The Changing Face of Logistics within the
Humanitarian Sector

June 11 – 12, 2012
Crowne Plaza Hotel, Geneva, Switzerland

Welcome & Introductions by Participants

The 2012 Humanitarian Logistics Conference (HLC) marked Fritz Institute?s tenth anniversary. Ten years on, many of the same issues concern us: logistics is still a function, not a profession; proper tools for the job are lacking; and training and professional development continue to be issues. This year?s HLC continued to focus on recognition, funding, IT systems, and also looked at measures of performance, partnerships and new actors in the sector, the changing environment for humanitarians, and integrating logistics with program.

The conference was introduced, and participants welcomed, by Lynn Fritz. All were requested to introduce themselves, and comment on the question, ?What are the significant trends in humanitarian response and logistics that are impacting your ability to meet beneficiaries' needs?" Participants? responses provided a frame for the subsequent two days and are summarized as follows:

Recognition continues to pose a problem, even in cases where the logistics department has seen significant size increases. The result is very little access to capital and systems, to improve logistics?, and the organization?s, functions. The issue of recognition was especially apparent during presentations on metrics and the discussion following, on day two.

Funding is shifting, and prompting logistics functions to make strategic changes which have placed great strain on human resources and support. The subject was explored in depth on day two of the conference during presentations from agencies (Concern, WFP, and UNHCR) and donors (DFID, USAID).

Integration of Logistics with Program was identified by participants as still lacking and an ongoing hurdle. Over the course of the conference, the issue was shown to have an impact on agencies across the sector. While some agencies reported great strides in raising logistics? profile, many more enlarged on the degree to which logistics continues to struggle for participation as a strategic partner. Panel presentations in the afternoon of day one, made by three agencies (Mercy Corps, UNHCR, and IOM) provided three examples of how logistics has adapted to the changing needs of the stakeholders, beneficiaries, organizations, and donors.

IT / Systems is an area where many organizations reported much experimentation and investment. Repeatedly, participants discussed the pressing need for IT solutions that are tailored to the humanitarian environment, to its increasing complexity, and that would deliver much greater value. Presentations by World Vision, UNICEF and HELIOS Foundation at the close of day one provided examples of IT solutions currently available and further discussion.

Environment is actually a combination of three topics that emerged during the participants? introductions including: 1) operational constraints, 2) changes in the humanitarian space, and 3) environmental (i.e. climate) change. In each of these topics, participants? comments reflected the new reality of increased complexity. It was a theme underpinning every presentation and framing the discussion throughout the two days, perhaps nowhere more forcefully than in the discussion of partnerships/new actors in the sector, where the issue of engaging the military was hotly discussed.

Partnerships / new actors in the sector were discussed at length, as participants cited increases in the number of military, government, corporate, and academic entities becoming or wishing to become active in the sector, not necessarily with a humanitarian response, or with much understanding. One participant asked, what if two emergencies the scale of Port-au-Prince happened at the same time? We were challenged to expand our thinking beyond international community versus local communities. This is very much a supply chain issue.

Training and professionalization has been a defining theme at HLC from the outset. HLC 2012 was no exception. Participants gave numerous examples of the huge strain exerted by chronic staff shortages and the enormous challenges to build staff capacity as well as to attract and retain competent staff. At the same time, progress was reported on some fronts, such as working with HR to develop new formalized practices of recruitment, training, and staff rotations. Participants repeated the call to instill sector-wide competences and standard language and provide proper, recognized training. In some cases, academic supply chain management knowledge, at the Masters level, is required to equip field staff in charge of operations.

In her introductory remarks, Mich Mizushima, Fritz Institute, described briefly how the conference was designed through detailed consultation with participants and in response to feedback from past conferences. The themes for this year?s conference that emerged from this process were: collaboration, technology, funding, and link logistics to program, and break-out groups to address, training and professionalization, academic involvement, KPIs and a proposed information-sharing platform, OneLog.

Successful Examples: Inter-Agency Collaboration
  1. Humanitarian Logistics Certification Program
    Presentation by the Certification Advisory Group, including: Fernando Lange-Garcia, ICRC; Syon Niyogi, CRS; Benno Schulten, UNHCR; Martijn Blansjaar, Oxfam-GB; and, Bernard Chomilier, WFP.
  2. New Partnership for African Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (NEPARC )
    Presentation by Richard Hunlede, NEPARC.
  3. Humanitarian Logistics Association
    Presentation by HLA Board, including: Amjid Illahi, Islamic World Relief, and Marin Tomas, IMC.
  4. Global Logistics Cluster ? Evaluation Report
    Presentation by Wolfgang Herbinger, WFP.
Notes & Discussion

The Humanitarian Logistics Certification Program has had strong results in the six years since it was first introduced. Participants cited Certification for building consistency of standards, qualifying staff for specific deployments and for local capacity building. The effectiveness of the program is recognized by those agencies listing Certification in TORs and job profiles, and those undertaking formal initiatives with their HR department to recognize certification as criteria to promote staff. Most agreed that while the cost and time investment of Certification courses can be high, they are nevertheless seen as excellent quality trainings delivering good return.t Societies (NEPARC) is a consortium of African Red Cross / Red Crescent societies dedicated to strengthening their capacities to promoting efficiency, transparency and self-reliance. The defining requirement for participation in this network is agreement to participate in an assessment of their organizations? governance, transparency and accountability. Since 2005, forty-four external audits of a global standard have been completed thereby furthering NEPARC goal of creating common standards of excellence and providing mutual support, across Africa-based national Red Cross societies.

Participants learned the HLA membership has expanded to over thirteen hundred individuals from over one hundred countries, with an active LinkedIn group of over one thousand members. Also, there are now fifty-one volunteer ?Red Dot? convenors. Active partnerships have been formed with RedR and INSEAD. Future HLA conferences will be moved geographically, for example, to Asia, to enable its worldwide membership to attend. HLA continues to grow under volunteer leadership and participants learned it is essential to hire an Executive Director to expand and coordinate future initiatives.

During the discussion, participants recalled the exchange of views in the months leading up to the Logistics Cluster report, including the suggestion that greater clarity about expectations for the Logs Cluster would strengthen the assessment. Participants were told that, while the cluster?s mandate was covered in evaluation discussions, the question is not a prominent feature of the evaluation report.

Advancement in Technology
  1. LMMS and Speed Evidence Platform
    Presentation by George Fenton, WVI.
  2. Mobile Technology
    Presentation by Jess Meeus, UNICEF.
    Presentation by Fraser Stephens, HELIOS Foundation.
Notes & Discussion

Presenters responded to detailed questions on the technical aspects of the IT solutions they had just shared. Questions varied according to the particular features and functionality of the solution. Despite the substantive differences among the solutions, it was observed that no matter the technology or its application, costs of implementation are high. While in the past, humanitarian organizations have been unaware of what implementation will entail, there has been a great deal of progress in understanding on that score.

For example, participants expressed frustration with the constraints placed upon the sharing of knowledge and experience derived during testing and implementation of IT solutions, as a result of nondisclosure agreements software vendors require signing. Similarly, participants observed the often very large delta between vendors? represented and actual capabilities of their solutions. To that end, Martijn Blansjaar, Oxfam who is undertaking to measure the benefits of their HELIOS implementation, stated he would be happy to share details of the project.

Despite the costs and complexity, participants agreed there is a pressing need for IT solutions developed expressly for the humanitarian sector and saw great promise in IT technology to achieve end to end supply chain view, to assess the results and effects of logistics and to raise performance in increasingly complex operating conditions.

Program Strategy: Link to Supply Chain Management
  1. Changes in Program Design
    Presentation by Laszlo Varanyi, Mercy Corps.
  2. Cash Voucher Program
    Presentation by Vicente Escribano, UNHCR.
  3. Changes in Environment
    Presentation by Mike Pillinger, IOM.
Notes & Discussion

Participants heard Mercy Corps? approach of positioning logistics to better support ?traditional? programs by making use of technology and other tools, and implementing a project management process to breakdown the ?island? mentality by integrating logistics with program. As new programs are developed to address the changing environment, logistics should adopt a market driven approach to designing a supply chain system that will make use of the different actors in the market. The implication to logistics of this approach is the need for additional training and understanding of facilitating support versus direct intervention.

Vicente Escribano of UNHCR shared a new innovative program which makes aid available to Iraqi refugees in Syria, via automated teller machines. Distributing aid in the form of cash vouchers, and designing for an urban context represented two firsts for UNHCR, serving as a model to be replicated in all UNHCR urban programs. This highlights the need for logistics to be involved during the planning and designing phase of the program rather than waiting until the implementation stage.

Participants learned of IOM?s remote control program in Iraq, a unique management practice among the UN and its international partners where the delivery of humanitarian assistance has been left to local implementers, both national NGOs and government ministries. This method has proved to be inadequate to meet the changing needs of Iraq where the local partners? capacities to respond has been strained as the number of IDPs, refugees and other vulnerable populations has grown and the instability remains. It was agreed among the partners that in order for assistance to reach those in need, the local agencies must be further strengthened and responses need to be better coordinated.

The discussion following the presentation consisted largely of questions regarding IOM?s MoU with NATO. The topic was re-visited during the discussion at the start of day two.

Logistics Certification Program:
Student of the Year Award
  • Recipient: Rana el Baba, ICRC
  • Introduced by: Annelaura Giovannini, ICRC
  • Awarded by: Lynn Fritz, Fritz Institute

Annelaura Giovannini, ICRC, introduced Rana el Baba, ICRC, this year?s Student of the Year Award honoree. Lynn Fritz presented the award, and announced the funding of 5 full tuition scholarships in Rana?s name.


Review & Open Discussion

Participants were requested to discuss:

Based on the presentations we heard yesterday, what comments would we like to make on the themes identified during our self-introductions?

Discussion of partnership / actors and the role of military in the humanitarian space continued at the opening of day two. Of all topics, this drew the most comments from the widest number of organizations represented at the conference. Some argued that it is imperative to engage with the military, as the military will be present in the Sector and geographic operational areas for the foreseeable future. Others argued that this goes against the humanitarian imperative of neutrality and may have security implications, not only for the engaged organization but also for all actors in the Sector. It was further agreed that the actions of one organization affect all.

It was agreed to designate one of the breakout groups to follow the subject of IT / Technology. Participants expressed that there is much to learn from each other and value to be gained by coordinating as the sector as a whole continues to search for solutions tailored to humanitarian realities.

There was discussion also of the value to develop a Certification of Organizations, similar to NEPARC?s required assessment of participating organizations. The idea was designated to be developed further in the KPI / Metrics breakout group.

No one challenged the observation that humanitarian space is shrinking or that the drastic decline in security is marked by the increased number of humanitarian casualities. Each person who spoke recounted an agency pressed to re-examine the ways they operate, and to decide when to engage the military, if at all. An argument was made for articulating the value humanitarian agencies bring to national procurement organizations in the face of military presence and increasingly assertive national organizations.

The subject of environmental change / climate change was raised by some agencies, who reported adjusting emergency response in light of climate change.

The topics of the breakout groups originally planned for the morning of day two were reviewed and revised at the end of this forty-five minute discussion. The original topics were: 1) Training and Professionalization, 2) Connecting with Academia, 3) Metrics / KPIs, 4) OneLog Information Resource. The new list of topics was: 1) KPI / Metrics 2) Partners / New Actors, 3) Integration of Logistics with Program, and 4) IT Innovation.

One topic in particular, ?Connecting with Academia?, which did not receive its own breakout group, emerged in the list of next steps from the breakout group ?Integration of Logistics with Program?, namely, to reach out to academics for theirinputs on how logistics can integrate with program. Fritz Institute is to serve as coordinator of this effort.

Impact of Funding Constraints & Shifting Priorities

  1. Martin Dalton, Concern
  2. Bernard Chomilier, WFP
  3. Julian Neale, DFID
  4. Bob Demeranville, USAID
  5. Amin Awad, UNHCR
Notes & Discussion

All presenters noted the impact of funding constraints and shared innovative responses. The story was echoed by participants. Few organizations have been untouched by reductions in funding, and for some, it has brought painful restructuring and severe demands on remaining personnel. The situation brought a sense of urgency to the initiatives discussed during HLC, particularly the proposal to establish sector KPIs by way of demonstrating the effectiveness of logistics and also to provide a means of measuring for improvement.

Break-Out Sessions
  1. KPI / Metrics
    Led by Bernard Chomilier, WFP
    • A certification process for Humanitarian Logistics is required.
    • Keep the focus on universal KPIs, and keep it simple.
    • A need to brain storm how KPI will be used.
    • KPI needs to reflect strategy, whereas some KPI are more like trend analysis data.
    • A need to focus on the importance of these standards, which will help to mitigate the risk of a certain type of competition breaking out between agencies.
    • Academia must be involved.
    Next steps:
    • Set a working group and identify a coordinator to establish the group and coordinate among the members.
    Working Group:
    • Coordinator: Fritz Institute
    • Bernard Chomilier, WFP
    • Paul Molinaro, UNICEF
    • Amin Awad, UNHCR
    • Laszlo Viranyi & Greg Shortreed, Mercy Corps
    • Andrew Parkes, Save the Children Int'l
    • Martijn Blansjaar, Oxfam-GB
    • Miguel Justo, Merlin (tentative)
    • Birgitte Olsen, Federation (tentative)
    • Claire Durham, British Red Cross (tentative)
    • Jean Pletinckx, MSF Belgium (tentative)
  2. Partnerships / New Actors
    Led by Martijn Blansjaar, Oxfam-GB
    • Humanitarian principles need to be sustained.
    • As long as they are not compromised, there will be no problem in how people handle partnerships.
    • Very difficult to define partnership: people?s understanding of partnership differ greatly.
    • We need to accept that there is a change in the dynamic of funding.
    Next steps:
    • - None required
  3. Integration of Logistics with Program
    Led by Marin Tomas, IMC
    • This is a long term problem, with no magical solution.
    • Logistics needs to demonstrate they are a strategic partner.
    • Orientation of program and finance staff should include a discussion of logistics.
    • Logisticians require training on project management specifically geared to the humanitarian space.
    • A joint, and timely, procurement plan design and roll out is required.
    • Information must be shared; i.e. procurement information must be shared with program and finance, and information on stocks must be shared with program.
    • Humanitarian logistics should be the next Sphere project.
    Next steps:
    • Develop a communication strategy and plan to target donors, CEOs and decision makers of donors and agencies.
    • Promote project management training within the agencies (e.g. PM4NGOs).
    • White paper ? explore partners (humanitarian organizations and academia) to assume research / white paper initiative
      • Coordinator: Fritz Institute
    • Provide an update to IASC
      • Coordinator: Isabelle de Muyser-Boucher, OCHA
  4. IT Innovation
    Led by Charles McJilton, Second Harvest Japan
    • Technology firms are making money out of Supply chain.
    • We need to look to low-tech solutions such as mobile phones.
    • We need to create some sort of forum to reflect good or bad experiences with IT systems.
    • Barrier to solution: some NGOs test some systems but are prevented from sharing results because of confidentiality agreements.
    Working Group:
    • Coordinator: Fraser Stephens, HELIOS Foundation
    • George Fenton, World Vision
    • Andrew Parkes, Save the Children Int'l
    • Charles McJilton, Second Harvest Japan
    • Jean-Luc Castell, MSF-CH
    • Syon Niyogi, CRS
    • Paul Molinaro, UNICEF
Path Forward

The objective of the Humanitarian Logistics Conference 2012 was to provide a forum for strategic discussion of Humanitarian Logistics and to define specific initiatives for involving Fritz Institute. The following projects were identified by the participants as strategic initiatives for Fritz Institute.

  1. Explore the creation of standard KPI (Performance Measure for Humanitarian Logistics). There will be a working group consisting of representatives from the UN, NGOs and the Red Cross Movement and coordinated by Fritz Institute.
  2. Fritz Institute as the coordinator will explore partners to assume research and white papers describing how logistics can be better integrated with program. OCHA will also investigate how the Inter-agency Standing Committee can be part of this initiative.
  3. Determine the need to continue HLC: Majority of the participants felt that HLC is a valuable forum for strategic discussions and would like to see it continue on an annual basis.



+ Humanitarian Logistics Conference 2012
- Humanitarian Logistics Conference 2008
- Humanitarian Logistics Conference 2007
- Humanitarian Logistics Conference 2006
- Humanitarian Logistics Conference 2005
- Humanitarian Logistics Conference - Africa Region 2004
- Humanitarian Logistics Conference 2004
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