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United Nations Global Issues

Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Assistance

UN Bodies

IASC’s “cluster approach” to humanitarian assistance

The “cluster approach” to humanitarian assistance aims to strengthen humanitarian response by ensuring high standards of predictability, accountability and partnership. Any major new or ongoing emergency is addressed in terms of the following clusters, each with its own lead agency or agencies, and a range of UN and non-UN partners:

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is also part of the IASC. 

In a given country, upon the occurrence of a complex emergency or when an already existing humanitarian situation worsens in degree or complexity, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, on behalf of the Secretary-General and after consultation with the IASC, designates a Humanitarian Coordinator  for that country.

OCHA also helps its IASC partners and the humanitarian coordinator to mobilize resources by launching consolidated inter-agency appeals.

Three United Nations entities have primary roles in providing protection and assistance in humanitarian crises.  They are:

Other major players include:

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) monitors impending famines, and other food and agricultural concerns, through its Global Information and Early Warning and Information System (GIEWS).

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) assists disaster-prone countries in developing contingency planning and other preparedness measures (publications).

The World Food Programme (WFP) analyses the impacts of a crisis on a country's population and explains the interaction between food insecurity, malnutrition, poverty, poor health and care practices and education, through its Emergency Food Security Assessments (EFSA).

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) carries out tropical cyclone forecasting and drought monitoring.