The Joint Initiative – the Coordination of Assessments for Environment in Humanitarian Action

A Joint Initiative to improve engagement and coordination between environmental and humanitarian actors

The Coordination of Assessments for Environment in Humanitarian Action – The Joint Initiative – is a unique, multi-stakeholder project that convenes environmental and humanitarian actors to work together towards minimizing the environmental causes and consequences of crises and improve the quality and accountability of humanitarian aid. The initiative aims to improve coordination between environmental and humanitarian actors with particular focus on post-disaster environmental assessments.

This multi-stakeholder funded effort was built on an initial partnership between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the UN/Environment/OCHA Joint Unit (JEU), Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Swedish Civil Contingencies agency (MSB) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Through better dissemination of tools, resources and environmental data, the Joint Initiative has been working to enhance more effective consideration of environment and climate knowledge in humanitarian assistance

Since the Initiative was launched in early 2017 the overarching goal has been to improve access to and use of environmental data and information by humanitarians and to design and improve key environmental assessment tools tailored for humanitarian assistance. Emphasis has been placed on engaging environmental actors in the conflict and disaster space and on coordination with existing environment in humanitarian action (EHA) initiatives to produce a more robust, innovative approach to EHA that transcends the humanitarian-development nexus.

Ensuring that environmental considerations are taken into account early during humanitarian action is key to improving lives, livelihoods and resilience. Increased coordination between environment and humanitarian actors that harnesses environmental knowledge in a way that humanitarians can practically use creates opportunities to improve the quality and accountability of humanitarian response. Environmental issues do not adhere to sectoral or or geographical boundaries and an interdisciplinary approach that requires cooperation between stakeholders at the global, national and local levels is necessary to effect change. Within the backdrop of the humanitarian development nexus discussions, there is increased interest from both the humanitarian and conservation sectors to be more involved and coordinated in the disaster space. The Joint Initiative has been providing such an innovative space for this interaction, at the same time as connecting dots and filling gaps in the EHA landscape, bringing both innovation and continuity.

The Joint Initiative is an ongoing collaboration. The first phase was completed in December 2018, presenting several products and deliverables including the Nexus Environmental Assessment Tool (NEAT+), an update of the Rapid Environmental Assessment (REA) tool and digital online toolkit EHA Connect (now all accessible online). The JEU is the custodian of the deliverables of the project.

The Joint Initiative partners are continuing work to integrate environmental assessments in humanitarian response, building on the network of ‘agents of change’ and tools created and to institutionalize the use of rapid environmental assessment tools and climate sensitive analysis across partner organisations. The Initiative continues to work to increase the focus on collaborative learning and take innovative approaches beyond the individual level to exchange networks of experts and institutions, with the aim that environmental assessment tools become standard practice in crisis response.

From 2019, Joint Initiative partners are embarking on a new assessment of humanitarian packaging, with a focus on plastics.

The Joint Initiative core project deliverables

The Environment in Humanitarian Action (EHA) Connect is an online toolkit bringing the humanitarian and environmental communities together to support environmentally sustainable disaster management. The tool helps environmental actors engage in the disaster space and humanitarians develop more resilient emergency management systems.

It can be used as a searchable resource for both environmental actors working with the humanitarian system as well as humanitarian actors wishing to give greater emphasis to environment-related issues in their programming. It is structured around three levels: preparedness, sudden onset emergencies and protracted crises.

Nexus Environmental Assessment Tool (NEAT+)
The NEAT + is an environmental screening tool that allows humanitarian actors to quickly identify issues of environmental concern before designing longer term emergency or recovery interventions. It is conducted on the Kobo data collection platform (on phone, tablet or computer) and produces an automatically generated report in Excel, categorizing the risks into high, medium and low and provides associated narratives that can be helpful in for mitigation. The NEAT and associated guidance materials are available here on the EEC below related resources.

An update of the Rapid Environmental Assessment (REA) tool, initially designed in 2004. The REA was designed to identify environment-related issues which need immediate attention as part of critical disaster relief and recovery operations. The REA also provides useful information on impacts to the environment which can be used in follow-up emergency interventions.

The Remote Environmental Data Analysis Working Group is a collaborative process which allows environmental actors to be involved in humanitarian analysis, via participation in a working group set up under the Joint Initiative and managed by the UN Environment / OCHA Joint Unit. The group works to quickly identify and analyse top environmental issues relevant to a particular response and ensure that they are fed into the overall analysis process following a humanitarian crisis.

For more information on joining the working group please contact

Learn more about the Joint Initiative Projects in the past eight newsletter bulletins available below!

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