While post-disaster recovery has frequently been treated as a separate phase distinct from both emergency relief and long-term development, there is increasing recognition that these activities are often integrally related, especially from the perspective of reducing risk and vulnerability. Ultimately the implementation of effective preparedness and risk reduction measures is a necessary aspect of sustainable development, just as relief and recovery activities must start with protecting vulnerable people from further risks. However despite the hyperbole, there are real questions about the extent to which recovery does indeed offer a ‘window of opportunity’ for long-term risk reduction.

Recent disasters including the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, 2005 Hurrican Katrina in the US, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and 2011 Fukushia triple disaster have brought significant attention to issues of recovery and to the need for strengthening the links from recovery to risk reduction.

Harmonized Approach

Organising collective recovery action

Community rebuilding though integrated approaches

  1. Shelter
  2. Health and water sanitation
  3. Livelihoods
  4. Community services
  5. Disaster risk reduction
  6. Local capacity rebuilding


Harmonized approach

A harmonised and integrated approach in combination with effective coordination and operational structures will allow all recovery partners to have greater impact and effectiveness. Each organization supporting recovery has its own range of constraints, resources and ambitions in seeking to meet the needs of the most vulnerable. Each is seeking to balance public and donor expectations with the practicalities of finding a valued niche and implementing in a complex environment. Coordination should steer towards areas of greatest overlap with respect to the factors illustrated below. While there are a range of options open to each of us as independent organizations, there is also significant value to be gained if we can collectively operate in these areas of overlap as much as possible.

Organising collective recovery action

Three main elements are required to effectively organise our activities over the medium- and long-term:

  1. A strategic approach
  2. A modality of operation
  3. Coordination mechanisms 

There are a wide range of options to take forward each of these elements to give us the flexibility we need to work.

Strategic approach Modalities Coordination mechanisms

Task division by sector with recovery partners taking the lead in specific sectoral areas of specialization.

Tasking based on location with a particular recovery partner taking the lead in each geographic area and delivery a comprehensive range of recovery assistance to support local recovery.

Strategic gaps
Multi-partner effort to address a significant gap in the response and recovery that no single agency is able to address within the context of sectoral or thematic programming.

Recovery organizations operate independently to provide direct support to response and recovery activities.

Pooling and joint management of organizational resources under common leadership.

Partner Consortia
Recovery partners work with one another under common framework to enhance capacities.

External Partnering
Strengthening capacities by engaging effectively with external partners to fill gaps and ensure the sustainability of services provided.

Strategy and common objectives:
Common recovery strategy to guide activities of recovery partners to ensure significant gaps in areas of core interest do not develop.

Joint reporting to ensure the full impact of recovery activities are communicated

Strategic planning cell to local organizations to assist them in interacting with other recovery partners in planning recovery activities.

Coordination structures
Leadership task force and series of technical groups under the UN cluster system or other coordination structure.

Operating status, legal architecture, and services
Achieving independent legal status for international recovery organizations is often a significant challenge and should be facilitated by national planning (e.g. under an International Disaster Response Law program) to facilitate operational activities by a wide range of assisting organizations.

A fuller description of these strategic approaches are outlined here.

Community rebuilding though integrated approaches


Address transitional and long-term shelter needs recognizing differing needs of those that can/cannot return to original sites and those in self-settled and managed camps. Activities include:

  • provision of shelter kits and safe building information
  • material assistance / cash grants
  • reconstruction of permanent housing

Health and watsan

Start from the periphery, with low tech and sustainable approaches, and then work toward the center. This will complement where everyone else is focusing at the moment. Key activities include:

  • provision of community based health and first aid services
  • psychosocial support
  • ensuring access to safe water

Livelihoods, food security and economic recovery

Develop community livelihoods initiatives that address the needs of individuals, households, and local enterprise. This would include:

  • re-establishing local markets
  • short-term salary support to  teachers, doctors, and nurses to restart community services

Community infrastructure and services

Re-establish community health and education services to meet current response needs through

  • development/equipping temporary & permanent health centres & schools
  • promotion of safety and awareness
  • empowerment of community organisations

Disaster risk reduction

Ensure risk-informed humanitarian response and recovery through

  • contingency planning for other immediate hazards (from secondary impacts or new hazards events)
  • advocacy for safe building guidelines
  • addressing threats to short- and long-term food security
  • environmental management
  • community-based disaster risk reduction

Local capacity development

Support local organizations to re-establish services and plan future growth through support to

  • organizational development of finance, human resource, volunteering, disaster management, and other systems
  • strengthening core services related to community safety and resilience (including disaster preparedness, health, and outreach services)
  • sustainability through cost recovery, income generation and other strategies


Early recovery refers to recovery assessment, planning and implementation of activities designed to strengthen the quality and impact of our relief interventions and support disaster-affected people through the first few months following a disaster (relief to recovery transition).

Recovery (reconstruction and rehabilitation) refers to the medium to longer-term planning and implementation of substantive recovery programmes in the first year or longer, following a disaster.