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.


What is the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) and what are the expected roles of different stakeholders?

The Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) is a strategic and operational decision-making and oversight forum established and led by the HC. Composition includes representatives from the UN, IOM, international NGOs, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement. Agencies that are also designated Cluster leads should represent the Clusters as well as their respective organizations. The HCT is responsible for agreeing on common strategic issues related to humanitarian action.[1]

The composition of the HCT directly impacts the effectiveness of the group to make strategic and operational decisions for the response. There is usually an inherent tension between inclusivity and manageability within the HCT’s composition.

In general an HCT should mirror the operational actors active in the response, with those around the table being representational of the humanitarian strategy and its key stakeholders. This should apply to UN agencies as well as to NGOs. It should not be assumed that all members of the UN Country Team (UNCT) are HCT members.

National NGOs are seen as critical to ensure linkages with civil society and as a key conduit for communication with affected populations. If there is an NGO or a national NGO-specific coordinating body that forum will facilitate a discussion on how best to represent the NGO/national NGO community at the HCT.

International NGOs, alongside national NGOs, are often seen as the lead implementers in humanitarian response. If there is an NGO coordinating body that forum will facilitate a discussion on how best to represent the NGO community at the HCT.

The role of host governments is highly contextual and tied almost exclusively to a reinforcement of the government’s roles as responder and coordinator of humanitarian action. In lieu of a seat at the HCT some effective HCTs opt to set a regular meeting between the HCT and government officials to get government feedback and support for humanitarian response.

The role of donors on the HCT, even as observers, is under debate. While the presence of donors on the HCT can be useful to ensure that priority programming is funded, it is also a consideration that donors can be a useful channel for advocacy. Moreover donors can encourage the HCT to take a firmer, principled stance and help keep HCT members accountable. Consider too that sometimes humanitarians need a space that is purely humanitarian; a space to discuss and air challenges.

For a recent InterAction study on NGO engagement on Humanitarian Country Teams click here.