PART Iii: performance in 2007
performance of headquarters
Emergency Preparedness and Response Coordination

Emergency Preparedness and Response Coordination

In 2007, OCHA’s emergency response coordination and preparedness was strengthened through: improved prioritization of early warning efforts; better partnerships at the global and regional levels; improved surge capacity and equipment management; organizational realignment; and strengthened regional offices.

As a result of the integration of OCHA’s early warning capacity into the Coordination and Response Division and the establishment of emergency preparedness capacity in Geneva, OCHA’s contingency planning efforts are now better supported at headquarters and field levels. Both early warning sections collaborate through an OCHA internal forum to mainstream preparedness throughout OCHA and strengthen dialogue with its partners. Key successes during 2007 included the development of a multirisk prioritization tool, the ‘Global Focus Model’ (which was used in identifying which countries needed National Disaster Response Advisers in 2008), and an agreed set of minimum preparedness actions. In addition, a quarterly analysis of projected natural hazards (such as the ‘global wet season’) assisted in internal preparations for natural disaster events. The realignment of early warning responsi bilities improved OCHA’s engagement in inter-agency processes, including the quarterly IASC Early Warning Early Action report and development of the revised 2007 IASC Contingency Planning Guidelines (which were rolled out to all field offices during a number of contingency planning missions, notably in Africa).

OCHA continued its engagement with several inter-agency activities in 2007, including: the Capacity for Disaster Reduction Initiative; the inter-agency Framework Team for Preventative Action; and the European Commission, specifically on the issue of environmental emergencies. It enhanced inter-agency planning and partnerships through the establishment of the Emergency Directors Meeting in 2007 – a direct outcome of the Humanitarian Response Review of 2006. The Director-level forum of United Nations and non-United Nations partners, which agrees on early actions in response to likely emergencies and examines levels of preparedness for seasonal natural hazards for the following four months, met three times in 2007.

Planning for emergency response was boosted through the work of an OCHA Directors’ taskforce which connected activities initiated in Geneva and New York, defined ways forward for strengthening emergency response capacity at the regional level, formulated emergency response procedures and guidelines, and developed an improved monitoring and activation system to respond to breaking emergencies. The taskforce resulted in an agreed protocol for emergency response management which gave the Director of the Coordination and Response Division (CRD) the lead in response on behalf of the Emergency Relief Coordinator. All OCHA tools and services in Geneva, New York and regional and field offices, as well as stand-by partners, are to be deployed in support of a unified response.

OCHA’s own surge capacity management and coordination of rapid emergency deployments were improved as a result of the more strategic ‘Whole of OCHA Approach’ to filling critical human resource gaps in emergencies. Its Emergency Response Roster, launched in 2007, is now OCHA’s primary tool for the rapid deployment of surge capacity staff. The Roster comprises three rotations per year and maintains fourteen OCHA staff on stand-by. Since its successful use during the Kenya crisis, it has generated a considerable degree of support and interest within OCHA. A number of sections within OCHA have made significant efforts to enhance specialist rosters in 2007. A new roster of graduates from the United Nations Civil–Military Coordination Training Programme enabled two civil–military deployments in 2007. Building on the success of OCHA’s stand-by capacity of protection officers, a roster of senior gender advisers (GenCap) was established for deployment to help Humanitarian Coordinators implement gender equality programming across all sectors of humanitarian response. Specialists in environmental emergencies, information management and information technology were deployed during the year, in addition to 44 professionals from the Stand-By Partnership Programme (the highest number in one year to date).


OCHA’s capacity to manage and deploy emergency equipment has significantly improved with better management of the Directory of Emergency Stockpiles (which now contains information on 59 warehouses around the world) and growth of the Customs Directory (which covers more than 100 customs posts). OCHA focused on delivering relief items from its stocks held in Italy to crises in the field, compiling practical guidelines on dispatching and setting up a reserve of personal equipment kits and other items for deployed staff.


With a focus on lessons learned about emergency financing during the response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Directors’ taskforce established an internal ‘immediate response account’ (managed through cost recovery) similar to those of other response agencies, designed for the immediate release of funds in support of OCHA’s response to large-scale emergencies or two simultaneous emergencies. This initiative complements activities underway to improve humanitarian financing, such as the strengthening of the Consolidated Appeals Process, flash appeals, pooled funds and emergency response funds, as well as efforts by the CERF Secretariat to improve the turnaround time of rapid response allocations. Improvements were also made to OCHA’s Financial Tracking Service to support better analysis of sector-specific gaps in response to crises.

Partnerships were enhanced at the global level; for example, UNDAC membership now includes the International and Asia-Pacific Humanitarian Partnerships, the newly developed Americas Support Module, private sector partners and technical NGOs. OCHA’s Stand-By Partners Programme was expanded to comprise agreements with eight international agencies. Regional partnerships were strengthened, notably in Central Asia, through civil–military coordination networks and extensive associated training programmes. The second Asia-Pacific Conference on Military Assistance in Disaster Relief Operations was held, co-chaired by OCHA and hosted by the Malaysian Armed Forces.

OCHA’s organizational effectiveness in emergency response and its ability to better support OCHA field offices through clearer lines of communication and accountability generally increased as a result of the realignment of OCHA geographic desks from Geneva to New York. In June, OCHA undertook a review of its field offices, finding that while some field offices acknowledged that support had improved following the realignment, others found it had made interaction between headquarters and field offices more difficult for a range of reasons (including time differences) – at times delaying the delivery of services. In responding to this, OCHA placed great emphasis on finding appropriate solutions and ways of improving support to field offices: all CRD geographic desks were provided with improved telecommunications, and a coordination framework involving regular regional teleconferences and the establishment of crisis-specific taskforces was implemented. Significant improvements in communication between Geneva, New York, regional offices and field staff were then noted following sudden-onset emergencies, particularly in Asia and in the Pacific and in the Americas and the Caribbean region.

Few of the accomplishments in emergency response and coordination in 2007 could have been achieved without the strengthening of regional offices – which has enabled appropriate levels of emergency preparedness among United Nations Agencies and civil defence institutions and correspondingly swift, flexible responses to emergencies. Through regional offices, capacity was established to deploy, move or withdraw assets rapidly in support of changing needs, and information management was improved. Regional offices are now regarded as a critical element of OCHA’s field-based response to sudden-onset emergencies and newly emerging crises, and their resources and capabilities have been integrated into OCHA’s overall response strategy and mechanisms.