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Cooperation, coordination and partnerships

How do cooperation, coordination and partnerships help to enhance disaster response?
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0

Moustafa described the frustration he experienced during the early days of the Pakistan floods. He felt that the response was ad-hoc and poorly coordinated, and that the attempted interventions by his agency needed additional support.

Pakistan has experienced significant disaster events and political and social instability since borders were established in 1947. In 2001, a survey put the number of active and registered NGOs in Pakistan at around 10,000-12,000 (Gavi Alliance n.d.: 57). Since then, the number has risen exponentially, particularly after the 2006 earthquake. Much of the proliferation is due to the flow of funds coming into the country for ongoing development, conflict recovery and disaster risk reduction programs. An informal evaluation of funds provided to NGOs and UN agencies by all donors in 2016 was estimated to be £420m (Development Initiatives 2017).

If there is such a large number of national and international organisations working in Pakistan, why did it take so long for the response to show coordinated and positive impacts? We see that many of the flood evaluation reports are published by international agencies which make relatively few comments about the value of coordinating with local organisations.

Anecdotal reports from the Pakistan military suggested that they felt the response of the international humanitarian community was slow, inefficient, and a hindrance to their operations. On the other hand, humanitarian actors were wary of the military, given its role in armed violence, and were concerned that cooperation could undermine their core principles and security.

Over the past two decades, humanitarian agencies have focused on improving coordination between themselves, in order to reduce duplication of effort and wasted resources. According to UN OCHA (n.d.), humanitarian coordination involves:

…assessing situations and needs; agreeing common priorities; developing common strategies to address issues such as negotiating access, mobilizing funding and other resources; clarifying consistent public messaging; and monitoring progress.

In recognition of the diversity of stakeholders who need to work together to provide a coherent response, the Global Humanitarian Platform (2007) defined the Principles of Partnership (PoP):

  • Equality – mutual respect between members of the partnership
  • Transparency – early dialogue and information sharing
  • Results orientation – reality-based and action-orientated
  • Responsibility – ethical obligation to act responsibly
  • Complementarity – strive to complement the contribution of others

Further information

If you are interested in gaining further insight into effective coordination in humanitarian responses, you might like to listen to Ian Ridley’s (OCHA South Sudan Head of Office) commentary on how NGOs can coordinate effectively with OCHA during humanitarian response. You can listen to his presentation in the session recordings available on the right hand side of the page. Listen from around 16:00-26:46 minutes.


Development Initiatives (2017) Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2017 [online] available from [28 April 2020]

Gavi Alliance (n.d.) GAVI Alliance funding for civil society organisations [online] available from [27 April 2020]

Global Humanitarian Platform (2007) Principles of Partnership: A Statement of Commitment [online] available from [28 April 2020]

OCHA (n.d.) Coordination [online] available from [28 April 2020]

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
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Humanitarian Action, Response and Relief

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