The proposed project is a two-day NGO-led disaster response exercise/scenario aimed at facilitating and enhancing coordination among UN humanitarian agencies, Department of Peacekeeping Operations, other relevant intergovernmental organizations, the Red Cross Movement, international and local NGOs, and local governments in responding to humanitarian disasters, either natural or man-made. Operational coordination is often dependent on relationships built on the ground, and is often hindered by policy coordination at higher levels. The exercise will examine how policy coordination could be driven to a much greater degree by operational needs rather than the reverse.
Often mechanisms for operational coordination and information sharing are not institutionalized or planned in advance, and actors often re-learn the same lessons on the ground in each emergency. The exercise will give participants the opportunity to practice coordination, negotiating, teamwork, and diplomatic skills in a fast-moving simulation exercise both at the strategic and operational levels.
The scenario will be designed to allow different organizations to develop links and increase their awareness of the complex coordination issues surrounding disaster and crisis response from the perspective of different agencies, expand their knowledge of and experience with each other's organizations and missions, and find ways to mitigate these complexities in current and future crisis response. Greater understanding of the differing yet complementary roles of each organization in supporting the response of the international community to countries suffering the impact of sudden major emergencies will be achieved through this activity. The high-level officials involved in this exercise will be given insights into the nuances and complexities of emergency roles and policy, and organizational options will be illuminated; by doing so, dialogue among all actors will be improved.
Participants will be expected to bring a wide array of knowledge of procedures and protocols as well as field experience in disaster relief to the simulation. The ultimate aim is to implement recovery efforts that meet needs and avoid wasted resources - the outcome of which is the fair and impartial delivery of aid.
The scenario will be specifically geared to focus on operational coordination and response to an unfolding humanitarian crisis under various environmental conditions and security levels during its first three months. Participants in the exercise will discuss points of view on a series of questions from which good practices and follow-up work could be developed, including further exercises in different regions of the world and dialogue on specific issues. The exercise will be a highly realistic major crisis management scenario in which participants (high-level representatives) assume the roles of heads of agencies other than the one they belong to. Held over a two-day period, the exercise will expose participants to the potential constraints and opportunities facing agencies not only on the ground but also at the headquarters level. An important outcome is anticipated to be the sharing of information about each community's mode of operation as well as its operational capabilities. Participants will discuss the main avenues for intra - and inter-organizational communication and the levels at which operational decisions are made, as well as how organizations are likely to respond in a specific situation.
Ideally, the exercise will reveal which organizations are likely to have a particular stake in different types of disaster relief operations. Participants will be expected to learn how quickly and with what resources each others' organizations could and would respond to a given crisis and how their relationship with the host nation and local communities would evolve.
The scenario for the exercise is proposed to be developed with the help of the United States Institute of Peace, who would then become a member of the exercise steering committee group. The steering committee group would include: International Medical Corps, Save the Children, World Vision, InterAction, and select individuals to be invited. The exercise would tentatively be held in Spring 2008.
On October 31, 2006, nine leading US-based NGOs presented former US President Bill Clinton, then the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, with a series of major reports on 'lessons learned' from their work on tsunami recovery. At the meeting, the NGOs also committed to key reforms to improve their aid programs in the tsunami-affected region and around the world. The reports were the result of a challenge presented by President Clinton to the NGO community in April 2006 to review roadblocks that US and international NGOs had long confronted in responding to humanitarian crisis, but which were brought into starker relief in the context of tsunami recovery. Over a period of six months, NGOs led a consultative process to review their work in promoting accountability to affected populations, enhancing coordination of assistance, strengthening local capacity, protecting human rights in the recovery process, and ensuring NGO professionalism. The reviews involved field consultations with local civil society and government officials in Banda Aceh, Indonesia; Sri Lanka; and Chennai, India and in-depth analyses of reform efforts already underway in the US and in Europe.
At the October meeting, President Clinton welcomed not only the reports and associate recommendations but also the commitments made by the NGOs on a range of specific actions over the course of 2007 to implement the recommendations. Seizing the importance of coordination as one of the most important factors guiding an effective emergency and recovery effort, President Clinton took again the opportunity to challenge the NGO community and asked NGOs to organize and engage on a coordination simulation exercise that would bring together interested parties/agencies on a two-day workshop focused on dealing with issues of operational coordination during an emergency response. This exercise would also recognize the evolution of the nature of partnership that has taken place over recent years, most notably with the establishment of the Global Humanitarian Platform and the commitment to the Principles of Partnership by UN agency heads and CEOs of key NGOs.
International Medical Corps and Save the Children US, the two NGOs that led the coordination review, accepted the challenge and were joined by World Vision US and InterAction to plan and execute a response.
The effectiveness and impact of this commitment will be measured by the following outcomes:
- number of participants in two-day exercise
- number and names of organizations represented by participants
- production of lessons learned document and guidelines for way forward in humanitarian coordination
- creation of replicable training curriculum for continued learning and information sharing with non-participants
First Milestone: Implementation of two-day scenario/exercise
two-day NGO-led disaster response scenario/exercise
Participants: There will be as many as 30 participants in the exercise. Participants will assume roles representing different communities. Proposed participants include:
- International NGOs;
- International Federation of the Red Cross Movement;
- International Committee of the Red Cross;
- Southern NGOs;
- NGO Consortia;
- Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs;
- UN Agencies: World Food Programme, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, World Health Organization, United Nations Development Program, UNICEF;
- Department of Peacekeeping Operations;
- International Organization for Migration;
- Bilateral donors - e.g., UK Department for International Development and Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance;
- Civilian and military departments of governments.
The following are some suggestions for support opportunities for CGI partners:
- provision of meeting space and accommodations for attendees
- coverage of transportation costs for attendees
- financial support for less-advantaged attendees (e.g., developing nation-based NGOs)
- professional services for creation and implementation of training curriculum
- volunteer support staff for implementation of two-day exercise