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Nine lessons to consider in urban response

Posted on 14 December 2012

Today, ALNAP is publishing nine important lessons to consider when responding to urban disasters. Focusing mainly on earthquakes and flooding, this latest ALNAP Lessons Paper  attempts to capture what is currently known about disaster response in urban contexts taking into account recent urban disasters such Typhoon Ketsana in the Philippines (2009), the Haiti earthquake of 2010 and the Northeast Japan earthquake and tsunami of 2011.

Who is the paper for?
The paper is intended as a field resource to be referred to in pre-deployment training and during emergency response. It will be useful for people in planning and implementing relief and early recovery operations in urban areas. Although the paper is targeted at people working for international agencies, the majority of lessons will also be valuable to civil society organisations and national government agencies.

Download: ALNAP Lessons Paper ‘Responding to Urban Disasters: Learning from previous relief and recovery operations’

French and Spanish versions of this Lessons Paper will be available in early 2013.

Find more resources around urban humanitarian response on the ALNAP/UN-Habitat Urban Humanitarian Response Portal.

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Regan Potangaroa

Regan Potangaroa (UNITEC) 14 December 2012, 17:22

Light weight and perhaps lacking operational realities. What do terms such as "should have clear boundaries, but remain fexible" mean? The "Always" in "Always work with local authorities and communities, and coordinate effectively", means what? does "always" really mean "always"? What happens when the local authority wants to clear out the community, what about when part of the community is gang based, what about... Both of these were encountered in Port au Prince and in Christchurch. And just what does "effectively" mean and to whom? "Use assessment and targeting approaches that suit urban complexity." Means exactly what? It suggests that "Coordination is the key" to this but is that it? Should we just focus on coordinating rather than doing something/anything in the fear of duplication? And again coordinate with whom? By now I was frustrated. It would seem that this work was largely desk bound and distant and collected the so-call lessons learnt by others without considering the context of that material. It badly lacks the operational realities of achieving positive outcomes.

Paul Knox Clarke

Paul Knox Clarke (ALNAP) 3 January 2013, 11:24

Dear Prof. Potangaroa,

Many thanks for your comment!

We are obviously concerned that you felt the paper lacked operational realities, although we do not agree. While the paper was explicitly billed as a literature review, the authors have significant field experience, and the paper benefited greatly from extensive comments provided by operational colleagues. With respect to your comments on the headings, we expect that readers will find clarification - if not definitive answers - on all of these points (the boundaries under discussion; ways of flexible working; the challenges of working with government; the nature of 'effective with relation to coordination) in the text. We should obviously review the headings to ensure that they are not misleading; however, we would encourage readers to engage with the full text of the paper. If the review identifies one thing, it is that there are not definitive urban 'answers'. Perhaps, given the variety of contexts, this is neither possible nor desirable. However, we would be very grateful for examples from Haiti, New Zealand and elsewhere that help expand the response community's understanding of these difficult questions. You may wish to upload any literature that you have on these responses to the Urban Portal so that your experience can be incorporated in future versions of the paper, and more broadly.

With best wishes,
Paul Knox Clarke

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