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Towards a Political Agenda in Crisis Management


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  • 1. Toward an International System Model – A Public Entity Risk Institute Symposium Information Technology and Crisis Management (ITCM): Toward Interoperability in Crisis and Emergency Management By Susy Bruno ITCM Project, Crisis Management Initiative Office of President Ahtisaari Background The Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) is an independent, non-governmental organization based in Helsinki, Finland, whose aim is to respond to new security challenges. Its founder is the former President of Finland, Mr. Martti Ahtisaari. The aim of CMI is first, to enhance the conflict prevention and crisis management capacity of the international community, and second, to find solutions to global problems and divisions. CMI’s strength lies on its unusual network of political decision-makers, international organisations, research institutes, and individuals. Its approach is based on extensive experience and constant communication with international actors, as well as topical and well-analyzed information sources. CMI materializes its approach by participating in the international debate on global and crisis management issues through speeches, conferences, articles, and other relevant channels. CMI sees as its mission the making of policy proposals concerning its areas of expertise and their advocacy to decision-makers. CMI’s main frame of activities is divided into three programs designed to improve the capacity of the international community in dealing with new security challenges, crisis situations and post-conflict rehabilitation. The first of these programmes, the Crisis Management Capabilities Program, comprises two main areas: first is the enhancement of the use of information and communications technology in crisis response, management, and post-conflict reconstruction. One element of this area is the Information Technology and Crisis Management project (ITCM). The second area of work concentrates on the improvement of civilian crisis management capabilities through training for civilian personnel. CMI is actively involved in global issues through its two other programs: the Globalization and Global Governance Programme and when called upon, it undertakes Special Missions mandated by the United Nations or national governments. Introduction This paper highlights CMI’s work in advocating better use of Information and Communications Technology systems (ICTs) in humanitarian response, crisis and emergency management, and post-conflict reconstruction. It also deals with CMI’s vision and activities in tackling some of the major obstacles and challenges in arriving at a functional, international common framework or “system model,” which supports interoperability, not only at the technological level, but also at the political, managerial and organizational levels. Information Technology and Crisis Management 1
  • 2. Toward an International System Model – A Public Entity Risk Institute Symposium In order to improve information sharing, co-ordination, and co-operation from headquarters to the field, and between and among the various organizations responding to crises, it is fundamental that effective, reliable, and improved interoperable information and communications systems are developed. As the work of the crisis response community becomes more and more complex, it has never been more apparent that interoperability is the key to achieving that objective. The number and diversity of actors and networks involved in crisis management creates multiple challenges. Organizations working in crisis management at any level, whether governmental, intergovernmental, or non-governmental, are competing for resources. One implication of this state of affairs is that organizations will not invest in initiatives that do not deliver concrete returns to them. In many organizations, however, the recognition of information as a key organizational resource has begun to change this type of approach. The result is that more attention is paid to developing that asset, particularly in enabling organizations to learn from their experience more easily – a need that is repeatedly felt by those involved in crisis management. This shift in attitude also means that organisations are more prepared to share information strategically to gain real returns. As President Ahtisaari has pointed out: Presently, hardly any issue gets greater attention and concern from the international community than the question of how to respond to violent conflicts and the threats that those conflicts pose to international peace and security. Recent crises have demanded decisive and long-term involvement of the international community in the reconstruction of the societies affected. These operations, as well as others, have demonstrated the need for a more coherent response to crises and conflicts, and have exposed a gap between existing civilian and military capabilities. Today, the field of crisis management is witness to a great number of agents confronting the same problems but lacking a shared or consistent knowledge, co-ordination or communications technology or user culture. As a result, the different organizations work, wastefully, on the same problems, plan and take decisions without consulting with one another or without access to up-to-date or adequate knowledge. It is fair to say that technology as such does not bring about organizational change, but it can be argued that when well utilized, it does enable organizations to use it as a tool in implementing and achieving a coherent strategy of interoperability. Towards a Political Agenda in Crisis Management The rapidly extended scope of international missions has often resulted in a complex, loosely structured and less than effective implementation of the operation in question. There is a lack of shared strategic vision or institutional memory and Information Technology and Crisis Management 2
  • 3. Toward an International System Model – A Public Entity Risk Institute Symposium communication as well as uncoordinated leadership, duplication of work, and ineffectual management. In order to be successful in this endeavor, a necessary precondition is to muster political leaders and international organizations in having the political will to work together in developing common communication and information sharing tools and cooperative management practices. Secondly, clearly understood frameworks for cooperation need to be put in place in order both to agree on policies for information sharing and implement ICT standards to ensure that those policies can be acted on. The Crisis Management Initiative has created a process with the main idea of bringing the most important international players in conflict response and crisis and emergency management together: the United Nations, the European Union, NATO, and the OSCE. It is hoped that these four actors will take the lead in harmonising information exchange and technology standards that will boost interoperability in planning, implementing, controlling, and adjusting joint interventions and operations in the future. As a concrete step towards bringing the relevant players together, the Crisis Management Initiative and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) co-hosted a conference on Information and Communications Technology and Crisis Management entitled “Towards Interoperability in Crisis Management” September 11-14 in Helsinki, Finland. The conference participants included high-level representatives of international organizations, expert practitioners involved in humanitarian assistance and crisis management, and technologists who understand the nature of field operations. The conference resulted in concrete recommendations which will be pushed forward during the coming months by CMI, USIP, and the conference participants. Prior to that, in September-October 2002, the first Crisis Management and Information Technology Seminar was held in Helsinki. The seminar, co-organized by the Object Management Group (OMG), an open membership, non-profit consortium that produces and maintains computer industry specifications for interoperable enterprise applications, and CMI resulted in the establishment of the Crisis Response Executive Advisory TEam (CREATE). The Advisory Team fosters both the ITCM project, and OMG’s C4I Domain Task Force (C4I DTF), and ensures that priorities are set correctly for the work of both bodies. The Team advises on the strategic vision for the coming years in developing ICTs and standards for crisis response. It has also created a forum that communicates to IT-vendors, the developments and changes in the needs and requirements of ICTs that crisis management organisations use. Information Technology and Crisis Management 3
  • 4. Toward an International System Model – A Public Entity Risk Institute Symposium The ITCM Project In addition to finding a common framework, we also need concrete initiatives, which can help us develop information sharing practices and co-operation processes in the field, and that can at the same time solve the technical difficulties and challenges that surround interoperability in crisis management. In that respect, as previously mentioned, CMI has initiated a project called Information Technology and Crisis Management (ITCM) within its Crisis Management Capabilities Program as a means of achieving that goal. CMI takes the initiative one step further by leading the international dialogue of the ITCM project, acting as a liaison between international crisis response and management organizations and competent technology partners in order to facilitate development and adoption of new crisis management tools. The ITCM project aims to enhance the interoperability of ICTs between organizations involved in crisis response, humanitarian emergencies, and peace support operations. A common distributed C4I (Consultation, Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence) system will support advanced planning and co- operative execution of tasks and rapid, secure, and reliable exchange of information between peacekeeping forces and international organisations involved in the operations. The ITCM program is in the process of developing and deploying a decision- making support and knowledge management system for crisis response and peace support operations in cooperation with crisis management organizations. The product will unify information and communications technology system interfaces used in a field operation into a single, standardized entity. The system will be based on open, commercially available components. The ITCM project is a joint venture of the Crisis Management Initiative, the University of Tampere, the Finnish Defence Forces, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, the Ministry of Defence of Finland and industry partners IBM Finland, the Secgo Group, TietoEnator, and Dedicated Networks of Finland. Specific objectives: • Facilitate coordination of activities and information flow both inside and between organisations in the same area. • Enhance the safety of the mission personnel - Better awareness of the situation on the field (at the moment no civil organization has operational picture services available). • Improve civil-military interoperability - Military standards for information security. • Enhance the development of institutional memory of the mission - Accumulation of expertise despite rapid turnover of personnel. • Promote cost-effectiveness - More coordinated use and sharing of resources. Information Technology and Crisis Management 4
  • 5. Toward an International System Model – A Public Entity Risk Institute Symposium The ITCM system aims to enhance security and efficiency of the field operations. Therefore, all communications within the system are encrypted and access to different functions and data can be flexibly controlled. An enhanced document management system will build institutional memory inside organizations and in the whole operation. The project emphasizes increased situation-awareness and better flow of information. Information sharing enables more effective use of resources and enhanced management of overall operations. Consequently, this may eventually lead to a shortened need for an international presence in the crisis area, implying significant cost-savings. Structure The program is divided into four tracks: 1) Systems Development, 2) Turnkey Delivery Capability, 3) International Dialogue, and 4) Research. Each track consists of multiple subprojects. CMI’s activities concern mostly tracks 3 and 4. 1. Systems Development -- Systems development is a core part of the program. Commercially available products such as document management applications will be integrated into a single component-based standardized information system. The integration will be based on the Object Management Group’s C4I standards. 2. Turnkey Delivery Capability -- The importance of a turnkey delivery capability became clear during initial discussions with crisis management organizations. The prospective clients for the system should be able to order an up-and-running system with comprehensive support, training, and maintenance services from one place. As a part of the ITCM project, an expert, working group on International Crisis Management Telecommunication Network Operator (CMO) was set up in May 2002. CMO is a concept for an international telecommunications operator providing a comprehensive communications and data transmission solution for the organizations in the crisis area from day one. The CMO concept is designed to provide a communication solution from the immediate emergency situation to a continuous presence in the mission area with the same gradually expanding system. The CMO solution is based on scalable modules that, together with the Rapid Reaction infrastructure, enable a very rapid deployment of the system whenever a crisis breaks out. The initial field implementation tailored for emergency rescue teams can be expanded up to a full-blown professional mobile radio and telecommunications network if needed. The modules of the system are: 1) Rapid Reaction, 2) Fast Enlargement, 3) Continuous Presence, and 4) Standalone Network 3. International Dialogue -- The ITCM program has adopted a cooperative approach to the software development by involving different user groups into the systems development from the beginning. ITCM is organizing meetings, workshops and seminars with crisis management organizations to ensure the usability of the ITCM system and to involve the organizations and other user Information Technology and Crisis Management 5
  • 6. Toward an International System Model – A Public Entity Risk Institute Symposium groups in the system development, fine-tuning, and adjustment so that the system would best serve organizations’ field operations. 4. Research -- The system development itself is based on an extensive fieldwork within the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) in order to understand the challenges that mission employees face in their everyday work. Focused research on the crisis management environment and its institutions are an integral part of the project. The research will not only deepen partners' understanding of the domain at hand, but also help to overcome organizational inertia and avoid potential pitfalls during the deployment of the system. Parallel to the 2003 conference, the Nordic Peace 2003 NATO PfP Exercise was held in the Säkylä area in Finland, where the ITCM system was tested. The ITCM system was the first implementation of the standards for crisis management information systems developed in the framework of the Object Management Group. The lessons learned from the testing are going to be used in the further development of the system. Conclusions This paper was prepared to reflect the crisis response community mainly from the point of view of an international aid organisation. However, one should not take the view that the issues addressed herein are exclusively applicable to that portion of the community. Most, if not all of the issues addressed in this paper, apply to all levels and all participants of the crisis response community. This includes participants from “first responders” (local fire-fighters, law enforcement personnel, emergency medical personnel, and so forth) and local municipal officials, up to and including militaries and national government officials involved in crisis response management and recovery activities, as well as community members cited in this paper. While no single issue applies in all cases, there are a sufficient number of instances of each throughout the world and at all levels of the crisis response community. The most significant challenges in achieving better interoperability in the field of crisis management are not at the technical level, but are often organizational problems. These problems are many and varied, but largely stem from policy and management issues as well as organizational cultures. A common framework can only be achieved with the appropriate political backing, and with commitment to professionalism and information sharing. For more information see and/or ***** Information Technology and Crisis Management 6
  • 7. Toward an International System Model – A Public Entity Risk Institute Symposium About the Symposium Toward an International System Model in Emergency Management is presented as a public service of the Public Entity Risk Institute (PERI), 11350 Random Hills Rd., Suite 210, Fairfax, VA 22030. Web: The Public Entity Risk Institute provides these materials "as is," for educational and informational purposes only, and without representation, guarantee or warranty of any kind, express or implied, including any warranty relating to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, currency or usefulness of the content of this material. Publication and distribution of this material is not an endorsement by PERI, its officers, directors or employees of any opinions, conclusions or recommendations contained herein. PERI will not be liable for any claims for damages of any kind based upon errors, omissions or other inaccuracies in the information or material contained here. *** Information Technology and Crisis Management 7