FSAC Regional Cluster meeting - copyright FSAC
The capacity building Twinning Program of ACBAR aims at strengthening National Actors’ Role in Humanitarian Response. One of the key components is to improve Afghan national NGOs in the humanitarian coordination, by promoting active and meaningful participation in clusters. ACBAR met with Arman, Program Manager of Organization of Human Welfare (OHW), a national NGO and Mr. Javed Khan, Information Manager for the National Food Security Cluster in Afghanistan.
ACBAR: Which clusters does OHW participate in? And why did your NGO select these clusters?
OHW: OHW is part of several clusters: Food Security (FSAC), Water and Sanitation (WASH), health cluster, and Gender Based violence (GBV) sub-cluster. OHW is also co-chair of the FSAC regional cluster in the South and members of several coordination bodies, including ACBAR. We choose the clusters based on our core expertise and our strategy plan.
ACBAR: What is the FSAC cluster about?
FSAC: The FSAC has been a central part of the humanitarian response in Afghanistan since 2008. It is co-led by WFP and FAO and co-chaired by Caritas Germany. The FSAC in Afghanistan provides an action-oriented forum for bringing together national and international humanitarian partners to improve the timeliness and effectiveness of humanitarian assistance on the lives of the crisis-affected population. It will help ensure coherent, coordinated and integrated humanitarian responses that are driven by the evidence-based assessment of food security and emergency livelihood needs.
Currently, 62 International NGOs and 69 National NGOs are active partners of FSAC cluster. Among them OHW is considered as an active partner that attends monthly national and regional meetings, assists the cluster in response guidelines as well as assessment. OHW also provides necessary data to the FSAC so that an up-to-date picture of programmatic operations can be maintained.
ACBAR: Why do you think participating in a cluster is important? Especially for NGOs?
FSAC: Participation of NGOs assists the cluster in the strategic planning process, joint assessment, response analysis, technical support, and information sharing. Participating in cluster coordination mechanism helps NGOs to avoid duplication, support each other, harmonize approaches, maximize impact, reach the most vulnerable, reduce time delays in response, saves resources, and links emergency response with recovery and development.
OHW: Avoiding duplication and having a complementary response is the main reason why NGOs participate in clusters coordination. It is also a great capacity building opportunity for NGOs, as we can participate in training, joint assessments, and learn how to use new tools.
Capacity Building, Humanitarian Coordination
ACBAR: What are your responsibilities as a cluster? And as a cluster participant?
FSAC: FSAC Cluster has 6 core functions. First, we support service delivery and ensure that service delivery is driven by strategic priorities. Second, we inform the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) and Humanitarian Country Team's (HCT) strategic decision-making, by conducting needs assessments and gap analyses that allow us to identify solutions for (emerging) gaps and to prioritize needs. Third, we plan and develop the response strategy, by setting indicators, standards and guidelines for all partners. Fourth, we monitor and evaluate the performance of the cluster. Fifth, we identify advocacy concerns to contribute to HC and HCT messaging and action. And finally, our sixth function is to build capacity in preparedness and contingency planning.
OHW: OHW is responsible for having close coordination and reporting on the project activities to FSAC so the IM officer can create a mapping of the FSAC presence and activities. We also upload project activities report in the online Report HUB. Partners also share their assessment, good practices, success stories and lesson learned with FSAC and a wider group, for example, FSAC newsletter publishes partner’s articles related to food security and agriculture response in the country.
ACBAR: Many Afghan NGOs do not participate actively in the clusters, why not? What can you tell them to encourage them?
OHW: It is probably because of the low awareness of the cluster system and that they do not have the relevant technical staff to cover all the meetings.. As a national NGO, ourselves, we recommend that our peers participate in clusters actively.
FSAC: Amongst the challenges for Afghan NGOs, we found the difficulty for some NGOs to afford transportation cost, the limited technical staff in food security, the language barrier, and the low awareness of the cluster system. To encourage NGOs to participate, we brief partners on cluster core functions and importance; we conduct partners’ capacity building programs; we give technical support during proposal developments; we undertake advocacy activity on behalf of NGOs; we share regular response gap analysis and assessments; and finally, we enhance partners visibility (with the 3Ws, newsletter, bulletin and FSAC reports).
ACBAR: How did the Twinning program help NGOs to know about the importance of the cluster?
OHW: We were already attending clusters before the Twinning Program, but not on a regular basis. With the Twinning Program, we have bi-weekly meetings or monthly meeting with ACBAR colleagues and they encourage us to have regular participation in the clusters. The “Twinning”/ “pairing” part is a good way to promote this: with our international partner; we sort of have a “coordination buddy” in our own cluster.
FSAC: National NGOs compared to International NGOs have more access throughout the country, so we really appreciate the role of the Twinning Program in promoting National NGOs capacity. The Twining Program also emphasizes carrying out quality assessments which enrich the data and analysis of the cluster.