2013 – 2014

Humanitarian Crises, Emergency Preparedness and Response: the role of the business and private sector

For the humanitarian community, the private sector is often seen as a source of goods, services and philanthropy and in more recent years, ‘corporate social responsibility’ (CSR) initiatives have emerged.  Whilst is is clear that philanthropic giving has become an important activity for the private sector there is a need to better understand these humanitarian-private sector relationships and also what potential role the private sector is to play in reducing global vulnerability.

Humanitarian crises, emergency preparedness and response: the role of business and the private sector project asks the principal question: how the private sector can more effectively engage with preparedness and emergency response and how it can further humanitarian objectives, including within the scope of  ‘core competencies and business’?

The Humanitarian Futures Programme and the Humanitarian Policy Group are working in collaboration with UN-OCHA and Vantage Partners.

The project looks at two broad themes:

  • how humanitarian assistance and private sector business activity affect each other, where potential opportunities and synergies can be achieved whilst avoiding negative interactions, and how governments, multilateral organisations and civil society can stimulate the private sector to more effectively engage in preparedness, response and contribute to resilience outcomes, now and in the future; and
  • how to use previous learnings to develop or enhance frameworks and mechanisms that governmental, multilateral and private sector actors can jointly adopt and implement in order to reduce communities’ vulnerability to shocks and crises, with the ultimate aim of improving the effectiveness of emergency preparedness and response efforts.

The focus of the analysis is the private sector’s role in and contribution to emergency preparedness and response in diverse crisis contexts.  The analysis looks at what the private sector could potentially contribute to humanitarian action, including its role as an actor in its own right, and how it collaborates with humanitarian actors.

Focusing on four countries – Indonesia, Kenya and Jordan with a Strategic and Options Analysis of Haiti, this project:

  • maps different types of private sector actors and inter-relationships in order to identify more precisely the private sector’s current and potential roles and value-addeds in emergency preparedness and response; defining what exactly is meant by the ‘private sector’ from small community-based business to national and multinational corporations and state capitalist structures.
  • seeks to identify types of measures and approaches that have been used by the private sector to support people affected by crisis and analyse the role of the private sector within them; the perceived benefits and or negative impacts produced for affected populations.
  • investigates the two-way relationship between the humanitarian and private sectors, i.e. how does the approach taken by the humanitarian system affect the private sector and local economy and whether other opportunities, for example,  the use of cash programmes, local procurement or use of private health providers, can help stimulate the economic recovery.

The preliminary findings from the research will be incorporated into a broader framework to be presented by UN-OCHA’s Emergency Response Coordinator at the January 2014 World Economic Forum Meeting in Davos.  It will also inform the work of the Political Champions Group on stimulating private sector engagement in building resilience.

The evidence and findings from the case studies will be used to explore a range of possible approaches.  First, specific and practical recommendations will be developed for host governments, the private sector, humanitarian actors, the UN as well as other identified stakeholders. Second, the research will provide a range of approaches which will aim to demonstrate that having an inclusive approach, including the private sector and others, to humanitarian collaboration will provide more effective emergency preparedness and response.