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The Cluster Approach

The Global WASH Cluster (GWC) is one of the 11 humanitarian clusters established in 2006 and has since been operated by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), following the Humanitarian Reform and further defined by the Transformative Agenda. At the global level, the GWC supports the cluster approach by strengthening system-wide preparedness and coordination of response capacity in humanitarian crises and providing clear leadership and accountability. At the country level, the GWC supports National Coordination Platforms (NCPs) to strengthen partnerships, and the predictability and accountability of humanitarian action, by improving prioritization and clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of humanitarian organizations. As a priority, the GWC supports NCPs on the delivery of the 6+1 core functions, which guide cluster coordination, as outlined in the IASC Reference Module for Cluster Coordination.

Since 2006, the GWC has been directly supporting cluster coordination and inter-cluster collaboration in more than 32 countries. The establishment of clusters is a decision made in the country, based on an analysis of humanitarian needs and coordination capacity on the ground, in consultation with national partners. As a result, the GWC updates its priority countries biannually, considering existing country capacities, to determine the level of support provided by the GWC.

Role of the Cluster Lead Agency

As the Cluster Lead Agency (CLA) for the Global WASH Cluster (GWC), UNICEF is responsible for establishing clusters that focus on three main areas:

  • Operational support: by properly staffing the core coordination functions through the allocation of dedicated human resources for coordination and information management, the CLA ensures appropriate expertise for preparedness, response and transition. This includes responsibility to pool resources and build partnerships to increase synergy and complementarity.
  • Setting standards and policies: by leading on the development and/or consolidation of existing standards and policies and ensuring the dissemination of these key resources ensures leadership and accountability by the CLA for preparedness, response and transition.
  • Building response capacity: by developing systems to build coordination, information management and assessment capacity ensures that effective and accountable humanitarian water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) coordination is supported by the CLA. This also includes advocating the scale-up of responses and increasing resources, when needed.

The role of CLAs is further outlined in UNICEF’s Core Commitment to Children (CCCs), and the UNICEF Cluster Coordination Guidance for Country Office.

Core Coordination Functions

The 6+1 core functions that guide coordination both globally and in-country are:

1. Supporting service delivery

  • Provide a platform to ensure that service delivery is driven by the agreed strategic priorities
  • Develop mechanisms to eliminate duplication of service delivery

2. Informing strategic decision-making

Inform strategic decision-making of the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC)/Humanitarian Coordination Team (HCT) for the humanitarian response:

  • Needs assessment and response gap analysis (across sectors and within the sector)
  • Analysis to identify and address (emerging) gaps, obstacles, duplication and cross-cutting issues
  • Prioritization, grounded in response analysis

3. Planning and strategy development

  • Develop sectoral plans, objectives and indicators that directly support the realization of the HC/HCT strategic priorities
  • Apply and adhere to existing standards and guidelines
  • Clarify funding requirements, prioritization, and cluster contributions for the HC’s overall humanitarian funding considerations (e.g. Flash Appeal, Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP), Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), Emergency Response Fund/Common Humanitarian Fund)

4. Monitoring and reporting

Monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the cluster strategy and results; recommending corrective action where necessary

The GWC monitors the performance the 6+1 core functions for each NCP on an annual basis using key tools, such as the Cluster Coordination Performance Monitoring (CCPM) and the GWC’s Minimum Requirements for Coordination.

5. Contingency planning/preparedness/capacity building

6. Advocacy

  • Identify advocacy concerns to contribute to HC and HCT messaging and action
  • Undertake advocacy activities on behalf of cluster participants and the affected population

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