The Emergency Relief Coordinator

The Emergency Relief Coordinator

The Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) is the most senior UN official dedicated to humanitarian affairs. The ERC reports directly to the United Nations Secretary-General and serves as a focal point for governments, intergovernmental, and nongovernmental organisations on humanitarian issues. In this capacity the ERC is often called before the UN Security Council in response to humanitarian emergencies.

The UN General Assembly Resolution that created the position of Emergency Relief Coordinator also founded the Inter-Agency Standing Committee and made the ERC its Chair. This gives the ERC the unique power to convene a meeting of the Committee and to set the agenda. As Chair of the IASC, the ERC consults the Committee to develop unified positions and mobilise resources in response to humanitarian crises.

In the event of a crisis, the ERC may appoint a Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) to lead the response on the ground. If the emergency requires specialised support, the HC may request that a 'Cluster'; a multi-agency group of thematic experts; be activated. The ERC seeks the inter-agency agreement required to activate a Cluster, and decide which agency should lead it, through the IASC.


Mark Lowcock

A close-up photo of the Emergency Relief Coordinator standing against a background of UN logos.

Since May 2017, Mark Lowcock of the United Kingdom has served as the Emergency Relief Coordinator, which carries with it the roles of Chair of the IASC, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, and Head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Across more than 30 years of Humanitarian and Development experience, Mr. Lowcock has served extensively in the UK Government Department for International Development (DfID), during which he led the UK response to conflicts in Iraq, Libya, and Syria and to natural disasters in Nepal and the Philippines.