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OCHA's mission is to mobilise and coordinate effective and principled humanitarian actions in partnership with national and international actors in order to: 1) alleviate

  1. Alleviate human suffering during crises


  1. .
  2. Advocate for the rights of people in need


  1. .
  2. Promote preparedness and prevention


  1. .
  2. Facilitate sustainable solutions.

UN Representatives and Coordinators

Special Representative of the Secretary-General

A Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) is appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General to act on his behalf in “complex or of exceptional magnitude” emergencies. In practice, the appointment of an SRSG is normally reserved for emergencies requiring United Nations involvement in major political negotiations and/or when United Nations peacekeeping forces are deployed.


A SRSG is also involved when an Integrated Mission is proposed for the planning, design, and implementation of complex United Nations operations in post-conflict situations, and for linking the different dimensions of peace support operations. An Integrated Mission enshrines a shared vision amongst all United Nations actors being the strategic objective their collective work in-country will focus on achieving. Once an Integrated Mission is established following a specific Security Council Resolution, the SRSG will take the lead in the planning process in close cooperation with the Integrated Mission Task Force (IMTF).

Emergency Relief Coordinator

The Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) is the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and head of OCHA. The ERC is responsible for oversight of all emergencies requiring United Nations humanitarian assistance and leads the IASC, acting therefore as the central focal point for governmental, intergovernmental, and non-governmental relief activities. The Global Cluster lead agencies are accountable to the ERC in ensuring better coordination and effective humanitarian response through cluster activities.

Humanitarian Coordinator

When a complex emergency occurs, the ERC, on behalf of the Secretary-General and after consultation with the IASC, designates a Humanitarian Coordinator (HC). The HC serves as the representative of the ERC (and therefore of OCHA) in the country/region concerned. The HC is responsible for coordinating the Humanitarian Country Team activities and provides liaison between the latter and the ERC. The HCs terms of references may be found here. The Cluster lead agencies in-country are accountable to the HC for their Cluster lead responsibilities.

Humanitarian Country Team

In April 2006, the IASC Principals (i.e. heads of the IASC participating agencies) endorsed the Action Plan on “Strengthening the Humanitarian Coordination System” which states, inter alia, that all HCs must have “broad-based country teams developed [and] in place by November 2006.”

A broad-based country team, established through a Humanitarian Country Team (HCT), aims to improve humanitarian coordination and policy making as well as ensuring positive and efficient partnership between all humanitarian actors. Chaired by the HC, the HCT consists of UN agencies, NGO partners, and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement operating in a given country. Non-members may be invited in its fora on an ad hoc basis for the purpose of assisting in the discussions and/or taking action on specific humanitarian issues.

Resident Coordinator

A United Nations Resident Coordinator (RC) is a designated representative of the UN Secretary-General. They lead the HCT and reports to the UN Secretary-General through the Chair of the UN Development Group (UNDG). The RC terms of references may be found here. Generally, the UNDP Resident Representative serves as the RC. Through such coordination, the most effective use of UN and other international aid resources is being pursued. Furthermore, in the event of a humanitarian response where a HC position has not been established, the RC is accountable to the ERC. This applies for the strategic and operational coordination of the response efforts of UN Country Team members, national, and international humanitarian organisations in support of national efforts. The ERC may choose to designate the RC as HC, in consultation with the IASC, if the situation so requires. The Cluster leads at the country level are accountable to the RC in the absence of a HC.

United Nations Country Team

The United Nations Country Team (UNCT) structure encompasses all the UN system entities carrying out operational activities for development, emergency, recovery, and transition in a given country. It ensures interagency coordination and a structured decision making process for agencies present in-country. The UNCT aims for individual agencies to plan and work together, as part of the RC system, in order to ensure the delivery of tangible results in support of the development agenda of the government.