Objective 3.2

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:

  1. Enhanced surge capacity at the senior leadership level.
  2. Improved operational stability through reduced staff turnover, longer deployments, and strengthened internal coordination on staggering and succession planning.
  3. Culturally, linguistically and technically diverse surge capacity.
  4. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Performance Framework 2011
OUTPUT Sustained capacity for surge deployments.

Eighty-five per cent of surge deployments within one week (ERR) and one month (SBPP and ASP).


Eighty-eight per cent of ERR deployments were within one week, with an average lead time of three days. Eighty-four per cent of SBPP deployments were within the approved surge response timeline, with an average lead time of 23 days. Nearly one fourth of all SBPP deployments took place within 15 days. The average ASP lead time was 33 days for 2011.

OUTPUT Continuity across the surge-staffing spectrum through improved coordination and planning.

Specialized advance-planning capacity dispatched in 80 per cent of major crises.


SCS sent reconnaissance Adviser to all emergencies that warranted it. It was not done in context of the Horn of Africa crisis, as CRD dispatched a Desk Officer to Nairobi who could capably fulfil this function.


In 75 per cent of new crises, surge starts to phase out at the three-month mark due to the arrival of regular staff.


There have been improvements in surge and succession planning, but there is still a level of surge involvement during the six- to 12-month period following the initial peak.

OUTPUT Staff movement between most- severe hardship and less-severe hardship duty stations increased.

Internal deployments between hardship and non-hardship duty stations increased from 40 to 60 per cent.


In 2011, out of 59 internal redeployments in the field, 29 per cent were from hardship to non-hardship duty stations.  The number of applications from internal candidates went down significantly in 2011 since the start of internal circulation of vacancies through compendium in 2010.  One of the reasons could be that a majority of staff who were in hardship duty stations for an extended period moved already in 2011.

OUTPUT Effective workforce management through adequate and timely recruitment and deployment of staff.

Field vacancy rate reduced to 10 per cent (from 15 per cent target in 2010).


By the end of 2011, the vacancy rate was reduced to 16 per cent. This again was due to surge of new posts in Côte d'Ivoire, Libya, Somalia and South Sudan (40 posts or 13 per cent). Based on experience, it is reasonable to expect a vacancy rate in the range of 10 to 15 per cent each year due to surge of operations, and due to staff movement in relation to natural mobility, including promotion.


Time between advertisement of position and deployment of candidate maintained at 120 days.


In 2011, OCHA continued to successfully fill positions through INSPIRA within 120 days. A number of D-1 positions (Afghanistan, DRC, Pakistan) were filled within 90 days.

OUTPUT Replenishment of roster by targeting outreach at candidates interested to serve in hardship locations.

Roster interviews conducted by Q3. Cases submitted to CRD by Q4.


In 2010, CRD issued and finalized roster job openings for three D-1, one P-5 and one P-3 positions. From these rosters, 11 candidates were selected and deployed and two candidates were regularized. Additional selections were carried out in 2011 but did not deploy. CISB issued the Public Information Officer Roster 12 times, with two deployments from the 2011 Roster.

OUTPUT Accountability in staff management/performance increased.

All staff complete performance appraisal process (e-PAS).


Technical issues and unfamiliarity with the new performance appraisal module (OCHA in pilot phase) have had their impact on full compliance (53 per cent). In view of this, a system-usage survey was transmitted to OHRM to further address the technical restrictions. OHRM has implemented several changes to enhance the system’s user-friendliness, which will be rolled out across the Secretariat for the 2012-13 performance-appraisal cycle. However, in spite of the mentioned problems, a positive trend towards compliance is noted. OCHA will roll out the new system with a series of presentations, followed by hands-on work-planning clinics at HQ and the field during Q2 of 2012. Support is supplemented to staff and managers by offering performance-dialogue distance learning. This offers individualized coaching for supervisors to improve their ability to guide the performance-appraisal process, and to provide effective feedback on their reports.

OUTPUT Increased awareness by OCHA staff of gender perspective/issues.

Percentage of staff completing the IASC e-Learning course on the IASC Gender Handbook and other mandatory trainings.


Fifty-six per cent of field staff in 20 country offices has taken the IASC training course on gender.

OUTPUT Gender parity in staffing improved (in accordance with 2011 human resources management priorities).

Percentage of female staff in office/branch/section.


The ratio of professional female staff at headquarters increased from 54 to 56 per cent in December 2011. The overall rate remained unchanged at 41 per cent.