The independent review commissioned by the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) in 2005 found significant gaps in humanitarian response – gaps in geographic coverage and in the types and levels of assistance and service provided. There was also a recognition that organisations needed to work together in a more harmonized and coordinated way so as to maximize the impact of the resources for the response.
The Cluster Approach was adopted by the IASC the same year to increase predictability and accountability in all the main sectors of international humanitarian response and ensure that gaps in response do not go unaddressed.
The designation of Cluster Lead Agencies (CLAs) with clearly-defined responsibilities and accountabilities – including the responsibility to identify gaps in humanitarian response in their sector and take action to fill them – is the principal difference between the “cluster approach” and other sector coordination mechanisms.
Three sets of principles underlie the Cluster approach and are expected to be adhered to by all Clusters and Cluster partners:
- Humanitarian principles;
- Principles of partnership;
- Accountability to affected populations.