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close this bookHandbook for Emergencies - Second Edition (UNHCR, 1999, 414 p.)
close this folder20. Administration, Staffing and Finance
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentEmergency Staffing
View the documentBudget and Finance
View the documentNon-Expendable Property and Office Supplies
View the documentOffice Premises
View the documentOfficial Transport
View the documentOffice Organization
View the documentKey References
View the documentAnnexes




1. The purpose of this chapter is to provide general guidance on UNHCR's basic administrative procedures and actions in an emergency. Nothing in this chapter should be read as altering any existing rules, regulations and instructions, in particular the UNHCR Manual. The latest edition of The Checklist for the Emergency Administrator (hereinafter referred to as the Checklist) is an essential reference for administration in emergencies. The Checklist comes in three parts:

i. The actual checklist (a few pages). This is reproduced as Annex 1;

ii. Annexes to the checklist (in a large folder) which are primarily samples of the most frequently used administrative forms and extracts from the UNHCR Manual;

iii. A computer diskette containing many of the forms.

Throughout this chapter references are given to the relevant item in the Checklist.

2. The chapter considers particularly the opening of a new office in an emergency, but may also be helpful when expanding an existing office or establishing Sub or Field Offices.

3. The status of an established UNHCR office is governed by an agreement between the host government and UNHCR, called a Cooperation Agreement, also referred to as a "Branch Office Agreement" or an "Accord de Siege". (See Checklist section on Premises). Until such an agreement is concluded, UNHCR will be covered by UNDP's agreement with the host government. In addition, the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, 19461, is applicable to UNHCR and covers such matters as the inviolability of United Nations premises, the right to operate foreign currency accounts, exemption from direct taxes and customs duties on articles for official use, and facilities and immunities for communications. Specific considerations in respect of the emergency operation, for example regarding the handling of relief supplies, would be set out in the exchange of communications concerning the government's request for material assistance and in the project agreement (see chapter 8 on implementing arrangements).

1 Contained in UNHCR, Refworld CD-ROM.

Emergency Staffing

(See Checklist section on Personnel, Staff Conditions & Security). See also the Staff Rules and the Staff Administration and Management Manual, also the InSite database available on CDRom.


4. As soon as possible the Head of Office should communicate to Headquarters the projected staff requirements at both general service and professional levels with the necessary detail to enable Headquarters to review these in accordance with established personnel procedures and to approve the staffing table for the emergency. Emergency staffing resources should be used for the initial emergency period only. In the initial period, prior to the creation of posts, national staff could be recruited and paid for under Temporary Assistance.

5. There should be no delay in committing necessary personnel. However, solely adding personnel will not meet the organizational needs of an emergency: the operations plan and definition of responsibilities must determine personnel needs, not vice versa. Experience shows that for a given operation, smaller teams with clear allocation of responsibilities are usually more successful than larger teams whose members have less clearly defined roles.

Additional staff, who are unclear as to their role, will add to the management burden in an emergency

Staffing must be flexible. Numbers are likely to vary over time.


6. It is important that the different advantages of national (also referred to as local) and international staff are understood, and that these different strengths are properly incorporated into a staffing plan. National staff members understand the local situation and are sensitive to issues that often escape the notice of the international staff member. They often enjoy a wide range of contacts that enable them to "get things done".

7. Very significantly, national staff may speak the refugees' language. Correspondingly, international staff members bring to the operation an impartiality and an embodiment of the international character of UNHCR, which is essential. They will also have experience from elsewhere to contribute to the management of the emergency.

8. Headquarters is responsible for international staff identification, recruitment and deployment. The need for international staff will depend on the scale of the emergency and implementing arrangements.

UNHCR has developed a number of standby arrangements whereby suitable international staff can be deployed rapidly to an emergency operation.

9. The following table shows staff functions which may be needed in a large emergency.

Type of function

Overall management and leadership

Management of the administration in large emergencies

Core UNHCR functions in an Emergency Team: Field, Protection, Programme

Administrative and finance functions for an Emergency Team, to set up new offices and train staff

Community services functions

Supply and transport functions

Technical functions - technical coordinators (e.g. for health, water, nutrition) and - other technical support e.g. health assessment, epidemic preparedness and response, health monitoring systems, engineering (physical planning, water, sanitation, roads)

Support functions, e.g. base camp management, telecommunications and staff safety

10. The need for at least the following international staff (comprising an emergency team) should therefore be considered in a large scale emergency.

Emergency Team Leader (with one of the senior officers also possibly acting as Deputy to Team Leader);

International Secretary or Assistant for the Team Leader;

Senior Protection Officer;

Protection Officer(s);

Senior Programme Officer;

Programme Officer(s);

Sector Coordinators, e.g. Community Services, Water, Health, Nutrition;

Field Officers deployed at the refugee sites;

Senior Administrative Officer;

Finance Officer/Personnel Officer;

Staff Safety Officer;

Public Information Officer;

Logistics Officer;

Telecoms Officer.

11. The emergency team could be composed of staff deployed from emergency standby arrangements only, or a mix of the latter plus UNHCR staff already posted to the area. Emergency standby and staffing arrangements include an internal roster of UNHCR staff and emergency standby arrangements with other organizations. Details of these arrangements can be found in the Catalogue of Emergency Response Resources, Appendix 1.

12. For all staff, prior experience of an emergency operation is of course, a great advantage.

The overriding staffing priority is to fill key managerial posts with experienced UNHCR staff of the right calibre.

13. In a country where a major emergency is added to a previous small-scale programme it may be necessary to replace the existing Head of Office with a more experienced Head of Office at least for the duration of the emergency.

14. Administrative staff are another priority. An experienced administrative assistant will be an essential member of the team if a new office is being opened, and in large emergencies experienced finance and personnel officers are likely to be necessary. Without persons with these skills, other staff will have to devote a disproportionate amount of time to UNHCR internal administration. National administrative staff must be identified and trained, but this in itself requires experienced supervision.

15. Each refugee emergency will require a certain number of specialist skills even at the assessment and initial phases of the emergency. Where these are not available in-country, the assistance of Headquarters for recruitment of specialists through standby arrangements should be sought without delay. See Appendix 1, Catalogue of Emergency Response Resources for more details of these standby arrangements.

16. Informal volunteers, both nationals and members of the diplomatic and expatriate communities may come forward to help. The value of these outside volunteers will vary considerably with the situation. It will be important to assess the skills of the volunteers, the time they can devote and the availability of management personnel needed to coordinate and support them.

Lack of proper supervisory support may lead to the volunteer taxing already overextended staff as much as, or more than, the value added.

Reporting lines

17. In situations where an emergency team is deployed to an area of the country where there is no UNHCR office, the emergency Team Leader will normally report to the UNHCR Representative in that country or the Regional Representative or Special Envoy as appropriate in the individual circumstances.

18. When an emergency team is deployed into an area where a UNHCR office already exists and has responsibility for the operation, then the emergency team should integrate into the staffing structure of the existing office. The decision as to who should head the operation, the existing Head of Office or the Emergency Team Leader, will depend on the circumstances and the relative experience and seniority of the individuals. The decision as to who will head the operation must be clearly communicated to all staff at the outset to avoid any ambiguity in responsibilities and reporting lines.


19. Sound personnel management, supervision and leadership are very important to the success of an emergency operation, but can easily be overlooked. The initial motivation of those involved is a major asset, but for persons at levels that do not allow an overview of the operation, this can be replaced by disappointment and frustration if supervisors are too busy to plan, organize, direct, control and continue to motivate their staff.


Responsibilities, roles and tasks must be dearly defined and understood.

Job descriptions are the most common management tool for defining individual responsibilities, even if the imperatives of an emergency mean their frequent revision. They are important for UNHCR staff, and even more so for seconded staff (such as United Nations Volunteers - UNVs, consultants and staff deployed through the emergency standby arrangements), and informal volunteers. Responsibility should be delegated to the lowest possible level, and with it must go the necessary authority. Responsibility without authority is useless.

21. Staff meetings should be convened regularly from the start. Team welfare will have an important bearing on the success of the emergency operation.

Everyone must be made to feel part of the UNHCR team. This includes consultants, seconded staff, and volunteers.

22. Very long hours will often be necessary, but supervisors must ensure that staff have time off, away from the refugee site, and do not get so overtired that their efficiency and the professionalism of their approach suffers.

23. All field staff have a particular responsibility to safeguard their own health, but also have a role to play in ensuring that their colleagues remain in good mental and physical health (see chapter 22 on coping with stress). Early corrective action can avert the need to hospitalize or evacuate key staff.

24. In an emergency there may be many occasions when staff see clearly that by devoting time to helping individual refugees or families in distress they could alleviate suffering directly. To seek to do so is very understandable but it can lead to a personal emotional involvement at the expense of the staff member's wider responsibilities towards the refugees as a whole, and to resentment among other refugees. Direct responsibility for individual care is usually best assured by the refugee community. For all staff, compassion must be tempered by a professional approach. Guidance by supervisors is often needed on this point.

25. Particular attention must be paid to proper supervision and encouragement of newly recruited national staff. Often the Head of Office and other international staff are extremely busy, out at meetings or in the field, and the other staff, who may know little about UNHCR and less about the operation, lack guidance and a sense of involvement. Some of the general information in the emergency office kit may be useful for briefing newly recruited national staff. In all cases the new staff should receive a briefing from their direct supervisor covering, at a minimum, general information on the operation and the role of the new staff member.

Personnel Administration

26. UNDP may be able to help in determining conditions of service and even in identifying national field staff.

27. Careful attention must be paid to the administration of out-posted field staff. A convenient way of administering Field Officers, at least initially, is to ensure that the Travel Authorization (PT8) issued authorizing the mission to the country of operation also covers internal travel and DSA. If the latter is not covered, an addendum to the original PT8 is issued. Normally in emergency situations, and to avoid staff carrying too much cash, a DSA advance is given on a monthly basis. This advance is charged to the suspense account code as indicated on the UNHCR account codes listing (VF 324) and recorded on the reverse side of the original PT8. Upon completion of the mission, the office settling the travel claim, must ensure that the travel advances are deducted from the entitlements.

28. Particular care must also be taken to ensure the proper administration of out-posted national staff, for example, Field Officers' drivers. It should be noted here that while Heads of Office can authorize out-posted staff to drive official vehicles on official travel, as in an emergency this is likely to be necessary, every effort should be made to provide Field Officers' with drivers from the start. They can be of great help to Field Officers in a variety of ways.

29. All out-posted national staff must have contracts, understand their terms of employment and benefits, including the cost and benefits of the UN health insurance scheme, receive their salary regularly, work reasonable hours and take leave due.

All staff should have job descriptions and understand them.

Obvious as these requirements are, they can be difficult to meet in an emergency. There may be important extra demands on UNHCR drivers, both beyond simple driving and also as a result of their working for itinerant Field Officers and thus spending considerable time away from home. These factors must be taken into account.

Staff Visibility

30. A means for visual identification of UNHCR staff may be necessary, particularly outside the capital. Visibility materials, available from Headquarters, include flags, stickers (including magnetic stickers), vests, armbands, T-shirts and caps (see the Catalogue of Emergency Response Resources Appendix 1).

31. Consideration should also be given to adopting a UNHCR identity card with a visible photograph that can be worn as a pocket badge. Arrangements should be made as soon as possible for UNHCR staff to receive diplomatic identity cards issued by the government. Pending that, an official attestation in the local language could probably be quickly obtained for each out-posted Field Officer from UNHCR's government counterpart and might be very useful.

Staff Accommodation

32. At the start of an emergency, international staff will be on mission status and will generally be accommodated in hotels. Should the daily subsistence allowance (DSA) not cover the basic cost of adequate hotel accommodation, Headquarters should be informed at once and all hotel receipts retained. Conversely, DSA is reduced if official accommodation and/or meals are provided. If it is clear that special arrangements will be required for personal accommodation for staff who are assigned to that duty station, Headquarters should be informed, with details of local UN practice.

33. In extreme hardship areas, where there is no suitable staff or office accommodation, a standard staff and office accommodation package is available. This consists of prefabricated units which are stockpiled and which can be airlifted to the operation. Further information is provided in the Catalogue of Emergency Response Resources (Appendix 1).

34. Standard travel kits and field kits are also available from the emergency stockpile, and details of their contents are provided in the Catalogue of Emergency Response Resources (Appendix 1). The kits have been developed to provide staff with some basic personal items likely to be of use in the first days at such places, pending more appropriate local arrangements. The kits will normally only be issued to staff proceeding to isolated locations from or via Geneva, and when it is clear that there may not be time to obtain what is actually needed on arrival in the country of operation. If UNHCR is already represented in that country, the Field Office should have a good idea of conditions to be expected and thus of what specific personal equipment may be needed, and this is probably best purchased locally.

35. Responsibility for the provision of the necessary personal items rests with staff members. Even when issued with kits, staff should check carefully what other items may be required; it is unlikely that a standard kit will meet all needs. Staff receiving kits will be required to account for them at the end of their mission, and will be expected to at least return the non-consumable items.

36. In difficult conditions it may be necessary to hire a base camp manager who will be responsible for organizing living arrangements for UNHCR staff. A description of the tasks of a base camp manager is provided in the Checklist.

Budget and Finance

(see Checklist section on Finance, Equipment & Supplies).

Authority to Incur Expenditure

37 Currently UNHCR classifies expenditure into two types:

i. Project expenditure;

ii. Administrative support expenditure.

This classification of expenditure may change in the future.

38. Authority to enter into obligations for project expenditure is given by a letter of instruction (LOI). Further details can be found in chapter 8 on implementing arrangements.

39. Authority to enter into obligations for administrative support expenditure is given by an Administrative Budget and Obligation Document (ABOD). This is issued by Headquarters and is addressed to Heads of Offices. It covers all non-staff costs including temporary assistance and overtime.

40. Authority for additional administrative support expenditure in an emergency is given to an existing Field Office by amending the existing ABOD. When an emergency occurs in a country where UNHCR is not already represented, an initial ABOD will be issued immediately. This can then be amended when more details of administrative requirements are known. Control of expenditure against funds allocated is by an Administrative Budget Control Sheet (ABCS) generated from the computerized accounting system.

Transfer of Funds

41. It is essential to have funds immediately available. Funds will normally be made available by bank transfer. However, such transfers, especially to out-posted Field Office bank accounts, sometimes suffer undue delays because of complicated banking channels. It is very important to select a local bank with a direct international correspondent relationship, if possible with Citibank N.A. New York or the UBS Bank in Switzerland. Further information can be provided by the Treasury Section at Headquarters.

42. At the start of an emergency it may be possible to hand carry a banker's cheque from Geneva to be credited directly to the Field Office bank account. If this is done, proper precautions must of course be taken to ensure the security of the cheque.

43. In very extreme cases, when no banking services are available, cash may be acquired locally (e.g. through local companies and traders) upon specific authorization from Treasury. Funds would be transferred to an account indicated by the trader after receipt of the cash by UNHCR. Cash may also be provided to Field Offices through professional courier services. Information about cash transfers, past, present and future, must be treated with absolute discretion.

44. Subsequently funds will be transferred by Treasury upon cash replenishment requests in the standard format shown in the box below. Care should be exercised that funds are called forward as close as possible to the date of their utilization to avoid unnecessary high bank balances over prolonged periods.

To: UNHCR Treasury (HQTY00)

From: Requesting Officer/Field Office Location

Subject: Cash Replenishment Request

Please effect an immediate transfer of funds based on the following information:

Balances on hand (all bank accounts and petty cash) at (dd/mm/yy): (provide details of amounts and currencies)

Total disbursement needs for the next × (maximum 4) weeks: (provide details of administrative and programme needs, amounts and currencies)

Replenishment amount requested: (Indicate amount and currency)

Complete bank name and address, including UNHCR bank account number, and the Field Office's accounting system receiving bank code.

45. Disbursements for both administrative and project expenses are made in the Field either from a local UNHCR bank account or, pending the opening of such an account, through UNDP. In the latter case, UNHCR Headquarters will arrange with UNDP Headquarters for the local UNDP office to receive the necessary authority to incur expenditure on behalf of UNHCR. Settlement with UNDP will normally take place through the common Inter-Office Voucher (IOV) system for amounts of less than US$10,000 or through a special transfer of funds to UNDP New York for larger sums. As a rule, disbursements exceeding the equivalent of US$100 should be made by cheque; whenever local circumstances require regular cash payments in excess of this limit, Headquarters' approval must be obtained.

Bank Accounts

46. All local UNHCR bank accounts are opened by Treasury upon recommendation from the Field Office. The choice of a bank will be determined by its reputation, ease of access, services offered and charges. Other UN agencies, diplomatic missions and NGOs should be consulted. The following information is required:

i. Full name of the bank;

ii. Address, phone, telex and fax numbers;

iii. Type and currency of account;

iv. Bank's correspondent bank in New York or Switzerland;

v. Maximum amount of any one cheque;

vi. Suggested panel of bank signatories

vii. Amount of initial transfer.

47. Treasury will designate the authorized bank signatories. Two joint signatories are normally required to operate UNHCR bank accounts. In exceptional circumstances, signature by one Officer may be authorized.

Particular care must be taken to ensure cheque book security.

Cheques must bear UNHCR in words, be consecutively numbered, verified on receipt, and kept in a safe by a staff member designated by the Head of Office. Cheques should always bear the name of the payee and should be crossed unless there is an overriding reason why this is not practicable. Under no circumstances should a bank signatory pre-sign either a blank cheque or one which is only partially completed.

48. Field Offices will normally maintain one non-resident local currency bank account; circumstances may however also require the opening of a non-resident US dollar account and perhaps even a resident local currency account. Where problems of exchange control regulations are encountered, the Treasury at Headquarters should be informed immediately. Field Offices should ensure that the most favourable conditions are obtained for the transfer and conversion of UNHCR funds.

Exchange Rates

49. If there is a significant discrepancy, i.e. more than 3%, between the actual market rate and the prevailing UN rate of exchange, a request for a revision of the latter should be made. This request should be coordinated with UNDP and other UN organizations locally and addressed to UNDP New York. The communication should contain a summary of the fluctuations over the previous 60 days. If necessary, UNHCR Headquarters should be requested to intervene with UNDP New York.

Accounting Procedures

50. UNHCR accounting procedures may change. However, currently, whenever a Field Office operates its own bank account(s), it must report to Headquarters monthly on all transactions for each account. The procedure is the same for both administrative and project expenditure. Most importantly, a properly supported payment voucher must be completed and immediately entered into the electronic accounting system. Where this system has not yet been installed, a manual payment voucher (F.10) should be completed and immediately entered on a bank journal (HCR/ADM/800). It is essential that the voucher quotes the authority for payment (LOI, ABOD, PT8 (travel authorization). A "Mini Payment Voucher" book (F.11), designed especially for emergencies, may be used by out-posted Field Officers. An official UNHCR receipt voucher should be issued and entered on the bank journal for any receipts other than replenishments from Headquarters. Similarly, payments from petty cash have to be accounted for in the petty cash journal (HCR/ADM/800). It is imperative that all vouchers and journal entries list the correct account code, as indicated in the UNHCR account codes listing and on the PT8, or the project symbol marked on the LOI against which the transaction is to be debited/credited.


Whatever the pressures of the emergency, accounts must be kept up-to-date and the monthly closure done Oft time.

Experience has shown that failure to do so will not only delay the replenishment of the bank account but will also result in far more work than would originally have been required.

Non-Expendable Property and Office Supplies

(see Checklist section on Finance, Equipment & Supplies).

Non-expendable property

52. Authority to purchase office furniture and equipment is given in the ABOD. Field Offices may purchase locally or regionally if the cost of the item is less than 15% above that available through the Supply and Transport Section at Headquarters2.

53. The purchase of computer equipment, vehicles, telecommunications equipment and security equipment should be coordinated with Headquarters in order to ensure conformity with the organization's specifications. Local purchase should be considered and if the cost is within the 15% limit referred to above, the Field Office should forward three pro forma invoices, together with the item's specifications, to the Supply and Transport section at Headquarters for approval.

2 Costs of items available through Headquarters are quoted in UNHCR's Catalogue of Most Frequently Purchased Items, UNHCR, Geneva, (updated regularly) and in lAPSO's catalogue of Office Equipment, IAPSO (updated regularly).

Asset Management System

54. The asset management system is an electronic system to track and manage all non-consumable assets owned by UNHCR (with a lifespan of over a year), regardless of funding source or user (including for example all vehicles, telecommunications and computer equipment, furniture and office equipment, buildings such as clinics, office, hospitals, and water purification and construction equipment). The system should be installed into at least one computer at the country office level. A decision should be made at the beginning if the extent of the operation requires that the system be installed in other offices within the country.

The office must also have the system user manuals, bar-code labels and data entry forms (obtained from the Asset Management Unit at Headquarters).

55. Whenever an asset is purchased, whether locally, regionally, through Headquarters, or by implementing partners with UNHCR funding, it must be bar-coded and recorded in the asset management system.

56. Where items are acquired from stockpiles maintained at Headquarters, such as computer and telecommunications equipment, relevant data about the item will be sent to the Field on diskette so that the office can import the details into the asset management system.

57. Where an asset is re-deployed to another location, data about it should be sent on diskette to the receiving office for importation into the asset management system.

58. It is important that all assets are bar-coded and recorded in the asset management system from the beginning of the operation. Failure to do so will result in "lost" assets and in far more work than would originally have been required.

59. Offices maintaining their own asset management database should regularly send their databases to the country office for consolidation.

The consolidated database should be sent to Headquarters every three months.

Office Supplies

60. An emergency office kit (see Catalogue of Emergency Response Resources, Appendix 1) can be used to supply a new office with stationery and small office equipment. The stockpiled kits weigh approximately 120 kg packed in two cardboard boxes. Each kit is designed for an office with five international staff and ten national staff.3

3 Further information is also contained in the Catalogue of Emergency Response Resources (Appendix 1).

1. Office supplies, as well as printed stationery and forms, can be purchased locally, regionally, or if this is too expensive, office supplies and printed forms listed in the UN catalogue may be ordered on a stationery request form (GEN-236/1) directly from Headquarters. The emergency kits are not intended for re-supply, even in emergencies.

61. Orders for items not listed in the UN catalogue4 and which are not locally available should be requested from Headquarters, giving all necessary details and specifications.

4Office Supplies, Forms and Materials, UN, Geneva, 1990.

Office Premises

(Checklist section on Premises)

62. The order of priority for obtaining offices is:

i. Rent-free from the government;

ii. In common UN premises;

iii. Government-provided offices against reimbursement by UNHCR and

iv. Commercial rent.

63. Interim arrangements may be necessary, but the early establishment of the UNHCR presence in a convenient location will be of obvious importance to the success of the operation.

64. Office space per person should not exceed about 14m2, but an approximate addition of 30% is needed to allow for a reception area, interviewing room, meeting room, and services area (filing, copier, etc.) as appropriate to the scale of the operation.

65. Considerations in selecting office premises include:

Location (distances from ministries, implementing partners, bank, post office, airport, etc.);

Security (for authorized access to individual refugees and UNHCR staff, to prevent unauthorized access, and for the physical security of offices, files, etc.);

Parking facilities;

Utilities (electricity, water, heating, air-conditioning, wires for telephone, toilets, simple kitchen facilities, storage room, etc.);

Physical layout and orientation of the building. Ensure that the building and grounds are suitable for radio and satcom antennas and that there is no interference from neighbouring installations e.g. pylons;

Provides for a large enough meeting space for UNHCR to discharge its coordination responsibilities through coordination meetings;

Room for expansion; in emergencies the numbers of staff can fluctuate considerably;

The condition of the office.

66. The use of residential accommodation (e.g. a villa) as an office may be an option.

67. Once office premises have been selected, the government, diplomatic community, other UN agencies and NGOs should be informed accordingly, and the relevant information provided to neighbouring UNHCR offices and to Headquarters.

Official Transport

(See Checklist section on Communications & Transport. In addition, chapter 18 on supplies and transport deals with all transport issues, focusing on transport for operational needs).


68. It is essential for UNHCR staff to be mobile. Action to ensure enough of the right type of official vehicles will be a high priority. Consult the Supply and Transport Section at Headquarters regarding the purchase of vehicles (see chapter 18 on supplies and transport for more information about the purchase or acquisition of vehicles). Once the vehicle is sold or passes from UNHCR's control (e.g. at the end of a lease agreement), ensure that any official UN or UNHCR logos and stickers are removed. Magnetic stickers (available from Headquarters) can be quickly attached and removed from vehicles and re-used.

69. Requests to Headquarters for vehicle purchase should give full details (make, type of body, number of doors, long or short wheel-base, left or right hand drive, petrol/diesel, special options: sand tires, extra fuel tanks, air-conditioning, heater, mine protection, anti-theft device, etc.). The duty-free on-the-road price and delivery time must be given if local purchase is requested.

70. In many countries duty-free fuel may be available for official UN vehicles. Details of procedures should be obtained from the government and other UN organizations. Follow them from the start; retroactive reimbursement is often impossible.

71. Vehicle daily log sheets should be introduced from the day the official vehicle becomes operational and these should be designed in such a way as to show the daily mileage of each vehicle and the purpose of each trip. The daily log should also include the names of the driver and of the passengers). Mileage should be regularly checked against the purchase of fuel for that vehicle.

72. It is important that vehicles are insured and registered upon arrival. In respect of each official vehicle assigned to a Field Office, adequate insurance covering third party risks should be arranged locally with a reputable insurance company.

Light Aircraft

73. There may be situations when a light aircraft is the only way to ensure satisfactory communications between the various UNHCR locations. The need may be temporary, for example to expedite needs assessment and the initial response, or longer-term when the existing communications infrastructure does not adequately cover the location of the refugees and the journey by road is long and uncertain. In some circumstances, security is also a consideration.

74. Immediate action to provide the necessary flights is essential. Initially, or where the need is short-term, this is likely to be by commercial charter unless the UN system already has a light aircraft and spare capacity. If locally based charter companies exist, seek impartial local advice on their reliability, obtain as many offers as possible and send these to Headquarters with a recommendation. Include details of passenger insurance coverage. This information should be complemented by an indication of the required weekly flight plan (e.g. per week: 3 return flights capital/location X; 1 return flight capital/location Y; 1 round trip flight capital/X/Y/capital), and the estimated cost for the necessary flights (total or per month).

75. Where local charter is not possible or a long-term need is foreseen, inform Headquarters with as much detail of the requirement as possible and ways it might be met (for example, of charter companies from neighbouring countries known to operate in the country of operation). Some government disaster corps and a number of NGOs operate light aircraft. Some are specialized in this field like Aviation Sans Frontieres (ASF), and the Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF). If there is already such an operation in the country their advice should be sought.

Office Organization

(Checklist section on Filing & Documentation and Communications & Transport).

Filing and Documentation

76. A simple office communication system should be put in place immediately. This can be implemented by, for example, pigeon holes (ideally one for each staff-member and one for each collaborating organization), whiteboards and notice-boards. This will help to ease communication problems in the confusing early days of an emergency.

77. A suitable filing system and registry controls should be set up immediately on the opening of a new office. Annex 2 gives some guidance as to what might be required and how filing could be organized.

78. A rubber stamp to show date of receipt, file, action officer and remarks will be very useful. The practice of putting a chronological number on every outgoing communication is strongly recommended and will be particularly helpful in the confused early days. Everything should have copies on the chronological file in addition to a subject file.

79. As a precautionary measure, offices should have a shredder to destroy any unwanted documents or correspondence. In some countries waste paper is sold and used in markets for packaging, so care should be taken that discarded UNHCR documents are not used in this manner.


80. Communications needs are discussed in the communications chapter. A simple checklist for a new office is given below; the order will not necessarily be the priority.

Identify the need for a telecommunications network as soon as possible (radio, e-mail, satellite, etc.);

Obtain necessary permission from the authorities to operate the equipment with the assistance of the RTO or HQ Telecoms if necessary;

Obtain immediate access to a telephone and fax and tell Headquarters (and neighbouring UNHCR offices as appropriate) the numbers and where they are located;

Set up controls and registers for incoming and outgoing communications from the start;

Establish a pouch system between the offices within the country of operation and Headquarters;

Consider communications needs in selecting office premises;

Obtain a PO box number and tell Headquarters (and local authorities, etc.) the number;

Once the UNHCR telecommunications network is installed, inform government, UNHCR Headquarters, neighbouring UNHCR offices, diplomatic corps and others, and ensure correct listing in national telephone directories, in the local UN and diplomatic lists, and in the UNHCR directory.

Key References

Checklist for the Emergency Administrator, UNHCR Geneva, 1998 (and updates).

Most Frequently Purchased Items, UNHCR, Geneva, 1998 (updated annually).

NGO Directory, UNHCR Geneva, 1996 (And subsequent updates).

Office Equipment, IAPSO, Copenhagen, 1998.

The UNHCR Manual, Chapter 9, (Chapters on financial regulations and rules, especially those financial rules for voluntary funds that are administered by the High Commissioner). UNHCR Geneva, 1995 (and updates).



(Note: This checklist is regularly updated, the latest version should be consulted)

This checklist is intended as a practical tool for UNHCR staff when responding to emergencies and assigned to duty stations where there is no established UNHCR presence, or where the existing office needs to be strengthened as a result of new events. The complete Checklist consists of three components listed below. Only the first part, the checklist is reproduced here. The complete checklist in its three components can be obtained from the Emergency Preparedness and Response Section at Headquarters.

The 3 components are:

1. The Checklist itself which lists most activities requiring consideration when establishing a Branch, Sub or Field Office. Not all items will be relevant. The administrative officer together with the Head of the Office will need to determine what action is to be taken. The list is not presented in an order of priority and it is therefore important to set your own priorities depending on the local circumstances. The list does not cover administrative procedures and action required for the ongoing needs of the office, but concentrates on those related specifically to the establishment of an office. Each item is preceded by a box which you may tick off as action is taken.

2. Annexes, which are primarily extracts from existing documentation. These have been included for ease of reference and are not substitutes for existing manuals and instructions of which the most important is the UNHCR Manual to which frequent reference should be made. Not all relevant UNHCR forms are included, as these are available in the Emergency Office Kit, or directly on request from Headquarters.

3. A computer disc which contains the format for all forms or documents which are indicated by an (*) in the Checklist. These forms or documents can be copied and amended to suit local needs. (It is recommended that the original format is not amended directly.)

The importance of setting up effective administrative procedures from the outset cannot be over-stressed. They will have important consequences for the effective administration throughout the operation.





1. Establish a UNHCR Cooperation Agreement if not
already in place or consider its amendment if one
already exists but circumstances have changed

a. Model Agreement (*)
b. Example Agreement
c. UN Convention on Privileges &

2. Identify need for Sub or Field Offices

a. Excerpt from UNHCR Manual

3. Identify Office Premises, negotiate lease and seek
approval from Geneva

a. Excerpt from UNHCR Manual
b. Standard lease (*)
c. Note on selecting

4. Consider the use of UNHCR stickers and UN flags,
posters and visibility material. Request more from HO
if necessary

a. Flag Code
b. List of stockpiled visibility

5. Consider "Base Camp" requirements and need for
Base camp manager, in situations where this is

a. Base camp manager


6. Determine immediate needs for and set up
communications: Telephone, E-Mail, fax, telex and/or
radio and pouch. Complete communications
questionnaire and send to HQs Attn. Telecommunications

a. Communications Info Kit
including Communications
b. Telecommunications inventory
forms (*)
c. Pouch Service Instructions

7. Establish telecommunications procedures. Train
staff and advise procedures

a. Sitor/Pactor Manual
b. Voice procedure
c. Codan user instructions (*)
d. Handover letter for handsets (*)
e. Handset user instructions (*)
f. Radio room discipline (*)
g. Communications procedures

8. Establish log for recording long distance phone calls
giving particular attention to private phone calls

a. Excerpt from UNHCR Manual
b. FOM 01/93 including Telephone log form (*)

9. Prepare forms for telex/fax messages

a. Model format (*)

10. Establish communications log and chron files

a. Radio message chron forms(*)

11. Establish a regular system (shuttle) for transport of
mail and personnel between sub office and branch
office (if necessary)

a. Shuttle Passenger Manifest (*)

12. Determine Admin Vehicle needs: Landcruisers, Pick
ups, saloons and/or minibus

a. Excerpts SFAS Handbook
b. Excerpts IAPSU Catalogue

13. Establish procedures for light vehicle use:
- Authority for UNHCR staff to drive official vehicles
- Driver trip logs
- Vehicle tracking system
- Maintenance logs
- Construct key box & ensure key security
- Identify best means for vehicle servicing
- Make arrangements for the purchase of Duty Free
- Undertake driver education sessions

a. Excerpt from UNHCR Manual
b. Driver Log format (*)
c. Vehicle Tracking format (*)
d. Excerpt from ICRC Handbook
e. Authority to drive official
vehicles (*)
f. Inventory record form
g. Vehicle inspection check list
h. Rules for drivers
i. Vehicles in UNHCR operations
j. Fuel receipt voucher (*)
k. Mileage rates


14. Establish staffing table with Organigram and job
descriptions. Send to the Desk at HQs

a. Typical field office structures
b. Additional example organigram
c. Post creation and review
d. Benchmark job descriptions

15. Identify sources for local staff recruitment. Prepare
simplified Job Application Form for local Staff. (P11 to be
used only for candidates who are being seriously

a. Simplified job application form

16. Recruit essential and urgently required local staff.
Set up local recruitment committee. Following selection,
issue short term contract and arrange appropriate
medical check

a. Excerpt UNHCR Manual and
related recruitment forms
b. Interview notes & Report Form
c. Recruitment tests for local staff
d. Regulations for NPOs - excerpt
from APPB regulations

17. Identify UN Examining Physician if necessary if no
UNDP Office and inform SASS for JMS approval

18. Set up Personnel files for all staff

19. Establish leave recording system

a. Secretariat Instruction on time,
attendance & leave
b. Example leave recording forms

20. Establish Working Hours, Overtime and DSA for
local staff on mission in country in accordance with
UNDP practice

a. Excerpt from UNHCR Manual
b. IOM 61/88 and IOM/120/88 on
salary advances
c. Copy OT recording form (*)
d. IOM 76/89 on Overtime for
local staff

21. Establish local mission tracking system

a. Mission recording format (*)

22. Send variable information on "Appendix B" for your
duty station to Geneva

a. Format appendix B

23. Check that DSA appropriate for duty station and if
considered to be inappropriate complete DSA Worksheet
if no UNDP Office and transmit to SASS

a. Excerpt from UNHCR Manual
b. DSA Worksheet & guidelines

24. If new duty station complete Classification of Duty
Station questionnaire & send to HQs

a. Excerpt from UNHCR Manual
b. Classification of Duty Station Questionnaire

25. Review the validity of the post adjustment and if
considered inappropriate advise DHRM

a. Excerpt from UNHCR Manual

26. Determine appropriateness of salary level of local
staff and if inappropriate advise DHRM

a. Excerpt from UNHCR Manual
b. Excerpt from CCAQ GS Survey Manual

27. Arrange payment of salary and allowances of
international staff

a. Salary distribution request form
and FOM/20/95 & Add.1

28. Negotiate discounts in local hotels and advise HQs.
Ensure guaranteed room availability for mission staff

29. Consider security procedures and an appropriate
evacuation plan

a. Excerpts from UN Field Handbook
b. IOM 47/92 on Field Security reporting

30. Collect personal data on international staff and
request staff to complete inventories if warranted by
security situation

a. Personal Data form
b. Personal Effects Inventory form

31. Identify best means and procedures for medical
evacuation of staff

a. Guidelines for Medevac Plan
b. IOM/104/94 and IOM/26/95 -
Guidelines on Medevac

32. Establish frequency and procedures for staff welfare
missions through MARS/VARI/STAR

a. Excerpts from FOM/105/94 +

33. Review the living and working conditions, report to
Headquarters and request field kits, travel kits and staff
accommodation as appropriate

a. Structure of living and working
conditions report (*)
b. Example of Emergency
Operation Living conditions paper
c. Excerpts from Catalogue of
Emergency Response Resources
(field kits, travel kits, staff
d. FOM/70/95 on Accommodation
provided by UNHCR

34. Design and begin training and coaching
programmes in office procedures for local administrative

a. Excerpts from UNHCR Training
b. Notes on Coaching Skills
c. Using Interpreters (*)
d. FOM 102/88 on Language Training


35. Survey local banks. Propose bank signatories and
interest level and request HQ to open bank account.
Propose ceiling and request approval for petty cash

a. Excerpt of UNHCR Manual
b. Questionnaire on Opening Bank Account

36. Establish accounts procedures: Vouchers,
Journals, files, signatory arrangements etc.

a. Allotment Account Codes For
essential guidelines on
accounting procedures refer to
Part 5, Chapter IX of the UNHCR
Manual and to the FOAS Manual

37. Request Emergency Allotment Advice if not already
received & finalize administrative budget request to

a. Copy of Emer. Allotment Advice
b. Excerpt of Operating
Instructions of ABPS
c. FOM 120/94 Field Office Admin
Budget Procedures

38. Purchase and inventorise non expendable
property, particularly furniture, vehicles and equipment
and decide which to be charged to admin allotment and
which to project expenditure (if any)

a. Excerpt from UNHCR Manual

39. Check stocks of stationery and supplies, sort forms
into Manila folders & order stationery and forms required
from Geneva

a. Excerpt from UNHCR Manual

40. Investigate the possibility of the local printing of
stationery. If possible and the cost is reasonable, request
permission to do so from HQs. Proceed only once
address, telephone number, etc. Known and not likely to

a. Examples of stationary

41. Survey EDP facilities and needs and recommend
improvements/request additional equipment. If necessary
request services of ICSS consultant to assess optimum
Admin (and programme) needs


42. Advise BO or HQs which newspapers and
periodicals to be sent on a regular basis. (This is part of
field office budgeting (ABPS) but worthwhile arranging

a. Entitlement

43. Set up file list, chron files and document registration

a. Filing principles (*)
b. Standard file list (*)
c. Chron Register Format (*)

44. Set up distribution system with central location of
trays. Consider local construction of pigeon holes.
Establish document circulation system

a. Example Action Sheet (*)
b. Example Circulation Slip (*)

* Available on the computer disc which accompanies The "Checklist For The Emergency Administrator".

Annex 2 - Suggested Field Filing System

1. A file list should be set up immediately on the opening of a new office. It should be done in such a way that it can expand and contract to take account of new situations. One must achieve the correct balance between being too specific and too general.

2. Three types of files should always bear a standard format reference or symbol whether maintained at Headquarters or in the Field: personnel (PER/IND) files, individual case (IC) files and project files. The latter symbol is always allocated by Headquarters.

A personnel file bears the file reference PER/IND FAMILY NAME, Given Names, e.g. PER/IND SMITH, Ms Jane Marie

An individual case file bears IC FAMILY NAME, Given Names RUR (country of residence)/RUR (country of origin)

e.g. IC SMITH, Ms Jane Marie RUR/RUR

A project file bears Year/Source of fund/Country of operation/assistance type/project number, e.g. 98/EF/RUR/EM/140.

3. An indication of subject files which might be required is given below. The number designates a subject not a file. Accordingly, files may comprise two or more file numbers.

A file should "tell a story".

Do not make subsequent perusal difficult by filing items out of sequence.

4. Security should be considered when filing documents, in paper and or electronic form. Files which should be destroyed in the event of evacuation of the office should be marked in advance. These should include individual case files and personnel files.

Suggested File List 1. General & External Affairs


UNHCR Structure/Mandate & Gen. Info.


Executive Committee




Relations with (host) Government


Relations with local Consulates


Inter-Agency Meetings


NGOs (general & alphabetical by agency)


UN Agencies (general & alphabetical by agency)


Inter-Governmental Organizations (general & alphabetical by agency)


Reports from the field


Situation Reports (SITREPS)


Camp profiles


Missions to the office (UNHCR & alphabetical)


Missions by office staff (alphabetical)


Visitors to the office (non-UNHCR & chronological)


Public Information Activities & Media Relations


Press releases & Press clippings


Conferences and Special Events




Fund Raising/Contributions

2. Protection


Protection General - UNHCR


Human rights/Country of Origin Info. (RUR-Alphabetical)


Protection (host country)








Family Reunion


Physical Security of Refugees



3. Operations & Assistance


Field Operations General


Field Operations (by site/camp)


Programme General (UNHCR) including FOBS


Assistance Programme General (host country)


Emergency Management


Technical Support








Water & Sanitation


Site Planning & Shelter


Non-Food Items & Domestic Supplies


Logistics (procurement, transport, storage)


Community Services, Counselling, Community Development




Productive Activities & Income Generation


Camp Management




Local Settlement



4. Administration & Finance


Administrative Policy


Administrative Instructions


Office Premises


Office and Personnel Security


Asset Management


Expendable property & Supplies




Records Management/Filing






Staff Rules & Regulations


Office Staffing


Applications for Employment/Recruitment


Salaries/Benefits/Allowances/Living Conditions


Taxation/Exemptions/Privileges & Immunities


Leave & Holidays


Travel/Mission & Leave Rosters


Accounting & Finance Procedures


Rates of Exchange


DSA Rates


Administrative Budget & Obligation Document