Emergency Telecommunications Cluster in 2016: Year in Review


Today’s global challenges continue to grow. We currently have five ongoing emergencies ranked at the highest level of operational complexity and urgency in Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan, in the Syria region and Yemen. While the majority of these are conflict emergencies, the frequency of natural disasters is also on the rise – with Cyclone Winston hitting Fiji in February 2016 and Hurricane Matthew striking Haiti last October. The need to strengthen preparedness and resilience is becoming more and more critical.

On behalf of the entire humanitarian community, participants at the launch of the UN’s One Humanity: Shared Responsibility report at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in 2016 called for a commitment to empower affected people as the driving force of humanitarian response. The need for a unified approach in crises is needed now more than ever before. This ties in directly with the mandate of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC): to ensure that all those responding to humanitarian emergencies - including affected communities - have access to vital communications services.

2016 was the year that showed great progress towards this goal!

Over a year into the ETC2020 strategy, it is clear we are headed in the right direction. With the ETC activated for preparedness activities for the very first time in the Pacific region in December 2016, our work on improved and decentralized response readiness, as well as increased communications resilience, is now becoming a standard of operation.

In the spirit of One Humanity, the ETC also launched its first ever Services for Communities (S4C) project – providing Internet connectivity directly to Syrian refugees in Domiz camp in Iraq in cooperation with UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The project aimed to connect Syrian refugees to the world, enabling them to contact their families scattered by war, look for job opportunities and also use the Internet as a learning tool.

We paved the way for innovative cooperation to underpin better humanitarian response through strengthened collaboration - bringing both the Crisis and Humanitarian Connectivity Charters closer to operationalisation - and new partnerships - Action Contre la Faim becoming the twenty-fourth cluster member.

Our continued strong commitment to the cluster members, investing in new partnerships and together learning from our experiences will help us achieve our ETC2020 strategy in the coming years, ensuring that those affected by disasters are at the centre of our response.

Enrica Porcari,
Chief Information Officer of WFP & Chair of the ETC