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Enhanced Partnerships for Global Humanitarian Relief and Diplomacy

Contributed by IBM Global Services
IBM Business Resilience & Continuity Services



Proactive and experienced support during a disaster

Today, millions of dollars of donated humanitarian relief funds, supplies and resources, along with thousands of hours of volunteer time, are sometimes ineffectively utilized in the responses to global crisis events. Duplication of effort, lack of direction, poor communications, limited cooperation and a need for diplomacy are among the factors that contribute to this dilemma.

A public and private sector global partnership that is embraced by major corporations, the United Nations (UN) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) could provide a unique opportunity to combine individual skills, resources and knowledge in a manner that would significantly improve the way disaster relief is delivered globally. Such enhanced partnerships can help reduce redundancy and effectively match crisis needs against available resources while maximizing the benefits of donations, accelerating recovery and reducing suffering.

Steps to success

The four major steps to a successful enhanced partnership are:

  • Private sector Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and data collection

Each private sector company that participates in the partnership would be asked to sign a volunteer MOU, a document that represents a corporate community relations offer to potentially provide products, services, skills or other resources during a global humanitarian crisis. In the MOU, each company would provide the name of a contact person, e-mail address, and telephone number that could be called at any time for the purpose of notification and coordination in the event of a global crisis.

The information collected would be used to create a central database where potential donor resources could be sorted by type, global location, quantity and availability. The partnership would then update and validate the information quarterly. “Open system” architecture would link the database with UN and NGO systems as needed.

  • Deployable critical incident management resources

In the event of a crisis, the partnership would immediately deploy a highly skilled field operations team into the disaster area. Working directly with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)—a UN agency, responding NGOs, and authorized government officials from the impacted country, the team would assist with the rapid assessment of damage and the identification of immediate response and recovery needs. The centralized database of MOU resources would be tapped to first find a match against the response and recovery needs and then issue a request for support. In cooperation with the United Nations Joint Logistics Center (UNJLC), the partnership would receive, manage and deploy donated supplies, resources and services to reduce redundancy and deliver supplies where they are truly needed.  Centralized reporting and real-time status updates would be provided to all agencies and participants.

  • Diplomatic efforts

Global disasters are tragic, yet they often provide a unique opportunity to build diplomatic relations between disparate groups. Natural disasters in particular can be catalysts for finding common ground and, in some cases, achieving peace. For example, on July 20, 2005, President Yudhoyono of Indonesia ordered the Indonesian Armed Forces to halt all military operations against the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). This 29-year conflict, with over 12,000 casualties, may finally end because of diplomatic efforts that began as a result of the tsunami-related cease fire. An enhanced public and private sector partnership can encourage other, similar diplomatic actions by gaining agreement on common goals: help victims, save lives, reduce risk and increase community resilience against disasters.

Enhanced partnerships can play an important role in the processes of building consensus and obtaining support from multiple private sector, government, UN and NGO organizations. Therefore, these partnerships cannot have a political, self-serving or economic agenda. They must remain neutral, build trust, find common ground and foster commitment. The ideal partnership team must include representatives from all major sectors and agencies.

  • Funding and structure

One major consideration for an enhanced partnership is its international status and its ability to raise and receive funds required for operation. To maintain the neutral political, economic and social standing


The partnership deploys a field operations team to assess recovery needs, which can be drawn from the database. A public and private sector partnership can encourage diplomatic relations and actions that emphasize common goals among disparate groups. The partnership should maintain a neutral political, economic and social stance for structure and fundraising.

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G510-6480-00 required for success, an international non-profit foundation (501-C3) appears to be the best fit. One such organization is the Global Partnership for Preparedness (GPP). This non-profit was established approximately one year ago. The Disaster Recovery Institute International (DRII) provided the initial financial support with private sector donations and endorsements from Public and Private Businesses, Inc. (PPBI) and many leading private sector corporations. The primary mission of GPP includes fostering global cooperation and coordination in disaster response and recovery. The GPP mission also includes supporting community preparedness and resilience efforts in the United States and internationally. To accomplish its mission, the partnership must operate delicately in close cooperation with UN and NGO agencies and major business organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable. The partnership will require a structure that can easily link and adapt to this global mix.

Current activities

In addition to the actions of the GPP, UN disaster relief coordination programs led by OCHA have begun to reach out to the private sector with an interest in building the type of partnership described in this article. Efforts are also underway to consolidate many of the public and private sector open systems and practices that were successfully developed and deployed in response to the December 26, 2004, Asian tsunami. With focus, dedication and lots of hard work, enhanced global public and private partnerships can lead the way toward achieving new levels of disaster resilience.

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