Objectives of the Protection Cluster:

As revised in February 2015
Terms of Reference
The Pacific region consists of island states scattered across a vast geographic area. Pacific Islands Countries (PICs) are
among the most vulnerable states in the world in terms of exposure to natural disasters. They regularly face adverse
natural events such as tropical cyclones, volcanic eruptions, floods, droughts, tsunamis and earthquakes. In addition, the
region is characterized by a large ocean mass and small populations dispersed on remote small islands. National and local
response capacity is limited and can quickly be overwhelmed by the forces of nature.
In an effort to better prepare for and respond to the Pacific region’s high vulnerability to natural disasters, the UN Country
Teams in Fiji and Samoa established the regional Pacific Humanitarian Team (PHT) in 2008. The PHT is the agreed
collaborative coordination mechanism among all the major humanitarian actors in the region, and covers the following 14
countries: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Republic of Marshall Islands,
Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
The primary role of the Pacific Humanitarian Team (PHT) is to ensure a timely, effective and coordinated response by
international actors, including both UN and non-UN organizations, at the regional and national levels in the event of a
disaster in one of the 14 PICs listed above. The PHT should ensure coordination of international assistance to the receiving
government in disaster preparedness, response and early recovery efforts.
Under the regional PHT, a unique cluster system has been established including seven ‘open-ended’ clusters and an early
recovery network, which are regional in scope and exist on a permanent standby basis. This enables the PHT clusters to
engage in ongoing awareness-raising, capacity-building and provision of technical guidance and support to regional and
national-level humanitarian actors for disaster preparedness, response and recovery. The regional coordination
arrangement of the PHT and the clusters established under it were formally endorsed by the Inter-Agency Standing
Committee in February 2012.
The protection of persons affected by natural disasters has been identified by a range of stakeholders as a gap in
preparedness and response activities at national and regional levels. In recognition of this fact, the Pacific Humanitarian
Protection Cluster (PHPC) has been established under the PHT.
In the Pacific, there is limited awareness among local, national and regional actors about the protection of human rights in
disasters, and very limited understanding of the concept of protection as both a cross-cutting and specialised issue for
attention in disasters. This presents a unique and significant challenge in preventing and responding to protection problems.
The Pacific Humanitarian Protection Cluster (PHPC) is regional in coverage and works on an ongoing basis to enhance
regional and national capacity for protection-sensitive disaster preparedness, response and recovery in Pacific Island
Countries. Recognising its limited resources, the PHPC focuses its ongoing work on five priority countries – Fiji, Tonga,
Vanuatu, Samoa and the Solomon Islands. This prioritisation is based on the recorded frequency of natural hazards
(cyclones, earthquakes, floods, etc.), existing protection challenges that may be exacerbated in new emergencies, low
As revised in February 2015
levels of protection awareness and capacity among key national humanitarian actors, and the ability of the PHPC to have a
positive impact. 1
Other countries will receive due attention and support from the PHPC on an ad hoc basis as determined by cluster
members and in consultation with relevant international, regional, and national stakeholders.
Given the unique “permanent standby” status of the regional cluster, along with the predictable seasonal recurrence of
various natural hazards in the Pacific, the PHPC will engaging in awareness-raising, advocacy, and capacity-building on
protection before, during and after natural disasters. In this context, the PHPC recognises that active engagement in
preparedness activities – particularly relationship- and capacity-building with national government and non-government
responders to enhance protection – is as critical as engagement in response activities.
Given the presence and strength of national governments in leading and managing disaster response in the Pacific region,
the PHPC is often not directly leading or engaged in front-line identification, monitoring and response to protection
concerns in isolation from, or parallel to, government interventions.
The primary responsibility for the protection of persons affected by disasters rests with national governments. The role of
the PHPC is to promote human rights and protection principles as the foundation of all humanitarian work, and to support
and enhance the capacity of government and non-government actors in the Pacific to:
Integrate core protection principles and considerations of safety, wellbeing and dignity into emergency
response across all sectors;
Identify and reach the most vulnerable, excluded or “invisible” individuals within an affected population;
Prevent further harm or the creation of new risks of harm through emergency response actions and interventions;
Respond appropriately to serious protection concerns – such as violence, abuse, exploitation – that come to our
attention in the course of work;
Take steps to prevent and/or respond to protection problems through information-sharing, referral, technical
guidance and advocacy with other relevant actors.
To achieve this, the PHPC emphasizes the need for community-based protection approaches and prioritises a strong
relationship with relevant national governments, UN resident coordinators (and humanitarian coordinators as applicable),
the wider humanitarian community and at-risk or affected communities.
Definition of Protection
Protection encompasses all activities aimed at ensuring full respect for the rights of the individual in accordance with the
letter and the spirit of relevant bodies of law, including international human rights law, international humanitarian law,
and refuge law.
Pursuant to this definition, the PHPC seeks to promote and enhance the safety, well-being and dignity of crisis-affected
populations. This includes promoting the application of core protection principles and responsibilities to humanitarian
work across all sectors, including:
Do no harm;
Identifying the most vulnerable and addressing their specific needs with attention to age, gender, disability and
other relevant aspects of diversity according to the context;
To avoid doubt, these cooperative arrangements are confined to the context of natural disasters and responses to them.
Nothing in these Terms of Reference are intended to limit in any way the mandated responsibilities of any agency to
respond to human-induced emergencies or disasters and displacement associated thereto.
As revised in February 2015
Safe and dignified access to basic services;
Community participation and empowerment; and
Identifying and strengthening existing positive community protection strategies/building local capacity.
The PHPC also seeks to raise awareness, advocate on, and build capacity to prevent and respond to specific protection
issues in relation to:
Child protection
Gender-based violence
Sexual exploitation and abuse
Protection of people with disabilities
Protection of people displaced by disaster
Goals and Objectives
To monitor and advocate for the effective integration of protection principles and protection-sensitive activities
into national and regional responses to disaster-affected populations in the Pacific region.
To ensure that IASC protection principles constitute the foundation for all activities of the Pacific Humanitarian
Key strategic priorities and objectives
Protection coordination: To enhance overall coordination of the PHPC, and to support coordination of protection
activities during humanitarian emergencies that require an international response.
Protection awareness-raising: To raise awareness and build the understanding of key national and regional
stakeholders on protection principles, risks and responsibilities in emergencies.
Protection preparedness and capacity-building: To provide sustainable capacity-development support to national
disaster management agencies, including national-level protection structures and protection focal points in
priority countries.
Protection response: To provide support to national-level actors to integrate protection into emergency response.
Protection of the most vulnerable: To work with relevant actors to promote and support the identification,
assistance and protection of the most vulnerable individuals/groups as part of emergency preparedness,
response and recovery interventions;
Protection monitoring: To work with relevant actors to identify and monitor protection concerns, gaps and
challenges and to advocate with key stakeholders for an appropriate response;
Protection advocacy: To advocate with regional, national and relevant local stakeholders on selected protection
issues in the Pacific region (e.g. protection of IDPs; protection of people with disabilities);
Protection mainstreaming: To advance the understanding and application of core protection principles
throughout the humanitarian response (i.e. across all response sectors/clusters and actors including UN agencies,
government, non-government, community, faith-based organizations);
Lead Agencies, Membership, Participation, Thematic Sub-Clusters and Focal Point Agencies, Working Groups,
Task Forces, National-Level Protection Focal Points
Lead agencies
As revised in February 2015
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are designated lead agencies/chairs. 2
The PHPC is regional in composition. Cluster membership is open to UN agencies, Pacific regional organisations and INGOs
operating across the region. Local or national-level actors from the 14 countries across the region are not included in the
cluster on an ongoing basis, but would be included in the event that the regional cluster is mobilised to support a
particular national emergency.
The International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent
Societies have observer status in the cluster.
The PHPC meets on a quarterly basis in non-disaster time and as needed during a national or transboundary/regional
emergency. In consultation with the cluster membership, the Lead Agencies will invite regional bodies, donors and other
relevant partners, national and regional, to attend cluster meetings on an ad hoc basis and during specific emergencies in
Pacific Islands Countries.
Thematic Sub-Clusters and Focal Point Agencies
The PHPC has 3 thematic sub-clusters, each with identified co-lead agencies:
Child Protection (UNICEF/Save the Children);
Gender Mainstreaming and Gender-Based Violence (UN Women/UNFPA); and
Displacement/Housing, Land and Property (UNOHCHR/UN Habitat)
Working Groups and Task Forces
Working groups and task forces can be established on an ad hoc basis as agreed by participating agencies and
National-level protection focal points
National-level protection focal points for priority countries are identified through PHPC participating agencies and
organisations. National-level protection focal points for the 5 prioritised PICs are included in PHPC national-level mailing
lists for sharing of general protection information/tools/resources, and for direct engagement by and with the PHPC in the
event of an emergency in the respective country.
Emergency Preparedness
The PHPC will promote and support emergency preparedness activities to enhance protection, including:
Develop an overview, including contact lists, for key protection partners in priority countries and beyond, as relevant;
Raise awareness and build the capacity of National Disaster Management Offices (NDMOs) and relevant ministries,
NGOs, and community-based organisations (CBOs) in relation to protection in emergencies (preparedness and
To avoid any doubt, neither OHCHR nor UNHCR are considered “providers of last resort” in their role and capacity as coleads of the Pacific Humanitarian Protection Cluster. While they will use their best endeavours, using available resources,
to provide leadership during preparatory and response phases of disasters, they have no “default” responsibility for
protection outcomes. This responsibility rests at all times with the relevant Government(s) where the emergency arises.
As revised in February 2015
Identify protection gaps in the emergency preparedness and capacity of the five priority PICs and, in collaboration
with the relevant national actors, support the development and implementation of strategies to address those gaps;
Support the establishment of national-level mechanisms for protection in emergencies (such as protection
preparedness and response plans) by relevant humanitarian actors;
Provide context-relevant global tools for use at national level – checklists, guidelines, etc.;
Take steps to mainstream protection into other sectors/clusters, in particular into disaster risk reduction and
preparedness activities;
Provide protection training to key partners including UN agencies, regional organisations, national bodies, NGOs, Red
Cross, and CBOs.
Emergency Response and Provision of Support to National Level Protection Mechanisms
Request for international assistance
Under the Terms of Reference of the Pacific Humanitarian Team, when a disaster occurs, the UN Resident Coordinator,
with the support of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), immediately convenes a Pacific
Humanitarian Team meeting in order to discuss the immediate response plan in various sectors. The IASC is represented
by the cluster lead agencies. The PHPC co-lead agencies will call members for a meeting to communicate and coordinate
with cluster members to explore ways to work with key government and non-government actors to address protectionrelated humanitarian needs.
Support for national-level protection mechanisms and response activities
In the event of a national emergency in a Pacific Island Country, the PHPC may be mobilised to provide protection
assistance and support:
(i) to the PHT in the coordination of a regional response; and/or
(ii) to national humanitarian actors to ensure protection is part of national disaster management arrangements
Alternatively, members of the PHPC’s Protection Emergency Team (PET) may be deployed as part of regional or nationallevel multi-sector initial rapid assessment teams. Even in situations where the PHPC is not formally requested to assist, the
PHPC may still undertake ongoing advocacy and provision of technical guidance/support to government and nongovernment actors with whom the PHPC has established/maintained relations throughout the preparedness phase and
through other work.
PHPC activities to support national response may include:
 Engaging with local partners to share good practice and practical suggestions for prevention and response
 Liaising with programme partners/local actors to gain an understanding of or to monitor protection issues during
and after the emergency;
 Working with local partners to support dissemination of local referral options in affected areas;
 Developing or utilising existing information, education and communication materials and exploring a variety of
ways to disseminate key messages/information to different target audiences (e.g. print, radio, community
meetings, briefings to first responders. etc.);
 Advocacy with key government and non-government actors on protection issues through:
raising issues at NDMO and ICCG meetings,
developing clear, simple guidance highlighting protection concerns and risks, and
working with key government departments and NGOs to brief teams engaging in assessments and
service delivery on protection considerations as part of their relief activities.
As revised in February 2015
The PHPC will participate in PHT and Inter-Cluster Coordination Group meetings to share and monitor information on
protection issues. Where necessary, the PHPC will meet and discuss possible responses that members could take,
including seeking further information or support from partners on the ground. Where appropriate, the PHPC will share
IASC guidelines on protection response and other relevant protection information/tools/resources with NDMOs, other
government counterparts, civil society and other relevant stakeholders.
Protection Emergency Team (PET) Roster
The PHPC will establish a regional inter-agency roster system as a standing resource to facilitate a timely protection
response to emergencies, if needed. Where the PHT, in consultation with the affected national government(s) and the
PHPC determines that in-country support is needed in the coordination of a protection response, the PHPC Lead Agencies
shall activate the deployment of a Protection Emergency Team (PET) to support the emergency response of the national
authorities in question and the Pacific Humanitarian Team.
The PET consists of 1-2 staff members from those protection cluster member agencies with protection expertise and
available resources* who are willing and able to be deployed – if needed – through a rotational stand-by system to an
emergency in the region. PET roster members are required to be on 72-hour stand-by, and may be deployed for at least
two weeks during the cyclone season.
Where possible, and subject to available resources, OHCHR or UNHCR, as the PHPC lead agencies, will use their best
endeavours to deploy one staff member to convene, mobilize and lead the team – if required – in times of emergency.
Each protection cluster member that participates in the PET roster system will bear responsibility for funding its own
participation, so advance budgetary and resource planning is essential.
Main functions of the PET:
Being deployed within 72 hours of a natural disaster arising or as soon as possible thereafter (as required);
Leading and/or supporting the PHPC as appropriate;
Providing guidance and support to the NDMO, relevant ministries, UN agencies, NGOs and CBOs as appropriate;
Ensuring that a protection assessment is conducted or that protection is integrated into a multi-sectoral assessment;
Working with relevant actors to ensure that protection is integrated into the work of other clusters;
Reporting back to the PHPC on a regular basis, as determined by the Lead Agencies.
* Where possible, human resources should be made available through emergency programs and/or diversion of resources
temporarily from regular programming activities, if permissible under budgetary lines and rules of participating agencies.
Coordination and Administration
Chairing of meetings
OHCHR or UNHCR will chair the meetings. If neither OHCHR nor UNHCR staff members are able to attend a meeting, this
responsibility will be delegated.
Agendas, summary record and action points
OHCHR and UNHCR will jointly be responsible for drafting meeting agendas, summary records and action points from
meetings, and for circulating them to PHPC members.
Non-emergency phase: Meetings will be held approximately every three months.
As revised in February 2015
Emergency phase: OHCHR or UNHCR shall call for ad hoc meetings at the onset of an emergency in the region and
subsequently as determined by the members and as required by the exigencies of the event.
Coordination with other sectors/clusters
Co-lead agencies, with the support of the OCHA, shall be responsible for coordinating meetings between the PHPC and
other sectors/clusters and coordinating mainstreaming activities. OCHA provides overall inter-cluster coordination
Information Management
The highest standards of consent and confidentiality must be adhered to in all management of information passing
through the cluster. OHCHR and UNHCR will maintain a contact list of cluster participants and national-level focal points.
This will be shared with OCHA.