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Disasters for Non-Specialists Session 1: Responding to Disasters Presentation Outline Concepts & terminology Disaster Management Cycle The Humanitarian “system” Pacific regional disaster management What happens when a disaster strikes? Tensions in international response

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presentation outline
Presentation Outline
  • Concepts & terminology
  • Disaster Management Cycle
  • The Humanitarian “system”
  • Pacific regional disaster management
  • What happens when a disaster strikes?
  • Tensions in international response
concepts terminology
Concepts & terminology
  • Sector awash with its own jargon and acronyms.
  • “Humanitarian Action”: actions to save lives and alleviate suffering.
  • Natural disasters, conflict/post conflict, complex emergencies, human induced disasters, ongoing protracted situations often forgotten about (Sudan, DRC).
  • What’s makes a disaster? People do…
    • Increasing focus on the human causes of disasters
    • Emphasis from scientific to social analysis – it is important to understand the science of hazards but it is much easier to manage them through human activities rather than trying to influence natural hazards
    • Vulnerability and poverty
concepts terminology4
Concepts & terminology
  • Disaster Management (DM): covers a broad range of interventions undertaken before, during and after a disaster to prevent or minimise loss of life and property, minimise human suffering and hasten recovery.
  • Disaster Risk Management (DRM): managing policies, strategies and coping mechanisms of a society or individuals to lessen the impacts of hazards (preparedness).
  • Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR): measures to curb disaster losses, through reducing exposure to different hazards, and reducing the vulnerability of populations. Effective disaster risk-reduction practices use a systematic approach to reduce human, social, economic and environmental vulnerability to natural hazards.
  • Vulnerability: ‘”a condition or set of conditions which adversely affect people’s ability to prepare for, withstand or respond to a hazard”
    • Vulnerability is strongly linked to poverty
    • People in poverty are less able to cope due to the need to deal with the day to day struggles of poverty
  • Hazard X Vulnerability = Risk
disaster management cycle now
Disaster Management Cycle: now

Disaster Impact






Recovery Rehabilitation


  • Disaster management takes place within development: it is not a separate activity
  • Development needs to consider the impact of disasters and incorporate disaster management
  • Disaster management needs to incorporate development considerations to be effective
the humanitarian system
The Humanitarian “System”
  • ‘Domestic’ system
    • In-country emergency management system activated following a disaster
    • Differs widely from country to country. In NZ this rests with Min Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM)
    • Actors: national and local government, civil society, military and private sector
    • The effectiveness of domestic systems is often related to its capacity i.e. the resources and $$ put into disaster management by government. This often equates to a gap between ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ countries when struck by disaster e.g. Haiti and Chile earthquake death tolls
    • Bangladesh: example of a ‘poor’ country that has managed to develop an effective DM system for flooding
  • ‘Informal’ system(s)
    • Response activities led by affected people and communities themselves
    • May be organised or responsive depending on the situation
    • Key role of community groups and leaders
    • Key role of social systems and obligations
    • Key role of women – organising families
    • Includes traditional coping mechanisms and systems
  • ‘International’ system
    • Activated when a government makes a request for international assistance
    • Involves governments, UN agencies, the Red Cross Movement and INGOs
    • To term the huge diversity of actors and networks a ‘system’ risks implying a degree of cohesion and uniformity of objectives that simply is not the case.
    • Actors share broad goals and underlying values, and interdependence during operations creates a very real sense of a “system”.
    • International aid agencies have always worked with and through local organisations and operations largely compose of staff from disaster-affected countries.
international humanitarian workers 2008
International Humanitarian Workers (2008)
  • Total field staff: 210,800 (2008)
  • On average, the humanitarian fieldworker population has increased by approximately 6% per year over the past 10 years
  • Governments have two roles: responding to a disaster event in their own country and providing assistance to another (donor role)
  • Governments hold primary responsibility for providing humanitarian assistance to its citizens
  • Responsible for domestic disaster response system and coordination of international assistance

Donor role

Donor governments have a number of funding ‘streams’ when providing assistance to another country affected by disaster:

    • Bilateral assistance (both monetary and resources)
    • Multilateral funding (UN, development banks – both reactive and ongoing)
    • NGOs (both in-country or in country of origin)
    • pooled funds (CERF)
  • The number of donor governments contributing to international humanitarian response efforts has increased by 40% the past four years
  • The largest donors for humanitarian action are OECD DAC member governments (in particular the US) which contribute the bulk of official funds
  • More non-OECD countries are getting involved (e.g. China earthquake team, Cuba)
red cross red crescent movement
Red Cross / Red Crescent Movement

International Committee RC (ICRC):

  • Based in Geneva, the ICRC provides protection and assistance for victims of war and armed violence. Promotes international Humanitarian Law

International Federation RC (IFRC):

  • Manages or supports programmes in more than 150 countries. These programmes assist millions of the world's most vulnerable people, including victims of natural and other disasters, refugees and displaced people and those affected by socio-economic problems
  • Includes 186 national societies internationally with a strong presence in the Pacific
united nations
United Nations


Humanitarian Coordinator – usually the Resident Coordinator who is the highest United Nations official and the chief of UN diplomatic mission in a country


Mobilise and coordinate effective and principled humanitarian action in partnership with national and international actors in order to alleviate human suffering in disasters and emergencies; advocate for the rights of people in need; promote preparedness and prevention; and facilitate sustainable solutions.


The United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team is a stand-by team of disaster management professionals. Upon request of a disaster-stricken country, the UNDAC team can be deployed within hours to carry out rapid assessment of priority needs and to support national Authorities and the United Nations Resident Coordinator to coordinate international relief on-site.

World Food Program (WFP)

The World Food Programme (WFP) is the United Nations agency mandated to combat global hunger - in emergencies, WFP is on the frontline, delivering food to save the lives of victims of war, civil conflict and natural disasters.

UNHCR - Office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (office in Canberra)

IOM – International Organisation for Migration (IDPs)

united nations12
United Nations

Other UN agencies that may be involved in disaster management:

UNICEF – United Nations Childrens’ Fund

UNEP - United Nations Environment Programme

UNFPA - United Nations Fund for Population Activities

UN-HABITAT - United Nations Human Settlements Programme

UNDP – United Nations Development Agency

International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR)

… and more depending on the situation.

cluster approach
Cluster approach

Part of the UN’s “humanitarian reform” agenda

The Nine Clusters

    • Agriculture Cluster
    • Protection Cluster
    • Early Recovery Cluster
    • Health Cluster
    • Water and Sanitation Cluster
    • Logistics Cluster
    • Nutrition Cluster
    • Camp Coordination and Management Cluster
    • Emergency Shelter Cluster
    • Emergency Telecommunications Cluster
  • Cluster leads and global cluster leads
  • Should fit with national government systems operating
  • Created the potential for greater international engagement with LNGOs who can fit under a cluster
  • First used in the Pacific for the Fiji floods (Jan 2009) and the Samoa/Tonga tsunami

International NGOs (INGOs):

  • (Estimated) 250 organisations worldwide: Oxfam, World Vision, CARE, Save the Children, Caritas, ACT, MSF, ChildFund, ADRA, TearFund
  • Disaster response: either deploy skilled staff or work through local partners (LNGOs/CBOs)
  • Run appeals for humanitarian emergencies
  • Usually have a presence in the affected country prior to an event
  • Often links in with ongoing development work e.g. ‘mainstreaming’ DRR

Local NGOs and Community Based Organisations (LNGOs & CBOs):

  • ‘Civil-Society’ tend to be small in size and in geographic scope of operations, but numerous within affected countries.
  • Pacific: local NGOs, communities and churches
  • International aid agencies have always worked with and through local organisations and are themselves largely composed of staff from disaster-affected countries.
codes standards
Codes / standards
  • The practice of humanitarian action – its values and its technique – is seeking to become more ‘professionalised’ – problems from past events have led to the tightening of who and how humanitarian action is carried out
    • resulted in a “explicit recommitment to humanitarian values”.
    • Stems from need to fix mistakes of past events , especially Rwanda and previous large responses e.g. Indian Ocean Tsunami
    • More emphasis on learning from evaluations and ‘Lessons Learned’ reports
    • Negative media stories necessitate avoiding mistakes of the past
  • SPHERE project
  • RC/NGO Code of conduct
  • UN agency guidelines
  • Good Humanitarian Donorship (GHD)
  • People in Aid code
  • Humanitarian Accountability Project (HAP)
  • The Global Humanitarian Platform (GHP) – UN and NGOs
  • The “Good Enough Guide”
  • CID Code of Ethics
some common tensions
Some common tensions

National and international humanitarian systems

  • National actors: “this is our country – we know the most appropriate way to respond – we don’t appreciate being told what to do by outsiders”
  • International actors: “things aren’t happening quickly or effectively enough – the government is dropping the ball and people urgently need help”

Humanitarian actors and the media

  • Media can be both best friend or worst enemy – can highlight the successes or failures of a response – no response is perfect
  • Often easy to find an individual who will make negative comments about an operation: “took too long” “we aren’t receiving assistance here” ”others are being helped before us” “we know there is $$ but we aren’t seeing any of it”
some common tensions17
Some common tensions

NGOs and the military

  • Military infringing on “humanitarian space”
  • In conflict or post conflict situations: e.g. Afghanistan
  • Operating on the “humanitarian imperative” or “winning hearts and minds”?
  • Priorities: security or humanitarian assistance: e.g. Haiti response
  • Encroachment by the military into humanitarian activities
  • NZ’s Afghanistan PRT

Unsolicited goods: public donors & humanitarian actors

  • People have the right to give and receive humanitarian assistance
  • The urge to do something can be very strong especially if it is friends or family who are affected
  • Often people cannot afford to give $$ but have access to goods such as old clothes. These may be quickly collected without much thought about the implications
  • Unsolicited goods:
    • Are expensive to transport thus wasting $$ that could be used for relief items
    • Clog ports and airports thus impacting on humanitarian operations
    • Can negatively disrupt local economies that are important for recovery and rehabilitation
disasters in the pacific
Disasters in the Pacific
  • Vulnerable region – in the past 12 months:
    • Samoa/Tonga Tsunami and 3 other tsunami warnings
    • Volcano evacuation: Gaua (Vanuatu)
    • 6 cyclones: Mick, Nisha, Oli, Pat, Rene, Sarah (Pat and Rene hit populations)
    • PICs have limited resources and often vulnerable populations.
    • Vulnerability has been influenced by urbanisation, loss of traditional coping mechanisms, reliance on outside assistance, lack of resources assigned to DRR, land use practices.
  • Marked by diversity: languages, cultures, environment
  • Large distances to travel
  • Strong ‘informal’ systems
  • Remote communities – which can often the most resilient
      • Strong church networks
      • PI people living in NZ and Aus often provide assistance through their networks and remittances
pacific disaster management
Pacific Disaster Management

Pacific Island Governments

National Disaster Management Offices /Officers (NDMO)

  • Most PICs have a National Disaster Management Office
  • National Disaster Management Officers are usually responsible for managing and coordinating international response – often with assistance from UN DAC or UN OCHA

National Disaster Council (NDC)

  • Most PICs have a National Disaster Council (NDC) which is the governments decision making body when there is a disaster
  • Responsible for announcing state of emergency and/or requests fro international assistance

Donor governments

  • Major players: Australia, New Zealand, France, EU
  • China, Taiwan, Japan, US
  • US military in the Pacific recent initiatives: Pacific Partnership & ‘PACRIM 09’
  • Stockpiles are held in Auckland & Brisbane

United Nations Pacific presence

  • UN OCHA: Fiji (Suva) Office
  • UNDP: Fiji (Suva) Multi-country office and country offices in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Samoa
  • UN DAC: Roster includes members from New Zealand and PICs
  • International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR): Staff member in Fiji
  • UNICEF: Regional office Fiji (Suva) 7 multii-country programme for 14 Pacific Island countries
  • WFP: No current Pacific presence – but looking into it
  • UN Resident coordinators
  • UNHCR: Office in Canberra
pacific disaster management21
Pacific Disaster Management

Non Government Organisations (NGOs)

  • INGOs
    • 20 CID members operating in the Pacific
    • Australian NGOs (ACFID)
    • Numerous other INGOs from outside the region
    • May vary in their engagement during a disaster
  • Domestic NGOs and CBOs
    • Numerous regional, national and local NGOs in PICs
    • Most have umbrella body e.g. SUNGO in Samoa
    • Multitude of Community Based Organistaions (CBOs)
    • May vary in their engagement during a disaster: often heavily involved as first responders

Red Cross/Red Crescent

  • ICRC regional delegation in Fiji (Suva)
  • Strong Pacific presence through their national societies

Pacific Red Cross/Red Crescent National Societies:



Marshall Islands




Papua New Guinea


Solomon Islands





pacific disaster management22
Pacific Disaster Management

FRANZ arrangement

  • NZ, Australia, France governments
  • The FRANZ Statement was signed by representatives of the Governments of France, Australia and New-Zealand on 22 December 1992.
  • It commits its signatories to "exchange information to ensure the best use of their assets and other resources for relief operations after cyclones and other natural disasters in the region". Ensures these countries work together to coordinate and avoid duplication of effort.
  • The FRANZ Statement applies to South Pacific as broadly defined covering Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna, and others as agreed on a case by case basis.

Pacific Disaster Management Networks

  • Pacific Humanitarian Team (UN OCHA)
    • Network of regional actors
    • Involves inter-agency contingency planning for Pacific Humanitarian response
  • Pacific Disaster Risk Management Network (SOPAC)
    • Network of regional actors
    • Involves networking on DRM issues
  • Pacific Disaster Managers Meeting (SOPAC)
    • Annual meeting of Pacific NDMOs and other government officials
    • Involves thematic issues relating to disaster management
new zealand pacific disaster response
New Zealand Pacific Disaster Response

In-country NZ High Commissions

  • NZHC in country is responsible for coordinating the New Zealand response on the ground


  • Emergency Taskforce (ETF)
    • Convenes before and holds ongoing (daily) meetings following an event
    • “First call” interagency response group
    • Works by pre-arranged procedures depending on the event
    • Consider international calls for assistance
    • Coordinate overall NZ response
    • Relief supplies and freight – using/replenishing stockpiles & purchasing in-country
    • Logistics: commercial carriers and NZDF undertaking relief supply flights, aerial assessments, personnel
    • Dealing with offers of assistance and media
new zealand pacific disaster response24
New Zealand Pacific Disaster Response

ETF members

  • Minister’s Office (MFA)
  • Dept. PM and Cabinet (DPMC)
  • External Assessment Bureau
  • NZDF
  • Min. Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MCDEM)
  • NZ Police
  • Min. of Health
  • Min. Pacific Islands Affairs
  • FRANZ partners (Aus High Commission and French Embassy)
  • NZ Red Cross
  • NGO Disaster Relief Forum (NDRF)

Interdepartmental Response Network (IRN)

Preparedness focus: meets pre-cyclone season

  • Min. Social Development
  • NZ Customs
  • Immigration NZ
  • ACC
  • Met Service
  • Radio NZ international (RNZI)
  • Telecom NZ
  • Moving Company
what happens following a disaster
What happens following a disaster?
  • Pre-event & imminent event
  • Immediate response
  • Response: first few days
  • Response to relief: first week
  • Relief to recovery & rehabilitation: following weeks, months, years
pre event imminent event
Pre-event & imminent event

Pre-event (when there are no disasters)

Disaster Risk Management activities: prevention, mitigation, preparedness

  • Should be integrated into development activities

Imminent event (disaster is on the way e.g. cyclone)

Early warning systems activated (Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre, Met Service Cyclone warnings)

Contingency and evacuation plans activated (informal, domestic)

Domestic (NDC) & international/external (FRANZ) response groups meet if possible

immediate response
Immediate response

Local communities and individuals respond (informal system)

Local emergency response systems and domestic “first responders” activated

    • Focus on life saving activities
    • Search and rescue: Ambulance, Police, Military, NGOs, Red Cross

Government’s national “Disaster Council” convened

  • State of emergency announced by government

Comment: Personnel involved in the response may be unable to participate if they have been personally affected by an event

Comment: Limited information may mean initial response is based on a ‘best guess’ and the resources available

Comment: Every event is different / no response is perfect

response first few days
Response: first few days

Request for international assistance made by government:

  • Request may be made for UN DAC assistance

International humanitarian systems activated: requires a request for international assistance from the affected government

Comment: There may be delays between the disaster striking and the government requesting international assistance which can cause tension for donor governments (e.g. Cook Islands). This however can be predicted and accommodated for

Comment: NGO are not restricted by the need to receive requests for international assistance

Comment: Humanitarian action must be able to be flexible and reactive to a changing situation.

  • Flexible assistance is key to a successful response as it allows a better fit between need and assistance
response first few days29
Response: first few days

FRANZ partners convene response groups

Aerial surveillance of affected area and initial impact and needs assessments carried out. This may take days.

NGOs announce appeals, deploy staff

Donor government announce initial support for response efforts

Comment: Relief efforts should be based on the actual needs on the ground that are identified by needs assessments. This however this may not always be possible

Comment: There is a move towards joint assessments being carried out by multiple organisations to reduce duplication of effort and standardise information

response to relief first week
Response to relief (first week)

Coordination meetings held (usually daily) by domestic and external/international groups

Cluster system activated by UN HC. Cluster leads designated

Activities are focused on meeting immediate needs: water, food, shelter, sanitation

Clean-up operations carried out. Bodies removed

Comment: vulnerable groups must be a consideration as early as possible e.g. establishing child friendly spaces, ensuring people with disabilities are cared for, ensuring evacuations centres are safe for all

Comment: Although precautionary measures such as water disinfection or disease surveillance are important, the risk of an epidemic is relatively low

Comment: Removal of bodies is more a need for psycho-social support (i.e. the distress of people seeing them) than health requirements

Comment: Relief supplies should as much as possible be purchased locally

relief to recovery rehabilitation following weeks months years
Relief to recovery, rehabilitation (following weeks, months, years)

Move towards recovery, rehabilitation activities: rebuilding, restoring livelihoods

Repatriation of evacuees / IDPs – can be an issue in the Pacific e.g. Gizo

“Build back better”: reducing vulnerability through rehabilitation and development

Recovery and rehabilitation is likely to last at least three to five years for a major disaster

Comment: Often the most effective recovery operations are led by locals and involve the mobilisation of the people and communities affected

Comment: Relief efforts should include rehabilitation considerations

samoa tonga tsunami
Samoa/Tonga Tsunami
  • Pre-event: SI tsunami raised awareness of these events in the region
  • Limited early warning: earthquake enabled those people who knew what to do to get away – shows the importance of education efforts
  • Remote location of some affected populations
  • Capacity of NDMOs
  • NZ - FRANZ lead
  • Cluster approach activated
  • Matai system
  • Large NZ public response: issue of unsolicited goods
  • Large NZ response (government & NGO)