The IASC Guidance Note on Using the Cluster Approach to Strengthen Humanitarian Response (November 2006) describes the ‘provider of last resort’ concept in the following terms:
· The ‘provider of last resort’ concept is critical to the cluster approach, and without it the element of predictability is lost. It represents a commitment of cluster leads to do their utmost to ensure an adequate and appropriate response. It is necessarily circumscribed by some basic preconditions that affect any framework for humanitarian action, namely unimpeded access, security, and availability of funding.
· Where there are critical gaps in humanitarian response, it is the responsibility of cluster leads to call on all relevant humanitarian partners to address these. If this fails, then depending on the urgency, the cluster lead as ‘provider of last resort’ may need to commit itself to filling the gap. If, however, funds are not forthcoming for these activities, the cluster lead cannot be expected to implement these activities, but should continue to work with the Humanitarian Coordinator and donors to mobilize the necessary resources. Likewise, where the efforts of the cluster lead, the Humanitarian Country Team as a whole, and the Humanitarian Coordinator as the leader of that team are unsuccessful in gaining access to a particular location, or where security constraints limit the activities of humanitarian actors, the provider of last resort will still be expected to continue advocacy efforts and to explain the constraints to stakeholders.
· For cross-cutting areas such as Protection, Early Recovery and Camp Coordination, the concept of ‘provider of last resort’ will need to be applied in a differentiated manner. In all cases, however, cluster leads are responsible for ensuring that wherever there are significant gaps in the humanitarian response they continue advocacy efforts and explain the constraints to stakeholders.
· In the case of emergency shelter, IFRC’s commitments are described in an MOU between IFRC and OCHA. IFRC has not committed to being ‘provider of last resort’ nor is it accountable to any part of the UN system… It will, however, do its utmost to ensure an adequate and appropriate response as far as the network’s capacities, resources, as well as the access and security situation allow