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close this bookHandbook for Emergencies - Second Edition (UNHCR, 1999, 414 p.)
close this folder3. Emergency Management
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe Key Emergency Management Functions
View the documentStages in Refugee Emergency Operations
View the documentKey References

The Key Emergency Management Functions


11. Certain management functions are essential throughout a refugee emergency. These are:



Organizing and coordinating;


12. These will be required of UNHCR as an organization and also from individuals, at all levels, within UNHCR.

If these functions are not being performed : then it is likely that there will be serious deficiencies in the management of the emergency operation.

They always remain the responsibility of the person in overall charge of the operation, though they may be delegated to other staff.


13. This can be defined as:

the process of creating and communicating a vision for the emergency operation, and providing a clear strategic direction for actions even in situations of great uncertainty and risk.

14. Successful management requires leadership; subject to the role of the government, leadership may be the most important single contribution of UNHCR to the emergency situation. Leadership requires that once decisions are reached, they are properly implemented. This discipline is essential in emergencies when there is often no time to explain the considerations involved. As far as possible, those directly concerned should contribute to decisions that affect them, but final responsibility rests with the UNHCR officer in charge.


15. This can be defined as:

setting in place the process of assessing the situation, defining immediate objectives and longer term goals and the activities to accomplish them.

16. Planning is vital both before and during an emergency, and operations planning must be based on detailed needs and resources assessments.

Organizing and Coordinating

17. This can be defined as:

establishing systems and mechanisms to achieve a given objective, and coordinating people and organizations so that they work together, in a logical way, towards the common objective.

18. It involves selecting, training and supervising staff, assigning and clarifying roles and responsibilities of all those involved, and structuring communication and information flow. In an emergency, coordinating is a crucial aspect of organizing.

Delegation of Authority and Responsibility

19. Emergency management should be organized so that responsibility and authority are delegated to the lowest appropriate level, and should be exercised as close to the operation or beneficiaries as is practical. Clear and unambiguous lines of authority and reporting should be established and communicated to all staff.

20. The management structure should be organized so that accountability for actions, including management decisions, is clear. Those who make a decision should be those with the appropriate level of knowledge to enable them to make that decision and should be responsible for ensuring its implementation and follow up (including monitoring). The involvement of unnecessary layers of management, and unnecessary numbers of people, in decisions as well as in responsibility for implementation, confuses and diffuses accountability. Ambiguity and lack of simplicity in the definition of responsibilities also slows action.


21. This can be defined as:

monitoring and evaluating performance in comparison with plans and initiating changes where necessary.

22. Note that the key management functions are important not only during emergency response, but also in the preparedness phase, although their relative importance in each phase may vary. Organization and coordination mechanisms, for example, should be developed during contingency planning.