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Emergency standby partners (deployment of personnel and service packages)

Key points
  • Emergency standby partners are able to deploy individual experts and also turn-key service packages (equipment supported by deployees to manage or install it).
  • Emergency standby partner personnel are usually deployed for short periods of 3 to 6 months; length of deployment is agreed with the standby partner.
  • The most frequently used service package is the ‘base camp', a fully equipped deep field staff accommodation and office solution, initially developed for responses to natural disaster situations.
  • For requests and questions, contact UNHCR DESS Emergency Services, Partnership & Deployment Unit at [email protected]


In order to improve the efficiency and predictability of emergency response, UNHCR concluded a number of standby partnership agreements with Government agencies, NGOs, and private sector organizations whose specific expertise and capacity complement UNHCR's internal emergency and surge capacity. Standby partners are organizations or entities that maintain a standby capacity of standby personnel or equipment, which can be rapidly deployed upon request, to enhance UNHCR's capacity to respond to humanitarian crises.

UNHCR's emergency standby partners offer two kinds of service.

Personnel deployment
Qualified deployees are made available quickly for short periods, often at no cost to UNHCR. Once deployed, individuals join UNHCR teams in emergency operations and work within the UNHCR's office structure in the country. During their deployment, they enjoy ‘UN expert on mission' status.

Emergency standby partners can provide a wide range of skills, such as technical experts (in shelter, site planning, water engineering, etc.); protection specialists (child protection officers, SGBV officer), or have skills in cluster/sector coordination, registration or information management.

Service packages
A service package is a pre-defined set of operational support equipment that upon request and mutual agreement between UNHCR and a Partner Agency is deployed to a UNHCR operation. A service package is usually combined with a support team that will set it up and train UNHCR staff before handing the equipment over, or bringing it back to place of origin. The specific terms and conditions for a particular service package deployment will be indicated in a Service Package Letter of Agreement (LoA). Support staff included in a service package deployment follows the same terms and conditions as outlined for deployees.

Examples of service packages include base camp modules (staff accommodation and emergency offices), information and telecommunications technology modules (ICT), or civil or mechanical engineering modules (such as water supply systems).

Main guidance

When and for what purpose?

Personnel deployment
External deployment resources should not be over-used, and should not replace regular UNHCR staff. They are a short-term solution when UNHCR needs to complement or augment the resources it has available for its operations for a time-bound period. In general, external deployment should only occur when:

  • UNHCR is not able to meet staffing requirements at short notice, or
  • Specific profiles or expertise are required that UNHCR staff do not possess; or
  • Additional help is needed is needed for a short period (three to six months).

Service Packages
Standby service packages can be requested when:

  • UNHCR lacks the capacity to provide a particular technical service.
  • The demand for a service exceeds the capacity of UNHCR's partners in the field.
  • UNHCR is unable to meet the demand for a service at short notice.


Description and /or specifics

Personnel deployment
The deployment of standby personnel is usually fully funded by the standby partner. UNHCR sometimes shares the cost or fully funds an arrangement; in such case, the country office concerned will have to pay for this.

The following standby partners offer individual personnel deployments to UNHCR operations:

  • Canadem.
  • Danish Emergency Management Agency (DEMA)
  • Department for International Development (DFID).
  • Danish Refugee Council (DRC).
  • Irish Aid.
  • Swedish Civil Contingency Agency (MSB).
  • Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
  • RedR Australia.
  • Save the Children Norway.
  • Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
  • Bundesanstalt Technisches Hilfswerk (THW).
  • Veolia Environment Foundation.
  • White Helmet Commission / Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship, Argentina.

For more information on personnel deployments by standby partners, see ‘Requesting emergency deployees'.

Service packages
Depending on the circumstances, service packages may be fully funded by the standby partner or donors, jointly funded by UNHCR and the standby partner, or fully funded by UNHCR.

The following emergency standby partners offer service packages to UNHCR operations:

  • Danish Emergency Management Agency (DEMA)
  •, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Luxembourg
  • International Humanitarian Partnership. An informal umbrella organisation for multinational cooperation between governmental emergency management agencies active in the field of humanitarian assistance. The IHP member agencies are: The Crisis Management Centre Finland (CMC), Danish Emergency Management Agency (DEMA), UK Department for International Development (DFID), Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning (DSB), The Luxembourg Rescue Services Agency (ASS Lux), Estonian Rescue Board (ERB), Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) and German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW).
  • Swedish Civil Contingency Agency (MSB)
  • Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning (DSB)
  • German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW)
  • Veolia Environment Foundation

For information on service packages available, see UNHCR, Guide to Emergency Standby Partners.

IHP Basecamp Modules
The service packages that UNHCR and other UN agencies use most are IHP's ‘Base Camp Modules'. These are designed for deployment to natural disaster areas or deep field operations, and provide fully equipped staff accommodation or emergency offices (or both).

Light base camp
Purpose. Light base camps enable humanitarian organizations to rapidly establish relief activities after emergencies, by providing living and working facilities for humanitarian personnel.
Service. Light base camps are tent-based, and provide short –term and rudimentary working and living conditions in emergency operations for 10 staff. Packages may include accommodation, offices, catering services, water and sanitation facilities, communication equipment, and logistics services.
Deployment time.6-48 hours.
Duration. 2-8 weeks.

Base camp
Purpose. Base camps enable humanitarian organizations to establish relief activities rapidly to respond to emergencies, by providing living and working facilities for humanitarian personnel.
Service. Base camps provide tented facilities of high quality that provide comprehensive offices and accommodation, including all necessary equipment and services. Packages may include offices, accommodation, meeting rooms, water and sanitation facilities, a kitchen and catering service, tools and equipment, water purification and distribution, power supply and distribution, etc.
Base camps provide sleeping areas with personal privacy, offices with appropriate work stations, and catering services (three healthy and balanced meals per day and water).
Staff. Base camps and their support staff are self-sufficient with respect to food and water for an initial period of 14 days.
Deployment time. 48-72 hours.
Average life span. 3-12 months.

Prefabricated facilities
Purpose. Prefabricated facilities enable humanitarian organizations to deliver relief activities after emergencies by providing living and working conditions for humanitarian personnel.
Service. This package is a comprehensive high feature solution based on prefabricated facilities, flat-packed in sea containers for transport. It includes offices, accommodation, sanitary facilities, a kitchen, tools and equipment, water purification and distribution, power supply and distribution, etc. Packages vary in size and can be adjusted to requirements in the field.
Deployment time. 1-3 weeks.
Average life span. 2-5 years (IHP involvement is normally 6-12 months).


Light base camp

Light base camp


 Prefabricated facilities

Prefabricated facilities

How to request / implement / seek support?

Personnel deployments
For information on how to request and deploy personnel, see ‘Requesting emergency deployees' or contact UNHCR DESS Emergency Services / Deployment and Partnership unit.

Service packages
To request service packages, contact UNHCR DESS Emergency Services (deployment and partnership unit) copying UNHCR Regional bureau covering your operation. Requests should contain the following information:

  • Type of service package required.
  • Technical specifications of the specialized equipment required.
  • The background and type of emergency operation.
  • The area, location and expected duration of the operation.
  • A brief description of the UNHCR team on the ground.
  • A description of safety and security issues.
  • The required lead time for deployment.
  • Plans and budgets.
  • A description of arrangements for funding and cost sharing.
  • A hand-over strategy.
  • Staffing requirements.

UNHCR DESS makes contact with stand-by partners to see whether one of them can respond. A stand-by partner who agrees may send a rapid technical field evaluation mission to the area concerned, or both parties may proceed directly to transfer the service package. Service packages are formalized by a Letter of Agreement.

Standby partner personnel who deploy with a service package complete the same formalities and procedures as individual deployees, except that service package teams may not be integrated in UNHCR's office structure. Like individual deployees, service package team members may be accorded the status of ‘UN expert on mission': this depends on the LoA.


Learning and field practices

Main contacts

Contact UNHCR DESS, Emergency Services, Emergency Partnership and Deployments Unit at: [email protected].

  • Ms. Natalia Micevic, Emergency Partnerships and Deployment Officer. At: [email protected].

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