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There are 11 global clusters, each with clearly designated lead agencies and specific Terms of Reference agreed by the IASC that outline roles and responsibilities. The Cluster Approach is flexible and is not imposed at country-level in a “one size fits all” as its coordination aims to be field and needs-driven.

The 11 Global Clusters Clusters and Their Lead Agencies

Source: OCHA

In any humanitarian response, the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) – or the UN Resident Coordinator (RC), if no HC has been appointed – in consultation with the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT), agrees on the priority sectoral needs and related coordination structures (i.e. Clusters) that are appropriate to the response. The HC/RC and HCT also agree on which humanitarian actors are best placed to take on a Cluster leadership responsibility in the specific country context. The decision is based on organisational presence, capacity and willingness, and the global cluster leads structure agreed by the IASC. Due to capacity and resources, a UN agency usually functions as Cluster Lead but, increasingly, civil society organisations play a leadership or co-leadership role. Subsequently, the HC shares the agreement regarding country-level coordination and leadership mechanisms with the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC). This must then be approved by the IASC at global level.