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International Recovery Platform

Post-Disaster Needs Assessment and Recovery Framework: Overview

A Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) encompasses two perspectives: (i) the valuation of physical damages and economic losses; and, (ii) the identification of human recovery needs based on information obtained from the affected population. These perspectives are integrated into a single assessment process to support the identification and selection of response options covering recovery interventions from early- to long-term recovery in a Recovery Framework (RF).

A PDNA should commence as soon as possible after the disaster onset, ideally within the first weeks. A first objective for the PDNA is to support the elaboration of the Recovery Framework in time for the revision of a humanitarian flash appeal - normally within five to six weeks following the onset of a disaster. This provides the foundation for more in-depth assessments, ongoing recovery and transition to development as the Recovery Framework continues to be more fully elaborated. Needs identified by the PDNA beyond national capacity may be used as an evidence base for the mobilization of further international resources in support of recovery, e.g. in connection with an international donor conference in response to the disaster.

PDNAs and related guidance are a joint effort by the UN system, World Bank and European Commission, in support of governments, in furtherance of a series of institutional agreements on post-crisis cooperation. These include:

  • the United Nations-World Bank Partnership Framework for Crisis and Post-Crisis Situations signed on 24 October 2008 by the UN Secretary General and the President of the World Bank;
  • the United Nations Development Group-World Bank Post-Crisis Operational Annex signed on 24 October 2008 by the World Bank Managing Director and the Administrator of UNDP on behalf of the UN Development Group (UNDG); and
  • the Joint Declaration on Post-Crisis Assessments and Recovery Planning signed on 25 September 2008 by the European Commissioner, the Administrator of UNDP on behalf of the UNDG, World Bank Vice President for Operations Policy and Country Services

Back to topRecovery as a Strategic Planning Process

Recovery planning is essentially a strategic planning process. The Recovery Framework is a strategic plan for guiding and reflecting all the decisions that need to be made to coordinate the recovery of a geographical area after a disaster. Once formulated, the Recovery Framework is a dynamic vision represented by a document that changes in response to an evolving understanding of the context and the impact of planned and unplanned recovery interventions.

Assessments of the impact of a disaster on individual, household, community and national assets, coping mechanisms, and early and longer-term recovery needs build the evidence base for and underpin the development of the Recovery Framework, including an Early Recovery Strategic Framework. Such assessments necessarily need to integrate a number of different but interconnected perspectives. These perspectives may be broadly categorized as the identification of human recovery needs and the valuation of damages and losses to support both recovery programming and the mobilization of the necessary capital to finance the recovery process.

Back to topRecovery as a reflection of the development perspective

The recovery planning process starts with the determination of disaster impact and ends with the prioritization of interventions from a response options analysis. The process is anchored in a baseline that includes the pre-disaster development plan (including risk reduction objectives) for the affected area.

As a reflection of the development perspective, the Recovery Framework describes the recovery vision, not just from an output point of view but rather with an outcome orientation to “quality of life” and the reduction of future risks and vulnerabilities. For example, it is not enough that a hospital and clinics are rebuilt but rather that persons get quality medical care, i.e., that the health care system is functioning in both preventive and reactive modes; or, it is not sufficient that a school is rebuilt but rather that children attend, teachers teach and learning transpires and, furthermore, that these institutions continue to function when the hazard re-manifests itself. This orientation acknowledges, also, that the recovery vision takes account of the pre-disaster level of development while holding out a promise to build back better.

Back to topThe Recovery Framework

The Recovery Framework serves as a tool for planning, coordinating, and managing the recovery process. It will be sketchy at first and provide primarily an initial vision of the recovery - the future quality of life and life processes - as decision-makers project what the stricken area will look like when it is has recovered and is back on the road of development. An outline of the framework, developed in the immediate days following the disaster and informed by humanitarian rapid assessments as well as approximations of disaster effects, provides an initial point of reference for the PDNA by establishing the recovery sectors and outlining initial recovery outcomes. Partially, driven by the initial outline of the Recovery Framework, the PDNA process is conceptualized and, when completed, builds the evidence base and provides the analysis required to complete a second iteration of the RF, including an Early Recovery Strategic Framework (ERSF).

The Recovery Framework captures the priorities for recovery response as a conceptual matrix.

The horizontal axis of the Recovery Framework matrix represents the sectors important to the recovery response. The sectors must be determined by the Government in consultation with other recovery actors in the context of a specific disaster event (figure 2 names sectors for the purposes of illustration). The indicative sectors are derived from a variety of sources - e.g. the humanitarian reform cluster coordination model and the UNECLAC Damage and Loss Assessment (DaLA) methodology.

The vertical axis of the matrix is headed by the unique outcomes and priorities for each sector. The outcomes are refined from the analysis of needs and response options generated in reaction to the needs assessments. These assessments occur over time from the humanitarian phase through early recovery to more in-depth assessment of long term recovery needs for the return to development.

Cross-cutting issues, such as risk reduction, gender equality, HIV/AIDS and the environment together with guiding principles of good recovery practices such as community participation and government ownership set a context for the entire matrix.

Back to topUnderstanding Needs and Developing Response Options

As already noted, the PDNA brings together two of the main perspectives of recovery assessment, i.e. the determination of human recovery needs with the valuation of damages and losses aggregated to the national level. A key value-add of integrating these two strands in the PDNA is that it encourages the inclusion of information systematically obtained from key informants and a representative sample of the affected population to complement data on physical damages and losses collected primarily from secondary sources. Consequently, the recovery vision and plan are developed in close consultation with and reflect the priorities of the affected population.

Individual sector stakeholders develop solutions to the problems identified by the PDNA within their distinctive areas of competence and mandate, reflecting a prioritization of needs and the analysis of response options (taking account of capacity and resource constraints). This competition of ideas and approaches - and the selection of which approaches to use - lead to the generation, and ultimately, prioritization of recovery response options. These response options serve to refine the outcomes to be achieved in each sector of the Recovery Framework.

Informed by ongoing needs assessment, response and recovery progress as well as changing conditions including, e.g. emerging secondary hazards, the Recovery Framework is a “living document”. It serves as a screen for soliciting, selecting, and funding programmes and projects. The Recovery Framework provides decision makers, especially governments, with an operating envelope to allow sectoral proposals to be incorporated in a national plan and, as often as possible, integrate response options across sectors. Indeed, many programmatic interventions may contribute to achieving outcomes across several sectors. For example, a properly devised self-help housing program promotes economic development, develops livelihoods, has psycho-social benefits, is sensitive to gender and disaster risk reduction as well as providing housing (shelter).

Back to topOwnership

For the Recovery Framework to be an effective tool it requires government ownership as well as inter-agency and donor adherence. The Recovery Framework may also provide a monitoring tool to assess the overall progress of recovery, highlighting gaps in recovery activities. The more fully developed Recovery Framework serves as the tool for promoting and guiding private, local, national, bi-lateral, and multi-lateral investment in recovery implementation.

Clearly, the relative importance of the sectors and the resources committed to a particular sector represent a negotiated agreement that recognizes the unique requirements of a geographical area as well as the political realities including resource constraints. Were this not the case, a plan would do everything that everyone wanted for everybody. In this regard, a Recovery Framework is a market-driven expression of what’s possible and, out of what is possible, what is chosen. So too, as with the allocation across sectors, the Recovery Framework as applied within a sector is necessarily a negotiated political statement.

The ultimate goal of recovery managers is that the sectors’ outcomes, when achieved, contribute to and ensure the overall intended recovery outcome, i.e., that the affected area recovers effectively and that people, families, businesses, and public officials find it a safe and attractive place to live, invest, and prosper. A Recovery Framework is specific to a particular disaster and geographic context and may vary across and within countries even with regards to the same disaster event.

A properly developed Recovery Framework has “ownership” by all, or at least most, affected stakeholders and is, therefore, multi-stakeholder in nature. Without agreement of key stakeholders, implementation will be ineffective or maybe even impossible. Ownership of the recovery framework results from participation and transparency. Participation implies that the needs and aspirations of the various stakeholders are understood, that all levels of government are engaged in planning recovery, and that international and national responders - including donors - perceive roles for themselves that are derived from their mandates and competencies. Transparency means that discussions and decision-making processes are visible to all stakeholders.