Virtual Environmental and Humanitarian Adviser Tool – (VEHA Tool) is a tool
to easily integrate environmental considerations in humanitarian response. Field Implementation guidances are useful for the design and execution of humanitarian activities in the field.
Information Management is the collection, storage, curation, dissemination, archiving, and destruction of documents, images, drawings, and others sources of information. Activities will be quite similar for both protracted and sudden-onset emergencies, although the timing of tasks will change. In a sudden-onset emergency a lot of work will need to be undertaken in the first few weeks of the emergency (e.g. the development of the Strategic Operational Framework/Strategic Response Plan), while in a protracted emergency, these tasks can be planned ahead. Proper Information Management is critical at the Needs Assessment, Strategic Planning and Monitoring and Evaluation steps of the Humanitarian Programme Cycle.
Including environment in Information Management during Humanitarian operations could empower governments, communities, humanitarian assistance agencies, and other stakeholders in evidence-based decision-making for sustainable goals.
It is essential to have clear and careful data protection policies and processes in place to ensure appropriate storage, controlled sharing and timely deleting of sensitive data during emergencies. Sensitive data could include photographs of the affected population, details of their identity documents, records of names, addresses or details of their health, income, livelihoods, or sensitive government information.
Information Management normally includes the handling of data about vulnerable people. This information must be carefully sourced, managed, protected, and appropriately deleted, to protect vulnerable crisis-affected people.
Sex-age disaggregated data or considerations, and other vulnerability or inclusion information should be captured in Information Management to support gender, age, and other vulnerability-sensitive strategic planning and programming.
Natural Resource depletion
Humanitarian Information Management activities can have the following environmental impacts:
Lack of coordination and collaboration leading to poor consideration of environment in nutrition response design. Consumption of energy, e.g. to power computer servers. Emissions from vehicles. Generation of waste that could cause pollution.
Making people vulnerable if the information is not managed securely.
Provision of data that helps inform the design of environmentally sustainable interventions.
Information mismanagement could put project activities at risk.
Citizen engagement in data capture and sharing will contribute to stronger environmental awareness and protection.
The collection of environmental information is essential for ensuring effective and sustainable interventions. It is important for environmental actors to engage both humanitarian and development actors in environmental data collection, sharing, and analysis to achieve this. Collection, storage, curation, dissemination, archiving, and destruction of documents, images, drawings, and other sources of information can have the following environmental impacts:
Lack of coordination and collaboration of Information Management increases the likelihood that environmental fragilities, environmental hazards, pollution, waste management, disease vectors will not be appropriately understood or incorporated into the humanitarian response design.
Consumption of electricity from non-renewable sources to power computers, servers, GIS systems, photograph databases, spreadsheets, contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution. Creation of emissions from fossil fuel burning for vehicle fuel used in the transport of documents, data capture equipment (cameras, laptops, theodolites), flying of drones. Generation of physical waste that could cause pollution, including documents such as records of affected people’s personal information; photographs; physical soil or water samples; end of life IT equipment.
People’s lives, homes, livelihoods, and local environments could be put at risk if the information is not managed securely. Leaked information could lead to other people seeking to take their resources, livelihoods, homes or lives in fragile contexts. Well-designed Information Management will form the backbone that helps inform the design of effective environmentally sustainable interventions. This includes GIS mapping software; community feedback/complaints databases; Environmental Impact Assessment records; photographs and surveys of affected communities; procurement databases; records of surveys, samples, and mapping of air, ground, water pollution, etc.
Some data may be considered political, for example, if it demonstrates that governments or large factories are polluting or degrading the environment and harming human health. In these instances, the data should be anonymized before sharing or disseminating publicly or online, such that the locations or individual(s) involved are anonymous. The data can be shared bilaterally, in case of action.
Citizen engagement in data capture, processing, visualisation, and sharing will lead to greater awareness and understanding and ultimately contribute to stronger environmental protection.
Information Management of environmental data is a key element of enabling nutrition activities to be designed to be environmentally sustainable. IM employees have essential skills in the management of GIS, spatial, satellite and raster data. Activities that can strengthen environmental sustainability, relating to IM, include:
1. Establish environmental data capture and sharing across clusters / humanitarian platforms
2. Source electricity for data management from renewable sources and data hosting from service providers with good environmental practice
3. Minimise document, data, and equipment transport and plan efficient use
4. Waste management plans to reduce printing, storage, recycle electronic equipment, cartridges, paper, packaging
5. Secure data protection ensure local environments, resources and livelihoods are not put at risk
6. Ensure Information Management system design facilitates easy to capture, storage, processing, sharing of environmental information in commonly accessible formats
7. Design data protection and communications policies to ensure sensitive information is not shared in any way that could put people or the environment at risk
8. Promote public access, or open-source platforms encourage capture and sharing of environmental information.
Information Management of environmental data is a key element of enabling livelihood activities to be designed to be environmentally sustainable. IM employees have essential skills in the management of GIS, spatial, satellite, and raster data. Activities that can strengthen environmental sustainability, relating to IM, include:
1. Establish environmental data capture and sharing across the Food Security and other clusters and across humanitarian platforms, offering support to capture and analyze key environmental data from others; when Clusters are activated as a preparedness measure, directly approach humanitarian actors including cluster representatives and offer to share relevant environmental data and information. Humanitarian actors should reach out to national counterparts to request the engagement of environmental actors with relevant information; consult HDX and the assessment registry for environmental assessments.
2. Source electricity from renewable sources to power computers, servers, GIS systems, photograph databases, spreadsheets, and other IM systems. Sourcing data hosting services from providers who actively reduce emissions from servers
3. Design and implement protocols to minimise document transport and to map and reduce other transport-related emissions such as carrying equipment, flying camera drones
4. Waste management plans to reduce printing, storage, ink waste, recycle electronic equipment, cartridges, paper, packaging, environmental samples
5. Secure data protection policies and systems to ensure people’s lives, homes, livelihoods, and local environments are not put at risk. Plan for the secure collection of environmental information, and ensure secure good practice data storage, sharing, and deleting practices are in place. Good practice information sharing includes ensuring data is captured, stored, and shared in readily usable formats. The data should also be standardized against relevant core-CODs and P-codes where possible; for example, this could be consolidating environmental data into the reference administrative boundaries.
6. Well-designed Information Management systems that can effectively capture, store, process, and share environmental information such that it can be used easily and effectively to strengthen the environmental sustainability of shelter response. This could include mapping of sensitive ecosystems; mapping of efficient construction materials transport routes; design of community feedback/complaints databases that enable simple search and analysis; Environmental Impact Assessment records; photographs and surveys of shelter sites; procurement databases; records of surveys, samples and mapping of air, ground, water pollution, etc. Involve environmental actors in data analysis.
7. Design data protection and communications policies to ensure information such as people’s identities, locations, valuable resources, protected species or other sensitive information is not shared in any way that could put people or the environment at risk. In these instances, the data should be anonymized before sharing or disseminating publicly or online, such that the locations or individual(s) involved are anonymous. Sometimes it is appropriate for such data to be shared bilaterally, for example to a separate agency who may advocate for environmental improvements.
8. Promote public access, or open-source platforms such as Google Earth, People in Need, and citizen science, to encourage all actors to capture and share relevant environmental information.
Development of People in Need figures:
Most people whose humanitarian needs are influenced by environmental situations will already be captured in PiN figures for other sectors. However, it may help fundraising for projects to be able to develop a PiN figure for people affected by specific environmental problems. The methodology will depend a lot on the context and the problem under consideration. Options for generating figures may include:
● Use the categories of humanitarian consequences to think about how the environment affects these consequences. The loss of particular ecosystem services may resonate more in living standards and resilience consequence categories. Protection and security impacts of certain environmental activities or conflicts may resonate more in physical and mental wellbeing and protection consequence categories. Environmental contamination may directly impact water quality and availability, air quality (e.g. in case of fumigation), and the quality of locally produced food, and therefore influence the “physical and mental wellbeing” PiN calculation. The key issue is to ask yourself where an environmental impact comes from and how it affects humanitarian needs;
● Use of GIS to map environmental problems and calculate exposed populations using raster data. This usually calculates exposure, not impact, but may be useful for calculating the “resilience PiN”;
● By livelihood type, where particular livelihoods are associated with certain environmental risks (e.g. charcoal production, illegal mining). Depending on the circumstances, this may be reflected in various classifications of humanitarian consequence;
● Through proxy data, where environmental factors influence other needs (e.g. respiratory disease figures, if fuel shortages have resulted in increased deforestation and use of wood for cooking in the home, or increases in mosquito-borne disease where changes in local environmental practice have resulted in outbreaks). This requires some level of interpretation since cause-effect relationships are not always clear-cut;
● Through population data, where particular phenomena affect specific communities (e.g. exploitation of natural resources as a driver of illicit economies on indigenous or ancestral territories);
● Developing beneficiary figures for activities with an environmental dimension is sometimes easier. In some cases, you may wish to start at this level and then work backward.
Environmental data in strengthening response – the case of Nepal
On 25 April 2015, Nepal was struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. This was followed by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake on 12 May 2015. These earthquakes resulted in over 7,800 deaths and widespread damage and destruction. A large-scale international humanitarian response effort was mobilized thereafter. Environmental mainstreaming into the response effort was largely facilitated by an environmental assessment and the subsequent strategic sharing and dissemination of the data findings by environmental actors.
The Nepal Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment; World Wildlife Fund (WWF); and Hariyo Ban (a consortium of environmental actors) initiated a rapid environmental assessment of earthquake affected areas. The assessment consisted of a desk review, field observations, focus groups and stakeholder consultations. The collaboration between different actors facilitated access to a greater range of networks and data sources, considerably benefiting data collection and analysis.
OCHA facilitated the sharing of the preliminary findings by WWF at an inter-cluster coordination meeting. This marked a noticeable increase in environmental awareness amongst clusters. This provided an entry point for WWF and Hairyo Ban members to follow up bilaterally with individual clusters, leading to the development, dissemination, and operationalization of cluster-specific guidance documents for the integration of environmental considerations into response programming. The data from the assessment was shared online and bilaterally with relevant parties, enabling individual actors to adapt their response activities accordingly.
Environmental data is kept secure and deleted when appropriate and in compliance with national and international laws / standards
Beneficiary data is kept secure and deleted when appropriate and in compliance with national and international laws / standards
Prevention of environmental damage
Mitigation of environmental
Many useful data, such as baseline survey data, typically already exists for ongoing humanitarian emergencies. Accessing data can be a time-consuming activity, and occasionally there is the need for further processing or cleaning of the data before it is suitable for use. The resource requirements and likely required skillsets for the processing of data should be considered prior to the decision to search for data. The reliability and credibility of any dataset should also be considered prior to use.