Effective NGO Participation in Humanitarian Reform Mechanisms: Maintaining Good Practice for Cluster Partners
The Effective NGO Participation in Humanitarian Reform Mechanisms: Maintaining Good Practice for Cluster Partners Merlin - ECHO funded project 2009/2010 aims to address weaknesses in NGO awareness of, and participation in, the cluster approach, particularly the Health Cluster. These weaknesses have been identified through: real time evaluations; cluster self-assessments and country-specific agency reports; Phase 1 of the external evaluation of the cluster approach; Joint Country Missions; inter-agency studies of the cluster response in recent crises; informal studies undertaken by Global Health Cluster partners.
This major project is part of Merlin’s contribution to the Global Health Cluster Work-plan: Strategic Priority 2: Ensure supplementary human and material resources are readily available to country clusters as needed. The final report will be circulated to cluster partners by the end of September 2010 following our submission of the final report to ECHO.
Specific project objectives:
- Improve international response to humanitarian needs through more effective NGO participation in cluster response mechanisms.
- Increase NGO understanding and effective participation in the cluster approach.
- Increase the number of NGOs trained in the principles of Humanitarian Reform, the Cluster Approach, good practice, tools and guidance.
- Strengthen the mechanisms for capturing and disseminating lessons learned from NGO involvement in country clusters.
Two day workshops and a mapping exercise took place in ten countries: Afghanistan, Myanmar, Palestinian Territories, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Somalia, Nepal, Sudan, Zimbabwe and the Central African Republic.
Target participants were international and national NGO staff, MOH and other civil society groups working in health in the targeted programme areas. Merlin particularly sought the participation of senior health coordinators and managers responsible for planning and management of health programmes and for participating in coordination mechanisms.
A total of 274 individuals from 155 NGOs (66 national and 89 international) took part in the workshops.
Day 1: Overview of Humanitarian Reform and Cluster approach and an orientation to the GHC tools and resources:
- Core Indicators
- Health Cluster Guide
- Initial Rapid Assessment
- Health Resources and Services Availability Mapping
- Early Warning and Response (Tracking System)
- Health Information System
Day 2: Reflection and learning from health cluster experience at country level.
Work on the detailed meta-analysis has begun and preliminary findings show that NGOs:
- Have a positive view of Humanitarian Reform and the cluster approach,
- Perceive that the cluster approach within the health sector has contributed to an improved humanitarian response by:
- providing a forum for exchange of information and resources
- promoting interagency collaboration and coordination
- facilitating sharing of experience and learning
- avoiding/reducing duplication
Overall NGOs also perceive that the cluster approach benefits individual NGOs by:
- giving them a more comprehensive understanding of the situation / problems
- providing a forum for general networking including UN, donors, MOH and government representatives
- providing opportunity for capacity building through formal trainings, workshops and inter - agency sharing of experience
However, the feedback also highlighted a number of common issues and challenges:
- There is a still a relatively low level of awareness of the cluster approach, even in countries where the health cluster has been established for some time.
- Some NGOs lack understanding of the value of the cluster approach for the sector and for their agencies.
- A working knowledge of the cluster is often lost due to staff turnover and/or a lack of the sharing of information about the cluster within NGOs.
- There is uncertainty about NGOs’ roles and how to access the cluster
- Political issues between partners
- Conflicting priorities and competition between NGOs
This project will produce lessons learnt and frequently asked questions from an NGO perspective for incorporation into health cluster guidance at global and country level and training/learning materials for use by partners to provide further awareness raising and orientation workshops. The training/learning materials will be available end of August 2010.
Merlin is also looking at the possibility of holding an early follow up workshop with partners at global level to share learning, review findings and agree actions and next steps.