Though the day-to-day activities of the office are largely defined by a combination of prevailing circumstances in the country and the responsibilities and priority concerns of the Humanitarian Coordinator, the Unit still adheres to two primary objectives:

  • to strengthen and maintain the capacity of the United Nations to act in a timely, effective and co-ordinated manner in assisting the government both with relief activities and with the prevention of future emergencies;

  • to support all agencies involved in emergency prevention and preparedness and, where appropriate, to use the structure of the United Nations to enable all concerned to work together with the highest degree of effectiveness and harmony in bringing to bear their respective competencies in preventing or preparing for emergencies.

Though these are viewed as fundamental goals, the broad context and scope of the work undertaken by the Unit has changed considerably in recent years. When the original terms of reference for the UN-EPPG were written in 1987, the civil war still raged and avoidance of another famine like the one in 1984/85 was uppermost in people's minds. Considerable emphasis was therefore given to detecting as early as possible the signs of impending crisis, and to the practical aspects of pre-positioning and distributing relief food. Consequently, until the beginning of 1992, the UN-EPPG /Emergencies Unit was primarily concerned with food aid issues and food security in the narrow sense of relief assistance. In more recent years, however, the Unit has taken a much broader view of its work, being more concerned with issues of co-ordination, resource mobilization and information networking. Food aid has become much less of preoccupation and there is now a greater focus on understanding and monitoring the underlying causes of food insecurity and social upheaval. This is reflected in the reports written by staff of the Unit which have become more analytical and detailed.



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