IASC Coordination in the Field

Published Date

Large-scale disasters have led the IASC to reform the humanitarian response system. After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the IASC launched the Humanitarian Reform around coordination, leadership, humanitarian financing and partnership. Emergency capacity has been reinforced but challenges remained. Following the Haiti earthquake and Pakistan floods in 2010, the IASC launched the Transformative Agenda in December 2011, setting the parameters for improved collective response to major humanitarian crises.

The IASC Transformative Agenda still defines the coordination structure on the ground of system-wide humanitarian responses. The documents below, a mixture of original protocols from the Transformative Agenda itself and revised and supporting documents, remain a must read for those trying to join, work with, or understand humanitarian coordination in the field.

The latest development building on the Transformative Agenda is the launch of the IASC System-Wide Scale-Up Activation protocols. Read more about them here.


The Common Framework for Preparedness supports the development of preparedness capacity in a more coherent manner. It strengthens preparedness through a systematic country level approach that collectively assesses capacity and need to jointly develop programmes and plans. It also supports their coherent implentation. Preparedness should span a, nationally led, disaster risk management (DRM) context, which includes prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery measures.


The Emergency Response Preparedness approach (ERP), supports the international humanitarian system to apply a proactive approach to emergency preparedness. This manual provides practical guidance to assist Resident/Humanitarian Coordinators and Humanitarian Country Teams in preparing to respond to porential emergencies with appropriate humanitarian asssitance and protection. An update to the ERP approach is anticipated in 2020.


The Cluster Coordination and Reference Module outlines the basic elements of cluster coordination and intends to serve as a reference guide for field practitioners to help facilitate their work and improve humanitarian outcomes. This remains the most current version pending an ongoing update.


The Multi-Cluster/Sector Initial Rapid Assessment (MIRA), is a joint needs assessment tool that can be used in sudden onset emergencies, including in an IASC System-Wide Scale-Up Activation. It is a precursor to cluster/sectoral needs assessments and provides a process for collecting and analyzing information on affected people and their needs to inform strategic response planning.


The IASC Reference Module for the Implementation of the Humanitarian Program Cycle defines the roles and responsibilities of international humanitarian actors and the way that they interact with each other, national and local authorities, civil society and with people affected by crises. The associated guidance, as well as the Humanitarian Needs Overview and Humanitarian Response Plan templates are updated annually and can be found here.


The Operational Framework for Accountability to Affected Persons summarizes the key concepts for making programming at the field level more accountable to affected populations. This supports better understanding and responding to the needs of the communities in humanitarian crises. The framework is designed to assist implementing agencies both individually and in groups to find practical entry points for improving accountability to affected populations. The framework is due to be updated through a process beginning in December 2019. This Operational Framework is a component of the Transformative Agenda, however, while the update is in progress, the Core Humanitarian Standard is a recent, useful, non-IASC reference.