First meeting of the IASC Operational Policy and Advocacy Group, 11-12 April 2019

Published Date

The first meeting of the IASC OPAG on 11-12 April underscored a rejuvenation of the IASC’s normative mandate. There was a sense of urgency to ensure that the IASC priorities, which reflect critical areas in humanitarian action, are delivered.

The core of the discussions was on the specific concrete deliverables for each of the Results Groups, from now until the end of the year. The expectation was reinforced that they must focus on activities, and deliver results, to support field effectiveness. Permeated throughout the discussion was the importance of inclusion – the understanding that the IASC will have the greatest impact in the field if it can capture the knowledge and expertise of non-IASC members, especially those on the front-line of humanitarian response. This provided the basis for a detailed and thoughtful discussion on how the IASC structures can best deliver.

The engagement in meeting reflected a belief in the policy and strategy work of the IASC and its position as a respected humanitarian voice.

The agenda covered; the Purpose and working methods of the OPAG and its Results Groups; the Results Groups’ priority areas of work; the Linkages of the OPAG with other structures, and; the implications of the United Nations Development System Reform on the IASC.

Throughout a broad session on the purpose and working methods of the OPAG and Results Groups, the discussion always circled back to delivering results, innovation and inclusion, underpinned by a need to focus the limited capacities and resources of the groups to focus on activities that have the greatest impact on humanitarian action, particularly field effectiveness. The new structures were seen as an opportunity to engage creatively in how to do this, reflected in a desire to actively advise the Principals on strategic issues, informed by a broad range of stakeholders (including national and local NGOs from the Global South) to ensure that IASC decisions are based-on and geared towards delivery on the ground.

Each of the Results Groups’ co-Chairs were given the opportunity to present the outcomes of their first Results Group meetings, to inform the OPAG’s decisions on their priority areas of work. The Results Groups showed characteristic ambition, which was welcomed by the OPAG, albeit with the suggestion to further consolidate and sequence their workstreams. This request for targeted goals corresponds to a universal desire for the new structures to deliver concrete and timely results. You can find here the priority areas of work for the Results Groups.

A number of areas of convergence emerged from the discussion on how the OPAG should link with other structures. Mutual support and results-focused partnership were deemed a must and mark the starting point for discussions about how to link the IASC structures. In extension of this, it was concluded that the IASC Early Warning-Early Action report of the early warning group of analysts should be better capitalized on by the both the IASC and the EDG, with stronger emphasis on the early action work. The third conclusion was that the Results Groups should systematically engage with non-IASC members, providing a pathway for inclusivity in the discussions, decisions, and results, of the IASC.

In the final session, the OPAG members discussed the United Nations Development System reform and its impact on humanitarian action. There was broad recognition of the opportunities that the reform presents to humanitarian action. There was also widespread agreement as to the importance of the IASC as a voice in the UNDS reform process and a specific call for systematic engagement in the process with non-IASC members.

The co-Chairs closed the first meeting of the IASC OPAG, reflecting on the positive engagement and looking forward to the fruition of their discussions in practice.