It is 25 minutes to the site of a coordination meeting in the camp. A line of angry camp residents is outside the office wanting to talk about flooding in their block. The food rations from the food pipeline agency are running low. A meeting needs to be scheduled with the Camp Food Committee to alert them as soon as possible. They need to inform the general camp community that the full food ration will not be available this month. The monthly report was due yesterday. A call comes on the radio that a highlevel donor representative is en route to the camp for an unplanned inspection tour. Your boss wants you to ensure the visit goes smoothly. What do you do first?
For those who have worked for a Camp Management Agency this hypothetical scenario is not so out of the ordinary. Daily operations in an internally displaced person (IDP) or refugee camp often pull staff in multiple directions, rarely making the task of ranking priorities straightforward.
Camp management interventions can take many forms, from a permanent on-site presence, to a mobile team visiting sites infrequently. National authorities or national/international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are responsible for the day-to-day camp management.
Generally speaking the Camp Management Agency should be appointed by the Cluster/Sector Lead Agency. This should happen in close cooperation with the national authorities. In some IDP situations national authorities may also fill the role of Cluster/Sector Lead Agency. Often the Camp Management Agency is not appointed by the Cluster/Sector Lead Agency but it is an organisation already active in the field with the capacity and resources to be engaged in a camp response.
Regardless of who is appointed the Camp Management Agency’s job is one of constant motion and requires a high degree of flexibility, quick thinking, innovation and careful planning. Specific tasks may vary from context to context, but there is a set of core roles and responsibilities any Camp Management Agency will have to assume within a camp. They can be grouped into the following categories:
- recruiting, training and supervising of Camp Management Agency staff
- coordinating and monitoring assistance, protection and services
- setting up and monitoring camp governance and community participation mechanisms
- ensuring the care and maintenance of camp infrastructure, while mitigating impacts of environmental degradation
- managing information
- disseminating information
- participating in strategic planning with the Camp Coordination and the Camp Administration in relation to issues around contingency planning, the environment, an exit strategy, camp closure and durable solutions.
IDPS Living in Collective Centres and Host Communities
"Because Collective Centres are often located in urban and semi-urban areas, links between host communities and displaced families are normally strong. Collective Centre residents and hosts are part of the same neighborhood. Links between these communities help normalise daily routines and foster good relations. The Collective Centre Manager should monitor these interactions closely and support positive developments." (Collective Centre Guidelines, UNHCR/IOM, 2010, Page 24).
☞ For more information on the management of collective centres, see the Collective Centres Guidelines included in the References section.
The difference between rural and urban displacement sites will influence the nature and specific roles and responsibilities of a Camp Management Agency as well as approaches and tools it uses.
Camps are part of a broader humanitarian context with a significant impact on the environment, often stretching the capacities of host communities, natural resources and infrastructure to the limits. In addition to coordination of assistance, and establishment of good relationships and partnerships with stakeholders at camp level, the Camp Management Agency should also participate in coordination at inter-camp and regional level, as a member of the CCCM Cluster where it is activated. Problems that cannot be addressed or solved at camp level should be referred up to the Camp Coordination/ Cluster/Sector Lead Agency.
Roles and responsibilities of all actors involved must be clear. A Camp Management Agency needs unambiguous and transparent, agreed terms of reference which match needs on the ground. It must have sufficient capacity (both in terms of funding and human resources) to carry out the required tasks.
☞ For more information on roles and responsibilities of main actors in a camp response, see Chapter 1, About Camp Management.
☞ For more information on the terms of reference for a Camp Management Agency where the CCCM Cluster is applied, see the Tools section.
What Do You Do First?
To ensure a proper response and handling of it all, it is important – when faced with the kind of scenario outlined above – to calmly but quickly:
- get an overview of all the burning issues and immediately available staff and partners
- divide tasks between team members and partners