INTERPOL works with United Nations in disaster simulation exercise

24 March 2006

GENEVA – The United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS), in cooperation with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and ICPO-INTERPOL, have completed a two-day disaster-response exercise aimed at facilitating coordination between humanitarian organisations, international organisations and the international law enforcement community in responding to man-made or natural disasters.

The 'table top' simulation exercise – entitled Bright Horizon and staged at the UN’s Palais des Nations in Geneva from 23-24 March – allowed different organisations to develop links and increase their awareness of complex issues surrounding disaster and crisis response. It was a first step to achieving greater understanding of the differing yet complementary roles of each organisation in supporting the response of the international community to countries suffering the impact of sudden major emergencies.

Participants in the exercise discussed points of view on a series of questions from which best practices and follow-up work could be developed, including further such exercises, and dialogue on specific issues such as missing persons and collaboration on the safety of humanitarian staff assisting in disaster relief.

Sir David Veness, UNDSS Under-Secretary-General said: 'We are committed to taking forward the wishes of the UN General Assembly in respect of humanitarian security….We see cooperation with international partners both within and outside the UN, such as OCHA and INTERPOL, as key to this process. This exercise is a significant step in improving coordination between humanitarian organisations and the security and law enforcement community.'

The Bright Horizon exercise was held in response to the report presented in 2004 to the United Nations Secretary-General on the safety and security of humanitarian workers and the protection of United Nations personnel. That report emphasized the need for a proactive and integrated approach to security by the entire United Nations system and the need for closer coordination between the international humanitarian community and security and law enforcement organisations, which have a complementary role in supporting the humanitarian response and the efforts of national governments affected by crisis.

This need was underlined in a powerful resolution of the UN General Assembly in December 2005 which addressed the safety and security of humanitarian workers.