The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) is a unique inter-agency forum for coordination, policy development and decision-making involving the key UN and non-UN humanitarian partners. The IASC was established in June 1992 in response to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 46/182 on the strengthening of humanitarian assistance. General Assembly Resolution 48/57 affirmed its role as the primary mechanism for interagency coordination of humanitarian assistance.
The following are the primary objectives of the IASC:
• To develop and agree on system-wide humanitarian policies;
• To allocate responsibilities among agencies in humanitarian programmes;
• To develop and agree on a common ethical framework for all humanitarian activities;
• To advocate for common humanitarian principles to parties outside the IASC;
• To identify areas where gaps in mandates or lack of operational capacity exist;
• To resolve disputes or disagreement about and between humanitarian agencies on system-wide humanitarian issues.
According to General Assembly Resolution 46/182, the IASC should be composed of “all operational organizations and with a standing invitation to the ICRC, IFRC, and IOM. Relevant NGOs can be invited to participate on an adhoc basis.” In practice, no distinction is made between “Members” and “Standing Invitees” and the number of participating agencies has expanded since inception of the IASC in 1992.
Members of the IASC include: FAO, OCHA, UNDP, UNFPA, UN-HABITAT, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, WHO.
Standing Invitees of the IASC include: ICRC, ICVA, IFRC, InterAction, IOM, OHCHR, RSG on Human Rights of IDPs, SCHR and the World Bank.
Together with Executive Committee for Humanitarian Affairs (ECHA), the IASC forms the key strategic coordination mechanism among major humanitarian actors.
The Executive Committee on Humanitarian Afairs, ECHA, is one of the four Committees created by the Secretary-General in the framework of the UN reform with the aim of enhancing coordination among UN agencies. Chaired by the Emergency Relief Coordinator, ECHA meets on a monthly basis in New York. ECHA’s membership, notably with the participation of UN Departments, adds a political and peacekeeping dimension to humanitarian consultations.
Disaster Reduction Goal
Role in disaster risk reduction
View 2011 IASC DRR profile
IASC Working Group requested at its 61st meeting in June 2005, to OCHA and UNISDR secretariat to consult with all IASC members on the most appropriate mechanisms by which the IASC can give eff ect to its obligations on the Hyogo Framework for Action follow-up taking into account existing IASC and other mechanisms dealing with preparedness issues, time and resources. Based on this request, UNISDR and OCHA developed a Disaster Preparedness for Effective Response - Guidance and Indicator Package for Implementing Priority Five of the Hyogo Framework, published in 2008. The tool provides strengthened guidance to facilitate the implementation of Priority Five of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) and aims to assist governments, local authorities, and other stakeholders develop and measure preparedness for response capability at the international, regional, national and local level.
Inter-Agency Contingency Planning Guidelines for Humanitarian Assistance were prepared by the IASC Reference Group on Contingency Planning and Preparedness in 2001 and updated in 2007 by the IASC Sub-Working Group on Preparedness and Contingency Planning. Guidelines were designed to provide a common inter-agency methodology for contingency planning and to ensure effective response to humanitarian needs at the onset of a crisis.
The IASC Humanitarian Early Warning Service (HEWSweb) is an interagency partnership project aimed at establishing a common platform for humanitarian early warnings and forecasts for natural hazards. The service has been developed by WFP who is responsible for coordinating and managing the overall information content, design, and organization of HEWSweb on behalf of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee and its members.
The IASC Working Group at its 71st meeting in June 2008 requested IFRC with support from OCHA, WFP and IOM to convene a Task Force of relevant IASC organizations to lead the preparation of inputs to the UNFCCC process leading to the Copenhagen Conference (COP-15) in December 2009 and to provide guidance to the IASC on related issues. This informal IASC Task Force on Climate Change and UNISDR made a joint submission in November 2008 to the UNFCCC Ad hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action on Disaster Risk Reduction Strategies and Risk Management Practices: Critical Elements for Adaptation to Climate Change to highlight the disaster risk reduction and humanitarian implications of climate change to the UNFCCC Parties. The IASC with its Task Force on Climate Change organized a COP-14 Side Event on the Humanitarian Response to Climate Change: Early Warning – Early Action.
Moreover, an informal group convened by IOM, in collaboration with UNHCR and the RSG on Human Rights of IDPs and other interested IASC organizations produced a working paper on Climate Change, Migration and Displacement: Who will be affected?, which was submitted to the UNFCCC.
As part of ongoing eff orts to improve the timeliness and eff ectiveness of the humanitarian response, IASC has embarked upon an initiative to strengthen leadership and accountability in nine key “clusters” of the humanitarian response. Among these is the cluster for “early recovery” — a complex area that is critical in linking immediate responses to disasters with medium and long-term recovery eff orts. UNDP was designated as the lead agency for this cluster. Working with 17 humanitarian and development partners, UNDP has identified critical gaps in early recovery and priority actions and resource requirements, in order to improve capacities and apply the cluster approach to crisis situations.
International humanitarian, human rights, and refugee law share a common goal in aiming to prevent and relieve suffering, and to protect the rights and freedoms of women, girls, boys and men. While there has been emphasis by the IASC on promoting gender equality in all aspects of its work, real-time evaluations conducted in 2005-2006 of the crises in Darfur, the Tsunami and Pakistan earthquake point to clear gaps in promoting gender equality. To address this gap, the IASC issued in 2006 The IASC Gender Handbook, Women, Girls, Boys and Men: Different Needs – Equal Opportunities which provides field-friendly guidance on how to deliver humanitarian protection and assistance based on the different needs, capacities and vulnerabilities of women, girls, boys and men.
IASC policy statement on Gender Equality in Humanitarian Action was approved by the IASC Working Group in June 2008.