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close this bookAn Overview of Disaster Management (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - United Nations Development Programme , 1992, 136 p.)
close this folderChapter 6. The disaster management team, roles and resources
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe UN Disaster Management Team
View the documentCountry Disaster Management Team
View the documentTasks, roles and resources of the UN
View the documentRoles and resources of UNDP, UNDRO, and other UN agencies
View the documentCoordination: the resident coordinator and the UN-DMT

Roles and resources of UNDP, UNDRO, and other UN agencies

The role of UNDP

UNDP focuses primarily on the development-related aspects of disaster risks and occurrences, and on providing technical assistance to institution-building in relation to all aspects of disaster management. Its emphasis is therefore on:

a) Incorporating long-term risk reduction and preparedness measures in normal development planning and programs, including support for specific mitigation measures where required.

b) Assisting in the planning and implementation of post-disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction, including the definition of new development strategies that incorporate risk reduction measures relevant to the affected area.

c) Reviewing the impact of large settlements of refugees or displaced persons on development, and seeking ways to incorporate the refugees and displaced persons in development strategies.

d) Providing technical assistance to the authorities managing major emergency assistance operations of extended duration (especially in relation to displaced persons and the possibilities for achieving durable solutions in such cases).

In addition, UNDP provides administrative and operational support to the resident coordinator function, particularly at country level, but also at headquarters.

In the event of a disaster, UNDP may grant a maximum of $50,000 from SPR funds to provide immediate relief. UNDP is not otherwise involved in the provision of “relief using any of its own resources or other funds administered by the Program.

Where a major emergency substantially affects the whole development process within a country, IPF resources may be used to provide technical assistance to plan and manage the operation, with the agreement of the Government.

Technical and material assistance in support of long-term risk reduction and preparedness measures is included in the country program, and may be funded from IPF resources or from other UNDP-administered funds. The same can also be used to assist rehabilitation and reconstruction. Special additional grants (up to $1.1 million) may be made from SPR funds for technical assistance to such post-disaster recovery efforts following natural disasters.

The particular responsibilities of the UNDP resident representative are summarized in the following panel.

Disaster management responsibilities of the UNDP resident representative

The resident representative is responsible for:

a) Ensuring that all concerned in planning development programs are aware of any known or potential hazards and their likely effects, and that these are appropriately taken into account in the country program.

b) Designating a “disaster focal point,” and ensuring that the field office is adequately prepared to respond to an emergency.

c) In the event of a disaster:

· Mobilizing UNDP staff and technical assistance personnel and other resources that meet the needs of the situation, particularly those needed for the initial assessment and immediate response.

· Ensuring that UNDP assistance is used to good effect, and the capacity of the office is strengthened if necessary to ensure effective response.

Disaster focal point

In all disaster-prone country field offices, a senior national officer is designated a “disaster focal point” for all disaster-related matters including mitigation, response and international UN/UNDP preparedness. Section 3A and appendix 3A of the UNDP/UNDRO Disaster Manual provide detail on the duties and qualifications of the disaster focal point.

In a major or complex emergency of extended duration (typically involving displaced populations), UNDP may temporarily assign an additional deputy resident representative. That deputy may either manage normal UNDP business while the resident representative concentrates on the resident coordinator functions, or may take day-today responsibility for matters relating to the emergency which are within the UNDP mandate. In the countries with the most severe or prolonged emergencies UNDP has established UN Emergency Units. These units are able to focus exclusively on addressing the emergency and are often staffed by persons seconded from sister UN agencies that are operational in that country.

In the event of a sudden influx of refugees into a country in which there is no UNHCR representation, the resident representative immediately notifies UNHCR and initiates the assessment process on behalf of the UNHCR. (See section 4A.5 of the manual.)

The role of UNDRO

UNDRO is the focal point for disaster management in the UN system (except in those countries where a UN Emergency Unit is established). In relief it provides a framework for coordination of assistance by the UN agencies and helps to coordinate such assistance with that from other sources. In addition, UNDRO has an important role in mobilizing external assistance and serving as a clearing house for information concerning disasters. In the area of mitigation, UNDRO promotes long-term measures to reduce disaster-related risks and enhance preparedness in disaster-prone countries. UNDRO is represented at country level on a permanent basis by the resident coordinator/representative.

Coordination at headquarters level is often effected by contacts between the Head of Agencies concerned at the beginning of a relief operation, and through frequent ongoing contacts between the relevant focal points. At the country level, coordination is undertaken by the resident coordinator who is also the UNDRO representative. Whenever possible and required, UNDRO supports the resident coordinator by dispatching an UNDRO delegate or emergency assistance team.

UNDRO concentrates on problems related to natural hazards and sudden disasters, but as its mandate covers all kinds of emergencies UNDRO may also offer its services and advice in situations including droughts, and cases of war and civil conflicts, unless and until the Secretary-General makes other arrangements.

Following a disaster, UNDRO, acting on behalf of the Secretary-General, offers its services to the Government of the disaster-stricken state in assessing the need for external relief assistance, and communicating that information to prospective donors and others concerned. (Contacts with the Government are conducted through the resident coordinator/representative and the country’s mission in Geneva or New York.) Where international assistance is required or requested, UNDRO:

· Helps to identify priority needs on the basis of information from the Government, the resident coordinator/representative, UN-DMT, and other competent bodies.

· Issues international appeals and acts as a clearing house for information on needs and contributions, the assistance extended or planned by all donors, and the progress of relief operations.

· Seeks to mobilize resources and coordinate relief assistance by various UN organizations and agencies, bilateral donors, and inter- and non-governmental organizations and administers funds channelled through it.

Depending on the particular situation after consultations, wherever possible, with the Government or the resident coordinator/representative, UNDRO may:

· Assign one or more delegates on mission to assist the national authorities in organizing the assessment and administering relief operations, and assist the resident coordinator/representative in information management, the local coordination of international relief assistance, and in his reporting responsibilities to UNDRO.

· Provide logistic support to ensure the timely arrival of relief supplies and their prompt delivery to the affected population. This may include organizing shared or joint relief flights.

The Coordinator may approve a grant of up to US$ 50,000 per disaster from funds available to UNDRO, subject to certain conditions. In some situations, UNDRO can release supplies from the emergency stockpile it administers in Pisa, Italy.

UNDP/UNDRO collaboration

UNDP and UNDRO complement each other. UNDP has a wealth of experience in development planning and administration, and well-established field offices. UNDRO has specific knowledge and experience in disaster management, and established contacts with relevant specialist bodies. The fact that the UNDP resident representative also represents UNDRO helps to ensure fruitful cooperation between the organizations.

At the country level UNDP field offices generally administer funds and resources channelled through UNDRO, following normal inter-agency procedures. This includes the local procurement of supplies and services, and the recruitment and appointment of temporary staff.

Disaster-related roles of the core members of the UN-DMTs


Provides technical advice in reducing vulnerability and helps in the rehabilitation of agriculture, livestock, and fisheries, with emphasis on local food production. Monitors food production, exports and imports, and forecasts any requirements of exceptional food assistance.


Promotes the incorporation of disaster mitigation in development planning, and funds technical assistance for all aspects of disaster management. Provides administrative support to the resident coordinator and UN-DMT.


Mobilizes and coordinates international emergency relief assistance, issuing consolidated appeals. Assists in assessments and relief management if required. Provides advice and guidance on risk assessments and in planning and implementing mitigation measures.


Assures the protection of refugees and seeks durable solutions to their problems. Helps to mobilize and assure the delivery of necessary assistance in the country of asylum if it is a developing country.


Attends to the well-being of children and women, especially child health and nutrition. Assistance activities may include: social programs; child feeding (in collaboration with WFP): water supplies, sanitation and direct health interventions (in collaboration with WHO). Provides related management and logistical support.


Provides “targeted” food aid for humanitarian relief, and to support rehabilitation, reconstruction, and risk-reducing development programs. Mobilizes and coordinates the delivery of complementary emergency and “program” food aid from bilateral and other sources.


Provides advice and assistance in all aspects of preventive and curative health care, including the preparedness of health services for rapid response to disasters.

Role of other UN organizations and agencies

A number of other UN organizations and agencies have specific responsibilities, organizational arrangements, and capabilities relating to disaster mitigation, and/or relief or recovery assistance. UNDP, UNDRO, and resident coordinators must respect the mandates and skills of these agencies, and seek to ensure that all work together in harmony. All should use their expertise and resources to best effect in helping people in disaster-prone and disaster-affected areas.

UN system resources available to initiate responses to disasters and emergency needs


Up to $20,000 at discretion of FAOR within the context of an ongoing emergency or long-term aid project.


Up to $50,000 per occurrence for immediate relief; approved by the Director DOF following a request from the resident representative.

Up to $1.1 million for technical assistance for rehabilitation and reconstruction; approved by the Administrator or Governing Council.

IPF funds for technical assistance to emergency management in major operations agreed with Government; approved by Director PCO.


Up to $50,000 per disaster, subject to the availability of resources; approved by the UNDRO co-ordinator following a request by the Government and proposal by the resident representative or other UN organization or agency.


Allocations from a global emergency reserve for assistance to refugees; approved by the High Commissioner.


Up to $25,000 diversion of existing programme funds or in-country supplies at discretion of the country representative in agreement with Government. Larger amounts from global emergency reserve ($4 million per year); approved by Executive Director following a specific proposal by the country representative.

Possibility of diverting some existing country programme funds in case of a major national catastrophe.


Possibility of borrowing food aid commodities from ongoing WFP-assisted development projects, governmental or other donor’ stocks, subject to headquarters approval to assure replacement.

Up to $50,000 for local purchases of commodities at the discretion of the Director of Operations where there are no other means of arranging timely deliveries.

Allocations primarily from the International Emergency Food Reserve (IEFR), managed by WFP, and from WFP general resources ($45 million annually).


Global reserve from which allocations can be made for priority medical needs in anticipation of special donor contributions; approved by the Director ERO.