The global Food Security Cluster Meeting of Partners - October 2012

Oct, 2012-10-19 14:11

The global Food Security Cluster (gFSC) meeting of partners was held from 24 to 25 October 2012 in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting brought together more than 60 participants and observers representing 28 different partner agencies. The meeting was chaired by Hilary Dhliwayo-Motsiri, International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The overall purpose of the meeting was to review the work of the gFSC throughout 2012 and to identify the strategic direction for 2013-2014. The specific objectives of the two day meeting were to:

  • Assess progress and provide direction for the global Food Security Cluster's four Working Groups
  • Identify field support requirements
  • Review the key priorities of the gFSC Strategic Plan January 2013 to December 2014
  • Identify priority gFSC activities and responsible entities from November 2012 to April 2013.

These objectives were achieved with active and productive presentations and discussion leading to specific practical input to the gFSC moving forward.

The meeting had a special focus on country level clusters, drawing on direct input from the Afghanistan Food Security Cluster NGO co-chair, the Somalia cluster co-coordinator and the food security cluster information manager who worked in Libya, Bangladesh and Fiji. The three national cluster colleagues provided an introduction on key topics of concern, highlighting best practices and identifying areas of support / increased engagement needed from the gFSC. They drew directly from their work at the country level.

One of the most important messages provided from the country coordinators was the need for the increased engagement of partners at the national and sub-national levels.  The role of the gFSC is to support the country clusters / coordination. This is a role which cannot be carried out solely by the lead agencies and the global support team. 

Experience from Bangladesh, in particular, demonstrated the importance of having shared, clear objectives and ways of work to ensure smooth transitions into emergency responses by all partners. Established, agreed and strong information management systems as well as clear and transparent lines of communication and coordination can reduce confusion in times of crisis and contribute to a more effective overall response to an emergency. For this to happen, advance building of all the necessary tools for activation is essential and as part of an overall discussion on quality programming, participants were provided with examples from WFP and ICRC where protection tools have been mainstreamed in country food security operations, including lessons learned and best practices.

Essential, too, is full sensitization of stakeholders regarding their roles and what they can expect from the cluster coordination systems. 

The importance of such approaches for the FSC and for effective overall humanitarian responses was stressed and reiterated strongly throughout plenary discussions.  

It was also stressed that further guidance on dealing with governments is needed (recognising country differences). This needs to be specific to the Food Security Cluster to complement the generic IASC Guidance on working with National Authorities. 

It was agreed that there is a need for more consistent engagement of the humanitarian community (including donors) in the funding of coordination and cluster management.

It was concluded that the discussions and recommendations from this meeting would form the basis of the two year global Food Security 2013-2014 strategic plan.  The specific suggested areas of action and way forward for the gFSC in 2013 -2014 included the following:

  • In order to ensure synergy between the Working Groups, specific meetings of all Co-chairs will be regularly scheduled. The Co-chairs will provide a brief overview of the work of the groups and discuss possible areas of synergy. The gFSC support team will provide the secretariat support to these meetings. 
  • The four gFSC Working Groups will revise plans-of-action for the period October 2012 – April 2013 based on the feedback and outcomes of discussions during this meeting.  All minutes of the Working Groups will be shared with all gFSC partners. 
  • gFSC partners are encouraged to continue  (and in some cases) increase their commitment to the technical working groups. 
  • Further guidance for countries dealing with government needs to be provided and should be specifically targeted for use by the Food Security Cluster, complementing the generic IASC Guidance on working with National Authorities.  Such guidance must recognise differences in country situations.
  • It was recognised that the extent of effectiveness of each country inter-cluster coordination group is very dependent on the personality and leadership abilities of the designated focal point within OCHA.  Both the global and country food security clusters should advocate for and support the principle of NGO direct involvement in country inter-cluster forums. [NB. The OCHA representative at the meeting recognised the need to strengthen inter-cluster systems and leadership in all cluster countries.] 
  • In line with the commitments of the gFSC, all global partners need to ensure that their country teams become involved in/ support and understand their role and the added value of the FSC at the national level. 
  • The gFSC will explore the specific role of the gFSC and how to link / integrate with the existing CALP / CASH groups that already exist within organizations at global and national levels. 

It was agreed that the next meeting of partners of the global Food Security Cluster would be hosted by the World Food Programme, Rome 17-18 April with the face-to-face technical meetings to be held on Tuesday 16 April 2012.