IASC News - April 2017
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News and Highlights from the IASC Community

Famine was formally declared in parts of South Sudan in February 2017. Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen are close to crossing a food insecurity threshold that will also lead to famine if we don’t act now. Allowing famine to unfold is a choice; we must choose to stop it.
Photo: UNICEF/Sebastian Rich

ERC’s Situational briefing to the General Assembly on the Secretary-General’s Call to Action on famine response and prevention (13 April 2017) 

In a statement delivered on the behalf of the Emergency Relief Coordinator, the General Assembly was briefed on the grave situation facing millions of people in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and north-east Nigeria.

During the briefing, it was noted that “more than 20 million people face famine or the risk of famine across the four countries. The crises in these four countries are protracted and complex - and the impacts will be felt for years. This is the impact of hunger and famine: communities broken, families torn apart, and preventable deaths of men women and children from disease. Famine is about much more than food insecurity. It is about compounding vulnerabilities that leave millions of people without basic human dignity, without hope for the future. It leaves children stunted and out of school. The humanitarian assistance being delivered on the ground is saving lives and livelihoods. But it is not enough.

All four countries have unique contexts but they share a common component. That is of protracted conflict. While humanitarians will continue to deliver and scale up where they are able, four things are required in order to effectively reverse these crises: First, more political will is required to end the conflicts that have caused these crises. Likewise, in order for assistance to reach those who need it most, there must be unhindered and sustained humanitarian access. Thirdly, we urgently need further funding to back a robust humanitarian response. Finally, the severity and the scale of these crises call for a more comprehensive approach, a new way of working.”


High-level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen (25 April 2017)

On 25 April, the United Nations held a High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen. This Event welcomed over 470 participants, including 72 Member States, over 20 ministerial level, 12 UN agencies, ICRC, IFRC, national NGOs and INGOs. At the conference, co-hosted by the governments of Switzerland and Sweden, donors pledged $1.1 billion to help people in urgent need in Yemen. In the words of the Secretary-General, the amount raised "represents for the first-ever pledging conference of humanitarian nature for Yemen, a remarkable success." In his statement, the Emergency Relief Coordinator said that “we can, with your money and support, scale up, we can avert famine and catastrophe.”

With an alarming 18.8 million people in need of humanitarian or protection assistance, including 10.3 million who require immediate assistance to save or sustain their lives, Yemen is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. Through the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan, over 106 humanitarian partners have been providing coordinated assistance to millions of people across Yemen’s 22 governorates. Humanitarian partners seek to avert a humanitarian catastrophe, but need US$2.1 billion in funding to deliver crucial food, nutrition, health and other lifesaving assistance. 

Learn more about essential facts about the crisis in Yemen in OCHA’s photo feature.

IASC Principals retreat (28 April 2017)

The IASC Principals met in a Retreat in Geneva on 28 April 2017. The meeting focussed on further strengthening the unique role of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, established some twenty-five years ago, in the context of evolving global dynamics, the on-going reform of the United Nations system, straitened resources for humanitarian action, and support fulfilment of the expectations, and formal commitments, arising from the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit. Informed by dialogue with Resident and Humanitarian Coordinators for Yemen and Ethiopia, Principals explored how the IASC can ensure it actively supports field leaders and humanitarian delivery on the ground. Principals reflected on the opportunities and modalities for IASC engagement with a more diverse range of humanitarian and non-humanitarian actors globally and at field level, committing to increase outreach through all structures of the IASC. Building on recent successful collective advocacy efforts for famine prevention and response, and in high-level meetings on Yemen and Syria, Principals seek to further enhance their strategic communication, further leveraging the capacity, comparative advantage and outreach of individual IASC members. Principals reviewed global IASC structures, discussing options to streamline these, reduce process, and 'work smarter' in support of strategic decision-making, greater linkage between policy and operations, and efficient and effective humanitarian action on the ground for people in need.

Welcoming new IASC Principals

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has appointed Mr. Achim Steiner of Germany as the new Administrator of UNDP for a term of four years.  The General Assembly confirmed the nomination on 19 April.   As the UNDP Administrator, Mr. Steiner is also UNDP’s IASC Principals.  More on Mr. Steiner’s background can be read at the UN website.

The Secretary-General and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General José Graziano da Silva announced their appointment of Mr. David Beasley of the United States as Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) at the Under-Secretary-General level on 31 March. As such, Mr. Beasley acts as the WFP IASC Principals. More on Mr. Beasley’s appointment can he read here.

Mr. Mark Goldring of Oxfam succeeds Mr. John Nduna as the IASC Principal for the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response (SCHR). Mr. Goldring became Chief Executive of Oxfam GB in May 2013. As the IASC Principal for the SCHR, he represents views of the nine SCHR member organizations.

IASC Working Group meeting

The 92nd IASC Working Group (WG) meeting took place in Rome on 5-6 April 2017, hosted by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Chairing her first IASC Working Group meeting, the Deputy Emergency Relief Ursula Mueller, urged the WG to take stock of its role and identify clear actions for WG support for the IASC and IASC Principals in making strategic, timely decisions, defending humanitarian space and principles, and ensuring an effective operational response for people in need. In his opening remarks, Mr. Daniel Gustafson, Deputy Director-General, FAO, noted that current protracted crises present great challenges but also great opportunities, including a new United Nations reform agenda, and the opportunity to bring work that went into the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) and Grand Bargain (GB), and the resulting commitments, to fruition. Sessions during the two-day event enabled participants to develop a vision for the IASC in a changing world, grounded in both the current global context, but also the experience and needs of field leaders as outlined by the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Ethiopia, Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie, and reaffirming the need to find ways of better outreach to a wide diversity of humanitarian and non-humanitarian actors. The meeting benefitted from a comprehensive briefing by the ASG for Strategic Coordination in the UN Executive Office, Mr. Fabrizio Hochschild on the Secretary-General’s Reform Agenda. Presentations by Professor Walter Kaelin, Ms. Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, the Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Refugees, and on current reviews of their IDP response by IOM and UNHCR, supported substantive discussion on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), while participants were also updated on the work of the Task Team on the Humanitarian-Development Nexus and potential ways forward for this.  A full summary will shortly be available on the IASC website.

IASC Event on ECOSOC HAS 2017, ECOSOC annual resolution, Secretary-General’s report on strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations


On 20 April, the IASC secretariat organized a briefing on the ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment (HAS), the ECOSOC annual resolution and the Secretary-General’s report on strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations.

The briefing focused on the preparations for the ECOSOC HAS Event, which will take place on 21-23 June in Geneva. The theme for the 2017 HAS event is ‘Restoring Humanity and Leaving No one Behind: Working together to reduce people’s humanitarian need, risk and vulnerability’.  The ECOSOC HAS provides a key opportunity to multiple actors involved in humanitarian response, including Member States, United Nations agencies, the private sector, humanitarian and development partners, and the affected communities to discuss critical humanitarian issues. In addition to a General Debate, there will be a discussion on the annual ECOSOC humanitarian resolution, three High-Level interactive panels, and approximately twenty side-events all focusing on important issues across the humanitarian sector.

STAIT Webinar: Humanitarian Development Nexus! What is the New Way of Working? Practical Examples


The Senior Transformative Agenda Implementation Team (STAIT) held the first of a 2-part webinar series on 26 April, entitled “Humanitarian Development Nexus: What is the New Way of Working?”. The webinar focused on the role of senior leadership, especially Humanitarian Coordinators and members of Humanitarian Country Teams, in ensuring that the Humanitarian Development nexus is implemented, based on the new way of working. The panellists for Part 1 were: Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu, Assistant Secretary-General and Assistant Administrator, Crisis Response Unit, UNDP, and Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ethiopia. A summary of the webinar can be found here.

Part 2 of the webinar took place on 10 May 2017 with Mr. John Ging, OCHA Director of Operations and WHS New Way of Working work stream co-chair, and Ms. Marta Ruedas, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan.

GPC Briefing Note on Famine


Wars in Yemen, north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan have devastated livelihoods and collapsed economies, with famine already declared a reality in parts of South Sudan. The enormity of the crisis is exposing individuals to heightened protection risks that are life threatening. The GPC Briefing Note has highlighted the direct correlation between food scarcity and protection risks, particularly in situations of displacement. The protection clusters and sectors are facing severe funding shortages and their capacity to respond to growing needs is overstretched.  To curb the severity and spread of the food crisis consorted and coordinated efforts to scale up humanitarian and protection assistance to the affected populations are urgently required.

Keynote speech by ICRC President Peter Maurer “War in cities: what is at stake?”


ICRC President Peter Maurer delivered a keynote speech as part of the ICRC's Research and Debate cycle on "War in Cities" on 4 April 2017 at the Graduate Institute in Geneva. The destructive force of war in cities, the suffering it causes and the impact on people's lives and livelihoods is a major concern of the ICRC in many countries in which we work. As we are increasingly witnessing the catastrophic impact of armed conflict in urban areas, the President particularly focused on the steps that must be taken to better protect the civilian population.

Today's armed conflicts look quite different: city centers and residential areas have become the battlefields of our time. Wars have moved into the lives, cities and homes of ordinary people in a more vicious way than ever before. The more we can do to understand urbanization and its challenges and complexities, the better we can adjust our humanitarian response. The full lecture can be listened to here.

IOM Framework for Addressing Internal Displacement – Consultation with Key Stakeholders


On 3 April, IOM held consultations with key stakeholders on IOM Framework for Addressing Internal Displacement. In this consultation, States and key operational partners were invited to review the draft and provide their insights and perspective in order to strengthen the Framework to best reflect how IOM can support States in their efforts to address the challenges of internal displacement. IOM Director-General William Lacy Swing opened the discussion, providing an overview of the magnitude of internal displacement and its implications, and expressing appreciation for the UN Secretary-General’s early emphasis on conflict prevention, noting the new task force could break new ground. Mr. Swing also commended the progress made on the issue within the humanitarian community and reiterated his Organization’s commitment to collective and holistic responses to the issue. Mr. Swing noted that IDP response represents a significant bulk of IOM’s work, particularly as the Organization is present before, during and after a crisis. Ms. Cecilia Jimenez-Damary (Special Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs) welcomed the consultation and the framework which emphasizes the formal adoption of a human rights based approach to IDPs and reminded of the importance of people-centered assistance that further strengthens their resilience and fosters their independence, dignity, and participation in all matters that concern them. The Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Ursula Mueller noted that the framework comes at an important time as conflict and disaster drives internal displacement to an all-time high, while noting that current figures also result from the absence of durable solutions. Dr. Ayouda Olatunbosun-Alakija (Chief Humanitarian Coordinator, Government of Nigeria) spoke from the perspective of a displacement-affected State and underlined the primary responsibility of States for IDPs and affected communities. Mr. Volker Türk (Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, UNHCR) emphasized the centrality of protection and the need for greater investments in durable solutions. Following the comments that followed, Director-General Swing noted IOM’s intention to carry this dialogue forward with partners and Member States with a view to improving IOM’s response.

Signing of new UN-World Bank framework to build resilience and sustain peace in conflict areas


UN Secretary-General António Guterres and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim signed a partnership framework on 22 April. This focuses on building resilience for the most vulnerable people by reducing poverty, promoting shared prosperity, enhancing food security, and sustaining peace in crisis-affected situations. This framework is in response to global calls for the respective institutions to work more closely together on prevention and reducing needs, risks, and vulnerability as the world faces a spike in violent conflict.

Under this framework, the UN and World Bank will work in complementary ways to:  reduce the multi-dimensional risks of crisis and help prevent violent conflict; develop joint analyses and tools for more effective solutions; coordinate support to address protracted crises including forced displacement; and scale up impact by leveraging financing. The framework builds on almost a decade of efforts to strengthen collaboration in crisis-affected situations, and reflects developments since then, including commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit last May calling for a “new way of working” that shifts the focus from “meeting needs” to “reducing needs, risks, and vulnerability.”


IASC Task Team on the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities

On 5 April, the Task Team for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action met to discuss recent developments. Their most recent progress report highlights plans until March 2018 to mobilize further financial and technical resources on this issues, to recruit necessary professionals including expert consultants and project coordinators, and to engage a wide range of stakeholders in field and online consultations. In line with this, the Task Team discussed several of these topics including an update on the progress of finding consultants, the Task Team’s meeting with the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ms. Ursula Mueller and the Task Team’s engagement in the upcoming Conference of State Parties.

IASC Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS)

On 27 April, held English and Arabic webinars entitled MHPSS & Persons with Disabilities. The webinars highlighted the experiences of MHPSS practitioners implementing programmes for persons with disabilities in situations of crisis and chronic conflict. The presenters included mental health specialists from Palestine and Syria. They stressed the challenges faced by persons with disabilities in their respective contexts and described how MHPSS services are responding to these in practice. The presenters included Ms. Ghada Zaidan, a mental health specialist; Mr. Douglas Khayat, a psychologist and psychoanalyst who has specialized in clinical psychology; Ms. Wafika Reem Tafran, a mental health and psychosocial technical advisor working in Syria; Mr. Marcio Gagliato, a psychologist; and Ms. Marie-Adele Salem, an expert in Mental Health and Psychosocial Support programmes based in Lebanon. For further information, please follow the link provided:

The IASC RG Coordinator conducted a support mission to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (22 April - 3 May) to conduct two trainings; one on the IASC Guidelines and the second on the recently released IASC MHPSS Common M&E Framework. In addition, she updated an MHPSS Situational Analysis paper in light of the displacement from Mosul.  

IASC Reference Group on Meeting Humanitarian Challenges in Urban Areas

The IASC RG MHCUA organized an event during the Humanitarian Network Partnership Week in Geneva in February 2017, focusing on coordination models for urban crisis responses and attended by numerous UN Agencies, donors, INGOs and research organizations. The IASC RG Chairs moreover attended the yearly Global Alliance for Urban Crises meetings, also leading a work stream on urban coordination. Inputs from both events will feed into the Guidance Note being prepared by the IASC RG MHCUA on coordination in urban settings. In May, the IASC RG will hold a face-to-face meeting, and facilitate a workshop with the Sphere Project on the mainstreaming of urban in the revised Sphere Handbook.



The IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings in Russian and Ukrainian

The IASC Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) in Emergency Settings, in collaboration with members of the MHPSS WG in Ukraine, has translated the IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings into Russian and Ukrainian. You can find both the Russian and the Ukrainian translations on the IASC website.



IASC Meetings & Events

10 May: IASC Senior Focal Point Meeting on Protection from Sexual Harassment and Abuse in the Workplace

10 May: STAIT Webinar on Humanitarian Development Nexus, Part 2

22 – 25 May: HC Retreat (Montreux, Switzerland)

23 May: IASC Briefing on the ECOSOC resolution and the ECOSOC HAS updates and side events

29 May: IASC Event on Colombia (Geneva)

2 June: IASC Event on Launch of Shelter Projects 2015-2016, an inter-agency compilation of Case Studies (Geneva)

7 June: IASC Event on the Environment and Humanitarian Action (Geneva)
15 June: IASC Task Team on Accountability to Affected Populations and Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (AAP/PSEA)


Other Events

8 May: World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day

23 May: Global Cluster Coordinators' Group (GCCG) Webinar on Approaches to Strengthen National Actors’ Role in Humanitarian Response

7-8 June: JIPS Conference “Making Data Useful”

4-6 June: Asia ­Pacific Regional Humanitarian Partnerships Forum (Bangkok)

06-08 June: Personal Security for Humanitarians (HEAT), REDR UK

12-13 June: Global Conference on Children on the Move (Berlin)

14-16 June: UNHCR NGO Annual Consultations 2017 (Geneva)

20 June: World Refugee Day

20 June: Annual Meeting of the Grand Bargain signatores (Geneva)

20-22 June: InterAction Forum (Washington)

21-23 June: ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment (Geneva)

28-30 June: UNHCR Standing Committee 69th Meeting (Geneva)

19 August: World Humanitarian Day

Multiple dates from May to November 2017: PHAP Advanced Courses on Humanitarian Law and Policy 

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The IASC was established under General Assembly Resolution 46/182 (1991) as the primary inter-agency coordination mechanism for humanitarian action in complex and major emergencies. It is a unique forum which brings together UN operational agencies and other humanitarian organizations and is supported by the IASC secretariat. Email:
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