Responsibilities of the Cluster Lead Agency


The actions outlined in the table below are adapted from a matrix developed by Global Cluster Leads.

Note that many of the actions defined as the responsibility of the Head of the Cluster Lead Agency can be – even should be – delegated to the Cluster Coordinator depending on his/her seniority and experience. In a large-scale, rapid-onset emergency, in-coming Cluster Coordinators should be the same grade as their counterpart Programme Section Chief.



1. Coordination and inclusion

  • Appoint (hire) dedicated CC
  • Ensure regular meetings
  • Ensure CC attends ICCG
  • Help CC find solutions to strategic Cluster challenges
  • Help RC/HC and HCT determine overall direction of humanitarian action
  • Support RC/HC in advocating to Government, Donors etc.
  • Help RC/HC understand sectoral and inter-sectoral issues
  • Support HCT in resolving sectoral and inter-sectoral issues



  • Identify and engage with all sector stakeholders
  • Identify existing coordination mechanisms
  • Hold regular Cluster coordination meetings building on existing coordination for a
  • Collect who, what, where, when (4W) information and feed to ICCG IM working group
  • Provide consolidated feedback to Cluster partners and other Clusters
  • Represent the Cluster at ICCG meetings
  • Contribute to jointly identifying critical issues that require multi-sectoral responses, and plan interventions with other relevant Clusters

2. Coordination with national and local authorities


  • Maintain appropriate links and dialogue with State authorities, local civil society, and other relevant actors (e.g national and international military forces) whose activities affect humanitarian space
  • Work with RC/HC to identify a single government counterpart for each Cluster



  • Identify and build a relationship with the single government (line ministry) counterpart identified.




Needs assessment, analysis, and gap identification


  • Make CLA technical expertise and other resources available for Cluster and joint needs assessments
  • Participate in the analysis of data and information on risks, vulnerabilities, status, and resources
  • Monitor service performance
  • Ensure establishment or early warning and response systems (EWARS)
  • Advise RC/HC and HCT on sector-specific issues and priorities
  • Work with HCT to determine overall humanitarian priorities based on assessed need



  • Assess and monitor the availability of services in the affected areas using capacity mapping and gap analysis tools
  • Identify immediate humanitarian needs using rapid assessment tools (IRA, RAT) adapted to the local context, and ensure later in-depth sub-sectoral assessment
  • Mobilise Cluster partners to contribute to the establishment and maintenance of information flows
  • Regularly report on services delivered, outstanding needs, and main constraints to service delivery

Strategy development & gap-filling


  • Participate actively in gap analysis, priority-setting and development of a crisis response strategy and Cluster action plan
  • Ensure that humanitarian responses build on local capacities and that the needs, contributions and capacities of vulnerable groups (not just women and children) are addressed
  • Ensure that Cluster strategies take appropriate account of national policies, strategies, and lessons learned
  • Ensure incorporation of an appropriate phase-out / transition strategy for the Cluster
  • Ensure that early recovery components are identified and exploited as early as possible in sectoral and inter-sectoral responses, and that risk reduction measures are incorporated into Cluster strategies
  • Work with the HCT on formulating advice for the RC/HC on how best to resolve conflicting, duplicated, and contradictory Cluster strategies and action plans



  • Lead and contribute to the joint Cluster analysis of sector information leading to joint identification of gaps in the sectoral response, and reach agreement on priorities that inform the evolution and adaptation of the Cluster response strategy
  • Provide leadership and strategic direction to the Cluster in agreeing response strategies and priorities, and planning coordinated action to address critical un-covered gaps
  • In protracted crises or when addressing recovery, ensure appropriate links among humanitarian actions and longer-term sector plans – incorporating the concept of ‘build back better’ and specific risk reduction measures wherever possible



Contingency planning & preparedness


  • Participate actively in Cluster and inter-agency contingency planning and preparedness for new events according to scenarios agreed by the HCT
  • Work with the RC/HC to determine the overall contingency planning process/cycle

  • Lead joint  Cluster contingency planning for potential new events

Application of Standards


  • Ensure that all Cluster partners are aware of relevant national policy guidelines, technical standards, and internationally-recognized best practices
  • Where national standards are not in line with international standards (bearing in mind they are sometimes higher), negotiate adoption of the latter
  • Advise the RC/HC on sectoral standards to promote and highlight their implications for humanitarian action



  • Promote adherence of standards and best practices by all Cluster partners, taking into account the need for adaptation to the local context
  • Promote use of the (WASH) Cluster and SPHERE handbook to ensure the application of common and coherent approaches, tools, and standards
  • Facilitate linkages between Cluster partners and technical advisers outside the country

Training & Capacity-building


  • Promote and support the training of staff and capacity-building of humanitarian partners, including national authorities and civil society, to assure appropriate and sustainable services
  • Inform RC/HC about training and capacity-building activities being undertaken by UNICEF on behalf of Cluster partners



  • Identify urgent training needs in relation to technical standards and protocols for the delivery of key services and ensure their adoption of uniform applications by all Cluster partners
  • Source and disseminate technical materials agreed by the Cluster (or technical working groups established by the Cluster)
  • Organize technical workshops for all Cluster partners, including national and local authorities

Monitoring & Reporting


  • Produce and disseminate Cluster SitReps and regular bulletins using input from the Cluster Coordinator
  • Advocate for Donors to fund priority activities of all Cluster partners in line with priorities outlined in Cluster strategies
  • Represent the interests of Cluster partners in discussions with the HCT and RC/HC on resource mobilization priorities



  • Ensure the regular and proactive involvement of Cluster partners in sharing information and monitoring of individual and common plans of action
  • Collate and disseminate information relevant to the Cluster as a whole in Cluster SitReps and bulletins

Advocacy & Resource mobilization


  • Represent Cluster (not just UNICEF) interests in media events
  • Provide the RC/HC with advice on issues of particular concern regarding funding constraints, government involvement, and donor action

  • Provide leadership and strategic direction to the Cluster in developing sector-specific components of appeals documents (Flash Appeal, CERF, CAP, CHAP) and other inter-agency planning and funding documents

Provider of last resort


  • Act as the ‘provider of last resort (subject to access, security, and financial constraints) to meet priority needs identified by the Cluster
  • Inform the RC/HC, regional office, and headquarters of financial, human, and material needs and work with them to secure the necessary resources
  • Discuss gaps with HCT over POLR constraints and give voice to participants over related concerns and gaps



  • Inform the UNICEF Representative of priority gaps that Cluster partners are unable or unwilling to fill, and that might require UNICEF action as provider of last resort
This is is a section from Clusterwise 2. Reproduction is encouraged. It would be nice if the author, James Shepherd-Barron, and were acknowledged when doing so.

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