Improving Coordination Between Disaster Relief Agencies: The Cluster Approach in the Philippines
Coordination between government and non-government agencies is key to providing effective disaster response. Coordination must take place at international, national and local levels. Thus, the United Nations introduced a multi-agency cluster system for coordination. The Philippine Government institutionalised the system to address identified gaps and to improve leadership before, during and after disasters. Current literature focuses on international analyses of the cluster approach and whether it contributes to improved coordination, but its efficacy at a domestic level remains unexplored. Herein, I analyse developments in the Philippines in using the cluster approach as a mechanism for disaster relief coordination. I use a qualitative, descriptive case study methodology to identify opportunities, barriers and gaps experienced by Philippine authorities during and after the super typhoon “Haiyan”, and I show how the Philippine cluster response system has evolved. I gather data from government policy reviews and semi-structured interviews conducted with government officials and stakeholders. Key findings indicate that the cluster approach has helped the Philippine Government to provide an improved, coordinated response. However, the same challenges that exist at the global level also exist in the Philippines. My findings also show that the Philippine Government has improved best practices as it continues evolve its disaster response systems. This research is significant to emergency and disaster managers because it shows how interagency coordination can be improved using the cluster approach.