Islamic Republic of Iran
Iran is one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries, with regular earthquakes, floods and droughts resulting in the loss of lives and prolonged population displacements. In February 2005, a major earthquake in Zarand province, eastern Iran, led to the loss of 600 lives, injuries to 1,500 people and some 32,000 persons adversely affected, in a region still recovering from the legacy of the Bam earthquake in 2003. The difficulty in ensuring disaster preparedness and management needs is further exacerbated by the rapid urbanisation of major cities.
Following the Bam earthquake, a small OCHA presence was established in Tehran to lend support to the Resident Coordinator’s office and government counterparts on matters related to humanitarian coordination for natural disaster management and response. Although a relatively small operation (with three national staff), the Liaison Office is well established within the UNCT and has become the main interface between the government and the UN on coordination during a natural disaster situation. In addition, the Liaison Office has been working with OCHA headquarters in furthering advocacy activities as part of the Middle East Initiative.
- Provide leadership on humanitarian coordination in support of humanitarian partners and the Government of Iran in disaster preparedness and response
- Develop a coordinated disaster management policy to ensure assistance for vulnerable populations affected by disasters and emergencies, such as: responding proactively and quickly to emergencies as they arise in the region; mobilising, supporting and leading emergency response missions whenever required, as well as ensuring resource mobilisation; supporting interagency efforts to build UN capacity at the country level to manage disasters and emergencies; and increasing capacity for risk management and pre-disaster preparedness in Iran
The OCHA Liaison Office, together with government counterparts and the UNCT, has been working closely in order to ensure a smooth and coordinated response for natural disasters. In terms of strengthening the government’s capacity in responding to natural hazards, a joint OCHA/UNEP mission was fielded to Iran in July 2005, examining best practices and common approaches in responding to environmental emergencies. The office also identified the lessons learned from previous disasters, which fed into the overall response system through workshops, advisory meetings, consultations, preparation of guidelines and manuals. The office was instrumental in establishing direct contact between government partners, national organizations and international partners on disaster management and response tools.
In support of the government and the UNCT, a key achievement of the Liaison Office was the preparation of the UN Disaster Management and Response Plan, which is regularly reviewed and updated, and is used as the reference for international assistance in the event that local resources are overwhelmed during a disaster situation. An arrangement was also agreed upon between the
Ministry of the Interior and the OCHA Liaison Office on conducting local and community level disaster awareness seminars and ensuring the efficient involvement of NGOs in disaster response.
Working closely with OCHA headquarters on advocacy issues and the promotion of international humanitarian action and principles, the Liaison Office has formed an effective partnership with the University of Tehran. A seminar was held with academics, scholars and students from Tehran University analysing the challenges of humanitarian assistance in the Middle East. A separate seminar was held with Islamic Clerics from the holy city of Qom to discuss the commonalities between the Islamic tradition of charity and international humanitarian assistance. Both seminars helped improve understanding of the international humanitarian community’s activities in relation to emergency response.
The second anniversary of the Bam earthquake was commemorated as part of a workshop with the University of Tehran, as well as the introduction of Humanitarian Assistance Day (27 December). Agreement was reached to continue cooperation with the University of Tehran in 2006, while expanding the initiative to a regional level.
The OCHA Liaison Office successfully established itself as the main body providing coordination support to the RC and UNCT for natural disaster response and management, while increasing support for the UN Disaster Management Team. As such, the UNDMT mobilised in a timely and efficient manner in responding to emergencies. For instance, the UNCT’s responses to the Zarand earthquake, Glestan floods and Qeshm earthquake were coordinated through the Liaison Office, in close collaboration with government officials, within 24 hours of the emergency. OCHA was also part of the Field Assessment Team evaluating the situation during the Zarand earthquake.
In forming common disaster management policies, the 10th Edition of the UN Disaster Management and Response Plan was approved by the UNCT and government counterparts with OCHA’s support.
As a result of continued liaison and support to government counterparts from the OCHA office and the UNCT, the quality of disaster-related reports and information provided by the government improved considerably in 2005. The number of government and civil society organisations in regular contact with UN Agencies and international organisations, and running projects in the field of Disaster Management and Risk Reduction, also increased.
A lessons-learned workshop held after the Zarand earthquake, facilitated through the Liaison Office, identified the need for more information management services at the field level to help coordinate the activities of relief agencies, as well as improved and timely reporting by agencies on their activities. These recommendations have been incorporated into the UN Disaster Management and Response Plan.