Summary of the IASC Principals Meeting, 29 May 2019

Published Date

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) is the longest-standing and highest-level humanitarian coordination forum of the United Nations system that brings together 19 Principals of United Nations and non-United Nations entities to ensure coherence of efforts, formulate policy, and discuss priorities for strengthened humanitarian action. It facilitates the leadership role of the United Nations Secretary-General by meeting regularly to ensure better preparation for, as well as rapid and coherent response to, humanitarian crises. It is chaired by the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator.

In exercise of its mandate, the IASC convened in Geneva on 29 May to discuss how to strengthen humanitarian and development collaboration to reduce humanitarian needs and address vulnerabilities; how to improve the Global Humanitarian Overview 2020 through reinforcing the evidence-base and a multi-year approach; how to ensure system-wide collective efforts and track progress made to better prevent sexual exploitation and abuse and harassment, and the need to step up efforts for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian action and converting commitments into results.

At the outset, the IASC Principals discussed key humanitarian crises, with the objective of building a shared understanding and approach to address the specific challenges that are confronting the humanitarian system, in order to respond effectively to the urgent humanitarian needs. The discussions focused on the humanitarian situations in Yemen, Venezuela, Libya, the Rohingya crisis, the Sahel Region, and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

IASC Principals also discussed the implications for humanitarian action from key global reform processes. The Committee was briefed by Mr. Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, who provided an update on the United Nations Development System Reform. One of the cornerstones of the reform is the empowerment of Resident Coordinators, who double as Humanitarian Coordinators in times of crisis. The discussion focused on the areas for coherence, complementarity, and engagement with development actors, including the need for development actors to engage actively with non-UN entities that are part of the IASC and that make up the broader humanitarian sector.

The Committee was also briefed by Mr. Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees who provided an update on the Global Compact on Refugees – an international compact for coordinated efforts for the support of refugees and host countries. The session concluded with a briefing from Ms. Laura Thompson, Deputy Director-General of IOM who provided an update on the Global Compact for Migration, another key international cooperation framework with implications for how humanitarian agencies engage in the topic of migration. There are various linkages between the IASC and key global processes and compacts which require collective action to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in bringing together development and humanitarian sectors.

The Committee was briefed on Ebola Preparedness and Response. The session covered the ongoing response to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which has been building for the last ten months. The Committee unanimously decided to activate the IASC Humanitarian System-Wide Scale-Up Protocol for the Control of Infectious Disease Events to bolster and support the humanitarian response to the outbreak. More efforts are underway by the entirety of the IASC membership to arrest the scourge of Ebola in the DRC once and for all. And, in addition to the IASC Humanitarian System-Wide Scale-Up Protocols, the Committee also discussed the ‘Severe/Sustain designation’ to signal the need to sustain coherent and high levels of context-specific responses to a targeted number of exceptionally severe protracted crises, commensurate with the magnitude, severity and persistence of needs. The Committee agreed to continue discussions in this regard.

The Committee also continued to focus on the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA). It was briefed by the IASC Champion Ms. Henriette H. Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, who highlighted progress and additional actions needed to support a collective approach at country level. The Committee agreed to continue to share good practice and to contribute to a ‘speak-up culture’. The Committee took note of the new incoming IASC Champion for PSEA, Mr. Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, who will assume the role from 1 September 2019. 

The Committee reviewed the Global Humanitarian Overview (GHO) and agreed to continue developing this important tool. It called for the support of the Principals in developing the required evidence-base for the forthcoming GHO with a view to strengthening the coverage of vulnerable groups and providing a better narrative of humanitarian response.  The next GHO will be launched simultaneously in Berlin, Brussels, Geneva, London, and Washington in December 2020.

Given the importance of responding to the needs of specific groups of vulnerable populations, the Committee heard from Mr. Vladmir Cuk, the Executive Director of the International Disability Alliance who focused on how the IASC can better respond to the needs of persons with disabilities. The Committee welcomed the launch of the IASC Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities due later in 2019 and agreed to endorse it swiftly as well as to add Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities as an agenda item at future IASC meetings.

The official summary record is available here.