Section 3: Key Actions within 72 Hours of Disaster



Engage with relevant UN clusters at national and sub-national levels

Who does this: member/country programme

Clusters are groups of agencies working in particular sectors of humanitarian response (e.g. education, WASH, shelter, protection etc). They were established as part of the UN process of humanitarian reform and are designed to strengthen co-ordination between humanitarian actors. Each cluster has a lead agency (normally a UN agency) that is responsible for running cluster meetings and supporting cluster members.

In a major emergency, the UN humanitarian co-ordinator will activate the clusters, usually in consultation with the government and/or where an international appeal for assistance has been made. This decision will be communicated to all agencies that are registered as cluster members within that country. The cluster co-ordinator will contact members to inform them of plans and invite them to meetings.

If the UN cluster system is activated, it is particularly important for ActionAid to engage with relevant clusters from the start of the disaster response. The member/country programme should make sure that appropriate staff are available to attend cluster meetings, both at national level and at sub-national level in areas where ActionAid is responding. It is important that the ActionAid representative who attends the cluster meeting is sufficiently senior that he or she can take decisions on ActionAid’s behalf (e.g. he or she may be asked whether ActionAid is able to take responsibility for relief distribution in a particular area, or whether ActionAid will participate in a joint rapid/needs assessment). Cluster meetings are often attended by many agencies, sometimes up to 200 organisations, and ActionAid’s representative must have the technical expertise, confidence and language skills to get their point across. It is also important that ActionAid is able to share relevant and accurate information on the situation in their working areas and their response activities (e.g. sharing the results of rapid assessments).

The member/country programme should decide which clusters are most relevant in the specific disaster context – this will depend on the type of disaster, the needs of the affected communities, and the type of response that ActionAid is implementing. However, based on ActionAid’s organisational focus and areas of expertise, the Protection, Early Recovery and Food Security clusters may be considered priorities. These are the three clusters that ActionAid engages with at the global level to facilitate policy level discussions with partners, to develop common positions/guidelines on operational aspects of humanitarian response, piloting new approaches, joint indicators etc. If mechanisms are established to co-ordinate information and communication with disaster-affected communities, it would be advisable to participate in these also. ActionAid is a member of the CDAC (Communicating with Disaster-Affected Communities) Network at global level, and IHART will share any information on co-ordination or joint initiatives planned by network members with the country team.

A brief introduction to the cluster system and a background to UN humanitarian reform is included here.

Link with UN clusters at the global level

Who does this: IHART, with support from International Secretariat

At the global level, ActionAid is a member of three clusters: Protection, Food Security and Early Recovery.

If the cluster system is activated in a country where ActionAid works, IHART or relevant representatives from the Programmes Directorate of ActionAid International will make contact with the global clusters and participate in relevant meetings/teleconferences. IHART also sits on the Strategic Advisory Group of the Early Recovery Cluster, and in this capacity will input into decisions on the deployment of Early Recovery Advisors.

IHART will communicate relevant information from these meetings to affected members/country programmes.

Engage with other responding I/NGOs at country level

In any emergency, it is likely that other I/NGOs will be responding.

It is important to link with these agencies for a number of reasons:

  • to ensure that ActionAid’s planned response does not duplicate that of others

  • to identify gaps in the response (in terms of sectors or geographical areas)

  • to ensure co-ordination in rapid and needs assessments, to help reduce ‘assessment fatigue’ of disaster-affected people

  • to share skills and expertise

  • to show donors that agencies are co-ordinating in-country and are mitigating the risks of duplication.

Invariably, some form of local/national level I/NGO co-ordination forum will already be operational in the affected country. Where co-ordination mechanisms are not already in place, it may be possible to activate a group through existing consortia, e.g. through a donor-funded consortium project.