Ways of Working

This section describes how Oxfam WASH programmes should be planned, implemented and monitored in co-ordination with other Oxfam affiliates, NGOs, UN agencies and national authorities.

Minimum Requirements

WASH Cluster

Oxfam is committed to supporting co-ordination mechanisms in emergencies, through the WASH Cluster (where this is established), to help minimise duplication of effort and demands on communities, maximise coverage and ensure a consistent, high quality approach.

Where we have a substantial programme, senior Oxfam WASH staff should participate in cluster meetings regularly. As a leading actor in WASH Oxfam also has a role in supporting others in the sector with technical assistance, training and resources. As a point of priority, we should share our assessments, implementation information and plans with others and refer unmet needs. Oxfam staff participating in Cluster responses should, actively promote IASC and Oxfam best practice and principles (including the use of Sphere standards), and advocate that other WASH actors adopt these.

WASH programmes should:

  • Engage with other agencies (NGOs and UN),national and local authoritiesat the earliest opportunity (i.e. Day 1 of a response to a rapid onset emergency) to identify their capacities and roles, promote a common approach to assessment and planning, and to avoid duplication of resources.
  • Identify and register key staff (email, phone etc.) to be included on distribution lists for WASH Cluster correspondence and information sharing.
  • Establish contacts in other relevant co-ordination structures, such as Health, Education, Protection, Logistics or Shelter Clusters (directly or through other appropriate Oxfam colleagues) to promote informal networking and sharing of information. WASH staff should not aim to attend all meetings but should maintain regular contact with these networks.
  • Prepare and communicate to staff a clear plan of who should attend which meetings, their expected inputs, and what and how they should feedback outcomes / actions to colleagues.
  • Ensure that key outcomes from every co-ordination meeting are concisely communicated to management and teams in a timely manner.
Oxfam role in WASH Cluster Leadership

In humanitarian emergencies the lead for WASH co-ordination is Unicef working closely with local authorities.

  • In general Oxfam does not offer to be a WASH Cluster lead in countries as this is the role of Unicef as global co-ordinating agency. Our primary role is in providing emergency preparedness and response; taking on a Cluster lead role without sufficient backstopping can lead to a loss of vital emergency preparedness and response capacity.
  • Much of our credibility in the WASH sector comes from our reputation for operational work (either directly or through partners). Working in this role we are able to play an active and influential role in the Cluster and other interagency processes. Where appropriate we should offer to lead PHE and PHP technical working groups that support Cluster co-ordination.
  • Where we have a substantial programme, and particularly in large-scale emergencies or those with many actors, Oxfam should encourage the WASH Cluster Co-ordinator to set up a Strategic Advisory Group (SAG) of key actors, including the government, where appropriate, to streamline co-ordination. How Oxfam participates in the SAG should be determined on a case-by-case basis.
  • In exceptional circumstances Oxfam might accept the role of cluster lead on a short-term basis, but Oxfam should not set itself up as a long-term Cluster lead and must always consider the resource implications of engaging in Cluster Leadership.
Co-ordination with Government

The responsibility for humanitarian response ultimately rests with the government of the affected country. Oxfam is committed to complementing, supporting and developing state capacity for leadership, coordination and response to humanitarian crises and should not act as a substitute for government.

The extent of co-ordination that is possible with government authorities on specific WASH issues will depend on the political and humanitarian context, however WASH staff (in collaboration with Oxfam Country Management) should:

  • Encourage government and local organisations to participate in coordination.
  • Encourage and support domestic technical actors to take on leadership responsibilities.
  • Take pro-active steps to develop a working relationship with the relevant technical WASH authorities at local and national level.
  • Obtain copies of national legislation, policies and standards covering all relevant public health issues, ensure all WASH staff are trained in these policies and understand their application.