|Emergency Information Management and Telecommunications - 1st Edition (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - Disaster Management Training Programme - United Nations Development Programme , 1997, 62 p.)|
|Part 1: Information management systems|
Emergency management organizations seek to coordinate their activities for a wide number of reasons. The UNs Complex Emergencies Training Initiative (CETI) module on coordination identifies five chief objectives that most organizations seek from coordination activities:
· improved efficiency, cost-effectiveness and speed of humanitarian assistance
· a framework for strategic decision-making on issues of common concern
· a unified strategic approach to humanitarian assistance
· elimination of gaps and duplication in services to meet the needs of the affected populations; and
· appropriate division of responsibilities.9
9 Coordination Among International Organizations in complex Emergencies, A Training Module prepared for the Complex Emergency Training Initiative and the UN Disaster Management Training Programme.
A concerted effort to engage in information sharing should always be designed into the information management system.
While few emergency managers would dispute the importance of these five objectives, many would disagree as to the type of coordination activities needed to achieve them. Such disagreements often arise out of concerns that organizational sovereignty may be infringed if those responsible for coordination mechanisms begin to view their role as directive or supervisory. These sovereignty concerns may well determine the type of coordination activity in which organizations choose to participate. This may vary from the simplest form of coordination - information sharing - to the most difficult form (albeit with the most effective results10) - joint strategic planning and programming.
10. Coordination Among International Organizations in complex Emergencies, A Training Module prepared for the Complex Emergency Training Initiative and the UN Disaster Management Training Programme.
Emergency managers should insist that representatives of their organizations attend coordination meetings and be prepared to share information or ideas they might have on the crisis.
Emergency managers should be dear that no matter how positive or negative the organizations perspective on coordination may be, a concerted effort to engage in information sharing should always be designed into the information management system. That is, even if the organization finds it counterproductive to engage in joint strategic planning or programming, it should always take part in coordination activities if only to be able to compare its own perspectives on the disaster with those disseminated by other respondents. This information dissemination (and gathering) can assist the organization to achieve its own objectives and often, as a secondary and even unintended result, move the response community farther along in an attempt to achieve the five primary coordination objectives listed above.
Emergency managers should insist that representatives of their organizations attend coordination meetings and be prepared to share information or ideas they might have on the crisis. Representatives should be pro-active in requesting information from colleagues as well as in disseminating information to those with an interest. There is simply no good argument against being better informed. The type of information which many organizations disseminate at such coordination meetings includes:
· the general roles and responsibilities of each organization and the specific resources they bring to the current emergency
· the size and capabilities of their staff
· type and quantity of assistance
· geographical areas of operation, equipment and facilities available
· description of the organizations projects
· priority needs and gaps in assistance
· issues relating to situation or context, i.e., security, government policies, local conditions, etc.
· other information that defines the parameters of the contributions of each organization.11
11. Coordination Among International Organizations in complex Emergencies, A Training Module prepared for the Complex Emergency Training Initiative and the UN Disaster Management Training Programme.
Other coordination/dissemination concerns include:
· Pledge management: Pledge processing is a critical task spanning both national and international levels. Where national administrations are intact, there is normally a need for a national central requesting and coordinating office with the authority to collate requests from multiple departments, agencies and other organizations. This system must screen out inappropriate requests; identify duplicates; and maintain listings of providers, a record of the status of each request, and the status of program implementation.
Attempts have been made to mirror elements of this type of processing system at the international level. As telecommunications technology improves, there are new opportunities for the design of virtual pledge management systems which can be accessible to all parties. Initiatives by the UN-Department of Humanitarian Affairs in the introduction of the ReliefWeb system may lead to further developments in this over the longer term.
· International standards: There is among emergency managers a keen awareness of the need for common standards for information collection, analysis and dissemination. Recent initiatives in the design of field level telecommunications and in the use of global networks for relief information sharing are indicators of what may well become better integrated information management and coordination structures at the international levels.
Q. Consider the various coordination groups or meetings in which your organization has taken part. Which of these has been the most useful? Why?
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