Coordination for Environmental Mainstreaming in Disaster Management


Unlike many other humanitarian activities, coordination does not follow a chronological order but is a continuous activity that underpins all elements of the Humanitarian Programme Cycle. Coordination seeks to adjust ongoing humanitarian activities to address gaps, reduce duplication in response efforts and help to identify and meet priority needs.

The coordination mechanisms used will depend on the specific type of crisis (sudden-onset or protracted) and the country context. The host government or local authority may establish coordination mechanisms. There are also formal or informal coordination forums which can provide support on environmental issues, such as NGO-specific groups or information-sharing mechanisms. Of particular importance are national and locally active environmental groups, as well as environmental ministries or departments (which are often represented at sub-national levels).

Clusters are groups of humanitarian organizations, both UN and non-UN, active in each of the main sectors of humanitarian action, e.g. water, health and logistics. They are designated by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) and have clear responsibilities for coordination. Note that cluster members may have strong environmental policies and practice. Building alliances between such cluster members can be an effective approach to coordination within a cluster and among specific cluster members.

Coordination is a key mechanism for mainstreaming environment in humanitarian action. Environmental issues do not fall neatly into specific clusters or sectors, but are often cross cutting. As part of the Humanitarian Reform Agenda in 2005 environment was established as a cross-cutting issue. As most environmental issues affect multiple clusters/sectors at once, it cannot be viewed as the concern of a single cluster. Consequently, the systematic integration of environmental concerns has to be coordinated across multiple sectors in a response. The Humanitarian Country Team and the Inter-Cluster Coordination Group provide entry points to include environmental consideration into the overall coordination process. In addition, Cluster coordinators are responsible for mainstreaming all cross-cutting issues into the work of their cluster or sectors and coordinating with other Clusters where appropriate or relevant.

However, the coordination of environment-related actions remains a key challenge with a general lack of clear environmental leadership and accountability in the humanitarian system. Because no single cluster is responsible for the environment, a ‘tragedy of the commons’ situation can emerge. Nonetheless, there are important coordination-related actions that significantly advance environmental mainstreaming, such as proactively establishing partnerships with international, national and local environmental actors, including environmental concerns in strategic discussions and decision-making, and disseminating environmental information within and across different clusters/sectors.

Examples of environmental coordination across sectors exist, for example in the Typhoon Haiyan response in the Philippines in 2013. As a consequence of the typhoon, hundreds of thousands of coconut trees were felled, destroying the livelihoods of tens of thousands of farmers. Two of the major humanitarian needs following the storm were clearing the debris to enable agricultural production and restore livelihoods, and sourcing timber for housing reconstruction. The Early Recovery Cluster, in collaboration with the Shelter Cluster and the Philippines Coconut Authority, recognised the opportunity to tackle these needs simultaneously and began a timber management project. This inter-cluster initiative addressed the issue of clearing debris while providing work and allowing livelihoods to flourish as agricultural activity was able to resume. At the same time, felled trees were recycled, creating a supply of timber for reconstruction and dissuading deforestation that could, in turn, lead to further negative repercussions on the natural ecosystem and human livelihoods. Read more here.

to top
icon-menu icon-close icon-account icon-arrow icon-down icon-back icon-pointed-arrow icon-left icon-up icon-bookmark icon-share twitter facebook2 printer envelope icon-close-alt icon-top icon-loading icons / login