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close this bookDisaster Assessment (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - United Nations Development Programme , 1994, 54 p.)
close this folderPART 3 - The role of the UN in relation to assessments
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentUN agency representatives
View the documentKey elements of the resident coordinator's early disaster role
View the documentThe role of the resident coordinator as relief activity develops
View the documentReporting assessment information
View the documentFormulating and screening requests for international assistance

Key elements of the resident coordinator's early disaster role

Where the government, possibly in collaboration with the national Red Cross/Red Crescent Society and other operational agencies, has a proven capability to undertake and coordinate a thorough and objective assessment, the resident coordinator and the UN-DMT, assisted by DHA where required, will need only to satisfy themselves of the validity of the assessment and the stated priorities. This can be done by appropriately designed field visits and discussions with officials and people directly affected by the disaster.

However, where direct UN assessment assistance is welcomed and required by the authorities, the resident coordinator/representative and the UN-DMT must carry out a range of actions:

· Work with the government and others in organizing the collection and assessment of data, including specifying the technical expertise required to supplement existing local capacity.

· Define the role of each individual UN agency in the overall collaborative assessment effort and that of individual UN staff in each field survey visit undertaken.

· Ensure that appropriate expertise for assessment available in the various UN agencies and offices is mobilized within the country and, when necessary, from outside the country.

· Help to mobilize and integrate relevant expertise available elsewhere in the country especially from bilateral organizations, NGOs and national bodies.

· Inform DHA and concerned aid organizations locally of the arrangements being made and any requirements for additional technical and logistical assistance for the assessment. DHA will contact other agencies and institutions at the international level as appropriate.

· Where necessary and with the agreement of the government, bring together and dispatch a UN assessment team to the stricken area to conduct an independent assessment, involving national or international experts if needed. Each visit must have specific and predefined objectives and be planned to ensure that the visiting team meets those objectives without wasting the time of all concerned including survivors, relief workers and local officials. Special care should be given to the appropriate expertise for assessment specialists. The box below details the desirable qualities:

The resident coordinator will be required to take special account of the government's own assessment of the situation and may need to wait for the compilation of that assessment before responding officially. Any suggested relief strategy or response which is derived from an assessment must fully respect the rights of non-interference in the affairs of the affected country. The government of the affected country has the ultimate responsibility for seeking international support and coordinating and administering relief.

Profile for an assessment specialist

Ö “Seasoned” disaster expert
Ö Familiarity with the affected country
Ö Knowledge of the local language
Ö Leadership skills
Ö Team worker
Ö Decision-maker

Any suggested relief strategy or response which is derived from an assessment must fully respect the rights of non-interference in the affairs of the affected country.

Resident coordinators/representatives are sometimes requested to take on a coordination role when the elements underpinning coordination are themselves most uncertain. In the absence of a detailed previously defined emergency plan, valuable time may need to be spent establishing vertical and horizontal channels of communication, establishing responsibilities for data collection and information sharing, coping with overlapping roles and responsibilities and getting agreement on goals and priorities. This is often complicated when systems for information sharing are badly disrupted and damaged. Relatively minor emergencies can sometimes provide an opportunity to highlight these problems resulting in the development of improved systems before a major emergency arises.

Where there are differences of opinion which cannot be reconciled, the resident coordinator/ representative should specify them, with the underlying reasons where possible, to DHA.