Born out of the response to the crisis in Zaire in the mid-90s, the UNJLC has since helped to coordinate delivery of humanitarian aid for many large-scale disasters in the Balkans, East Timor, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. In this Forced Migration Review article, David Kaatrud, Luk Van Wassenhove and Ramina Samii detail the organisation's approach as it prioritises the need to preserve and respect the logistics system of all agencies involved in any given relief operation.
Acting as a temporary information platform supporting agency logistics planners, the UNJLC gathers, collates, analyses and disseminates relevant information from and among both humanitarian and non-humanitarian actors. This includes:
· Spatial information through Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to help agencies optimise their response abilities, costs and stock pre-positioning;
· Helping agencies avoid counter-productive competition and duplication of duties;
· Brokering exchange agreements between those agencies needing and those having storage facilities;
· Facilitating sometimes delicate negotiations with local authorities to de-conflict delivery operations in regions of military activity;
· Acting as one voice for a number of humanitarian agencies to help de-block common bottlenecks such as supply routes, warehousing, transport facilities etc;
· Coordinating the sharing of such facilities, and forming liaisons with military or local civil authorities in possession of these assets in order to speed up their transfer to relief agencies.
In four short pages, this UNJLC article gives a realistic overview of the complexities and myriad issues surrounding humanitarian logistics. Leaving one in admiration and wonder as to how so much aid actually manages to get through - a tribute to the people who devote so much effort to making sure it does.
Forced Migration Review, September 2003