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Protocol 1. Humanitarian System-Wide Scale-Up Activation, Definition and Procedures

Publication date

I. Definition

The IASC Principals have agreed that major sudden-onset crises and/or substantial deterioration of a humanitarian situation triggered by natural and human-induced hazards or conflict, which require system-wide mobilization are to be subject to a Humanitarian System-Wide Scale-Up Activation (henceforth referred to as ‘Scale-Up activation’). This exceptional measure shall only be applied for a time-bound period of up to six months where the gravity of the humanitarian situation justifies the mobilization of system-wide capacities and resources, beyond standard levels, to respond to critical humanitarian needs on the ground. Only in exceptional situations shall one additional three-month extension be considered.

Specifically, an IASC Scale-Up activation is a system-wide mobilization in response to a suddenonset and/or rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in a given country, including at the subnational level, where capacity to lead, coordinate and deliver humanitarian assistance does not match the scale, complexity and urgency of the crisis.

The procedure activates mechanisms and tools to: (a) ensure that the IASC system delivers effectively in support of national authorities and existing capacities and monitors its own performance, (b) ensure that adequate capacities and tools for empowered leadership and coordination of the humanitarian system are in place, and (c) engage IASC member organisations and Global Cluster Lead Agencies to put in place the required systems and to mobilize the required resources to contribute to the response as per their respective mandates.

A Scale-Up activation indicates the scale at which the humanitarian system needs to step-up its efforts and to activate internal procedures to better respond to the crisis. A Scale-Up activation does not indicate a ranking of the severity of the crisis, or that the crisis should, at this stage, be prioritized for funding by the international community. Through other mechanisms, humanitarian and development partners invest in preparedness, operational readiness, early warning and early action to limit the number of emergency situations in which Scale-Up activation would be required.

During this period of activation, the required capacities to sustain the level of response should be put in place. The procedure mandates that the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) develop context appropriate benchmarks from the outset, followed by a transition plan and post-activation accompanying measures.

The Scale-Up activation shall be issued by the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC), in consultation with the concerned RC/HC and IASC Principals, on the basis of an analysis of the following criteria: scale, complexity, urgency, capacity, and risk of failure to deliver at scale to affected populations.

These are defined as follows:

  1. Scale (number of affected/potentially affected people, including in proportion to total country population; size of affected areas);

  2. Urgency (number of people displaced; crude mortality rates; minimal or no access to life-saving support; critical protection risks);

  3. Complexity (multi-layered emergency; presence of a multitude of actors; high risks of politicization; lack of humanitarian access; high security risks to humanitarian actors);

  4. Capacity (low levels of local or international response capacities, including lack of required specialized or technical expertise; needs outweigh the capacity to respond; inadequate humanitarian leadership);

  5. Risk of failure to deliver effectively and at scale to affected populations vis-à-vis assessed need and severity (violations of human rights and international humanitarian law; exacerbation of food insecurity; deterioration of civil unrest).

Details regarding the division of responsibilities, the activation and deactivation procedure, and steps for decision-making and monitoring, are outlined below.