The way the UK responds to humanitarian emergencies such as the Haiti earthquake will be the subject of a comprehensive review, Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell will announce today.
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon will lead a taskforce of humanitarian experts from inside and outside government to review all aspects of how the UK Government responds to disasters and works with the international community to speed up the delivery of aid.
The review is launched six months after the devastating earthquake in Haiti which claimed more than 230,000 lives. It will look into how the UK - already considered one of the best countries at humanitarian deployments - can build on its strengths in responding impartially to humanitarian needs and help ensure future disaster responses can be better prepared and coordinated.
The review will also look at how the UK can best work with international bodies and UN agencies in emergency situations to ensure that the global response to disasters improves.
At the same time, natural disasters are getting more frequent. The numbers of people affected by disasters are predicted to rise from some 250 million a year at the moment to 375 million by 2015.
Announcing the appointment, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said:
This new taskforce will look at the UK’s system to ensure we are at the forefront of disaster response efforts. I want us to be the model for other countries. The taskforce will be pushing for much-needed improvements in how international operations are managed.
The UK public have repeatedly shown enormous generosity to those in need. It is vital that the entire international system is ready to meet the challenges of future disasters.
Lord Ashdown said:
The emergency response taskforce will ask searching questions of the UK and international response to ensure we are fully prepared and equipped, as well as providing value for money.
As the number of natural disasters is set to increase dramatically, the emergency response taskforce will make sure the Government is well prepared for future catastrophes.
The emergency response review will focus on:
Ensuring value for money and impact: With the number and complexity of disasters expected to double over the next ten years, it will help ensure value for money and effective impact on the ground.
Skills and expertise: The taskforce will look at how DFID can ensure our own humanitarian experts can use their skills to strengthen the leadership of the international system, such as how DFID seconds staff to UN posts and what training we provide.
An international review of humanitarian professionals around the world (in 2005) identified a potential lack of experts in critical sectors such as protection, shelter and early disaster recovery.
Coordination with UN, humanitarian organisations and the private sector to ensure that the UK is helping to make international efforts more efficient, effective and well-coordinated. The National Audit Office report into the Asian Tsunami found that monitoring undertaken by DFID showed delays were occurring in implementing some international projects and this meant that unspent grants were being held back from people in need.
Delivery of aid: DFID has delivered 860 tonnes of non-food aid from its stocks in the UK and Dubai in the past 6 months. The review will test how well this system is set up and make sure the right material and equipment is in the right place at the right time.
Coordination with the rest of government: The Taskforce will investigate how DFID should coordinate with the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth office to share resources where appropriate.
Technology: the review will look at how to maximise the use of new technologies such as mobile phone, satellite mapping and food innovations.
For example, in Haiti, Columbia University and the Karolinska Institute were able to analyse mobile phone data provided by the telephone company Digicel to map the migration patterns of displaced people following the earthquake in Haiti and discovered that 22% of the population had left Port-au-Prince by the end of January.