Large scale events like the coronavirus (COVID-19) and other factors are changing how we volunteer during disasters. This week’s featured graphic points out objectives, principles and suggested actions to help the coordination of volunteers in the immediate aftermath of a disaster event. For more on the integration of spontaneous and emergent volunteers in disaster management and civil protection, read CSS’ Tim Prior and Florian Roth’s CSS Risk and Resilience Report on Volunteerism in Disaster Management.
When it comes to responding to conflict, the phrase “they didn’t act fast enough” is one of the most common criticisms of international organizations. From the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s to the recent conflicts in South Sudan and the Central African Republic, swift and timely intervention by peacekeepers and other international actors can mean the difference between life and death.
Climate change is not an ideology, as some would have us believe – it is an existential fact. Greenland’s ice cap is melting up to four times faster than it was two decades ago, and if current predictions hold true, by mid-century the Arctic’s seas will be navigable in the summertime. This probability may frighten climate change specialists, but it is good news to those who want to access the High North’s once inaccessible resources (oil, minerals and gas), or to rely upon its shorter and therefore cheaper shipping routes. Indeed, the burgeoning interest of governments and investors in the Arctic guarantees that for better (economic development) and worse (oil spills, shipping accidents, and cultural dislocation), the human footprint will grow exponentially in the region. For those who are ready to kick-start this 21st century ‘gold rush,’ however, here’s an inconvenient question – where’s the infrastructure that is going to support it?
Accurate and timely maps are a vital resource in contemporary disaster and crisis management. Maps are essential for identifying vulnerabilities, monitoring the effects of disasters and organizing countermeasures. Traditionally, the mapping of crises was the exclusive domain of experts, including cartographers and crisis management professionals. But with the growing democratization of information and communications technology, this monopoly is disappearing.
Recent disasters have witnessed a new generation of online maps, created by civil society actors and relying on volunteers to collect, organize, verify, visualize and share geo-referenced information. Prominent examples include the crowdsourced maps created in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake in 2010 and during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Although these mapping projects differed in many respects, they had a common aim – to aggregate geo-referenced information from a large number of sources in order to make that information useful for emergency managers as well as those affected by the crisis.