1. In recent years, the frequency and severity of droughts, floods, storms and other natural disasters has increased; so have the destruction and human suffering caused by civil strife. The upward trend in the incidence of natural disasters and human-induced or complex emergencies continues. The people most severely affected by disasters are often those living in rural areas but the disruption of agricultural and food systems can have serious consequences for both rural and urban populations and it is generally the resource-poor who are the most vulnerable.
2. Although much has been learnt from experience in how to predict most types of disasters and new technologies are raising the lead time for the issuance of warnings of adverse weather events, there has been an alarming increase in the number of countries affected by disasters. This trend appears to have been linked to a rise in the scale of damage. Much of the increase has been in countries affected by natural disasters (rising from 10 to 18 per year between 1996 and today). The most alarming trend is however in the steep increase in the number of countries affected by man-made disasters which have risen from an average of 5 in the 1980s to 22 in 2000, mainly due to conflict. Emergency situations with important social and economic repercussions are also created by the spread of plant and animal diseases, as well as by human diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
3.Post disaster assistance is an integral part of FAO's mandate to help raise levels of nutrition and standards of living, particularly in rural areas of the developing world.
4. FAO is the only UN specialized agency which operates the whole cycle of interventions, from emergency relief through rehabilitation to long term recovery for agriculture.
5. FAO's role in natural and man-made disasters is guided by the commitments set forth in the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action, which was formulated by leaders from 186 countries in 1996. The Organization actively assists national and international efforts to prevent, be prepared for, and respond to natural disaster and man-made emergencies. It also manages agricultural relief programmes that give direct aid to affected populations in ways that encourage recovery, rehabilitation, development and a capacity to satisfy future needs.
6. The challenge is to increase the resilience and capacity of countries and their populations to cope with the impacts of disasters that affect national and household food security and, when disasters do occur, to contribute to emergency operations that foster the transition from relief to recovery of the food and agricultural sectors.
7. In post-disaster interventions, it is important that efforts be undertaken in close harmony and collaboration with other external agencies and with the government. In turn, the government has a crucial role to play in creating a political, economic and institutional environment capable of maximizing the benefits of this external assistance. Only through this collaborative approach, and with a view towards equity and sustainability, can food security be restored quickly, and the propensity towards civil conflict can perhaps even be abated in the years ahead.
8. FAO has, over the last few years, greatly increased its capacity to respond to the needs of subsistence farmers hit by natural or manmade disasters. The Organization has integrated its emergency work into the overall humanitarian assistance of the UN and increased its cooperation with donors and with NGOs active in emergency agricultural assistance projects, providing technical advice and coordination to the NGO's agricultural activities. While the Organization originally (since 1973 when the Office for Sahelian Relief Operations - OSRO - was established) assisted member-countries with agricultural inputs after natural disasters, it is now also extensively involved in early agricultural rehabilitation in post-conflict situation as well as assistance to subsistence farmers subject to internal displacement due to conflict and civil strife. FAO also assists in reintegrating ex-combatants into agricultural production activities.
9. Simultaneously, the Organization has implemented the agricultural component of the Oil-for-Food Programme in Iraq. The Oil-for-Food Programme is a temporary measure to provide, on a humanitarian basis, goods to the Iraqi people. The Programme authorizes the sale of Iraqi oil for humanitarian assistance. FAO's mandate under this programme encompasses agricultural relief and rehabilitation. In the three Northern Governorates of Iraq, FAO implements the agricultural programme, which includes the identification of needs, the procurement, receipt and storage of inputs and supplies, their sale and distribution to beneficiaries, technical assistance, monitoring and reporting. In the Centre and South, the government provides this assistance, and FAO's role is limited to monitoring and reporting on the equitable distribution of the goods.
10. Windstorms and floods accounted for 60 per cent of the total economic loss caused by natural disasters between 1990 and 1999, earthquakes represented 30 per cent, while wildfires accounted for only 5 per cent, drought 3 per cent and extreme temperatures 2 per cent.1 In recent years, major storm events and floods have struck China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Southern Africa (especially Mozambique), Central America, the Caribbean islands and Venezuela. Major wildfires occurred in China, Indonesia, Turkey and Brazil in the late 1990's. Central Asia and the Horn of Africa Region were particularly hit by droughts. Central America and India were recently shacked by major earthquakes and herders from Mongolia suffered from the extreme weather conditions during the past winter.
11. Many natural hazards do not cause disasters. The extent to which a disaster situation is induced by natural events is largely a function of the effectiveness of early warning systems, of the nature and scope of human activity and of the extent of infrastructure and services, which can offer protection. Poor people in the densely populated areas of developing countries are the most susceptible to natural disasters, and studies suggest that the growing scale of such disasters is attributable to economic, social and population pressures, contributing to environmental degradation.
12. Armed conflict and civil strife were major sources of food insecurity over the last decade. Hundreds and millions of people were affected; the vast majority of them in low-income countries where agriculture is the primary source of livelihood and represents a large share of the Growth National Product (GNP). Unfortunately, the trend is continuing in this century.
13. A characteristic of conflicts, which concerns FAO, is that they are usually fought in the countryside, and for this reason, tend to have devastating effects on the rural population and agriculture. Clearly, the most tragic results of conflict are the suffering, injury and death of men, women and children. However, the material losses in output, means of production and infrastructure are extremely significant as they undermine the ability of survivors to subsist and recover. This is most prominent in agricultural communities, where the destruction of crops and livestock results in reduced food security, and all too often in famine and death.
14. The destruction of food stocks and the means of agricultural production may be a military objective of the belligerents. In such an approach to warfare, food insecurity becomes a powerful weapon, with disastrous effects on teh rural population
WHAT CREATES A FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL EMERGENCY
15. FAO began implementing short-term emergency relief operations in 1973 in response to the severe drought in the Sahel-Soudanian region of Africa.
16. In 1993, FAO established an Emergency Coordination Group (ECG) to enhance the Organization's institutional capacity to respond to increasing demands for humanitarian assistance. Its mandate and composition were revised in 1999 to further reinforce the coordination and effectiveness of FAO's multidisciplinary response to agricultural emergencies. The Emergency Coordination Group is composed of representatives from all of FAO's technical departments.
17. At the World Food Summit held in Rome in 1996, leaders from 186 countries gathered and formulated a Plan of Action that included a commitment to prevent and be prepared for natural disasters and human-induced emergencies and to meet transitory and emergency food requirements in ways that encourage recovery, rehabilitation, development and a capacity to satisfy future needs.
18. Furthermore, at the 30th Session of the FAO Conference held in Rome in November 1999, the Organization included in its strategic framework for 2000-2015 a plan to address preparedness for, and effective and sustainable response to, food and agricultural emergencies.
19. The strategy components include:
20. As part of its Medium-Term Plan (2002-2007), the Organization is also improving inter-departmental coordination through defining Disaster Prevention, Mitigation and Preparedness and Post-Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation as a priority area for inter-departmental action (PAIA). This should enhance its capacity for long-term planning for disaster mitigation, such as it has been done at the request of the UN Secretary-General by an Inter-Agency Task Force on the UN Response to Long Term Food Security, Agricultural Development and Related Aspects in the Horn of Africa2, for which FAO provided the secretariat.
21. Interventions in emergencies can be best described in terms of a sequence of events, sometimes referred to as a disaster cycle, with distinct phases3, each requiring different action. Although the types of action, which make up the emergency sequence may be distinct in nature, they do not need to be so in time. Indeed, the need for some to run concurrently is now widely recognized. The continuity of objectives throughout the emergency sequence - a relief-development continuum - implies that development objectives should not and cannot be set aside during emergencies. Even in the gravest of emergencies, it is possible to adopt an approach to relief interventions, which reinforces rather than bypasses or undermines civil society and local capacities for recovery and development. Similarly, the need to avoid future emergencies is an important objective during recovery and ongoing development.
22. Prevention refers to measures designed to prevent natural or socio/political events and processes from resulting in disasters characterised by destruction and loss. Specifically, as most conflict-prone countries have sizeable rural populations that depend on agriculture, the promotion of agricultural and rural development is paramount, not only to foster development and food security overall, but also as a powerful way to reduce the risks of conflict in the first place. FAO activities in this area are designed to reduce vulnerability to such events/processes in the food and agriculture sectors. Examples include: crop and livestock diversification, plant breeding for short cycle crops resistant to drought/diseases and pest attacks, improved rangeland and water management, soil conservation, improved coastal fishing practices, forest management, integrated pest and disease control measures. These disaster prevention measures are geared towards reducing the likelihood of disasters occurring due to causal factors of different types: longer-term processes such as droughts or sudden events such as floods, natural or human induced. They often form part of longer-term programmes to promote resilience and sustainability.
23. An important objective of the Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping System (FIVIMS) initiative is to remedy to the lack of information about food insecure and vulnerable people. FIVIMS, with the Secretariat at FAO, aims to raise awareness about food security issues, improve the quality of national food security-related data and analysis and establish a common database and an information exchange network. Improved information can be actively used to produce better results in efforts to reduce the number of undernourished and achieve food security for all. FIVIMS is an essential platform to promote appropriate information systems and approaches for prevention of food and agriculture emergencies.
24. FAO's Special Programme for Food Security specifically aims at reducing vulnerability and improving agricultural productivity through better water control, sustainable intensification and diversification of production and removal of socio-economic constraints.
25. Preparedness refers to measures taken in advance to establish capacities and mechanisms to respond rapidly and effectively to disasters when they do occur, and thereby reduce the intensity or scale of any resultant emergency.
26. FAO provides technical assistance for the development of disaster preparedness plans to respond to disasters of different kinds, for the establishment of institutional structures for the implementation of these plans, and for staff training. It also provides assistance for the development of information systems, including national and regional early warning and food information systems as well as food insecurity and vulnerability mapping, and for policies and management guidelines for food security reserve stocks. In designing and implementing these information systems, the involvement of a variety of development institutions, which are active in at-risk areas, contributes to provide quick, flexible and integrated responses to locally identified needs. These measures aim at reducing the need for costly relief when disaster strikes.
27. Early warning is the provision of early and relevant information on potential or actual disasters and their impacts. FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) continuously monitors the food supply and demand situation around the world, and reports to the international community through its system of regular and ad hoc reports. This, and other early warning work carried out by the regional and national early warning and food information systems which FAO supports, plays a crucial role in ensuring that timely and appropriate action can be taken when an emergency arises. In 2000, GIEWS carried out 36 crop and food supply assessment missions to affected countries (up to 30 in 1999), often jointly with WFP, and issued 43 Special Alerts/Reports to the international community, highlighting the impacts of the disasters on food production and livelihoods of rural communities, with recommendations of actions to be taken. These Alerts/Reports were instrumental in the mobilization of international assistance to the affected countries and were the basis for Emergency Operations (EMOPs) jointly approved by FAO and WFP, worth over US$ 1.43 billion in 2000. FAO also monitors, provides early warning on, and acts to control outbreaks of transboundary diseases and migratory pests through its EMPRES programme (Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases).
28. A typical FAO's prevention activity in Asia over the recent past is the support provided in 1999 to the "Preparation for a Comprehensive Flood Loss Prevention and Management Plan for the Agricultural Sector" in LAO PDR. The aim was to support a national strategy for flood loss prevention and a national preparedness action plan to address the problems of recurrent flooding of the Mekong River and its tributaries. The project undertook the survey of flood prone areas along the Mekong river and its tributaries and initiated activities to elaborate on the various options to better monitor floods and to define measures to reduce the effects of flood damages. A regional workshop organized under the auspices of the project provided an opportunity for specialists and senior officials from Laos and riparian counties in the region to exchange experiences and to assess areas for further cooperation and support.
29. Impact and needs assessment involves assessing the nature and magnitude of a disaster once it occurs, its impact on affected populations and on agriculture, livestock, fisheries and forestry, and the type and extent of emergency and immediate rehabilitation assistance that is required.
30.FAO mounts missions to carry out such assessments which aim at determining needs both for food assistance and for emergency assistance in agriculture. For the former, crop and food supply assessment missions are mounted by FAO's Global Information and Early Warning Service (GIEWS) in conjunction with the World Food Programme (WFP). FAO's Special Relief Operations Service (TCOR) assesses the impact of disasters and emergency assistance requirements for the agriculture sector. TCOR's specialists evaluate the priority needs and the kind of assistance to be provided.
31. Types of assessment conducted by FAO alone, by joint FAO/WFP missions or by FAO experts participating in UN-led assessment missions, may cover the impact of the disaster on:
32. Assessments are quickly disseminated to the international community to enable timely and effective donor responses, and are used as a basis for FAO's own relief and rehabilitation efforts.
33. In 2000-2001 FAO's Special Relief Operations Service fielded missions in numerous Asian countries following natural or man-made disasters. This included China for which a large rehabilitation programme was formulated following the most severe floods of the century that occurred in 1998, but also in India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Vietnam, Lao PDR, the Philippines, Indonesia, Afghanistan or Azerbaijan, Tajikistan or Iran. Almost every single country of the region was affected by a disaster over the recent past and assisted by FAO with an assessment of the situation and the needs.
34. Relief usually refers to the provision of assistance to save lives in the immediate wake of a disaster. This includes search and rescue, evacuation, distribution of food and water, temporary provision of sanitation, health care and shelter, and the restoration of immediate personal security. FAO's role in this phase includes joint approval by FAO's Director-General, often on the basis of an assessment made by FAO/WFP missions, of WFP Emergency Operations for food assistance, and support for control of food quality and safety.
35. FAO also includes `agricultural relief' in its definition of relief, referring to agricultural rehabilitation assistance provided on an emergency basis. Such relief is aimed at rapidly reducing dependence on emergency food assistance, and providing a basis for "life sustaining" and longer-term rehabilitation of food production capacities. This assistance covers the provision of agricultural essential inputs such as seeds, tools, fertilisers and livestock and veterinary supplies, to enable affected populations to resume basic productive activities quickly - in time for the next agricultural season where possible.
36. Agricultural relief is not, however, limited to the supply of agricultural inputs. Special Agricultural Relief Operations also include the provision of services and technical advice to support the coordination of United Nations agencies or non-governmental organizations involved in emergency agricultural assistance.
37. When the situation calls for it, FAO establishes an Emergency Coordination Unit on the spot for agricultural assistance. Such a unit constitutes a link between the Government, donors and the NGO community as well as a bridge to the rest of the UN community. It provides advice to humanitarian organizations involved in agricultural programmes and enhances Government capacity at national or local level to deal with agriculture rehabilitation programmes. It assists the Government in developing a national capacity to move beyond the emergency phase towards recovery and rehabilitation. Finally, FAO's coordination units assist in monitoring and assessing the crop situation and the evolving agricultural needs in the country. The FAO coordination units provide a focal point for all emergency activities related to agriculture and facilitate the coordination of activities of international and national NGOs to avoid gaps and make sure that there is no overlapping in the assistance to agriculture. Today, FAO has set up emergency coordination units in over 15 countries/regions, mostly in Africa but also in Asia regions such as in Tajikistan and East Timor.
38. FAO's agricultural relief programmes carried out in 2000 in Asia Region entail:
39. Rehabilitation, reconstruction and sustainable recovery refer respectively to measures to help restore the livelihoods, assets and production levels of emergency-affected communities, to re-build essential infrastructure, and to restore the means of production as well as institutions and services destroyed or made non-operational by a disaster.
40. FAO plays a key role in following-up immediate agricultural relief with assistance in restoring extension, veterinary, plant-protection, seed production and input supply services and institutions where these have been disrupted, and the physical reconstruction of agricultural infrastructure such as dams and irrigation systems, markets and crop storage facilities. FAO also provides policy and strategy support for recovery and development programmes in the food and agriculture sectors.
41. This assistance is geared towards bringing the need for relief to an end and enabling development to proceed. It includes activities that help make development sustainable by preventing and preparing for the possibility of further disasters and emergencies. Major emphasis is on strengthening the coordination of locally active emergency and development institutions and in encouraging the participation of the affected population, in designing and implementing interventions that promote household food security and nutrition. Priority is given to the needs of food-insecure households and towards promoting sustainable and healthy livelihoods.
42. While emergency relief interventions are still under way, FAO takes stock of the overall situation of disaster-affected countries with a view to rehabilitation, reconstruction and sustainable recovery. Needs for rehabilitation measures and for sustainable recovery of growth and development in the food and agricultural sectors in the medium to long term are assessed, with a view to reducing susceptibility to further disasters and emergencies.
43. In post-conflict situations, agricultural policy requires the balancing of relief activities with development efforts. As far as possible, the emphasis should be on long-term development objectives, even if there are constraints to promoting them effectively, such as a lack of institutional capacity.
44. In response to requests from countries, FAO provides assistance to establish an effective policy and institutional framework for future sector growth and development. Within this framework, FAO identifies and formulates programmes and projects for donor funding. This may include programmes to assist resettlement and reintegration of refugees, the displaced and ex-combatants.
45. A typical example of support from FAO to assist member countries to build a framework for priority investment is the work carried out since 1994 to review the development options for the agriculture sector of Cambodia which was based on a clear definition of investment priorities, which led to the formulation of "Agricultural Strategies and Policy Framework for Sustainable Food Security and Poverty Alleviation" which has been incorporated in the country's 2nd-Five-Year Socio-Economic Development Plan 2001-2005.
46. These approaches, taken together, can reduce the risk of a natural disaster becoming a human tragedy.
47. The world may never be free from disaster. But we can improve our ability to be better prepared, respond and rebuild. FAO is ready to play its role in that process.
48. In previous sections, we have described the sequence of events, referred to as the disaster cycle, with distinct phases, each requiring different sets of actions to create the movement from relief to rehabilitation, to rebuild rural livelihood systems and to restore resilience. In this chapter, we will attempt to review some of the on-going debates and issues attached to the this linear continuum, running from relief through rehabilitation and reconstruction, to development, in order to better understand the problems related to its implementation.
49. There are some problems with the discourse described in the "continuum" model. Firstly, this simple, linear process of predefined phases does not always occur through time. Agricultural development is often initiated while relief is still taking place, and vice versa (one could speak of "contiguum"). Secondly, the wrong understanding of the continuum creates artificial partitions and a stop-start process in intervention amongst donor agencies and also within the various Organizations. Relief agencies commonly associate agriculture to development. They are usually not inclined to fund agricultural proposal. Thirdly, the "continuum" model tends to create the false assumption that there could be a natural institutional transition. For example, in complex emergencies when the existing Ministry of Agriculture - the source of agricultural governance - has collapsed, this assumption could be somehow naïve.
50. Debates are taking place between humanitarian/relief and development practitioners. They focus on core principles of interventions often difficult to reconcile, making the transition from life saving to sustainability and to the restoration of rural livelihood a difficult exercise.
51. Humanitarian agencies will argue that the "continuum" approach does not take into account the protracted nature of a disaster, that it creates a slow onset to disasters such as drought or complex emergencies. Critiques may also argue that the continuum concept, which tries to link disaster planning into development planning, may jeopardize the core principles of humanitarian interventions, namely the principles of shared humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. Finally, in situations where resources are lacking, humanitarian/relief agencies may question the allocation of funds, fearing that their life saving budgets may decline.
52. Those focussing on development will note that humanitarian aid frequently fuels conflict. They argue that if aid does not build peace, it should be rejected. They may also contend instances where humanitarian relief refused to see the opportunities for development, where the over-provision of relief food depressed local agricultural activity, have helped fuel the conflict and retarded agricultural development.
53. Relief projects differ from rehabilitation and development projects. This disparity makes the transition from the former to the latter a difficult exercise. On one hand, relief projects tend to provide visibility (particularly of the implementing agency) and to emphasise on external solutions and rapidity of intervention in a confused and often insecure environment. Relief projects are often put into action with little information on the situation before the crisis and on the beneficiaries. Sustainability is usually impossible and the intervention ends when funding stops.
54. On the other hand, development projects tend to have a rural livelihood perspective. They usually are embedded in local structures. They also emphasize on coordination, synergies and partnerships for planning interventions. They operate with a broad knowledge of the situation. The criteria for selecting beneficiaries are rigorous and transparent. All interventions aim towards sustainability, the key to the exit strategy.
55. The approach to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of interventions also differs. While relief projects primarily measure the impact and cost effectiveness of the assistance, development projects focus on the expected outcome and cost benefit analysis.
56. Finally, without understanding, accepting and drawing lessons from the major "cultural" differences between these two modes of intervention, which often coexist in post disaster situation, and from their implications in terms of mode of operation, it is difficult, if not impossible, to link disaster response and development planning.
57. The transition from relief to development can easily be hampered. For example, the inadequacy of the funding mechanisms and the absence of a coordinated planning system can easily obstruct the continuum or create a stopping effect. These basic factors should not be underestimated.
58. Inadequate funding mechanisms and procedures - the commonly known issue of "budget lines" still too often impact the continuum. Despite the fact that donor countries increasingly recognize the importance that development activities should be initiated as early as possible following a disaster, their funding criteria are still designed for humanitarian assistance interventions. The current mechanisms tend to focus more on the delivery of "inputs" than "technical assistance". It is no secret that while humanitarian funds are relatively easy to mobilize under the "media" effect, it is not so for development activities, especially when the media are gone and already focusing on another disaster, and the international attention is fading out. In addition, the resource mobilisation for relief operations is rarely involved in the political regulations, as it is usually the case for development aid. Finally the cycle of appraisal of relief interventions is reduced to the minimum while for development projects it may take years.
59. Finally, the lack of a coordinated planning process also alters the continuum. Their is currently a weak coordination between the existing planning tools used in emergency situations and "normal" development situation; the UN Consolidated Appeal process (CAP) on one side and the Common Country assessment (CCA) and United nations development assistance framework (UNDAF) on the other. Without coordination in the formulation of these two major exercises, it is difficult to plan the transition.
60. Support to agriculture rehabilitation offers the possibility to move from humanitarian assistance and relief interventions back to development initiatives. It proposes not only a return to the status quo before the crisis, but a return to a situation of normalcy, where development can take place, by addressing the root causes of the crisis. It offers a natural way of handling the transition along the continuum from relief to development, in countries and regions where the vast majority of the population continues to live in rural areas and obtain their source of livelihood from agriculture, livestock or fisheries, and where agriculture will remain for many years the key sector for food security at national and household level, the main source of employment, and a major component of national growth development product.
61. The way forward lies in a better form of preparedness. As a state of mind, that would allow more predictable and appropriate responses when disaster strike. This means not only drawing lessons from what has been done up to now, but really learning from these lessons and from there, building global capacities, internationally and nationally, in order to be better prepared to respond to emergencies.
The Strategic Framework for FAO 2000-2015
* Prepared by Laurent Thomas, Senior Operations Officer, and Diane Prince, Information Officer, TCOR.
1 FAO, Committee on Agriculture (16th Session), Reducing Agricultural Vulnerability to Storm-Related Disasters.
2 FAO, The Elimination of Food Insecurity in the Horn of Africa, Rome 2000.
3 The eight types of action, or phases, of the emergency sequence, are (1) Prevention, (2) Preparedness, (3) Early warning, (4) Impact and needs assessment immediately following a disaster, (5) Relief, when immediate humanitarian assistance is required, (6) Rehabilitation, when the first attempts to rebuild the rural livelihood system take place, (7) Reconstruction, when the destroyed infrastructure is replaced and investment can take place, and (8) Sustainable recovery, when conditions permit to return to a development process.