Who is involved in the development of the humanitarian response plan?

The development of the humanitarian response plan is led by the Humanitarian Coordinator, is managed by the Humanitarian Country Team, supported by an inter-cluster/sector coordination group and clusters/sectors and includes a broad range of actors, including at the sub-national level with the participation of people affected by the crisis.


What is the planning/document/product sequencing in a protracted crisis situation?

Every Humanitarian Country Team will develop a planning calendar suited to their needs. The planning timeframe is flexible and can start at any point in the year.

In general by September a Humanitarian Needs Overview is developed. This then informs the development of the Humanitarian Response Plan (November but as agreed by the HCT). The Global Appeal is launched in December.

The frequency of response monitoring and reporting is determined by the HCT as well but the guidance recommends response monitoring and reporting on a quarterly basis, which should be used to adjust planning documents as necessary.

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 all decisions in an HCT made by consensus?

Reaching a general agreement on all decisions is ideal but not always realistic given the pace and volume of decisions that need to be made in humanitarian settings. The HCT should make decisions in a participatory, equitable manner within humanitarian country team meetings and those decisions should be noted for the record and shared with all members of the HCT.

In the case of Level 3 emergencies it is recognized that, “the HC can only be effective as a leader in an L3 emergency if the others within the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) recognize that leadership role and are empowered to meet their own responsibilities, and if actors within the humanitarian architecture abide by their already defined commitments, roles and responsibilities.”[1]

There are two “TA Protocols” that address empowered leadership; the “Concept Paper on ‘Empowered Leadership’” and “Responding to Level 3 Emergencies: What ‘Empowered Leadership’ looks like in practice.”

[1] IASC Transformative Agenda Reference document, “Concept Paper on ‘Empowered Leadership’” March 2014. http://www.humanitarianinfo.org/iasc/pageloader.aspx?page=content-template-default&bd=87

What is the difference between an HCT and a UNCT?

The UNCT comprises all heads of UN agencies and IOM, whereas the HCT includes only relevant heads of UN agencies as well as non-UN humanitarian actors. The HCT addresses strategic issues of the wider humanitarian community whereas the UNCT focuses on UN concerns. The HCT and the UNCT coexist and do not replace each other.

The Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) is a strategic and operational decision-making and oversight body established and led by the HC to lead and coordinate international humanitarian assistance in support of existing national efforts. It is not an inclusive forum but rather includes only operationally relevant agencies, be they UN agencies, funds and programmes, IOM, international and national NGOs, and the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement. Some HCTs include donors. Agencies that are designated Cluster leads represent both their Cluster and their organization in the HCT.

In the absence of a designated HC, and in case of a humanitarian emergency, the RC is responsible for setting up and regularly convening a HCT, inclusive of all operationally relevant actors, including non-UN organizations.

The UN Country Team (UNCT) is led by the Resident Coordinator and is the principal coordination and decision-making body of UN agencies. The main purpose of the UN Country Team is for individual UN agencies to plan and work together to ensure the delivery of tangible results in support of the development agenda. In countries where there is no on-going humanitarian emergency, the UNCT, under the leadership of the RC, is responsible for preparedness and contingency planning by UN agencies at country level.

In a humanitarian crisis the HCT is the lead strategic and operational decision making body, in close collaboration and consultation with the host government. In the event that a crisis occurs in a country without an HCT then one will be formed. Until it is formed the UNCT will coordinate with the host government.

How is it determined which NGOs can attend the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT)?

The HCT is composed of relevant organizations that undertake humanitarian action in-country and that commit to participating in coordination arrangements. These organizations may include UN agencies, IOM, national and international NGOs and, subject to their individual mandates, components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The HCT’s main membership criterion is operational relevance.[1]

When forming or re-invigorating a Humanitarian Country Team (HCT), the Humanitarian Coordinator should ask NGOs to nominate NGO representatives to the HCT.

There are a variety of models currently in use to determine how many and which NGOs represent the NGO community in the HCT; it might be an annual election, the membership may decide that the coordinating body’s advisory or steering group attends the HCT. In some countries it is a matter of what member is able to attend the HCT meetings. Often the NGO coordination body coordinator or chair will attend the HCT meeting with the selected or elected NGO representatives.

If there is not a formal NGO coordination body then consider a series of meetings with senior NGO leadership from a diversity of responding agencies (small, medium and large NGOs that cover the thematic and geographic scope of the response) to determine the best mechanism for effective NGO representation.

For more information on effective NGO engagement in humanitarian country teams click here.

[1] IASC Handbook for RCs and HCs on Emergency Preparedness and Response 2001, page 36.

See also IASC Guidance for Humanitarian Country Teams 2009, page 2.

What are some indicators of an effective HCT?

Every Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) is different but a few general indicators that the HCT is working together to provide strategic response guidance may include:

  • The HCT is an inclusive forum for strategic, high level dialogue where all members feel that they can raise concerns and that their concerns are respected and heard by other members.
  • HCT member and their constituencies are clear on and understand the decisions made by the HCT.
  • The Strategic Response Plan is defined by the HCT and used as a tool for planning and implementation by the humanitarian community.
  • Accountability to affected populations is a regular discussion topic.