Thematic Evaluation Report

Coordination of International Humanitarian Assistance in Tsunami-affected Countries The tsunami response was remarkable not only for amount of money raised (over US$14 billion) but also for the number of international organisations involved. In the first month in Aceh, for example, there were more than 300 agencies on the ground, along with 17 military forces from around the world assisting with search and rescue. Coordinating this number of international and national actors was a mammoth task, and one which has never been fully costed.

Buoyed by generous funding, many agencies competed for 'client' populations which resulted in some duplication and the stretching of traditional agency mandates. Some geographical areas were better served than others, and there was a perceived need among agencies to have 'visible' projects, such as new houses and boats. Livelihoods projects were relatively neglected and needs based on gender, for example, were not always met.

The TEC Coordination Report poses more questions than answers, for the systemic challenge of coordinating the complex humanitarian sector is not unique to the Asian tsunami. The international community has a duty to enable and assist host governments to exert greater coordinating authority over visiting organisations. From the top of government to local community groups, capacity building in this respect is of utmost importance. Perhaps some form of certification would help governments to decide with whom they should work.

The NGOs also need to develop a better form of collective representation at coordination meetings. Improved civil-military coordination would ensure that the latter know where best to use their advantage in transport and personnel. Finally, we should learn how better to harness the considerable resources of the private sector.