Managing Humanitarian Relief: An Operational Guide for NGOs

ISBN 978-185339-669-4

Eric James



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Managing Humanitarian Relief is aimed at relief workers charged with putting together a programme of action to help people in extreme crisis. It provides humanitarian relief managers with a single comprehensive reference for all the management issues they are likely to encounter in the field. This book is organised in two parts. First, it provides an outline of different relief programming sectors: food and nutrition, health, water and sanitation, and shelter. Second, it presents 20 separate management topics that are essential for overseeing programmes. Its easy-to-use format includes checklists, tables, diagrams, sample forms, and no-nonsense tips from practitioners.


A ‘must read’ for students of the humanitarian relief system and a ‘must have on the shelf’ for planners and managers of emergency programmes. It combines comprehensive coverage of issues with incisive comments and well-balanced judgments…and, it is clearly-written. 
David Hulme, Professor in Development Studies, Institute for Development Policy and Management, Manchester University, UK
This book is a must read for all serious practitioners who work at the sharp end in the delivery of humanitarian and developmental outcomes to disaster affected populations. Eric covers the spectrum from the theoretical underpinnings to the practicalities of managing an NGO in the field. It is a "how to" book that will greatly assist in the professionalization of our programmes and will remain very close at hand during the conduct of our future operations. 
Marc Preston, CEO, Australian Aid International
Eric James has created a handbook that makes you wonder how humanitarian agencies ever got along without it! As an academic, I admire its clarity and comprehensiveness; as a practitioner and consultant, I will add this to my toolkit as an indispensible resource.
Dirk Salomons, Director, Humanitarian Affairs Program, School of International and Public Service Columbia University
An essential addition to the aid worker's tool kit. This comprehensive guide should be a part of every humanitarian NGO's orientation for new staff. A handy reference for all of the major tasks required for the successful establishment of an emergency mission which will likely help NGO staff to avoid the pitfalls and unintended consequences of decisions that are often, necessarily, taken on the fly.
Peter Medway, Director of Operations, International Medical Corps UK.
In combining a Textbook and Field Manual Dr James has demystified relief work for today’s generation of relief workers. This unique and perfect balance of analyses and practical guides and check-lists makes any field worker or manager’s job immeasurably more productive and rewarding. For years to come, every course on humanitarian relief will use this book and every relief worker will carry one in his to-go kit. CEOs and HR departments would be wise to order in bulk for all staff and new recruits. If every staff of every NGO had a copy of this book the humanitarian field would very simply advance by light years.
Farshad Rastegar, President and CEO, Relief International, Los Angeles.
This book is an important hands-on manual for both the experienced field hand and the person going out into the field for the first time. It tells us what we can do – the nitty-gritty detail of how to act in an emergency. It will answer your questions as they come up. It will help you make fewer mistakes. It is recommended as a reference book to keep with you as you go into the field.
Eric James gives the relief worker practical tools for effective work. In these pages, James explains how to do many tasks, such as developing a full monitoring system, creating a step-by-step recruitment procedure for staff, producing an office equipment procurement checklist, and even labelling keys and changing locks on doors of newly rented apartments. These are the nuts and bolts a practitioner needs when faced with the complexity and multiplicity of tasks at hand in an emergency. Like in any craft, these tools by themselves do not make a good final product. This will depend on the holder of the tools, the sensitivity of the intervener and the human and political skill of the practitioner. But this manual will be a welcomed companion to the crafter of solutions in the field.
John Hammock, Associate Professor of Public Policy, Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and the Fletcher School, Tufts University, Founder and Former Director, Alan Shawn Feinstein International Famine Center


About the author

Eric James has studied and worked in International development for over 10 years. He has managed emergency programs in Afghanistan, Albania, Burundi, Liberia and Sri Lanka, amongst other places. 

Table of contents

1.  Understanding emergencies and disaster-affected populations 
     What is an emergency?  
     Understanding conflict  
     The role of NGOs  
     Humanitarian principles  
     Problems and dilemmas of the international response system  
     Standardized initiatives and approaches  
2.  Understanding disaster-affected populations and programme sectors 
     Food and nutrition  
     Water and sanitation  
     Refugees and internally displaced persons  
     Psychosocial projects  
     Specifically targeted programmes  
     Infrastructure rehabilitation  
     Microfinance development  
     Gender-based violence  
     Special approaches 
3.  Managing in emergencies 
     Management fundamentals 
     Management methods 
     Organizational design 
     Team building 
     Assessing management 
4.  Carrying out an assessment 
     Gaining information about a disaster zone  
     Quantitative methods  
     Qualitative methods 
5.  Launching in a new country or area  
     Deciding to enter  
     Government and legal issues  
     Levels of involvement  
     Dealing with HQ  
     The emergency team 
6.  Establishing an office and accommodation 
     Property rental and purchasing 
     Staff accommodation  
     Buying office equipment  
     Office and filing systems  
     Ordering and maintaining a generator 
7.  Preparing a proposal and negotiating with donors  
     Fundraising fundamentals 
     Writing a proposal step by step 
     Proposal formatting 
     Negotiating with donors 
8.  Managing human resources 
     HRM systems  
     Recruitment step by step  
     Performance management  
     Discipline and end of contract  
    Assessing HR systems: a manager’s tool 
9.  Planning, managing and reporting on a project 
     Project cycle management basics  
     Project design  
     Planning and management tools  
     Project launch  
     Narrative reporting  
     Holding meetings  
     Basic problem solving 
10. Dealing with stress 
      Understanding stress 
      Managing stress 
      Conflict resolution between individuals 
      Working in different cultures 
11. Overseeing finance and accounting
      Overview of NGO accounting  
      Getting funds in a disaster zone  
      Petty cash  
      Financial audit: a manager’s tool 
12. Setting up a logistics and procurement system 
      Logistics fundamentals   
      Storage and warehousing  
      Maintenance and disposal 
13. Handling transport and maintaining vehicles 
      Buying and renting road vehicles  
      Fleet management  
      Driving safely  
      Other modes of transport 
14. Communicating using radios and satellites 
      Radio basics  
      Radio equipment and uses
      Setting up a communications system  
      Organizing a radio room  
      Radio procedures  
      How to use radios  
      Satellite communications  
      Internet connections 
15. Working with local partners and contractors  
      Identifying partners  
      Assessing an organization’s capacity  
      Sub-contractors and the bidding process 
16. Building internal capacity 
      Capacity building  
      Facilitating training  
      Ice-breakers, energizers and team-builders  
      Organizational development 
17. Dealing with the media 
      The media and emergency programmes 
      Advocacy at the field level 
      Giving interviews 
18. Managing security 
      NGO security fundamentals  
      Security phases  
      Security planning cycle  
      Security management  
      Developing an effective security plan  
      Security audit: a manager’s tool 
19. Monitoring and evaluating a project  
      M&E basics  
20. Coordinating with other organizations  
      Understanding coordination  
      Coordination between NGOs  
      Coordination between NGOs and the UN  
      Coordination between NGOs and the military  
      Coordination with host governments 
21. Closing an emergency programme  
      Handover strategies  
      Phase-out strategies  
The Humanitarian Charter 
Comparison chart between Sphere Standards and UNHCR Emergency Handbook 
Code of Conduct 
Summary of international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law 
The Humanitarian Accountability Project Principles of Accountability 
People in Aid Code 
Content of UN standard kits


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