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
In addition to strategically engaging with the RC/HC, senior NGO representatives can seek to become RC/HCs themselves. The first NGO representative to be accepted into the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) Pool was in 2006. Since then, 2 more NGO representatives have been deployed as RC/HCs. NGOs have increased the number of qualified applicants that they submit annually for consideration into the HC Pool. In 2014 four NGO representatives were accepted. Upon deployment they are employed by UNDP.
Upon designation of new HCs, as well as selection of new RCs in countries of humanitarian concern, OCHA organizes on-boarding meetings in Geneva, Rome and New York for incoming HCs (and RCs) to become acquainted to their stakeholders. Those on-boarding programmes include systematically meetings with NGO partners active in the country of deployment. This is a good opportunity to engage with RC/HCs and increase their understanding of NGOs.
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.
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.
 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.
Humanitarian NGO coordinating bodies or consortia are a part of the architecture in that, where they exist, they have a seat on the Humanitarian Country Team. Humanitarian NGO coordination, while recognized as an invaluable service to the broader humanitarian community, does not automatically occur in the same manner that other parts of the architecture are activated, such as a cluster. Often country-specific decisions play a role in determining how the NGO community should best represent itself.
Humanitarian NGO coordination frequently begins as a voluntary gathering of senior NGO leaders until funds can be raised for a formal secretariat.
For recent guidance on issues and areas to consider when undertaking NGO coordination and when setting up an NGO coordination body please click here.
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.
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.
Operational NGOs should be referenced as implementers within sit reps and other external response documents except under circumstances where it may put implementers or beneficiaries at risk.
Civil society actors, local NGOs, international NGOs, UN agencies, host government and the private sector can engage in coordination and leadership mechanisms within the humanitarian architecture in-country.