Insights from disaster response could be used in emergency response?

This blogpost contains some reflections based on my attendance on the ISCRAM Summerschool 2011.

The ISCRAM Summerschool 2011 focus this year on the challenges and development opportunities in Humanitarian Response Operations.

When you listen to the stories and insights from people (in UNDAC, UNOCHA, BFAST, MapAction) with  long and rich experiences of humanitarian response work, they all seems to experience same fundamental problem, namely how to ensure efficient coordination based on smart information sharing. Based on their experiences, effecient coordination is the primary mean to obtain effective response work. The key to such coordination is found in smart information sharing. However, information sharing is not just a technical problem but also a procedural-, organizational-, and prestige-related problem. Many NGOs do apparently not their best to share what they know with the other organizations in their own cluster. Clusters do not always share information with other clusters. There are many examples and rich stories of how various UN-bodies and NGOs have debated and fought over really silly things, such as which truck from which organizations that should be first in a convoy. For me these are sad stories, but not on the other hand not surprising. Making organizations collaborating with each other is always difficult no matter sector or industry.

When these people give examples of the problems to share information during the early phase disaster response work, it sounds sometimes similar to the problems often expressed by professionals at local and regional agencies in Sweden. The primary difference is the scale of the problems. When you look at the cluster model used for organizing humanitarian response work, it seems to have some interesting similarities with the structural appearance of the Swedish crisis response system. There are probably good reasons to see how innovative solutions emerged in Humanitarian response community could be transferred to the national level as well as the reverse. It is evident that the difficulties to establish and maintain efficient information sharing is not primarily a technical problem but more related to attitude, incentives and competence.

Further, humanitarian response work rely heavily on good assessments of the local needs. Those need assessments inform what type of help that is needed and the volume of such help. It could be an interesting idea to explore how similar assessments could be done on a local level in Sweden in order to give the involved organisations more detailed insights in the early phase response work. Do we here in Sweden need a more developed and coherent process to conduct needs assessment when it comes to crisis response on a local and regional levels in Sweden? Would it be possible to outline a general need assessment procedure?

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