Surge and staffing solutions
In 2011, the Surge Capacity Section (SCS) carried out 113 surge deployments to OCHA field operations in new and escalating emergencies. This represented a close match with OCHA’s 2010 record for organized surge. Top recipients of SCS deployments included Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, the Horn of Africa, Sudan and South Sudan.
With 25 deployments in 2011, the new Associates Surge Pool (ASP) gained momentum. The Standby Partnership Programme (SBPP) was strengthened through a new MoU with the German Centre for Peace Operations. OCHA can now source surge personnel from a variety of resources (ERR, SBPP, ASP, SCS/RESO) in a flexible and coordinated manner.
To improve the impact and effectiveness of surge personnel, SCS’s new Surge Staff Development concept was rolled out. This included six face-to-face training events for surge personnel, which were positively evaluated.
- The selection of regular candidates for field positions was lowered from 75 days in 2009 to 51 days in 2010 and remained the same in 2011. For emergency deployments, this process took 20 days on average in 2010.
The Haiti earthquake and the Pakistan floods in 2010 tested OCHA’s surge mechanism, which had been strengthened during the previous Strategic Framework (2006-2009). OCHA successfully dispatched unprecedented numbers of staff to emergencies in an expedient, coordinated and disciplined manner. However, the response to the above-mentioned “mega disasters” also underscored specific areas requiring further improvements. In 2011, related inter-agency observations became the focus of the IASC and its Transformative Agenda. OCHA’s current and future efforts to support this endeavour involve the following:
Enhanced surge capacity at the senior leadership level.
Improved operational stability through reduced staff turnover, longer deployments, and strengthened internal coordination on staggering and succession planning.
Culturally, linguistically and technically diverse surge capacity.
- Improved surge impact and quality through surge-staff development and other supportive measures, such as emergency logistics support.
Selected practical achievements in support of these four main focus areas include:
New rules promoting the inclusion of a larger number of more senior staff (P-5) in the ERR; the inclusion of a P-5 category in the ASP; the imminent recruitment of three senior roaming emergency surge officers; and strengthened arrangements on senior deployments from OCHA’s Regional Offices in large-scale emergencies.
A newly approved system that ensures only one “baton passing” between surge waves in key positions in large-scale emergencies, and a maximum of two in other contexts or positions; agreements on longer initial deployments by RO or ERR surge personnel where required.
Outreach to new and potential SBP organizations in the Middle East and other regions under-represented in SBPP; co-organized surge training events within civil-military coordination, and information management and communication.
- Organizing six annual face-to-face training events for various surge personnel, and support to surge and rapid-response trainings organized by other internal or external actors; implementing a surge Package of Care, through which all SCS-deployed staff are targeted through pre-mission briefings and preparedness measures, contact during missions and post-mission debriefs, with active follow-up and implementation of lessons learned; support to strengthened internal logistics support for OCHA personnel and operations in new emergencies.
Through this service package and continued improvements, OCHA is increasingly well positioned to provide adequate support to its field operations in new or escalating emergencies. In practice, this contributes to professional performance and consideration for the well-being of OCHA staff. This allows OCHA to lead confidently, and to perform its mandate and obligations with regards to its many stakeholders. They include IASC partners, host governments, donors and, ultimately, affected people who need technically sound and principled humanitarian assistance.
In terms of regular staffing, OCHA has increased its field staff by 40 per cent in the last five years. While managing a substantially larger workforce, OCHA lowered its average vacancy rate across its field locations from 30 per cent in 2009 to 12 per cent in 2010, and 16 per cent by the end of 2011. This rate reflects the nature of OCHA's operations as new emergencies (e.g. Côte d'Ivoire, Haiti, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and South Sudan) continued to create staffing gaps that needed to be filled rapidly. As part of OCHA’s retention strategy, internal mobility gave staff members, particularly in hardship duty stations, opportunities to move to open positions in family duty stations, which in turn largely accounted for the turnover in hardship duty stations. Internal mobility meant that close to 50 positions opened each year, with external recruitment used to fill vacant positions in hardship duty stations.
OCHA’s roster system has been successful in ensuring timely, longer-term recruitment to a range of duty stations. Through lessons learned, OCHA adapted its roster management to target candidates interested in serving in hardship duty stations. This included focusing on candidates with the required language skills, such as Arabic, French and Spanish. In 2011, OCHA completed 69 reassignments or recruitments for DRC, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.
Of the 150 positions filled in 2011, 61 per cent were filled through external recruitment and 39 per cent through internal reassignment or mobility. Fifty-five per cent of positions filled were in hardship or non-family duty stations. Ninety new positions were created in 2010 and 2011, adding an average 10 per cent to the annual vacancy rate. This is in addition to a substantial number of vacancies generated by internal mobility, which are mainly filled through reassigning experienced field staff to other field duty stations. OCHA has consistently filled positions in a timely manner, recently evidenced by the filling of three D-1 Head of Office positions in Afghanistan, DRC and Pakistan within weeks. This demonstrates OCHA’s ability to respond to staffing requirements in field locations.
- Objective 1.1 - Member States and Regional Organizations
- Objective 1.2 - Operational Partners
- Objective 1.3 - Preparedness
- Objective 1.4 - Analysis and System-Wide Learning
- Objective 2.1 - Accountable Humanitarian Coordination Leaders
- Objective 2.2 - Scaling Up and Drawing Down Operations
- Objective 2.3 - Tools and Services
- Objective 2.4 - The Humanitarian Programme Cycle
- Objective 3.1 - Funding and Financial Management
- Objective 3.2 - Surge and Staffing Solutions
- Objective 3.3 - Organizational Learning for Results