The third Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week (HNPW) was held in Geneva from 6 to 10 February 2017. Over these five days of inter-network collaboration, a broad range of experts from member states, international organizations and civil society tackled some of the most pressing common challenges in humanitarian response.

The Inter-Network day on February 8 brought together more than 800 participants, who shared their knowledge and experience to address issues such as field effectiveness through learning and training, customs facilitation in complex emergencies, and using conflict analysis to do no harm. On Inter-Network Day, the Leading Edge Programme was officially launched. The Leading Edge Programme is a problem-solving initiative that aims to foster year-round collaboration and take forward commitments made at HNPW.

The opening remarks of the interactive day was made by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordination, Stephen O’Brien. Mr. O’Brien highlighted the need for events such as HNPW to collectively identify tools and new ways of working together to serve the most vulnerable people. Emphasizing the need to include the wide diversity of expertise represented in the room, Mr. O’Brien shared his vision for HNPW as a platform to take forward the Secretary General’s Agenda for Humanity and the commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit last year.

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HNPW 2017 was an opportunity to further advance some of the initiatives launched at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), including the Charter on inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian action, the harnessing of diasporas networks, the cooperation with the private sector, and advancing on the Grand Bargain and the New Way of Working.

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Field coordination
The four different sessions discussing issues related to field coordination and topics ranged from the use of technologies in coordination to the challenges around different coordination concepts in humanitarian response. Discussions centred around the need to integrate local responders into coordination structures, or the opportunities to engage a wider variety of actors, including on the use of drones for disaster management.

Information management in emergencies
Three sessions focused on information management in emergencies. The session on streamlining information management in the first 72h identified the need to increase effective on-line collaboration, and agreed to develop a catalogue of partners and their information products to improve coordination in crisis response. A session on “Taxonomies for disaster identification” looked at the diverse taxonomies used by the humanitarian community, and agreed to develop a Disaster Types taxonomy service to ensure coordination and shared taxonomies. The session on GDACS alerts presented the new earthquake algorithm, which will be made operational in the upcoming months.

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Simulation exercises (SimEx) and training
These two sessions looked at different aspects of simulation exercises and training, identified challenges and enablers and consolidated suggestions from diverse stakeholders on how to establish a Community of practice on simulations. A concept note on a Simulation and Training Network will be shared with key stakeholders, for inputs and, ultimately, endorsement by key stakeholders.

Customs facilitation
Building on the success of the joint collaboration between OCHA, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and World Customs Organization (WCO), participants to the two sessions held during this year’s HNPW discussed the challenges of importing emergency relief good at the onset of an emergency. Priorities and potential solutions for a smoother customs clearance process of emergency relief goods were identified, and will be prioritized by the newly created Consultative Group in their 2017-2018 Plan of Action to take these solutions forward. During the event, the new Automated System for Customs Relief Emergency Consignments (ASYREC) was also presented. This tool will facilitate the prioritization and rapid processing of humanitarian relief consignments in humanitarian emergencies. In 2017, ASYREC will be piloted in a number of countries.

Environmental risks in humanitarian action
The Focus Task Force (FTF) on environmental risks held two interactive sessions. The first session discussed the necessity of better integrating environmental data into humanitarian decision-making in order to ensure long-term recovery. Following FTF recommendations made at HNPW 2016 the USAID-funded 2-year project “Coordination of Assessments for Environment in Humanitarian Action: A Joint Initiative” was launched. It aims to increase the collaboration between environmental and humanitarian actors in the assessment phase of a humanitarian response. In particular, the project will achieve this through (i) advocacy, (ii) stakeholder needs assessment regarding environmental assessment tools, and (iii) compilation of a comprehensive overview of existing tools and when to use them.

The second session explored cash transfer programming (CTP) and its potential impacts on and opportunities for the environment. It was agreed that the integration of environmental considerations should be part of all good humanitarian programming. Specifically for CTP, cash feasibility studies and market assessments might be good entry points for the inclusion of environmental data. Furthermore, research on the potential environmental impacts and benefits of cash-programming (and other modalities) is needed as is appropriate guidance on environmental risks and opportunities of different modalities.  A London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE) study on ‘Cash programming and Environment’ will be informed by the session outcomes and will serve as a basis for follow-up action.

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Stakeholder consultation on the better integration of environmental data into humanitarian action (credits: JEU, Daniela Brum)

Airport efficiency
Key emergency response stakeholders met during this session to discuss issues related to airport capacity in countries affected by a disaster. Participants recognized the need to further engage key actors, such as airport management authorities of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), to ensure that the solutions identified are implemented. The creation of a Focus Task Force to advance on these cross-cutting issues was discussed, if there is wider interest from key operational organizations and a chair is identified to lead the process.

Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination (UN-CMCoord)
The multi-stakeholder Consultative Group on Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination held its Annual Meeting during the HNPW. UN-CMCoord was confirmed as an enabler of humanitarian action at the national and sub-national level, on real-life examples presented by experts from the Asia and Pacific, Americas, and African regions. The main focus for the coming months will be the ‘consolidation’ of the Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination Standards development, leading up to their expected consensus at the 2018 consultations during the HNPW. The 2018 gathering will also look further at the implementation of WHS CMCoord-related commitments. Four UN-CMCoord sessions were also held during the HNPW, which triggered considerable inter-network interest. They explored the linkage between policy and practice, improved ways to share data, interdependencies when working in dangerous environments, and the benefits of learning and responding together. Further details can be found at the Humanitarian//Military Dialoguing site: https://sites.google.com/a/dialoguing.org/humanitarian-military-dialogue/hmdlinks

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Conflict Analysis
Understanding the nature of conflict and incorporating conflict-sensitive assessments in humanitarian assistance is important for OCHA and partners working in the rapid response settings. During HNPW 2017, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) made a presentation on “Conflict analysis: Linking humanitarian action and peacebuilding”, and World Vision International introduced the Good Enough Context Analysis for Rapid Response (GECARR). This session raised awareness and understanding about the linkage between conflict analysis and humanitarian action in protracted crises.

What’s next?

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The commitments to action made at HNPW 2017 will be taken forward by the different Focus Task Forces, Networks and Partnerships, in collaboration with a wide range of actors, including UN agencies, member states, NGOs, the military, private sector, and others. The momentum created by this successful event will provide a platform to launch some of these initiatives which aim at resolving identified challenges in humanitarian response.

Outcomes of meetings and sessions are available on the HNPW website (www.hnpw.org). The HNPW website (www.hnpw.org) will continue to be used as the collaborative on-line platform where progress made by the different groups will be posted, and information exchange, including regular updates, information on upcoming activities or workshops, will take place.

HNPW 2018 is planned to take place from 5-9 February 2018 at the International Conference Centre of Geneva (CICG).