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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

(introduction...)

This part of the module is designed to enhance your understanding of:

· the responsibilities of the UN system for assessment
· the role of the Disaster Management Team
· the responsibilities of the resident coordinator and how that role changes during recovery
· how and with whom information should be shared especially when requesting international assistance

UN agency representatives

When international assistance is likely to be required after a disaster, the UN system must be prepared to provide advice and assistance to the government in assessing damage and needs, defining strategies for response and specifying material requirements. The UN must be able to provide potential donors and the international community as a whole with objective statements on the priority needs for international assistance.


The UN must be able to provide potential donors and the international community as a whole with objective statements on the priority needs for international assistance.

The focus of emergency response coordination within the UN system in a country will generally be the UN Disaster Management Team (DMT). Officials from all the major UN agencies in-country will be designated as members of the operations group for the DMT, under the leadership of the resident coordinator/representative. Each agency will usually take on a specific assessment role (see figs. 4 and 5)


FIGURE 4: THE UNDMT

USUAL ASSESSMENT RESPONSIBILITIES WITHIN A UN-DISASTER MANAGEMENT TEAM

UNDP


General infrastructure and government administrative services, possibly in conjunction with the World Bank.

UN DHA


Working through and supporting the resident coordinator/representative, helps to consolidate and reconcile information from all UN-DMT members and other bodies and to gather information on sectors not covered by the specialized agencies.

FAO


Effects on food and cash crops, fisheries and livestock operations. Harvest prospects. Requirements for rehabilitation, including possibilities for alternative crops.

UNHCR


The needs of refugees. Some consideration of the needs of host populations and returnees in conjunction with other organizations.

UNICEF


Special needs of children and women especially in the health, education and social sectors. Aspects relating to health, nutrition, water supply (particularly rural or other small systems) and sanitation are addressed in conjunction with WHO; selective feeding programs and logistics with WFP.

WFP


Food supplies. Requirements for, use and delivery of food aid and arrangements for its delivery and distribution. Overall logistics.

WHO


Health sector considerations: medical and preventative health needs; epidemiology; long term effects on health structures; water and sanitation. Water and sanitation (large-scale possibly in conjunction with World Bank, small-scale with UNICEF)

UNDP has a major role in coordinating pre-disaster planning and disaster response. The resident representative is, ex officio, the representative of DHA at the country level. As the UN resident coordinator, he or she serves as the focal point for coordination within the UN system and may also take on a coordination role in relation to the wider international community, including embassies, NGOs and bilateral donors. In some countries, UNDP has established standing emergency units to help cope with long-term chronic emergencies. In many emergencies, DHA may send delegates to assist UNDP in this coordination process.

All members of the United Nations Disaster Management Team, under the leadership of the resident coordinator, must collaborate in:

· Contributing in an appropriate manner to the overall assessment

· Developing agreed, UN-DMT conclusions and recommendations concerning needs and priorities for international assistance

· Assisting the government, as required, in specifying needs and formulating appropriate requests for international assistance

Each agency is responsible for assessments in accordance with its own competence and mandates and is expected to contribute its information and conclusions to the overall UN-DMT effort. The resident coordinator must ensure that all aspects are covered, while respecting the individual agencies' mandates - a procedure that should wherever possible be discussed and planned during the preparedness stage.

Q. What is the role of the UN system in assessments?

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ANSWER

· Provide assistance to the government in assessing damage, needs and strategies for response.

· Provide potential donors and the international community with accurate information on priorities for 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.

The role of the resident coordinator as relief activity develops

As relief operations get underway, the resident coordinator/representative will need to maintain an overview of assessments from the UN perspective and ensure that all relevant aspects and all affected areas are systematically covered.

A multi-sectoral approach to the assessment in which agencies and sectoral entities collaborate and agree on findings and response strategies is essential. Sectoral assessments which are undertaken independently and in isolation from each other are likely to duplicate effort and lead to gaps in coverage and information. The need will remain to try to piece together an overall situation assessment, reconcile different perspectives and determine inter-sectoral priorities.

The resident coordinator/representative must collaborate closely with the national Red Cross/Red Crescent Society, the LRCS and ICRC (where present) and NGOs in assessing all types of emergencies, especially those involving displaced persons.

Every effort should be given to developing consensus among the national and local authorities, the donor community and operational agencies concerning the situation, any assistance requirements and proposed interventions. Without agreement on needs and priorities, there will not be wholehearted cooperation - there may even be competition - in response. 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.

The resident coordinator/representative must also help all concerned to include a development perspective in the planning of emergency and post-disaster assistance.

With regard to the phasing of the assessment, it is worth emphasizing that the first assessment will generally have to be conducted using in-country personnel. This involves, within the first few days, a review of scope and scale of the disaster and the areas in which assistance is required. The follow-up detailed assessment to define precise needs sector-by-sector and draw up a concerted inter-agency program can be supported by additional specialist personnel from the various agencies and/or multi-agency teams.

The resident coordinator/representative must also help all concerned to include a development perspective in the planning of emergency and post-disaster assistance.

Q. Who has the ultimate responsibility for seeking and defining the need for international assistance?

A.


The heads of the separate UN agencies?


The government of the affected country?


The resident coordinator?

Check the appropriate box.

ANSWER

The government of the affected country.

Reporting assessment information

Reporting and sharing of information derived from assessments can usually be best achieved by the following actions:

· Regular meetings of the UN Disaster Management Team and continuous exchange of information with all UN partners

· Daily contact with the national disaster management counterpart

· Statements of relief needs and contributions prepared and made available regularly (initially daily) to the national disaster management counterpart and local donor representatives

· DHA SITREPS distributed to the national disaster management counterpart and local donor representatives immediately on receipt

Formulating and screening requests for international assistance

Where it is determined that there is a need for international assistance, the resident coordinator and the UN-DMT should, on the basis of the agreed assessment, assist the government in formulating a request or appeal which is as accurate and specific as possible. This is a critical area in which the resident coordinator and the UN-DMT can have a particularly significant role.

The resident coordinator may need to continually clarify requests and take initiatives to bring together separate host government bodies with overlapping or closely-related interests, usually in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to ensure coordination and consistency in their separate proposals and requests to external donors. There may be opportunities to review and refine specifications, quantities, required delivery schedules and priorities with the responsible authorities to ensure that requests are realistic and in a form which will encourage the best possible donor response.

Resident coordinators may need to seek agreement on a phased approach to requests, with a first statement of immediate, priority requirements, possibly accompanied by general indications of the scale of those additional needs which will be defined in more detail and announced later.

Decision-makers' perspectives on the strategic requirements for disaster recovery are likely to change quickly as a more accurate picture emerges of the actual needs and the surviving resources. All those involved should be clear that any initial statement is necessarily “provisional” and will be updated or added to as more information becomes available. Even so, reports must be as accurate as possible and not mislead through generalization and/or exaggeration.

Reports must be as accurate as possible and not mislead through generalization and/or exaggeration.

While the UN-DMT assists the government to determine overall needs for international assistance, several of the UN agencies may identify particular programs of assistance which they will propose to implement, subject to the mobilization of the required resources. The resident coordinator and the UN-DMT must endeavor to prepare an overall “concerted” program of assistance proposed by the UN organizations and agencies which incorporates the separate agencies' proposals, is coherent and focuses on the priority issues. This should form the basis of a united appeal for funds in which the organizations responsible for particular elements will be clearly identified.

It should, nonetheless, be stressed that the united appeal will identify and support the various appeals of individual agencies, rather than substitute for them. Donors will be free to channel their response to the various organizations in accordance with their own wishes.

Q. What are the steps the resident coordinator should take in formulating and screening requests for international assistance?

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ANSWER

· Clarify requests by the national government and the UN Agencies to ensure a “coordinated and coherent” appeal and if necessary, convene meetings to eliminate gaps and duplications

· Assess whether a phased approach for assistance is necessary.

NOTES

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