Disaster management - Glossary

Complex emergency - is a multifaceted humanitarian crisis in a country, region or society where there is a total or considerable breakdown of authority resulting from internal or external conflict and which requires a multi-sectoral, international response that goes beyond the mandate or capacity of any single agency and/or the ongoing UN country programme. Such emergencies have, in particular, a devastating effect on children and women and call for a complex range of responses1.

Community development - is a process to improve the economic, social and cultural conditions of communities. Community development aims to integrate refugees into their host countries or to reintegrate them upon return to their country of origin, while improving the living standards of the whole community2.

Disaster - is a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources3.

Preparedness - involves activities designed to minimise loss of life and damage, to organise the temporary removal for people and property from a threatened location and to facilitate timely and effective rescue, relief and rehabilitation. See also prevention.

Prevention - encompasses activities designed to provide permanent protection from disasters. It includes engineering and other physical protective measures, as well as legislative measures controlling land use and urban planning. See also preparedness.

Recovery - is a focus on how best to restore the capacity of the government and communities to rebuild and recover from crisis and to prevent relapses into conflict. In so doing, recovery seeks not only to catalyse sustainable development activities but also to build upon earlier humanitarian programmes to ensure that their inputs become assets for development2.

Emergency management - is the organisation and management of resources and responsibilities for addressing all aspects of emergencies, in particular preparedness, response and initial recovery steps. The term disaster management may be used in place of emergency management3.

Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) - is an organised entity that is functionally independent of, and does not represent, a government or state. This term is normally applied to organisations devoted to humanitarian and human rights causes2.

Mitigation - is the lessening or limitation of the adverse impacts of hazards and related disasters3.

Sustainable development - involves activities that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs3.


1United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (2008).  OCHA Glossary of Humanitarian TErms 2008.  Accessed 12-04-10
2 UN High Commissioner for Refugees (2006).  UNHCR Master Glossary of Terms.  Accessed 12-04-10
3 International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (2009) UNISDR Terminology on Disaster Risk Reduction.  Accessed 12-04-10