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What is Appropriate Coordination in Emergency Assistance?

In all the fields of emergency relief overseas where JEN has been active since it was established in 1994, “coordination meeting” existed everywhere. It is because, off course, lack of appropriate coordination results in duplication of support and oversight of needs. Especially, in cases of massive natural disasters or conflicts which affect many people, any large amount of support cannot be enough.

So, appropriate coordination is not a luxury like “would be better if available, but not necessary”. On the contrary, it has critical importance in reality.

To tell very roughly, coordination meetings anywhere have the following three parts;
- “Understanding of outlook -> identifying needs -> allocation of roles -> filling gap of needs” (this is the part of actual coordination);
- “Information sharing”;
- “Avoid lopsided support”.

All stakeholders have meetings in one place to identify which areas are in severe conditions, what kind of needs are seen in such areas, which organizations are doing what there, and as the result, what needs gaps still remain. At the same time when we know those points, we start implementation of support from whatever we can do. It is difficult to know outlook at the beginning. So, we collect as much information as possible in the filed we have started activities, and share information from the filed in coordination meetings. If reports from other organizations tell us we can do well in uncovered areas or for uncovered needs, we go there, assess, and start activities immediately if it is feasible, and report it in coordination meetings.

In one week or 10 days, allocation of roles among relief organizations is decided in areas where damages is devastating but access is easy or areas which especially attract media attention and, thus, many organizations. In that phase, coordination meetings work smoothly, and participating organizations come to know in which areas support are not enough. So, we may look for organizations that can fill the gap in a coordination meeting.

In terms of “information sharing”, various types of “information useful for better project implementation” are shared: not only contents of activities by each organization, but also precaution against cultural background in the field, information on security, procurement, etc.

Regarding “avoiding lopsided support”, to avoid creating divide among affected people by our support, we make minimum standard of distribution items, or discuss standard of support activities.

As one of such standards, “Sphere Standard” is well known in the field of emergency relief.

This is a standard formulated in 1997 by many humanitarian organizations and Red Cross/Red Crescent, to set minimum standard to avoid terrible life condition of affected people. This standard is not perfect, and, unfortunately, it is not met often. This standard is used, for example, when we plan shelter construction. Organizations which participate in coordination meetings should know this minimum standard, and we think about how are conditions of affected people in each area in terms of this standard. It can be used as a good starting point to have an outlook of the situation.


Coordination meetings in the field of emergency relief overseas work like this.

Tomorrow, I will write an article of coordination meetings in the field of Great East Japan Earthquake.

March 30, 2011 in Tohoku earthquake |