What is EHA Connect?

EHA Connect is a unique digital tool spanning the humanitarian-environment nexus. It allows environmental actors to get involved in the disaster management space and humanitarian actors to mainstream environmental considerations in preparedness, response and recovery. EHA Connect is the first comprehensive online repository of environment in humanitarian action (EHA) tools and guidance and was produced as part of the Coordination of Assessments of Environment in Humanitarian Action Initiative. EHA Connect responds to the highlighted need for connection between environmental and humanitarian actors in order for them to maximize their collaboration for better quality humanitarian action for both people and the environment.

EHA Connect can be used at any stage of disaster management, from preparedness through to recovery. It can be used to explore more about a topic at any time, or for practical immediate guidance in the middle of a response. The tool is structured around the Humanitarian Programme Cycle (HPC), an operational framework similar to the project cycle that is used in the international humanitarian response system, also known as the humanitarian architecture. The HPC sets out the sequence of actions that should be taken to prepare for, plan, manage, deliver and monitor humanitarian responses. In EHA Connect, environmental considerations are directly linked to humanitarian guidance and resources with recommendations for practical and rapid actions to be taken. Using the HPC as the basis for addressing environmental issues in humanitarian response will facilitate environmental mainstreaming efforts of humanitarian actors, and help environmental actors operate effectively in crisis and disaster situations. This is one of the ways that the tool helps to enable environmental actors to speak the humanitarian “language” and strengthen their understanding of the humanitarian system.

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What is Environment in Humanitarian Action and why is it important?

In emergencies, the immediate priorities include saving lives, reducing suffering and jump-starting recovery. Integrating environment, risk reduction and climate considerations into the humanitarian response is vital to achieving these priorities, given people’s dependence on ecosystems and the environment for their well-being and survival. It is mutually beneficial for humanitarians and environmentalists to work together in humanitarian response: better coordination and finding common solutions results in saving lives and improving livelihoods for disaster affected communities.

There is growing recognition that environmental considerations need to be consistently and appropriately addressed in humanitarian action for sustainable, holistic relief and recovery in post-conflict and post-disaster situations. The environment1 is central to reducing risk and vulnerability. It is a core part of a quality response and key to a localized approach to aid where the needs of people are listened to and assessed systematically. Environmental sustainability as a concept is mainstreamed in the Sphere Standards and the Core Humanitarian Standard. Good humanitarian assistance can improve environmental conditions and reduce future damage and the risk of future crises, by taking into account the impact of present actions on the future and mitigating these as much as possible.

The relationship between the environment and humanitarian action is twofold:

  1. Crises often arise from mis-management of the environment, or from environmental emergencies such as chemical incidents. Humanitarian responses should not contribute further to these causes.
  2. Humanitarian operations impact the environment: if not well planned they can damage it further with direct effects on people in need, or they can improve the current environmental conditions and reduce environmental damage in the future, thus reducing the risk of future crises. At minimum humanitarian response should consider environment as part of a “do no harm” approach.

Addressing environmental issues during the early phases of an emergency has multiple benefits and provides the potential to:

  • Address underlying environmental issues that may have originally contributed to the crisis or disaster as well as reduce the risk of recurrence.
  • Protect livelihoods by safeguarding natural resources upon which those livelihoods depend.
  • Improve affected communities’ health and safety through reduction of pollution, for example to air and water.
  • Protect people and the environment from future hazards through mitigation activities.
  • Proactively addressing environmental issues can slow or reverse trends that lead to deforestation, desertification and pollution, which impact significantly on community resilience, ecosystems, food security and economic development.

The main bearers of negative environmental consequences are the most vulnerable, making environmental mainstreaming in disaster management a matter of accountability to affected communities. The earlier environmental issues are incorporated into response and recovery, the more likely they can be robustly mainstreamed across humanitarian programming. The  systematic integration of environmental considerations throughout response operations also makes recovery activities more effective, contributes positively to sustainable development, and lays a foundation for conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and a more comprehensive, fast recovery.

1 The environment is understood as the physical, chemical and biological surroundings in which disaster affected and local communities live and develop their livelihoods. It provides the natural resources that sustain individuals, and determines the quality of the surroundings in which they live. It needs protection if these essential functions are to be maintained (Sphere, 2018).

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I am an environmental / conservation actor new to humanitarian response - is this site for me?

EHA Connect is specifically designed for both the conservation / environment AND humanitarian communities. Increasingly, environmental actors are seeing the value in getting involved in the disaster management space. Those who have engaged have tended to focus on preparedness or on longer term recovery, where there is more time for forging partnerships and more space to coordinate with actors from non-humanitarian sectors. Some examples of such work is ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction, or “Green Recovery”. This space is evolving as the lines between preparedness, response and recovery are blurring in increasingly protracted crises and there is more openness from humanitarian actors to consider environment in the response phase of an emergency. Both environmental and humanitarian sides are in need of additional mechanisms that can maximize the opportunities to connect in order to achieve better quality humanitarian action for both people and the environment.

The toolkit is structured to facilitate environmental actors to be able to speak the humanitarian “language”. It aims to strengthen the understanding of the humanitarian system and associated mechanisms, within which environmental actors must operate if they are to effectively contribute to sustainable humanitarian response. The toolkit uses environmental and humanitarian terminology which might be new to some actors. However, key concepts are explained in a way that supports communication and collaboration between sectors across the environment-humanitarian nexus.

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What is the HPC?

The Humanitarian Programme Cycle (HPC) is an operational framework similar to the project cycle that is used in the international humanitarian response system also known as the humanitarian architecture. The HPC sets out the sequence of actions that should be taken to prepare for, plan, manage, deliver and monitor humanitarian responses. It is important for environmental actors looking to engage with disaster management actors to have a good understanding of how the HPC functions in order to be able to contribute the right kind of information at the right time and for greatest impact. It is for this reason that EHA Connect is structured around the HPC.

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What is the Coordination of Assessments for Environment in Humanitarian Action Initiative that created this site?

Please see the “Initiative” page for more information on the Joint Initiative.

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