International organisations responsible for managing major hazards

AP/CAT (2003) 12 revised]

This report presents the main programmes and activities, dealing with one or more aspects of disaster management, implemented by international organisations. Special attention has been paid to activities and programmes covering Europe and/or the Mediterranean basin. Nonetheless, many organisations implement global activities (without focusing on a given region), which are also described in the report.

In view of the diversity of natural or technological disasters, the frequency with which they occur, their extent and their geographical distribution, many international organisations (whether intergovernmental or non-governmental) have developed strategies to limit the damage inflicted on both local communities and the environment. Some of these organisations have adopted specific terms of reference, whereby they assume responsibility for well-defined action areas.

Regard being had to the specific activities and programmes implemented by all these agencies, it can be seen that, overall, all the phases and areas of disaster management are covered. It accordingly seemed appropriate and advisable to distinguish the different stages at which these organisations intervene:

  • prevention of major hazards and pre-disaster preparedness;
  • organisation of relief operations in emergency situations;
  • rehabilitation so as to restore communities' pre-disaster living conditions.

It is not always easy to decide at which point the rehabilitation stage commences - when do relief efforts cease to be a mere palliative and become more long-term in nature? Experience shows that there is no real cut-off point between the rehabilitation period and the earlier stages, and the same applies to the "return to normal" stage, one of the objectives of which is to prepare for further disasters: prevention and preparation are important components of this stage.

International organisations' activities and programmes are constantly evolving, a tendency linked to growing awareness of the need to improve risk management. This reflects these organisations' concern to adapt to increasing levels of risk and to technical progress making it possible to alleviate the consequences of disasters.