalism to the response. The cluster approach has also demonstrated added value in providing one single accountable focal point for the authorities and humanitarian partners on sector-specific humanitarian programming on the ground (e.g. in Indonesia, Lebanon, Mozambique and the Philippines). In addition, the global capacity-building effort outlined in the present Appeal supports this process by ensuring consultation with national stakeholders in the development of tools and guidelines as well as access to training initiatives for local authorities and civil society.

7. Changing Working Cultures and Internal Agency Adjustments

The humanitarian reform process, and the cluster approach, has challenged humanitarian actors to adopt a new working culture centred on partnerships and collaboration. The effort to change mindsets and working methods may not require specific funds but it does require real commitment. Thanks largely to an improved communications strategy among all IASC partners, supported by OCHA, working relationships and common understanding of humanitarian reform goals has improved over the course of 2006 with much greater clarification of capacity gaps and objectives of the cluster approach and the wider reform.

In turn, several cluster lead organisations have also capitalised on the opportunity presented by the reform process to carry forward, in consultation as appropriate with their respective governing bodies, internal re-structuring/ re-orientation processes designed to address some of the concerns set out in the HRR regarding organisations' ability to respond in a timely and appropriate fashion to major emergencies.

8. Spending Capacities and Mainstreaming Capacity-Building Costs

In 2006, funding for the first Appeal for Improving Humanitarian Response Capacity arrived very late, severely constraining efforts to kick-start ambitious action plans to address capacity gaps, as called for in the HRR and as subsequently agreed by the IASC WG. Late funding also led to under-spending during the previous appeal cycle, as organisations were not able to disburse funds received quickly enough. It should be noted, however, that provided funding comes on-stream relatively quickly, clusters/sectors expect to be able to spend the funds requested in the present Appeal in a timely fashion and within the appeal cycle, in view of the fact that the key cluster-dedicated human resources capacity is now in place, as are disbursement modalities for cluster spending.

From May 2008, cluster/sector lead organisations aim to mainstream any ongoing costs associated with the cluster approach and the capacity-building exercise into alternative funding requests and/or regular programme budgets (subject to the endorsement of respective governing bodies). Some of the voluntary funded organisations have already indicated that they will still require additional donor funding over the next few years as their core resources are constrained by a zero growth policy.

Some clusters expect that the most significant capacity gaps will have been remedied by this stage provided the associated one-off 'start-up' costs included in the present Appeal is well funded. For example, new training programmes will have been designed and piloted, new common standards developed, adopted and disseminated, and new stockpiles established. After this stage, continuing commitment to maintaining response capacity levels is expected to be less costly and in many cases either absorbed through existing programmes or covered by additional, minimal voluntary contributions. For other clusters, there may be some significant ongoing costs (e.g. surge capacity maintenance or stockpile replenishment), which will also have to be covered by voluntary contributions. In all cases, cluster/sector leads and their partners have begun the process of planning the modalities and implications of mainstreaming response capacity costs, and a further update on this issue will be presented to stakeholders later in 2007.

9. Evaluation of the Cluster Approach

In December 2005, the IASC Principals requested an evaluation of the cluster approach after two years. An IASC Interim Self-Assessment of the Cluster Approach was undertaken in autumn 2006. The Self-Assessment was done at a time when most IASC partners felt that it was too early to measure the “impact” of the approach on the lives of people in need. Taking into account the status of implementation of the cluster approach, the level of analysis already provided by the Self-Assessment, and ongoing work in refining useable results frameworks, it has been agreed that an independent Evaluation will move forward in two phases, beginning in mid-2007, and continuing in 2008:

- Phase 1: Assess major achievements and shortcomings of the cluster approach looking for trends toward key expected outcomes. Elaborate performance framework, including design of a monitoring system for data collection and analysis, laying the groundwork for more in-depth evaluation in Phase 2. This phase should be completed by end 2007.

- Phase 2: Assess relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, impact and sustainability of effects of the Cluster Approach based on full-blown performance framework to be developed in the course of Phase 1. This second phase should be completed by end 2008.

Further details on the funding requirements and objectives of the External Evaluation are available in Chapter 14.

10. The Role of OCHA in Humanitarian Reform

OCHA's role is to support IASC efforts to implement humanitarian reform. To this end, in mid-2006, OCHA established a small Humanitarian Reform Support Unit (HRSU) to provide support to HCs, field teams, and IASC members in the effort to drive forward this agenda. OCHA's priorities in this regard are to: (1) ensure clarity on agreed IASC and UN policies related to the reform and effectively communicate this to all stakeholders; (2) ensure consistency of approach required for successful implementation; and (3) support implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the reform, at both the headquarters and at the field level. OCHA has relied half on existing resources and half on additional extra-budgetary funding through its annual appeal to support this effort.

OCHA also has a clear role in supporting the cluster approach by ensuring constructive inter-sectoral coordination, including by leading efforts to develop effective inter-sectoral tools, particularly in the area of needs assessment. OCHA is also committed to working closely with clusters/sectors in the creation of a cross-cluster information management framework based on common tools and coordinated actions (see more on this in Chapter 13). OCHA will provide both strategic guidance and technical assistance to clusters/sectors on both issues and ensure results within the coming year.

11. Prioritisation Process

All projects submitted for this Appeal have been through an extensive strategic planning, vetting and prioritisation process in the respective cluster/sector working groups. In a number of cases, projects submitted have been substantially re-worked and reduced at the request of the cluster working groups, so as to better address gaps identified and fit within the commonly agreed strategic plan. It is the consensus of all clusters that the projects listed in the Appeal represent the key activities required to realise stated priority objectives.

In some cases, objectives listed in the strategic frameworks in each chapter of the Appeal are listed in order of priority. In other cases, the strategic framework is formulated in accordance with respective work plans and should be read as an integrated strategy for the cluster/sector to realise its overall objectives. In the latter case, cluster/sector leads and their partners have stated their willingness to meet with donors in order to inform them on priority projects and activities.

Where pooled funding arrangements exist, cluster/sector working groups have agreed that funds will be released in full consultation and in agreed order of priority. In those clusters/sectors where no pooled funding arrangement has been adopted, cluster/sector leads have indicated that they are willing to provide donors with direct guidance on which partners should be funded in which order of priority, and which projects require full funding in order to have any impact at all, as opposed to those which can be partially funded and still achieve results. (For more on pooled funding, see Table Two).

12. Carry-Over and Available Resources

Most cluster/sector leads are already working, together with their partners and utilising existing resources, to improve their response capacity. The projects and activities in the present Appeal represent those additional activities – not appealed for elsewhere – requiring additional resources in order to get started. As noted in Table One in the consolidated financial tables, all clusters/sectors have confirmed that they have taken into consideration carry-over from last year's Appeal in submitting the present funding requirements. In addition, a number of clusters/sectors have also noted in this Table existing internal resources that have been deployed to support the capacity-building exercise.

13. Funding Mechanisms and Reporting Requirements

All cluster partners that have adopted a pooled funding mechanism for the purposes of the present Appeal have also indicated that donors could directly fund their projects based on the information presented in this Appeal. It should be noted that direct funding in these clusters/sectors may, however, affect already-agreed strategic prioritisation in the relevant clusters/sectors (see above section on prioritisation process).

Clusters/sectors have indicated that they are ready to prepare, as last year, one consolidated Report on Implementation of Global Capacity-Building. The majority of clusters/sectors have also confirmed that – where feasible – they would like donors to accept this Report in lieu of agency-specific reporting requirements on funds received through this Appeal. Clusters/sectors have also indicated a willingness to prepare a consolidated mid-term review, at a date to be decided once funding starts arriving.

14. Overheads Charged by Pooled Fund Managers

Different organisations levy different proportions of funding received for programme support costs/administrative overheads.

The following cluster/cluster leads responsible for managing pooled funds have indicated that they will levy the following costs from funding channelled through them to partners:

- CCCM and Emergency Shelter: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will levy 1%;

- Early Recovery: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will levy 1%;

- Education, Nutrition and WASH: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) will levy a maximum recovery rate of 7% for execution and will charge 1% on pass-through funds to qualified partners;

- Health: World Health Organization (WHO) will levy 7% for execution and 1% for pass through funds to partners.

In the remaining clusters, receiving organisations may also levy administrative overheads from funds received directly from donors. These costs vary from agency to agency, and interested donors should approach the relevant organisation to find out details.

15. Conclusion

The present Appeal represents an integral part of the inter-agency effort to respond to the General Assembly's repeated calls for a more predictable, effective and accountable humanitarian response on the ground. To meet the objectives articulated by the IASC in this regard, it is critical that organisations build up more effective response capacity at the headquarters level. The field response cannot be improved if pre-positioned stocks, common inter-agency assessment frameworks, agreed indicators, pre-trained experts and readily deployable technical capacity do not exist at the headquarters level, or is not commonly accessible or agreed to by partners in the wider humanitarian community.

The clusters/sectors represented in this Appeal are united in the belief that the proposed activities, if funded, should translate into significant savings down the road across all eleven gaps sectors/areas of activity: trained, deployable assessment and planning experts; clearer common standards and procedures; pre-stocked, inter-operable equipment; enhanced monitoring and lessons learning; improved leadership, partnership and predictability.

This in turn will allow the humanitarian system to avoid a replay of the inefficiencies that have been so heavily criticised in the past, and ensure it can respond more effectively to crises in any region.



Consolidated Financial Tables

Chapter 1: Building Capacity to Mainstream Environment, Gender Equality and HIV/AIDS

SECTION A. Integrating Environment Within the Cluster Approach

SECTION B. Gender Equality and Humanitarian Action

SECTION C. Enhancing the Integration of HIV/AIDS

Chapter 2: Agriculture

Chapter 3: Camp Coordination Management

Chapter 4: Early Recovery

Chapter 5: Education

Chapter 6: Emergency Shelter

Chapter 7: Emergency Telecommunications

Chapter 8: Health

Chapter 9: Logistics

Chapter 10: Nutrition

Chapter 11: Protection

Chapter 12: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

Chapter 13: Information Management


Annex 1: IASC Sub-Working Group on Gender

Annex 2: Agriculture

Annex 3: Camp Coordination and Camp Management

Annex 4: Early Recovery

Annex 5: Education

Annex 6: Emergency Shelter

Annex 7: Emergency Telecommunications

Annex 8: Health

Annex 9: Logistics

Annex 10: Nutrition

ANNEX 11: Protection

Annex 12: WASH

Annex 13: External Evaluation of the Cluster Approach


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