(HN, March 28, 2011) - If there was one thing that the Haiti earthquake of 2010 demonstrated, it is that traditional humanitarian aid agencies have a difficult time interfacing with the emerging volunteer and tecnical communities.
This was one of the findings of a new report released today by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), United Nations Foundation and Vodafone Foundation.
The report concludes that increasing dialogue and partnership is required for a more effective response to emergencies.
"Humanitarian organization have amassed deep wisdom and experience from decades of work in the field. Yet new voices are opening the possibility of future interactions with communities affected by the disasters. And new partners are offering faster, more effective means of analyzing an ever-increasing volume and velocity of data.
"The challenge ahead is how to create an effective interface between these resources and create an ecosystem where each actor understands its role."
The report examinines how technology is reshaping the information landscape in which aid groups respond to sudden onset emergencies. The report, Disaster Relief 2.0: The Future of Information Sharing in Humanitarian Emergencies, analyzes how the humanitarian community and the emerging volunteer and technical communities worked together in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and recommends ways to improve coordination between them in future emergencies.
“The challenge is to improve coordination between the structured humanitarian system and the relatively loosely organized volunteer and technical communities. This report illustrates a potential way forward,” said Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. “Without direct collaboration with humanitarian organisations, volunteer and technical communities run the risk of mapping needs without being able to make sure that these needs can be met,” she stressed.
One of the most potentially controverial recommendations is that, during disasters, a team composed of members of the volunteer and technical communities be deployed to the field with a mandate to "deploy best available tools and practices."
Another recommendation calls for a netraul forum to "surface areas of agreement and conflict between international humanitarian systems and the voulnteer and technical communities."
UN and traditional aid agencies are know to maintain closed loops in the opening days and weeks of major disasters - making it difficult for freelancers, volunteers - even the private sector - to become integrated into the emergency response. Some aid workers have even complained about a lack of communication between UN agencies, resulting in duplicated efforts.
Written by a team of researchers led by John Crowley at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, the report is based on interviews with more than 40 technology and humanitarian experts, many of whom responded to the devastating January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The report identifies best practice and lessons learned from the Haiti operation; makes recommendations to strengthen coordination between the humanitarian and technology communities; and proposes a draft framework for institutionalizing this collaboration.
The report was released today at the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development Conference. In recent years, the UAE has been positioning itself to become a humanitarian hub.
- HUMNEWS staff