THE WORK OF THE INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Reports Produced in Response to Complex Emergencies
and Natural Disasters
[FIRST REPORT, SESSION 1997-98, MONTSERRAT; SIXTH REPORT, SESSION
1997-98, MONTSERRAT FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS]
76. The Committee visited Montserrat and Antigua
from 15 to 18 October 1997 in response to the humanitarian crisis
resulting from the volcanic eruption on Montserrat, and took evidence
in London on 14, 28 and 30 October. The First Report was published
on 27 November. The Report examined:
- the continuing risk to the population of Montserrat
from the volcano;
- the adequacy of emergency provisions for those
remaining on the north of the island;
- arrangements for decision-making and the delivery
of emergency aid to Montserrat;
- provision of assistance to Montserratians relocated
to other Caribbean islands and to the United Kingdom.
77. The Government response was disappointing, tending
simply to reassure that all was well, and not accepting criticisms
over the planning of housing provision and over the organisation
of the delivery of aid, nor tackling robustly the problems faced
by Montserratians in insurance and access to savings. It was also
inadequate in that it failed to address three specific recommendations
made in the Report. These recommendations were:
- that a simulated exercise take place to ensure
that the evacuation plan is adequate;
- that Montserrat would have been better prepared
for the crisis had due note been taken of a report by Wadge and
Isaacs on disaster preparedness of Montserrat;
- that High Commissioners and other FCO officials
in the Caribbean take a more active role in explaining HMG's actions
to Montserratians, in providing essential information and in overseeing
78. This caused the Committee to hold further evidence
sessions with the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State
for International Development.
There remained dispute over the implications of the Wadge and
Isaacs Report but the other two outstanding recommendations were
accepted by the Government.
79. One of the Committee's recommendations in its
First Report was that "a frank and impartial report be prepared
by HMG on the basis of experience in Montserrat which can enable
not only HMG but other governments in the area to be prepared
for such emergencies in the future".
The Government accepted this recommendation and commissioned an
independent evaluation which was published in December 1999.
The evaluation confirmed the main findings of the Committee, including:
- the lack of contingency planning for a disaster;
- the failure to take proper account of scientific
advice and volcanic risk prior to the eruption;
- many of the delays, omissions and shortcomings
in the Government's response being a result of the complexity
of the Government's management and the administrative system for
- criticism of the response of the Government to
financial regulation issues arising from the crisis.
80. In its memorandum DFID updated the Committee
on the current situation in Montserrat. Scientific advice suggests
that a further eruption similar to that from 1995-98 is imminent.
They believe that there will not be any threat to the north of
the island and that the risk to human life is low. More information
is provided on assistance to Montserratians who are off island
and on DFID's development activity on Montserrat itself. Many
of the initiatives meet recommendations made by the Committee
in its Reports, for example on the need to restore effective education
and support housing. A further and later agreement to a recommendation
was the Government allowing Montserratian evacuees in the United
Kingdom indefinite leave to remain.
81. Elsewhere, despite the Committee's recommendation
that "responsibility and resources for the Dependent Territories
should be in the same department",
responsibility for Government policy on Montserrat and other Dependent
Territories remains split between the FCO and DFID although, following
the Government White Paper on Overseas Territories,
a Minister for the Overseas Territories has now been appointed.
[SEVENTH REPORT, SESSION 1997-98, SUDAN]
82. The inquiry into the humanitarian crisis resulting
from famine in Sudan was prompted both by the suffering apparent
to everyone through media reports and the criticism made by the
Secretary of State of the decision by NGOs to launch a Disasters
Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal to the public for funds. The
Report pointed to weaknesses in the UN consolidated appeals system,
the need for a political solution to the conflict in southern
Sudan, and disagreed with the Secretary of State's criticism of
the UK NGOs' DEC appeal. The Government response was marred by
some intemperate phrasing. The Committee had raised questions
about the effectiveness of information gathering and dissemination
by Operation Lifeline Sudan, and about the funding of UN appeals.
The response suggested that the Committee had misunderstood the
issues, only then to agree on the need for review. The response
agreed with the Committee's analysis of the need for greater access
to the affected region and for a political solution to the problem.
In its recent memorandum to the Committee DFID reported that there
had been only limited progress on a review of the UN consolidated
appeals system and that donors had concerns about the quality
of financial reporting by the UN. Access had been improved by
reduced air transport costs but rail and river access are still
hampered by continuing insecurity.
[THIRD REPORT, SESSION 1998-99, KOSOVO: THE HUMANITARIAN CRISIS]
83. The Committee decided to conduct an inquiry into
the humanitarian crisis in Kosovo as a result of the conflict
there. Within a week of making the decision the Committee visited
the refugee camps in FYR Macedonia and Albania over a three day
period. On its return to London, the Committee went straight from
the airport to an evidence session with the Secretary of State
(on 29 April 1999), took further evidence from NGOs on 4 May,
and published their Report on 15 May 1999.
84. The Report criticised UNHCR, which had a coordinating
role in the crisis, both for its lack of contingency planning
and for failures in its coordinating work. We also considered
continuing humanitarian and longer-term developmental needs for
the region. The Report ended with discussion of the refugee crisis.
We had urged greater openness to Kosovar refugees when the Secretary
of State came before us on 29 April. On 4 May, after the Prime
Minister's visit to FYR Macedonia, the Home Secretary dispelled
confusion and stated that at least one thousand refugees a week
would be allowed in to the United Kingdom.
85. The Government response agreed with the Committee's
analysis of the performance of UNHCR and that the UN Office for
the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) would have been
better placed to take on the coordination role in Kosovo. The
Government provided information on the international response
to humanitarian and developmental needs in the region, and this
is updated in DFID's memorandum. The Government did not agree
with the Committee's assessment that there was a misunderstanding
between the United Kingdom and UNHCR on the UK's willingness to
86. The Committee also received a response from UNHCR,
which we printed with the Government response. This challenged
the Committee's conclusions. There have been two independent evaluations
of the response to the crisis. One was commissioned by UNHCR itself.
This Report was fairly supportive of UNHCR but also pointed to
staffing failures and weaknesses in coordination and contingency
planning. Another evaluation was commissioned by DANIDA, the Danish
Government's aid agency. That report, a "real time"
evaluation of the crisis from March to May 1999, concluded, as
had the Committee, that "UNHCR has been slow to operationalise
and has shown poor performance, being over-stretched on shelter,
non-food items and overall programme and planning coordination".
87. The Committee took evidence from UNHCR on 9 November
1999 to see how UNHCR and other donors were preparing for the
demands of the winter months and to receive an update on conditions
in Kosovo and the region. The Minutes of Evidence were subsequently
[FIFTH REPORT, SESSION 1999-2000]
88. The Committee's inquiry into Mozambique was triggered
by the extraordinary flooding that affected the southern African
region in the early months of 2000. The Committee had been in
Mozambique from 20-24 February 2000 as part of a visit to southern
Africa, so was able to witness at first hand the initial devastation
caused by the flooding and the initial response by the international
community including the Department for International Development
to the disaster. The flooding in Mozambique attracted
considerable publicity in the media which led to an unprecedented
response to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for assistance.
By the end of March 2000, over £28 million had been raised.
Much of the media coverage in the UK focussed on a perceived inter-departmental
dispute over the use of MoD assets by DFID for relief operations
in Mozambique. The Committee examined this and a number of other
issues in its Report.
89. The Committee was particularly critical of the
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). It
concluded that the departure of the first OCHA team on 24 February
the day before the floodwaters rose rapidly was
premature and a significant error of judgement. It also concluded
that OCHA failed to discuss the availability of helicopters, and
their funding in the event of further flooding, with donors. The
Committee went on to conclude that there had been an inadequate
sharing of information between countries and experts in the region.
The Report also criticised the response of ECHO to the disaster,
concluding that ECHO continually failed to react rapidly to crises.
90. In examining the provision of helicopters by
DFID, the Committee rejected media criticism of DFID's failure
to make use of MoD assets concluding that, regardless of cost,
DFID's initial decision not to use MoD assets but to continue
funding South African National Defence Force helicopters already
in the region, coupled with its other emergency call-down arrangements
was entirely appropriate. The Committee went on to conclude that,
despite the official position that the MoD is ready and willing
to assist in humanitarian emergencies, it is not flexible, speedy
and cost-effective enough to be automatically and seriously considered
for deployment by DFID.
91. The Government welcomed the Committee's Report
on Mozambique as raising "important issues, both specific
to this particular humanitarian response and of wider relevance
to the international humanitarian system".
The Government response rejected the Committee's conclusions in
relation to allegations that the MoD was not "speedy"
enough, noting that the primary purpose of the UK Armed Forces
was to carry out high intensity combat operations. The response
concluded, however, that "there is no room for complacency
and the Government will continue to learn from its experience
in order to improve the effectiveness of both its own disaster
response arrangement and that of its cooperating partners".
The Government memorandum provides details of reconstruction efforts
and prospects for economic development in Mozambique together
with details of new expenditure approved by DFID.
92. The Committee also received a response to its
Report from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
(OCHA) which it had criticised in its Report. The response reiterated
a number of points previously made to the Committee in oral evidence
including the fact that the departure of the UNDAC team
was agreed by the Government of Mozambique and the UN in-country
team. The response also regretted that very few of the positive
aspects of the international relief effort in Mozambique had been
highlighted in the Report. However, OCHA had decided to conduct
an overall "lessons learned" exercise on its response
to the crisis in coordination with other relevant actors. OCHA
undertook to share the results of this exercise with the Committee
though, to date, the conclusions of the initiative have not been
57 Sixth Report from the International Development
Committee, Session 1997-1998, Montserrat - Further Developments,
HC 726 Back
Ibid, para. 69 Back
An Evaluation of HMG's Response to the Montserrat Volcanic Emergency
DFID Evaluation Report EV635 Back
Ibid, Summary, para. 6 Back
Ibid, Summary, para. 14 Back
Ibid, Summary, para. 26 Back
Ibid, Summary, para. 22 Back
First Report from the International Development Committee, Session
1997-98, Montserrat, HC 267, para. 92 Back
Ibid, para. 101 Back
Partnership for Progress and Prosperity: Britain and the Overseas
Territories, Cm 4264 Back
Real Time Evaluation of the Humanitarian Response to the Crisis
in Kosova March to May 1999, ETC UK, Executive Summary para.9 Back
Minutes of Evidence and Appendices Kosovo: Further Developments
Tuesday 9 November 1999, HC 924-i Back
Fifth Report from the International Development Committee, Mozambique,
Session 1999-2000, HC 326, p.72 Back
Fifth Special Report from the International Development Committee,
Government Response to the Fifth Report from the Committee, Session
1999-2000: Mozambique, Session 1999-2000, HC 820 Back
Ibid, p. x Back