Cablegate: Usaid/Dart Humanitarian Coordination Overview of Haiti


DE RUEHPU #0134/01 0380041
O 070039Z FEB 10



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: USAID/DART Humanitarian Coordination Overview of Haiti

REF: PORT A 0054; PORT A 0058; PORT A 0060

1. (U) Summary. Following the devastating impact of the 7.0
magnitude earthquake in Haiti on January 12, the international
humanitarian community has made significant progress in
establishing humanitarian coordination structures and responding to
needs in Port-au-Prince and other affected areas. The U.N. Office
for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that
more than 400 aid agencies are actively operating in the country,
with varying degrees of experience and capabilities. USAID
Disaster Assistance Response Team (USAID/DART) staff highlight the
critical role of the internationally-recognized humanitarian
cluster system in coordinating response efforts. To address the
challenges associated with the magnitude of the disaster and the
logistical, security, and environmental conditions in Haiti, clear
humanitarian leadership, strategic analysis, and demonstrated
commitment to the cluster coordination system is required. End

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2. (U) In past international responses to humanitarian crises,
some sectors have benefited from having clearly mandated lead
agencies, while others have not, resulting in ad hoc, unpredictable
humanitarian responses, and contributing to capacity and response
gaps in some areas. Following an extensive review of the
humanitarian system in 2005, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee
(IASC) agreed to implement a sector-specific cluster approach as a
way of addressing gaps and strengthening the effectiveness of
response efforts. USAID, through the Office of U.S. Foreign
Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), has provided substantial monetary
and technical support to all pillars of the global and
country-specific humanitarian reform efforts over the last four
years and has been actively engaged in the policy discussions with
the U.N. and other donors.

3. (U) Clusters provide a forum for humanitarian organizations to
coordinate response efforts by sector, such as health, nutrition,
shelter, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), and are led by
designated agencies with relevant technical expertise. The cluster
system seeks to ensure greater predictability and accountability in
response efforts, while simultaneously strengthening partnerships
between NGOs, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent
Movement, and U.N. agencies. Application of the cluster system has
contributed to significant progress on a range of issues, including
broadened partnerships with NGOs; agreement on common sector
standards, tools, and guidance; development of common training
modules; creation of common stockpiles; and development of surge
deployment rosters. Clusters operate at both a global and field
level and have been rolled out in 25 countries to date. At the
field level, while agencies are responsible for individual cluster
performance, the overall architecture of the system and strategic
guidance comes from the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator.

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4. (U) Immediately following the earthquake, the U.N. deployed a
U.N. Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team (UNDAC) to initially
coordinate the arrival of search and rescue and other assistance.

As surge staff from various U.N. agencies arrived, UNDAC
transitioned to individual U.N. agency emergency operations and the
cluster system. Within the U.N. structure for Haiti, the Acting
Special Representative to the Secretary General (SRSG) is supported
by two deputies, including the Acting Principal Deputy to SRSG
(DSRSG) responsible for political and field operations with the
U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and a second DSRSG
responsible for humanitarian and development issues. However, the
second DSRSG for humanitarian and development issues simultaneously
serves as the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator, Resident Coordinator,
and Resident Representative for the U.N. Development Program
(UNDP). USAID/DART staff highlight that the quadruple-hatting of
the DSRSG has caused significant concern among donors and aid
organizations who emphasize that the magnitude of the current
crisis necessitates full time leadership on humanitarian issues.

5. (U) Mandated to mobilize and coordinate effective and principled
humanitarian action, OCHA activated twelve sector-specific clusters
within the first ten days following the crisis. The active
clusters include: Camp Coordination and Camp Management;
Education; Emergency Shelter and Non-Food Items; Food Aid;
Logistics; Nutrition; Protection; WASH; Agriculture; Early
Recovery; Emergency Telecommunications; and Health. Ten
international humanitarian agencies and the Government of Haiti
(GoH) are currently serving as led agencies managing the twelve
clusters. OCHA has also established field coordination offices in
Leogane and Jacmel to facilitate cluster coordination and is
considering other field locations depending on identified needs.
In addition, the humanitarian community has established six
"shadow" clusters in logistics and telecommunications, health,
emergency shelter, WASH, nutrition, and protection in the Dominican
Republic to coordinate support services for Haiti operations.

6. (U) The cluster system has been instrumental in vetting and
prioritizing critical needs and addressing coverage in gap areas.
Representatives from the various GoH line Ministries are also
beginning to participate in cluster meetings or in some cases,
actually lead the cluster as in the case of the WASH sector, with
heavy support from U.N. agencies. Beyond each of the twelve
general cluster meetings, cluster participants have also
established a series of working groups to focus on specific areas
of concern, such as camp management and site planning or child

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7. (U) The volume of humanitarian actors on the ground, including
a significant number of well-intentioned groups that arrived with
little to no experience in humanitarian response, has created
extensive challenges for coordination. Agencies or individuals
that have sought to rush and respond to an individual hospital,
church group, or community without coordinating with the
operational humanitarian actors on the ground and through the
cluster system have often served as an impediment to effective
response efforts and in the case of distributions, have sometimes
caused confusion or chaos. All agencies repeatedly underscore the
need for a "pull" factor of goods, services, and personnel based on
need, rather than a "push" factor of assuming what is needed from
abroad. A key challenge to the legitimate humanitarian actors on
the ground has been dealing with massive quantities of unsolicited
commodities and well-intentioned organizations who do not take the
time to coordinate.

8. (U) The U.N. and humanitarian actors on the ground, including
the USAID/DART, strongly urge well-intentioned groups abroad to not
send donations-in-kind - unless explicitly requested - to prevent
further clogging of the critical humanitarian pipeline and
associated delays. Many of these in-kind donations are not
appropriate or needed by affected communities. Consistent messages
from all humanitarian actors is that "cash is best" to support the
Haitian people. All U.S. Government (USG) agencies are strongly
urged to convey this message to the public whenever special
requests are made for the USG to facilitate transport and
distribution of donations from the U.S. to Haiti.




9. (U) Four key levels of coordination among humanitarian actors
are taking place within Haiti linked to the cluster system: 1) NGO
coordination, 2) U.N. country team coordination, 3) the U.N.
Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and military
coordination, and 4) donor coordination, which all feed into the
international cluster system.

--- NGO Coordination---

10. (U) Most NGOs operating in Haiti are participating in the
cluster coordination structure, due in large part to a consistent
message from the U.N., donors, other NGOs, and the GoH that if
agencies want to be involved in the response, participation in the
coordination and planning structure is critical. USAID/OFDA is
also funding a NGO coordination group through the U.S.-based NGO
advocacy consortium InterAction to facilitate better communication
among NGOs, create linkages and partnerships with local Haitian
organizations unfamiliar with the international humanitarian system
(details forthcoming SEPTEL), and ensure that key NGO issues of
concern are heard.

---U.N. Coordination---

11. (U) The U.N. also coordinates through the U.N. country team
comprised of all operational U.N. agencies. Normally activated
during a crisis, a Humanitarian Country Team (HCT), under the
leadership of the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator is an important
component of the humanitarian coordination structure. The U.N.
activated the HCT in Haiti during the week of February 1. The
Haiti HCT is comprised of heads of agencies from seven U.N.
agencies, seven lead NGOs, InterAction, and the International
Federation and chaired by the Humanitarian Coordinator. The
objective of the HCT is to ensure that humanitarian organization
activities are coordinated at the strategic level; provide guidance
to cluster lead agencies; and ensure that humanitarian action
in-country is principled, timely, effective, efficient, and
contributes to longer-term recovery. The USAID/DART views the HCT
as an important tool to constructive ongoing dialogue with
humanitarian actors under the leadership of the HC and has
officially requested that key humanitarian donors also be included
on an exceptional basis.


12. (U) On January 26, MINUSTAH, in coordination with OCHA and
other key partners, established a Joint Operations and Tasking
Centre (JOTC) to facilitate the provision of military assistance
from the broad range of military forces present in Haiti, including
the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the U.S.
Military, and other international military forces, to NGOs
operating in Haiti. The JOTC, composed of representatives from
OCHA, MINUSTAH, other international militaries, and the USAID/DART,
is intended to serve as a centralized coordinating body for the use
of military assets for logistics support, security assistance, and
technical assistance in support of humanitarian relief operations,
enabling country-wide coordination to avoid duplication of support

13. (U) Requests for military assistance with transport of
humanitarian commodities or other support is vetted through each
cluster lead and will only be considered if endorsed by the cluster
and no other U.N. humanitarian assets are available. As a matter
of principle, military assets will only be used as a last resort.
USAID/DART staff comment that the structure continues to evolve.
[Note: The USAID/DART is part of the JOTC, participates in
planning meetings, and when an intervention is deemed appropriate
by the cluster and the U.S. is best placed to provide support, the
USAID/DART then clears the formal request and provides a tasking to
the U.S. military to implement. End note.]

---Donor Coordination---

14. (U) Key humanitarian donors, including USAID represented by
the USAID/DART, European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO),
Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), U.K. Department
for International Development (DFID), Spanish Cooperation (AECID),
and occasionally other donors, meet daily to discuss key issues,
program strategies, and most importantly, develop common messaging
on core areas of concern. The humanitarian donor group regularly
meets with heads of U.N. agencies, cluster leads, and key NGOs on
specific issues. In recognition of OCHA's key role in overall
coordination, OCHA has also been invited to participate in the
donor meetings. The humanitarian donor group has served as a
powerful advocacy tool in addressing bottlenecks, particularly when
combined with simultaneous capital-level demarches to U.N. agencies
and has proven more effective than individual messaging.

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15. (U) USAID/DART staff note that humanitarian coordination
mechanisms are considered to be stronger than in most recent crises
by the international community, due to the speed and quantity of
cluster activation - twelve clusters activated in the first ten
days of the crisis-; broad support for prioritizing needs through
the cluster system; and strong OCHA operational capacity. In
addition, the significant surge capacity demonstrated by NGOs and
U.N. agencies in the deployment of more than four hundred surge
program staff has greatly enhanced response capacity. Furthermore,
strong humanitarian donor coordination has enabled common
messaging, joint donor missions to the field, and joint meetings,
to support efforts to streamline requests and expedite response

16. (SBU) Donors and aid agencies have expressed deep reservations
about the quadruple-hatted function of the DSRSG, Humanitarian
Coordinator, Resident Coordinator, and Resident Representative for
UNDP. Given the magnitude of the crisis, humanitarian donors have
strongly recommended, at a minimum, that the Under-Secretary
General for Humanitarian Affairs appoint a very senior-level and
well-respected Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator to support the HC
role in engaging with the humanitarian community. OCHA is expected
to announce the official appointment of a Deputy Humanitarian
Coordinator in the coming days.

17. (SBU) Although the U.N. Security Council has recently
modified the MINUSTAH mandate to include support of humanitarian
operations, USAID/DART staff note concern regarding MINUSTAH
capacity and planning to support an expanded mandate. The U.N.
reports that MINUSTAH is currently evaluating additional types of
support needed to assist humanitarian operations. MINUSTAH support
and engagement will continue to be critical in the near future.

18. (SBU) Humanitarian donors also recommend strengthened guidance
and coordination on humanitarian issues with the GoH. The
humanitarian donor group has recommended seconding Senior
Humanitarian Advisors to the GoH.

19. (U) Despite demonstrated U.N. and NGO surge capacity,
USAID/DART staff and other key donors note the need for additional
senior surge capacity to fulfill individual cluster
responsibilities as well as augment program staff. USAID/DART
staff also note opportunities for enhanced inter-cluster
coordination and delays in compiling and sharing comprehensive data
on the number, location, and activities of humanitarian
organizations operating in Haiti. Delays are attributed, in large
part, to a lack of NGO willingness to prioritize reporting on
activities, particularly at the onset of the disaster. Cluster
efforts remain ongoing to strengthen and expand reporting and
information consolidation.




20. USAID/DART staff emphasize that strong and pro-active
inter-cluster coordination is essential, under the leadership of
the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator and with OCHA's support, to
effectively and efficiently address the humanitarian needs of
affected populations. Co-located within the U.N. logistics base to
ensure constant communication, coordination, and tracking of U.N.,
donor, and NGO issues, the USAID/DART continues to closely monitor
and advance humanitarian coordination issues on the ground.


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