The international community’s response to natural disasters, conflicts and other emergencies can be improved with better coordination and cooperation between all actors involved in relief and humanitarian operations, two reports released in the past week have highlighted.
The international humanitarian scene needs substantial improvements at the strategic, political and operational levels, the U.K. Humanitarian Emergency Response Review said as part of its recommendations. The report urged to United Nations, which it identified as the “only legitimate authority” to lead, to invest in improving its leadership and ensuring that its best people are quickly deployed to the biggest and most complex disasters.
The independent review specifically takes stock of how the United Kingdom can improve its humanitarian response systems. It called on the Department for International Development to establish a closer and more integrated relationship between its development work and the way it responds to global humanitarian crises.
The report adds that DfID should also engage more closely with institutions and people in aid recipient countries. At least one aid expert said this is something other aid agencies should adopt as well.
“Capturing their [beneficiaries] views would complement and give context to conventional data-driven assessments,” says Nicholas van Praag, an adviser to the 2011 World Development Report. “It would ensure that people in need of humanitarian assistance and protection are better served, and that the resources intended to help them are better used.”
Meantime, a U.N.-backed study highlighted the key role of new information technologies in responding quickly to natural disasters and emergencies. But to fully take advantage of these technologies, the international humanitarian system and the volunteer and technical communities that usually help in disaster response should collaborate more effectively, the study aid.
The international community would greatly benefit from taking these reports’ recommendations into account. As one expert says, recent events such as the Japan earthquake highlighted the importance of “preparedness and effective and timely humanitarian action are crucial to mitigate the impact of rapid-onset disasters on affected populations.”