In simple terms, OCHA’s preparedness activities are aimed at creating favourable conditions for a successful emergency response.
As the coordinator of international humanitarian response, OCHA has three emergency preparedness responsibilities in strengthening the following areas:
OCHA's internal response capacity
The capability of the humanitarian coordination system's in-country members to make a coordinated emergency response
The capacity of national authorities and regional organizations to request or help mobilize international humanitarian assistance, and to effectively utilize the in-country humanitarian coordination system.
OCHA has delivered on these responsibilities by strengthening its Humanitarian Country Teams in order to build its internal response capacity. OCHA also contributes to the emergency preparedness of the international community through managing international response tools, such as the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) system, the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) and civil-military coordination.
OCHA is also an active member of the Inter-Agency Sub-Working Group on Preparedness. The group aims to strengthen and promote inter-agency preparedness, contingency planning and early warning processes across the Inter-Agency Standing Committee.
OCHA also promotes inter-agency efforts to strengthen governments’ capacity to better respond to disasters.
Key aspects of OCHA’s preparedness work
The benefits of strengthening disaster preparedness are cost effectiveness and the delivery of effective humanitarian response.
While governments have the primary responsibility to strengthen national response capacity, the humanitarian community must support governments' efforts.
As climate change and emerging humanitarian trends will exacerbate the risk of disasters, there is an increasing need for national emergency preparedness.
What is Emergency Preparedness?
Emergency preparedness is the knowledge and capacity developed by governments, recovery organizations, communities and individuals to anticipate, respond to and recover from the impact of potential, imminent or current hazard events, or emergency situations that call for a humanitarian response.
Emergency preparedness requires long-term, comprehensive engagement in the framework of disaster risk reduction (DRR). DRR activities include strengthening early warning and preparedness, and mobilizing and coordinating international disaster assistance. Priority Five of the Hyogo Framework for Action highlights the essential role of disaster preparedness in saving lives and livelihoods, particularly when integrated into an overall DRR approach.
Many highly vulnerable settings are at risk of disaster and conflict. It is a major challenge for the humanitarian community to avoid risk situations, such as establishing refugee and IDP camps in disaster-prone flood plains, or being aware of possible causes of local conflicts such as water scarcity.
The need for adequate emergency preparedness systems, and the importance of applying a multi-hazard approach, will continue to grow as global threats such as urbanization, food insecurity and climate change become increasingly important drivers of humanitarian need.
The value of OCHA’s preparedness work is demonstrated by understanding the link to positive response outcomes – the elements that are essential for well-coordinated, quick and effective response operations.