The Inter-agency Standing Committee (IASC) defines the concept of ‘provider of last resort’ in its Guidance Note (26 th November 2006) as following:
“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 sector 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 sector leads to call on all relevant humanitarian partners to address these. If this fails, then depending on the urgency, the sector 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 sector 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, sector 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.”
Source: Excerpt from IASC Guidance Note on Cluster Approach (page 10)
In 2008, IASC reaffirmed this concept and further clarified the specific responsibilities of cluster leads to act as providers of last resort within their sectors or areas of responsibility at the country level:
1. Where necessary, and depending on access, security and availability of funding, the cluster lead, as provider of last resort, must be ready to ensure the provision of services required to fill critical gaps identified by the cluster.
2. The responsibility for acting as provider of last resort falls to the cluster lead for the particular sector concerned. In the case of clusters that have a multi-sectoral focus (e.g. Protection, Early Recovery and Camp Coordination/Camp Management), cluster leads for each of the relevant sectors (e.g. Health, Water/Sanitation/Hygiene etc) remain responsible for acting as providers of last resort within their own sectors.
3. In the case of the protection cluster, Focal Point Agencies are responsible for acting as provider of last resort within their particular areas of responsibility, under the overall leadership of the designated cluster lead for protection and as agreed by the protection cluster at the country level.
4. Where an early recovery cluster is established (in addition to an early recovery network), it is the responsibility of the designated cluster lead for this cluster to either act as provider of last resort for the cluster as a whole, or to specify which agency is responsible for acting as provider of last resort within particular areas of responsibility.
5. In the case of clusters where co-leads are designated at the country level, their respective responsibilities for acting as provider of last resort should be clearly defined.
6. Where critical gaps persist in spite of concerted efforts to address them, cluster leads are responsible for working with the national authorities, the Humanitarian Coordinator and donors to advocate for appropriate action to be taken by the relevant parties and to mobilize the necessary resources for an adequate and appropriate response.
Source: IASC operational guidance on the concept of ‘provider of last resort’