In 2005, the Humanitarian Reform Agenda reviewed the effectiveness of emergency response in order to enhance predictability, accountability and partnership. The cluster approach was one of the elements introduced by this reform, with a clear mandate for improving coordination in emergencies. The Global WASH Cluster (GWC) was formed in 2006, building upon the successes of an existing Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) humanitarian sector working group. The GWC is an open and formal platform for humanitarian WASH actors to work together in partnership. The forum now consists of 76 members, comprising International Organisations, United Nations agencies and International Non-Governmental Organisations. Civil Contingency/response agencies, academic institutes and donors also play an active role. It is managed through a governance system designed to facilitate the achievement of the 2016-2020 GWC Strategic Plan in a transparent and efficient manner.  The Global WASH Cluster Strategic Plan that sets out the priorities decided by Partners will be reviewed and monitored to take into consideration the contextual changes associated with the Transformative Agenda of the Humanitarian Reform.

Emphasis is put on the support provided to National WASH Coordination Platforms in the achievement of the 6 core coordination functions as identified in the IASC Cluster Coordination Reference Module. This support is provided through the Field Support Team of the GWC cluster and using a series of tools developed under the coordination of the Cluster Advocacy and Support Team.

UNICEF as Cluster-lead Agency

As the Cluster Lead Agency for the Global WASH Cluster, UNICEF is responsible for establishing broad partnership bases (i.e. “clusters”) that engage inactivities in three main areas, as follows: Setting Standards and Policies The WASH CLA is responsible for consolidating and disseminating standards, as well as identifying ‘best practice’ for areas requiring technical expertise. Where necessary, the CLA will also develop standards and policies where there are none already existing. Building Response capacity The CLA is responsible for developing systems to build coordination, assessment and information management capacity and maintain standby rosters and surge capacity resources to ensure that unforeseen needs can be met, wherever they are. Operational Support As ensuring there are dedicated coordination and information management support staff, the CLA secures access to appropriate technical expertise for preparedness, response, transition and long term recovery to National WASH Coordination Platforms. The responsibility to pool resources, ensure complementarity of response and to build and enhance partnerships mainly lies with the CLA. Advocating for the scale up of responses and for increased resources where necessary also falls under the CLA remit.

The Transformative Agenda

In 2010, the responses to the Haiti earthquake and Pakistan floods exposed a number of weaknesses and inefficiencies in the international humanitarian response. The Tranformative Agenda, driven by the Inter-agency Standing Committee, aimed at transforming the response of the humanitarian community through stronger leadership, more effective coordination structures and improved accountability for performance and to affected people. This built on the process of humanitarian reform from 2005 by focusing on the impact of change, rather than the process of implementing change. In the framework of the Transformative Agenda, the basics of cluster coordination have been reviewed and summarized in a reference guide for practitioners to facilitate the work through which humanitarian outcomes can be improved.

National Level Cluster Coordination

At the country level, the aim of the cluster approach is to strengthen response through predictability, accountability, and partnership by ensuring better prioritization and defining roles and responsibilities of humanitarian organizations. Consequently, the core functions of a cluster at the country-level 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 of the HC/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 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, CAP, CERF, Emergency Response Fund/Common Humanitarian Fund)

4. Monitoring and reporting the implementation of the cluster strategy and results; recommending corrective action where necessary

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

The Global WASH Cluster Strategic Plan (GWCSP) sets out the priorities decided by Partners for 2016 to 2020. The Global WASH Cluster (GWC) has the primary mandate of “strengthening system-wide preparedness and coordination of technical capacity to respond predictably to humanitarian emergencies, and provide clear leadership and accountability in the main areas of humanitarian response.” As priority, the GWC exists to support the achievement of the 6+1 core coordination functions at country level as described in the Cluster Coordination Reference Module1, that support the effective and predictable delivery of appropriate WASH for those affected by an emergency.

The GWC is led by UNICEF as the Cluster Lead Agency (CLA) and made up of full and associate member agencies at Global level. UNICEF and the GWC partners have designated the Cluster Advocacy and Support Team (CAST) to manage GWC in close collaboration with a Strategic advisory Group (SAG). Overall, the GWC is committed to (1) supporting agencies providing WASH services to those affected by emergencies, (2) ensuring the quality and coherence of the assistance, and (3) ensuring that the assistance is provided in a manner that is equitable, culturally acceptable and protects the dignity of the populations affected by crises.

The 2016-2020 GWC Strategic Plan describes how the GWC intends to deliver on these commitments. This plan is for all its members who are expected to contribute to the achievement of the plan and its objectives through participative engagement and partnership, both at global and country levels. It was developed through an extensive consultative process (using on-line survey, key informant interviews and document review) undertaken during the whole 2016 with a wide range of stakeholders, and consolidated after a final consultation with the GWC partners at the 21st GWC meeting held in Kathmandu on November 22nd and 23rd, 2016.

ANNEX 1: GWCSP Result Framework ANNEX 2: GWCSP Monitoring Framework

The GWC supports country level WASH Cluster Coordination Platforms. Visit the Countries section to learn more about where the GWC is supporting national WASh coordination platforms. Visit the Operational Support section to learn more about what type of support the GWC provides to these platforms.


Other contacts:

Global WASH Cluster Coordinator
Dominique Porteaud

UNICEF Geneva 5-7 Avenue de la Paix 1211
Geneva, Switzerland 
Office: +41 22 909 5329 
Fax: +41 22 909 5902 

Deputy Global WASH Cluster Coordinator
Franck Bouvet

UNICEF Geneva 5-7 Avenue de la Paix 1211
Geneva, Switzerland