How can we avoid duplication efforts and create a living, innovative and action-oriented platform?
Example of how Food Security Cluster (FSC) functions is a good one to answer this question. FSC is established to coordinate the food security response during a humanitarian crisis, addressing issues of food availability, access and utilization. It is co-led by FAO and WFP, and the Global Support Team includes FAO, WFP, several international NGOs and Red Cross and Red Crescent members. FSC works in around 36 countries affected by sudden onset and protracted crises. The cluster always serves as a platform for information sharing among partners, proper coordination of humanitarian responses, discussion on emerging issues related to food security, and information management. FSC has a well versed IM team in Rome that provides the required IM support to countries on data and information management and mapping. These works and capacities largely help complement the partners' effort and avoid overlaps or duplication. Some of the countries where clusters are not activated as per IASC protocols, e.g., some Pacific Island countries, Nigeria, etc., FSC functions as sector and coordinates preparedness, monitoring (e.g, El Nino monitoring in the Pacific region) and response in close collaboration with the Government counterparts and other partners. The cluster serves as a neutral platform for coordinating action avoiding any duplication or overlaps. FSC at global level also facilitates several thematic Working Groups, normally chaired and co-chaired by NGO partners, including the Preparedness and Resilience Working Group (CRS and WHH currently co-chair the WG) that help streamline agencies works and develop relevant products and guidelines. The WG aims to guide and support cluster partners on necessary preparedness and resilience building through the Humanitarian Programme Cycle (HPC).
The platform FSC offers therefore is always dynamic and innovative providing opportunities for partners to also share their ideas, products and good practices. This platform could be well utilized by the partners working on resilience building in food security sector. In the countries where the cluster/sector is not existing, a similar platform could be established led by the relevant Government line ministry (e.g., Ministry of Agriculture) and co-led by FAO/WFP.
How can we build effective synergies with existing initiatives? Which ones? How to link to NGOs, Academia, other UN, international and regional organizations, as well as national governments?
Effective coordination is only possible through close cooperation with partner organizations. FSC has established strong partnership with nearly 40 UN agencies, I/NGOs, academia and donors. FSC also provides necessary guidance at the country level that supports a broad base and timely response in close coordination with the cluster partners. On average, FSC coordinates with around 60 partners at national level. The FSC also works with national and regional cluster systems in both sudden onset disasters and protracted crises. The Preparedness and Resilience WG constitutes both UN agencies and NGO partners, which is at the moment trying to develop a position paper to guide the cluster coordinators in preparedness and resilience building in disaster prone countries or in different contexts and scenarios (i.e., protracted crises, sudden onset and slow onset disasters), determining the different entry and exit points of the country Clusters through the HPC, including linkages to agriculture-based livelihoods, urban livelihoods and early recovery activities in food security). Having the Government leading the cluster coordination in many countries, food security cluster is a perfect platform to synergize the resilience building initiatives in a very participatory and collaborative manner.
How can we ensure that the platform will not be an information aggregate platform only but an information and service provider? With what content, what types of products? What services? What level of interactivity?
FSC manages information by producing 3Ws/4Ws/5Ws matrices (Who? What? Where? When? for Whom?) and relevant maps using GIS. FSC has strong IM team, which works very closely with WFP VAM team, and other IM teams of the partner institutions, in particular OCHA.
Over the last few months, FSC has also initiated a dialogue with Early Recovery Cluster led by UNDP at HQ level to demystify some of the confusions occurring at country level, and this dialogue is continuing. A guidance note prepared on Early Recovery Interventions and Best Practices in food security sector brought further clarity on the scope and nature of the early recovery works the cluster partners can pursue without duplicating or overlapping with the works carried under the umbrella of Early Recovery Cluster.
Gender and Accountability to Affected Population (AAP) lies at the nucleus of FSC's works and gFSC provides continuous support to the country level clusters on increasing awareness and understanding of the benefits of mainstreaming gender, age, diversity and AAP in response and recovery works. A guidance note for Mainstreaming AAP and Core People-Related Issues in the Humanitarian Programme Cycle through the Cluster System, jointly developed by gFSC and Global Nutrition Cluster was considered as a high quality product the two cluster jointly produced.
With the proven track record, FSC can be very instrumental in producing and disseminating high quality products in close interaction and collaboration with the partners on resilience building.
How about 'learning': Should we include capacity development and
learning material and activities? How and which ones?
Being one of the major current themes among various humanitarian and development partners, the specific elements of resilience building in food security sector needs to be brought to the ground reality for which people need to be well trained. The elements of resilience, mainstreamed at corporate level by agencies such as FAO, UNDP and few donors and elegantly packed in form of strategic objectives, outcomes and indicators, need to be properly unpacked and applied at the field level. In order to do so, the 'frontline soldiers' working on resilience building at the field level need to understand what it means for them, for the host Government and the very people who have to reap the eventual benefits.
For gFSC, cluster coordination is to ensure that international responses to both sudden onset and protracted crises are clearly led and accountable, aiming to make the international community a better partner for the affected people. This requires additional expertise, and FSC always strives for building capacity of the Cluster Coordinators that are deployed at national and sub-national level. gFSC has developed different training modules in English and French, based on simulation based techniques, and these are perceived as very effective for training the field people. In addition, gFSC also has a pool of experts with decades of strong field experience. Similarly, FSC regularly conducts training for the Information Management Officers. Our strong focus on capacity building and maintaining a roster of Cluster Coordinators and Information Officers has really helped us become quick and efficient to address the requests coming from the field by deploying best people in a very short period of time. Based on this experience, we can advise the resilience team to put a strong focus on preparing a pool of resilience experts and build their capacity.