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Those interested in disaster response may benefit from referring to the following sources of information:

General Resources on Disaster Response:

Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS): A cooperation framework between the United Nations, the European Commission and disaster managers worldwide to improve alerts, information exchange and coordination in the first phase after major sudden-onset disaster.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA): Part of the United Nations Secretariat responsible for bringing together humanitarian actors to ensure a coherent response to emergencies. OCHA also ensures there is a framework within which each actor can contribute to the overall response effort.



 Sphere (Humanitarian Charter): The Sphere Project is a voluntary initiative that brings a wide range of humanitarian agencies together around a common aim to improve the quality of humanitarian assistance and the accountability of humanitarian actors to their constituents, donors and affected populations. The Sphere Handbook, Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response, is one of the most widely known and internationally recognized sets of common principles and universal minimum standards in life-saving areas of humanitarian response.

INEE (Interagency Network for Education in Emergencies):  serves to ensure the right to education for all regardless of crisis or conflict, along a spectrum of preparedness, prevention, response and recovery. INEE undertakes a range of functions around communications, information management, learning, member support, network development, policy influence, advocacy and resource mobilization.

ReliefWeb: the leading source for reliable and timely humanitarian information on global crises and disasters since 1996, as a specialized digital service of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN): An award-winning humanitarian news and analysis service covering the parts of the world often under-reported, misunderstood or ignored. It delivers unique reporting from the frontlines of humanitarian action to over a million online readers.

AlertNet (Thomson Reuters Foundation): We don’t give grants. Instead we use our unique set of skills to run programmes that trigger change and empower people: free legal assistance, media development and in-depth coverage of the worlds under-reported stories. We stand for human rights, women’s empowerment, better governance, greater transparency, and for the rule of law. We strive to provide concrete solutions. We achieve real impact.

EU Emergency Response Coordination Centre: Operated within ECHO, which has been set up to support a coordinated and quicker response to disasters both inside and outside Europe using resources from 32 countries participating in the Civil Protection Mechanism.

Disaster Charter: Aims at providing a unified system of space data acquisition and delivery to those affected by natural or man-made disasters through Authorized Users. Each member agency has committed resources to support the provisions of the Charter and thus is helping to mitigate the effects of disasters on human life and property.


ASEAN Coordination Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre): facilitating co-operation and co-ordination among the parties [ASEAN member countries], and with relevant United Nations and international organizations, in promoting regional collaboration.

Resources on disaster response by OC team members:

Editorial: Built Environment Perspectives on Post-Disaster Reconstruction (Jason von Meding)

Engaging the commercial construction industry in a post-disaster context (Jason von Meding)

An Evaluation of the Usefulness of Actor Network Theory in Understanding the Complexities of Vulnerability and Resilience in Post-Disaster Reconstruction (Jason von Meding)

Strategy Formation in Post-Disaster Reconstruction (Jason von Meding)

Developing NGO competencies in post-disaster reconstruction: a theoretical framework (Jason von Meding)

A Competence-Based Post-Disaster Reconstruction Process (Jason von Meding)

Dynamic competency theory in post-disaster reconstruction (Jason von Meding)

In kind donations, who really wins?, Overseas Development Institute, Humanitarian Practice Network publication, March 2011 (Moustafa Osman)

Tsunami Aftermath: Development of an indigenous homegarden in Banda Aceh, Urban Agriculture (UA) Magazine no. 21 Linking Relief, Rehabilitation and Development: A role for urban agriculture?, July 09 (Moustafa Osman)

Muslim NGOs and Islam: How to counter the image of missionaries and spies, Europe’s world, Autumn 06 (Moustafa Osman)

Muslim NGOs bridge the cultural gap, Article, Humanitarian Review, Autumn 02 (Moustafa Osman)

In January 2005, more than 4,000 representatives of governments, NGOs, academic institutes and the private sector met at the second World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR) in Kobe, Japan. It was at this groundbreaking meeting that a 10 year plan known as the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters(HFA) was adopted by 168 states to substantially reduce disaster losses in lives as well as the social, economic and environmental assets of communities and countries by 2015. As emphasized in the HFA, disaster risk reduction is a central issue for development policies and is of interest to various science, humanitarian and environmental fields. Disasters undermine development achievements, impoverishing people and nations, and without serious efforts to address disaster losses, disasters will increasingly become a serious obstacle to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Post-2015 framework for DRR was finalised in Sendai, Japan during the Third World Conference on DRR. The Sendai DRR framework will replace the decade-old Hyogo Framework for Action, which expires in 2015.

Some general resources on DRR

Resources on DRR by Osman Consulting team members

Mapping NGO Competency to Reduce Human Vulnerability in Post-disaster Communities: Comparing Strategies in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh (Jason von Meding)

Emergency Management in Developed Countries: An Investigation of Hazard Risk, Vulnerability and Government Response in the UK and USA (Jason von Meding)

Major upcoming dates of relevance for DRR

CIB Commission Meeting on Disasters and the Built Environment, in conjunction the i-Rec 2105 conference, CIB W120, May 2015, London, United-Kingdom

World Humanitarian Summit: Partnerships in a Changing Humanitarian Landscape (four themes: humanitarian effectiveness; reducing vulnerability and managing risk; transformation through innovation; serving the needs of people in conflict.), early 2016, Istanbul, Turkey

CIB Commission Meeting and Workshop on Disasters and the Built Environment, in conjunction with the 20th CIB World Building Congress Intelligent Built Environment for Development , by CIB W120, 30 May 3 June 2016, in Tampere, Finland

Education is critical for all children, but it is especially urgent for the very many children affected by emergencies, be they man made or natural disasters: not just does it support them from suffering a further disaster (increased risk of illiteracy on top of actual disaster of flood etc) but also to provide children with some stability and distraction at times of high stress and uncertainty and opportunity to learn about how to prepare and respond to future disasters. However, for millions of children affected by disaster and crisis, the right to education remains elusive. As per info from INEE:

  • Approximately 75mn children are out of school worldwide; more than half of these children are living in conflict-affected states. Millions more are living in situations affected by natural disasters.
  • 20mn girls are out of school in conflict zones, and girls only account for 30% of refugees enrolled in secondary school.
  • The world faces a shortfall of 18mn primary school teachers in the coming decade and the areas most in need of education personnel are countries affected by emergencies and disasters

Historically, education was not seen as necessary at times of emergencies, rather as part of longer-term development work. However, with the average conflict lasting 10 years and families remaining in refugee or internally displaced person (IDP) camps for an average of 17 years, it is clear that education cannot wait for more stable times and that the failure to prioritise education in humanitarian response renders entire generations uneducated, disadvantaged, and unprepared to contribute to their society’s recovery. A growing body of evidence on education life-saving and life-sustaining role has resulted in a change in priorities, with education now being included in the planning and provision of humanitarian relief.

Some resources:

Humanitarian Principles and Values

Concept of why help others? and what the possible humanitarian principles and values are that drive and govern humanitarian aid. It will cover: the key humanitarian principles and values, key legal instruments that govern and organise humanitarian aid.

International Humanitarian Law (IHL)

Insight into international humanitarian law via an overview of its background and current instruments.

General Resources

European Union Humanitarian Aid Office (June 2005), European Humanitarian Aid: Values and Principles, European Commission, Brussels, Belgium [online at http://ec.europa.eu/echo/files/media/publications/values_principles_en.pdf , accessed 9 January 2011]

IFRC, Principles and Values, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Geneva, Switzerland [online at http://www.ifrc.org/what/values/principles/index.asp, accessed 9 January 2011]

Osman Consulting Team Resources

Two OC team members contributed to the Middle-East part of the UN OCHA study (funded by NRC) Impact of counter-terrorism measures on principled humanitarian action (2013)

Muslim NGOs and Islam: How to counter the image of missionaries and spies, Europe world, Autumn 06

Muslim NGOs bridge the cultural gap, Article, Humanitarian Review, Autumn 02

International humanitarian law (IHL), often referred to as the laws of war or the law of armed conflict, is the set of treaties etc that consists of the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions, as well as subsequent treaties, case law, and customary international law. It defines the conduct and responsibilities of states at war, neutral states and individuals engaged in warfare, in relation to each other and to protected persons (civilians mainly). Many agree though that the origins of IHL go back much further and similar guidance can be found in several faiths.

Osman Consulting is working on a project on ‘IHL for aidworkers’. We gratefully acknowledge the contribution of Celine Cornereau with the research so far.

Some relevant resources for interested people:

Lowrie, S., Reflection on the Humanitarian Charter, Humanitarian Practice Network (HPN), 1999, London, UK (last checked on 3 December 2012)

IFRC, Principles and Values, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Geneva, Switzerland (last checked 3 December 2012)

Customary International Humanitarian Law, IFRC (last checked: 3 December 2012)

Customary International Humanitarian Law Project, Cambridge University

The Right to Asylum between Islamic Shari’ah and International Refugee Law: A Comparative Study (UNHCR, 2009)

under development

Films Osman Consulting Ltd recommends (note: these are not endorsements or necessarily reflect our understanding, view on matters) to understand different aspects of humanitarian situations (incl. role of politics, effects of war), even if they’re not full/official documentaries but fictional varieties of real situations:

Hotel Rwanda

Tensions between the Hutu and Tutsi peoples lead to a war in Rwanda. The manager of the Sabena Hotel des Mille Collines, Paul, is Hutu, but his wife is Tutsi. His marriage is a source of friction with Hutu extremists, especially a hotel goods supplier to the hotel who is also the local leader of a brutal anti-Tutsi militia. As the political situation in the worsens, Paul and his family observe neighbours being killed in ethnic violence. Paul wins favours with people of influence, bribing them with money and alcohol, seeking to maintain sufficient influence to keep his family safe. When civil war erupts and a Rwandan Army officer threatens Paul and his neighbours, Paul barely negotiates their safety, and brings everyone to the hotel. More refugees come to the hotel from the overburdened United Nations camp, the Red Cross, and orphanages. Paul must divert the Hutu soldiers, care for the refugees, be a source of strength to his family, and maintain the appearance of a functioning high-class hotel, as the situation becomes more violent.

The UN Peacekeeping forces are unable to take assertive action against the anti-Tutsi militia since they are forbidden to intervene in the genocide. The foreign nationals are evacuated, but the Rwandans are left behind. When the UN forces attempt to evacuate a group of refugees, including Paul’s family, they are ambushed and must turn back. In a last-ditch effort to save the refugees, Paul pleads with the Rwandan Army General, for assistance. However, when Paul’s bribes no longer work, he blackmails the General with threats of being tried as a war criminal. Soon after, the family and the hotel refugees are finally able to leave the besieged hotel in a UN convoy. They travel through retreating masses of refugees and militia to reach safety behind Tutsi rebel lines.

The film’s epilogue displays a series of graphics stating that Paul saved 1,268 Rwandan refugees at the Hotel des Mille Collines, and now lives in Belgium with his family. It also notes that key players in the genocide were tried and convicted by the UN for war crimes in 2002, as almost a million people died by the time the genocide ended in July 1994.

No man’s land

Two wounded soldiers, a Bosniak and a Bosnian Serb are caught between their lines in the no man’s land between the frontlines, in a struggle for survival. The two soldiers confront each other in a trench, where they wait to be rescued (it’s difficult as they’re from different sides of the war). They trade insults and even find some common ground. Confounding the situation is another wounded Bosniak soldier who wakes from unconsciousness. A land mine had been buried beneath him by the Bosnian Serbs; should he make any move, it would be fatal.

A French sergeant of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR), gets involved in effort to help the three trapped soldiers, despite initial orders to the contrary by high command. UNPROFOR’s mission in Bosnia was to guard the humanitarian aid convoys, to remain neutral and act as a mere bystander. Luckily, an English reporter arrives on scene, bringing media pressure that moves the United Nations high command into action to try to save the soldiers. A row between the stressed out and fatigued two trapped soldiers gradually escalates even after being rescued. Eventually there is confrontation; UNPROFOR high command tries to save face and most leave the area. Meanwhile, the UNPROFOR commander has arranged false information to be passed to both Bosnian and Serb troops, to make them believe their enemies will be trying to reoccupy the trench at night (which each side would try to counter with an artillery barrage that presumably will obliterate the evidence).

Omar Mukhtar (Lion of the Desert)

In 1929, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini is still faced with the 20-year long war waged by patriots in Libya to combat Italian colonisation and the establishment of the rebirth of a Roman Empire in Africa. Mussolini appoints General Graziani as his sixth governor to Libya, confident that the eminently accredited soldier can crush the rebellion and restore the dissipated glories of Imperial Rome. Omar Mukhtar leads the resistance against the fascists. A teacher by profession, guerrilla by obligation, Mukhtar had committed himself to a war that cannot be won in his own lifetime. Graziani controls Libya with the might of the Italian Army. Tanks and aircraft are used in the desert for the first time. The Italians also committed atrocities: killing of prisoners of war, destruction of crops, and humiliating populations behind barbed wire.

Despite their bravery, the Libyan Arabs and Berbers suffered heavy losses, their relatively primitive weaponry was no match for mechanised warfare; despite all this, they continued to fight, and managed to keep the Italians from achieving complete victory for 20 years. Graziani was only able to achieve victory through deceit, deception, violation of the laws of war and human rights, and by the use of tanks and aircraft.

Despite their lack of modern weaponry, Graziani recognised the skill of his adversary in waging guerrilla warfare. In one scene, Mukhtar refuses to kill a defenseless young officer, instead giving him the Italian flag to return with. Mukhtar says that Islam forbids him to kill captured soldiers and demands that he only fight for his homeland, and that Muslims are taught to hate war itself.

In the end, Mukhtar is captured and tried as a rebel. His lawyer states that since Mukhtar had never accepted Italian rule, he cannot be tried as a rebel, and instead must be treated as a prisoner of war (which would save him from being hanged). The judge rejects this, and the film ends with Mukthar being executed by hanging.

Today we pack, tomorrow we settle

In 2009, REEL Project founders, Krista Barnes and Marisa Lloyd, decided to make their first humanitarian film for Congolese refugees living in Kala and Mwange refugee camps in Zambia. The majority of these refugees fled from an international war that consumed Katanga Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and forced tens of thousands of Congolese people into Zambia beginning in 1999. After almost a decade of asylum, many of the Congolese refugees in the camps wanted to return to DRC, but they were unsure of the circumstances and environments they would face after returning. Given that the international community had deemed Katanga Province stable in 2006, Krista and Marisa decided to go to DRC in order to bring back visual documentation and testimonies from former refugees who had already returned. The result was this 45-minute film documenting the conditions in popular areas of return, messages from family and friends, and information on the UNHCR facilitated repatriation process. The documentary was screened in the Congolese refugee camps for thousands of refugees and contributed to the voluntary repatriation of 9,000 refugees to Katanga Province, DRC in 2009.

Qui seme le vente

Qui seme le vente

Fred Garson has recently directed his second long form film. An uncompromising political thriller staring Natacha Regnier and Laurent Lucas, produced by ARTE France and Maha Productions. Qui seme le vent touches on one of the hottest topics in current events: a kidnapping in Niger, the desert and uranium mines, French and African politicians in turmoil. The fate of two French hostages becomes one of the stakes of the renegotiations of the uranium concessions between France and Niger. A film that seriously questions reasons of State.

Protection is a crucial if as yet undervalued side of humanitarian aid/disaster response. You may be interested in a recent article by Osman Consulting on the situation of refugees out of Libya in Tunisia.

For this reason protection is a key module as well in the Introduction to Disaster Management that Osman Consulting provides yearly (since 2006) at Birmingham University. Some thoughts we ask students to reflect on:

Protection (I), What is Refugees Protection?

Identify the international standards that are the framework for the international protection of refugees, outline refugee rights in international refugee and human rights law, articulate how humanitarian assistance programmes can enhance or inhibit refugees protection

Protection (II), Refugees and Displacement

Identify some of the reasons why people flee, describe the different phases in the refugee experience, discuss why refugees are of international concern and why they are entitled to international protection, describe the differences in the refugee definition in international and regional standards.


Slim, H. and Bonwick, A. (2005), Protection An ALNAP Guide for Humanitarian Agencies, Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALNAP), London, UK [accessed 9 January 2011]

Buscher, D., Lester, E, and Coelho, P. (December 2005), Guarding Refugee Protection Standards in Regions of Origin, The Way Forward, Europe’s role in the global refugee protection system, European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), Brussels, Belgium [accessed 9 January 2011].

McNamara, D. and Goodwin-Gill, G. (June 1999), UNHCR and International Refugee Protection, Refugee Studies Programme, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford [accessed 9 January 2011]

UNHCR, Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, HCR/IP/4/Eng/REV.1, Reedited, Geneva, January 1992, UNHCR 1979 [accessed on 9 January 2011]

Brun, C. (October 2005), Internal displacement, Forced Migration Online [accessed 9 January 2011]

The Right to Asylum between Islamic Shariah and International Refugee Law, A Comparative Study/ Prof. Ahmed Abou-El-Wafa. Riyadh : Naif Arab University for Security Sciences, 2009 (1430 H.) [accessed 1 May 2011]

In disaster management we often talk about the disaster formula: HV + C = R , or different variations of it; the basics remain the same, that risk (R) of a disaster is a composite outcome of hazard (H), vulnerability (V) and capacity (C). As per the IFRC, a disaster is sudden, calamitous event that seriously disrupts the functioning of a community or society and causes human, material, and economic or environmental losses that exceed the community’s or society’s ability to cope using its own resources. In the short-term we can do little about the hazard, but to minimise the risk of a disaster happening, we can focus on decreasing vulnerability and increasing capacity. Ability to respond quickly internationally also helps, which is where the IFRC Disaster Law work comes in.

On hazards: do you know what a Category 4 Hurricane is? Do you know the types of damage a earthquake of 7 on the Richter scale would do? Check the hazard impact fact sheets that OC is developing.

To keep track of active storms, hurricanes, typhoons, check the US NOAA. For an EU overview on disaster risk reduction.

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