HLC 2005 included discussion topics chosen to reflect the largest issues of concern to the logisticians in the humanitarian sector. Recent events such as lessons from the tsunami and recurring issues such as the need for formalized training, technology and collaboration were covered in detail. As usual, the conference fostered rich discussion and debate with actionable next steps as the outcome. A discussion of the primary challenges facing logisticians in the humanitarian sector today included:

  • The need for adequate and qualified logisticians in the field and experienced crisis leaders
  • The importance of raising the level of professionalism among relief workers and gaining recognition of the strategic role of logistics within organizations
  • The future of humanitarian logistics
  • Lessons learned from the tsunami that emphasized ongoing issues such as:
    • The challenges of collaboration during an emergency
    • The difficulty and necessity of providing effective common services
    • The need to gain visibility to internal and external activities in the relief process
    • The desire to measure accountability and efficiency
    • The efficient use of technology throughout the humanitarian supply chain

Participants had the opportunity to present and receive feedback on their organization's initiatives that impact the sector.

  • Gilles Marion, Head of Logistics and Supply, Oxfam-GB presented their program to ensure the purchase of Ethical Air Charter.
  • Rob McConnell, Managing Director, Fleet Forum presented an update on the next steps and current projects of the collaboration project.
  • Marin Tomas, Global Logistics and Procurement Officer, International Medical Corps, presented a review of the informal and formal collaboration that occurred in the field during the tsunami.
  • David Horobin, Director of Operations Team, DFID presented a donor perspective of lessons learned from the tsunami.

Actionable Next Steps
Humanitarian Logistics Association
The participants felt that meeting once a year to discuss their greatest challenges at HLC was not sufficient. In a groundbreaking moment at the conference, participants created and signed a declaration forming a humanitarian logistics association to serve as a catalyst to the professionalization of humanitarian logistics and the recognition of its strategic role in the effective delivery of relief during humanitarian crises. Other goals of the association include sharing of various tools, methods and technology and the creation of benchmarks and best practices to show measurable results and to demonstrate the value of logistics to donors and top managers. Over the next year, the association, with a secretariat at Fritz Institute, will create an interim advisory committee to make recommendations for its structure and priorities.

Certification and Training
Members from the Certification Advisory Committee, including UNICEF, Medecins Sans Frontieres-Holland, UNHCR, World Food Programme, International Committee of the Red Cross, Oxfam-GB and Erasmus University presented the results of the training survey that was conducted last year. Based on that analysis it was clear that most logistics training to date was ad-hoc and a formal training program was necessary. Toward this end, they recommended the creation of a standardized training and certification program for the sector that will be housed under the humanitarian logistics association. The certification will begin with basic logistics training at the field level, and create common processes and vocabulary across organizations promoting professionalism and collaboration. The participants at the conference recommended the Advisory Committee proceed to the next stage of selecting a provider for the certification program and to secure funding from donors to roll out the first phase of the program.

From the beginning, technology has been a key theme for the Humanitarian Logistics Conference. This year, Brigitte Olsen, Head of Logistics from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Isabel Sechaud, Field Logistics Officer presented a review of the Humanitarian Logistics Software (HLS). Their presentation indicated that HLS was an invaluable tool for the mobilization and tracking of goods to 8 countries in the tsunami response operation.

The participants agreed that technology is a vital component of the humanitarian supply chain. It was apparent that organizations need to define their processes in order to utilize software to capture information that improves and speeds up the relief effort. The need for a system that could be used in the field and interface with other programs and systems is imperative, but nonexistent thus far. As a result of the 2004-2005 tsunami experience where many organizations stated that they had inadequate tracking tools to coordinate their relief effort, the Fritz Institute has embarked on the development of two software solutions, Humanitarian Track & Trace (HTT) and Humanitarian Supply Chain Solutions (HSCS), developed for use in the field. HTT is designed to address the track and trace requirements in the field and provide improved visibility and accountability. HSCS focuses on track and trace of goods from the appeal to the End Distribution Points including a simplified procurement module and warehouse module. HTT and HSCS will be hosted on an Application Service Provider (ASP) model making it cost effective for small organizations that may not have the resources necessary to support an enterprise system. Conference participants viewed and discussed the software and several have expressed interest in participating in piloting HTT and HSCS in the coming months.

Public/Private Partnership
For the past 15 months Fritz Institute has explored a number of initiatives to strengthen collaboration between the private sector and humanitarian organizations. The private sector has shown increasing interest in partnering with the humanitarian sector especially in locations where they have a presence. Similarly, the humanitarian sector is interested in the resources the private sector has to offer. This trend was highlighted when the devastation of the tsunami created an unprecedented response from corporations seeking to provide assistance. Humanitarian organizations were overwhelmed by the response and the urgency to match needed supplies with donations. Many in the private sector became frustrated, not understanding why all donations were not immediately accepted.

Intel Corporation was one of the organizations that wished to do more during the tsunami. As a result, Intel, in partnership with Fritz Institute, is now working on a technology solution that can effectively match available private sector"assets" with the needs of humanitarian organizations in the field. To this end, Intel was invited to present their solution to conference participants, solicit feedback on the proposed tool and engage interested organizations. The fact that Intel shared their plan before building the system was appreciated by the humanitarian organizations. Eight organizations have agreed to take part in business requirements gathering and move the project forward in partnership with Intel.

Another initiative presented was Crossroads, an annual Fritz Institute conference that provides humanitarian organizations the opportunity to present a specific supply chain issue to experts from the business and academic sectors. Organizations will have their supply chain issue analyzed by a team of experts including Fritz Institute, leading private sector supply chain executives, and academics. This year, Crossroads will be held on November 11-12, 2005.

After discussions with numerous private and public organizations on the ground in Indonesia, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka, Fritz Institute felt much could be learned from a detailed study of the supply chain during the tsunami relief effort. In partnership with experts from KPMG and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Fritz Institute developed an extensive supply chain survey. Interviews with logistics people in the field and discussions with people from regional and headquarters offices of various organizations were held. Detailed analyses of the survey were presented at the Humanitarian Logistics Conference by Professor Jarrod Goentzel of MIT.

Professors Luk Van Wassenhove of INSEAD University and Professor Jo Van Nunen of Erasmus University engaged the participants in a discussion of the role that academia can play in the evolution of humanitarian logistics. They stressed that academia can be a key partner in helping to raise awareness of the importance of the logistics function in humanitarian organizations, and in developing pedagogical materials to build the field of humanitarian logistics. Five areas of potential research to improve humanitarian logistics were identified which included: performance measures for supply chain effectiveness, IT Systems including total cost analysis, the overall impact of logistics on programs, and the impact of transportation on development.

More Information
For more information about the 2005 Humanitarian Logistics Conference, please email Kassia Echavarri-Queen at

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