|Handbook for Emergencies - Second Edition (UNHCR, 1999, 414 p.)|
Effective emergency preparedness and response has been a major priority of UNHCR throughout the decade. In 1991, during my first field mission as High Commissioner, I witnessed the sudden and dramatic exodus of hundreds of thousands of Kurdish refugees from their homes in Iraq to Turkey and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Since then, the Office has responded to a long list of massive outflows.
These crises have caused widespread human suffering and put great demands on our Office, prompting us to develop an effective and speedy response mechanism. We have established a revolving internal roster that ensures the deployment of UNHCR staff within 72 hours. Standby arrangements with external agencies for rapid deployment of their staff have also been created. We have devised and implemented staff training, as well as specific management tools to maintain our readiness to respond quickly and effectively to emergency situations. To address humanitarian needs urgently, a centralized stockpile of goods has been assembled, which includes governmental packages of humanitarian assistance.
Having dispatched over 300 missions throughout the world since 1992, the office now has in place a solid emergency response model, an achievement for which we can all be proud. Undoubtedly, this model will face further challenges as grave human displacements continue to occur. However, this pattern is changing from the humanitarian emergencies of the early nineties. Arising more frequently now are scattered crises, often of a relatively smaller scale and with limited international visibility. Conflicts are mostly internal and more localized, although external involvement continues to play an important role. Those forced to flee their homes, as well as the humanitarian workers assisting them, are increasingly targeted by the warring factions. On the positive side, improved communications, even in some remote locations, have enhanced our ability to operate. In addition, UNHCR has worked under new cooperative arrangements with other humanitarian agencies or even governmental institutions, including military forces.
This revised and updated Handbook provides useful guidance as our Office continues to cope with the swift and increasingly dangerous nature of fresh displacement. It stresses the importance of pre-emergency planning, as well as planning throughout every stage of a crisis. It focuses on setting coordination priorities, as well as contingency and operational planning. Important information has also been included regarding staff safety and working with military personnel, as well as a section addressing the issue of how to cope with personal stress.
Reflected in this edition is the dedication and experience of field staff and specialists both within the office and from partner organizations, which spans the last 17 years since the original UNHCR Handbook was first published. I would like to gratefully acknowledge what is an exemplary group effort.
This Handbook will assist colleagues to meet the challenges ahead as we cope with the changing nature of emergencies. It should serve as a reminder that displacement crises require carefully prepared and well managed responses that optimize the unique strength and capacities of various groups and organizations. As we face these new challenges, let us look forward to fine tuning this response model that our Office has worked so hard to establish.