Generic Terms of Reference for Sector/Cluster Leads at the Country Level


The Cluster Approach operates at two levels. At the global level, the aim is to strengthen system-wide preparedness and technical capacity to respond to humanitarian emergencies by designating global Cluster Leads and ensuring that there is predictable leadership and accountability in all the main sectors or areas of activity. At the country level, the aim is to ensure a more coherent and effective response by mobilizing groups of agencies, organizations and NGOs to respond in a strategic manner across all key sectors or areas of activity, each sector having a clearly designated lead, as agreed by the Humanitarian Coordinator and the Humanitarian Country Team. (To enhance predictability, where possible this should be in line with the lead agency arrangements at the global level.)


The Humanitarian Coordinator – with the support of OCHA – retains responsibility for ensuring the adequacy, coherence and effectiveness of the overall humanitarian response and is accountable to the Emergency Relief Coordinator.


Sector/cluster leads at the country level are accountable to the Humanitarian Coordinator for facilitating a process at the sectoral level aimed at ensuring the following:


Inclusion of key humanitarian partners

  • Ensure inclusion of key humanitarian partners for the sector, respecting their respective mandates and programme priorities


Establishment and maintenance of appropriate humanitarian coordination mechanisms

  • Ensure appropriate coordination with all humanitarian partners (including national and international NGOs, the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement, IOM and other international organizations), through establishment/maintenance of appropriate sectoral coordination mechanisms, including working groups at the national and, if necessary, local level;
  • Secure commitments from humanitarian partners in responding to needs and filling gaps, ensuring an appropriate distribution of responsibilities within the sectoral group, with clearly defined focal points for specific issues where necessary;
  • Ensure the complementarity of different humanitarian actors’ actions;
  • Promote emergency response actions while at the same time considering the need for early recovery planning as well as prevention and risk reduction concerns;
  • Ensure effective links with other sectoral groups;
  • Ensure that sectoral coordination mechanisms are adapted over time to reflect the capacities of local actors and the engagement of development partners;
  • Represent the interests of the sectoral group in discussions with the Humanitarian Coordinator and other stakeholders on prioritization, resource mobilization and advocacy;


Coordination with national/local authorities, State institutions, local civil society and other relevant actors

  • Ensure that humanitarian responses build on local capacities;
  • Ensure appropriate links with national and local authorities, State institutions, local civil society and other relevant actors (e.g. peacekeeping forces) and e nsure appropriate coordination and information exchange with them.


P articipatory and community-based approaches

  • Ensure utilization of participatory and community based approaches in sectoral needs assessment, analysis, planning, monitoring and response.


Attention to priority cross-cutting issues

  • Ensure integration of agreed priority cross-cutting issues in sectoral needs assessment, analysis, planning, monitoring and response (e.g. age, diversity, environment, gender, HIV/AIDS and human rights); contribute to the development of appropriate strategies to address these issues; ensure gender-sensitive programming and promote gender equality; ensure that the needs, contributions and capacities of women and girls as well as men and boys are addressed;


Needs assessment and analysis

  • Ensure effective and coherent sectoral needs assessment and analysis, involving all relevant partners


Emergency preparedness

  • Ensure adequate contingency planning and preparedness for new emergencies;


Planning and strategy development

Ensure predictable action within the sectoral group for the following:

  • Identification of gaps;
  • Developing/updating agreed response strategies and action plans for the sector and ensuring that these are adequately reflected in overall country strategies, such as the Common Humanitarian Action Plan (CHAP);
  • Drawing lessons learned from past activities and revising strategies accordingly;
  • Developing an exit, or transition, strategy for the sectoral group.


Application of standards

  • Ensure that sectoral group participants are aware of relevant policy guidelines, technical standards and relevant commitments that the Government has undertaken under international human rights law;
  • Ensure that responses are in line with existing policy guidance, technical standards, and relevant Government human rights legal obligations.


Monitoring and reporting

  • Ensure adequate monitoring mechanisms are in place to review impact of the sectoral working group and progress against implementation plans;
  • Ensure adequate reporting and effective information sharing (with OCHA support), with due regard for age and sex disaggregation.


Advocacy and resource mobilization

  • Identify core advocacy concerns, including resource requirements, and contribute key messages to broader advocacy initiatives of the HC and other actors;
  • Advocate for donors to fund humanitarian actors to carry out priority activities in the sector concerned, while at the same time encouraging sectoral group participants to mobilize resources for their activities through their usual channels.


Training and capacity building

  • Promote/support training of staff and capacity building of humanitarian partners;
  • Support efforts to strengthen the capacity of the national authorities and civil society.


Provision of assistance or services as a last resort

  • As agreed by the IASC Principals, sector leads are responsible for acting as the provider of last resort (subject to access, security and availability of funding) to meet agreed priority needs and will be supported by the HC and the ERC in their resource mobilization efforts in this regard.
  • This concept is to be applied in an appropriate and realistic manner for cross-cutting issues such as protection, early recovery and camp coordination.


Humanitarian actors who participate in the development of common humanitarian action plans are expected to be proactive partners in assessing needs, developing strategies and plans for the sector, and implementing agreed priority activities. Provisions should also be made in sectoral groups for those humanitarian actors who may wish to participate as observers, mainly for information-sharing purposes.