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close this bookCoordinating Among International Organizations in Complex Emergencies (Draft 1st Edition) (Complex Emergency Training Initiative - Disaster Management Training Programme, 77 p.)
close this folderPart 1 - Coordination: objectives and best practices for complex emergencies
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentDefinition of terms
View the documentObjectives of coordination
View the documentSome arguments against coordination
View the documentPreconditions to coordination
View the documentCoordination variables in complex emergencies
Open this folder and view contentsThe spectrum of coordination activities
View the documentCoordination techniques
View the documentOvercoming barriers to inter-organizational coordination

Preconditions to coordination

The chances of achieving effective coordination are greatly enhanced when several preconditions have been met. Coordination is also a process that works best when it is




Coordination occurs through the legitimacy implied by involvement.

Coordination occurs through the legitimacy implied by involvement. The tasks of coordination must occur within a structure and process agreed and supported by the actors in the emergency situation. The coordinators must secure and maintain the confidence of the other actors, engendering an atmosphere of respect and good will. Organizations need to participate in deciding the policies, procedures, strategies and plans which will affect them.

The coordination process should not be seen to favor one organization over another but rather to identify the distinctive competencies of the various actors. Coordination should advocate the principle of impartiality, i.e., the provision of relief solely on the basis of need provided by the actor most likely to achieve the desired outcomes.

Coordination requires trust and trust requires transparency, the willing flow of information, open decision making processes, and publicly-stated, sincere, and honest rationales for decisions. This will include the need to admit failure or at least falling short of objectives.

The following is a checklist of other preconditions which, when met, indicate an improved likelihood of successful coordination.


All organizations need to understand each other's mandate as well as the organizational culture that each brings to an operation. Stereotypes and misconceptions need to be removed before a cooperative spirit can work. Understanding is facilitated by circumstances in which agencies make joint commitments, agree on a vision related to the specific situation, and invest in joint training activities to strengthen the skills of humanitarian emergency personnel.

Manageable scope

The probability of successful coordination increases when the range and scope of coordination activities are manageable, that is, when the coordination body has not undertaken a more ambitious set of activities than it can manage. It is essential to identify a few activities that can be coordinated rather than to tackle too many.

Perceived need and desirability for coordination

Humanitarian organizations will be more pre-disposed to engage in coordination when they perceive the need for it. Each participating organization must believe that they are interdependent with their fellow organizations and must view coordination as an efficient and effective means of responding to a complex emergency. Organizations will commit to coordination when the coordination goals, objectives and activities help promote their individual organizational interests and missions and when there is agreement on the overall situation assessment, response policy and approach.

Negotiating coordination parameters and activities

Since all players join a coordinating body with different objectives, mandates and expectations, inter-organizational coordination depends on all these players negotiating, discussing, clarifying and agreeing on a joint policy to address the situation. This will include agreement on coordination parameters, "clients" or target populations, geographic areas of focus, activities, and conflict management methodologies (within the coordination body) as well as other areas of concern. All organizations need to participate in deciding the policies, procedures, strategies and plans which will affect them.

For coordination to work, attitudes of cooperation, peer support and self-discipline must prevail over attitudes of competition, autonomy and control.

For coordination to work, attitudes of cooperation, peer support and self-discipline must prevail over attitudes of competition, autonomy and control. Even with these positive attitudes, conflicts over procedures, roles or actions will invariably arise. Coordinators must be skilled in effective negotiation, mediation and conflict management techniques if they are to turn a conflict into a constructive and mutually acceptable action.

Staff, resources, and leadership

Each organization participating in the coordination effort must commit staff, time and money to help manage the process. When a coordinating organization or structure exists, it must have staff dedicated to coordination, an office, and equipment in order to provide real service to other participating organizations.

Organizational authority in decision making

Organizations must decentralize decision making to the field to the greatest extent feasible. Especially for coordination purposes, organization representatives must have the authority to decide and make commitments on behalf of their respective agencies. Organizations involved in a coordinated effort need to enter the coordination relationship ready to share information, decide action and commit resources with minimal delays. The involvement of headquarters should thus be focused on providing support for field level activities.

Q. Are there other preconditions to coordination that you believe may exist?