Cluster System

Cluster System

The Humanitarian Reform and the Cluster System

The ad hoc, unpredictable nature of many international responses to humanitarian emergencies prompted the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) in 2005 to launch an independent Humanitarian Response Review of the global humanitarian system. The review assessed the humanitarian response capacities of the UN, NGOs, Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement and other key humanitarian actors including the International Organization for Migration (IOM), to identify critical gap areas and to make recommendations to address them.

Following the recommendations of the review, the cluster approach was proposed as a way of addressing gaps and strengthening the effectiveness of humanitarian response through building partnerships. Moreover the cluster approach ensures predictability and accountability in international responses to humanitarian emergencies, by clarifying the division of labour among organizations, 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.

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) has designated global cluster leads in eleven areas of humanitarian activity: the Global Protection Cluster (GPC) is chaired by UNHCR, which is the lead agency for protection.

The Cluster System at the Country Level

The role of cluster 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.

Specific responsibilities of sector leads at the country level include ensuring the following:

  • Inclusion of key humanitarian partners
  • Establishment and maintenance of appropriate humanitarian coordination mechanisms
  • Coordination with national/local authorities, State institutions, local civil society and other relevant actors
  • Participatory and community-based approaches
  • Attention to priority cross-cutting issues (e.g. age, diversity, environment, gender, HIV/AIDS and human rights)
  • Needs assessment and analysis
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Planning and strategy development
  • Application of standards
  • Monitoring and reporting
  • Advocacy and resource mobilization
  • Training and capacity building

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.