A. Introduction

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Lessons Learned Review: OCHA-Angola 2000 – 20021

A. Introduction

  1. As part of its commitment to improving its performance, OCHA has undertaken a Lessons Learned review of its work in Angola, focusing on the years 2000-2002. This period has been chosen because it was one of tremendous humanitarian crisis, during which OCHA-Angola responded by engaging robustly with all partners, and by introducing a number of innovations to coordination.2 This robust, innovative approach, described as “full coordination,” is the focus of the Lessons Learned review.

  1. This report assumes some familiarity with the conflict in Angola. During the course of the war – which began in 1974 and ended definitively in 2002 -- millions of civilians suffered displacement, death by malnutrition and long periods under siege in provincial capitals. 3 The humanitarian response to this protracted crisis was massive. By 2000, 10 United Nations (UN) Agencies, 80 international Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), 300 National NGOs, and numerous Government bodies were all engaged in humanitarian response. This was OCHA-Angola’s constituency, in a country of 1.2 million square kilometers and more than 13 million people.

  1. OCHA first established a presence in Angola in 1993.4 In the ensuing period an array of coordination mechanisms and an extensive field structure were established. These were the building blocks for OCHA-Angola 2000-2002. OCHA’s long tenure in the country is of singular importance. The seven years work – and accrued reputation – that preceded the review period put OHCA-Angola is a position to take the assertive steps of 2000-2002.

B. Methodology and Report Structure

  1. Research for the Lessons Learned Review was primarily undertaken through interviews carried out in Angola from 9 – 22 August 2003.5 This report is not exhaustive. OCHA-Angola is a repository of guidelines for implementing most facets of coordination. As such a thorough recording of OCHA-Angola’s best practices should be undertaken as a priority, in order to augment existing instruction for OCHA field offices.6 Priority here has been given to generic lessons of the period under review that were noted by OCHA-Angola staff and their partners in the field.7 Two broad and related areas will be addressed in some detail:

      • The Coordination Process – Planning, Coordination Mechanisms, Information Management and Field Presence.

      • Innovations in Coordination – Normative or Standard Setting Activity, Protection, Emergency Response Funding and Leadership.

  1. The report concludes by proposing a single, principal lesson of OCHA-Angola’s 2000-2002 experience.

C. The Coordination Process

i. Planning - The more inclusive the planning process, the more effective the coordination.


  1. Developing humanitarian strategy in Angola was a shared affair. Each step in the planning process increased consensus through inclusion of all relevant actors and the use of transparent ground rules. OCHA-Angola, as the coordinating body, drove this process by convening and managing all major planning fora, and by finalising, disseminating and then supporting the application of protocols and guidance for the full planning cycle – from assessment through to monitoring. The end result was that all major stakeholders agreed to a set of priorities, arrived at through the use of clear methodologies, which were designed and supported by OCHA-Angola. This planning process was so inclusive that it became ‘the only game in town,’ and the opportunity cost of abstaining became prohibitive for serious humanitarian organisations.


  1. The planning process in Angola began with shared assessments based on common guidelines prepared by OCHA-Angola in collaboration with relevant partners. These assessments were undertaken jointly by a cross-section of the humanitarian community and were facilitated by OCHA-Angola.8 Once recorded, these joint assessment findings were discussed at the national level, through a series of meetings convened by OCHA-Angola on behalf of the Government.9 These discussions identified priorities. Nationally agreed priorities were then adopted at the provincial level, where plans were developed under Government auspices, facilitated by OCHA-Angola. These provincial plans became the basis for the annual Consolidated Appeal. The inclusion of Government in most processes, in a titular leadership role also reflects OCHA-Angola’s commitment to including a capacity building element into their activities wherever possible.

  1. The planning process in Angola also reflected a strong understanding of context, reflected by pragmatic adjustments of approach. In 2000 and 2001 for example, the nature of the conflict required extremely rapid assessments of large-scale displacement and immediate response to emergency needs. Planning tools were appropriately tailored by establishing procedures that required assessment findings to be transformed into Plans of Action within twenty-four hours, specifying needs in four designated ‘Core Pipeline’ areas. In 2002, as the war concluded, the need for rapid action continued, but those most in need were to be found in small pockets throughout the country rather than in large groups of displaced. Assessment protocols were again adjusted to ensure that they best addressed this situation.10

  1. Inclusive planning required more than clear methodologies and pragmatism. OCHA-Angola also engaged in tactical management of different constituencies. The humanitarian community in Angola divided into a series of natural groups: UN Agencies, International and National NGOs, donors and Government, or combinations thereof. These groups sub-divided further (a distinction could be drawn for example, between the discussions at the technical and management levels). Each of these different constituencies was engaged separately throughout the planning process (see “Coordination Mechanisms”). While priorities and goals were consistent across groups, emphasis or presentation was altered as required to ensure buy-in from each member of a diverse community. OCHA-Angola also recognized a clear hierarchy of partners. Every effort was made to secure the support of major donors, certain UN Agencies and the Government as a matter of priority, with the understanding that agreement from major enablers and potential spoilers was a requirement of moving forward.

  1. The results of this inclusive planning are best reflected in participation in the Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP). All major humanitarian actors (save the churches) participate in the CAP. Many of the NGOs did so acknowledging that participation had no relationship to funding flows. Despite its not bringing in any money, the CAP was seen as “the only game in town,” an opportunity to have a hand in setting priorities, and an opportunity to illustrate their engagement in the planning process to donors. The Government showed similar commitment. In one case (Huile Province) using the CAP to monitor the humanitarian programme.

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