Humanitarian Health Action

Guidance note on using the cluster approach to strengthen humanitarian response


24 November 2006

Introduction

In international responses to humanitarian crises, some sectors have in the past benefited from having clearly mandated lead agencies, while others have not. This has repeatedly led to ad hoc, unpredictable humanitarian responses, with inevitable capacity and response gaps in some areas. Recognizing this, in September 2005 the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) agreed to designate global “cluster leads” – specifically for humanitarian emergencies – in nine sectors or areas of activity. The IASC Principals also agreed that the cluster approach should be applied, with some flexibility, at the country level.

In December 2005 the IASC Principals generally welcomed the “cluster approach” as a mechanism that can help to address identified gaps in response and enhance the quality of humanitarian action. It is part of a wider reform process aimed at improving the effectiveness of humanitarian response by ensuring greater predictability and accountability, while at the same time strengthening partnerships between NGOs, international organizations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement1 and UN agencies.

In June 2006 the IASC issued a Preliminary Guidance Note on implementation of the new approach. Emphasizing that the humanitarian reform process must be an inclusive one, the Emergency Relief Coordinator and IASC Principals invited all relevant stakeholders, particularly in the field, to comment on this document. It is on the basis of the comments received that the present Guidance Note has been put together. The Guidance Note will continue to be reviewed periodically and revised as necessary, taking into account the conclusions of further “lessons learnt” exercises and evaluations of implementation of the cluster approach at both the global and country level.

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