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The Office for Humanitarian Affairs

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© UNHCR / M. Luchtmeijer

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Established in 1991 as an entity within the United Nations Secretariat, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) supports mobilization, funding and coordination of humanitarian action in response to complex emergencies and natural disasters.

OCHA is headed by the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC), a position currently held by Valerie Amos. The ERC oversees the coordination of UN humanitarian assistance for complex emergencies and natural disasters. The ERC also acts as the central focal point for governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental relief activities.

The relationship between UNHCR and OCHA goes back to the early 1990s and is extremely broad, ranging from engagement in the UN's cluster approach for internal displacement crises to establishing common mechanisms of humanitarian coordination.

UN system-wide reform of the past decade has seen the development of the cluster approach as well as new tools for humanitarian financing. These pillars of reform have enabled UNHCR, OCHA and their humanitarian partners to develop closer coordination relationships, both at the field and global level.

However, it is primarily through the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), the mechanism for determining inter-agency coordination, that UNHCR and OCHA interface; creating and developing products on which IASC members rely on for normative and practical guidance in areas such as needs assessment; information management; early warning and preparedness; gender and humanitarian action; and common advocacy efforts.

OCHA also manages the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) - a pooled funding mechanism for UN humanitarian agencies to draw upon. UNHCR is able to access this fund for its country level operations.