After two years of field testing and feedback, we have finalized the OCHA Data Responsibility Guidelines (‘the Guidelines’) which offer principles, processes and tools to support OCHA’s data work. The Guidelines also address how OCHA should implement the IASC Operational Guidance on Data Responsibility in Humanitarian Action, which was endorsed in February 2021 after a year of consultation with over 20 organizations.

Data responsibility in humanitarian action is the safe, ethical and effective management of personal and non- personal data for operational response. It is a critical issue for the humanitarian system to address and the stakes are high.

A working draft of the Guidelines was piloted by OCHA staff in ten operational contexts since March 2019 with support from the Centre. Based on this experience, the Guidelines were revised in the following ways:

  • The principles for data responsibility in humanitarian action are aligned with those that are included in the IASC guidance; 
  • OCHA’s role in supporting data responsibility is differentiated for three levels: system-wide, cluster/sector, and the OCHA office;
  • Tools and templates have been simplified; 
  • An accountability structure has been defined in line with the forthcoming Secretary-General’s Bulletin on data protection and privacy policy.  



Several OCHA offices have already adopted important aspects of the Guidelines. In Iraq, OCHA worked with the Assessment Working Group to incorporate actions for data responsibility into the Multi-Cluster Needs Assessment process. In Somalia, OCHA worked with the Humanitarian Country Team to agree on an Information Sharing Protocol which includes a data and information sensitivity classification for the data generated about the crisis. 

The Guidelines apply to all operational data managed directly by OCHA (such as who-is-doing-what-where), or data managed by humanitarian actors within activities coordinated by OCHA (such as needs assessments). 

The Guidelines will be revised every two years. We welcome feedback from OCHA staff and partners on how we could improve or extend the use of the Guidelines. Contact us at if you would like to discuss strategies for adoption of data responsibility in humanitarian operations.