Asian Journal of Environment and Disaster Management (AJEDM)

Volume 6 Number 2 (2014)

The International Environmental Emergencies Response System: A Case Study of Supertyphoon Haiyan (Yolanda), The Philippines

Rene Nijenhuis
Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit, Emergency Preparedness and Environment Section,
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs,
Palais des Nations, CH- 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland


Since 1994, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the United Nations Environment Programme have been working together to support countries affected by environmental emergencies. Over this period of 20 years, an international system has evolved and has provided humanitarian assistance to 84 countries in response to a range of environmental emergencies. Notably, the system utilizes the assets of Member States, and operates without a multilateral convention or a written agreement as its foundation. The international response to Super Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) in the Philippines is used herewith to explain and describe the tools and services available for the provision of international environmental emergency assistance. In the Philippines, the national and regional authorities, were supported by the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination team (better known by its acronym UNDAC), in undertaking a rapid environmental assessments using the Flash Environmental Assessment Tool. As a result, specialized expertise was deployed to work with the regional environment authorities in managing the oil spill off the coast of the Western Visayas region that, at one point,had displaced more people into evacuation centers than the typhoon itself. Finally, an Environmental Field Advisor was deployed to provide technical advice to government and humanitarian partners as to the integration of environmental considerations into the humanitarian programmes. The main challenges associated with the environmental response, set against the disaster time line, are reviewed here, and the initial lessons learned are identified so as to provide recommendations for the improvement of the multilateral system.

Keywords: Philippines, Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), Environmental emergencies, Disaster response, Multilateral response, International environmental governance.

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