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Requesting emergency deployments (personnel)

Key points
  • The four main mechanisms for emergency deployments include: the permanent standby teams of UNHCR DESS-Emergency Services (ES); the senior corporate emergency roster (SCER); the emergency response team (ERT) roster; and personnel rosters managed by emergency standby partners.
  • To request an emergency deployment, contact ES and the regional bureau. In L2 and L3 emergencies, one or more ES standby teams are automatically deployed within 72 hours.
  • Emergency deployment requests from the internal standby rosters and from standby partners must be endorsed by the Representative, and must include request forms and TORs. DESS proposes candidates to the Representative and activates deployment unless substantiated objections are received within 24 hours.
  • Staff on the ERT or SCER rosters are mobilized within 72 hours. The mobilization time for staff on the rosters of standby partners is between 72 hours and 2 weeks.
  • The DSA and travel costs of internal emergency staff are covered by the requesting operation.
  • When contemplating requesting the an emergency deployment, immediately consider also the required support, such as office space and equipment, accommodation, etc. Plan in a timely manner for possible extension of deployees or mid/longer term staffing needs.


UNHCR has put arrangements in place to deploy emergency staff when sudden surges in demand occur during emergency situations. These mechanisms enable emergency operations to manage when their staff resources are insufficient. Four main rosters are available:
A. The permanent standby teams of the Emergency Services of the Division of Emergency, Security and Supply (DESS).
B. The senior corporate emergency roster (SCER).
C. Emergency response team (ERT) roster.
D. Functional Rosters (HR, Supply, Registration, Admin/Finance), that are managed jointly by the Divisions and DESS.
E. Personnel rosters managed by emergency standby partners.

This Entry describes the circumstances in which these mechanisms may be activated, the services they offer, and how emergency operations can request deployees.

Main guidance

When and for what purpose?

When a UNHCR office has insufficient human resources to respond to an emergency DESS/ES can deploy additional personnel at short notice to strengthen UNHCR emergency operations and respond to the needs of refugees, IDPs or other persons of concern.

Associated risks

  • Delays in deployment. Deployees may arrive late for a number of reasons: visa delays, security concerns, other difficulties of access, slow decisions on terms of reference (TORs), budget codes or other administrative matters.
  • Depleted rosters. If emergencies occur consecutively or simultaneously, standby resources may be exhausted or candidates with the right profile may not be available.
  • Tensions in teams. When deployees join teams at short notice, or new teams are formed, they may take time to settle-in. To enable new teams to perform well, both the requesting operation and deployees need to show openness and flexibility. Managers play a key role in integration; preparation of clear and realistic terms of reference for all deployees, before they start, can also prevent many problems from occurring.
  • Challenging working conditions. New emergencies pose challenges that naturally affect the performance and well-being of emergency teams: the pressure to act; chaos and uncertainty; insufficient resources (laptops, communication equipment, vehicles, etc.); sub-standard or improvised accommodation and offices. Many of these difficulties can be addressed by good planning and management and administration, but all involved need to be flexible and show good will.

Steps to be taken

1. Request emergency deployees
To initiate an emergency deployment, an operation submits a request to the Partnership and Deployments Unit, Emergency Services (ES). Requests must be accompanied by the documentation required (see below), and must be endorsed by the Representative and copied to the bureau.

2. Review by Emergency Services
ES will review the request and decide whether to deploy staff from UNHCR's internal emergency standby rosters or request standby partners to nominate a candidate from their rosters.

3. Technical assessment
Technical experts who form part of the ERT roster are assessed before being placed on the roster with the respective technical units. ES also closely coordinates with other Divisions on the deployment of ‘technical experts' by Standby Partners.

4. Nomination of candidate
Having reviewed the TORs, ES identifies the best equipped candidate and consults the bureau and Representative on its choice.

5. Mobilization and travel arrangements
If the deployment is from the internal emergency standby rosters, (ERT or SCER), ES mobilizes the deployee and informs his or her supervisor. The requesting office provides the budget code for payment of travel and daily subsistence allowances (DSA). ES provides the releasing office with a travel authorisation, to prepare the PT8, and to arrange travel and payment of DSA.

If the deployment is external (from a standby partner), ES liaises between the requesting operation and the standby partner. It ensures that the operation and the partner receive all the relevant documentation. The partner ensures that the deployee is fully informed.

6. Travel to the mission
In all cases, ES ensures that the requesting operation is kept informed of a deployee's arrival. The operation is responsible for airport pick-up and accommodation.

7. Mission extension
In all cases, the requesting operation contacts the ES if it wishes to extend a deployee's mission. ES liaises with the parties concerned to secure approval of an extension and make any necessary release arrangements.

8. Performance evaluation
Country offices are expected to ensure that an evaluation of the performance of the deployee is recorded formally, either in a separate mission E-pad or, with the agreement of the staff member's regular supervisor, through inclusion in the annual E-pad. For deployees from Standby Partners, a standard evaluation form must be completed.

9. End of mission report
The deployee must submit an end of mission report to the country office, with a copy to DESS/ES.

The four main deployment options are summarized below.

A. Permanent standby teams of UNHCR DESS – Emergency Services
When any level of emergency is declared, the Policy on Emergency Response Activation, Leadership and Accountabilities is activated. ES is mobilized to provide technical advice and support and (in the case of an L2 or L3 emergency) automatically deploys one or more ES standby teams, led by a Principal or Senior Emergency Coordinator. ES Standby Teams will be deployed under standard ToRs, adapted as necessary to the operational environment. Deployment of an ES standby team is not automatic in L1 emergencies and depends on the additional capacity required.

Mobilization. Within 72 hours.
Period. Up to 2 months.
Extension. Depending on the requirements, one month (up to 3 months overall)
Costs. The receiving operation covers the costs of DSA and travel.
Activation. Director DESS in consultation with regional bureau.

B. Senior corporate emergency roster (SCER)
The SCER is a pool of approximately 20 UNHCR staff at the P5 level and above, who are on standby for deployment to senior roles within L2 and L3 emergencies or to be deployed as snr. cluster coordinators within the framework of the inter-agency rapid response mechanism (IARRM) for IASC system-wide scale-up emergencies.

Mobilization. Within 72 hours.
Period. Two months.
Extension. Exceptionally, missions may be extended to a third month
Costs. The receiving operation covers the costs of DSA and travel.
Activation. Deployment is triggered by Director DESS, regional bureau and/or AHC-O.

C. Roster of UNHCR's internal Emergency Response Team (ERT)
The emergency response team (ERT) is a pool of UNHCR personnel who are on standby for emergency deployment. Roster members are drawn from duty stations in the field and sections at Headquarters. The ERT roster includes staff from GS6 to P4 level and covers almost all profiles, except certain technical specialists.

Mobilization. Within 72 hours.
Period. 3 months.
Costs. The receiving operation covers the costs of DSA and travel. The receiving operation also covers the deployee's salary for the third month.
Activation. Following a request by the emergency operation, in consultation with the regional bureau and after clearance by ES. Bureau, Divisions, ES may also propose deployment of specific profiles.

D. Functional rosters (in HR, Supply, Registration, and Admin/Finance)
The functional rosters is a pool of UNHCR personnel, who have either undergone training or obtained a certification in a specific function, and who are on standby for emergency deployment. Roster members are drawn from duty stations in the field and sections at Headquarters. These rosters which are managed jointly by ES and Divisions, include staff from GS6 to P4 level, and cover the HR, Supply, Registration, and Admin/Finance profiles.

Mobilization. Varies from 72h to 2 weeks.
Period. Varies from 2 months maximum, to 2 months with a possible extension of 1 month.
Costs. The receiving operation covers the costs of DSA and travel. The receiving operation also covers the deployee's salary for the third month if applicable.
Activation.  Following a request by the emergency operation, in consultation with the regional bureau and after clearance by ES and Bureau, ES consults with Division and may propose deployment of specific profiles on these functional rosters

E. Personnel rosters managed by emergency standby partners
To strengthen its response capacity, UNHCR can call on external expertise to supplement its internal resources. Through its agreements with emergency standby partners, DESS has developed an extensive external deployment capacity. For more information, see Entry on ‘Emergency Standby Partners' and UNHCR's Guide to UNHCR's Emergency Standby Partners.

Mobilization. From 72 hours to 2 weeks.
Period. Usually a minimum of three months with the possibility of extension.
Extension. Most partners will request UNHCR to share the cost or fully fund longer deployments under a "reimbursable loan agreement" (RLA).
Costs. In principle, standby partners cover costs for 3 to 6 months (international travel, salary, accommodation, insurance including medical evacuation). UNHCR covers regional and internal travel, and transport costs to designated rest and recreation locations. No DSA or lump sums should be paid unless otherwise agreed.
Activation. Following a request by the emergency operation, in consultation with the regional bureau, clearance by ES (in coordination with Divisions as called for), and acceptance by the concerned standby partner.

Requests by a country office for any of the above deployments must be accompanied by the following documentation:

  • Terms of Reference. Standard or generic terms of reference (TOR) may be used for certain functions but these should be adapted for the specific operational context and the expectations adjusted to the time / period of deployment.
  • The Operation fact sheet.
  • An official request form (internal or external). This can be provided in email format if preferred, and should contain the following information:
  • Mission location.
  • Security level/situation.
  • Visa requirements.
  • Mission length.
  • Language requirements.
  • Description of working conditions (availability of laptops and communication equipment, vehicles, internet access, etc.).
  • Description of living conditions (accommodation, electricity, food, water, etc.).
  • The budget code for travel and DSA: UNHCR internal Staff (ABOD), or International United Nations Volunteer (Project).

Main contacts

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

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