Objective 1.3 – Preparedness

Readiness to respond when a disaster occurs can make a difference in saving lives and limiting the number of people affected. OCHA makes an important and specific contribution to national and international readiness to quickly scale up an effective and well-coordinated humanitarian response.

Through General Assembly and United Nations Economic and Social Council resolutions, Member States have, for many years, requested more concerted United Nations support for preparedness, particularly capacity development for national actors. Recognizing that preparedness is the responsibility of many humanitarian and development organizations, in 2010 the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) – chaired by OCHA – focused on how to improve system-wide support to national preparedness, making better use of each organization’s mandate and comparative advantage. Building on IASC agreements reached in 2010, OCHA will contribute its expertise to IASC-coordinated national contingency planning exercises in five pilot countries throughout 2011.

OCHA recently clarified its internal policy on prepared­ness. This paves the way for greater focus and alignment of preparedness activities in the field and at headquarters. The policy provides a coherent approach to preparedness across the organization and clearer expectations of OCHA’s role vis-à-vis national and IASC actors.

In 2011, OCHA will begin rolling out packages of preparedness support tailored to the needs of disaster-prone countries. OCHA will focus on country-level response preparedness, capitalizing on its expertise in coordination, information management, advocacy and humanitarian financing. OCHA’s support will be coordinated with and complement the support provided by other inter-agency partners.

OCHA’s preparedness actions will focus on creating conditions that are favourable for positive response outcomes. Experience suggests that humanitarian response can be more efficient when country-based partners have pre-defined roles and responsibilities and understand how to quickly establish coordination mechanisms. It is also critical to understand how to trigger international humanitarian response services, tools and financing mechanism and to have clearly articulated plans for working with national partners. OCHA will support United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinators and humanitarian country teams to ensure that these practical elements are in place and tested through simulations.

Demonstrating the impact of preparedness on improved humanitarian outcomes is not straightforward. It is difficult, but not impossible, to link preparedness efforts to lives saved. The Inter-Agency Real-Time Evaluation of the Haiti Earthquake Response offers evidence that contingency planning and experience with the cluster approach during the 2008 hurricane season made it easier to establish cluster coordination and launch the Flash Appeal in the initial days of the earthquake, thereby expediting the response.

Based on learning from evaluations and good practice, OCHA will pilot an approach in 2011 to measure the impact of preparedness work on response outcomes. By identifying measurable deliverables and reporting more consistently on these, OCHA aims to build a more compelling case for the predictable financing of preparedness work.

View Key Outputs and Indicators (PDF, 72kb)