Who are HCTs accountable to?

HCTs have a wide range of accountabilities. Please note that this is not reflective of reporting lines but general responsibility and good practice to communicate and be consultative.

At the country level to:

  • Affected populations
  • Host government
  • Constituencies including cluster members, partners, NGOs that do not directly attend the HCT.

At the global level to:

  • Agency headquarters
  • IASC Emergency Directors

Are there still clusters in a refugee response?

In a refugee response the lead coordination agency is UNHCR. UNHCR, in consultation with partners, will determine the need for and scope of sectorial coordination.

Sectors are intended to connect to government-led, area-based development mechanisms where possible, and to come together at operational coordination meetings. The number of sectors should be as few as possible and should seek a solutions and self-reliance orientation from inception. There may be different configurations at capital and field levels depending upon the context.

Although the specific context/situation will determine which sectors are established, provision should be made for: Education; WASH; Health/Nutrition; Shelter/NFIs; Food/Food Security and Livelihoods/Self Reliance.  The Refugee Protection Working Group will be established in all situations, led by UNHCR, or co-led with the relevant host government entity, where feasible. The sectors and Refugee Protection Working Group are brought together in a multi-sector approach by the UNHCR Refugee Coordinator, supported by the multi-sector operations team. Regular meetings will be held to ensure that the multi-sector approach is coordinated and delivered smoothly.

Sectors may be coordinated by government ministries when feasible. If the ministry is not the coordinator, UNHCR and partners will coordinate or co-coordinate the sector based on established criteria. Coordination will be decentralized and based in the specific geographic areas where refugees or other persons of concern are residing.

How is it determined if the government is part of the cluster?

The government is the primary responder. They may not, however, have the capacity or human resources to coordinate the broader humanitarian community in-country. Typically the government is part of the cluster either as a partner or part of the leadership.

There are instances where the government is a party to the conflict and/or a combatant. In these circumstances the best mechanism to ensure effective government engagement will need to be considered.

Who can you talk to if a cluster is not working?

Start with the NGO coordinating body; see if there are common concerns shared by others. If you feel that you cannot communicate concerns with the Cluster Coordinator directly then reach out to the Cluster Lead Agency (CLA) Representative. If unsuccessful or if it would not be advantageous to reach out to the CLA Representative then raise concerns with OCHA. If these avenues fail then consider approaching the HC about it directly as well as one of the global NGO consortia, ICVA, InterAction and SCHR who can reach out to the global cluster coordinators.

What is the purpose of sub-national cluster coordination?

Sub-national coordination occurs when national coordination is decentralized and clusters/sectors are established in zones of special operational importance. Structures may be established at more than one administrative level if required (in both provinces and districts, for example, as in Pakistan), though it remains a firm underlying principle that the number of coordination structures should be minimized. Sub-national coordination is critical when responses take place in remote areas (such as parts of Sudan) or extend over a large territory (as in DRC).[1]

Humanitarian operations that employ national and sub-national clusters have been found to be more effective than ones that coordinate through a single national cluster. Though sub-national coordination structures may vary across regions, they should facilitate decentralized decision-making and shorten response time. They are also in a better position to

  • Adapt standards to local circumstances.
  • Work closely with local authorities and international, national and local NGOs.
  • Implement the strategic plan, and cross-cutting and multidimensional issues.
  • Strengthen accountability to affected people.

Assessment and strategic planning start at sub-national level. Different regions may have different needs and therefore different strategic objectives and prioritization.[2]

[1] Reference Module for Cluster Coordination at Country Level, page 13.

[2] IBID

What is inter-cluster coordination?

Inter-cluster coordination is a cooperative effort among sectors/clusters and the HCT to assure coherence in achieving common objectives, avoiding duplication and ensuring areas of need are prioritized.  Inter-cluster coordination takes places at the national and sub-national level to coordinate the implementation of the response through each step of the humanitarian program cycle.[1]

Guided by the HCT, inter-cluster coordination provides a platform for clusters to work together to advance the objective of delivering assistance to affected people effectively and efficiently. It does this by encouraging synergies between sectors, ensuring roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, closing potential gaps and eliminating duplication.  Inter-cluster coordination may also take the form of small groupings of related clusters meeting to address a particular challenge (e.g. a cholera outbreak). Inter-cluster coordination plays a central role in facilitating the development of the Strategic Response Plan (SRP) and assures a coherent and coordinated approach to planning and operationalizing the shared strategic objectives as set out in the SRP.[2]

The RC/HC and HCT, supported by OCHA, determine the shape and functions of inter-cluster coordination during a crisis.

[1] Please see the Reference Module for Cluster Coordination at Country Level page 17.

[2] The strategic objective itself and the humanitarian context will determine which sectors are needed for its achievement.  Some strategic objectives may require contributions from all clusters and others a more limited group and should be determined through inter-cluster discussions with all clusters.  Smaller groups of clusters, potentially supported by members of the HCT, may come together to discuss specific strategies for and periodically for monitoring of their achievement, although all clusters and the HCT need to be aware of progress and challenges to ensure the appropriate overall linkages as necessary