Experience has shown that coordinating needs assessments is an important element in saving lives and restoring people's livelihoods. Along with emergency preparedness, the timeliness and quality of assessments help determine an effective humanitarian response. A coordinated assessment is an assessment planned and carried out in partnership by humanitarian actors, in order to document the impact of a particular crisis and to identify the needs of affected populations. Credible and accurate assessment results form the basis for needs-based strategic planning and system-wide monitoring.
In June 2007, the IASC Working Group stressed OCHA’s role in facilitating the development of a needs assessment framework, and requested that OCHA undertake a mapping of existing initiatives and to establish synergies among these initiatives. The mapping identified the following areas of concern:
- Lack of essential baseline information required at the on-set of a crisis
- Significant overlap in data collection between different initiatives; this information could be collected more efficiently through a coordinated assessment approach
- Need for a core set of indicators that would be collected more consistently to improve the comparability of data
- Need for better sharing of lessons learned and best practices on needs assessments and their design
- Importance of contingency planning and pre-crisis information as basis for assessment
The mapping report can be found here (‘Mapping of Key Emergency and Needs Assessment and Analysis Initiatives’).
The IASC Needs Assessment Taskforce
In July 2009, the IASC Working Group created the time-limited IASC Needs Assessment Task Force (NATF) to develop a package of tools and products aimed at harmonizing and promoting cross-sector needs assessment initiatives. The IASC approach aims to ensure the collection of consistent, reliable and timely data on needs in humanitarian settings and strengthen informed decision-making to improve humanitarian response.
The Terms of Reference of the NATF outline key areas of work being addressed by the Task Force. This work is guided by a few key tenets:
- all activities will be based on existing guidance, tools and methodologies developed by NGOs, clusters and agencies
- synergies will be established with relevant working groups and activities to avoid overlap and benefit from mutual support
- all activities undertaken by the Task Force will consider the needs of vulnerable groups, including children, elderly people and disabled persons, and address cross-cutting issues such as gender, HIV and age
The Task Force was chaired by OCHA from 2009 till 2011 and jointly by OCHA and WFP from 2012. The Secretariat is based out of OCHA. Members include NGOs, UN agencies, other international organizations, and cluster/sector representatives. Experts, donors and academics are invited as observers to provide technical input.
The IASC Working Group has extended the mandate of the NATF until the end of 2012.
»NATF Work Plan for 2012
The NATF Work Plan for 2012 reflects a significant shift from conceptualization to implementation. Having developed a vision of what constitutes a coordinated approach to needs assessment in humanitarian crises, the NATF is now focused on supporting the development of in-country and global capacity to implement the approach in both protracted and new emergencies.
In 2012, the NATF agreed to:
- Undertake inter-agency data and assessment preparedness missions in at least three countries. These missions include the mapping of existing assessment capacities and mechanisms in addition to the provision of technical assistance and support for capacity building among operational agencies (where appropriate) in order to develop and implement assessment and preparedness plans
- Produce and implement a targeted plan for training in order to build the capacity of operational agencies and support the development of global surge capacity for needs assessments. This will be linked to the rapid response mechanism established under the IASC Transformative Agenda
- Develop and implement a learning strategy for the MIRA and the implementation of the IASC coordinated assessment approach. This includes an independent evaluation/review on which will form the basis of a report that will be presented to the IASC Working Group
It was further agreed that:
- Key Humanitarian Indicators will be refined in consultation with the global clusters. This will include a review of quality, appropriateness and measurability
- Closer linkages to NGO efforts will be cultivated in support of coordinated assessments to facilitate increased engagement and a more equitable sharing of responsibilities in implementing the Operational Guidance.
»IASC NATF Products
The members of the NATF have developed a package of tools and products aimed at coordinating needs assessments in humanitarian crises. This includes:
- Operational Guidance on Coordinated Assessments in Humanitarian Crises which promotes a shared vision on how to plan and carry out coordinated assessments, and use the results to support humanitarian decision-making
- Multi-Cluster/Sector Initial Rapid Assessment (MIRA) Manual which outlines an approach to undertaking a joint multi-sector assessment in the earliest days of a crisis or change in the context, and guides subsequent in-depth sectoral assessments
- > Humanitarian Dashboard which is designed to facilitate the consolidation of needs assessment and response information, provide a structured format for the collection of data, and present a shared analysis of a humanitarian situation.
This package is being implemented by operational agencies working in humanitarian contexts including NGOs, UN agencies and governments.