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Explained: Global Humanitarian Response Plan of UN

Updated: Sep 11, 2020

AUTHOR: Kaushik Das

2nd Year, B.B.A.LL.B., National Law University Odisha, Cuttack

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Introduction: UN Launches the Global Humanitarian Response Plan

An unprecedented situation has engulfed the world, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, or as popularly termed, the Coronavirus throughout the world. Filled, with instances of death and without any probable cure in sight for the immediate time period, the virus has already been attributed to 1,601,018 cases and the total deaths stand reported to be at 95,718 worldwide (as of 10th of April, 8:14 a.m., John Hopkins). In India, also the cases have been steadily growing with 5,709 reported active cases, and 199 deaths (as of 10th of April, 9:20 a.m., MoFHW).

The coronavirus pandemic began in the Wuhan province of China, which slowly then spread by transmission to other parts of the country and the world. Unprecedented in nature, the country had in urgency imposed strict lockdown on the entire Wuhan region, as well as the neighbouring Hubei region to prevent the spread of the virus, and the healthcare for the ill was started in a war footing. Only, till recently the entire region was still under lockdown, wherein as the rise of the number of new cases has been arrested, now the regions strict lockdown has been relaxed. Yet, the situation still needs close monitoring to prevent a reflux in the number of cases.

Countries around the world are also being pushed to the brink as healthcare systems barely manage to treat the sudden influx of patients, all while trying to prevent further infection among the populace by measures taken by the government.

In response to the situations prevalent, many countries throughout the world have imposed lockdowns in their constituents, and have prevented mass gatherings and mingling of people to try to stem the spread of the virus further. In the same method, various agencies and organisations in the international forum seeing the need of the hour have also stepped up and enhanced their work in the field and also, outlaid various plans and methods of approach. All of this is in tune to try to halt the spread of the virus and to prevent further death and suffering to the populace, as well as to mitigate future repercussions. Since the declaration of the COVID-19, virus, as a pandemic in March, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has held regular briefings and the United Nations (UN) has also closely monitored the situation.

Various countries around the world are or have been in situations of turmoil and disarray before the outbreak, in these regions, there has been increased need for humanitarian actions, and the same are often carried out by the United Nations through their Response Plans. The outbreak has led to the possibility of further strain in these already fragile situations and that is where the Global Humanitarian Response Plan (Released in April 2020) of the UN is aimed at, to mitigate and alleviate possible challenges and seek solutions for these countries who face a higher risk due to factors prevalent in their regions.

The UN along with its partners has launched the Global Humanitarian Response Plan, to counteract the effects of COVID-19 Pandemic.

Significance of the Global Humanitarian Response Plan

“The world is only as strong as the weakest health system. This COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan aims to enable us to fight the virus in the world’s poorest countries, and address the needs of the most vulnerable people.”

António Guterres

Secretary-General of the United Nations

Antonio Guterres, The current Secretary-General Of the UN.

In regions of the world, there are various humanitarian crises which occur. Some in relation to civil turmoil, weak economies, refugee related challenges, amongst many others, in the ambit of a global outlook. In these countries, the healthcare systems are considerably weakened, response mechanisms overburdened and poor, and they often are at higher risks of the spread of pandemics, due to their current state. In certain regions, as mentioned above, the UN implements Response plans, to help the governments to tackle these situations and as such, the UN supplements them by funds, and technical assistance. Similarly, as the COVID-19 pandemic slowly spreads throughout the world, there is a high chance that these countries are also in risk of facing unprecedented stress to their healthcare systems, wherein, whence their healthcare systems are not adapted to face these challenges. Further problems in relation to a probable loss of steady supply of essentials to these regions are also on the cards. For that, the Global Humanitarian Response Plan, seeks to provide humanitarian aid to these regions, monitor the spread of the virus, take measures to alleviate the strain on these systems, and promote sharing of technology and equipment’s so as to enable these countries to tackle the issues. The UN also through these systems, plans to set up monitoring networks for analysing and visualising further plans to stop the pandemic spread.

Suffering, and daily hardships are already a steady hallmark in these regions, wherein the current response through the Global Humanitarian Response Plan is a refresher to the danger looming. In terms of its impact, it sustainably helps the countries prepare their systems to address the risks which may occur, and therefore helps prevent suffering to escalate at a spiral rate, and tries to stem and help these countries in a precarious situation.

All-in-all it is a positive step towards an unprecedented and urgent challenge, where solutions are needed.

Salient Features of the Global Humanitarian Response Plan

The countries around the world are still tuning their responses to the global COVID-19 pandemic. In light of the same, many developments are in probability of change in the upcoming period of time. It is essential to understand though, the method that the Global HRP is taking. The same has been highlighted in detail in the document shared by the UN, and is outlined in brief below.

Purpose and Scope

The plan, outlines US $ 2.01 Billion as a response to the crisis. Under various headings, it outlines the approach and ambit. The purpose of the plan, is to create a joint effort by the members of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (ISAC), including organisations like the UN in collaboration with other international organisations and with the NGOs to create a response plan in tune with the humanitarian requirements stemming from the pandemic, in particular for the countries who are already faced with crises situations from other instances.

In turn, the data relevant to the pandemic, and the responses and plans of various organisations working in the international forum, like the, WHO, IOM, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UN-Habitat, UNICEF, UNHCR as well as the International Red cross and the Red Crescent Movement are taken in aggregate, and are used in a complimentary fashion to develop and work on the crises in these environments mentioned.

One of the key essences is that the NGOs have long played a vital role in supporting and promoting relief structures for the areas, and also in developing and working to solve challenges of various kinds. The same have also been taken into due consideration in the development of this plan and have a large role both in delivery and further development of the plan.

In this situation, it is required that a collative and coordinated effort is ensured, and that is what the plan also lays out to be done, while due respect to the humanitarian principles maintained, in the government’s responses around the world as well as national coordination mechanisms.

On a priority basis, the Global HRP identifies primarily the population who are more vulnerable, and are present in priority countries. The countries thus are identified on the basis of, existing Humanitarian Response Plan, Refugee Response Plans or other multi-country planned approaches. Certain countries have also applied for international assistance, due to the domestic systems being overwhelmed, and the same is also taken into consideration in this plan.

Humanitarian Needs Analysis

During any large-scale situation requiring analysis of factors, there is requirements of assessing the immediate health related issues, as well as the non-health related challenges and requirements of the populations most susceptible to the same. The Global HRP, also analyses these factors, and creates a multi-partner multisectoral response mechanism in this regard to the pandemic.

Further problems, in relation to macroeconomic effects, or resultant long-term effects of the pandemic though are not sought to be addressed in the current Global HRP (Secondary and Tertiary Issues). It is not therefore possible to implement the plan in relation to the long-term requirements which may arise or are seemingly beginning to arise in the various sectors.

Strategic Priorities

The plan identified three strategic priorities:

1. To contain he further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the society. In turn declining the rate of decease of the sickly.

2. To instigate mechanisms for the prevention or decreasing the deterioration of the human assets as well as the rights of all. In turn it also seeks to address that social cohesion may be restored and the livelihoods of people currently in turmoil be restored.

3. The plan also seeks to address the challenges possibly faced by refugees, by initiating their protection, assistance and for their advocacy in the international forum. These groups are especially vulnerable to the pandemic.

Response Mechanism

The main purpose of the response, is in fulfilling the humanitarian principles, and has been identified as such in the Global HRP. It instils gender inclusivity, protection, and engagement in the community. The plan also recognises the assets which are in the frontline of any response mechanisms, which are the local organisations. The plan therefore identifies factors to use them in addressing the situation. It also outlays the importance of the logistical systems functioning in this environment to ensure that the flow of essential goods is not halted worldwide. In turn, the promotion of air, and maritime transport is envisaged in the plan. It helps in addressing the situations cropping up, and providing the essential solutions to vulnerable persons. The healthcare response has also been outlined in the Global HRP, where the principles and declarations made by the WHO are sought to be followed. And in turn this would lead to the development of a holistic plan and a much broader plan for the same.

Coordination Mechanisms and Monitoring framework

In any crisis, sharing of information and the interplay of organisations working in the field is essential. A coordinated and systematised response helps in prevention of loss of ability of the organisations on the ground. In light of the same the Global HRP displays and outlines the requirements and sets guidelines for the coordinated efforts of various agencies, in consonance to the existing response mechanisms as well as the local/government level coordination mechanisms. The Global HRP also envisions an information framework for the collection and proper dissemination of data on the pandemic, making it more organised and erasing the chance of data corruption. The same can be used for the analysis of needs and the direction of response mechanisms.

Financial Requirements

For the proper dissemination and response through any plan, it is essential to engage financial resources to ensure the flow of necessities as well as to ensure that there is proper utilisation of all available mechanism in a response to the pandemic situation. The Global HRP outlines the financial requirements for a period of nine months (April – December 2020) and pegs the amount at US $ 2.012 billion, based on initial assessments. This may be required to be increased, but the same is not prejudiced to the ongoing humanitarian operations existing in various regions. The funds are used for various reasons. It is used for engaging in preparedness activities and also in consideration of other disasters which were existing and causing sections of the population to be more vulnerable. It also targets and identifies that humanitarian response plans are often severely underfunded. There is, therefore, the direction under the Global HRP to ensure that proper funds are received. Similarly, the international community and organisations are also involved in the current effort and to achieve sustainable address of the current issues as well as alleviating past issues they are required to be kept in due consideration as well, the same has also been enunciated and mentioned in the Global HRP.

Relevance of the Global Humanitarian Response Plan during the COVID – 19 Epidemic

The situation is unprecedented, requires swift and decisive actions in light of the principles of the international community. The Global Humanitarian Response Plan in light of the situation faced by the world is largely oriented to tacked the Humanitarian response to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, as it is an essential fact, that due to certain conditions some sections of the world’s population are in essence more vulnerable, and thereby it is essential to consider these factors and situations in these regions and to address the same.

The Global HRP is a positive step and a comprehensive approach to preventing the vulnerable sections to be further subjected to pressure, and increased risk from the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan analyses and outlines various essential elements and therefore is also essential in the current global situation. The outlay and further workings of the plan are to be seen, yet in relation to the pandemic, in consideration, it is an essential step.


In response to drastic times, the need is to prove our strength and develop mutual understanding and sustenance to stand strong against the challenges which are faced commonly by the entire world. The pandemics spread throughout the world is currently ongoing, and it is probable that the same is still distant from reaching its peak. Therefore, the international community as a whole, as well as the international forums require to take adequate steps and promote discussion amongst them to better enhance the response of the people to this situation. The Global Humanitarian Response Plan is one positive step to tackle the challenges of the virus, in relation especially to the ones, who seemingly are most vulnerable to it. Therefore, it is important that the same is implemented properly, and the sustained effort of the global community, as well as the aid and support, is required to be maintained in the same vigor.

How beneficial or how in the future, the requirements will change are to be seen. Yet, in relation to the current response if the international community also enhances their outlook and response during any further developments, then the gravity of the situation may be stemmed and the vulnerable may be shielded from great adversity.


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