The United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) is part of the international emergency response system for sudden-onset emergencies. UNDAC was created in 1993. It is designed to help the United Nations and governments of disaster-affected countries during the first phase of a sudden-onset emergency. UNDAC also assists in the coordination of incoming international relief at national level and/or at the site of the emergency.
UNDAC teams can deploy at short notice (12-48 hours) anywhere in the world. They are provided free of charge to the disaster-affected country, and deployed upon the request of the United Nations Resident or Humanitarian Coordinator and/or the affected Government.
Assessment, coordination and information management are UNDAC's core mandates in an emergency response mission. Specifically in response to earthquakes, UNDAC teams set up and manage the On-Site Operations Coordination Centre (OSOCC) to help coordinate international Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams responding to the disaster - essential if USAR assistance is to function effectively. This concept was strongly endorsed in United Nations General Assembly resolution 57/150 of 16 December 2002, on “Strengthening the effectiveness and coordination of international urban search and rescue assistance”.
The UNDAC system comprises four components:
- Staff: Experienced emergency managers made available for UNDAC missions by their respective governments or organizations. UNDAC members are specially trained and equipped for their task.
- Methodology: Pre-defined methods for establishing coordination structures, and for organizing and facilitating assessments and information management during the first phase of a sudden-onset disaster or emergency.
- Procedures: Proven systems to mobilize and deploy an UNDAC team to arrive at the disaster or emergency site within 12-48 hours of the request.
- Equipment: Personal and mission equipment for UNDAC teams to be self-sufficient in the field when deployed for disasters/emergencies.
Managing the UNDAC system
The UNDAC system is managed by the Field Coordination Support Section (FCSS) in the Emergency Services Branch of OCHA Geneva. The system comprises five regional teams: Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East, Pacific and the Americas (including the Caribbean). Check our Contacts for a complete list of regional focal points.
Member countries of the UNDAC system meet annually at a gathering of the UNDAC Advisory Board. The board is composed of the member countries that financially support their participation in the UNDAC system by depositing funds with OCHA through “mission accounts”. These funds cover the deployment costs of their national UNDAC members on UNDAC missions. Representatives of international and regional organizations who participate in the UNDAC system are also invited.
Since 2011, the UNDAC Advisory Board includes additional countries – as observers – from among those countries that, although not self-financing members, have demonstrated their interest and commitment to the system in other ways, such as through hosting UNDAC-related events or other forms of support.
As of December 2016, UNDAC has conducted 268 emergency missions in over 100 countries and the updates table is attached (see latest UNDAC mission table). OCHA mobilizes UNDAC teams mostly in the event of a natural disaster, when a disaster-affected country requests international assistance and requires additional international coordination resources. OCHA also mobilizes UNDAC teams in complex emergencies - when there is a sudden onset or change in the intensity of a complex emergency that is likely to result in an unforeseen requirement for additional international coordination resources.
Recently UNDAC has deployed members in Liberia to help coordinating the response for the Ebola outbreak. The UNDAC team in Liberia provides support to the Government in the relief efforts, and helps coordinate the humanitarian actors on the ground and the inter-cluster mechanism. The current team is expected to conclude their mission the third week on October
The deployment and detailed tasks of an UNDAC team are decided in consultation with the national Government and/or the Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator. The team normally stays in the affected area for the initial response phase, which can be up to three-four weeks in a natural disaster.
UNDAC disaster response preparedness missions
The UNDAC team can also undertake disaster response preparedness missions. Such missions evaluate the national disaster preparedness and response capacity and plans upon request specific request from a Government. To date, the UNDAC team has carried out 31 of these missions worldwide.