Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Date: 31 May 2001
The Role of OCHA in emergency United
Nations operations following the earthquake in Gujarat, India -- 26
January 2001 A lessons learned study
David Harland, Senior Policy Advisor, OCHA
Geneva, 31 May 2001
The Indian State of Gujarat was struck by a major earthquake on the
morning of 26 January 2001. Approximately 20,000 people died; over 160,000
people were injured. Some 400,000 homes were destroyed, leaving almost a
million people without immediate shelter.
The national response - from several levels of Government, private
sector, civil society and individuals - was overwhelmingly dominant, and
was impressive, given the circumstances. The international response was
largely dominated by bilateral actions and by the actions of
non-governmental organisations and the Red Cross Movement. As is often the
case in natural disaster response, the United Nations was a relatively
minor player in the emergency phase (26 January to 20 February 2001).
Although staffed by well qualified and highly motivated team members,
the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination system was not
able to be particularly effective, even in the limited context of the
United Nations response. An UNDAC team was deployed to India, and
established an On-Site Operations Coordination Centre (OSOCC) in the city
of Bhuj on 2 February, one week after the initial quake. The UNDAC team
arrived too late to play any significant role in the search and rescue
operation, which was winding down when the team arrived in Bhuj. During
the subsequent phase, the team was too small, and too poorly equipped, to
provide fully effective coordination or assessment services. Where the
UNDAC team did appear to have added some value to the emergency response
effort was in strengthening the coordination capacity of the Indian
Relations within the United Nations community were sometimes poor, and
this affected performance. Neither the United Nations Disaster Management
Team (UNDMT) nor the UNDAC team seemed entirely clear as to what the
precise role of the UNDAC team should have been. Expectations were various
and high, and could not be met. Donors and international non-governmental
organizations were, , and were exspressing some disappointment withby the
UN's and by the team's performance.
There are important lessons to be learned at a number of levels. At the
level of the United Nations system, there is a need to clarify the
institutional arrangements which govern the system's response to natural
disasters. A joint letter to all Resident Coordinators (RCs) from the UNDP
Administrator and the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC), dated 26 March
1999, usefully identifies the reporting lines that will apply in such
circumstances. Little or nothing, however, has been done to turn the
intent of this arrangement into an effective blueprint for disaster
management. In the case of the Gujarat earthquake, the Resident
Coordinator would have benefited from clear, quick guidance from the
Emergency Response Coordinator.
Appeals risk being issued too late to be of real use during the
emergency phase of natural disaster response. The 'Immediate Needs and
Action Plan' (an ersatz appeal tailored to the Indian environment) was
issued by the United Nations Disaster Management Team in Delhi on 8
February, too late to engender significant relief during the emergency
phase of the response effort.
At the level of OCHA, there is a need to bring clarity to the role of
the UNDAC teams. The generic Terms of Reference are focussed on support to
the Resident Coordinator and the Disaster Management Team, but these
relationships did not function well and need to be reworked. In a similar
vein, there is a need for OCHA to sensitise RCs and DMTs to the role of
UNDAC teams - well before disasters strike.
Within OCHA, there are improvements that need to be introduced to
ensure the better functioning of the UNDAC teams. For example, the late
arrival of the UNDAC team in Bhuj, and its inadequate numbers, can only in
part be attributed to the particularities of the Indian situation - other
international actors managed to overcome these constraints, and OCHA needs
to learn from their flexibility. As for the inadequate equipment available
to the team, this was a particular disappointment, as one Government
explicitly offered to provide a support module at short notice, but was
rebuffed. Better training should ensure that equipment which is needed and
available is not again turned back.
The United Nations will not, in most cases, be the major player in
natural disaster response. It does, however, have the legitimacy and the
worldwide network needed to play a limited but effective role. Similarly,
the UNDAC system - with its strong support from donor Governments, and its
cadre of excellent personnel - should be a vital tool for the United
Nations in playing that role. A number of specific measures that could be
taken, and which are necessary to bring about the changes referred to
here, are enumerated in the recommendations at the end of this report.
Table of contents
Glossary of Acronyms
- I.1 Background
- I.2 Methodology
II. The Context
- II.1 The United Nations in India: changing context
- II.2 The United Nations system and disaster
III. The Earthquake and the First Response
- III.1 The Gujarat earthquake
- III.2 The affected area
- III.3 The impact of the earthquake
- III.4 Government of India: national and local response
- III.5 United Nations Disaster Management Team
- III.6 OCHA and the UNDAC deployment
- III.7 International Search and Rescue teams
- III.6 Government and donors
- III.7 Red Cross
- III.8 Indian and international NGOs
IV. The Developing
- IV.1 OCHA's role in coordinating the UN mobilisation
- IV.2 What can be expected of UNDAC - what does UNDAC expect to
- IV.3 Arrival of the UNDAC team: "too little, too late"
- IV.4 What did the UNDAC team do? UNDAC in the field
- IV.5 Relations with the Government of India and with Indian NGOs
- IV.6 Relations with Governments and national Search and Rescue teams
- IV.7 Relations with the Red Cross and international non-governmental
- IV.8 UNDAC and the Media
- IV.9 OCHA headquarters role in emergency action
- IV.10 OCHA as a source of information on disasters
- IV.11 Geneva working level contacts with Governments
- IV.12 Geneva HQ relations with UN partners
- V.1 United Nations response to the earthquake
- V.2 OCHA
- V.3 The UNDAC team
- V.4 Indian and International NGOs in Gujarat
- V.5 Donors in Delhi
- V.6 Government of India
VI. Recommendations to OCHA
Senior Management Team
- VI.1 OCHA's management of the UNDAC system
- VI.2 Cooperation with UN agencies
- VI.3 Indian and international NGOs
- VI.4 Governments
- Annex 1 Principal documents used for background and reference
- Annex 2 Terms of Reference of the present study
- Annex 3 List of interviewees
- Annex 4 UNDAC team Terms of Reference
- Annex 5 Lessons learned - as offered by
Glossary of acronyms
||Disasters Emergency Committee|
|DMT / UNDMT
||Disaster Management Team / United Nations Disaster
||European Community Humanitarian Office|
||Emergency Relief Coordinator|
||Government of Gujarat|
||Government of India|
||Inter-Agency Standing Committee Working Group|
||International Federation of Red Cross and Red
||International Labour Office|
||International Non-Governmental Organisation|
||International Search and Rescue Action Groups|
||Lutheran World Federation|
||Médecins Sans Frontières|
||Office for the Co ordination of Humanitarian
||On-Site Operations Coordination Centre|
||Search and Rescue |
||Save the Children Fund|
||Swedish Rescue Services Agency|
||United Nations Disaster Assessment and
||United Nations Fund for Population Activities|
||United Nations Children's Fund|
||United Nations Development Programme|
||World Food Programme|
||World Health Organisation|
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
(OCHA), through its Policy Development and Studies Branch, requested this
lessons learned study on the OCHA response to the Gujarat earthquake. It
was agreed that the study would be most useful if it were conceived
broadly, incorporating a view of the United Nations disaster response
capacity as a whole. Thus, though the starting point of the study is
OCHA's performance in the Gujarat earthquake international emergency
response, some wider questions are also touched upon. In particular, how
can the elements of the United Nations system best work together to ensure
a more effective disaster-response capacity?
Terms of Reference are attached at Annex 1.These were shared with
members of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Working Group (IASC WG)
prior to finalisation, and the views of members of the IASC WG were taken
The Study has been conducted through a review of documentation on the
first response and on the basis of extensive interviews. Those interviewed
include all members of the UNDAC team deployed in response to the Gujarat
earthquake; United Nations staff Delhi, Geneva, New York and Rome;
officials of the Government of India (GOI) and the State Government of
Gujarat (GOG), and other Indian nationals associated with the response
effort; UN and non-UN personnel deployed in the earthquake-affected area
following the disaster, and others. A full list of those interviewed is
attached at Annex 2.
The period of time under study is the emergency phase from 26 of
January 2001 to 20 February 2001. To some extent, the date of 20 February
is arbitrary, though there is a general consensus that after that date
efforts were principally focussed on rehabilitation and recovery.
The principal issues for examination have been those with which OCHA
and UNDAC are most closely associated: coordination and support to
coordination, as well as assessment. Timeliness of response, services,
accuracy and quality of information and relationships have all been
considered in some detail. Attention has been paid both to the
expectations as to what should have been delivered, as well as to the
perceptions of what was actually delivered.
II. The context
II.1 The United Nations in India: changing context
India is a highly disaster prone area. Much of its landmass lies within
the earthquake risk zones 3 and 5, and is also prone to cyclones, floods
India has experienced steady economic growth for a number of years,
benefiting from the global growth in the world economy and its progressive
integration into that economy. The Government of India announced on 13
April 2001 that it expects the economy to grow some 6% in 2001, in spite
of the downturn in the global electronic and information technology
sectors. This growth has been made possible not least because of
deregulation and general liberalisation of the Indian economy.
The increasing opennessto the outside world of the Indian
administration was reflected in decisions taken by the Government of India
with respect to the response to the Gujarat earthquake. In particular, the
new openness can be perceived in the early decisions of the Government of
India to facilitate the receipt of international aid as spontaneously
offered. The long-standing policy of the Government of India has been that
it does not ask for, or appeal for, international aid in disasters. It
does, however, also have an established policy to accept "expressions of
solidarity". In the case of the Gujarat earthquake, the policy remained
formally unchanged, though in practice the Government did engage with the
international relief community more fully than it had in the past.
Given that the Indian authorities have traditionally assumed all
responsibility for response to disasters through national resources, the
United Nations system had only limited prior experience in how to engage
effectively with the Indian authorities in a crisis-response situation.
Much of what recent experience there was came from the response effort to
the Orissa super-cyclone of 1998. .
II.2 The United Nations system and disaster response
In theory at least, the Resident Coordinator reports to the Emergency
Relief Coordinator (ERC) when responding to complex emergencies and
natural disasters. This arrangement was outlined by the UNDP Associate
Administrator in an administrative instruction dated 3 September 1993. It
was later reaffirmed by the UNDP Administrator and the ERC in a joint
letter dated 26 March 1999. Some of the specific responsibilities of the
role of the Resident Coordinator are spelled out in some helpful detail in
the documentation annexed to the letter of 1999. The responsibilities of
the Emergency Relief Coordinator in regard to the support and initiatives
to take in relation to the RC and the disasters in the RC's country are,
however, not very specific and have not been developed.
The UNDP training manual "Roles and Responsibilities for UNDMT" (draft
April 2001) reads as follows:
In disaster and emergency-prone countries, the UN Resident Coordinator
heads a Disaster Management Team (UNDMT) consisting of UN agencies
concerned with response to humanitarian emergencies... It supports and
assists the office of the UN Resident Coordinator in the exercise of its
III. The earthquake and the first response
III.1 The Gujarat earthquake
The earthquake which struck India's western State of Gujarat at 08:46
local time on 26 January 2001 - India's Republic Day holiday - measured
6.9 on the Richter scale and lasted about 110 seconds. It was the most
powerful earthquake to strike India in half a century. The effect was
devastating, widespread and the impact of the quake was felt in distant
locations across northern India, in Pakistan, Bangladesh and western
III.2 The affected area (Map 1)
The State of Gujarat is one of the driest areas of India, and is also
one of the most disaster prone states in a highly disaster prone country.
Gujarat is currently experiencing the third year in a drought cycle; two
years ago it suffered the impact of a cyclone in Kutch district.
Nevertheless, Gujarat is one of the wealthier states in the Indian Union.
It is the most industrialized, and has an active business community with
extensive links to large expatriate Gujarati communities abroad. Within
India, the Gujaratis have extensive and active links with communities
around the country's important commercial centres. The State has a total
population of approximately 41 million.
III.3 The impact of the earthquake
Five districts in the north-western part of Gujarat were highly
affected by the earthquake. It had an impact on 21 of the 25 districts in
Gujarat State and affected 15 million people, directly and indirectly. The
epicentre of the earthquake was approximately 20 km northeast of Bhuj. In
the town of Bachau, about 150 km northeast of Bhuj, 80-90% of all
buildings destroyed or damage to the extent they will have to be
The earthquake killed 20,005 people and injured 165,000 (data as per
end of March 2001). These casualty figures would have been higher had the
earthquake not been preceded by an initial tremor that led large number of
people to evacuate their homes. Some 800,000 people were rendered homeless
by the earthquake, about 400,000 houses destroyed and one million houses
damaged. The social infrastructure of schools and the health infra
structure both in urban and rural areas was severely disrupted. 1,200
schools, hundreds of rural and urban clinics and health centres, as well
as three hospitals, were totally destroyed. Almost 8,000 villages were
affected. In the worst affected areas of Kutch district, there are
hundreds of villages where the physical destruction is between 70-90 % of
all housing and service infrastructure, including those used by government
administration, police and the courts. The calculation of the Government
of Gujarat is of a 15% GDP loss for 2001 and a total loss of direct and
indirect losses of USD 4.5 billion. Housing alone amounts to USD 2.1
There were some early disturbances in the communications with the
region. Some of the main access roads were damaged but did not close for
incoming traffic. The Indian Air Force base at Bhuj was disrupted
immediately after the quake, but was opened for civilian and relief
flights to facilitate the emergency response by the evening of 26 January.
III.4 Government of India: national and local response
Although detailed news of the earthquake was scarce during the early
part of the 26 January, the central Government set up and activated its
emergency management system. The Ministry of Agriculture operated an
emergency operations centre and became relatively quickly the focal point
for information gathering and sharing. The Cabinet met in emergency
session and dispatched a senior member of the Cabinet to Gujarat to assist
the State Government emergency operations. Towards the evening of the 26
January, a message from the Deputy Chief of Air Force Staff confirmed that
the Air Force base strip was open for operations and would receive relief
flights. A senior government official was dispatched for a first on-site
assessment, and for discussions with the local administration officials.
The Government had already decided that the scale of the disaster was such
that international offers of assistance would be welcomed and facilitated.
The first report back by the official confirmed that such a decision was
The Government of Gujarat took responsibility for the leadership and
direction of the emergency action and set up an operations cell in
Gandhinagar, the administrative capital of Gujarat (at about 35 km from
Ahmedabad, the commercial capital). Decisions were taken to reinforce the
District organisation in the most affected areas of Kutch.
The military is traditionally a primary resource in disaster response
in India. Military assets in the affected area were diverted to relief
efforts almost immediately after the earthquake struck. Within hours,
substantial out-of-area reinforcements were on their way. Military
hospitals were set up, performing a vast number of surgical interventions.
Heavy equipment for rescue work and transport of relief goods was provided
in the early days. The air force used its assets for some of the early,
crucial aerial surveys that provided some early understanding of the scope
of the damage. Military personnel rescued hundreds of survivors from the
rubble in the first days. Ultimately, more than 30,000 military and
para-military personnel were deployed in the rescue and early relief
Given the disruption of the communications network, the first few days
inevitably produced some mixed messages about the extent of damage and
need for assistance. After two days, however, the mobile phone network was
re-established, thanks to immediate action requested by the India Telecom
and executed by the operator . The Mobile phones remained the key
communications channel for 2-3 weeks, until the land line phones were
working reliably again.
In addition to the direct response of the civilian and military
authorities in India, substantial early relief was provided by local
voluntary organisations, including some with political and religious
affiliations. Many of these immediately started organising relief to
people who needed food and blankets.
Governments in neighbouring states dispatched medical teams. and
relief. Private organisations, corporations, individuals reacted strongly
with an outpouring of help. Relief in the form of food, clothing,
blankets, money was donated, sent and individually transported in an
unprecedented expression of community support.
A first situation report was issued during the day of 26 January by the
Government of India, indicating that international assistance would be
welcomed. It was also stated that the airport in Ahmedabad would
facilitate entry of international search and rescue teams and relief
goods. An instruction to the Ministry of External Affairs directed that
15-day visas would be issued on arrival for in-coming relief personnel.
It was clear from the information provided that the worst damage was in
Bhuj, though there was still a lack of clarity as to the scope of the
damage. Overall, the national-level reaction appears to have become more
decisive and flexible with time. Early difficulties in obtaining
information and direction gave some international actors the impression
that the authorities were not acting strongly. This view was mistaken. The
Ministry of Agriculture Operations Emergency Control Room, and the Air
Force Flight Coordination Control Room, provided an early and effective
basis for a surging national relief effort. Members of the United Nations
system were generally not able to provide immediate support to the Indian
authorities, largely due to the lack of pre-existing working
III.5 United Nations Disaster Management Team
The United Nations Disaster Management Team (UNDMT) was alerted to the
earthquake by a phone call from OCHA Geneva. which, By 13:30 on 26
January, the UNDMT met to take first stock of the situation, albeit with
very little information available. By 20:30 it was decided to seek more
information by dispatching a small team of staff from UNDP and WHO Delhi
for first assessments. UNICEF sent two staff from Delhi to Ahmedabad on
the 27 January equipped with a satellite telephone.
OCHA Geneva made the offer of an UNDAC team on the 26th of January
early in the day.After some discussion within the UNDMT, the offer from
OCHA to dispatch an UNDAC team was accepted. UNDMT met daily during the
first days. At this stage the agency representation was at senior level,
although this seems to have changed after the first week. During the first
week decisions were taken on sector lead agencies and on cooperation
within the sectors. This was particularly relevant for the agencies that
were already active in Gujarat (UNICEF, WHO, WFP, ILO, UNDP, UNFPA) which
could use their established channels for first assessment.
The Delhi-based representatives of a number of donor Governments called
United Nations agencies individually during the first days, asking for
information about the disaster and about the UN's own plans. An
information meeting with the donors was called for the following days, at
the insistence of a donor Government. A coordination meeting under the
leadership of WFP was also set up for non-governmental organisations.
UNDMT requested OCHA to provide a staff member to assist with the
preparation of an action plan for the UN in India. Daily situation reports
to OCHA Geneva were sent from the UNDMT to OCHA Geneva until the UNDAC
situation reports started being sent.
On 6 February the UN system in India issued a summary of the United
Nations Action Plan, with a full document following two days later. The
summary provided a quick overview of action taken within the UN system,
indications of need for new resources, and a statement of how to use
ongoing resources to meet the needs generated by the disaster.
This document was mailed to all diplomatic missions in Delhi on the
donor list. As a fundraising tool, the Action Plan was followed up by
agencies individually, and the success of the early resource mobilisation
largely depended on the substance of the action and the credibility of
each individual agency with its own donor constituency. In general, the UN
agencies developed their own operational strategies, while the UNDMT
remained a forum for information exchange.
There was no corresponding focal point in the field. In the early days
it appeared that UNICEF would provide some lead, but this initiative did
not gain momentum. As UNDAC arrived, expectations were pinned to their
ability to provide this lead role at field level. UNDP also arrived and
informed the agencies of its mandate to coordinate and focus on
rehabilitation and livelihoods.
III.6 OCHA and the UNDAC deployment
OCHA Geneva was alerted to the Gujarat earthquake early in the morning
of 26 January through its earthquake monitoring system, which alerts the
OCHA Duty Officer of any earthquake above 6.0 on the Richter scale. The
Duty Officer and the Asia Desk informed both UNDMT Delhi and OCHA Geneva
staff. The early estimation was that India would not require any
assistance. It was only at about noon on 26 January, Geneva time, that the
decision to dispatch an UNDAC team was taken. OCHA's Situation report No 1
of 26 January, issued at 10:00 Geneva time, states that the UNDAC system
had been put on alert. Information given about the quake in that situation
report indicated a strong sense of the potentially devastating impact of
the quake. OCHA Situation report No 2 of 26 January stated that an UNDAC
team would be dispatched on 28 January.
During this initial period, OCHA maintained close contact with the
UNDMT in Delhi and with the Indian Permanent Mission in Geneva for
information sharing. UNDMT sent daily situation reports from Delhi and the
Indian Mission shared the Government situation reports. These three sets
of situation reports were also posted on the respective websites of the
The call for an UNDAC team resulted in five persons being selected.
Given the nature of the event, a team with a profile of earthquake
expertise was sought. Four members of this original team were
professionals in the service of national governments, while one was an
OCHA staff member. Several of them were experienced UNDAC team members
with a number of earlier missions. The deployment of the team took more
time than was perhaps warranted, reflecting, in part, the need for a
request from the Emergency Relief Coordinator, the Resident Coordinator or
the receiving state government - none of which was immediately
forthcoming. Three members were routed via Geneva during the weekend,
obtaining visas before departure from the Indian Consulate in Geneva on
the afternoon of Saturday 27 January. The Consulate was opened on an
exceptional basis for this purpose. This group departed Geneva on Sunday,
28 January, arriving in Delhi at close to midnight of 28-29 January, some
60 hours after the earthquake. A fourth member arrived in Geneva on Sunday
28 January, departing Geneva on Monday 29 January and arriving in Delhi
the following day. A fifth member travelled directly from Australia to
Delhi, also arriving on 30 January.
It seems that while the initial hesitation in deciding on the
deployment of the UNDAC caused some delay, this could have been made up,
had the deployment then been informed by a greater degree of urgency.
While it is generally acknowledged that the team was too small, there was
no initiative to mobilise more UNDAC members until replacements were
required. Further, there was some question as to the leadership of the
team. In normal circumstances, a senior staff member of OCHA would
function as a team leader. In this case, , , the team leader was appointed
from among the experienced members with national government service
Upon arrival in Delhi, the team leader discussed with the UNDMT
Convenor (Deputy Resident Coordinator) regarding the UNDAC team Terms of
Reference and other preliminary matters.
OCHA issued daily situation reports from 26 to 28 January 2001. No
situation reports were issued on 29 and 30 January, though these resumed
as of 31 January, with the following situation reports punctuated by
intervals of several days. The information provided in these situation
reports was compiled on the basis of situation reports from Bhuj and
Delhi, as provided by UNDMT and later by UNDAC. Information from official
Government of India sources was also used. This process of waiting for
data to be generated by other sources, and then to reprocess the same data
is a cumbersome one, and the information, when it finally reaches end
users, is frequently otiose. While it is recognised that the United
Nations is often constrained to provide information with an official
imprimatur, there is a need for flexibility. A sudden-onset disaster is,
inevitably, a fast-moving event, the response to which would benefit from
dedicated information workers, if information is seen as one of the key
products to be offered.
OCHA allocated almost USD 200,000 for relief materials from its own
disaster fund and channelled cash from three donor Governments. These cash
grants were announced to the UNDP office in Delhi, which undertook to
implement the funds. This was done through two well-known Gujarat-based
NGOs with which UNDP had recently initiated activities unrelated to the
earthquake. These NGOs were entrusted with implementing the grants and
providing relief materials to disaster victims.
III.7 International Search and Rescue teams and UNDAC
The international search and rescue (SAR) effort was traditionally a
loosely coordinated network of governmental and non-governmental national
search and rescue expert teams. There has been a trend, however, towards
progressively closer coordination and cooperation. It is normally assumed
that a search and rescue team must be in place rapidly, as the likelihood
of finding trapped survivors in the aftermath of a disaster is very small
after 4-5 days. The international search and rescue in Gujarat deployed 17
teams, comprising 399 members and 29 dogs, and rescued some 25 people.
One of the original purposes for which UNDAC was established was to
provide on-site coordination for the deployment and operations of search
and rescue teams in the wake of major earthquakes. To play this role,
however, UNDAC teams must arrive at the site of a disaster before or with
the first search and rescue teams. In the case of the Gujarat earthquake,
this did not happen.
The first international search and rescue team arrived in Ahmedabad on
the late evening of 27 January, from Switzerland. Several other teams
arrived on 28 January, and on the two following days. In most cases, the
teams arrived directly at Ahmedabad and were assisted by the State
Government of Gujarat to proceed to Bhuj. Once in Bhuj they operated
without the benefit of international coordination services.
The first UNDAC team member to move to Bhuj arrived on the late
afternoon of 30 January, almost five days after the initial quake. A
request for reinforcement of staff and means of transport was sent. Two
more UNDAC team members arrived on 1 February. An UNDAC On-Site Operations
Coordination Centre (OSOCC) was established on 2 February 2001, one week
after the quake, and after several of the search and rescue teams. had
already completed their operations and were arranging to depart.
III.8 Governments and donors
Most Governments have representation in India. Given the tradition of
limited cooperation in disaster response, however, and given also the
emphasis on development cooperation, the missions in Delhi generally
lacked extensive experience in emergency relief work in India. In
addition, many of the principal actors in international humanitarian
assistance have been building up rapid deployment capacities based in
their own countries. And these would use their in-country representations
mainly for logistics and administrative support. In India, partly as a
result of this, the Government of India and the United Nations were under
pressure to provide government representatives with quick, sound and
extensive information, which added some strain both to the host Government
and to the UN. During the emergency response phase, donor government
action was mostly in the form of search and rescue, relief flights and
visits. The pressure for assessment also increased as time passed and as
recovery and rehabilitation planning got under way.
The bulk of the international aid provided during the emergency phase
of the Gujarat earthquake response effort was channelled bilaterally. Aid
passing through multi-lateral channels was mainly directed to the Red
Cross Movement and to non-governmental organisations. A smaller part of
the international assistance was channelled through United Nations
agencies, with each agency using its established donor contacts to
resource its operations for the relief and recovery phase. UNICEF achieved
most success in raising resources (raising USD 10 million out of USD 12
million requested within a month).
III.9 Red Cross
Using its in-country resources, the International Federation of Red
Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Indian Red Cross dispatched a
small team to Bhuj and Ahmedabad on 27 January, and immediately launched
an early appeal of CHF 2 million to resource its envisaged action. Based
on reporting back by the Red Cross team, it was decided that the focus
would be on medical and material relief. A field hospital was mobilized
and relief goods sought through a CHF 25 million appeal to International
Red Cross donors. The Government hospital in Bhuj had collapsed completely
in the earthquake and it was assumed that a hospital would be an asset
both for the short term emergency and for the period thereafter. The field
hospital was fully operational by 4 February. The field hospital was
supported by water and sanitation units for clean water, and a logistics
unit which was responsible for the management of incoming supplies. The
ability of the Red Cross to launch and sustain this high-profile action
was based on a number of factors: the role played by the Indian Red Cross
as a point of contact with the Indian authorities at all levels; the
agreement of different members of the Red Cross Movement to be
coordinated; and the intensive and effective flow of information from
India, both via Bhuj and via offices in Ahmedabad and Delhi.
III.10 Indian and international NGOs
In mid-February, the UNDAC team noted that there were almost 300 NGOs
and private organisations active in the earthquake area, though this
number fell sharply in the following weeks. The local NGO sector in
Gujarat is strong and active. Many of these are experienced in working
with the Government and were able to take on roles in the relief work.
Several had pre-existing partnerships with international NGOs, either
through the ongoing drought mitigation action, or through development
programmes. The large international NGOs have, in most cases,
long-standing operations in India and were able to use their existing
organisations, with some reinforcement, to gear up substantial emergency
relief operations. Oxfam India, Save the Children Fund, Care
International, World Vision, Caritas, Médecins Sans Frontières, Lutheran
World Federation were among the larger NGOs present and operating in the
earthquake-affected area in the emergency phase.
At the request of the Indian authorities, the Gujarat umbrella group
Abhiyan took on the role of providing some coordination for the local
non-governmental organisations. Abhiyan initiated coordination and
information exchange meetings, undertook detailed assessments and
information gathering about damage, and was looked upon by the local
administration as useful in providing this service to the NGOs and thus
relieving the Government of some of the pressure. Abhiyan undertook these
services largely to the exclusion of its own relief efforts, and was
generally effective. It also served as an important bell-wether for
concerns within the local community. The international organisations
recognised Abhiyan as an important resource, and interaction was frequent
though a full integration of the mechanisms was never achieved and would
not perhaps have been feasible.
IV. The Developing Response
IV.1 OCHA's role as coordination of the UN system mobilisation
OCHA's role within the United Nations system is described as being "to
provide assessment and coordination leadership in the overall
international disaster response."
The 1998 reorganisation of responsibilities between UNDP and OCHA broke
up the disaster management cycle by assigning responsibility for
preparedness and mitigation to UNDP while keeping the mobilization and
coordination of resources for response with OCHA. While the need for
coordination is underlined by all stakeholders, good coordination can be
expected only when all actors contribute to the coordination, and when the
goal of the coordination is shared by all. "The UN is a framework, not a
body." And this framework is indeed used as if it were a body for reasons
of visibility and resource mobilisation. The situation in the Gujarat
earthquake illustrates how that framework was too weak to achieve real
unity of purpose or for good coordination to happen.
OCHA's response to the Gujarat earthquake was limited by at least two
extraordinary events. First, two other UNDAC teams were already deployed
when the team was assembled for the Gujarat earthquake response - one in
El Salvador, in connection with the recent earthquake there, and one in
Mongolia, in connection with the extended drought and winter storms. This
may have imposed significant constraints as the UNDAC roster which,
although it nominally has 132 names, in fact comprises a much smaller
group of people ready and able to be deployed at short notice. Second, the
senior management and staff of OCHA were preoccupied with a helicopter
accident in Mongolia, in which Head of the Asia Desk of OCHA's Disaster
Response Branch had been killed, along with several other members of the
Nevertheless, as early as the day of the earthquake itself it was clear
that the Gujarat disaster was an event of historic importance. The focus
of the world was for some days on India and the international response
system, which OCHA is mandated to coordinate, was geared to mobilise.
Because the United Nations system in India had limited capacity for
disaster response, leadership was needed, and there was an opportunity to
assist the national efforts in an important way. OCHA had the experience
and resources to perform this role.
In the following, the OCHA response, which consisted mainly of the
deployment of an UNDAC team, will be discussed on the basis of the
relationships the UNDAC team established, and the perception their
counterparts had of their value added.
To understand the situation that the UNDAC team found on arrival, it
should be noted that donors felt that the United Nations agencies had
already dissipated their capacity for cohesive action. They had sent mixed
messages to donors and other partners by giving different reports, and by
not acting according to any agreed plan. This was the case, despite the
fact that the UNDMT engaged in daily meetings, and was making efforts to
ensure that information was shared and that the United Nations was seen to
be taking action. The UNDMT left the impression with several observers of
being uncertain as to whether it would have a role in the relief phase at
all. Some observers felt that the UNDAC team added to this confusion.
Above all, there seemed to be a lack of clarity as to for whom the UNDAC
team was providing services.
IV.2 What can be expected of UNDAC and what does UNDAC expect to
contribute? Is the UNDMT the counterpart of the UNDAC team and its support
function, or the other way around?
According to its standard Terms of Reference, the UNDAC role is to
support the Resident Coordinator role and the UNDMT, to strengthen it and
to add resources. This requires that there is a mutual understanding of
what should be achieved and the ground rules that apply. The ground rules
are expressed in the Terms of Reference of the UNDAC team, while the role
of the Resident Coordinator is detailed in the documentation referred to
above. The UNDMT has a loose mandate and is expected to function on the
basis of good will and individual leadership. While members of the UNDMT
in India were generally loyal to the idea of supporting the UNDMT and the
Resident Coordinator, there were a number of concerns characteristic of
many coordinated ventures. These concerns included the role of the
individual agencies versus the role of the UN system; the lack of proper
consultation processes for important decisions; the emphasis of profile
and visibility at the expense of substance. The member agencies of the
UNDMT recognized that the concept of the Resident Coordinator as
Humanitarian Coordinator was obvious and valid, but felt that the RC must
have the capability and resources to exercise the function in a convincing
IV.3 Arrival of the UNDAC team: " too little, too late"
Not all members of the UNDMT were convinced that it was a good idea to
have an UNDAC team. The questions raised concerned their expertise: Did
they know how to work in India? What would they add? And previous
experiences of not-very-smooth relations with UNDAC teams were raised. It
was however agreed that the offer should be accepted. Proposals were made
that the in-country UN agencies should contribute members to the UNDAC
team, but this suggestion seem to have lost momentum and was not carried
through. On arrival, the UNDAC team leader was not able to meet with the
Resident Coordinator. Indeed, the team leader did not meet with the
Resident Coordinator until the Emergency Relief Coordinator arrived in
India as the emergency phase of the operations was coming to an end.
The UNDAC team was deployed by Geneva without any of the standard
support modules that are designed to make them functional. The team
appears to have deployed in the expectation that it would be materially
supported by the UNDP in Delhi, and did not request the support that
Geneva could have mobilised from member states with which it has well
established stand-by agreements. The lack of such support affected both
the team's ability to be effective in its work and the living conditions
of team members
The team's function was also affected by the lack of knowledge among UN
agency personnel about both OCHA and, especially, the UNDAC system. Only
those few who had previously worked with an UNDAC team seemed to have any
clear sense of what it was and what they could expect from it. The
expectations as to what UNDAC could do for them and for others differed
widely as a consequence. This lack of understanding, and the unrealistic
expectations that accompanied it, might account to some extent for the
negative impression of the UNDAC team's contribution that was left with
many members of the United Nations system in India.
When asked in the context of this study, India-based representatives of
the international system generally defined their expectation of United
Nations coordination in the following terms:
- Information gathering and sharing;
- Linking to the government and authorities, bringing information from
those authorities and feeding back questions and concerns to them;
- Supporting, as required, the Government coordination of
international relief arrivals and logistics;
- Knowing what needs there are;
- Know where there are gaps and being able to give information on the
- Leading, directing and managing coordination meetings, and bringing
them to meaningful conclusions;
- Coordinating search and rescue teams;
- Preparing reports;
- Providing service tools that agencies need in the field, such as
workplaces, e-mail connections and fax/phones, maps and practical
Not to do:
- Assessments - agencies felt that they should do these themselves in
their sectors of competence, and that UNDAC team members were, in any
case, lacking the sectoral expertise necessary to do this.
- "Telling us what to do."
IV.4 UNDAC in the field
The UNDAC team proceeded to Ahmedabad and remained there for one week.
The first antenna of the UNDAC team arrived in Bhuj five days after the
earthquake. Since Day 1 of the earthquake, however, it was Bhuj that had
been the centre of activity. Given this, and given that the team was small
in numbers and scope of expertise (it was intended to bring earthquake
expertise, and did), the UNDAC team had little initial impact on the
information flow for the UN agencies which were present in the disaster
area and which maintained their own reporting functions and lines. WHO and
UNDP deployed staff together with the UNDAC team, which reinforced the
team both in health expertise and assessment techniques as well as in
local knowledge. Contacts with UNICEF were satisfactory good in Ahmedabad
but sparse in Bhuj, since UNICEF decided not to set up office in Bhuj.
Relations with WFP field staff was perceived by UNDAC to be good, albeit
distant. The On-Site Operations and Coordination Centre was strategically
well placed at the compound of the District Collector in Bhuj but not
large enough or well enough resourced to attract the other agencies to
join in and thus create a natural cooperative environment.
While the UNDAC team saw as its first priority task to coordinate the
international search and rescue teams, the late arrival of the team
rendered this marginal. Some assistance was provided in Ahmedabad for
teams arriving from 29 January on.
The UNDAC team members were perceived to bring added energy by arriving
fresh and rested. They had, and were seen to have, the strong team spirit
that is characteristic of the UNDAC system. They were also perceived as
task-oriented, if somewhat "elitist", in their work style. They were also
perceived as reporting more to Geneva than to anywhere else, and as not
being fully transparent in sharing reports and information bulletins. The
UNDAC reports did, in fact, go to UNDMT in Delhi as well as to Geneva, and
got better over time. The reports seem, however, not to have benefited
from the reports other agencies and organisations were filing at that
Soon after arrival, the UNDAC team was requested by the Resident
Coordinator to provide an interim report on the situation in the
earthquake-affected area by the 3 February. This was a task that the UNDAC
team leader judged to be outside of the team's competence, and he
requested guidance from Geneva on how to handle the request. It was
decided, after discussion, that the team should provide the report.
Eventually, with some delays, an UNDAC team Interim Report, dated 11
February, was delivered. An UNDAC team Final Report, dated 20 February,
was presented in Geneva. It was not clear to the team what the purpose of
the report was. If it was to provide background to the action plan by the
UN system in India that was presented to the media and in-country donor
missions on 6 February, the report was too late.
The development of the report caused friction between UNDAC/OCHA and
WFP. The friction arose because of a seemingly simple statement about food
needs as a result of the earth quake disaster in the draft UNDAC Interim
Report. The statement, while seemingly straightforward, was perceived by
WFP to question its programmatic approach to Gujarat. The merits of the
arguments on either side are less interesting than the fact that the
dispute was able to cause such a major diversion of effort on all sides,
and that it was not ultimately resolved without the intervention of senior
managers from OCHA and WFP. The incident highlights some of the weaknesses
in the deployment of this UNDAC team. It had no strong institutionally
experienced leadership in Bhuj or in Delhi that could help to sort out
issues such as this. With such leadership, the Interim Report, once
drafted, might have been processed within Delhi to ensure agency
ownership. As it was, however, it was never entirely clear as to whether
this was an OCHA /UNDAC report, which needed just to reflect the views of
the team, or whether it was a UN system report, requiring much broader
According to the United Nations agencies, UNDAC developed good
relations with the local government officials. But since the agencies had
their own established working relations, these were not seen as value
added for the agencies. In the field, however, there is no doubt that
strong ties with the local authorities were useful, both to the team and
to Indian authorities in their own efforts.
The UNDAC team did fill a gap in the information flow by focusing
strongly on gathering and systematizing information, by working
side-by-side with the local authorities, and by being able to help them in
getting answers to questions raised. One UNDAC member was committed
full-time to meeting with local administration officials to cross-check
information and damage-assessment data. The UNDAC team, however, was in a
weak position to use and share this information, as the team lacked the
equipment to do this, at least until the support modules were deployed
later on in the mission.
UNDAC took the initiative to set up sectoral and general coordination
meetings with agencies. This was generally perceived as useful. But,
again, UNDAC was perceived by some not to be managing the process of the
meetings strongly enough.
The physical working conditions improved only when WFP requested the
Swedish Rescue Services Agency (SRSA) to deploy the support modules that
had been on stand-by for approximately two weeks, in case UNDAC called for
them. OCHA had been asked by the SRSA if the modules were needed and had
indicated that they were not. The support modules eventually arrived in
Bhuj on 11 of February.
The link between the UNDAC team members in the field and the UNDMT is
Delhi was not satisfactory. It would seem that the UNDMT, appropriately
resourced and trained would be the only logical focal point for linking
the OCHA role and the in country UN system responsibilities. To make the
system fit and work well together requires some special attention at all
levels of the involved organisations.
The handover of the UNDAC knowledge and work to the UNDP unit for
recovery and rehabilitation was felt by those interviewed to have been
reasonably handled. UNDAC had to extend its stay longer than planned. The
UNDP handover team came in from Geneva and New York to assist the UNDP
office in setting up the recovery unit. For the outside observer, there
was a gap in activity for a week or so while the new team warmed up, but
then it moved ahead well, and with a new energy. This unit now is
presently focusing on UNDP's priority concern of programming for recovery
IV.5 Relations with the Government of India and with Indian NGOs
The overall impression gained from Delhi and also from Bhuj has been
one of consistently good relations between UNDAC and the Government of
India at all levels. The UNDAC team was regarded in Bhuj as a valuable
support to the local authorities.
The On-Site Operations and Coordination Centre was established within
the District Collector's office in Bhuj and this physical proximity with
local officials generally eased communications with the government. In the
words of a senior government official in Bhuj, "[the team] brought a sense
of calm purpose, seeming to know what they were there to do: just put down
their tables and started working. It was calming in that situation to have
them there." The UNDAC representatives judged the situation from a
different perspective and also anticipated problems likely to arise. They
assisted in systematising information that no- one else had the time to
deal with, and when the local administration was under pressure from all
quarters to share the latest news related to the disaster the UNDAC team
was ready with structured information about the international relief
The UNDAC team worked in a limited but positive capacity with the local
NGO, Abhiyan. Initially there were two daily coordination meetings: one
run by Abhiyan for the Indian NGOs and one run by UNDAC for the
internationals. The team supported Abhiyan's coordinating role in this
respect, and found a way to avoid unnecessary duplication.
IV.6 Relations with governments and national Search and Rescue
The UNDAC team had no direct contact with foreign government
representatives apart from those who visited the On-Site Operations and
Coordination Centre or crossed paths with them in the early days in
Ahmedabad. The UNDAC system was generally seen in by foreign governments
in the same light as the United Nations as a whole, that is, as having
responded too late, too little and in a manner which was ill-coordinated
and lacking in leadership. Though present in both Ahmedabad and in Bhuj,
strong views have been put forward suggesting the UNDAC team did not
appear to represent the United Nations system or provide leadership.
The On-Site Operations and Coordination Centre was only operational at
the very end of the search and rescue phase. The UNDAC team invested
considerable time and energy in locating and registering search and rescue
teams and obtaining their reports. They acquired a reasonable overview,
but could offer no significant services.
The Virtual OSOCC was used actively during this emergency and proved to
be a flexible and useful tool. It does depend on the active utilisation by
its members. Its members made active use of it to maintain contact with
the search and rescue teams.
IV.7 Relations with the Red Cross and international non-governmental
UNDAC and Red Cross working relations were good and mutually
beneficial. This can partly be explained by the fact that they already
know and understand each other's systems, since they develop them together
and conduct joint training programmes. Immediately after the disaster,
information exchange took place not only daily but several times a day,
though the Red Cross continued to pursue its own contacts with the host
government. Later, contact between UNDAC and the Red Cross continued but
was less formal. When the Red Cross set up its own data collection system
contact with UNDAC dwindled. Another reason for the generally
non-committal nature of the relationship was that in practice the Red
Cross depends on the United Nations neither for relations with authorities
nor for understanding the local context, resources or assessments. In
India, the Red Cross relied on the Indian Red Cross for relations with the
national authorities and turned to the international elements of the Red
Cross Movement as a basic resource.
The international NGOs are invariably critical of UNDAC, and the United
Nations in general, for failing to provide any leadership or to fulfil
their coordinating role. The United Nations is seen as unpredictable,
sometimes performing well and sometimes poorly. As one experienced person
has said, "OCHA's role is vital and huge opportunities exist for OCHA.
However, they seem unable to live up to these expectations." Criticism of
the UN system performance following the Gujarat earthquake is reflected in
the (UK) Disaster Emergency Committee monitoring mission report of March
2001, which can be found on the DEC website. DEC represents 14 experienced
British NGOs. While some of the specific criticism is justified in this
context, the strong condemnations very likely also reflect general
perceptions of the United Nations among European international
IV.8 UNDAC and the media
The United Nations in Delhi issued six press statements during the
initial earthquake response phase. Greater advantage could have been taken
of the opportunities offered by the media. One member of the UNDAC team
was requested to join the UNDMT in Delhi for the launch of the action plan
press conference. This seemed a reasonable request, but was perceived by
UNDAC as too time consuming, likely to detract from their tasks in the
field and not part of the team's mandate.
IV.9 OCHA headquarters' role in emergency action
The OCHA office in Geneva is charged with the management and
mobilisation of response resources for natural disasters, and is
responsible for deploying and supporting UNDAC teams.
OCHA's regional desks, which have recently undergone a reorganization
whereby each desk responsible for a specific geographical region now
covers both complex emergency and natural disaster response, seem
under-used as a reference for potential UNDAC opportunities and problems.
This seems particularly true in a case like this where there is no OCHA
field representative to provide that guidance and take responsibility for
decisions. Although OCHA's UNDAC system is theoretically almost
independent, in reality the situation, and the expectations the teams
face, justify a more hands-on approach. If the desk and the management in
Geneva responsible for deploying UNDAC teams and defining their tasks were
to extend increased support to these teams, UNDAC would be strengthened
and its resources better used, to the greater satisfaction of clients and
team members alike.
IV.10 OCHA as a source of information on disasters
OCHA Geneva provides a considerable amount of information through
situation reports on disasters. These depend, in cases like the Gujarat
earthquake, on secondary information obtained from the field, initially
gleaned from UNDMT daily updates, and later on from reports by the UNDAC
team in the field. These are rounded out with easily available updates
from Indian Government websites and from the Indian Permanent Mission in
Daily situation reports were issued over the first three days. There
was then a two-day gap before the next situation report, after which they
were published regularly until the UNDAC team's departure on 20 February
2001. The frequency of situation reports thereafter was determined by the
flow of reports from Delhi and from the disaster site. The Geneva office
found it hard to issue timely and substantive situation reports from the
meagre information arriving from the field, which gave an incomplete
picture of circumstances and developments in Gujarat.
Some potential users of the situation reports, such as donor
governments looking for a basis for decisions on allocation of resources,
require constant progress reports on fast-changing developments, and their
decisions may have been delayed by the break in the information chain.
Irregular reports are more useful to more passive participants who are
less dependent on the timeliness of the information and the level of
Information and analysis are key coordinating tools. Their collection
and dissemination must be carried out with the multiple interests of the
stakeholders in mind. It is possible that more than one tool should be
employed to meet the wide-ranging needs of clients.
IV.11 Geneva working level contacts with Governments
OCHA has well-developed relationships with a strong group of donors
which extends moral and financial support to OCHA in the interests of
strengthening United Nations coordination in complex emergencies. A
similar boost to resources and leadership may be required in the sphere of
natural and technological disasters.
The UNDAC teams are supported by a group of governments which are not
merely donors but which are also actively engaged in deploying and using
their national resources for international search, rescue and relief
operations. Increasingly this resource base is used both in natural
disasters and in complex emergencies. As underlined in the recent UNDAC
review, this places increased pressure on UNDAC teams in terms of
competence and knowledge of the capacities of other players. Rather than
using the teams more widely, it would be productive to focus first on
understanding how the operational environment for all kinds of United
Nations response intervention has changed.
Those donors wishing to use OCHA for operational contributions may find
that they are not the most effective partner. The flow of financial
resources through the organisation for relief assistance to earthquake
victims was minimal. In a fast-moving emergency in a country where it has
no established network of partners, OCHA's ability to engage in early
relief action may be limited.
The related issue of the modalities for launching resource mobilisation
campaigns and/or appeals requires some attention. It is an important part
of the service that OCHA offers Governments and organisations inclined to
channel contributions through the United Nations system. The Government of
India does not appeal for aid but welcomes aid being given as an
expression of solidarity. There is little doubt that a structured request
consolidated and issued by OCHA early on in the process would be helpful
both to donor and receiver. The precise format for this would of course,
have to be explored with Government of India representatives well in
advance of any disaster.
OCHA relations with governments outside the organisation's donor
network, and not involved in complex emergencies in countries where OCHA
has a presence, do not have a strong enough base. The result in the arena
of natural disaster response is that OCHA lacks the knowledge and status
necessary for providing relevant support on behalf of the United Nations
to the governments of certain affected countries.
IV.12 Geneva HQ relations with UN partners
While there is close cooperation and engagement in areas of complex
emergencies, there is much less senior level (and also technical level)
engagement with the relevant UN agency partners as far as natural
disasters are concerned. These issues have traditionally been given
limited attention at the political level of the organisation and middle
management has low expectations of strategic and practical cooperation. At
the same time, the information flow and the analysis of natural disaster
response issues seems limited both within OCHA and the other agencies
Were the intentions expressed in the Speth/Vieira de Mello letter of
1999 to be put into practice, and the model for frequent reporting on the
evolution of events, as described in the letter, to be adopted, the
Emergency Relief Coordinator would be provided with an opportunity to
develop UN and OCHA support to governments affected by natural disasters.
The senior leadership of OCHA and WFP were called upon to resolve the
issue that arose from the Interim UNDAC report, but they were given no
advance notice and no briefing on this event. This demonstrates the
prevailing need for a more active OCHA engagement in management and
deployment of teams, support to field teams and UNDAC members, and better
preparation of UNDAC teams for assignments involving cooperation with
in-country UN teams. It underlines the necessity of establishing a field
coordination function within the disaster-struck country, to resolve such
issues with authority and confidence before they poison inter-agency
relations and donor confidence in the judgement of agencies.
OCHA has several UN agency partners in disaster response. Its most
pivotal partner in the area of natural disaster response and preparedness
is the UNDP. While there is some measure of cooperation between the two,
it neither seems to lead to smooth cooperation in the field nor to a clear
cut adherence to the natural disaster response mandate given to these two
agencies by the international community. In the case of India, it appears
that both organisations may have decided to set up offices with regional
responsibilities for response preparedness and disaster preparedness. Both
organisations suffer when this confusion of mandates is openly exposed
before partners and donors.
V.1 United Nations response to the earthquake
Overall appreciation by all actors: weak, slow, confused and lacking
direction. It appears that the UNDMT group was in doubt as to whether to
respond to the acute emergency or to focus on planning for the early
recovery phase. While United Nations partners support the need for
internal coordination mechanisms, the reactions of other partners ranged
from viewing the mechanism as lacking in expertise and basic understanding
of disaster management, and as being unable to react swiftly, to actually
stating that there was no need for such an mechanism. It was felt that
greater investment of resources in the UN disaster response system might
improve its work.
This discouraging overview is mitigated by the positive comments of
individual agencies on cooperative and determined action. WHO both acted
in a focused and determined manner and contributed to good cooperation.
UNICEF did contribute to relief assistance in Gujarat by means of its
State representation and the assistance it offered to arriving UN agencies
by providing them with contacts and information about how to operate in
The United Nations is seen as a group of individual agencies each doing
its own thing. Agencies were unable to provide any leadership to donors
and non-UN partners seeking information and some direction. Some donors
appreciate the information provided by individual agencies or the carried
out by specific agencies, though these are generally the fruit of personal
It is commonly accepted that the United Nations lacks disaster
management capacity and skills in India, and that this is the result of
its traditional work focus but also of the long established policy of the
Government of India to assume an almost exclusive role in the rescue and
relief phase of a disaster. The rapidly changing environment in India has
given rise to opportunities for cooperation and mutual learning. OCHA and
UNDP could use this opportunity to facilitate support and engagement by
the international community with the Government of India in strengthening
national disaster management resources.
The deployment of an UNDAC team to assist the UNDMT with coordination
and assessment was a high-risk venture given the circumstances. The UNDAC
team was small and arrived too late for an entity intending to take up
leadership. The UNDMT needed support, and so did the UNDAC team. It
required logistical and administrative support, as well as information and
guidance. There was a vacuum where there should have been mutual
understanding between UNDAC and the UNDMT. This was observed in their
interpretation of their roles, in general and in the specific
circumstances of the Gujarat mission.
WFP was tasked to lead an NGO coordination info meeting in Delhi. The
meeting was perceived to be useful and informative. Some dDonor
governments attended this meeting as no other regular meetings were held
While the early phase was a disappointment to most, the early recovery
and rehabilitation phase was characterised by better action at field
level. However, an ability to work as a system and to engage donors in a
much-needed strategic dialogue on issues such as housing reconstruction
was not demonstrated.
OCHA has tended to focus mainly on complex emergencies. Natural and
technological disasters have been looked after by a machinery of response
mechanisms that has a strong base in UNDAC and the units that administer
and mobilise this resource. As a result, there is a gap in the strategic
and political significance afforded to natural disasters. Within OCHA,
this has led to less efforts and resources being invested in developing
further the required tools and strategies for natural disaster response
and coordination. Contacts and working-level relations between the senior
managers of OCHA and concerned Governments have not been close or have not
OCHA had no established working relationship with disaster management
authorities in India prior to the Gujarat earthquake, and relied heavily
on the excellent relations of a single middle management staff member for
its understanding and relations with India. Arguably the most
disaster-prone country in the world, India aspires to participate in
international cooperation. At the time of the earthquake OCHA staff and
management were seriously preoccupied with the helicopter crash in
Mongolia which killed members of an OCHA/UN assessment team, including
staff from OCHA and members of the UNDAC system. The senior management was
absent from the office.
The early reaction to news of the earthquake in India was to assume
that the Indian government would adhere to its established practice of
refusing international assistance in spite of pointers that this
government policy was undergoing a change. This initial hesitation
generated less than the desirable scope of the team. Though Delhi was
consulted about deployment of a team there was no shared analysis of
requirements or of the team's most crucial task. . No discussions took
place about the extent of logistical and administrative support the
UNDMT/UNDP could provide. The result was deployment of a team which lacked
appropriate equipment to carry out its work. The tardy deployment forced
the UNDAC team to spend their time catching up. Leadership can only be
provided if the aspiring leader is the first on-site.
The deployment of a team with such limited scope (small, late, and with
insufficient experience of the country) was tactically unwise. The UNDAC
system is questioned widely in United Nations circles. Its ownership is
unclear, and deployment in these circumstances exposed good professionals
to the risk of failure.
The UNDAC system has all the elements of a strong, versatile and
successful tool, provided it is led and managed with a strategic sense of
purpose and flexibility and teams are tailored to situations. Speed is
also of the essence. All this can be achieved.
The team was deployed in three separate groups, all arriving at
different times, and was inadequately briefed in Geneva and Delhi. The
accepted philosophy of all concerned seemed to be that UNDAC is self
reliant and "independent"; this unresolved role eventually led to unmet
expectations and friction between representatives of the United Nations
system in Delhi and the team in Bhuj.
OCHA information sharing was up to the mark in the first days after the
disaster. Four situation reports were issued in the first three days (two
on first day) but after the fourth day the situation reports started
appearing at intervals of several days. They depended on daily updates
from UNDMT Delhi and situation reports sent by UNDAC teams, as well as on
the official situation reports of the Government of India. OCHA situation
reports are factually well documented and cautious but authoritative. They
will continue to be too slow an information tool for the early phase of an
earthquake disaster if they cannot be issued with more timeliness and
The Virtual OSOCC is an OCHA information exchange tool developed to
give access to INSARAG and UNDAC teams to an informal and fast-moving
information tool. It has the potential to become an excellent information
tool of a less formal nature, if used by OCHA staff and by actors in the
field. As with all tools of this nature, it depends on the users to make
OCHA did not consider formally launching an appeal for resources for
the relief effort in Gujarat. There was a request by the UNDMT in Delhi
for an appeal-like process but OCHA declined this on formal grounds. OCHA
should consider establishing a more flexible format for resource
mobilisation in support of UN action in natural and other disasters,
designed to mobilise support without resorting to traditional "appeal"
models. It is a fact that many governments and institutional donors are as
much in need of the opportunity to provide assistance as countries
undergoing disasters are in need of resources.
When the UNDAC team was in trouble with the UNDMT about a request to
write a report, it would have been helped by strong guidance and support
by OCHA and an OCHA function which could have assisted in revealing the
risks entailed in such a report and could have approached the UNDMT about
the actual purpose and desired contents of the report.
The request for the report caused friction because the UNDAC team
believed that since they wrote the report, it should reflect their own
views. Meanwhile the UNDMT considered this report should reflect the UN
system's views and assessments. Given the situation the latter seems the
obvious choice but such issues require formal resolution if they are to
avoid detracting from future inter-agency relations. When the report
generated a debilitating conflict between the team and WFP, OCHA Geneva
did not take the lead in resolving the problem.
V.3 The UNDAC team
While the team and the team leader quickly realised their difficult
situation in being too late to provide serious leadership for the search
and rescue teams, and in being too few to address the overwhelming needs,
the team immediately sought to rationalise its role. The first group
arriving was a team of three persons.
The incoming UNDAC team was given a midnight briefing by senior members
of the UN Country team upon arrival in Delhi on 28-29 January, before
leaving for Ahmedabad at 06:15 on 29 January. The UNDMT group shared what
information they had at that point. The UNDAC team in Ahmedabad and in
Bhuj was working with two staff members from the UN team in Delhi: one
medical doctor from WHO and one UNDMT manager from UNDP. Both proved
invaluable for the team.
The desire to keep an antenna in Ahmedabad was sound. Once the full
force of the international organisations moved over to Bhuj, the rescue
and relief operation became too focused on Kutch, to the detriment of
other affected areas. The UNDAC team did not, however, have sufficient
personnel or resources to cover both locations.
The UNDAC team established the OSOCC in the compound of the District
Collector. This was an excellent location, laying the foundation for a
good relationship with the local administration in charge of leading the
rescue and relief operations. It was widely acknowledged that the team
established good relations with the leadership of the local
administration. The UNDAC team was also perceived to have been very
valuable for that administration in handling the international agencies
and managing some of the information gathering and sharing. The local NGOs
with whom the UNDAC team worked formed a generally positive impression
about the working style and openness of the team.
UNDAC team members are selected and trained to be task oriented, self
reliant and to function well as a team. While this helped the team to
withstand the difficult conditions and the lack of appropriate resources
to meet the expectations, it also generated some distance in the relations
with some of their working partners who felt that the team at times
behaved in an "elitist" way.
The UNDAC team dealt better with the expectations of the Indian
administration and the Indian counterparts than with those of the United
Nations system and the international NGOs. While the national counterparts
were unfamiliar with the system, and hence not in a position to be
specific in expectations, they were nevertheless positive about the
experience of having worked with the UNDAC team.
The international system - UN, international NGOs and donor Governments
- had more specific expectations on the one hand, but also more
responsibility to contribute to make the expectations on coordination
The team focused on information gathering, ad hoc assessments that were
not documented in writing, and on setting up more structured coordination
meetings -- not managing the meetings so much as ensuring that they took
place. They managed to put some structures into place and to provide a
focal point - the OSOCC - for visitors and people looking for information
to turn to. But the team was almost completely without the resources
needed to do this important job.
Software for databases was not user friendly and they had to restart
the database work more than once to get them to function. Team members
seem to have spent a large amount of time putting in data into databases
that they could not print out or otherwise share because of lack of
The team had one vehicle between them for the early period, seriously
limiting team members' ability to move around.
The team did not receive any support with incoming information flow
either from Delhi or Geneva about what the rest of the world saw happening
in Gujarat until a reinforcement to the team arrived, and began working
out of the Office of the Resident Coordinator in Delhi.
The UNDAC reports were not very informative in the early stage, but
Report writing is not a standard UNDAC role. As the team leader pointed
out when the team was requested to produce an interim report to the UNDMT,
the team was completely under-resourced and insufficiently briefed on the
country programme strategies of the various UN agencies to be able to
prepare a useful report in the necessary time-frame.
The assessments the team did carry out added little value. The team was
too small and limited in the required profiles to enable them to do a
thorough assessment. The issue of assessment is a strategic one. Most
agencies state they do not want the UNDAC to do assessment. The argument
is generally that UNDAC teams lack the expertise. But the basic issue is
about the profile and credibility each organisation invests in the quality
of its assessment. It would be of great value to the system, , if OCHA and
United Nations agencies would invest in rationalising assessment processes
while also making the assessments better.
The team felt -- and this was shared by most others in the field - that
relations with United Nations colleagues in the field were generally good.
The problems within the United Nations community were mostly in Delhi. The
UNDAC team was well aware of the view in Delhi that the team was failing
to provide needed information. For their part, team members felt that the
UNDMT was weak, and prone to internal competition between agencies.
The UNDAC team, and specifically the team leader, was not equipped to
handle the situations that the team faced. The team leader was experienced
as an UNDAC team member, but not experienced with the United Nations
system, which made it extraordinarily difficult for him to fulfil his
terms of reference. The normal practice of having a senior OCHA staff
member leading a team of this nature is sound. This team was abandoned to
fight fights they had little preparation for and tolerance with. Team
leaders need and deserve to get the training and preparation required to
handle the external relations of the team.
It seems that the team and the team leader could, at an early stage,
have made it clear to Geneva that more staff and equipment, either from
Geneva or from the local UN agencies, were required, as well as immediate
deployment of support modules. Had this reinforcement come early, this
could have changed the general perception of the outcome of the mission.
The standard Terms of Reference of UNDAC missions are clear on the role
and responsibilities of the team (though they are at variance with what
many UNDAC system members perceive their role to be). The practice is that
the ToR are discussed with the Resident Coordinator on arrival and agreed
upon. In practice the role of the ToR may be too flexible. It ought to be
the responsibility of the team leader to make sure that the agreement is
developed and pursued in dialogue. In particular, this will be important
if there seem to be disagreements about their role emerging.
V.4 Indian and international NGOs in Gujarat
Many Indian NGOs are very experienced and used to working with the
government in Gujarat. Most of them have no international counterparts,
though some of the major ones are used to working with international
partners. They have limited experience in disaster management since their
normal work is in development. The NGOs had already gained some experience
by participation in drought relief operations. The earthquake victims
could be immediately assisted in locations by these local NGOs.
Some of the large Indian NGOs observed that while they had been
functioning as partners to enable implementation of relief to some of the
international organisations, notably the United Nations, once this was
over it was unclear if the working partnership would continue. In one
case, an organisation commented that it had been referred to so often as a
partner of a specific agency that other potential donors and partners
apparently felt the NGO could not handle more, and avoided further close
contact. The lesson learned for this organisation was to ensure they have
a more active contact network, with its own partners and donors, so as not
to allow one donor, even unintentionally, to represent them and to give
The international NGOs present in the earthquake-affected area were a
mix. Some were organisations with a long engagement in development in
India, but without a strong local capacity for disaster response. Others
had this capacity available, partly by drawing on their resource base of
Indian staff. They were often experienced in working with media, and
generally enjoyed reliable funding from strong donor bases. They also had
long experience of working alongside and with the UN system, and this was
reflected in relationship that was sometimes uncomfortable. The monitoring
report of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), referred to above,
reflects a strong perception from the community of INGOs that the United
Nations' coordination efforts were a failure. This reflects, among other
things, a sense of frustration and unmet expectations from a community
that is looking for a well functioning and successful UN coordination
mechanism. As one observer points out, the INGOs are often not good at
operating in places where there are functioning Governments in the lead.
The INGOs are explicit in their expectation that the UN should provide the
role of being a go-between and a link to the Government. With the lack of
senior and unified UN presence in the Gujarat field operations, the UN
could not offer this to the INGOs. The UNDAC team could neither offer the
quick and updated information the INGO community had hoped for, nor could
it clearly indicate where there were gaps in the relief effort that needed
to be filled. There was a sense that the United Nations received
information but gave little information - and little of anything else - in
Local and international NGOs started their own coordination and
information sharing meetings in smaller groups. These were more productive
than the general meetings, and were particularly useful for agencies that
were not based in Bhuj. In the early phase of the relief operation there
were 3-4 parallel "coordination " points.
The Red Cross group had good, though not intense, working relations
with the UNDAC team. The Red Cross did not need the United Nations for
access to the authorities, as they had well established contacts of their
own. The Red Cross also started its own data gathering for relief, as the
UNDAC data gathering had not made enough progress.
V.5 Donors in Delhi
Representatives of donor governments based in Delhi expected initiative
from the United Nations system in providing information, and some
leadership, in the response to the earthquake. The donor group requested
the United Nations to call a meeting of donor government representatives.
The meeting - in the first week of the operation - "was difficult,"
unproductive, and was not repeated until 6 April.(There was one meeting in
between on the occasion of the visit of the UNDP Administrator. This
meeting did not focus on the earth quake response.) Following this first
meeting, donors reverted to pre-existing channels of communications with
individual agencies. A number of them visited Bhuj and shared information
Representatives of governments of member states of the European Union
group met as a group frequently, to exchange information and to receive
feedback from people visiting Gujarat and Bhuj. They did not consider
inviting UNDMT, which was not perceived to have information that would add
anything. The EU internal coordination functioned well.
The EU, and ECHO in particular, was an active partner in the response
effort, channelling substantial funds through a number of organisations,
including the Red Cross. Like others, they found it difficult to establish
a modus operandi without the United Nations system assuming what they felt
to be its role. The donor group was not experienced in emergency response
in India, though its members did have some collective experience with
working with the UN system on complex emergencies.
V.6 Government of India.
The Government of India mounted a massive, complex and largely
efficient early rescue and relief operation, for which it has received
little credit. After some early mixed signals, the Government of India
showed a great deal of flexibility in welcoming the international rescue
and relief personnel arriving to the country without much advance notice.
The public response and relief effort was also massive and important, and
may reflect important changes taking place within Indian society and
within the Indian economy.
The Government of India has also been quick to focus on areas in which
it believes it can improve its performance. It has taken measures to
strengthen its national and state level disaster management system, and
has developed a very flexible framework for cooperation with the
international system in contingency planning and in future disaster
VI. Recommendations to OCHA Senior Management Team
(These recommendations are addressed to the senior management team of
OCHA, which commissioned the present study, though several of the
recommendations would have implications for others.)
Most of the important lessons that need to be learned have at least
been identified before. The problem, it appears, is less in understanding
the problems and their solutions than it is in actioning those solutions.
With respect to the UNDAC system, the lesson learned study of the Turkey
earthquake deployment, and to some extent the UNDAC Review of 2001, are
relevant and should be read in parallel with the following.
The UNDAC system is a valuable tool for the implementation of OCHA's
assigned role within the international disaster management system. There
is a risk, however, that it could be marginalized as other similar
initiatives - within the United Nations system, within the European Union
and within the Red Cross Movement - gain momentum. To survive and prosper,
the UNDAC system will have to improve its performance. Deployments need to
be faster, to be better equipped, to be adequately manned, and to be
clearer about the role it is expected to play. For this to happen, a
number of things need to change.
VI.1 OCHA's management of the UNDAC system
1. Confirm the ownership of UNDAC by OCHA. The present ambiguity as to
the ownership of the UNDAC system - partly as a tool of governments,
partly as a tool of the United Nations system - is not helpful. The
responsibility of OCHA to drive the development of the UNDAC must be
established with its stakeholder group of Governments and United Nations
2. Assign accountability for driving the process within OCHA at senior
management level. The development process must be based on a clear
analysis of how UNDAC teams can support OCHA's role in the coordination
and mobilization of disaster-response resources. Such an analysis will,
among other things, call for the reweighting of skills within the UNDAC
system, with fewer search and rescue specialists, and more people with
broader humanitarian skills: information management; experience with
non-governmental organizations and the United Nations system, expertise in
the generation of appeals.
3. Ensure that UN partners and the governments of disaster-prone
countries know what the UNDAC system is, how it works, and what can
reasonably be expected of it when disaster strikes.
4. Acknowledge that UNDAC system performs a variety of different
functions, and needs to have a range of skills, resources and roles to
fulfil those functions. Sometimes, the UNDAC system will be required to
coordinate and service international search and rescue teams; sometimes it
will be require to work within or alongside a United Nations Country team;
sometimes its closest links will be to the host government. It is the
responsibility of management to assess the context of deployments and to
to get the team omposition and the expectations right..
5. Give more support to assist the UNDAC teams and the line management
to manage and lead according to the different requirements they face.
While the UNDAC teams will continue to be deployed to situations where
there are substantial United Nations Country Teams, there will still be
many situations where the team will be best deployed to provide direct
support to the national government authorities.
6. Ensure that, with the new structure in OCHA, UNDAC deployments will
have a managerial structure that supports, directs and analyses what is
needed in each specific UNDAC deployment, and ensure that UNDAC has the
ability to be flexible and adjustable to rapidly developing field
7. Evolve the desk system in the new OCHA structure to focus on
building country knowledge. The ground for a successful deployment is laid
between deployments. Desk Officers need to nurture contacts with potential
counterparts both at the political level and at the working level.
8. Ensure that the UNDAC teams returning from deployments are invited
to contribute to the further improvement of the system by taking part in
internal lessons learned exercises involving members of the management in
order to ensure the system's problems get sufficient exposure. It is
equally important to understand and document the factors that generate
9. Review and update the other response and service tools that OCHA
offers the international community. This includes the timeliness of its
situation reports, who is responsible for providing material and ensuring
that these are responsive to the audience's needs. A senior Indian
Government official remarked that he felt the Red Cross and INGO reporting
on their operations was excellent, and expressed a wish that the UN system
and the bilateral Governments would have similar reporting procedures.
10. Support the Virtual OSOCC. It is a good initiative that has
considerable potential for further development provided that its use
remains clearly understood and supported. At present, its principal
drawback is a lack of users. Resources could usefully be committed to
increasing awareness and use of the tool.
11. Enhance OCHA's ability to launch resource-mobilisation appeals.
Hitherto, the United Nations has not succeeded in generating appeals
during the critical first few days of a disaster when public and political
attention are greatest. Other organizations have managed to develop
'flash' appeal processes that could be adopted, with appropriate
modifications, for use by the United Nations system in certain
VI.2 Cooperation with UN agencies
12. Develop a standard operating procedure for implementing the intent
of the letter signed by Messrs Speth and Vieira de Mello on 26 March 1999.
This letter provides for the leadership of the ERC in natural disaster
response situations. The ERC, however, has never taken significant steps
to implement that letter. As a result, a Resident Coordinator without a
strong background in crisis management can find him or herself without
needed guidance and support.
13. Give priority to working with the most disaster-prone countries in
planning for a disaster situation. A more aggressive outreach programme in
high-vulnerability countries would provide strong returns.
14. Motivate all agencies involved in an operation to do joint
inter-agency lessons learned exercises, instead of each agency doing its
own internal exercise. These should be done at the management level as
well as among operational staff. There is a need for the progressive
improvement of senior management in natural disaster response.
15. Invest in revitalizing training for in-country disaster managers in
the UN system, the national system and with other organisations. UNDP and
OCHA have a shared responsibility to build local capability in disaster
16. No efforts should be spared to engage UNDP in active co-operation
to use scarce resources to contribute to building both local capacities
and the international response system. This includes contingency planning,
training, cooperation with non-UN partners, sponsoring innovative
frontline thinking and action, making use of a modern and easily available
technology; promote change.
17. Take the lead in developing inter-agency co-operation on rapid
deployment systems. UN partner agencies should be encouraged to contribute
specialized staff to OCHA deployment as a complement to and alternative to
building their own systems. This goes beyond technical contributions and
should aim at building transparency of mission objectives, a cooperative
environment on the ground and better performance of the system as well as
of individual agencies.
VI. 3 Indian and international NGOs
18. Strengthen understanding of the differences in expectations between
NGOs, members of the United Nations system and other stakeholders in
coordinated action. Non-governmental organisations do have some specific
needs that the United Nations can help meet. Engage NGOs in a
give-and-take process in testing ideas and models for cooperation in
specific situations. In order to reinforce mutual understanding, try to
encourage staff exchanges by recruiting staff familiar with and
understanding the motivation and conditions of the non-governmental
19. Support the further development of United Nations coordination.
Provide people and resources with the skills that make coordination
20. Assist the UN system to decrease competitive behaviour. Donor
governments share responsibility for the success of the system by being
consistent in its messages and action.
21. Support OCHA senior management in developing the system to better
suit the needs of disaster response of this decade. Confirm that OCHA is
the owner of the UNDAC system on behalf of the UN system and is held
accountable for its success. Recognise that the focus has moved away from
just supporting search and rescue efforts, and that some retooling is
necessary and warranting support.
22. Support the strict application of the selection criteria that the
UNDAC team has developed and introduced. Only sponsor UNDAC membership for
people who are genuinely available for UNDAC missions. Only taking this
seriously will ensure the credibility of the system.
23. Avoid supporting several international rapid deployment systems
that will contribute to having more actors on disaster sites competing for
staff and leadership roles. Donors may and have created a degree of
confusion by supporting very similar crisis-response systems which draw on
very similar range of support arrangements.
24. Initiate dialogues to clarify the role of OCHA and UNDAC, and to
keep expectations realistic. Support UNDAC by encouraging United Nations
agencies and others to provide personnel, resources and good interface to
the UNDAC system.
Annex 1. Principal documents used for background and
1. UNDAC team Final Report, 20 February 2001.
2. UNDAC team Interim Report, February 2001.
3. UNDAC REVIEW 2001, A Review of the United Nations Disaster
Assessment and Coordination team.
4. OCHA Situation reports 1- 11, issued in Geneva as of 26 January
5. UNDMAT Updates, issued in Delhi as of 26 January 2001.
6. UN Press releases on Gujarat earthquake, Delhi.
7. UN system action plan, Issued in Delhi February 2001.
8. Letter to all Resident Coordinators from Mr G. Speth and Mr S.
Vieira de Mello, 26 March 1999.
9. "Cooperation between UNDP and the UN Department for Humanitarian
Affairs" UNDP/ADM/93/57. 3 September 1993.
10. Terms of Reference for the UNDAC team.
11. UNDAC Field Handbook.
12. UNDAC selection criteria for UNDAC team members. (OCHA memo).
13. Various UNGA decisions re the creation of DHA and OCHA.
14. UNGA resolutions on the ERC mandate in natural disasters. (Internal
OCHA memo summarizing these.)
15. OCHA in 2001. Activities and extra-budgetary funding requirements.
16. UNDP Roles and Responsibilities for UNDMT. Draft Document April
17. The Earthquake in Gujarat, India: Report of a Monitoring Visit.
Disasters Emergency Committee, March 2001.
In addition, a substantial amount of internal materal relating to the
Gujarat earthquake response was shared by all the agencies and
organisations met with in the course of this study.
Annex 2. The Role of OCHA in Emergency UN Operations
following the Earthquake in Gujarat, India (January 26 2001): Lessons
Terms of Reference
Background: The earthquake in Gujarat/India on January 26 2001
triggered a large-scale international relief operation which posed a
complex coordination challenge to OCHA because of the magnitude of the
disaster and the involvement of a multitude of actors (governmental/ army,
bilateral donors, international Search and Rescue teams, NGOs, Red Cross,
Now that the emergency phase is over, it is a matter of high priority
to conduct a study in order to draw lessons concerning the over-all
coordination during the emergency phase. The study should be conducted
without delay in order to make sure that important lessons will not be
lost as efforts get underway for reconstruction, rehabilitation and
redevelopment of the region.
Specific Terms for the Study
1. Time focus: The Study will be limited to the emergency phase of the
response to the earthquake, i.e. from January 26 to the date that the
Government of India in Bhuj declared the emergency phase of operations
2. Substantive focus:
a) Within the context of the Government of India's position on
international assistance and the overall international response to the
earthquake in Gujarat, India, describe and analyse the overall response
mechanism of the UN system: The organisational set up and its evolution in
the course of operations.
b) Describe and analyse OCHA's role in providing assessment and
coordination leadership in the overall international response: Integration
and function within the overall coordination/assessment efforts.
c) Describe and analyse the mechanisms within the UN system, and OCHA's
role in this, to ensure liaison and coordination with non-UN partners: 1.
Government of India - 2. Bilateral donor Governments - 3. International
Search and Rescue teams - 4. NGOs, Red Cross - 5. Media.
3. Expected Outcome:
a) In its conclusions, which should be arrived at in consultation with
the Government of India both in the field and in the capital, the study
will provide a concise set of statements as to the adequacy of the UN
response within the context of its overall international response
mechanisms (cf. 2a), OCHA's assessment and coordination leadership (2b),
and the UN's internal organisation on the ground (2c).
b) Where the study finds shortcomings in the above-mentioned areas, it
will provide recommendations as to improvements for future operations.
a) Overall coordination for the Study, as well as administrative
support, lies with the OCHA's Policy Development and Studies Branch.
b) Relevant units of OCHA Geneva will provide the Study team with
background information and documentation as required, as well as guidance
in the practical conduct of the Study (partners on the ground to be
interviewed, advice on the OCHA's standard procedures for Disaster
c) The Study team consists of one consultant and one Policy Development
Officer provided by OCHA in Geneva.
On the basis of the information/documentation provided by OCHA Geneva,
and along the lines of the substantive outline under pt. 2a to c, the
Study team will conduct:
a) In depth interviews with concerned functionaries of the Government
of India in Bhuj, Gujarat and Delhi.
b) In-depth interviews of representatives of the UN country team
c) In-depth interviews of other partners (cf. 2c) on the ground in
d) In-depth interviews of relevant units within OCHA headquarters.
The consultant will spend two working days in Geneva in order to
collect background information (see 4 b/5 c). He/she then will proceed to
India for two weeks in order to conduct the field work (see 5 a/b). A
draft of the Study will be made available to OCHA, and through OCHA to
relevant partners, by mid-May. After receiving comments from OCHA and
relevant partners, a final version will be completed until end-May.
New York, 5 April 2001
Annex 3. List of persons interviewed in connection with
the present study
- Mr Ross Mountain, Assistant Emergency Relief Coordinator and
Director OCHA, Geneva.
- Mr Rudolf Muller, Response Coordination Branch, OCHA, Geneva.
- Mr Shinji Matsuka, Response Coordination Branch, OCHA, Geneva.
- Ms Ulla Lehmann Nielsen, Minister Counselor, Permanent Mission of
Denmark to the United Nations Office in Geneva.
- Mr Thomas Peter, Field Coordination Unit, OCHA/Geneva.
- Dr Piero Calvi-Parisetti, Consultant, Geneva.
- Mr Thomas Linde, Policy Development and Studies Branch, OCHA,
- Ms Anne-Marie Petit, International Organization of Migration,
- Ms Yasmin Aysan, United Nations Development Programme, Geneva.
- Ms Maria Olga Gonzalez, Emergency Response Division, UNDP, Geneva
- Mr Arjun Katoch, Chief, Field Coordination Unit, OCHA/Geneva.
- Mr Gerhard Putman-Cramer, Emergency Services Branch, OCHA/Geneva.
- Mr Jesper Lund, Member, UNDAC team for Gujarat earthquake and
OCHA/ESB/FCSS staff member, Geneva.
- Mr Edward Pearn, Head of UNDAC team for Gujarat earthquake, Geneva.
- Mr Simo Wecksten, Member, UNDAC team for Gujarat earthquake.
- Mr Sebastien Segioun, Member, UNDAC team for Gujarat earthquake.
- Mr Joseph Reiterer, Member, UNDAC team for Gujarat earthquake and
OCHA/ESB/MCDU staff member, Geneva.
- Ms Solveig Thorvaldsdottir, member of UNDAC team for Gujarat
- Mr Joe Barr, member of UNDAC team for Gujarat earthquake, Canberra.
- Mr Steffen Schmidt, Member of UNDAC team for Gujarat earthquake,
- Ms Carolyn McAskie, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Geneva.
- Mr Werner Schleiffer, Director, WFP Office, Geneva.
- Mr Kenzo Oshima, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs
and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Geneva.
- Mr Sharat Sabharwal, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Mission
of India, Geneva.
- Mr Martin Griffiths, Director HD Centre, Geneva.
- Ms Janet Lim, Director, Emergency and Security Services UNHCR,
- Mr Michel Gaudé, Chief, Emergency Preparedness and Response Section,
- Mr Craig Sanders, Senior Officer, Emergency and Security Services,
- Mr Toni Frisch, Head Swiss Disaster Relief, Government of
- Mr Jean Ayoub, Director, Disaster Management and Co ordination
division, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent
- Mr Halvor Fossum Lauritzen, Director International Department,
Norwegian Red Cross and Federation team leader in Bhuj 27/1-25/2
- Mr Mukesh Kapila, Head, CHAD, DFID London.
- Mr Matthew Baugh, Head of Humanitarian Programmes team, CHAD, DFID
- Mr Rob Holden, Crisis Response Manager, CHAD, DFID, London
- Mr Louis Sida, Save the Children Fund, London.
- Mr Robert McGillivray, Save the Children Fund, London.
- Mr Tony Vaux, Independent Consultant, London
- Mr Alan Matthews, Emergency Response team, CHAD, DFID,
In New Delhi, India
- Mr Dennis Lazarus, DRR Operations, UNDP, Delhi/Convenor UN DMT,
- Dr Rajan Gengaje, UNDP DMT, Delhi.
- Ms Jyoti Rao, UNDP DMT, Delhi.
- Dr T. Walla, Deputy Head, WHO Country Office, Delhi.
- Dr Egil Sorensen, WHO Regional Office for Southeast Asia.
- Ms Maria Calivis, UNICEF Country Representative, Delhi.
- Mr Ajit James, Procurement Officer, UNICEF, Delhi.
- Mr George R. Aelion, WFP Programme Advisor (and UN DMT focal point),
- Mr Ashok Koshy, IAS, Additional Chief Secretary and Commissioner,
Government of Gujarat.
- Mr Jonas Lovkrona, Deputy Head, Development Cooperation Section,
Embassy of Sweden, Delhi.
- Mr Robert Mister, Emergency Response Division, UNDP, Delhi.
- Mr Alan Bradbury, Regional Disaster Preparedness Delegate,
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Delhi.
- Mr Bob McKerrow, Head of Regional Delegation, International
Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Delhi.
- Mr Peter DelaHaye, Deputy Director of Operations, UNICEF, Delhi.
- Mr Peter Medway, Emergency Programme Officer, UNICEF, Gujarat.
- Mr Pedro Medrano, Country Representative, WFP, Delhi.
- Mr R.R. Shah, Additional Secretary, Government of India, Delhi.
- Mr Mandhuka Gupta, Facilitator, UN Special Initiatives, UNDP, Delhi.
- Mr Gopi Menon, Gujarat earthquake focal point, DFID, Delhi.
- Ms Dorothy Gordon, Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP, Delhi.
- Mr Hiroshi Yamane, Counselor (Development), Embassy of Japan, Delhi.
- Mr Anil Sinna, Head, National Centre for Disaster Management, Delhi
- Mr Jaap Jan Speelman, First Secretary and State Coordinator Gujarat,
Netherlands Embassy, Delhi
- Mr William S. Berger, Regional Advisor, United States Office of
Foreign Disaster Assistance, Nepal.
- Mr Jose Felix Merladet, Head, Office of the European Commission,
- Mr Luis Lechiguero, Advisor, European Commission, Delhi.
- Ms Geeta Narayan, UNFPA, Delhi.
- Mr Jens Boye Möller, First Secretary, Danish Embassy, Delhi.
- Mr Maurizio Bussi, Deputy Director, ILO, Delhi
- Ms Brenda McSweeney, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident
Representative , Delhi.
- Mr B Murali, Senior Executive Officer, UNDP, Delhi.
- Mr Praveen Singh Pardeshi, UNDP Programme Manager, Gujarat.
- Mr Mihir R. Bhatt, Disaster Mitigation Institute, Ahmedabad.
- Ms Reema Nanavathy, General Secretary, SEWA (Self Employed Womens
- Mr M. Sahu, Additional Chief Executive Secretary, Gujarat State
Disaster Management Authority.
- Dr PK Mishra, CEO, Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority.
- Mr Sarath Dash, Project Manager IOM, Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
- Dr Yogendra Mathur, UNICEF Gujarat State Representative
- Dr Siddharth Nirupam, Project Officer, UNICEF Gujarat State Office.
- Mr V. Thiruppugazh, Director , Gujarat State Disaster Management
- Mr Sundhanu Shekhar Singh, Deputy Programme Manager, Catholic Relief
- Mr Arockiam V., Chief Coordinator, Relief and Rehabilitation
Programme, CARITAS India.
- Wing Commander Deepak Sathe, Indian Air Force Station,
- Mr Jean Jacques Graisse, Director Operations, WFP Rome.
- Ms Angela van Rynbach, Deputy Director Asia and CIS regional bureau,
- Mr Francesco Strippoli, Head Office of Humanitarian Affairs, WFP
- Mr Allan Jury, Chief Policy Service, WFP Rome.
- Ms Robyn Jackson, Senior Officer, Policy Service, WFP Rome.
- Ms Sarah Longford, Emergency Officer, ALITE, WFP Rome.
- Mr Thomas Keusters, Chief Logistics Officer, WFP
- Mr Kjell Larsson, Head International Department, Swedish Rescue
Services Agency, Stockhom.
- Mr PA Berthlin, Senior Liaison Officer, International Department,
Swedish Rescue Services Agency, Stockholm.
- Mr Dag Nielsen, Ericsson Radio Systems AB, Stockholm.
- Mr Johan Schaar, Deputy Head of Humanitarian Assistance Office,
- Ms Marika Fahlen, Ambassador, Global Cooperation Department,
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Stockholm.
United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination team (UNDAC)
Terms of Reference
The United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team
ensures close links between country-level and international relief
coordination efforts following sudden-onset disasters. It assists in
meeting international needs for early and qualified information on the
situation and, when necessary, in the coordination of international relief
at the site of the emergency. The following are generic terms of reference
for the mission of an UNDAC team, which may be modified depending on the
requirements of a given emergency situation.
When on mission, the UNDAC team:
1. assists and works under the authority of the United Nations Resident
/ Humanitarian Coordinator (the Coordinator), or any other humanitarian
lead entity appointed by the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator;
2. participates in the work of the United Nations Disaster Management
team (DMT) in country, in support of the relief efforts of the country
affected as well as those of the international humanitarian community;
3. focuses on on-site and cross-sectoral support of emergency
information and response coordination, in accordance with established
UNDAC field coordination guidelines. If required, the UNDAC team assists
in the identification of common support requirements, such as
telecommunications, for the effective delivery of international
4. assists in the joint assessment of the emergency situation and
international relief requirements stemming from it, with a particular view
to the consistency of assessment information and relief programmes across
the sectors involved and the identification of priority areas in need of
5. when required by the emergency situation, supports the establishment
of an On-Site Operations Coordination Centre (OSOCC), for the effective
integration and use of international relief assets in support and under
the leadership of the appropriate national emergency management authority;
6. reports to the Coordinator and informs him/her of developments in
the emergency situation and other information which might be included in
field and OCHA situation reports distributed to disaster relief
organizations and the international community;
7. when appropriate, assists in the preparation of an appeal for
immediate international assistance - if requested by the government of the
country affected - under the leadership of the Coordinator;
8. maintains links with and reports on the progress of its mission to
OCHA headquarters throughout the duration of its mission.
Annex 5. Lesson learned as offered by agencies and
organisations talked with during the study
This annex introduces, without attribution or further comment, brief
lessons that interviewees felt should be learned from the emergency relief
phase of United Nations response to the Gujarat earthquake. Where
possible, the comments are direct quotations from interviewees.
- Governments don't know and understand the mandate of OCHA, let alone
UNDAC. Nor do agencies.
- It must be clearer to everyone - including the UNDAC team members -
what UNDAC's role is. Does it do appeals? Does it do assessments
independent of UN agencies?
- There is a need to learn how to use assessments better. Assessment is
not the end of the process. It is a dynamic and on-going process.
- Coordination within the United Nations system does not exist at the
Delhi level. There is no functioning mechanism for it. Each agency wants
to establish its own identity and its own visibility. Identity is not with
the United Nations, it is with the individual agency - or just with the
- Were organisations able to use the funding given for immediate use?
For what purpose?
- Who's going to use the database being set up? The user's angle is the
only measure of its value.
- The identification of a lead agency identification within each sector
- Media pressure drives the "story", until it all suddenly goes quiet.
If you miss the wave, forget the funding.
- There was a cost associated with not having a presence in Bhuj: a
trade-off had to be made between visibility and performance.
- The United Nations has a better appreciation of the Government's
problems than its own NGOs and media.
- Uneven relief distribution creates political problems.
- Line management of supplies: concentrate on basic infrastructure
restoration and do not get all carried away with distribution of relief.
- Understand and appreciate the mental state of people in the disaster
-- give them hope through clear and purposeful action.
- The Government of India provided 80% of the resources for the
response, yet the international NGOs were the most visible.
- The Abhiyan coordination network gave image of a strong NGO and a
- UN Resident Coordinators do not seem to be chosen for their
crisis-management skills. Their basic instincts are almost always in the
development area, which are often inappropriate in a fast-moving
- Good coordination is about speed, having a ready-made tool box for
information sharing and coordination.
- If you cannot send the best people, or do the job properly, better
not send anyone at all (the cost is too high in loss of credibility).
- Training should be given to people going on emergency missions and
for DMT members.
- Disaster areas get "flooded" with teams creating confusion. Try to
streamline the inter-agency missions and have joint teams, and fewer
teams. There was an initial idea to have joint team.
- A lot of energy in the beginning but then it fizzled out. Initiating
response seems to be easier than sustaining it.
- UNDAC teams should incorporate members of the in-country UNDMT,
including national professionals. This arrangement should be hard-wired
into the United Nations system.
- Perhaps I had too high an opinion of UN people. I was really
disappointed. Lots of turf wars.
- UNDAC team should have been 15, not 5.
- Visibility is important. You are flying the UN flag.
- In UNDAC we tend to see ourselves as experts from countries. The UN
tend to se us as UN people. This is often wrong; we do not know enough to
play a useful role in "the UN process."
- Team leaders should have, and deserve to be given, special team
- Need to have ready tool kit of reporting formats and style sheets for
all we do. No time to invent anything in the field.
- Information is a market place. You have to give to receive.
- The United Nations should not be used at all in disaster response.
- The failure of the UN system cannot be replaced by an UNDAC team.
- Emergency response going through a competitive development, and the
United Nations is going to lose out.
- OCHA is a "political buffer" to Governments.
- Coordination and partnering requires goodwill. There is no reward
system in the UN for people who do it well.
- The UNDAC mission was doomed before they left the ground: the team
composition was too light; there were no resources, and OCHA's leadership
was not engaged.
- OCHA's performance has been so up and down, so people just said this
is a bad one, and gave up.
- There is a need for an "OCHA"- it is the way this role is executed
that creates friction at times.
- There are sometimes unrealistic expectations of coordination. The
best experience is when it is light, flexible and able to move with fast
moving situations. It is worst when another heavy structure comes in on
top of other (heavy) structures.
- UNDAC training too focussed on the search and rescue which is, in any
case, only for the first 3-4 days.
- UNDAC managed not to offend anyone (except WFP). It is an
- Bring in people who can cope, like UNDAC provides.
- We felt used by UN system. Our name was used so often that their
donors withdrew from funding and co-operation, and opportunities were
With the exception
of public UN sources, reproduction or redistribution of the above text, in
whole, part or in any form, requires the prior consent of the original
Earthquake - Jan 2001
Latest By Country: India
ReliefWeb documents by: UN
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Source URL: http://www.reliefweb.int/
Home Page: http://www.reliefweb.int/