Not synchronized for offline browsing This Chapter is available for offline browsing
Origin - Humanitarian Reform
The concept of ‘cluster approach’ was an outcome of the Humanitarian Reform process in 2005 which was led by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) comprising NGO consortia, Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, IOM, World Bank, and United Nations agencies.
Those three pillars rely on the principle of strengthening partnerships between all actors as the key to improved coordination.
During this reform process, the cluster approach was proposed as a way of addressing gaps and strengthening the effectiveness of humanitarian response through building partnerships. The cluster approach ensures predictability and accountability in international responses to humanitarian emergencies, by clarifying the division of labour among organisations, and better defining their roles and responsibilities within the different sectors of the response. It is about making the international humanitarian community more structured, accountable and professional, so that it can be a better partner for host governments, local authorities and local civil society.
There are now 11 sectors/clusters. WFP was designated as the lead agency of the Logistics Cluster and is therefore responsible for coordinating logistics support for the humanitarian community. The 11 designated global cluster leads are shown in the table below.
*IFRC has made a commitment to provide leadership to the broader humanitarian community in Emergency Shelter in disaster situation, to consolidate best practice, map capacity and gaps, and lead coordinates response. IFRC has commited to being a 'convener' rather than a 'cluster lead'. In an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between IFRC and OCHA, it was agreed that IFRC would not accept accountability obligations beyond those defined in its constitutions and own policies and that its responsibilities would leave no room for open-ended or unlimited obligations. It has therefore not committed to being 'provider of last resort' nor is it accountable to any part of the UN system.
**UNHCR is the lead of the global Protection Cluster. However, at the country level in disaster situations or in complex emergencies without significant displacement, the three core protection-mandated agencies (UNHCR, UNICEF and OHCHR) will consult closely and, under the overall leadership of the HC/RC, agree which of the three will assume the role of Lead for Protection.
Please note the food sector is not a cluster at the global level as it was not identified as a gap area during the humanitarian reform process. However, food clusters may and do exist at the field level when required.
Source: Humanitarian Reform website
Aim of Cluster Approach
ICRC has stated that its position on the cluster approach is the following: “Among the components of the Movement, the ICRC is not taking part in the cluster approach. Nevertheless, coordination between the ICRC and the UN will continue to the extent necessary to achieve efficient operational complementarity and a strengthened response for people affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence. At the global level, the ICRC participates as an observer in many of the cluster working group meetings.”
The cluster approach aims to strengthen overall response capacity as well as the effectiveness of the response in five key ways:
Global Cluster Leads
Complementing arrangements already in place for some sectors or areas of activity, global cluster leads were identified and agreed upon. Accountable to the ERC, the global cluster leads engage in activities in three main areas:
Standards and policy-setting
Building response capacity
Source: IASC Guidance Note on Using the Cluster Approach to Strengthen Humanitarian Response.
Clusters can be activated in the event of a sudden major new emergency requiring a multi-sectoral response with the participation of a wide range of international humanitarian actors as well as during ongoing emergencies. Specific circumstances are:
Source: IASC Guidance Note on Cluster Approach
Useful document: SOP Designating lead agencies in new emergencies.
Cluster Activities at Country Level
The role of sector leads at the country level is to facilitate a process aimed at ensuring well-coordinated and effective humanitarian responses in the sector or area of activity concerned. Sector leads themselves are not expected to carry out all the necessary activities within the sector or area of activity concerned. They are required, however, to commit to being the ‘provider of last resort’ where this is necessary and where access, security and availability of resources make this possible.
See the Terms of reference for sector leads at the country level for specific responsibilities of cluster leads at the country level.
1) UN DMTP (1997) Disaster Management Ethics