Regional UN System Activities
Asia-Pacific Regional UN Agencies support API activities through inter-agency cooperation at the regional and country level, engaging in partnerships with regional bodies as well as supporting regional donor coordination. Regional UN Agencies also engage NGOs and the private sector, and provide support to high-risk countries in the region. The work of the regional UN agencies contributes to global policy development, monitoring of progress and formulation of strategies.
The Asia Pacific Regional UN Team for Avian and Pandemic Influenza
The Asia Pacific Regional UN Team for Avian and Pandemic Influenza was established in February 2006 comprising of representatives from regional offices of UN system and affiliated agencies including FAO, ICAO, ILO, IOM, OCHA, OiE, UNDP, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. Its overall goal is to ensure different parts of UN system at regional level work effectively and in a collective manner together with affiliated agencies in support of national and regional efforts that address the threats posted by avian and pandemic influenza. The team members communicate one another on a daily basis and regularly meet to address issues of high priorities. The team also established several thematic sub-groups such as communications and pandemic preparedness.
The Regional Inter-agency API Team
The Regional Inter-agency API Team, housed at OCHA Regional Office for Asia Pacific (OCHA ROAP) since early 2006 and headed by the UNSIC Regional Avian and Pandemic Influenza Coordinator, comprises currently 7 staff members. The UNSIC Asia-Pacific Hub and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, API unit which at present is inter-linked with the work of UNSIC APRH, form the Regional Inter-Agency API Team.
The team includes staff supported by UNSIC, WHO and UNOCHA. The regional pandemic planning officer of OCHA ROAP API unit is one of 7 regional planning officers of the Pandemic influenza Contingency (PIC) Support Team. PIC, with a core team based in Geneva, was established in 2007 within OCHA as part of UNSIC, and with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and has since become an integral part of OCHA structures.
At the regional level, the Team works closely with the regional UN offices facilitating regional UN System coordination, and also with regional institutions (such as ASEAN, APEC, SAARC, SPC, MBDS), development banks, donors, INGOs and the private sector.
The Regional Inter-agency API Team works closely with API coordinators and Focal Points as well as Resident Coordinators within different UNCTs in the region, in support of the overall country level API coordination, contingency planning of UNCTs, HPAI control and national pandemic preparedness efforts of Governments, encouraging synergy and effective action among all stakeholders. The Regional Team recognizes that in-country staffs play the most important role in pandemic preparedness efforts.
The work of The Regional Inter-agency API Team
The work of The Regional Inter-agency API Team covers a wide range of pandemic preparedness support areas, seeking synergy of actions and outcomes within and outside the UN system. Facilitation of coordination within and with the UN System and other stakeholders at regional and country level in Asia-Pacific region is a core objective of the Bangkok based Team. The Regional Inter-agency Team approach has relevance to other complex areas of multi-sectoral work where there is a major global political profile, a wide range of stakeholders, and an urgent need to work in a more coordinated way. The team is part of an innovative approach, using a small, cost-effective, catalytic taskforce to build links and strengthen coordination of an informal network.
The Regional Inter-Agency Team has worked with UN Country Teams to establish and further strengthen country level coordination mechanisms and structures and to promote joint UN system action. The team has a role in supporting the coherence of global, regional and country level API efforts and activities, contributing also to global policy processes. It focuses on encouraging synergized support to national HPAI control and pandemic preparedness efforts, including support to UN system pandemic preparedness and multi-sectoral national pandemic preparedness planning.
The team has reviewed API Contingency Plans submitted by UNCTs and provided feedback to the country teams. Together with experts of other UN agencies, simulation exercise tools have been prepared and support is being provided to UNCTs for the testing of contingency plans, helping to strengthen pandemic contingency planning and pointing to the opportunities to form closer linkages between pandemic specific simulations and those applicable to broader emergency preparedness activities.
The advocacy work of The Regional Inter-agency API Team involves engaging governments and regional bodies to increase awareness on the necessity for pandemic preparedness planning in all sectors beyond animal and human health. Together with UNCTs, further support will be provided to enable governments in the region to develop multi-sectoral contingency plans in non-health sectors. A research on the impact of previous pandemics (1957, 1968) on non-health sectors in Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore has been conducted as part of this support, and more focus will be placed on the development of supporting materials such as guidelines and manuals.
The Regional Inter-agency API Team also promotes the exchange of information, key strategies, policy decisions, training materials and tools that have been developed by UN country teams and/or others, and the dissemination of these via digital newsletters and the web. The Team seeks to document and share best practices and lessons learned and makes sure all levels remain well informed on significant developments around API work.
The UNSIC Asia-Pacific Hub and the Inter-agency Team as a whole has organized regular Asia-Pacific UN System workshops on API with participation from UNCTs, regional UN offices and also HQs; and convenes regional UN System meetings on API as well as meetings for regional donors.
In order to sustain the results and success that have been achieved on coordination, overall pandemic preparedness and HPAI control it is important to support the transformation of API focused strategies towards ones with a broader emphasis on preparing for major disease outbreaks and pandemics and as part of a more mainstreamed preparedness. This includes supporting sustainability of county level work and the eventual integration of API focused activities into existing UN structures and programmes.
The Regional Inter-agency API Team provides and channels policy guidance and strategic transitional support to UNCTs in the region and for example has been working together with others on elaborating opportunities to link API contingency planning with humanitarian contingency planning, to include assessment of pandemic preparedness and response capacities into the scope of UNDAC assessment missions. A broader aim is to provide coordinated regional support to Country Teams as they in turn support the national Governments to begin to broaden the scope of the API work, in spirit of such concepts as One World One Health, and starting to integrate efforts linked to national pandemic response into the overall framework of disaster response.