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Early Recovery Coordination Toolkit


0.     Support Tools

Basic Tool
Templates to print and manually collect contacts and note attendances at meetings. You can also share the excel spreadsheet on a laptop or tablet instead of printing it.

Support Pack Contents
A printable A4/Letter template in Word.

  • If using traditional paper attendance list, make sure it circulates to all attendees during the meeting.
  • Check the list before the attendees leave to make sure writing is legible.
  • Don’t forget to take the attendance list away with you.



Basic Tool
Templates to collect actions (minutes) at meetings.

Support Pack Contents
Two templates in Word format, and two examples form the Nepal earthquake response in 2015, showing how meeting minutes can be made into an interesting product.

  • Maintain a list of main meeting actions (rather than full meeting minutes) and identify those who agree to implement actions at the end of the meeting.
  • At many emergencies there are too many people to remember names, ask/note what agency people are from and link the agencies to the actions (you can always cross check the attendance list to get the individuals name later).
  • If it’s a very important meeting you can use your phone to record the meeting and double check actions afterwards.



Basic Tool
The Style Guide offers information on the logo, fonts and colours that should be used for producing Early Recovery-related material.

Support Pack Contents
Style guide with technical specifications for fonts, logos and colours.

  • Try to use the guidance as much a possible when producing material to help generate ER Cluster recognition in the country of emergency.



Basic Tool
A basic document template for the ER Cluster.

Support Pack Contents
A Word document template.

  • For reports produced during an emergency, keep them brief, use bullet points, and highlight the essential issues.
  • Add maps and graphs only if they support the message.



Basic Tool
Presentation (PowerPoint) templates that can be used to present cluster work.

Support Pack Contents
PowerPoint templates.

  • When you open the template, only one slide will show. You have to go to the “home” menu, then select the “layout” button (on the “slide” section of the menu) to see all the available slide options.
  • Keep text to a minimum, large enough to read from afar and keep the font black; emergency meetings can be busy and meeting rooms can be bright.



Basic Tool
The Learning Loop is a tool that helps you to define how the work you do now informs what you do next. It provides a high-level perspective on how implementing social change can be broken down into a gradual process of iterative cycles.

Support Pack Contents

  • This tool offers you a framework to plan with and work in. Each of the four components relate to the methods, systems and processes that your organisation works with. It helps you check whether your organisation actually learns from its experiences (both success and failure) and is improving continuously.
  • Use the Learning Loop worksheet to make notes in each of the four quadrants. There is no strict start or end to this process – you could use the worksheet to plan a new project or make notes on a current project. Essentially the learnings you gain by collecting stories, feedback or outcomes will help you to reconsider and improve the next steps in your process.



Basic Tool

The Causes Diagram helps you think of a problem in a thorough manner and provides a structured way to analyse it. Its pushes you to deconstruct all possible causes for the problem rather than the obvious ones. You can use it both to analyse a new problem and as a tool to highlight the gaps in an existing problem.

It also helps to differentiate causes from effects or symptoms, giving you a better idea of the solutions needed to solve a problem permanently, and it helps to build a shared understanding of what it is you’re working on.

Support Pack Contents

  • Write down and draw links and sub-links between your problems, their causes, and their factors.
  • Be careful to not mix the causes of a problem with its symptoms as you note these down – a cause is the reason why something happens, while a symptom is usually what we see as the end result of the problem



Basic Tool
There is increasing internet connectivity during disasters and there are a number of tools that are very useful to stay in contact with the Cluster and IM colleagues.

Support Pack Contents
Information on some digital communication tools such as Skype, Viber and WhatsApp, the type of device needed to use each tool, the cost/licence involved, the suitability of the tool for a particular IM capacity level or disaster environment and the internet connectivity needs.

  • Try and keep communication to a minimum; share key information only. Do not overload the system with information as ER partners will potentially sign off the service if they are receiving a lot of ineffective information.



Basic Tool
Many organisations are using social media as part of their overall dissemination strategy but social media tools can also be very useful in emergency situations.

Support Pack Contents
Information on numerous social media tools including Twitter, Facebook and Swift River.

  • Ask partners what they are using during the emergency, for instance a local twitter account may be a very useful way to disseminate emergency information.



Basic Tool
At the end of most deployments, a handover note will be shared with the incoming IMO, Cluster Coordinator and UNDP, as well as the funding/supporting agency if applicable. The IM Framework and Workplan is a useful annex to the handover note if kept up-to-date. This annex will give the incoming IMO all the details on the requirements of reporting as well as the status quo of assessments and monitoring etc.

Support Pack Contents
A simple and extended template for handover notes for non-Field Support Team (FST) IMO or FST IMO.

  • Keep the IM Framework and Workplan up-to-date. This will save a lot of time in delivering a beneficial handover note.
  • Keep document short with bullet points and recommendations. Otherwise it is unlikely to be read!



Basic Tool
Often, at the end of a deployment, the ER IMO will need to prepare the ToRs and Standby Partner Request (if the replacement is to come from a Standby Roster) for their IMO replacement. The CC or the IM may also help to define the TORs of the cluster and the Cluster SAG.

Support Pack Contents
  • Generic ERA, IMO and Cluster Coordinator ToRs; Example TORs for the cluster and the cluster SAG. Modify ToRs for the emergency needs.
  • SbP Request Form.

  • Plan ahead (at least a month) if looking for a replacement; it will take time to submit and sign off the request.



Basic Tool
During emergencies it may be necessary to create advocacy material or other publications in local languages and dialects. Translating personnel can be hired locally or via an organisation such as Translators Without Borders.

Support Pack Contents
General information on the resource which may be available during emergencies.

  • Assess translation needs, is a technical translation needed or will hiring local translators fulfil the needs at the time.



Basic Tool
Information repositories are very useful to set up to share information during emergencies. Once the repository is set up, ER Partners can access key operation information as not all material produced by the Cluster will be appropriate to upload to the operation website.

Support Pack Contents
Comparisons on a number of the more popular information repositories including Microsoft OneDrive, DropBox, Google Drive and Box.

  • Keep files as small as possible to ensure you don’t overload partners folders (e.g. in the case of DropBox).
  • Move complete (published) documents to the operational website (e.g.
  • Give guidance to partners on how to use the repository system chosen (to avoid deletion of important documentation).





1.     Introduction to Early Recovery

The World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) was expected to bring about a step change in how humanitarian action is conceived, planned, implemented and monitored – and by whom. The United Nations Secretary-General has set out a clear vision to ‘Change people’s lives: from delivering aid to ending need’ as one of five Core Responsibilities in his Report for the World Humanitarian Summit ‘One Humanity: Shared Responsibility’. The report notes that Agenda 2030’s commitment to leaving no one behind and reaching those furthest behind first, including its specific references to people affected by humanitarian emergencies, creates a common framework under which both humanitarian and development actors can work together to ensure the safety, dignity and ability to thrive for the most vulnerable and at risk populations.


From both humanitarian and development perspectives, a new way of working together and partnering with peacebuilding actors is urgently needed because:

  • Humanitarian needs have risen to a level not seen since the end of World War 2, with 60 million displaced and 125 million people affected. These are the people most likely to be left far behind in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Crises are more protracted: humanitarian appeals today last for 7 years on average and 89 percent of humanitarian financing goes to crises lasting more than 3 years.
  • Conflict has become a very significant driver of humanitarian needs (over 80 percent), as well as a significant constraint on achieving the SDGs in fragile situations.
  • Global crises are more than ever results of interdependent challenges like climate change, conflict, pandemics or population growth. Humanitarian emergencies can no longer be viewed as isolated, short-term events but often are manifestations of governance failures or more structural and complex environmental or socio- economic developments.
  • Those with most at stake in humanitarian crises – affected people, governments and other responders – have been calling in the consultations for the WHS for new approaches that are more sustainable and make better use of local capabilities. This is reflected in the call in the Report of the Secretary-General to “reinforce, do not replace, national and local systems”.

At the most fundamental level, durable political solutions to conflict are needed to prevent a continued escalation in humanitarian needs. Political pressure to uphold international humanitarian law and principles remains crucial. But development and humanitarian interaction also needs to adapt to changing needs, and to the essential and evolving role played by crisis-affected populations and communities, governments, regional organizations and the private sector.


At the World Humanitarian Summit, the UN Secretary-General, the Emergency Relief Coordinator and 7 IASC Principals committed to implementing “a new way of working”. It is not about shifting funding from development to humanitarian programmes or from humanitarian to development actors — rather, it is about

  • Using resources and capabilities better, improving SDG outcomes for people in situations of risk, vulnerability and crisis and shrinking humanitarian needs over the long-term; and
  • Galvanizing new partnerships and collaboration – such as through the private sector, local actors or Multilateral Development Banks - that provide additional capabilities and resources in support of achieving collective and measurable outcomes for people and communities.


Where context allows UN Secretary General calls for a United Nations system that must move beyond the comfort of traditional silos, able to work across mandates, sectors and institutional boundaries, and with a greater diversity of partners, toward shared results.

Eight elements are critical to achieving this new approach

  1. context matters : create joint problem statements driven by data and analysis
  2. Move from individual short-term projects to collective outcomes
  3. Draw on comparative advantage
  4. Shift from coordination inputs to achieving outcomes together
  5. Monitor progress: accountability for change
  6. Retain emergency capacity
  7. Finance collective outcomes


The new way of working is defined as working over multiple years based on the comparative advantage of a diverse range of actors, including those outside the UN system towards collective outcomes.

The New Way of Working’ paper defined :

  • A collective outcome is a commonly agreed quantifiable and measurable result or impact in reducing people’s needs, risks and vulnerabilities and increasing their resilience, requiring the combined effort of different actors.
  • A comparative advantage is the capacity and expertise of one individual, group or institution to meet needs and contribute to risk and vulnerability reduction, over the capacity of another actor.
  • A multi-year timeframe refers to analyzing, strategizing and planning operations that build over several years to achieve context-specific and, at times, dynamic targets.



Early Recovery is an approach that addresses recovery needs that arise during the humanitarian phase of an emergency, using humanitarian mechanisms that align with development principles. It enables people to use the benefits of humanitarian action to seize development opportunities, strengthens resilience, and establishes a sustainable process of recovery from crisis. Early recovery is a vital element of any effective humanitarian response. Planning for it should start when the crisis begins.


Early Recovery contributes to addressing the humanitarian-development divide. The United Nations Secretary-General has set out a clear vision to ‘Change people’s lives: from delivering aid to ending need’ as one of five Core Responsibilities in his Report for the World Humanitarian Summit ‘One Humanity: Shared Responsibility’. The report notes that Agenda 2030’s commitment to leaving no one behind and reaching those furthest behind first, including its specific references to people affected by humanitarian emergencies, creates a common framework under which both humanitarian and development actors can work together to ensure the safety, dignity and ability to thrive for the most vulnerable and at risk populations. In its imperative to leave no one behind and reach those furthest behind first, the new development agenda recognizes that humanitarian and development actions converge around the need to prevent, prepare for and respond to crises, particularly with regard to the most vulnerable and at risk populations. This is the basis for focusing on collective outcomes. 


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2.     World Humanitarian Summit and the Grand Bargain

The World Humanitarian Summit held in May 2016 has been a wake-up call for action and generated global momentum and political will to move forward on the Agenda for Humanity and the five core responsibilities:

  • Political leadership to prevent and end conflicts;
  • Upholding the norms that safeguard humanity;
  • Leaving no one behind;
  • Moving from delivering aid to ending need;
  • And investing in humanity.


In particular, the Summit achieved significant commitments to transcend the humanitarian development divide whilst reinforcing the importance of respecting humanitarian principles and space. In recognizing the need to change, the UN Secretary-General, eight United Nations agencies (OCHA, UNDP, UNICEF, WFP, UNHCR, FAO, WHO, UNFPA) and endorsed by the World Bank and the IOM signed a breakthrough ‘Commitment to Action’ on collaborating in a New Way of Working that will lead to strengthening the United Nations to meet needs, reducing vulnerabilities and managing risk better by working together towards collective outcomes, over multiyear timeframes and based on comparative advantage in each context.


The Commitment to Action document recognizes that : “The new way of working is not about shifting funding from development to humanitarian programmes or from humanitarian to development actors — rather, it is about:

  • Using resources and capabilities better, improving SDG outcomes for people in situations of risk, vulnerability and crisis and shrinking humanitarian needs over the long-term; and
  • Galvanizing new partnerships and collaboration – such as through the private sector, local actors or Multilateral Development Banks - that provide additional capabilities and resources in support of achieving collective and measurable outcomes for people and communities.


It also engages its signatories to:

  • Conceptually, developing a shared understanding of sustainability, vulnerability, and resilience;
  • Operationally, implementing key changes after the WHS, where contexts enable the putting in place of: (i) Pooled and combined data, analysis and information; (ii) Better joined up planning and programming processes; (iii) Effective leadership for collective outcomes; and (iv) Financing modalities to support collective outcomes.


It is therefore expected that WHS will create a more favorable environment and provide new tools for resource mobilization in the area of early recovery and resilience.


To visist the World Humanitarian Summit website, click here

ICVA produced a paper : “Explaining the Grand Bargain”. The chapter below is extracted from their work.

The humanitarian financing gap continues to rise. In 2015, when OCHA put the total funding requirements at $19.8 billion, only $10.9 billion was provided by donors, leaving a 45% shortfall. The previous UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon acknowledged this gap, and building on discussions with the then High Commissioner for Refugees (now Secretary General) António Guterres and the then Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos, in January 2015 announced the creation of a “High-Level Panel”. The purpose of the Panel was “to consider new ways and opportunities to address the funding gap.”

High Level Panel members were announced in May 2015 and were well regarded, influential individuals from diverse backgrounds. The co-chairs included Kristalina Georgieva, the then Vice President for Budget and Human Resources in the European Commission, and Sultan Nazrin Shah, the Ruler of Perak in Malaysia.

In January 2016, the Panel launched its report called “Too important to fail – addressing the humanitarian financing gap.” The report, categorised into three chapters, introduced the concept of the now-famous “Grand Bargain”: (See Annex II for the full set of recommendations)

  1. Shrink the needs: A shared responsibility
  2. Deepen and broaden the resource base for humanitarian action
  3. Improve delivery: A Grand Bargain on efficiency”


The underlying logic behind the Grand Bargain is that if donors and agencies each make changes (e.g. if donors reduce earmarking and agencies are more transparent with how funds are spent), aid delivery would become more efficient, freeing up human and financial resources for the direct benefit of affected populations. It was hoped that efficiency gains would yield $1 billion in savings. It is important to note the Grand Bargain was not intended to replace action to address the larger funding gap, as outlined by the report’s first two chapters.


Co-conveners during Grand Bargain Negotiations



1. Transparency


World Bank

2. Frontline responders



3. Cash-based programming



4. Reduce management costs



5. More joint and impartial needs assessments



6. Participation Revolution


7. More multi-year humanitarian funding



8. Less earmarks



9. Harmonized/simplified reporting requirements



10. Strengthening engagement between humanitarian and development actors




Strengthening engagement between humanitarian and development actors : Actual commitments agreed by Grand Bargain Sherpas: Aid organizations and donors commit to:

  1. Use existing resources and capabilities better to shrink humanitarian needs over the long term with the view of contributing to the outcomes of the Sustainable Development Goals. Significantly increase prevention, mitigation and preparedness for early action to anticipate and secure resources for recovery. This will need to be the focus not only of aid organisations and donors but also of national governments at all levels, civil society, and the private sector.
  2. Invest in durable solutions for refugees, internally displaced people and sustainable support to migrants, returnees and host/receiving communities, as well as for other situations of recurring vulnerabilities.
  3. Increase social protection programmes and strengthen national and local systems and coping mechanisms in order to build resilience in fragile contexts.
  4. Perform joint multi-hazard risk and vulnerability analysis, and multi-year planning where feasible and relevant, with national, regional and local coordination in order to achieve a shared vision for outcomes. Such a shared vision for outcomes will be developed on the basis of shared risk analysis between humanitarian, development, stabilisation and peacebuilding communities.
  5. Galvanise new partnerships that bring additional capabilities and resources to crisis affected states through Multilateral Development Banks within their mandate and foster innovative partnerships with the private sector.

The Grand Bargain work stream 10 is different in nature from the others due to:

  • • Its delivery and results are captured somewhat by other relevant work streams (including multi-year planning and financing, joint needs assessments and localisation),
  • • Its strong policy component linking to other processes. The work stream captures milestones of processes, such as the roll-out of the New Way of Working and the implementation of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework coming out of the 19 September  Summit on Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, which are both examples of processes that link to the aims and outcomes of the Grand Bargain but are not governed by the Grand Bargain.


Co-convenors: UNDP and Denmark

Helpful contacts:

  • Rekha Das (UNDP)
  • Jette Michelsen (Denmark)
  • Sara Sekkenes (IASC Humanitarian-Development Task Team)

To read more about The Grand Bargain, click here



3.     Humanitarian Action Framework

The Emergency Relief Coordinator, together with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) comprising NGO consortia, Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, IOM, World Bank, and United Nations agencies, initiated the Humanitarian Reform process in 2005.  The process aimed to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian response through greater predictability, accountability, responsibility and partnership.


The concept of the Cluster Approach was one outcome of the process as a way of addressing gaps and strengthening the effectiveness of humanitarian response through building partnerships. The intent of the cluster approach is to clarify the division of labor among organizations, and better define 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.


However, challenges still remain in deploying adequate leadership; putting in place appropriate coordination mechanisms at various levels and ensuring clear mutual accountabilities as evidenced by several major disasters over the past years. Furthermore, the application of the cluster approach has become overly process-driven and, in some situations, perceived to potentially undermine rather than enable delivery.


In light of the growing recognition of the weaknesses in the multilateral humanitarian response, the IASC Principals decided to review the current approach to humanitarian response and make adjustments, building on the lessons learned in 2010 and 2011.


Based on an analysis of current challenges to leadership and coordination, the IASC Principals agreed in December 2011 to a set of actions that collectively represent a substantive improvement to the current humanitarian response model, this has become known as the Transformative Agenda (TA). Following the agreement of the TA in December 2011, the Principals agreed to the ‘TA Protocols’, which set the parameters for improved collective action in humanitarian emergencies. The Protocols include the following key elements:

  • A mechanism to deploy strong, experienced senior humanitarian leadership to guide the humanitarian response from the outset of a major crisis;
  • The strengthening of leadership capacities and rapid deployment of humanitarian leaders at various levels, to ensure the coordination architecture functions well;
  • Improved strategic planning at the country level that clarifies the collective results that the humanitarian community sets out to achieve and identifies how clusters and organizations will contribute to them;
  • Enhanced accountability of the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) and members of the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) for the achievement of collective results; and
  • Streamlined coordination mechanisms adapted to operational requirements and contexts to better facilitate delivery.  


The HPC is an important element of the Transformative Agenda. Although the experience of large-scale crises in Haiti and Pakistan in 2010 were the initial impetus for the TA, the majority of the guidance supports all humanitarian response, with only some guidance being specific to large-scale “level 3” crises. The Humanitarian Programme Cycle is a framework for collective action to meet the needs of people affected by large-scale crises.  When applied correctly, it helps to ensure a more effective, evidence-based, transparent and accountable response.  It consists of a set of inter-linked and sequential tools designed to assist Humanitarian Coordinators and Humanitarian Country Teams to prepare, plan, fund, monitor, and evaluate collective humanitarian response operations.


The Programme Cycle highlights the need to:

  • Prepare as much as possible before emergencies strike.
  • Plan based on risk analysis and evidence.
  • Set objectives early and ensure they drive the response.
  • Locate decision-making in the field
  • Monitor the impact of humanitarian action and adjust programmes in response.


The HPC recognizes Early Recovery as a vital element of any effective humanitarian response, and that planning for it should start when the crisis begins. For humanitarian organizations, early recovery can provide a path to durable solutions, and an exit strategy. For both reasons, humanitarian programmes that promote sustainable long-term solutions\approaches, including greater system and community resilience, should be integrated into the HPC and explicitly referenced in humanitarian strategies and approaches.


The Humanitarian Programme Cycle (HPC) is one of eight protocols agreed under the Transformative Agenda. It provides a framework for the way in which international humanitarian actors interact with each other, with national and local authorities, and with people affected by crises in order to achieve more timely, effective, efficient response with improved outcomes for the affected population. Since this guidance has been written


It consists of a set of inter-linked and sequential tools designed to assist Humanitarian Coordinators and Humanitarian Country Teams to prepare, plan, fund, monitor, and evaluate collective humanitarian response operations. The humanitarian programme cycle concept replaces the former consolidated appeal process (CAP).


The focus is on better decisions and improved outcomes at the field level, rather than on preparing products for donors and headquarters. This requires a culture change or a shift from the past practice of preparing well-designed ‘appeal’ documents for fundraising purposes to collectively owned and evidence-based plans to ensure increased HCT accountability for results.


In principle, the Humanitarian Programme Cycle’s process and tools are focused on humanitarian actors in the field – at the national and subnational levels – rather than outward to external audiences.


Successful implementation of the humanitarian programme cycle is dependent on effective emergency preparednesseffective coordination with national/local authorities and humanitarian actors, and information management.




These elements combine into a single strategic process that runs through the cycle of inter-agency coordination, with one step logically building on the previous and leading to the next seamlessly.  The programme cycle highlights the need to:

  • Prepare as much as possible before emergencies strike.
  • Plan based on risk analysis and evidence.
  • Set objectives early and ensure they drive the response.
  • Locate decision-making in the field.
  • Monitor the impact of humanitarian action and adjust programmes in response.


The HPC recognizes early recovery as a vital element of any effective humanitarian response, and that planning for it should start when the crisis begins. For humanitarian organizations, early recovery can provide a path to durable solutions, and an exit strategy.


For both reasons, programmes that promote sustainable long-term solutions should be integrated into the HPC and explicitly referenced in humanitarian strategies and approaches.

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Early recovery requires the participation of all actors involved in supporting affected populations during the humanitarian phase to ensure its integration into all approaches, strategies and activities. Key partners include: Government authorities at all levels, the Humanitarian Country Team (including NGOs), the United Nations Country Team, development organisations, International Financing Institutions (IFIs), national NGOs and civil society. Ultimately the Humanitarian Coordinator is responsible and accountable for ensuring the humanitarian action have sustainable effects so that conflict and/or disaster affected populations receive the kind of support that will measurably improve their longer-term perspectives for recovery.


At the global level the GCER works through its networks to promote an understanding of early recovery and ensure that early recovery perspectives are incorporated into the directives, guidance, tools, decisions and training modules of global Clusters and IASC products.


At the local level, the Clusters are key entry points to ensure the integration and coherence of early recovery. The HC – and where deployed, an ERA – will leverage humanitarian actors to incorporate into needs assessments, strategic plans and programmes both a perspective and plan of action that promote individual, household, community and national abilities to recover faster and more sustainably. Emphasis is also on working across Clusters, which simultaneously improve inter-cluster coordination and avoid creating ‘Cluster silos’.


Active engagement with donors can demonstrate that contributing to funds and programmes that have strong early recovery elements will ultimately benefit from a greater return on their investment in the longer term and also shorten the humanitarian phase.

Inter-cluster coordination refers to coordination between and across each level of a humanitarian response operation. Inter-cluster coordination is led at the strategic level by the HC and HCT and at the operational level by Cluster Coordinators, with OCHA’s support. It is absolutely essential that each level interacts with and informs the other. Inter-cluster coordination can therefore be regarded as three-dimensional:

1. Inter-cluster coordination takes place within the HCT, led by the RC/HC and supported by OCHA. It is the process by which operational partners come together to make decisions, which provide the overall strategic direction for the response (as set out in a ‘Strategic Plan’).

2. The strategic decisions made by the RC/HC and HCT are continuously guided by information and analysis they receive from their respective clusters and OCHA (as convener of inter-cluster fora). HCT members then share their strategic plan with the Cluster Coordinators for implementation by the clusters at the operational level.

IASC Reference Module for Cluster Coordination at Country Level


3. Clusters come together in an inter-cluster coordination forum to ensure there is a more coherent, integrated approach to meeting strategic objectives. OCHA will normally convene and facilitate a general inter-cluster coordination group which brings all the clusters together periodically to discuss common issues (both at the national and sub-national level). Inter-cluster coordination fora may also take the form of small groupings of related clusters, meeting to address a particular challenge or technical issue (e.g. a cholera outbreak).

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Effective integration of early recovery throughout the response requires that, as far as it is possible and appropriate in each crisis setting, each sector and cluster designs their response with a view to longer term recovery while also addressing immediate, life-saving needs. To avoid confusion over the role of the Early Recovery, for mainstreaming of early recovery across all sectors, and the role of the cluster coordination for the early recovery areas not covered by the other clusters, it is advisable to name the cluster according to the thematic areas that it covers.


For example, the cluster in Iraq, in 2014 was named Social Cohesion and Livelihoods, to address the needs of communities affected by the crisis that were not included in the other clusters, particularly in regard to the potential for tensions between the IDP population and the host communities. 


As for all sectors, a key function of the inter-cluster coordination is to maximize synergies among different actors through efficient coordination of stakeholders in the early recovery process through sharing information and promoting integration to avoid duplication and gaps, optimizing the resources available for sustainable recovery. 


At the country level, an Early Recovery capacity is established as soon as possible to support the HCs/RCs in roll-out countries with the coordination, assessment, strategic planning, advocacy and resource mobilization for early recovery. Cluster members ensure that this local ER capacity addresses the areas identified as priority needs by the cluster.


The GCER, through this Early Recovery support function, is accountable for ensuring that ER issues are addressed by other clusters/sectors. To assure this takes place, the other clusters will be asked to designate ER focal points. The focal points will interact with the ER support function at country level. This Early Recovery Cluster Network will in turn receive support and guidance from the GCER at global level as necessary, and set clear and deliverable standards for others to implement.


Early recovery needs which are not mainstreamed and addressed by other clusters (shelter, land & property, governance, livelihoods, basic social services, rule of law and disaster risk management) need to be covered appropriately in each context. This may involve special efforts or ad hoc groups led by GCER members or other qualified organizations at country level. Lead agencies have been identified for each of these areas that are traditionally not included in the sectoral working group architecture at country level but are considered to be essential for an effective and more comprehensive humanitarian response.


It is important to ensure that a new ER coordination body does not duplicate, impose, complicate or displace already functioning and well-accepted mechanisms. 

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Cluster coordination ensures that international responses to humanitarian emergencies are clearly led and accountable to a range of stakeholders, including national Governments, and accountable to affected populations. The principal objective of international humanitarian action, and the purpose of coordination, is to meet the needs of affected people by means that are reliable, effective, inclusive, and respect humanitarian principles.


Activating clusters is a temporary coordination solution. They are created when existing coordination mechanisms are overwhelmed or constrained in their ability to respond to identified needs in line with humanitarian principles. A cluster is accountable to the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) through the Cluster Lead Agency (CLA) as well as to national authorities.

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The coordination of Early Recovery activities in-country happens in two ways:


  • For all emergencies the primary mechanism for the coordination of Early Recovery is through existing inter-cluster coordination mechanisms (see above);
  • In settings where specific Early Recovery needs are not being met within existing coordination mechanisms, the HCT may decide to create a coordination body, e.g. an additional cluster or sector working group to meet these needs, the name of which is determined by the issues to be addressed. The Cluster Lead Agency is selected according to the nature of the cluster or working group activities

The Cluster Coordination Performance Monitoring (CCPM) is a self-assessment of cluster performance against the six core cluster functions set out on the ‘Reference Module for Cluster Coordination at Country Level’ and accountability to affected populations. It is a country led process, which is supported by Global Clusters and OCHA. The process is ideally carried out by all clusters (and sectors) at the same time, though it can be implemented by individual or a group clusters.


Monitoring cluster coordination at national and sub-national level in sudden onset and protracted crises is necessary to ensure that clusters are:

  • Efficient and effective coordination mechanisms;
  • Fulfils the following six core cluster functions:
    • 1. Supporting service delivery by providing a platform for agreement on approaches and elimination of duplication;
    • 2. Informing strategic decision-making of the Humanitarian Coordinator / Humanitarian Country Team (HC/HCT) for the humanitarian response though coordination of needs assessment and gap analysis and prioritization;
    • 3. Planning and strategy development including sectorial plans,, adherence to standards and funding needs;
    • 4. Advocacy to address identified concerns on behalf of cluster participants and the affected population;
    • 5. Monitoring and reporting on the cluster strategy and results; recommending corrective action where necessary;
    • 6. Contingency planning/preparedness/capacity building where needed and where capacity exists within the cluster.
  • Support efficient delivery of relevant services;
  • Meet the needs of cluster members;
  • Demonstrate accountability to affected people.


Clusters are time bound and, wherever possible, should transition to emergency or recovery coordination structures that are led or supported nationally. Monitoring also ensures that the architecture of coordination responds to changes in the context and in coordination needs. It is important to demonstrate the value that coordination structures brings, both for accountability and to justify the costs involved.


Cluster Coordination Performance Monitoring (CCPM) is a self-assessment exercise. Clusters assess their performance against the six core cluster functions and accountability to affected populations. It is a country-led process, supported globally. Ideally, it is carried out by all clusters/sectors at the same time but can be implemented on demand by individual clusters. A CCPM enables all cluster partners and coordinators to identify strengths and weaknesses of performance and paths to improvement. 


Complementary to humanitarian response monitoring, which measures aid delivered in terms of progress towards the objectives of the HRP, CCPM reviews cluster functions to see whether they are being implemented adequately to support the delivery of the shared Humanitarian Response Plans. It combines an objective description of how the cluster is organized and what its deliverables are, with feedback through a survey from all partners on how they are involved, contribute and make use of these functions and their deliverables.  


A CCPM should ideally be implemented three to six months after the onset of an emergency and annually thereafter. In protracted crises, the recommendation is to complete a CCPM annually. 


Support Pack Contents
  • CCPM briefs and questionnaires in different languages (English, Arabic, French and Spanish); an introductory powerpoint presentation; and a CCPM Guidance Note.
  • Examples of final reports from the CCPM questionnaire, done by the health cluster in Colombia and OPT.
  • An Excel spreadsheet to analyse questionnaires results (GCER is able to support you to analyse surveys' results)
  • GCER is able to provide online questionnaires in each of the 4 languages.

  • Contact the Global Cluster for Early Recovery in Geneva – at – if you need to start a CCPM process

The main element of the role will be supporting the RC/HC to ensure that the humanitarian response carries out its basic function - responding to the emergency - but also orienting the humanitarian strategic plans and the response to contribute to recovery and development.  Humanitarian response and the recovery/development agenda are linked within the humanitarian-development nexus, , and a significant element of the ERA’s job is to leverage both to support each other.


There is no definitive approach for successfully supporting a RC/HC to integrate early recovery approaches into a humanitarian response.  As the ERA ToR suggests (see Annex 1), a set of specific skills and plenty of energy will be useful for any ERA.  It is imperative to understand the context of the crisis that you will be working in to give you legitimacy and credibility in your role, and carry the necessary gravitas to develop support for early recovery.  It is also important to understand the context, the dynamics of the humanitarian response and how it is organized. This is framed currently in the evolving Transformative Agenda.


The ERA also needs to have a good understanding of the evolving humanitarian response, tracking funding patterns, identifying gaps, and articulating how early recovery approaches can be strengthened in a changing environment. 


The ERA will need to understand how to use information management tools, and how to extract information for advocacy purposes to advise the Humanitarian Coordinator and Humanitarian Country Team (HTC) appropriately. Consequently, the ERA will need to use strong advocacy, and the ability to negotiate and influence senior level officials.


The role of an ERA is to work across the entire humanitarian community and this will include engaging with all clusters (or as many as possible) as well as building alliances to support early recovery initiatives (advocating for early recovery is easier with a support base, than with a single voice). In many contexts the ERA will also be required to leverage the potential for development actors to contribute to addressing a crisis. The ERA will need a high level of energy and dynamism to engage with such a wide array of actors.


The key role of the ERA is to ensure that an early recovery approach is integrated into the humanitarian response. This means the humanitarian response should take into consideration the longer term objectives of a country that has been affected by a crisis and is receiving international humanitarian assistance. The humanitarian response should look beyond immediate assistance, or more specifically, try to ensure the immediate assistance can also have a lasting benefit where possible. 


In order to bring the early recovery approach into humanitarian response, the ERA needs to be engaged with all clusters and as many humanitarian actors as possible to encourage their individual activities to include early recovery.


The ERA will also be expected to respond to questions about the integration of early recovery.


One of the key functions of a cluster coordinator is to have a good picture of what is happening in a particular thematic sector e.g. the Health Cluster Coordinator will be expected to know what the health situation is in a given crisis, and also to explain the health response, and how the health crisis is being address.  Similarly, the ERA will be expected to answer questions on early recovery: how well it is being integrated into the humanitarian response, how different agencies are integrating early recovery into their work, how the humanitarian response is linked to longer-term objectives, how early recovery is supporting the resilience of affected populations etc. 

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Another added value of the ERA is that he/she will be able to contribute to increased coherence and synergies between the works of different clusters/sectors, which combined with timely integration of the Early Recovery approach, will enhance resilience building and recovery. Engaging in the Inter-Cluster Coordination platform and working closely with OCHA is encouraged.


This will add value to the humanitarian response in general, or in other words ‘will provide a better return on donor investment’. The fact that the humanitarian community will be confronted with a new generation of complex crises and the fact that the financial resources to respond to these will not increase exponentially, is one reason why resilience strengthening is so prominent on the humanitarian agenda. 


In regard to this, gathering information, developing a strong understanding of the entire humanitarian response, and utilizing and exploiting information management tools will be required to illustrate how (and how much) early recovery is being integrated into the humanitarian response. UNDP often does not maintain dedicated Information Management personnel in their offices, so relying on OCHA’s support for this is vital, and is an excellent resource to rely on, even in situations where an Information Management Officer (IMO) has been deployed to support the cluster. A separate module in this part of the training course (Phase 1) introduces you to Information Management tools, most particularly what is available from OCHA and can be utilized by an ERA.


An important part of the job will be knowing about the activities of many different actors and being able to articulate their work verbally, as well as illustrate it in various formats to show examples of early recovery as a learning tool, monitor and account for early recovery to provide an evidence base as to whether it is happening or not (and if it needs to be strengthened, or not).


The ERA will need to have the skills to convey early recovery work from various information sources, using diagrams, graphs, charts, illustrations, multi-media, video, written reports etc. to convey information to the HCT and the RC/HC.

Early recovery provides a unique opportunity for humanitarian and development actors to work together as early as possible in support of nationally - led recovery efforts.


Early Recovery coordination can be seen as an interface between the two communities, addressing the humanitarian-development divide by bridging the gap between humanitarian intervention and longer-term recovery.


Depending on the scale and complexity of the early recovery situation, an Early Recovery Cluster Coordinator can be deployed to support the facilitation of a cluster covering the areas of early recovery not covered by the other clusters.


The key role of the CCfER is to ensure coordination and focus on areas where early recovery interventions can help build the basis for longer-term recovery. It is intended to serve the following purposes:

  • Ensure accountability, leadership and clearly defined roles and responsibilities;
  • Coordinate effective early recovery planning on behalf of the Humanitarian Country Team, in close consultation with national counterparts;
  • Strengthen the coordination framework and response capacity by mobilizing response in specific areas of activity;
  • Fill identified recovery gaps in the humanitarian phase (possibly through the establishment of a designated cluster or network for early recovery);
  • Strengthen the involvement of national and local institutions;
  • Ensure that humanitarian responses consider recovery issues and do no harm to longer-term recovery opportunities.


To fulfill these aims, the following practical tasks should be carried out:

  • Assess and analyze sectoral needs, using appropriate methodology;
  • Assess international and national capacities and capacity-building priorities for recovery;
  • Contribute to the design of a strategic framework for early recovery, contextualizing the early recovery needs and setting out the key priority focus areas for a comprehensive approach to early recovery;
  • Develop an early recovery response plan, detailing the implementation of early recovery interventions;
  • Identify capacities of cluster participants and other relevant actors and strengthen them where necessary;
  • Ensure appropriate delegation and follow-up on commitments from cluster participants;
  • Interact with other cluster leaders to ensure synergies on Early Recovery and the  integration of cross-cutting issues;
  • Work with the national authorities, the Humanitarian Country Team and donors to mobilize the necessary resources for an adequate and appropriate response to early recovery needs;
  • Sustain mechanisms for assessment of cluster performance;
  • Derive lessons learned from review of activities, and revise strategies and action plans accordingly; and
  • Ensure that hand-over/exit strategies are developed and implemented. 

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It is important to distinguish the role of the ERA and CCfER. ERAs are the representation of the GCER in crisis-affected countries and are the backbone of the work related to coordination support, providing advisory services to the HC, development of durable solutions strategies as required, managing and creating an evidence-base of information for decision-making, supporting the humanitarian-development nexus, and much more. In addition to the advisory support provided by an ERA to the HC/ RC and the humanitarian system, the HC/RC may require additional coordination support for issues not covered by any of the other clusters that have been activated in-country. A separate cluster may be established by the Humanitarian Country Team in a country affected by a crisis, which is related to early recovery. The CCfER establishes and maintains an effective cluster coordination mechanism, ensures the members of the cluster engage with national authorities and government counterparts and leads the cluster members in inter-agency processes.


Early Recovery Advisor

The key role of the Early Recovery Advisor (ERA) is to ensure that an early recovery approach is integrated into the humanitarian response. The main mechanism for this is the “advice” that is provided to the HC/RC in their lead role in coordinating the inter-agency early recovery work across all clusters. The ERA typically is based in the UNDP country/field office in-country but reports to the HC/RC. The ERA will work across the entire humanitarian community, which will include engaging with all clusters (or as many as possible) as well as building alliances to support early recovery. This is in close collaboration and consultation with the Inter-Cluster Coordination Group (ICCG).


The ERA needs to be engaged with all clusters and as many humanitarian actors as possible to encourage their individual activities to include early recovery.


In most contexts the ERA will also be required to leverage the potential for development actors and private sector to contribute to addressing a crisis. This means the humanitarian response should take into consideration the longer term objectives of a country that has been affected by a crisis and is receiving international humanitarian assistance.


The ERA is astutely aware of the following four core knowledge competencies and their respective programmes in implementing his/her work:

  1. People Centered Approach
  2. Humanitarian Response
  3. Recovery Programming
  4. Transition Planning


Cluster Coordinator for Early Recovery

The key role of the Cluster Coordinator for Early Recovery (CCfER) is to “enable” cluster partners to be more effective by working together in accordance with the principles of partnership than they could be individually. The CCfER provides accountable leadership and works on behalf of the cluster as a whole, facilitating all cluster activities and maintaining a strategic vision. He/she also ensures coordination regarding the areas covered, e.g. governance, infrastructure and livelihoods, with other clusters in relation to inter-cluster activities and cross-cutting (People Centered approach) issues. The CCfER is based in the UNDP country/field office in-country and reports to the Country Director/Resident Representative or their Deputy (Programme).


The CCfER also has a duty, to all partners within the Clusters, to act as a representative of the cluster as a whole rather than solely as a representative of UNDP. The CCfER is responsible for the development of the Cluster’s action plans and monitoring their implementation. The CCfER ensures that the action plans are coherent with the priorities outlined in the overall early recovery strategic framework developed by the ER network with the support of the Early Recovery Advisor. The CCfER is astutely aware of the following four core knowledge competencies and their respective programmes in implementing his/her work; Livelihoods, Governance, Basic Infrastructure Repairs and Rehabilitation, Capacity-Building – Investing in People. 

Comparative role ERAs and CCfER

It is not possible to provide details on the role of early recovery according to all partners. Some partners still refer to early recovery as a phase in a continuum (relief to development), whereas other partners refer to early recovery as part of a contiguum, whereby relief, rehabilitation, and development are carried out side by side in order to respond effectively to all aspects and areas of the crisis to assist affected populations overcome the impact of the crisis and return rapidly to something approaching normality. However, as a start, the UNICEF and global Food Security interpretation of early recovery are introduced, below.


Humanitarian partners view early recovery predominantly in the same way as the GCER, although it may be true to admit that there are some nuanced differences. UNICEF specifies that life-saving assistance is a core element of the Core Commitments to Children (CCC) but “the early recovery approach offers a crucial platform for injecting longer-term strategic planning, national ownership, capacity development and disaster risk reduction”. For more information, visit the UNICEF e-resource page on early recovery.


The global Food Security Cluster (gFSC) is co-led by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and identifies the mainstreaming of early recovery in its strategic plan for 2013-14. The gFSC articulates this further in its four strategic pillars, identifying capacity development, and operationalizing national clusters as part of the early recovery approach. 


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4.     Early Recovery: A People Centered Approach

AAP (Accountability to affected populations) is about holding humanitarian actors accountable and responsive to the people they serve. Accountability is a legal, practical and ethical obligation for humanitarian agencies. Accountability to Affected Populations (AAP), Protection against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) and Communications with Communities (CwC) are all interrelated.  They interact and are to some extent interdependent, but any accountability plan should address aspects of all three and include a strong emphasis on the gender analysis they require.


AAP at its core is about systematically and meaningfully engaging the affected populations, neighboring communities and local actors into all stages of the humanitarian programming cycle, ensuring they have a voice and a hand in the decisions that affect their lives. For humanitarian actors, this requires respect, transparency, and a willingness to listen to and work with affected communities, and also be influenced and judged by them (including affected populations in needs assessments, programme design, delivery, monitoring and evaluation, establishing open channels of communication for feedback and information sharing and complaint mechanisms, and facilitating participatory processes for decision making and mutual learning.


Doing so is not only fundamental to humanitarian principles, but also a practical means to improve the quality and effectiveness of humanitarian aid and ultimately the sustainability of humanitarian response programmes. (Based on UNOCHA report - Sudan: Common humanitarian fund, AAP framework, Feb 2015)


A key part of AAP is sharing information with and listening to, affected communities, and adapting the international response’s strategic objectives and operational planning on the basis of their inputs (EDG Group - Hayan Response Planning for AAP actions, final). AAP has been demonstrated as an effective tool in conflict settings. (AAP, CwC&PSEA in CAR, premilinary findings and report, 04/01/14, Barbara Wigley WFP)

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Building on lessons learned and growing recognition of certain weaknesses in the multilateral humanitarian response, the IASC (Inter-Agency Standing Committee) Principals reviewed the approach to humanitarian response, made adjustments and laid out the IASC Transformative Agenda on leadership, coordination and accountability in December 2011. 8 protocols representing an improvement to the humanitarian response model, today set the parameters for collective action in humanitarian emergencies. The 6th protocol is the AAP operational Framework.


As a complement to the Framework and to establish a shared understanding of what it means to be accountable to affected populations and engage in effective collective action, the IASC put forth five Commitments on Accountability to Affected People/Populations (CAAPs) as part of their Transformative Agenda. All actors in crisis response should commit to Leadership, Transparency, Feedback and Complaints, Participation, Design, Monitoring and evaluation.


To give AAP more prominence within the IASC’s subsidiary structure, the Task Force on AAP was created in July 2012 to steer the implementation of the CAAPs and further develop and roll-out the operational framework. The Task Force today is called the AAP/PSEA Task Team including two parallel task forces: one on AAP and one on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.


Today there is widespread consensus that concerted action needs to accompany the shift of focus of the Transformative Agenda to place people affected by a crisis at the center. Accountability today is seen as the fifth humanitarian principle (in addition to the traditional four: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence).

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AAP is fundamental to Early Recovery. There cannot be early recovery without AAP. Core to early recovery is an affected-populations-centric approach: active participation, engagement and ownership of affected communities, at individual and collective level. Early recovery is about engaging people, not as beneficiaries or victims, but as actors, participants and change agents. Accountability is not a separate issue; it is integrated into the early recovery approach to humanitarian response.


The Cluster for Early Recovery takes leadership on AAP at the global level by mainstreaming AAP principles in its guidance note, training materials and strategic documents and by creating a working group on integrating AAP in the HCP. Clusters together need to work towards deepening engagement with affected populations at all phases of the HPC and adopting common approaches to transparency and information provision, two-way communication, feedback and complaints systems and participation of affected communities in decision-making processes.


Early Recovery programming aims to generate self-sustaining, nationally-owned processes through a set of specific programmatic actions that support affected populations to regain their way of life, assets and capabilities (the Early Recovery Toolbox). The focus is on local ownership and strengthening local capacities, basing response on understanding the context, 2-way communication and engagement with affected populations, neighboring communities, local CBOs, companies and where appropriate and possible, national and local authorities. 

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While there is an increased attention among the humanitarian community in providing a response that efficiently and qualitatively responds to affected people’s needs, in a way that is accountable to them, having a coherent and shared vision of how gender, age, diversity, protection and AAP are interconnected and mutually reinforce each other remains a challenge. This is the reason why the Early Recovery cluster has adopted a people-centered approach to provide a coherent and integrated model of how distinct needs and capacities should inform the humanitarian response.


A people-centered approach recognizes that a person’s gender, age and other diversity characteristics have a significant impact on the way they experience emergencies and access assistance. Through the meaningful participation of affected populations and consideration of their combined characteristics at all stages of humanitarian actions, a people-centered approach ensures that individuals’ experiences of emergencies inform all stages of programme design and implementation. It tailors relief to diverse needs, preventing and minimizing unintended negative consequences that may increase vulnerability collectively. It strengthens meaningful access of all to humanitarian assistance. Finally, through this approach, people’s capacity and strategies to survive with dignity, as they become integral to the design of the humanitarian response, reduces economic and psychological dependency on aid, supports their resilience and paves the way to sustainable recovery. The equal involvement of women, girls, boys and men of different ages meets basic social and economic needs and plays an important role in the protection and empowerment of individuals.


The purpose of people-centered-humanitarian-action (PCHA) is to integrate these principles in programming and coordination, and build skills on how to do so in practice. This approach contributes to more accurate and nuanced needs, gaps and priority analysis allowing the early recovery sector and the other clusters to deliver more efficient, effective, evidence based humanitarian programming, in line with humanitarian objectives. The result is to ensure that differentiated actions are taken to address the different needs and thus make humanitarian action more effective.


To ensure that women, girls, boys and men receive equal outcomes from the assistance provided and enjoy equal rights, which form the basis of sustainable development, particular attention should be paid to gender, age, diversity and environment and how they intersect:

  • Gender inequalities are a universal reality in all societies and constitute a driver of crisis, a key factor in individual vulnerability and impact on the capacity of individuals and communities to recover from emergencies. This is why particular attention should be paid to the gender roles, relations and power dynamics in families and communities as these largely shape individuals’ protection and assistance needs and as it directly influences their access to aid delivery.   
  • As universal determinants, gender and age in­tersect to create different experiences of crises; different capacities to deal with these experiences; and different levels of access to assistance. For example, female and male youth might be excluded from decision-making on recovery measures. Discriminatory laws and customs may slow women’s recovery by denying them housing, land and inheritance. Domestic and care-giving tasks might restrict their access to jobs and training. Older men seeking reconstruction work may be bypassed if not considered sufficiently robust Together with gender, age largely determines the role and position of individuals in society, and the way they are going to be affected by a crisis. In this sense, age is indissolubly linked to gender.
  • Diversity is an umbrella term grouping the different characteristics that the female and male population of different age groups have. These characteristics include class, ethnicity, religion, disability, mental health and sexual orientation.
  • Overlooking gender, age or diversity has different implications on humanitarian quality: Not analyzing and addressing gender and age needs puts at stake the overall efficiency of the response as it doesn’t adequately address the needs of a large part of the affected population and tends to ignore important power dynamics. Failing to take into account diversity leads to the exclusion of a more or less large part of the population when, in fact, humanitarian action is about helping the most vulnerable. It can also increase social tensions, i.e. when a specific ethnic or religious group gets a privileged access to assistance when other ones are left out. The interaction between people and the environment remains of paramount importance within crises situations, considering the reciprocal relationship between the environment and humanitarian response. The environment can contribute to, perpetuate, and fuel conflicts, hence be a source for humanitarian action. At the same time, the infrastructure associated with humanitarian operations can damage the environment and thereby endanger livelihoods – ultimately leading to future conflicts. The environment people live in, when deteriorated, impacts differently the affected population, i.e. in terms of workload carried out by girls and women when clean water becomes scarce or that the collection of firewood requires long travels that put them at risk of sexual violence. Understanding affected people’s distinct relationship with the ecosystem allows to provide more successful natural resource sensitive reintegration and recovery outcomes.

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Any crisis, whether caused by conflict or disaster, almost inevitably uproots people from their homes. In 2014, a staggering 51.2 million people are either refugees in other countries or are internally displaced persons (IDPs) as a result of conflict or violence -- the highest figure since World War II.


For most of these refugees and IDPs, displacement is a protracted plight, lasting several years or even decades. In addition, every year, some 29 million people are displaced by natural disasters.


Primary responsibility for addressing and resolving displacement rests with the Government of the affected country or countries. Where government authorities lack adequate capacity or even political will to do so, the international community has an important role to play in promoting and supporting an effective response. No single international organization has a mandate to cover the wide range of needs that arise in displacement; a multi-sector coordinated response is needed.


Early recovery has a significant role to play at all stages of displacement. Inclusive and effective democratic governance, conflict prevention and disaster risk reduction are essential to preventing the crises that cause displacement. Where crises nonetheless erupt, early recovery programming is key to reducing the vulnerabilities faced by displaced populations and strengthening their resilience.


Early recovery programming in all its dimensions -- livelihoods, infrastructure repair and rehabilitation, good governance, and capacity-strengthening -- also is essential to creating the conditions enabling displaced persons to find a safe and sustainable solution to their displacement, whether by returning home or settling elsewhere, and to begin to rebuild their lives.


The Global Cluster on Early Recovery (GCER) has been designated by the UN Secretary-General to support, with the Global Protection Cluster, more coherent, predictable and effective approaches to ensuring safe and sustainable solutions for IDPs and returning refugees.  To this end, in countries emerging from crises, a durable solutions strategy for IDPs and returning refugees is to be developed and implemented under the leadership of the UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator (RC/HC), in partnership with national stakeholders. The GCER, particular through a Technical Working Group (TWG) on Durable Solutions, supports such field-level processes, including through the development of Guide for developing strategies for durable solutions and by deploying Early Recovery Advisers (ERAs) to support RC/HCs to lead the Humanitarian Country Team in developing a solutions strategy.


Displacement issues will have special relevance given the 3rd IASC Priority for 2016-2017 has its focus on “Responding to Displacement and Enhancing Protection Outcomes”, where specific activities are targeted to promote, support and implement Durable Solutions.

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The range and scale of humanitarian crisis around the world is alarming. Since the early 1990s, the manifestations and understanding of humanitarian crises have changed constantly. The world is rapidly becoming urban with more than half of the population living in urban areas where one in every three urban dwellers live in precarious conditions.


The manner in which urban areas are rapidly growing makes these vulnerable to both man-made and natural disasters while on the other hand the explosive growth is inducing new types of risks, vulnerabilities and potential humanitarian crisis.


The massive increase in the number of people living in cities increases the number of those who are vulnerable to disasters or conflict. Urban disasters differ in important ways from rural disasters, and force the humanitarian community to rethink fundamental tools, approaches and assumptions when deciding how best to respond.


At the global humanitarian coordination level, the UN-HABITAT concept note on ‘’Humanitarian Consequences of Urbanization’’ triggered the creation of an IASC Task Force with the mandate to develop a strategy for the IASC to address the humanitarian consequences of urbanization. The IASC has developed a strategy to meet humanitarian challenges in urban areas. 


The focus on learning from past lessons and improving the humanitarian response in urban disasters and aiming to make cities resilient is greater than ever. Click on UN Habitats home page to learn more. 

Disasters and conflicts often lead to negative impacts on the environment, which can pose a threat to human life, health, livelihoods and security.  These impacts can arise from damage to land, water or air, through coping strategies that indirectly stress scarce natural resources or large quantities of waste and debris posing public health risks. If these negative environmental impacts in the aftermath of crises are not imminently addressed, they can threaten the success of recovery activities by leaving populations with degraded natural resources and vulnerable to future events. Furthermore, the disaster and conflict relief and recovery operations can potentially contribute negatively on the environment leaving behind a trail of polluting waste, concentrated resource overuse and heavy, unsustainable urbanization.


However, opportunities do also exist for the relief and recovery operations to impact positively on the environment by laying the foundations for a more sustainable society once the recovery period moves into development.


By taking the environment into account during the design and implementation of humanitarian response, it is possible to both support the affected communities with sustainable livelihoods initiatives which also lead to environmental rehabilitation and future protection. Such examples include recycling wastes into fuel briquettes thus reducing a driver to deforestation and reusing debris to make gabions for flooding and landslide protection schemes.


Considering the importance of robust environmental approaches being adopted in the early recovery activities of any humanitarian response, the Global Cluster for Early Recovery (GCER) has taken a proactive step towards mainstreaming and integrating environmental aspects and opportunities across the Early Recovery Cluster as a multi-dimensional issue. GCER has developed 4 guidance on Mainstreaming Environment in Early Recovery. 

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5.     Early Recovery and Emergency Presponse Preparedness (ERP)

Inter-Agency Emergency Response Preparedness (ERP) is an action-oriented approach to enhance readiness for humanitarian response. The ERP approach seeks to improve effectiveness by reducing both time and effort and enhancing predictability through establishing predefined roles, responsibilities and coordination mechanisms. The ultimate objective is an effective response to those in need. ERP is particularly focused on the country level. The ERP process can be applied to any emergency management/humanitarian coordination mechanism/structure.


The IASC ERP approach has three inter-related levels of action:

Inter-Agency - This level builds the over-arching framework to guide the collective action of all potential humanitarian responders, including sector/cluster groups and individual agencies. Ideally, governments would lead. Where this is not feasible, the UNCT/HCT should ensure appropriate coordination between the different stakeholders, in particular between overall international and national coordination structures.

Sector/Cluster level - This level of planning is used when there is likely to be more than one agency involved in the provision of assistance in a functional area. This situation is the norm, especially as far as international responders are concerned. Whenever possible, leads of functional areas within the international response system should closely coordinate with corresponding government functional lead counterparts.

Organisation specific - The ERP approach does not direct the form of Agency level planning and procedures. To increase coherence, however, agency planning should be aligned with Sector/Cluster and joint planning.


Preparedness measures taken prior to a crisis assist in making the response more timely, more appropriate to the context and, in some cases, more cost effective. Where possible, Emergency Response Preparedness (ERP) actions foresee emergencies that are likely to occur and pre-plan key components of a response. Though plans will need to be revised if the event happens, preparedness makes it possible to respond faster, more appropriately and efficiently, and to make decisions on the basis of more reliable information. All three levels are closely linked, with Agency and Sector/Cluster levels supporting and, at the same time, being supported/coordinated by the Joint level.


As mentioned above, the Inter-Agency Emergency Response Preparedness (ERP) is an action-oriented approach to enhance readiness for humanitarian response, i.e. for both relief and early recovery.


An example of putting ERP into action at the country level was the response and support from UNDP to the Haiyan typhoon in the Philippines. UNDP received funding support from the government of Australia to be applied towards ERP and DRR initiatives as part of the Early Recovery process. UNDP took an innovative approach by combining the best of both ERP and DRR outcomes by supporting the placement of 15 DRR advisors at the community level in areas of the country that are disaster prone and susceptible to a recurrence of calamity if and when another cyclone strikes the country.


By taking this approach the DRR advisors were able to both prepare the communities for possible future emergencies while reducing their risk and vulnerabilities to shocks and disasters.

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6.     Strategy Development

Former humanitarian strategy processes tended to focus on the plan as the major outcome, rather than a shared understanding of a collective preferred future to inform action today, and the process that creates the preferred future: the strategic destination.

A Joint Environmental Scanning is a careful monitoring of an organization's internal and external environments for detecting early signs of opportunities and threats that may influence its current and future plans.

Situation Analysis – Assessments - Humanitarian Needs Overview - Planning Assumptions

Tools for Analysis - External environment: PEST Analysis – Internal environment: SWOT Analysis


A Joint Strategic Thinking needs to be structured. It takes not only organizational resources, but people’s time and energy, all of which are under constant pressure in our organizations today. We need to get a lot smarter about the process, so that our strategy and our plans are more robust into the future.


A Joint Strategic Decision Making identify collectively the nature of the response that is required in response of the scale of the emergency. Concentrate minds on a limited number of agreed objectives, and indicate factors that may condition their achievement.

  • Make decisions under uncertainty.
  • Build adaptability into collective decisions.
  • Provide leadership to mitigate the effects of cognitive biases.
  • Use tools to improve organizational and sectoral decision making.


Common Strategic Statement – Common Strategic Objectives – Sectoral Strategic Objectives

Tools for identifying, prioritizing and understanding your Stakeholders: Stakeholder Analysis: Winning Support

Tools for reaching consensus for better decisions: Stepladder Technique; Multi-Voting; Nominal Group Technique; Delphi Method;


A Joint Strategic Planning is the articulation and elaboration of strategies, or visions, that already exist (Mintzberg).

  • Agree on sectoral context specific criteria to prioritise activities and projects. 
  • Activity Prioritisation – Project Prioritisation
  • Tool for Prioritisation: Prioritisation Tool Technical Note


The inputs section – where we ask ‘what is happening out there?’ is the home of environmental scanning.  The scanning informs the thinking that goes on before decisions are made.


Then the FORESIGHT process takes place – this is the home of strategic thinking.  The Analysis step says what seems to be happening out there that is relevant for us?


The Interpretation step says what do those things mean for us? What’s important and what’s not? Finally, the prospection step, the step most organisations miss, says what are the alternative future outcomes of what we are seeing in the external environment – what might happen?

The Strategic Thinking Process (Maree Conway)












If you go straight from Interpretation to Outputs, your strategy might work for a few years, but when the world changes around you, your plan will have to be tossed out, and you’ll have to start all over again.  Not a good use of anyone’s time and resources.

Needs and capacity assessments provide the evidence base for the Humanitarian Programme Cycle and the information to define the strategic objectives of the response. Needs assessments provide information on the needs of particular groups in specific locations and therefore also determine the staffing and resource requirements of a response.


All humanitarian actors engage in needs assessments. In order to enable inter-agency and inter-sectoral planning it is important to coordinate assessments so that they are conducted jointly or through a harmonized approach.


In a joint assessment process no organization is considered the ‘owner’ of the data and the information and analysis generated is shared and available to all humanitarian stakeholders. Where a harmonized assessment approach is taken, agencies are encouraged to make both data and the resulting analysis available to all stakeholders. All organizations have a duty to inform and engage whenever possible with national and subnational authorities and the affected populations throughout the needs assessment process. 

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When a rapid onset natural disaster strikes the multi-sector initial rapid assessment (MIRA), a coordinated needs assessment process, is the first step in the humanitarian country team’s emergency response. Based on its findings, humanitarian actors can develop a joint strategic plan, mobilize resources and monitor the situation and the response. The MIRA process is underpinned by an analytical framework that guides the identification of information needs and the systematic collection, organisation, and analysis of secondary and primary community-level data.


An inter-agency MIRA is implemented through a phased process of secondary and primary data collection, joint analysis and reporting that takes place in the first two weeks following a rapid-onset natural disaster.


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The Humanitarian Programme Cycle stipulates that protracted response operations should commence with a Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) followed by a Humanitarian Response Plans (HRP) and regular periodic monitoring reports (PMR) with each step informing the next.


All three steps make up a single process with the primary purpose of providing the humanitarian country team (HCT) with decision-making support and a management tool for response.

The humanitarian needs overview is intended to describe the overall humanitarian dimensions of a crisis situation including the agreed priority humanitarian needs. It replaces the needs analysis section of previous CAP documents. It is based on information derived from secondary/existing data, multi-cluster and sectoral assessments, monitoring information and expert knowledge.


The humanitarian needs overview is informed by clusters/sectors sharing and collating this data and information and developing a joint analysis.


The development of the humanitarian needs overview is not dependent on the availability of uniform and high-quality data – in many countries data will be partial or incomplete. Part of the process should include identifying information gaps that can be subsequently filled by assessments or strengthened monitoring systems. Significant information gaps and plans to fill these should be highlighted under the assessment planning section in the template.


Depending on the context, some countries will have the means to undertake more extensive and rigorous needs analysis, while others face more constraints.

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In recent years, the UNDP-EU partnership has deepened in the area of so called Post Disaster Needs Assessments (PDNA). In 2008, the EU, the World Bank and the UN signed a joint declaration committing to collaborate and develop a common approach to post-crisis needs assessments and recovery planning. The joint declaration covered the assessments needed after a conflict (PCNA) and after a disaster (PDNA).


The PDNA is a government-led exercise with the support of the EU, the UN system and the World Bank, bringing together national and international stakeholders to align recovery efforts in a coordinated way.


The PDNA collects information on economic damages and losses, and the recovery priorities - including the human development needs of the affected population - into a single consolidated assessment report. This information is used as a basis for developing a comprehensive recovery framework, which will guide the design and implementation of early and long-term recovery programmes and to help determine international development assistance needs.


UNDP and EU work with the World Bank to strengthen the methodological basis of these assessments create capacities within the international community and partner governments for the conduct of PDNAs and continue to advocate for the importance of coordinated and well costed recovery strategies for the countries that we serve. Further information can be found on the websites of: UNDP, The World Bank and the EU. 

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There is a growing recognition in the humanitarian sector that in an emergency, cash transfers and vouchers can be appropriate and effective tools to support people affected by disasters in a way that maintains dignity and choice for beneficiaries while stimulating local economies and markets. The ERA should be aware of and have a good understanding of the dynamics of Cash Programming.


The aim of the Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP) is to promote appropriate, timely and quality cash and voucher programming in humanitarian response, so that humanitarian agencies can become more effective at meeting the diverse needs of affected people. For more information on Cash Programming, please refer to CaLP.


When undertaking cash programming it is also important to have sound knowledge of the markets in which agencies are operating. In addition to general macro-economic data of the country and the region that agencies are working in, some organizations carry out specific Emergency Market Mapping and Analysis, which provides pointers and direction – e.g. for cash programming.  The Emergency Market Mapping and Analysis (EMMA) tool has been developed for Oxfam GB and International Rescue Committee UK (IRC) by Practical Action Consulting to enable more appropriate emergency and early recovery responses by enabling agencies to undertake essential market analysis.


The rationale for EMMA is that better understanding of the key market-systems in any given situation could enable humanitarian agencies to consider a broader range of responses. These responses might include cash based interventions, local procurement and other innovative forms of support to market actors (e.g. traders) that enable programmes to make better use of existing market-system capabilities. This could lead to more efficient use of humanitarian resources, as well as encouraging recovery and reducing dependency on outside assistance. Also, there is a growing realisation that unless our responses are designed with a good understanding of key market-systems, they may inadvertently damage livelihoods, jobs and businesses; thus undermine recovery and prolong dependence on outside assistance.


The Emergency Market Mapping and Analysis Toolkit (EMMA toolkit) site is very useful.


To read more about market analysis in emergencies, click here.


UNDP conducts regular labour market analysis as part of its employment programming, an example from Bhutan can be found on this link.  

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Response planning is a management tool to help the humanitarian community do a better job – to focus its energy, to ensure that organizations are working toward the same goals, to assess and adjust the humanitarian community’s direction in response to a changing environment.  The process is “strategic” because it involves being clear about the longer-term goals and the medium-term objectives, being aware of the resources and capacity, and incorporating both into being responsive to a dynamic environment.


The process is about planning because it involves setting goals, developing an approach to achieve those goals, and assigning responsibility as much as possible.


Response planning is ultimately a set of decisions that shape and guide what the collective response operation is, what it does (and will not do), and why it does it, with a focus on the future. 


As it is impossible to do everything that needs to be done, strategic planning requires exclusion of various possible actions, and prioritization of some actions among the selected ones.  Much of the “strategy” lies in making the tough decisions about what is critical to do and how to do it.  All aspects of planning should aim to advance the protection of affected populations. 

A Flash Appeal (FA) is ideally based on a contingency plan and provides an initial assessment of the scope and severity of an emergency, and an initial understanding of the required response. Based on a review of secondary information by the HCT, led by the RC/HC, it draws on baseline information gathered during the preparedness phase. It sets out an initial planning framework for response operations and the initial funding requirements in support of donor decision-making.


It is primarily a response management tool, although it is acknowledged that donors will be secondary beneficiaries and that it will support resource mobilization. It sets the direction of the Humanitarian Response Plans, which will be completed 30 days later.  The activities of the Flash Appeal are planned for 90 days and can be rolled over to the Humanitarian Response Plans.


A Flash Appeal is issued three to five days after a large-scale emergency starts or a L3 is declared.


The Purpose is:

  • To establish an initial analysis of the situation (within 72 hours)
  • To inform/support better in-country decision-making
  • To build broad support for the response
  • To outline the collective/joint response
  • To guide following assessments and primary data collection
  • To support fundraising and mobilisation of resources



The Flash Appeal sets out:

  • An initial analysis of the situation
  • A preliminary review of the capacity to respond, gaps in response and complementarity with other responders
  • Coordination architecture of the response, showing how organizations, agencies and donors will cooperate with national authorities to achieve the response’s objectives
  • Strategic objectives, drafted in cross-sectoral language, that indicate (to the extent possible) how vulnerabilities will be addressed
  • Summary activities under each strategic objective including a first estimate of funding requirements. The funding requirements can be presented as sum of projects, or crude requirements per activity. 

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Humanitarian Response Plans (HRP) are required for any humanitarian crisis requiring the support of more than one agency, and are prepared by humanitarian country teams (HCTs) based on humanitarian need overview.


The Humanitarian Response Plans articulates the shared vision of how to respond to the affected population’s assessed and expressed needs. The Humanitarian Response Plans is a management tool for response and supports decision-making by the humanitarian country team. It has two interlinked components: a country or context strategy, with strategic objectives and indicators; and cluster plans, with objectives, activities and accompanying projects. Together they detail how the strategy will be implemented and how much funding is required.


A HRP defines priorities, gaps and accountabilities and includes detailed funding requirements. It is developed through an inter-agency process which reviews the needs, outlines the boundaries of the response, and sets priorities within those boundaries. The plan can be of any duration required, including multi-year, and for protracted crises it can follow a non-calendar year approach in order to take into account a country’s hazard cycle or harvest.


The Humanitarian Response Plans should inform decision-making at national and sub-national levels and within clusters/sectors.


The Humanitarian Response Plans is completed on the basis of in-depth needs analysis and assessment data. In the case of large-scale sudden onset crises, a Humanitarian Response Plans should be completed 30 days after the Flash Appeal has been issued.


The Purpose is:

  • To set priorities and confirm the overall objectives of the humanitarian response
  • To articulate the parameters of the response
  • To provide cluster/sector funding requirements
  • To make clear how each area of work will be coordinated, and to ensure more effective coordination
  • To provide objectives, indicators and targets for monitoring progress
  • To indicate how the response will provide a path into recovery


The Humanitarian Response Plans contains:

  • An explanation of the strategy, a description of its scope, and priorities.
  • The cluster/sector and inter-cluster/sector mechanisms needed to coordinate the response.
  • Strategic objectives with indicators.
  • Links to existing development plans in-country for ongoing crises, as appropriate.
  • Analysis of cross-cutting and specific issues, including protection risks and threats.
  • Analysis of risks and constraints and how the HCT and clusters/sectors will address them.
  • Cluster/sector response plans.

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Multi-year planning is a central component of the New Way of Working and the Grand Bargain, and it plays an important role in enhancing the humanitarian-development nexus. In 2017, seven countries put in place a multiyear humanitarian response plan (MYHRP) or strategy (MYHS). These are Cameroon 2017-2020, Chad 2017- 2019, CAR 2017-2019, DRC 2017-2019, Somalia 2016-2018, Haiti 2017-2018, and Sudan 2017-2019. Drawing on the lessons learned and good practices from these and previous experiences, this tip sheet provides some recommendations and advice to countries embarking on this process.


A multi-year humanitarian response plan (MYHRP) is a tool for planning and coordinating the delivery of humanitarian aid in protracted crises over several years. It differs from a traditional Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) in its focus on establishing a response strategy beyond one year. A MYHRP can facilitate a more effective humanitarian response, with protection at its core, through more predictable and realistic/appropriate operational arrangements and a greater focus on the sustainability of results. It also facilitates enhanced complementarity with development assistance and frameworks. A MYHRP considers the impact that humanitarian and development assistance are expected to have over time in contexts where crises are likely to continue over the medium to long term, or in contexts where there is a clear scope to accelerate the exit from humanitarian assistance by planning on a longer timeframe. A MYHRP should be based on a protection and gender analysis, as integral elements of the joint analysis in the HNO, and it should identify clear protection objectives for the collective to work towards protection outcomes.


To be successful, a MYHRP requires complementary development action to be at-scale, including at the local level, and target the most vulnerable people. This would contribute to breaking the cycle of dependence on humanitarian assistance and allow for a phased transfer of caseloads and/or gradual phase-out of humanitarian aid, whenever appropriate, from the MYHRP to government or development support (such as through the UNDAF). In many cases, this may require more risk tolerance, earlier engagement, and more flexible and context-adaptable programming by development actors.


Multi-year planning does not solicit humanitarian partners to implement development plans or programmes. Rather, it encourages them to collaborate more effectively with development and other partners at the analysis and planning stages, and to advocate for development partners’ earlier or staggered engagement in crisis contexts, to address the structural and chronic causes of humanitarian needs. This will ultimately allow humanitarian partners to better define the boundaries of humanitarian assistance. Given longer decision and implementation cycles for development programming, a MYHRP also offers development actors a longer time window within which to interact with humanitarian programming processes and, where possible, adapt development programming over time.


Planning across multiple years can provide some benefits to humanitarian operations and their impact on the ground, depending on the context. Among others, MYHRP can:

  • • Foster synergies between humanitarian and development assistance (and where appropriate, with peace support) and, ultimately, the transfer of the humanitarian caseload to development or government programmes, when appropriate.
  • • Reduce transaction costs for implementing humanitarian partners, by facilitating more predictable and realistic/appropriate operational arrangements.
  • • Reduce workload on country teams during the second and/or third year of the MYHRP, as a light update/adjustment of the MYHRP may suffice, should the planning scenario remain unchanged.
  • • Protection is central to humanitarian action and a MYHRP offers the opportunity of operationalizing protection over a multi-year time-frame working more coherently with development and human rights actors who will be responding to some of the underlying causes of protection risks. 

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Early recovery has been identified as a key cluster in recognition of the urgent need to develop coordinated recovery-related interventions contributing to a smoother transition between emergency relief and development assistance, including a more efficient use of resources, and integrate risk reduction measures at the very early stages of emergencies and beyond.


This is in line with efforts such as the Good Humanitarian Donorship Initiative, for example, which includes amongst its general principles the need to provide humanitarian assistance in a way that supports recovery and longer-term development, striving to ensure support to the maintenance and return of sustainable livelihoods and transitions from humanitarian relief to recovery and development activities; and the Fragile States Initiative, which recommends looking beyond quick-fix solutions to address the root causes of state fragility.


The importance of increased efforts by the international community to address risk reduction needs and opportunities in early recovery is also underlined in the Hyogo Framework for Action.


One of the GCER core function is to enhance a global-level capacity able to effectively support the HC/RC at country level in strategically planning Early Recovery at the very early stages of emergencies.


Based on a mapping and analysis of existing capacities for early recovery among Cluster members, the following areas were identified as gaps at global level that need to be addressed on a priority basis:

  • Development of tools and methodologies for early recovery planning and programming;
  • Fast, predictable mobilization of technical expertise through rapid deployment capacity;
  • Integrated programming of humanitarian and recovery-related interventions;
  • Knowledge management;
  • Inter-agency agreements for GCER members.


The Humanitarian Coordinator/Resident Coordinator (HC/RC) has the lead responsibility for ensuring early recovery issues are adequately integrated in the humanitarian programme cycle at country level in cooperation with national actors, with the support of an Early Recovery Advisor working on inter-cluster early recovery issues.


The Early Recovery Advisor will support Humanitarian Coordinators from the onset of a crisis on early recovery strategic planning, prioritization and coordination, advocacy with national authorities, donors and other partners on early recovery issues, supporting information management and monitoring, and shaping funding strategies for the early recovery elements of the humanitarian response. The Early Recovery Advisor will also assist the Resident Coordination functions by linking early recovery to the broader recovery agenda, (e.g. through identification of strategic entry points for building sustainable institutions and systems); and will contribute to the work of the Country Team in strengthening national authorities and partners.


In order to focus on delivery of results, a flexible approach should be adopted for coordinating inter-cluster early recovery at the national level, using existing inter-cluster humanitarian coordination fora rather than creating new ones for coordinating early recovery as a component of the humanitarian response. The GCER stresses the importance of the involvement and leadership of the national actors in the coordination mechanism where possible.


Furthermore, depending on how ‘local level’ is defined, the idea of an ad hoc coordination structure, or no structure at all, if too cumbersome, could be a feasible approach as long as the spirit of coordination and the principles behind early recovery are maintained. Therefore inter-cluster coordination at the local level need not (and probably should not) mirror coordination at the national level.


Together with the integration of early recovery into the work of country clusters, the HCT identifies if an additional coordination body needs to be created locally to meet specific early recovery needs (e.g. livelihoods recovery, community infrastructure, restoration of local governance) which would not be covered otherwise.


The HCT in consultation with the global cluster lead for Early Recovery should determine the name of this coordination arrangement according to the issue being addressed and designate an agency with the appropriate capacity and presence to lead it, whose role would be confirmed by the ERC during the cluster activation process. That agency would be accountable, as a cluster lead agency is, for support to that work in the country.


The cluster approach, as the standard coordination mechanism for responding to large-scale complex and natural humanitarian emergencies requiring a multi-sectoral response, was never envisaged as a suitable mechanism for coordinating recovery and development.


As the affected area emerges from the humanitarian emergency, clusters should be phased out or transitioned into structures which are more appropriate for the evolving context.


The Cluster Coordinator for Early Recovery is responsible for facilitating a process at the sectoral level aimed at ensuring the following:

  • Establishment and maintenance of effective coordination mechanisms
  • Preparedness and capacity development
  • Needs Assessment and analysis, prioritization and planning
  • Integration of cross-cutting issues
  • Application of standards, guidelines and good practice
  • Information management, monitoring, evaluation and reporting
  • Advocacy
  • Resource Mobilization


The Cluster Coordinator will be responsible for developing of the Cluster’s action plans and monitoring their implementation. The Cluster Coordinator will ensure that the action plans are coherent with the priorities outlined in the overall early recovery strategic framework developed by the GCER with the support of the Early Recovery Advisor. 



7.     Early Recovery Programming

Early Recovery programming enables plans and strategies to be translated into concrete actions that support affected populations to regain their way of life, assets and capabilities with enhanced resilience to future disasters. It builds on people’s spontaneous efforts to cope, recover and rebuild after a disaster.


Early Recovery programmes encompass specific interventions to help people move from dependence on humanitarian relief towards sustainable development. They usually start in the emergency phase, are the key element in the stabilization or consolidation phase in post-conflict settings, and wind down as national institutions take over the direction and guidance of development programming.


Typically (but not exclusively), Early Recovery programmes address issues of livelihoods, governance and basic infrastructure repairs and rehabilitation and capacity-building. They are implemented by different agencies and coordinated through different clusters.


An early recovery programme should display some or all of the following features:

  • Builds on emergency assistance programmes to ensure that their inputs become assets for longer term recovery and development.
  • Addresses the underlying causes of the crisis.
  • Builds the necessary foundation required for managing the recovery effort, for example, by rapid restoration of lost capacity at the local government level in the crisis affected area.
  • Strengthens existing capacities of local authorities to manage/coordinate crises, for example, through training programmes on local governance responsibilities.
  • Strengthens state capacities to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of the people and promotes legal, institutional, and policy changes that can have a quick impact on the performance of local authorities and communities – by filling resource, authority and responsibility gaps, for example.
  • Strengthens the immediate or basic capacities of communities to cope with the crisis, for example, through training of affected populations on construction techniques that would allow them to reduce the risk of further loss from disasters.
  • Focuses on activities that prepare for the return of displaced communities, for example, repair of minor infrastructure such as small feeder roads and bridges to permit access to markets and access to abandoned housing or farming plots abandoned as a result of the crisis.
  • Focuses on providing services for returning communities, such as water and sanitation, education, health, etc.
  • Supports local initiatives to revive livelihoods, through for example agricultural restoration.
  • Provides security, for example through mine action interventions, and confidence building for communities, such as policy dialogue with police, civil authorities, etc.
  • Pays attention to sustainability and equality, and includes communities in shaping and implementing activities.
  • Mainstreams peace-building and reconciliation activities, through for example, facilitation of dialogue among communities and reintegrating populations.
  • Links into local-level early recovery coordination mechanisms, which are supported by a strong interagency coordination mechanism for agencies supporting service provision at the local level, with a clear allocation of roles and responsibilities.
  • Utilizes inter-cluster coordination and interdependence of elements according to the partners’ mandates.


The guiding principles for Early Recovery are summarized in the table below:

Support Pack Contents

UNDP has developed a series of Signature Products which provide practical guidance for the rapid design of short-term early recovery projects by UNDP Country Offices and their partners for immediate implementation in (post) crisis contexts in coordination with the other actors involved in a common early recovery approach. They address areas of need specific to the emergency setting which can pave the way to a faster transition to full recovery and development. These include:



Guidance Note on Debris Management

How to plan, design and implement a short-term project that swiftly links governments and communities in the assessment, clearance, recycling and management of debris following a significant national catastrophe.










Guidance Note on Emergency Employment and Enterprise Recovery

How to plan, design and implement a post-crisis emergency employment and enterprise recovery project that supports governments and communities following a significant national catastrophe.












Guidance Note on Community Infrastructure Rehabilitation

How to plan, design and implement a short-term project that swiftly links governments and communities in the assessment, repair and reconstruction of essential community infrastructure such as local roads, bridges, irrigation canals, schools, health centres and markets.













8.     Implementing Early Recovery across Cluster

Early Recovery cuts across all sectors whether in conflict or natural disasters, or refugee or IDP settings, concerning displacement, return or reintegration.  Early Recovery is a broad process that relates to development concerns and issues in a humanitarian setting.  This could mean maintaining stability as much as possible in the midst of a crisis (supporting market systems, livelihoods, returning lost assets rapidly to affected communities, conflict sensitive programming).  It means bringing national and local authorities into the response as early as possible.  This provides the platform for recovery to start rapidly after the crisis and for communities to be more resilient to a crisis.


Early Recovery can also minimise interruptions in the development process if done correctly – integrating good preparedness measures, early warning and disaster risk reduction prior to a crisis, responding quickly to empower communities immediately after a crisis, and linking the emergency humanitarian response to longer term objectives to ensure continuity. All these issues are relevant to all clusters and underpins the importance of integrating early recovery into the work of all clusters.

The first step in drawing up cluster response plans is to hold an inter-cluster meeting. Use this meeting to clarify how clusters jointly respond to strategic objectives. Starting out with a collaborative approach can facilitate actors to work closely together throughout the process.


Each cluster then develops a plan, which corresponds to the overall strategy and outlines the cluster’s plans for protection mainstreaming. Cluster coordinators convene partners and other relevant actors to determine cluster objectives in light of the strategic objectives, and identify activities, which will fulfil the cluster objectives.


Subsequently, clusters finalize the cluster objectives, list activities and agree on a division of labour as the basis for coordinated project planning (see next section). Circulate the cluster objectives, along with their indicators and activities to partners for comments, before finalizing the individual cluster plan for presentation to the inter-cluster coordination group and the HC/HCT for review. 

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Based on the strategic objectives and the humanitarian needs overview, each cluster agrees on three to five cluster objectives, and activities to be carried out within the timeframe of the plan. Apply agreed boundaries in order to set the limits of cluster objectives and determine the number and categories of people to be reached. Findings from the joint analysis section of the humanitarian needs overview and the response analysis can be reintroduced here to help establish boundaries (geographic, needs-based, or other).


Make sure that cluster objectives articulate the outcome or result that the cluster intends to achieve. For example, “Incidence of communicable diseases reduced among IDPs living in x, y, z” (this is results-oriented). Avoid formulating Cluster objectives as activities. Activities are described separately under each cluster objective. The outcome-level objectives are accompanied by up to three specific, measurable indicators with accompanying targets and relevant baselines. At least one indicator should be at the outcome level. Outcome indicators demonstrate that the achieved short- to medium-term effects of a cluster’s collective outputs are being achieved. 

Develop activities that correspond to the analysis of needs and concerns of the affected people. Specify the actions, beneficiaries, locations and targets necessary for each cluster objective. This makes the Humanitarian Response Plans more concrete, and justifies the accompanying projects.


Let the following also guide the development of activities:

  • Set out the approach and actions required to ensure the neutrality, impartiality and independence of the response.
  • Set out “do no harm”, and “build back better” aspects of the response strategy, promote environmental sustainability, and ensure a focus on the most vulnerable when formulating activities.
  • Create activities that respond to the distinct needs of women, girls, boys and men. Justify any focus on one of these groups.
  • Cluster activities should be informed by the results of the assessments jointly carried out with affected populations and in line with an age, gender, diversity approach
  • Cluster activities should be informed by an environmental analysis to both integrate in environmental factors impacting on affected populations into planning and ensure that activities do not exacerbate existing environmental problems.
  • Ensure linkages across clusters where needed for multi-sectoral response (e.g. in a cholera response or community-based activities)
  • Activities do not need to be strictly “life-saving” although “life-saving” should certainly be the priority. They can also support response operations (e.g. coordination), or avert irreversible harm in a time-critical way (e.g. crop pest prevention).
  • Design resilience-and early recovery enhancing activities, which enable communities to resist future shocks and which reduce dependence on aid. Early analysis can lead to the development of activities for the protection of livelihoods.
  • Keep an overview of activities planned by all the partners within your cluster and seek synergies with other clusters to the extent possible to avoid duplication, ensure a holistic response plan and to ensure even coverage.
  • Be explicit about the approximate proportion of men, women, boys and girls who will benefit. This sets a basis for demonstrating that an activity will address the identified needs of different groups.

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Make sure to link cluster objectives with at least one outcome indicator and to link cluster activities with output indicators.


Cluster indicators, targets and baselines should help measure results or changes that affect beneficiaries, rather than processes, workload or functional statistics (e.g. number of meetings held, internal trainings implemented, reports produced). The exceptions may be the emergency telecommunications and logistics clusters, which sometimes need to measure material enablers (e.g. number of radios installed).


As part of the effort to mainstream Early Recovery across clusters and into the steps of the Humanitarian Programme Cycle, the indicators of the Registry have been assessed with an aim to identify those that can assist in measuring progress on Early Recovery. This has been a qualitative exercise, however, the process has been kick started and can be further refined. The 16 Guiding Principles on Early Recovery have served as a barometer for the exercise. Where an indicator speaks to half of the principles it has been marked “Early Recovery”. This can enable colleagues in the field to search the Registry for ER-oriented indicators across clusters and assist them in picking useful ones to measure strategic plans and programmes. The identification of ER oriented indicators can be further refined within clusters at global and country level.   

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“Successful practices for the integration of Early Recovery in humanitarian response are found to be context specific, with key variables depending inter-alia on: the type of crisis, the capacity and leadership role played by clusters and governments, the existing resilience of affected communities, and the pre-crisis engagement of the international community.”


The IASC Principals have requested clusters (with the exception of ETC and Logistics) to integrate early recovery into all the different phases of the Humanitarian Programme Cycle (HPC) as the foundation for strengthening resilience in a crisis or post-crisis context.


In this chapter good practices in addressing cross-cluster Early Recovery integration will be explored, including: 

  • Quickly identifying context-specific recovery needs and being able to deliver appropriate technical coordination and capacity from the global level;
  • Ensuring that basic services contribute to strengthened resilience and are expandable to meet the needs of displaced and other affected groups in a durable manner;
  • Taking a cross-cluster approach to livelihood programming, including through increasing use of unconditional cash transfer programming;
  • Focusing on community resilience to respond to recurrent shocks: Engaging development actors into the overall coordination as well as integrating preparedness for future emergencies in response action;
  • Supporting governments to maintain or re-establish services, including to ensure stability; and, support governments to deliver quality programmes, integrate and promote international standards and guidelines.


It also considers good practice, and some challenges, where a dedicated cluster has been established to handle coordination on Early Recovery issues not covered by other clusters, including:

  • Debris clearing and recycling;
  • Dealing with the explosive remnants of war;
  • Restoration of Local Governance and Re-establishment of Service Delivery;
  • Stability and social cohesion;
  • Non-agricultural livelihoods.


The following illustrated examples are drawing from the findings from a recent inter-cluster review; good practices and challenges of early recovery integration in recent crisis settings, collected from selected focus countries encompassing a range of complex emergency, natural disaster, epidemic and ‘L3’ emergencies:

  1. Philippines (Typhoon Haiyan)
  2. Sudan
  3. Iraq      
  4. Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) response (Focus country: Liberia)

“The success of an early recovery approach requires an early shift in internationally led response to one that is led and managed by national authorities, and that aligns with national policies. All clusters must be ready to do this intentionally and systematically wherever and whenever appropriate."


The following snapshots describe recurrent themes relating to efforts in Early Recovery integration in recent crisis settings in 2014:

Quick identification of the context-specific recovery needs, then ensuring appropriate technical coordination and capacity available from the global level:

The Global Shelter Cluster has built its whole approach and strategy around early recovery, acknowledging that for affected people the shelter recovery process starts immediately at the onset of the crisis.

To this end a Shelter in Recovery Working Group was established in 2014 at global level to support country level shelter cluster coordination with guidance and best practice, including on linkages with Early Recovery Advisors.

In the case of the Philippines, specific expertise was deployed early on in the crisis to look at identified early recovery issues, specifically: a dedicated environmental advisor to address the issue of coco lumber and its role as an impediment and opportunity for recovery in supporting reconstruction; and, a dedicated housing, land and property advisory team to address regulatory barriers faced by affected households. Operationally, specific guidance was developed on shelter recovery, along with the roll out of a safe shelter construction campaign. A coco lumber working group was also established as a joint initiative of the Shelter and Early Recovery clusters.


Ensuring that basic services are contributing to strengthened resilience and are expandable to meet the needs of displaced and other affected groups in a durable manner:

In Sudan, the Education cluster - in tandem with the Government - has been encouraging durable solutions and ‘building back better’. In particular, the Education Cluster has been supporting the Ministry of Education to integrate work on Education in Emergencies into broader sector planning processes and financial forecasting, work which is also being backed by the World Bank. The Ministry has established an Education in Emergencies Unit at Federal and State level.

Also in Sudan, given the strain on ageing WASH infrastructure, especially in areas with high IDP concentration, the WASH cluster strategy has a strong resilience focus – in line with one of the overall HRP Strategic Objectives. The WASH cluster also has an objective relating to inter-cluster action in supporting durable solution strategy locations for IDPs and others.

In the Philippines, the WASH cluster considers that the response integrated a fundamental Early Recovery approach from the outset of the emergency, in that it supported government to re-establish systems. Ensure local authorities and partners engage in a constructive and experiential learning approach to improve disaster preparedness and resilience in the future. Reconstruction and rehabilitation activities were often supported through cash for work and other cash-based initiatives boosting the livelihoods of affected people. The nutrition cluster also ensured that efforts to support community management of acute malnutrition had capacity building dimensions, working with existing national capacities where possible.

In Iraq the WASH cluster supports the government through its efforts to ensure municipal water and waste systems are available and maintained in IDP hosting areas, contributing to durable solutions for IDPs. 


Taking a cross-cluster approach to livelihood programming, including through increasing use of unconditional cash transfer programming:

In support of Livelihoods in EVD affected countries, the Food Security cluster established a quantified ‘survival deficit’ for households that lost their workforce during the crisis, addressed through unconditional cash transfers. Other cash and food for work initiatives were designed to protect productive assets, with further cash or agricultural/ livestock inputs provided to restore livelihoods and assets lost during the crisis.

Under the rubric of Basic Infrastructure and Rehabilitation, the Food Security cluster addressed food conservation and reduction of post-harvest losses through the provision of community or household managed silos, cereal conditioning bags, conditional cash transfers and technical support; In-country transformation capacity to replace external supply through the provision of food processing machinery (e.g. cassava mills, rice hullers, oil processing machinery) and technical training; Strengthen the availability of agricultural products in the market by providing transport vouchers, facilitation of commercial relationships inside the different value chains (e.g. joint FAO/WFP Purchase from Africa to Africa approach) and organization of agricultural products fairs in zones with poor food access.

In Iraq the Food Security Cluster led development of a livelihood early recovery plan for major returnee areas.

In the specific case of Liberia recovery planning was supposed to be resting with the UNCT / HCT, which was seen as very detached from the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), leading to two parallel structures, looking at two different things: 1) Ebola emergency side and 2) peace keeping mission, economic and non-health impacts. The actual reporting lines for newly established clusters was not clear in the initial stages of the response, though care was taken to not establish duplicative structures vis-à-vis established, country-level coordination forums. From December the Inter-Cluster Coordinator role was actually assumed by an Early Recovery Advisor, convening the group to consider what might be done - post-Ebola - with all of the committed financial and logistical resources (motor bikes, machinery, etc.), and including the hundreds of newly trained health workers. The Liberia inter-cluster coordination group became a de-facto ER inter-cluster coordination group, meeting fortnightly to plan for the coming year on recovery in non-health domains, including around future employment for the trained health care workers, getting the banking system working again, and supporting (cross-border) trade. An interagency Ebola Recovery Assessment was conducted jointly by UNDP, WB, EU & ADB.


Focus on community resilience to respond to recurrent shocks

In Sudan the Nutrition cluster worked with communities to enhance participation and leadership to withstand recurring, predictable shocks, whilst also ensuring an expansion of multi-sectoral nutrition services.


Engaging development actors into the overall coordination as well as integrating preparedness for future emergencies in response action;

In the Typhoon Haiyan response the Education cluster engaged development actors early in coordination, in particular to work on preparing for future emergencies with a specific focus on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).

In Iraq, whilst the Health cluster didn’t elaborate a specific early recovery objective within the HRP framework, it was able to relate existing programming in capacity building support to government in ‘Preparedness, Surveillance and Response’ which became increasingly relevant due to the crisis. This longer-term programme is part of a UN Inter-Agency Iraq Public Sector Modernization development strategy and is partly cost-shared by agencies with government.

Several clusters found that the application of an Early Recovery approach into programming can be more expensive than solutions that only address short-term needs; in the Philippines an initiative by the shelter and education clusters - initial temporary learning shelters - was modified to ensure the structures would be resilient to future hazards.


Supporting governments to maintain or re-establish services, including to ensure stability:

Responding to EVD the Education cluster considered the reopening of schools as a key early recovery priority, and indicator of a return to normalcy. The Cluster supported the development and roll-out of the ‘Protocol for the Safe Opening of Schools’ in partnership with governments, with the objective being to limit the risk of EVD transmission and ensure preparedness for potential new outbreaks. The Protocol entails specific details on teaching and classroom management, and improvements in the physical school environments.

Also in the EVD response, the WASH cluster supported governments in their efforts to maintain and re-establish WASH infrastructure in general, and in particular in state facilities such as health posts and schools, without which they could not have reopened. Supporting the government to maintain infrastructure in urban areas with increased population was also seen as a way of preserving stability.

It was also noted that in Guinea in particular, the withdrawal of some development actors active in the sector triggered a slowing down with regards to the implementation of a number of ongoing projects and led to increased needs.

In Iraq the Education Cluster strategy focused on supporting the government to provide quality education in a protective environment to crisis affected people, and to prepare for future crises.


Support governments to deliver quality programmes, integrate and promote international standards and guidelines:

The Global Protection Cluster shared examples from a range of contexts concerning documentation – in particular around the appropriate issuance of identity documents. It was noted that across multiple clusters, early recovery success in this domain happened when international and national actors focused on the longer-term were able to engage; often only at the stage of clusters being de-activated and ‘solutions stakeholders’ being identified. Examples given include the engagement of programmes supporting birth registration or census efforts, plus those engaged in technical support to governments on the rule of law.

In the Philippines the Nutrition cluster worked to fill gaps identified by government, and in to support the government in maintaining national programmes, including with advocacy relating to the ‘National Milk Code’.

In Sudan the Nutrition cluster work with government on three common projects: Community Management of Acute Malnutrition, Infant and Young Child Feeding, and Micronutrient Deficiency Prevention and Control. The strategy is to improve treatment services; the availability of drugs, therapeutic and supplemental food; and, adherence to guidance through training, community linkages and monitoring.


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Based on the local context and needs, and following a gap analysis, the Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator (RC/HC) may recommend a cluster be established with a specific focus on an identified thematic area not covered by other clusters.


These clusters are to be named according to their specific thematic areas of focus such as ‘Social Cohesion and Livelihoods’ cluster in Iraq, an ‘Early Recovery and Livelihoods’ cluster in the Philippines, and a ‘Recovery, Return and Reintegration’ sector in Sudan. (In this context it was agreed that ‘Livelihoods’ would relate to non-agricultural livelihoods; agricultural livelihoods being covered by the FSC.)


Whilst a range of diverse issues was covered through the work of these clusters, some interesting common good practice themes emerged. In a number of cases these clusters were convened and worked to enable the rest of the humanitarian response as well as recovery efforts in 2014:


In the Philippines, cluster partners worked in a coordinated manner to assist the government to reach out and support the participation of local communities in the clearance and management of rubble and debris following the storm. Debris clearing and recycling of debris activities resulted in renewed access and the restoration of schools, hospitals, health care units, municipal halls, day-care centres, roads, drainage canals, dump sites and other public places including churches and public markets. Whilst not a focus country, the example of the Occupied Palestinian Territories also warrants a mention, where cluster partners have been working on rubble removal and the explosive remnants of war to enable further response and recovery following the latest conflict in Gaza.


The restoration of Local Governance and re-establishment of Service Delivery in post-disaster contexts was another core thematic area identified by cluster partners. The Government of the Philippines was supported in a) developing a participatory recovery plans that set out the priorities of the communities in order to strengthen their resilience and b) restoring the functionality of local government units in typhoon-affected regions to lead and deliver recovery, e.g. critical public service delivery for the affected populations; this also included the setting up of local level grievance mechanisms to work towards the peaceful resolution of any conflicts over issues such as land and/or resettlement


Stability and social cohesion was a recurrent theme for these clusters; in addition to Iraq and Sudan, Yemen and Myanmar also made use of similar coordination forums. In Iraq, the cluster focussed on ways to take account of the complex social fabric, recognizing the extremely volatile situation, in particular between displaced and host communities. This was done through promoting dialogue between different groups – encouraging ‘humanization and communication’; and, working to protect livelihoods, income and public services in a context where the consequences of large numbers of displaced arriving has been daily labour rates going down, prices (rents) rising and petty crime increasing. Response has included activities to promote sustainable livelihoods for vulnerable host communities and IDP families, including access to credit, grants, cash assistance, market assessments and vocational skills training, handled through transparent selection mechanisms for beneficiaries and regular communication with affected groups.


In terms of livelihoods work, cluster strategies in many countries have included cash-for-work emergency employment, cash injections and the purchase of local materials and services, providing crucial relief to many households of the affected population; efforts that have had a significant multiplier effect, stimulating local economies and restoring purchasing powers.


In the case of the Philippines, the loss of livelihoods was mainly due to infrastructure damage, lack of market access and disrupted cash flow. Many micro, small and medium enterprises were destroyed or unable to continue, with assets lost and capital depleted. The immediate early recovery objective was to help individuals return to normalcy by providing much-needed livelihoods through immediate short-term employment for debris-clearing activities (see example above) and the repair and reconstruction of public infrastructure and urban economic structures. Following the immediate response the focus switched to providing more sustainable sources of income, e.g. through skills training and support for enterprise recovery with the aim of gradually giving men and women decent work and an alternative source of income (business) that they can own and manage themselves. Some beneficiaries received food stalls made of coconut lumber (recycled, coconut lumber), or received cash grants that they can use to start their small food stall vending business running.


In the Philippines, the establishment of the Cluster also presented some challenges in terms of delineation of livelihood activities with the Food Security and Agriculture Cluster (FSAC). Ultimately it was agreed that farming and fishing based livelihood programming would be covered by FSAC, with the ER Cluster covering non-farming livelihoods. The cluster was co-lead by UNDP with ILO – with strong government engagement. In Sudan the sector was co-chaired by government.


In all cases where clusters were established respondents noted that it was crucial to ensure adequate coordination and planning with other related clusters, in particular Food Security (agricultural livelihoods) and protection (relating to the rights of individuals and families, versus inter-communal concerns on social cohesion issues).

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9.     From Strategic Planning to response Monitoring

Linking the HNO to the HRP, the response analysis is perceived as the core of needs based Humanitarian Response Planning. A response analysis follows the review, validation and analysis of the needs. It means deciding what to do, once the HC/ HCT has an understanding of needs and of the operational context within which they are working. It also requires an analysis of the causes of the problem, the “why”, in order to decide on an appropriate response.


Consider undertaking response analysis during the strategic planning workshop.  The response analysis helps establish boundaries such as time, geographical focus and assumptions, based on the feasibility of different response options, which in turn form the basis for development of strategic objectives and indicators for a country strategy.

In line with the country strategy, the clusters are responsible for developing cluster plans including a log frame for implementation and for subsequent monitoring.





10.     Response Monitoring

Humanitarian response monitoring is a continuous process that records the aid delivered to an affected population as well as the achieved results against the objectives set out in the Humanitarian Response Plans. It tracks the inputs, and the outputs resulting from interventions to affected populations; charts the outcomes of cluster activities; and measures progress towards the objectives of the Humanitarian Response Plans.


The aim is to establish whether aid is actually delivered to affected people as intended. The preparations for response monitoring are integral to the process of developing the HRP and as such carried out at the drafting stage of the HRP. Response monitoring preparations have strong repercussions at three levels of the HRP process: 

  • • strategic level monitoring, when selecting indicators and setting targets for measuring achievement against the strategic objectives;
  • • cluster level monitoring, when selecting indicators and calculating targets to accompany cluster objectives;
  • • project level monitoring, when selecting indicators and defining targets for capturing the outputs of cluster member activities.


The agreements on each level serve as basis for all monitoring efforts and reporting throughout the HPC cycle.


The chart below illustrates the key information elements pertaining to all three steps: joint needs analysis, strategic planning and response monitoring. It conceptualises how the operational element informs strategic information, starting with assessment data and reports expose the primary needs and shape strategic objectives, and progressing to how these subsequently inform cluster objectives, activities and projects, objectives, and progressing to how these subsequently inform cluster objectives, activities and projects, matched by corresponding levels of monitoring.


 The purpose of response monitoring is:

  • • To provide humanitarian actors with the evidence they need to take decisions and adapt short and long-term strategies.
  • • To ensure that organizations involved in the response remain accountable to affected people, national authorities, donors and the general public.


Monitoring information will be used to examine what was delivered versus the resources allocated, and what was actually achieved versus what was planned, to identify areas which are not sufficiently covered in the response and analyse how and why any gaps have occurred. The monitoring information will equip the clusters, inter-cluster coordination group and HC/HCT with the evidence to make decisions on improvements of action and effectively mobilise resources.


Monitoring is performed in three stages:


Preparing - The clusters and inter-cluster coordination group prepare their monitoring plans and monitoring framework alongside the Humanitarian Response Planning and cluster response planning. At the end of the preparation stage a humanitarian response monitoring framework will be established and a framework document endorsed.


The monitoring framework document broadly defines what will be monitored; how and when; who is responsible for monitoring and analysis; how and when monitoring information will be reported; what key actions will be taken; and what resources are necessary for successfully monitoring the humanitarian response. The document contains clusters’ monitoring plans.


Monitoring - The monitoring framework is applied continuously, throughout the implementation of the Humanitarian Response Plans, as laid out in the country’s monitoring framework. Humanitarian actors will undertake monitoring exercises and report against agreed upon indicators; clusters and the inter-cluster group will aggregate data and compare actual results to targets set for cluster objective and strategic objective indicators determining if they are on target; and finally the clusters and OCHA, on behalf of the inter-cluster coordination group, will make monitoring information available through different channels: reports, websites, etc.


Reporting - Based on its needs and capacities, each country should set its own report schedule when preparing the monitoring framework. The data on the collective response will be made available for inclusion in a host of public reports with a focus on the periodic monitoring report, where monitoring findings are analyzed and presented with a set of recommendations for any corrective action.  This report is an internal management tool intended to help HCTs regularly examine whether sufficient progress is being made in reaching strategic and cluster objectives. It is designed to aid in determining why any objectives are not being met and provides an evidence base for taking decisions about the direction of the response.  The report provides a structure to: analyses changes in context and needs; consider progress against the objectives and indicators contained in a Humanitarian Response Plans; provide an update on funding received versus financial requirements; identify constraints and gaps, and consider possible courses for corrective action, if required.

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11.     Information Management

Quality information management is a priority for effective early recovery coordination and programming at all stages of the response. Evidence gathered from secondary or primary sources, and used or communicated effectively, can:

  • Demonstrate the need for early recovery interventions and what capacity already exists;
  • Provide baselines for early recovery against which progress is measured;
  • Inform decision making on whether a separate cluster should be activated for specific early recovery activities or whether they can be addressed through existing coordination mechanisms;
  • Inform the humanitarian programme cycle, strategic planning, advocacy, resource mobilisation products, identifying gaps both for mainstreaming early recovery across all sectors and to identify a need for specific early recovery projects;
  • Ensure that interventions remain relevant and are being implemented in the most appropriate way;
  • Demonstrate the impact of Early Recovery across the humanitarian response and through specific interventions to raise awareness of its added value, and to demonstrate the contribution to resilience strengthening.


Sex and age disaggregated data (SADD) is a pre-requisite to understanding the nature of differences between men and women, boys and girls¡` needs and capacities, so that appropriate responses could be designed, which build on coping mechanisms particularly for the very young, the very old and vulnerable women.


Emergency responses provide opportunities to upgrade/introduce national information management systems and to introduce good practices, including the protection of data which can guarantee the rights and safety of individuals and populations. The methods used to collect, store and use data should align with good early recovery practice, to contribute to enhanced national IM systems and practices.


Ideally, the activation of an L-3 emergency requires the immediate deployment of an Early Recovery team comprising an ERA, a Cluster Coordinator (when activated) and an Information Management Officer (IMO) as an integral part of the Inter-Agency Rapid Response Mechanism (IARRM). A dedicated IMO would support the cluster coordinator, particularly, but not limited to, preparing early recovery mapping, analysing data from needs assessments and response, and preparing data analyses for reports such as the Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) or the Periodic Monitoring Report (PMR).


An IMO in support to an ERA would be an asset in producing information products that represent how the humanitarian response, generally, is integrating the early recovery approach.


In order to support Information management, GCER has developed an IM toolkit, available here.

The toolkits respectively aim to improve the flow of critical coordination information during an Emergency response, and to enable the flow of critical information during the response to development and government partners.

Each toolbox is made up of different toolkits, depending on who you are (Information manager, not an information manager working within an ER (or similar) cluster), what phase you are operating in and where you are working. Each Toolkit consists of key tools, each of which are linked to a briefing page and a short webinar; support tools, which may not always be used but might be of interest, and analysis tools, which are highly recommended for use and will enable better use of information for decision making, but may not be relevant to every humanitarian crisis.

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12.     Resources Mobilization

Donors who support the Good Humanitarian Donorship Agreement have pledged to "Provide humanitarian assistance in ways that are supportive of recovery and long-term development, striving to ensure support where appropriate to the maintenance and return of sustainable livelooods and transitions from humanitarian relief to recovery and development activities (Good humanitarian Donorship Principles 9).


The mobilization of resources for Early Recovery interventions remains a significant challenge. In addition to the widespread challenge of a shortage of humanitarian funding in relation to funds requested in humanitarian appeals, Early Recovery faces the additional challenge that institutional barriers between humanitarian and development financing mechanisms will need to be addressed systematically in order for funding to be released for activities which do not fit easily into either funding source. Despite the existence of pooled funds such as the CERF, CHF and ERF, the most commonly-used fund-raising tool remains bi-lateral donor assistance to NGOs and /or UN agencies and is much higher than any pooled funds made available.


To address these challenges, Early Recovery actors should:

  • Demonstrate that Early Recovery represents a better use of funding, rather than additional funding. Early Recovery interventions are ‘time critical’ and provide a better return on investment over time than simply meeting immediate needs;
  • Focus in funding proposals on issues which are both critical for life-saving and supportive to recovery;
  • Use language in proposals which reflects donor priorities and indicate connections with life-saving activities which are HRP;
  • Use evidence of the value added of Early Recovery approaches and standalone interventions to support funding proposals;
  • Advocate for multi-year funding whenever possible, and – wherever possible – back this with evidence to show that recovery, and particularly interventions aimed at supporting durable solutions;
  • Follow the Phased Approach for Early Recovery Programming as a tool for resource mobilization;

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13.     The role of the ERA in Negotiation

When we think of “negotiation” in a humanitarian context, we more often think of it through the lens of armed conflict and the process of negotiations undertaken by civilians engaged in managing, coordinating and providing humanitarian assistance and protection for the purposes of ensuring the provision of humanitarian assistance and protection to vulnerable populations; preserving humanitarian space; and promoting respect for international law.


The role of an ERA is to work across the entire humanitarian community and this will include engaging with all clusters (or as many as possible) as well as building alliances to support early recovery initiatives (advocating for early recovery is easier with a support base, than with a single voice).


In many contexts the ERA will also be required to leverage the potential for development actors to contribute to addressing a crisis. The ERA will need a high level of energy and dynamism to engage with such a wide array of actors and most importantly will need to be able to effectively negotiate.


In any context but specifically for an Early Recovery Advisor the best negotiators are adept at managing the chaos and uncertainty that a humanitarian crisis's presents. An ERA should never trap themselves with rigid plans and entrenched positions. Rather they should understand that negotiation is a process of joint exploration that requires continual learning, adaptation, and social awareness. A master negotiator’s grasp of these concepts gives you the ability to reach agreements where others would face impasse. The benefits of learning to negotiate as an ERA are: 

  • Better outcomes for both parties which result in a win-win situation;
  • Resolving differences of opinion without bad feeling;
  • A better understanding of other humanitarian actors aims, motivations and beliefs;
  • Better professional relationships providing the basis for future negotiation in a humanitarian context.



14.     Evaluations

As part of the Transformative Agenda, the IASC Principals introduced the concept of an operational peer review as one of the five elements of the revitalized humanitarian programme cycle.


It is an internal, inter-agency management tool which identifies areas for immediate corrective action, early in a response. It is designed to be a light, brief process. The results are detailed in an internal document.


An operational peer review is forwarding looking, helping Humanitarian Coordinators (HCs) and Humanitarian Country Teams (HCTs) determine whether they need to adjust or improve the collective humanitarian response in order to meet its objectives or reduce gaps.


Generally, the review focuses on four areas:

  • Leadership arrangements;
  • Implementation of the other elements of the humanitarian programme cycle, namely coordinated assessments, Humanitarian Response Planning, resource mobilization, implementation and monitoring;
  • Coordination mechanisms;
  • Mechanisms of accountability to affected people.


An operational peer review is not a real-time evaluation, and it is not meant to measure results or the impact of the response. It is meant to serve as a “course corrector” for the particular response being reviewed.

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As part of these reform efforts, Inter-Agency Humanitarian Evaluations (IAHEs) of Large Scale System-Wide Emergencies have been introduced with a view to strengthen learning and promote accountability towards donors, national governments and affected people.


An IAHE is an independent assessment of results of the collective humanitarian response by member organizations of the IASC to a specific crisis. IAHEs evaluate the extent to which planned collective results have been achieved and how humanitarian reform efforts have contributed to that achievement. IAHEs are not an in-depth evaluation of any one sector or of the performance of a specific agency, and, as such, cannot replace any other form of agency-specific humanitarian evaluation, joint or otherwise, which may be undertaken or required.


IAHEs follow agreed norms and standards for evaluation that emphasize: 1) the independence of the evaluation team; 2) the application of evaluation methodology; and 3) the full disclosure of results. IAHEs have a clear scope (defined in the TOR and inception report) with regard to the period, geographic area(s) and target groups to be covered by the evaluation.

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Humanitarian actors now generally recognize the relevance of ER and resilience approaches. However, there has been no clear evidence to date about the added value of these approaches, i.e. the relevance of integrating ER-related aspects into humanitarian response. This is one of the obstacles that prevents ER programmes from being supported adequately. Besides, the current focus on accountability in the humanitarian sector (towards the affected population and donors) means that it is all the more important to provide evidence of the impact of programmes.


Both Operational Peer Reviews, Inter-Agency Humanitarian Evaluations and other evaluations of the response, need to include routinely whether and how the response has contributed to longer term recovery and smooth transition into development.  Findings will support the evidence base for the value of Early Recovery as well as informing any adjustments to programming which are necessary for progress on desired Early Recovery objectives.


It can often be challenging to determine if early recovery interventions have achieved their stated objectives later ‘down the line’.  Iterative evaluations are useful tools to show how interventions have had an impact over time.


The GCER, with the support of Groupe URD, developed and tested a new methodological approach to assess and measure Early Recovery during the humanitarian response. The measurement tool can essentially show and monitor the levels of resilience that have been attained over a certain period of time. Using a minimum set of indicators and value thresholds, the tool establishes priority objectives for recovery and measures to what extent these have been attained.

  • Contact the Global Cluster for Early Recovery for more information on the tool.



15.     Resilience

By being de facto involved in decades-long protracted emergencies, humanitarian actors have the responsibility to plan long term by helping strengthen resilient systems and therefore avoid recurrent relapses into crises.


The notion of resilience refers to the ability of a physical person, a household, a community, a country or a region to prevent, resist, adapt, recover quickly and bounce back better, stronger and safer following traumatic crises and shocks, in ways that improve long-term prospects for sustainable development. In a humanitarian context, communities and households are resilient when they are able to meet their basic needs in a sustainable way and without reliance on external assistance.


Strengthening resilience requires that emergency response addresses root causes as well as immediate needs. As they are short-term interventions that have a long-term impact by building back better, early recovery activities contribute to supporting the resilience of communities and individuals that have been affected and traumatized by a conflict or a disaster. Early recovery represents a better use of funding by providing a better return on investment over time than simply meeting immediate needs. It ensures that households and communities assisted during a crisis are at least as able to cope with another crisis afterward as they were before.


Even if this is not sufficient to help populations strengthen their resilience, early recovery is an essential part of the overall “resilience puzzle” including: global, regional and national mechanisms, development action, governments’ action, local communities and individuals’ actions. Early recovery approaches and interventions are the foundation of strengthening resilience during humanitarian response.



Resilience principles to be respected by humanitarian organizations

“With this view, advancing resilience must be guided by i) the prioritization of context and the building of support upon local and national capacities and drivers for resilience; ii) the respect for and the encouragement of local and national ownership and leadership; and iii) the focus of support on the most vulnerable and people at risk.  The design of resilience-promoting strategies and programmes must be iv) comprehensive, flexible, integrated and strategic; and v) informed by risk sensitivity and evidence based; with vi) the mobilization of strategic partnerships and multi-stakeholder cooperation.  All partners must vii) commit to long-term engagement; and viii) predictable and flexible financing. The ultimate outcome of resilience-building efforts should be ix) transformational and sustainable change, to minimize losses of lives and ensure that individuals and their societies are capable and well-resourced to respond better to future shocks and change.” UNDG/IASC Joint Principles on Resilience, 20 March 2015.


In this light, the following considerations need to be taken into account by humanitarians when designing their actions:

  • Resilience is built before, during and after crises by governments and populations.
  • As resilience is not an activity in itself but the result of a process, humanitarians do not bring resilience, they help governments and populations strengthen their resilience, mainly during the crisis. Development actors help them, mainly, before and after the crisis.
  • No generic resilience-strengthening programming should be expected to result. Programmes will be specific to their context and to the kinds of vulnerabilities which are being addressed.
  • Changing structural vulnerability will usually take time: seeking immediate and unrealistic outcomes may lead to disappointment and to give up on resilience.
  • Resilience goes well beyond possession of material assets, and depends on the interplay of factors.
  • Development actors should focus on building or rebuilding institutions. Humanitarian actors should focus on those who are currently outside or not well served by the systems and initiatives in place. Humanitarians should focus their actions on communities and individuals.
  • As the concept of resilience is linked to the notions of Gender and Accountability to Affected Populations, they should be integrated into humanitarian action in a similar way.
  • Actions to strengthening resilience do not stop at national borders: regional organizations should develop cross-border initiatives and promote regional integration.

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16.     Early Recovery and Disaster Risk Reduction

Humanitarian assistance is vital to reducing loss of life and suffering. However, emergency relief is not designed to address the underlying causes that resulted in the disaster, nor does it automatically stimulate rapid and sustainable recovery. In some situations, post-disaster relief efforts may even exacerbate the underlying causes of vulnerability and increase disaster risk.


Previously, recovery was often conceptualized and designed to return a disaster-affected community to pre-existing disaster conditions. This often led to rebuilding the conditions of risk that existed before the disaster, thus preparing the ground for future disasters. Recently policy makers and practitioners have begun to look beyond replicating the pre-disaster situation of communities. As a result the concept of “Building Back Better” is now part of the recovery lexicon within the humanitarian community. It is increasingly recognized that closer integration of early recovery activities with lifesaving interventions can lead to more sustainable interventions that will reduce disaster risk while simultaneously accelerating the recovery process.


The integration of Early Recovery and Disaster Risk Reduction as a unified concept into the Humanitarian Programme cycle can help strengthen community resilience to hazard events thus reducing the [Disaster] risk. This should include measures to reduce immediate risk, for example by locating shelters for displaced populations outside of flood-zones or in areas at lower risk from future hazards. It should also include actions to reduce threats to livelihoods and assets that will strongly impact a community’s ability to recover after a disaster.


UNDP recognizes that failing to build Disaster Risk Reduction into Early Recovery and longer-term development processes after a crisis could result in activities that either reinforce, or even exacerbate risk. UNDP is committed to integrating Disaster Risk Reduction into its national strategic planning processes with Governments.

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