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Implementing a coordination mechanism

Last edited: July 03, 2013

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  • When and how a GBV coordination mechanism is launched and led in humanitarian settings will depend on a variety of factors determined by the local environment (e.g. if there is a pre-existing coordination mechanism). Where there is no pre-existing GBV coordination mechanism, ideally one will be instituted at the outset of an emergency. However, due to lack of resources, political will, and/or other issues, this is not always the case.   Actors working on GBV must remain vigilant to monitor the situation to ensure GBV issues are being addressed and, if necessary, conduct advocacy to ensure that a coordination mechanism is instituted as soon as possible.   


Example:  In Myanmar following Cyclone Nargis, a Women’s Protection Technical Working Group (the term ‘women’s protection’ was favoured over the term ‘GBV’ for political and social reasons) was originally created within a Protection of Children and Women (PCW) Cluster.  Because the cluster focused primarily on children’s issues (partly due to the fact that it was led by child-protection agencies), GBV issues were under-recognized.  An evaluation of the PCW Cluster three months after its inception recommended that there should be a separate GBV coordination  mechanism  in  order  to  more  effectively  coordinate  women’s  protection  efforts. The establishment of a sub-cluster dedicated to women’s protection resulted in greater prioritization of women’s issues, including GBV, in several key multi-sectoral initiatives, such as the Post-Nargis Response and Preparedness Plan, various donor appeals and the Myanmar Contingency Plan.

Source: excerpted from Ward, 2010.


  • When planning for a coordination mechanism, it is critical to ensure there is sufficient staffing and that leadership of the coordination mechanism has authority and experience.  Too often, GBV coordination mechanisms will be led by a single individual who may not have sufficient experience or authority to influence UN, government and INGO partners.  In addition to an experienced, full-time coordination lead, it is often necessary to have secretarial and logistical support—someone to organize and announce meetings, draft and distribute minutes, facilitate communication among coordination members, share resources, develop information systems, and manage knowledge through documentation of case studies or interactive communities of practice.  This support will allow the coordination lead to focus on substantive issues related to building partnerships and capacity, conducting advocacy, ensuring the implementation of action plans, etc.
  • After the coordination mechanism is initiated, several key activities should be undertaken within the first month. When combined with appropriate leadership skills, these activities will help to ensure that coordination partners have the momentum to move forward.
  • Solicit participation by relevant actors.  GBV coordination should be inclusive of a variety of UN, INGO, local NGO, government and donor representatives, as well as people of concern. In order to ensure membership of relevant partners, it may be important to conduct outreach to engage and encourage attendance at coordination meetings. It is also important to trouble-shoot any potential challenges in coordination membership.
  • Draft a Terms of Reference (TOR):. Creating a TOR should be one of the first activities of the coordination mechanism in order to ensure a common understanding about coordination goals, leadership, membership and the nature, scope and objectives of coordination activities. In settings where there are multiple coordination mechanisms, TORs should be created for each, from the national level down to the local level, and every effort should be made to ensure that all TORs are consistent in their background information, definitions of VAWGG and guiding principles. In settings where the emergency GBV coordination mechanism is incorporated into a pre-existing coordination structure, it is still important to develop a TOR for the emergency coordination work.  See sample terms of reference from Afghanistan, and Kyrgyzstan. 
  • Develop an Action Plan:  The IASC GBV Guidelines highlight the responsibility of the coordination mechanism to develop a plan of action for prevention of and response to GBV. An inter-agency GBV Action Plan is a document that provides a vision for comprehensive GBV programming in an emergency, outlines priority objectives and associated activities, allocates specific roles and responsibilities to various partners, and identifies indicators for measuring whether objectives have been met. It increases accountability of the GBV  coordination mechanism by linking the work of the coordination mechanism to programming efforts. An Action Plan is critical to both coordination and programming, in so far as it assists in achieving the following results: 
  • creating a guiding framework
  • building more effective and innovative responses
  • facilitating advocacy and communication
  • improving access to resources
  • promoting continuity and sustainability
  • monitoring and evaluating interventions

See a sample action plan here.


Example:  Action-planning is a cyclical process that builds upon itself, in so far as any Action Plan requires regular monitoring and revision. An Action Plan should include a provision for how often it will be periodically reviewed/revised. In Sudan, it was decided at the Darfur-wide level and by the GBV Core Working Group that each Action Plan would be by state due to the dynamics and political sensitivities in each location. A first Action Plan Development Process was undertaken in each state in 2007, followed by a Darfur-wide exchange of best practices and lessons learned that identified key advocacy points common to the three states. In 2009 the GBV Working Groups did their own review and Action Plan development based on the same structure from 2007/2008  (Ward, 2010).


  • Initiate an information system for coordination:  An information system for coordination relates to collecting and sharing information that is essential to effective coordination.  An information system is critical to ensuring the coordination mechanism is active, well-managed, and transparent.  When technology is available, the easiest way to manage and share information is through a designated website; the URL for the website can then be included on any public information that is shared about the coordination mechanism.  If there is a desire to limit sharing of certain materials to a specific audience, it may be useful to develop a group website with different levels of access for different users. Where Internet is not available, briefing packs can be regularly distributed to coordination members and, where appropriate, external partners.  Although working with hard-copy materials can be extremely time-consuming, sharing information is an essential task of coordination and should not be limited to those with Internet access.
  • Identify focal points for other clusters/sectors:  It is not realistic—or efficient—for coordination leads to attend all cluster/sector meetings, but it is critical that the GBV coordination mechanism support other clusters/sectors in their efforts to address GBV issues.  In order to ensure ongoing collaboration with various humanitarian cluster/sectors, it is useful to identify focal points within the coordination mechanism who are willing to attend other cluster/sector meetings, provide guidance and support, and report back to the GBV coordination mechanism. (See Engaging Other Clusters/Sectors and Section VIII: Prevention Programming Mainstreamed through Key Humanitarian Sectors/Clusters.)