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Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response

Core Standard 2: Coordination and collaboration

Humanitarian response is planned and implemented in coordination with the relevant authorities, humanitarian agencies and civil society organisations engaged in impartial humanitarian action, working together for maximum efficiency, coverage and effectiveness.


Key actions (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)


Key indicators (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)


Guidance notes

  1. Coordinated responses: Adequate programme coverage, timeliness and quality require collective action. Active participation in coordination efforts enables coordination leaders to establish a timely, clear division of labour and responsibility, gauge the extent to which needs are being collectively met, reduce duplication and address gaps in coverage and quality. Coordinated responses, timely inter-agency assessments and information sharing reduce the burden on affected people who may be subjected to demands for the same information from a series of assessment teams. Collaboration and, where possible, the sharing of resources and equipment optimise the capacity of communities, their neighbours, host governments, donors and humanitarian agencies with different mandates and expertise. Participation in coordination mechanisms prior to a disaster establishes relationships and enhances coordination during a response. Local civil society organisations and authorities may not participate if coordination mechanisms appear to be relevant only to international agencies. Respect the use of the local language(s) in meetings and in other shared communications. Identify local civil society actors and networks involved in the response and encourage them and other local and international humanitarian agencies to participate. Staff representing agencies in coordination meetings should have the appropriate information, skills and authority to contribute to planning and decision-making.
  2. Common coordination mechanisms include meetings – general (for all programmes), sectoral (such as health) and cross-sectoral (such as gender) – and information-sharing mechanisms (such as databases of assessment and contextual information). Meetings which bring together different sectors can further enable people’s needs to be addressed as a whole, rather than in isolation (e.g. people’s shelter, water, sanitation, hygiene and psychosocial needs are interrelated). Relevant information should be shared between different coordination mechanisms to ensure integrated coordination across all programmes. In all coordination contexts, the commitment of agencies to participate will be affected by the quality of the coordination mechanisms: coordination leaders have a responsibility to ensure that meetings and information are well managed, efficient and results-orientated. If not, participating agencies should advocate for, and support, improved mechanisms.
  3. Coordination roles: It is the affected state’s role to coordinate the humanitarian response of assisting organisations. Humanitarian agencies have an essential role to play by supporting the state’s coordination function. However, in some contexts, alternative coordination mechanisms may be appropriate if, for example, state authorities are themselves responsible for abuse and violations or their assistance is not impartial or if the state is willing to play a coordination role, but lacks capacity. In these situations coordination meetings may be separately or jointly led by the local authorities with the United Nations or NGOs. Many large-scale humanitarian emergencies are now typically coordinated through the ‘cluster approach’, with groupings of agencies working in the same sector under a lead agency.
  4. Efficient data sharing will be enhanced if the information is easy to use (clear, relevant, brief) and follows global humanitarian protocols which are technically compatible with other agencies’ data (see Core Standard 3). The exact frequency of data-sharing is agency- and context-specific but should be prompt to remain relevant. Sensitive information should remain confidential (see Core Standards 3 – Core Standards 4 ).
  5. Military and private sector: The private sector and foreign and national military are increasingly part of the relief effort and therefore affect coordination efforts. The military bring particular expertise and resources, including security, logistics, transport and communication. However, their activities can blur the important distinction between humanitarian objectives and military or political agendas and create future security risks. Any association with the military should be in the service of, and led by, humanitarian agencies according to endorsed guidelines. Some agencies will maintain a minimum dialogue to ensure operational efficiency (e.g. basic programme information-sharing) while others may establish stronger links (e.g. use of military assets). In all cases, humanitarian agencies must remain clearly distinct from the military to avoid any real or perceived association with a political or military agenda that could compromise the agencies’ independence, credibility, security and access to affected populations. The private sector can bring commercial efficiencies, complementary expertise and resources to humanitarian agencies. Information-sharing is required to avoid duplication and to promote humanitarian good practice. Private–humanitarian partnerships must strictly be for the benefit of humanitarian objectives.