World Humanitarian Summit: Success of ESB Side Events


Credit: WHS Flickr

On 23 May, OCHA’s Emergency Services Branch (ESB) held two highly successful side events during the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey.


The first event“Quality Response by Certified International Teams” – was co-hosted by the INSARAG Secretariat and the World Health Organization (WHO) as the Emergency Medical Team (EMT) Lead.  The event focused on the value of a standard-setting approach to response, a model used by both urban search and rescue teams and medical teams. The Side Event featured presentations from senior representatives of INSARAG, WHO, the European Union and the Government of Colombia. The panel led an engaging discussion with the 60 attendees from 24 countries and international organizations.

Credit: FCSS

Three main points were echoed throughout the event:

  1. There are clear advantages to a standard-setting approach and common methodology for response teams, for both technical and operational mechanisms. This serves as a common reference for preparedness and response activities, enabling more effective delivery of assistance in disasters.
  2. Continued collaboration and support to the dissemination and adoption of the standards and methodology at the regional, national and local levels. Geographical proximity plays a critical role in the ability of teams to move quickly to assist a disaster-affected area and the first response is the local response. The experience of the global community can be drawn upon to support strengthening national efforts, recognizing that the primary responsibility lies with the national authorities. Basing these capacity-building activities on internationally recognized methodology facilitates the interoperability between national and international teams, but this needs to be done in a manner that empowers the national authorities. Building national and local capacity is critical to move from delivering aid to ending need.
  3. Recognition that seamless integration of national and international response teams is critical. Interoperability between national, regional and international teams can only be achieved through a shared foundation of standards, methodology and experience that builds familiarity and trust. The approach in both preparedness and response must be one in which expertise and capacities are shared – it is a matter of cooperation, not of competition.
Credit: FCSS

The INSARAG and EMT Initiatives have demonstrated their commitment to this model through efforts such as investing time and resources in disaster-prone countries, delivering programmes through a training-of-trainers model and supporting national adaptation of global methodology. The teams have proven the effectiveness of operating in this manner in many disasters, including, recently, the earthquakes in Nepal and Ecuador (a concrete example of the INSARAG and EMT collaboration in the Nepal or Ecuador responses should be included). The organizations involved in INSARAG and the EMT Initiative are committed to pursuing the on-going development and application of standards for response, recognizing that this level of professionalism in response can save lives.

The second event – “Developing Common Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination Standards” – was organized on behalf of the Consultative Group on Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination under the Secretary-General’s call to ‘Uphold the Norms that Safeguard Humanity’. The Side Event, chaired by Ambassador Toni Frisch, the Consultative Group Chair, also benefited from the presence of Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Kyung-wha Kang, as well as high-level panelists from the Core Humanitarian Standard Alliance, the British Red Cross, the Association of Austrian Peacekeepers and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the Office of Civil Defense of the Philippines.

The interactive panel discussion raised a number of very realistic and relevant questions. In essence, the panelists and audience welcomed the decision by the multi-stakeholder Consultative Group to develop Common Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination Standards. It will ensure that good practice is agreed upon, understood and promoted. The building of trust was seen as particularly important in civil-military coordination and standard-setting. Another key element was the willingness of Member States and responding organizations to share lessons learned so that the response can be as efficient as possible, with the people in need truly being at its centre. It was felt equally important that lessons are learned collectively and that they are brought into systems and structures so as not to get lost with rotation of personnel.

WHS SIde Event CMCoord Standards
Credit: UN-CMCoord

This positive outcome enables the Consultative Group to move forward in the Standard development process in a confident manner. In the framework of the World Humanitarian Summit, a face-to-face meeting with stakeholders was organized to brainstorm the Common Standards process. A final draft document is expected to be presented to during the annual meeting of the Consultative Group during the Humanitarian Networks and Partnership Week in February 2017.



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