Mission dates: 22 March to 05 april, 2014

draft, 26 June 2014

United Nations

Disaster Assessment and Coordination team

Executive summary

This UNDAC DRP mission has its genesis in the lessons-learnt exercises undertaken following the winter storms of 2013. These exercises outlined the urgent need to enhance disaster response preparedness in the State of Palestine, emphasising the requirement for a disaster risk reduction (DRR) approach to the humanitarian and development strategies.

The purpose of the mission was to review the capacities and functionalities of the disaster management system of the State of Palestine and to examine linkages to the international humanitarian system.

To engage this task, an UNDAC team undertook a mission to the State of Palestine from 23 March to 5 April 2014. The Terms of Reference (ToR) were defined and agreed in advance by the national authorities, stakeholders and the UNCT. The team consisted of 11 members who travelled from outside of the State of Palestine, and six UN colleagues based in the state.

On the ground, the UNDAC team had an intensive two-week programme of visits and interviews with more than 200 people affiliated with ministries, authorities, agencies and institutions playing important roles in disaster risk management at the national and local levels.

In doing so, the UNDAC team worked under the guidance of the Palestine Authorities and the RC/HC, and consulted with a wide range of partners that included donors and Israeli counterparts. The team conducted field visits, several multi-stakeholder workshops, bilateral discussions with line ministries and scientific experts, as well as briefing and debriefing meetings with the HCT and the Palestinian Authority's DRR Committee.

The UNDAC team formulated a set recommendations intended to strengthen the disaster management system in the State of Palestine. The findings and recommendations presented are based on assumptions and principles discussed and agreed at the launch meeting in Ramallah on 24 March 2014, which stipulated that the overarching principles for national disaster risk management in the State of Palestine should be:

i. Principle of Responsibility DRR is the responsibility of all actors and all sectors including civil society and the private sector.
ii. Principle of Closeness: Action should be implemented and coordinated at the lowest or most localized operational level.
iii. Collaboration and coordination: All entities in the disaster risk management system must ensure the best possible collaboration and coordination within other actors.
iv. Principle of Normality Emergency response should follow established procedures and processes that are as close to the normal working processes as possible, without causing unnecessary delay, as personnel will already be familiar with existing institutional structures and working arrangements.

v. Learning-driven approach: It is important that disaster risk management plans and risk reduction measures are built on experiences, good practices and lessons learnt from previous emergencies.

The following are some of the key findings are recommendations of the mission:

1. Context

Regarding risk analysis, the national authorities have, to date, used single-hazard approaches to assessing risks. There is a need to move to a multi-hazard approach. It is recommended that the Ministry of Planning and Administrative Development (MOPAD) should lead the national risk analysis approach.

The Gaza Strip highly vulnerable to a range of disaster risks. It is apparent that even a moderate-scale emergency has the potential to become catastrophic. Looking into critical life-saving sectors such as health and water/sanitation, the ability to prepare for and recover from shocks and disasters is presently severely degraded.

It is strongly recommended that a 'minimum preparedness' approach is developed for Gaza. This should focus on key life-saving sectors (specifically: health, water and sanitation, and energy), and agreed procedures for access for search and rescue. There is a need to work with Israel and other political actors on this approach.

2. National disaster management framework

Regarding the national disaster management framework, policy on disaster risk management is not coherent across the whole of government. The Civil Defence Law no. 3 is too limited in scope for broad risk management.

There is a strong sense of community support in Palestine and there are many good practices at the local level that should be carried forward in strengthening national disaster risk management. The suggested national framework has to be understood as both as a top-down and a bottom-up approach where national institutions will provide a support framework to strengthen resilience at the community level.

It is recommended that the coordination of disaster risk management in Palestine be strengthened by expanding and/or creating an institutional framework of coordination.

3. National and local disaster response capacity

The constraints of national response capacity posed by the context and by resource limitations means that developing resilience at community level needs to be a key strategy in DRR for both West Bank and Gaza. At the same time, the experience of communities in self-organised crisis management is a strong asset on which to build – this is a key opportunity.

While reducing long term vulnerabilities at community level should be built into the national development plan, it is also important to strengthen communities' preparedness resources for disaster events. Linking communities in disaster response networks should be addressed. For this it may be beneficial to base on existing local resources, for example the primary healthcare system.

4. Disaster contingency planning, monitoring, damage assessments and needs capacity

Current contingency plans have been tested often on smaller, localized emergencies. Access restrictions can usually be worked around in such cases. However, the access issue for a severe, wide-area disaster has not been fully addressed in contingency plans. Contingency planning at various levels should be aligned in crucial areas including cross-border. This can be achieved through the adoption of common standard operating procedures, communication protocols and joint exercises at all levels.

Fragmentation of the State of Palestine (due to access restrictions) and of the national authorities (due to political division) is a major factor in implementing contingency plans. National and international contingency plans have not been fully aligned and this risks gaps and overlaps in any major disaster response. The establishment of a Unity Government in June 2014 may create greater opportunities to enhance contingency planning.

5. Public awareness and education Building public awareness could be seen as the first step in engaging the community in disaster management. Community Based Disaster Management is the best preparation to combat disasters. More investment should be placed in running awareness programmes and engaging the community in mapping hazards and vulnerabilities.

Strengthening the private sector’s role in awareness building should be considered, and public awareness efforts should be an integral and strategic part of all disaster preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery plans at the national and local levels. In summary, the vision is for a disasterresilient Palestine that will prioritize the resilience and safety of all Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Building resilience requires a shift from a reactive approach to a proactive one that will safeguard sustainable development and economic growth and work within the special context of the State of Palestine.