In emergencies, aid operations are complex and multi-sectoral. Coordination is critical in IDP and refugee programmes, where there are often numerous agencies working in the same location. The effectiveness of the aid will depend on the ability of the operators on the ground to respond quickly to priority needs. Every crisis is unique and requires a specific response tailored to the health and political situation.
There is a heavy resource investment, in terms of personnel, logistics, food and medical services. Access to some sites may be quite limited, due to the security situation or the geography of the site or region.
Without good coordination, any aid programme can become chaotic and fall behind for lack of prioritisation, and produce the opposite of the desired aim.
In population displacement situations, the usual partners are the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, if the population crosses a border,
(screen text: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
the host country authorities, representatives of the displaced population and the various national and international NGOs.
The UNHCR’s mandate involves support by the States for managing displacement situations, promoting the rights of refugees, and protecting them and their legal status. It can also manage the material assistance supplied by the aid organisations. The UNHCR generally takes the lead in physically organising the camps or sites and coordinating the assistance.
Nevertheless, the other partners also play a major role in coordination.
To provide rapid, effective aid, relief agencies must work together and define objectives and allocate tasks. By setting priorities together on what relief to provide, making decisions quickly and using standardised tools whenever possible, high quality aid is possible.
Decision-making requires more than just informal contact and good cooperation. Communication needs to be set up and formalised. For the most part, this means ad hoc meetings and a regular exchange of information.
There is generally some delay before someone takes the initiative and responsibility to coordinate things. If the UNHCR or the host country fails to get involved, it’s up to the humanitarian organisations to set up a coordination team and, if necessary, assume leadership.