HNPW 2016 Daily Updates Thursday, 4 February


The second Humanitarian Networks and Partnership Week concluded yesterday having brought together 825 experts from affected and donor governments, UN agencies and international organizations, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, local and international NGOs, the private sector, as well as academic and research institutions. A total of 41 moderators and panellists supported 35 events over the course of the week. These events included eight plenary sessions, 12 Annual Network Meetings, five Focus Task Force workshops, four Thematic Sessions and six lectures at the Speakers’ Corner. 


At the closing session, Kyung-wha Kang, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Rudi Muller, Acting Director of OCHA Geneva, and Jack Jones, Humanitarian Response Manager at DFID, all stressed that this is only the beginning of the hard work it will take to crystalise and implement some of the ideas brought forward during the week.

Annual Network Meetings

In the Private Sector Partners meeting, participants explored the business case for engagement in humanitarian action and identified solutions to existing barriers to public-private partnerships. Among other things, participants committed to championing the business case for engagement, providing data to demonstrate the business case to others and working with OCHA to produce practical guidance for businesses to facilitate engagement. Key Points — OCHA and its private sector partners will collaborate to:

    • Create and strengthen forums for systematic engagement between humanitarian organizations and businesses operating in areas impacted by emergencies through local business networks as part of the Connecting Business initiative 
    • Utilize the global portal of the Connecting Business initiative to showcase best practice on business engagement and provide mechanisms to build public-private partnerships that engage businesses core competencies 
    • Produce guidance for businesses to implement internal processes to enable them to identify and form partnerships that engage core competencies Produce training for local businesses to assist them in navigating procurement processes


The Geneva-based Cash Working Group‘s discussion on “Cash and Accountability” was timely and generated a lot of reflection from members. It also brought up a number of related issues around cash and protection, quality/standards, technology and how cash can facilitate or be detrimental to mainstreaming accountability. OCHA and the Cash Learning Partnership collaborated on two mapping exercises: (1) of the existing cash working groups across regions, their needs and capacities and views on how a global-level cash working group could support them; and (2) of global cash initiatives taking place at different levels: across global clusters, inter-agency, INGOs and private sector partnerships, networks and consortia. Key points:

    • The members expressed great interest in systematically collecting and regularly updating these information and suggested that it should be centrally shared on the site 
    • Members agreed that the results of the mapping exercises are a good foundation for building bridges between the cash technical experts and the broader set of humanitarian actors moving forward


The OCHA Operation Support Partners meeting brought UNDAC Operational Support Partners together for the first time. This initial meeting offered a forum for the different partners to meet each other and discuss ways to improve operational support to the humanitarian community. As a kick-off meeting, the focus was on hearing from the partners about their key drivers for engaging with OCHA UNDAC (visibility, networking, funding, emergency response etc..). Participants also discussed how OCHA can better meet their expectations to ensure the continuity and reliability of the support currently provided. Following the meeting, and to further capitalise on the discussions, an online survey will be shared with the participants to collect additional feedback. Key points:

    • Sharing experiences between partners is important to fill the gaps and avoid duplications 
    • New partners must deliver something that is needed and significantly different with an easy mobilization of resources


The UNDAC Advisory Board took stock of progress towards the UNDAC Strategy 2014-2017. The advisory Board reflected on 3 main topics to provide advice and direction including the advisory structure of the UNDAC Advisory Board to advise OCHA, involving NGOs and IOs in UNDAC  membership and cooperation of UNDAC with regional and national response teams. A number of recommendations were generated in each one of these three key areas:

    • Have a closed meeting as part of overall AB meeting 
    • Have regional working groups and/or thematic working groups Improve  information sharing/ communication mechanisms 
    • Combine regional meetings with representation by all regions in a global level AB 
    • Further explore the use the current mission accounts up to a certain amount to transfer a portion to a common account for missions from UNDAC members from NGOs/INGOs 
    • Develop a TOR to operationalise a specific coordination cell for regional assistance in the OSOCC 
    • Improve the communication about the national/regional disaster response systems in place 
    • Use UNDAC mission accounts to run regional trainings and support the strengthening of regional organization response teams summary 


Stand-by Partnerhip Programme (SBPP) organizations were invited to decide on the agenda for the meeting and as a result discussions were lively and engaging. One key theme was the importance of collecting the right data, for performance monitoring, for identifying gaps and ultimately, to be accountable to beneficiaries. Another key theme was staff development, training and mentoring and investing in people who deploy in support of UN organisations. The SBPP training secretariat has been in place for 3 years and been extremely valuable to the partnership and a review is underway to ensure that it remains equally, if not more valuable in the future. A result of this meeting was to establish 2 groups, 1 to look at best practice in terms of performance monitoring to be shared with the SBPP and the other to develop the key deliverables of a support function in order to improve individual and collective efficiency and effectiveness. 

The Humanitarian to Humanitarian (H2H) group met for two days of insightful discussion on common challenges and shared opportunities. This vibrant ecosystem of small organisations, projects and initiatives has been driven by passionate individuals to “fix” problems and gaps in the humanitarian sector. H2H differ in many ways, but what they have in common is that they provide products and services to other humanitarian organisations, as opposed to providing direct relief to people affected by disasters. They do this through a wide range of activities such as providing information, seconding staff, supplying GIS services, setting standards and strengthening accountability. The group agreed to launch an H2H network to learn from each other and collaborate more closely in order to enable more efficient and effective humanitarian action.


Focus Task Forces

During the two sessions on Information Analysis in the First 72h workshop, participants revisited the problem statement (decision-support in a difficult and dynamic information environment within extremely tight timelines), were updated on the work of the FTF to date, and were given the opportunity to share initial findings of the Information Analysis survey circulated in preparation of the HNPW. Practical solutions and the most important requirements for them were discussed, including building upon and connect existing information platforms/solutions, developing a collaborative space that allows for communication between information seekers and providers and investing in preparedness (e.g.  data preparedness, data structures and strengthening information sharing capabilities and capacities of in-country sources such as government, affected communities, emergency responders). Key Points: 

    • The FTF will further analyze the survey data and circulate a report 
    • The FTF will reconvene with expanded membership to steer the development of a solution based on the identified requirements 
    • The FTF aims to have a concrete solution ready within the course of the year


Following the discussion on environmental assessments, the Environment in Response FTF focused on deployment of environmental support capacities for preparedness and response. Challenges highlighted included the need for timely funding for rapid deployment and addressed reticence from stakeholders to fund preparedness measures. The role of environment in linking to national stakeholders, and in bridging the gap between humanitarian response and development, was highlighted. The opportunity to pair environmental experts with humanitarian personnel was offered as a solution for bringing the environmental and disaster management communities closer. The FTF meeting ended with a discussion on climate-informed response. Panelists called for harmonising climate-informed response preparedness initiatives and for solidifying partnerships between the meteorological and humanitarian communities. Finally, they pointed to the need for stronger advocacy efforts and improved information sharing.

Thursday’s Field Coordination FTF workshop built on Wednesday’s discussion focusing on ways to strengthen and improve field coordination. The humanitarian system at large remains without a collective vision for field coordination despite recognition of the multiple coordination mechanisms on the ground. There is a general lack of awareness among actors of other organizations’ roles, capacities, needs and resources. This leads to confusion and the unnecessary duplication of efforts. Participants were divided into five groups that correspond to the five categories of common field coordination mechanisms in large-scale natural disasters. Both sessions identified the barriers and opportunities for effective field coordination and defined the criteria for a shared vision of field coordination. Key Points:

    • Share information among networks and be transparent
    • Avoid duplication and rationalize the purpose and conduct of coordination meetings 
    • Recognize the critical need for government leadership and guidance at the national and subnational level 
    • Appropriate use of military assets should be in accordance with humanitarian principles 
    • Raise awareness of the different mechanisms at the international, national and sub-national level

At the Customs and Humanitarian Action FTF workshop, representatives from UNCTAD, WCO, OCHA, and IFRC presented ways their organizations are working to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of customs administrations in post-disaster settings, such as legal frameworks, regional workshops, and information technology solutions. Together with OCHA, UNCTAD has developed the ASYREC (Automated System for Relief Emergency Consignments) system to accelerate and facilitate the clearance and release of emergency supplies by customs authorities during a disaster response. UNCTAD presented a prototype of ASYREC and demonstrated its benefits for both customs administrations and humanitarian organizations. Key Points:

    • Identify and select pilot countries to test the ASYREC prototype in 2016 
    • Procedures for how ASYREC will function will be drafted 
    • Outcomes from the Focus Task Force’s work in 2016 will be presented at the 2017 Humanitarian Networks and Partnership Week

The second Simulation Exercises and Training session introduced the aim of the FTF to making better use of multi-nation disaster simulation exercises, organised in great number every year by regional organisations or member states. Exercises should realistically introduce all actors, tools and procedures that are typically involved and relevant in the given disaster scenario and should serve as vehicle to raise awareness about their role in response and coordination. Standardised scenario assumptions and agreed learning outcomes should be developed. Participants in this second session welcomed the proposal and confirmed the need for an inventory of exercises, scenarios, actors and tools, with clear definitions of their role and relevance in different scenarios, as a first step. Several participants from Member States and the private sector indicated an interest to participating in the FTF. It was reiterated that the FTF will be inclusive and transparent whereby interested parties will be informed through the FTF website about progress and scheduled activities.

Thematic Sessions

During the Private Sector and Humanitarian Action session, participants built on the discussion during the previous day to identify solutions to effectively and systematically match private sector knowledge and resources with humanitarian needs. The Connecting Business initiative and the use of business networks were again identified as solutions to a number of challenges, particularly at the local level. Private sector participants committed to supporting the Connecting Business initiative by developing a tool to match needs with resources, supported by mechanisms to enhance person to person and organization to organization relationship building. OCHA and private sector participants committed to working together to produce guidance for businesses on implementing internal processes to enable them to effectively engage and identify their capacity to contribute to humanitarian action. Private sector participants committed to working with OCHA to increase the visibility of humanitarian needs and showcase opportunities for businesses to meet those needs

The Emergency Medical Teams (EMTs) session was based upon Wednesday’s presentation of the EMT network initiative which, in the last five years, made tremendous progress. Representatives of recently affected countries who led the coordination of their EMT response shared their experience and lessons identified in recent emergency response operations. The panel highlighted the importance of the coordination between all EMTs and the need to strengthen regional and national capacity as well as the ability to quickly assess damage and immediate health needs. Benefits of a Global EMT initiative include governments and people affected by SOD and outbreaks can be assured a predictable and timely response by trained and self-sufficient medical teams. Moreover, donors, including the general public, can be assured that the teams they support have reached an international minimum standard within a globally coordinated response system. The discussions highlighted the importance of ongoing collaboration between global EMT community and international and national partners.


Following up on Wednesday’s session, the Cash and Humanitarian Programming session focused on cash transfer programmes and tools in humanitarian crises. Cash tools and initiatives that were presented included the Market Monitoring Exercise which supports better humanitarian planning, informing and guiding cash-based response programs, the ECHO Enhanced Response Capacity Project 2014-5, and the Multi-Purpose Grants (MPG) Toolkit, and its rationale and implications. Self-assessment tools are used for organizations to identify gaps and required capacity building for CTP, and to measure progress against initial or target benchmarks. Key issues that were raised included inflation and market-based approach, how the Working Group reacts to shortages of items, the effect of larger-scale cash programs on cash markets, cash transfers in preparedness, challenges in operationalization, and potential plans for thinking cross-sector. Key Points:

    • Focus on the institutionalization of cash transfer programming in a timely response
    • Current capacity of organizations is limited in terms of cash transfers
    • The difference between policies and procedures in place and implementation on the ground needs to be addressed with an objective evidence-based approach

The second thematic session on Interteroperability Standards for Crisis Centres included a presentation on the origin of the idea to create a global crisis centre network by EMERCOM of Russia and an introduction to the Network of Medical Emergency Operations Centres by WHO, as an example of best practice. OCHA briefed about the outcomes of the crisis centre interoperability workshop in December 2015, which provided definitions for “interoperability” and “crisis centres” in the given context. The workshop also proposed a range of minimum requirements, including information products, skills (languages) and procedures. The main outcomes of the second Thematic Session were a confirmation of the importance of the proposed concept by participants and indication of interest from several Member States and regional organisations to support the process. The establishment of a dedicated Focus Task Force to support the creation of the community of practice was also welcomed.


 Photos: Haiko Magtrayo

HNPW 2016 Daily Updates Wednesday, 3 February

Annual Network Meetings

The Consultative Group on Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination (UN-CMCoord), chaired by Amb. Toni Frisch of Switzerland, was attended by 113 participants from 24 countries, as well as representatives from a range of humanitarian, military, development and security organizations. The most critical outcome was the buy-in gained for the CMCoord World Humanitarian Summit proposals, especially the call for a collaborative process on the development of common standards on the appropriate use of military forces and assets in support of humanitarian action. Participants expressed their interest in collaborating in this process.

The International Search and Rescue Advisory Group Streering Group (INSARAG) Steering Group (ISG) meeting was Chaired by Ambassador Manuel Bessler, the Global Chairman of INSARAG and Mr. Rudolf Müller, Director of OCHA Geneva a.i.The meeting was attended by 150 participants from 90 countries and organisations including Regional Chairs and Vice-Chairs, Working Group Chairs, National Focal Points and representatives from classified teams, and observers from the Humanitarian Networks and Partnership Week(HNPW). OCHA’s Regional Offices and Emergency Services Branch (ESB) also attended. Key points:

    • Encouraged Member States to adopt capacity strengthening at the community, first-responders level, and taking guidance from the INSARAG First-Responders Package 
    • Agreed to align and enhance the current INSARAG Strategy 2014-17, with additional points from the outcomes from the Abu Dhabi Declaration into the INSARAG 2017 – 2020 strategy 
    • Reinforced strong partnership with WHO on the Emergency Medical Teams initiative and continued discussions on the complementary roles of EMTs and international USAR teams responding 
    • Endorsed the way forward for ideas generated in today’s break out sessions to be discussed further in the regional and team leaders meetings in 2016 (outcomes present the outcomes in ISG 2017
    • Suggested that a potential Focus Task Force(FTF) initiative on “Capacity Development as a Shared Responsibility”, and including national, regional and global stakeholders and with a view on complementarity and sustainability could be proposed for HNPW 2017


The annual meeting of the Strategic Advisory Group on Environmental Emergencies (SAGEE) was held on 3 February 2016. Chaired by Norway, the meeting was attended by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO), Finland, Mexico, Mozambique, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, OCHA and UNEP, as well as by USAID and the Netherlands as observers. The SAGEE reviewed the Focus Task Force on Environment in Response group’s recommendations on streamlining environmental assessments and the deployment of environmental emergency expertise.  Recognising the need to harmonise environment assessment tools and to integrate environment assessment in the Humanitarian Programme Cycle, SAGEE agreed to organise a workshop on interoperability for environmental emergency response in June 2016. The group also discussed advocacy opportunities for strengthening integration of environment into humanitarian action, linking to the UN Environment Assembly and the World Humanitarian Summit. Preparations for the 2017 Environmental Emergencies Forum and the Green Star Awards were initiated.

The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) Advisory Group, chaired by Armenia, was provided with updates on progress made in the areas of Satellite Mapping Coordination System and Live Maps (UNOSAT), the Pilot Project of the European Scientific Laboratories Network (EC/JRC) and the feature of dynamic disaster translations on the Virtual OSOCC (OCHA). Moreover, and in order to adjust the role of GDACS to the dynamically emerging activities of the Consultative Group for Emergency Preparedness and Response (CG), the Advisory Group agreed to update the definition and role of GDACS, including its services, information products and messaging, as well as the interaction of GDACS as a network with partners and stakeholders. It was further agreed to develop a strategic work plan with events, time frame and expected outcomes, to ensure sustainable support to CG Focus Task Forces, and engagement with relevant networks and partnerships in areas of mutual interest. 

Attendees of the inaugural meeting of the Emergency Supply Pre-positioning Strategies (ESUPS) Working Group discussed the importance of sharing information on pre-positioned emergency supplies and collaboration among stockpile holders to guide decision-making on global pre-positioning strategies. In this way, organizations will see the system-wide inventory status of the items held by the community as a whole and will be able to understand the impact of their own individual actions on the entire system in terms of effect on beneficiaries and global system cost. Presentations stressed the importance of supply pre-positioning to emergency preparedness as outlined in the ERP framework, the use of data and metrics to support decision-making on stockpiles, and the challenges inherent in pre-positioning. Attendees discussed priority actions for 2016 and ultimately decided to officially create the ESUPS Working Group, revise the draft TOR to better reflect the priorities of the group, and nominated its 2016 Co-Chairs.


Focus Task Force (FTF) Workshops

The Environment in Response FTF considered the current state of play on environment in humanitarian response, outlining the challenges and providing draft recommendations for strengthening integration of environmental concerns and risks in humanitarian programming. Panelists and participants discussed the use and sequencing of key disaster-related environmental assessment tools. The importance to operationalise environment in preparedness and emergency response was emphasised, where focus should be on providing contextualised advice and support to humanitarian operations. Finally, the lack of funding for conducting environmental assessments and implementing ensuing recommendations, highlights the need for resource mobilisation and monitoring of the implementation of recommendations. Key points:

    • Standardise language, methodologies and practices for assessment tools at all stages to promote interoperability. Use training to anchor tools globally, regionally, nationally and locally
    • Initiate work to update and streamline tools, particularly the Rapid Environmental Assessments, based on the evaluations of its current and past use. Link the tools to the humanitarian programme cycle and communities
    • Acknowledge the importance for environment within the first stages of an emergency, including preparedness activities. The latter should fully engage national and local environmental expertise, under the leadership of the relevant line Ministry


The Information Analysis in the First 72 Hours FTF session was built on the work done since the issue was first discussed at last year’s Humanitarian Networks and Partnership Week. If we are to to move from patchy, unreliable information towards something more structured and trusted, we need to match information providers with information seekers and this is difficult within the first 24 hours after the onset of an emergency. Poor quality of information, understanding information needs, disaggregation of data, the use of local capacity, the need to change our viewpoint that decisions are static were also raised as challenges. Key Points:

    • Develop a solution that facilitates collaboration between information seekers and providers
    • Build upon and connect existing solutions and information platforms rather than developing something entirely new
    • Continue work on data standards in order to provide more effective and reliable exchange of data
    • Take into account the need to utilize and integrate local information streams, and expand information mapping to include local communities


At the Customs and Humanitarian Relief FTF session, representatives from UNCTAD, WCO, OCHA, and IFRC presented ways their organizations are working to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of customs administrations in post-disaster settings, such as legal frameworks, regional workshops and information technology solutions. Together with OCHA, UNCTAD has developed the ASYREC (Automated System for Relief Emergency Consignments) system to accelerate and facilitate the clearance and release of emergency supplies by customs authorities during a disaster response. UNCTAD presented a prototype of ASYREC and demonstrated its benefits for both customs administrations and humanitarian organizations. Key Points:

    • Additional organizations have expressed interest in joining the Focus Task Force 
    • Identify and select pilot countries to test the ASYREC prototype in 2016 
    • Advocate the incorporation of ASYREC in emergency response simulations


The Field Coordination FTF recognised that the humanitarian system at large remains without a collective vision for field coordination where it is recognised that there are multiple coordination mechanisms on the ground. There is a general lack of awareness among actors of other organizations’ roles, capacities, needs and resources. This leads to confusion and the unnecessary duplication of efforts. The session, therefore, focused on ways to strengthen and improve field coordination. Participants were divided into five groups that correspond to the five categories of common field coordination mechanisms in large-scale natural disasters. Key Points:

    • Share information among networks, be transparent and avoid duplication 
    • Recognise the critical need for government leadership and guidance


The Simulation Exercises and Training FTF aims at making better use of multi-nation disaster simulation exercises that are organised in great number every year by regional organisations or member states. These exercises should realistically introduce all actors, tools and procedures that are typically involved and relevant in the given disaster context. Exercises should serve to raise awareness about their role in response and coordination. Standardised scenario assumptions and agreed learning outcomes should be developed. Participants in the session welcomed the proposal and suggested to commence with an inventory of exercises, scenarios, actors and tools, with clear definitions of their role and relevance in different scenarios. It was further suggested to share or develop methodology to prepare actors separately for their role in disaster response, thereby building confidence and allow them to participate in large scale exercises. The FTF will be inclusive and transparent whereby interested parties will be informed through the FTF website about progress and scheduled activities.

Thematic Sessions

The session on Cash and Humanitarian Programming  focused on the use of cash tools, and the need for organizational capacity assessment and building across the humanitarian sector, as few organizations have the necessary tools and support. Categories to focus on include: governance and leadership; organizational management; human resources; financial management capacity; programme and project management; as well as external relations. Policies and procedures need to be in place to determine the most appropriate response, including needs assessments, feasibility and risk analysis. Recommendations include to identify specific capacities to be strengthened, identify implications, consider opportunities for advocacy, or linking change to annual planning or other events. Other issues discussed included the next steps for the toolkit, how to ensure that previous existing frameworks are not forgotten, and the provision of technical support. Key Points:

    • Effective institutionalisation is a key part of effective cash transfer programming
    • There is a need to develop a plan of action with clear responsibilities and allocation of resources
    • Objectives include informing and guiding cash based response, strengthen and support operational coordination, and complement other market assessments
    • The next steps include rolling out the cash grants, mainstreaming MPG thinking across sectors, clusters, organizations, and further integrate cash into protection programming


In the Private Sector and Humanitarian Action session, participants identified ways to effectively and systematically match private sector knowledge and resources with humanitarian needs. Gwi Yeop-Son, Director of Corporate Programs, OCHA opened the session and moderated a panel discussion on matching needs and resources across four categories of engagement: 1) multinational companies with products or services relevant to the response; 2) businesses operating in the area impacted by an emergency; 3) businesses providing products or services to improve the internal functioning of humanitarian organizations or the humanitarian system as a whole; and 4) businesses making philanthropic contributions. During break-out discussions, participants identified solutions and made commitments. Key Points: 

    • The joint OCHA, UNISDR and UNDP initiative, Connecting Business for Disaster Risk Reduction, emergency preparedness, response and recovery, will provide solutions by: 1) supporting the creation of business networks to match needs and resources at local, national and regional levels; and 2) creating a global portal to provide a clear entry point for business, match needs with resources at the global level and bring the private sector and other actors together on a systematic basis to form long-term relationships. Participants committed to supporting the Connecting Business initiative
    • Private sector participants also committed to implementing internal processes to facilitate increased engagement and effective matching of capacities with humanitarian needs
    • Participants from civil society and humanitarian organizations committed to working with the private sector to increase the visibility of humanitarian needs, to identify private sector innovations that can be applied to meet needs, and to engage businesses in systemic reform through long-term partnerships (rather than project or emergency based engagement)


The Emergency Medical Teams (EMTs) session presented the EMT network initiative which in the last five years made a great impact. Representatives of recently affected countries who led the coordination of their EMT response shared their experience and lessons identified in recent emergency response operations. The panel highlighted the importance of the coordination between all EMTs and the need to strengthen regional and national capacity building, as well as the necessity for a strong national trauma system and ability to quickly assess damage and needs. Benefits of a Global MT initiative include the fact that governments and people affected by SOD and outbreaks can be assured a predictable and timely response by trained and self-sufficient medical teams. Moreover, donors, including the general public, can be assured that the teams they support have reached an international minimum standard within a globally coordinated response system. The discussion stressed the importance of identifying and sharing crucial information between EMTs, and the desire for more interaction between organizations and national institutions.

The session on Interoperability Standards for Crisis Centres discussed the creation of interoperability standards for national and regional crisis centres to improve international cooperation in disasters. EMERCOM introduced their proposal of 2012 to create a global crisis centre network. WHO presented their Network of Medical Emergency Operations Centres as an example of best practice, Finally, OCHA briefed about the outcomes of the crisis centre interoperability workshop in Dec 2015, which provided definitions for “interoperability” and “crisis centres” in the given context. The workshop further suggested a range of minimum requirements, including information products, skills (languages) and procedures. The subsequent discussion in the session confirmed the need for interoperability among crisis centres and the need for standards and adequate capacity building measures. The creation of a Community of Practice (COP) to encourage the engagement of relevant actors in the process was welcome. A dedicated Focus Task Force to support the creation of the COP should be considered.


Photos: Brigitte Selva




HNPW 2016 DAILY UPDATES Tuesday, 2 February


A comprehensive analysis of some 30 UN-Agency, NGO and private sector After Action Reviews on the 2015 Nepal earthquake response revealed both common challenges and shared successes. On 2 February 2016, over 500 representatives from UN agencies, NGOs, regional organizations, Member States, military, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and the private sector spent one day on two primary areas for humanitarian development derived from the Nepal analysis: (1) Localising and Contextualising Response; and (2) Improving Access to, and within Affected Countries. 

Rather than solely revisiting the Nepal Earthquake response, experts guided the discussion towards future solutions for persistent global humanitarian challenges. The challenges are not specific to the Nepal earthquake response, but concern the response community at large.  Participants were invited to ask questions and to vote on the most pressing challenges as well as on the most suitable solutions which can be taken forward by Focus Task Forces (FTFs). The discussions were moderated by Thomas Peter and Jesper Lund of OCHA’s Emergency Services Branch. Jamie McGoldrick, the current Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator of the UN in Yemen, opened the morning meeting from Sana’a via Skype. From his time as the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nepal, he recapped some of the key challenges and lessons learned from the earthquake response, notably on the relationship between preparedness activities and its impact on the response.  


“Local to global, not global to local”

In the first session panellists discussed the most pressing challenges related to strengthening local responders, as well as the most suitable solutions. In the vote on the most pressing challenges to going local every third vote identified the inadequate support of local and national actor capacities as the key challenge. Over 38 per cent of the votes cast from practitioners at the conference recommended to “always use local and national as a first resort”.

How can we go from the challenges identified to proposed solutions? The panellists propose a paradigm shift. Instead of global to local, humanitarian response has to go local, with the affected communities at the centre of the response, complemented first by a regional response, and then, if required, complemented by the international response. Said Faisal, the Executive Director of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management, said that an ideal humanitarian response should be led by the national government and supported by regional organizations which are both acquainted with the context and in close proximity to the affected region and can function as an “adapter” between local and international actors.

Shradha Ghale, a researcher from the Martin Chautari Research and Policy Institute of Nepal, recalled from her work with volunteers in remote districts of Nepal that, without the knowledge of community-based organizations, humanitarian response is “virtually impossible”. Community- based organizations know the communities well, speak the local language, can help in establishing priorities, and know how to access difficult-to-reach areas. The issue is just that the community-based organizations are not located where the power and resources are – usually in the capital of a disaster-affected country. A possible solution to effectively engage with local responders is to make it a requirement for international assistance providers to work through community based organizations, meaning not just ticking off the box. Community-based organizations need to be supported through meaningful capacity building and through monetary compensation for the services, knowledge and advice they provide.

Erika Clesceri, Environmental Officer at USAID, echoed the remarks of Shradha Ghale on the importance of “going local”. On her involvement in the Nepal post-earthquake Rapid Environment Assessment, she said it was the team composition that made the assessment successful. Important knowledge for any assessment is local, ranging from important archaeological sites to knowledge on available water resources to disaster prone areas. However, the humanitarian community cannot start “going local” at the onset of a disaster. Simon Eccleshall, Head of IFRC’s Disaster and Crisis Management, said involving local and regional actors in simulation exercises was crucial to improving response capacity.

What is needed is a system which takes the solutions and challenges identified seriously, a system which takes preparedness seriously, which includes trust building between international, regional and local actors, a system which puts the needs of affected people first. It is essential to understand a community and its vulnerabilities during peacetime, or prior to a major disaster. Once the anticipated needs are established, the next question to ask is what is needed to meet the needs, and only then who is to provide the humanitarian assistance: local first, then regional, then international.


“People are not tired of giving feedback; people are tired of giving feedback which is not acted upon”

One of the most important resources for emergency preparedness and response actors are affected communities themselves.  Lars Peter Nissen opened the round stating that the business model in humanitarian affairs is broken if engaging with affected and vulnerable populations is an issue. In other words, from the Evil Genius twitter account:

“The aid system isn’t broken, it is rather highly resistant to change.”

Ombretta Baggio, ‎Senior Officer, Community Engagement and Accountability, IFRC, highlighted the necessity of engaging affected populations through effective listening, analysis of the information obtained and, most importantly, action in humanitarian programming. Humanitarians need to become communication experts, similar to experts for camp management or WASH. We have to question our own belief systems, and our anticipations of what we think people want. Participation does not mean that affected communities express their needs, but then humanitarians neglect the need expressed and carry on with what was planned anyway, or what is dictated by the mandate of the respective agency.

Heba Aly, Managing Editor, IRIN, underlined that it was key to give more power to affected communities. This should be an integral part of the humanitarian workflow, and not just an ad on. Echoing Ombretta’s remarks, feedback by the community needs to be acted upon, and not just collected.

Nama R. Budhathoki, Executive Director, Kathmandu Living Labs stressed that it was not necessarily about creating new ICT tools to enable participation, as it is « not the airplane that flies but the airline ». In fact ICT should not be used to further marginalize people, in case they cannot access the tools provided. Citing an example from Nepal, it was important to use different technology channels (phone, sms, internet) to ensure participation of all concerned. The panel concurred it was most important to close the « feedback loop » . Meaning : listening to affected communities, and measuring accountability to the affected population through change in humanitarian response.


“People take informed decisions”

Turning from the importance of going local and engaging with affected communities, the third panel discussed the use of cash in emergency response. In the two largest sudden-onset disasters in the past five years, Typhoon Haiyan and the 2015 Nepal earthquake, there has been an increased uptake amongst humanitarian actors in the use of cash as an assistance modality. Despite this, there were a number of challenges encountered, particularly in the sudden-onset disaster context. This panel discussion featured humanitarian agencies involved in the Nepal earthquake response that shared their experiences and challenges around cash transfer programming in sudden-onset emergencies and reflected on how the humanitarian community can be more “cash-ready” in the future.

Victoria Stoddart, IFRC’s Shelter Cluster Coordinator, spoke about the experience of using cash in the shelter sector and the challenges she faced, notably due to the sheer number of cash agencies on the ground (130+) and in relation to market assessments and shelter programming. Isabelle Pelly, Technical Coordinator at Cash Learning Partnership, noted the importance of predictability in cash responses, and the need for improved cash coordination with clusters. According to Mr. Pelly, flexibility and speed are key advantages of cash assistance and can play a vital role in market recovery as recent research has shown.

James Shepherd Barron, Disaster Risk Management expert, emphasized the massive opportunity for the aid world to reach out to the cash management industry. There is a need to establish a stable link between the cash management industry and the international aid community. Similar to the humanitarians looking for an entry point to the private sector, the private sector is looking for a single entry point in the humanitarian world which is the cluster system.


Lisa Henry, Humanitarian Director at DanChurchAid, emphasized the importance of data driven decision-making and preparedness. Major international financial service providers were, in fact, unable to get cash to beneficiaries, but are now interested in understanding how NGOs managed cash distributions to remote local areas. In response to a question regarding perceptions of cash assistance as « handouts » Lisa Henry emphasized the importance of communication. Evidence shows that affected families take informed decisions when given cash assistance.

“Working in preparedness is an invisible work”

A central issue hindering predictability in response is the lack of collective knowledge of, and guidance on, the pre-positioning and procurement of emergency supplies. Procurement delays can have disastrous consequences in emergencies. Emergency supplies are still frequently stockpiled and sourced internationally or are procured in-country but without consideration of local market volatility. Ensuring that the humanitarian community has critical supplies in the right quantities, in the right places and at the right times requires knowledge of in-country stocks and mechanisms for request as well as a commitment to collaborating on in-country pre-positioning strategies. This session generated ideas for improving pre-positioning and sustainable local procurement strategies for a more effective and timely response.


Sarah Murphy, Emergency Health Unit, Save the Children, said when looking at global prepositioning one of the key challenges remains that agencies are not sufficiently talking and sharing information with each other. Instead of looking at own operations, it was essential to look at the needs on the ground and determine what is pre-positioned, where and how much. It was important not to lose sight of the fact that humanitarians are to service the people who need assistance, and not to compete with each other. When a crisis hits, all agencies find themselves scrambling for the same information: what is available, where is it?

Bekom Mahmudi, Logistics Officer, UNHRD, discussed the establishment of humanitarian response depots in country of an emergency, with pre-defined procedures on which goods to put in and whose decision it is to mobilize when disaster hits. Rene “Butch” Meily, President, PDRF, emphasized the need to use the local business networks, including pre-agreements with local suppliers, and to map resources to prepare for emergencies. 41.4 per cent of the votes cast point to this lack of effective coordination with local actors. Isabelle Sechaud, Manager of the Logistics Unit, IFRC, emphasized the importance of training of key stakeholders, from customs staff to the local Red Cross/Red Crescent Society, as they are the first responders in country to any disaster.

Questions related to donor visibility in prepositioning were discussed, as well as questions on how to ensure that there the “right” goods in place. Regional knowledge was pointed out as being key to predict the type of items needed for disasters likely to happen in a certain area. It was also discussed that there is wastage at times (i.e. medical items), but that prepositioning will need to include those items nonetheless. There was also a question on whether there is a risk of having the “wrong” stock. Mr. Mahmudi said the only wrong stock is having no items stockpiled, and that stockpiles need to be informed by those who run emergency programmes. He also said that working in preparedness is an invisible work, and still it is much more attractive to sign a check in response to a disaster.


“Customs is not a sexy topic. Preparedness isn’t either”

The 2015 Nepal earthquake reaffirmed what we already knew about the logistical bottlenecks created by transit, airport, customs and immigration-related challenges: Complications in these particular areas can cause enormous setbacks in emergency response. Inadequate arrangements with transit and airport authorities and a general lack of in-country and regional preparedness has prevented the timely arrival of emergency responders and the delivery of life-saving relief supplies in disasters. 

The challenges discussed in the second to last panel session included the lack of clarity on international conventions and national legal frameworks, uncoordinated international assistance and airport congestion, as well as unclear immigration procedures. Georges Cantone, Technical Attaché, World Customs Organisation, briefed on the existing customs frameworks (RKC and the Istanbul conventions) which focus on customs matters at the international level and which, according to the panel, require updating. He also emphasized the need for training for emergency managers to strengthen practical application. 

Paulo Cavaleri, Senior Disaster Law Officer, IFRC, briefed on existing International Disaster Response Law (IDRL), citing a study on Haiti from 2012, which showed that implementation is being hampered by fragmentations, ad hoc adaptations, and lack of integration into domestic legislation, plus a myriad of coordination obstacles. The challenges are similar to other countries. Customs clearance appears to be a major challenge which should be ideally adressed in a single legal framework. 

Sishir Kumar Dhungana, Director-General, Department of Customs of Nepal, pointed out a number of challenges faced in the Nepal earthquake response, ranging from lack of declaration of relief goods to unsolicited goods piling up at the airport, while Virginie Bohl of OCHA’s Emergency Services Branch, emphasized that national response capacity is often overwhelmed in times of crisis. Very few governments are prepared to receive outside support and struggle with visa regulations and coping with the massive influx of goods and supplies. What is needed is a new partnership with airport management authorities, involving all stakeholders, and to build on the GARD (Getting Airports Ready for Disaster) project which supports airport capacity in high-risk countries. 

Lastly, Dewey Perks, Disaster Resources Unit Leader, USAID/OFDA, spoke about state sovereignty as relates to receiving aid, focusing on USAR teams which come with standardized paper works and are largely self-sufficient and not stretching local capacities further. As relates to specific issues such as the import of working dogs, he mentioned that the Virtual OSOCC remains central to check country specific procedures. The discussion featured OCHA’s work on customs issues as relates to preparedness. It was also pointed out that whilst there is legislation on this, it does not necessarily mean that the law is applied or adhered to, as countries tend to have limited experience with international assistance. In this respect simulation exercises and trainings play a critical role in preparedness. 


“Mountain guides played a huge role in getting aid to people in remote areas”

“Hard-to-reach areas in Syria”, “inaccessible mountainous regions in post-earthquake Nepal”, “displacement due to extreme violence in northern Nigeria” – these are common headlines from humanitarian action in the past year. This session brought together a panel of professionals from Australia, Germany, Nepal and Nigeria, with experience in responding to humanitarian emergencies under such conditions, and in very different roles. 

Kirsten Sayers, CEO, RedR Australia, gave insights on bilateral negotiations between her government and disaster-affected countries prior to Australian humanitarian aid being provided. Mareike Illing, Head, Project Department, ISAR Germany, pointed to coordination and access to remote areas as major challenges, with USAR teams often being criticized for clogging up airports due to the volume of equipment which is in fact necessary for the sake of self-sufficiency, and to be able to reach remote areas. 

Dawa Steven Sherpa, Managing Director, Asian Trekking, who climbed the Mt Everest twice in his life, together with his trekking company, played a notable role in getting assistance to people in hard to reach areas, offering vital local knowledge and assets after the Nepalese earthquake. Mountain guides know the area, know their people, and also have experience with search and rescue, said Dawa. Employment of Sherpas, for example for food distributions in the wake of the Nepal earthquake, gave jobs to locals at a time when the tourism industry was struggling, benefiting people in need of humanitarian assistance living in remote areas. He emphasized the importance of local and cultural knowledge, and the vital engagement of the local private sector. 

Colonel Kennedy Osemwegie of the Nigerian Armed Forces, spoke about working in countries experiencing extreme violence and the challenges of the military in providing security and safety for humanitarian actions to take place in difficult to reach areas. He stressed the importance of joint trainings to understand each other’s roles, mandates and activities.

 Photos: Haiko Magtrayo







HNPW 2016 Daily Updates Monday |1 February

The second annual Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week (HNPW) began yesterday with over 400 participants coming together at the International Conference Centre of Geneva. In his opening remarks, Rudi Müller, Acting Director of OCHA Geneva and co-Chair of the Consultative Group of Emergency Preparedness and Response, focused on this informal forum, which is rooted in the success of the networks whose advisory groups are meeting this week. Mr. Müller stressed the fact that purpose of this event was to identify and bring forward collective solutions to shared challenges.

On behalf of the host country, Alexandre Fasel, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the UN in Geneva, welcomed the participants and called for greater coherence and complementarity among the networks and partnerships. Ms. Kyung-wha Kang, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, delivered a speech about the current humanitarian landscape and emerging challenges in emergency preparedness and response. The challenges Ms. Kang described are daunting: a 47% funding gap for emergency response last year; urbanization; displacement; climate change; and the El Niño weather phenomenon exacerbate humanitarian needs and render emergency preparedness and response ever more complex. Yet Ms. Kang called upon the participants to rise up to these multiple challenges by prioritizing preparedness and working together across political, religious, cultural and institutional divides and with a wider range of partners.


This sentiment was echoed by Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, Under Secretary General for Partnerships at IFRC, whose Keynote Speech focused on the power of partnerships and the value of meaningful cooperation between international and national actors.

“If we as international actors are to provide meaningful support to communities in need, we will need to interact with national organizations, corporate bodies, governmental agencies and communities as equal partners.” – Dr. Jemilah Mahmood

Dr. Mahmood stressed that such cooperation is only possible if it is based on a common understanding of principled humanitarian action, shared adherence to industry standards and practices, and a commitment to accountability. As the organizations providing disaster risk reduction initiatives and crisis response are increasingly diverse and often exist outside traditional humanitarian systems, flexible new frameworks must be mapped to ensure international agencies can adapt to coordinate with this broadening category of responders.


Mr. Jack Jones, Response Manager at DFID, introduced the Consultative Group Focus Task Forces (FTFs), which serve as the critical link between the conversation and the production of tangible solutions to operational challenges. These solutions must be innovative, but will not necessarily be new. In most cases, according to Mr. Jones, it is more efficient to merge and strengthen existing initiatives and stimulate ownership, support and trust among stakeholders. The audience was reminded of the fact that success of the Consultative Group can be measured by the outcomes of its Focus Task Forces. Mr. Jones also noted that the Consultative Group can serve as implementing arm of the World Humanitarian Summit and follow up on recommendations that lie within the domain of its networks and partnerships.

Following the opening and keynote speeches, a panel of experts engaged in a strategic-level conversation moderated by OCHA’s Thomas Peter and Jesper Lund. Panelists offered their insights on the cross-cutting concepts of preparedness, partnership and coordination:

  • Antoine Gerard, Chief of World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) Secretariat, opened the panel by chronicling the work of the WHS to date, specifically the identification of pressing challenges during the WHS consultations. Mr. Gerard stressed that, like the HNPW, the WHS forum is an opportunity to ensure commitments through collaborative, face-to-face discussion. Rather than striving to improve humanitarian action as separate entities, the WHS can be used as a platform upon which to collectively build new mechanisms, use resources in a more responsible way, and engage Member States and Stakeholders in humanitarian response.
  • Anthony Craig, Senior Emergency Preparedness and Response Adviser for the World Food Programme focused on a “no regrets” approach to preparedness. Having lead a recent mission to Nepal to evaluate preparedness efforts, Mr. Craig emphasized the need for “coherence” and “familiarity” when preparing for an emergency or leading a response. Mr. Craig offered several concrete ways to achieve this, including through simulations and allowing national actors to take a leading role in response efforts.
  • Kate Halff of the Strategic Committee on Humanitarian Response echoed Mr. Craig’s plea for more context-focused approaches humanitarian action: Norms and best practices, she suggested, will make a significant difference, provided they are contextually relevant and allow for flexibility. In addition to relevancy, Ms. Halff touted the importance of accountability standards and performance-driven evaluations for humanitarian organizations. These processes should rely largely on “third party” verification and certification services that enable humanitarian organisations that strive to meet compliance criteria of the Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability(CHS) and other recognised humanitarian standards to publicly demonstrate their commitment to transparent and accountable practices; contributing to equalising the playing field for smaller organisations by giving them the means to objectively demonstrate that they are as professional and effective as some of the bigger organisations; helping build capacity in the sector and provide consistent measurable data in the delivery of quality humanitarian action; bringing the voices of people affected by crisis to the forefront of humanitarian programming, by ensuring that they are integral to the verification and certification processes.
  • Jonathan Hughes, Partner at Vantage Partners, highlighted the potential knowledge, access and resources that the private sector can bring to emergency preparedness and response in natural disasters, health pandemics and complex emergencies. Whereas common perceptions of the private sector centre around the bottom line, Mr. Hughes said that private companies value business continuity and retaining talent and that, in order to do so, value partnerships including the humanitarian sector. In order to create meaningful alliances, Mr. Hughes advocated for forging relationships to establish a mutual foundation of trust. An example of best practice, the Connecting Business Initiative creates a global coordination architecture for private sector engagement in emergency preparedness and response. The initiative further fosters the creation of sub-national, national, regional, industry and thematic private sector networks for disaster risk reduction, emergency preparedness, response and recovery. In other words, networks that will facilitate a focus on preparedness, create opportunities for long term, pre-positioned partnerships and enable private sector engagement in emergency response to be coordinated.
  • Emerson Tan, an independent consultant and humanitarian technology expert, offered a unique perspective on bottom-up approaches to humanitarian response and argued passionately for the value of local and volunteer actors. In contrast to more ‘traditional’ humanitarian response paradigms, Mr. Tan urged the audience to recognize the benefits of digital humanitarianism and the idea that there are more efficient ways to utilize the capacity of individuals who want to help remotely. Digital humanitarianism, as an alternate model, enables local actors, building individual capacity while avoiding the dependency-building effects of traditional approaches:

“Either embrace and harness the technology enabled volunteers or drown in the organizational chaos they will otherwise bring” – Emerson Tan


 Photos: Haiko Magtrayo, Brigitte Selva