Earthquake response: Key takeaways from our lessons learned discussion with the Turkish business community
Earlier this year, 9.1 million people in Türkiye were directly affected by the devastating earthquakes that struck the country on 6 February 2023.
The Turkish private sector immediately began playing a critical and massive role in the earthquake response, with businesses of all sizes identifying and deploying resources, expertise, equipment, goods, and services to help those – their families, friends, neighbours, and colleagues – in need.
“I have not yet talked to a Turkish executive who was not actively involved in the first weeks of the earthquake response, using their business networks to help in any way they could,” said Louisa Vinton, Resident Representative, United Nations Development Programme Türkiye.
As we reflect on the local private sector’s earthquake response, how can we ensure that good practices, lessons learned, and challenges are captured to improve and prepare for the next inevitable response in Türkiye, or elsewhere in the world? How can the United Nations, the broader humanitarian and development communities, and governments coordinate better with the private sector to enhance the way we assist those who are most in need? As we enter month eight post-earthquake, how can the aforementioned actors work together towards medium and long-term recovery, reconstruction, and resilience efforts?
As Bediako Buahane Chief a.i.,of the Response Support Branch United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), highlighted, “Business is eager, willing, and able to help. Businesses are part of the affected community. For the UN, how do we coordinate better together?” This past Friday, 22 September, the Connecting Business initiative (CBi), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Türkiye, the United Nations Resident Coordinator Office (RCO) in Türkiye, the Turkish Enterprise and Business Confederation (TÜRKONFED), and the Business for Goals (B4G) platform organized a lessons learned workshop to begin answering these questions. The workshop brought together more than 80 Turkish business representatives, Government officials, UN focal points, and Turkish civil society to work through the earthquake response timeline, discuss immediate and long-term recommendations to improve current approaches of private sector engagement before, during and after emergencies, and foster partnerships.
Setting the tone of the workshop, Arda Batu, Secretary-General & Board Member, TÜRKONFED; Member Network Representative to the CBi Executive Committee, concluded his opening remarks by stating, “With strong partnerships and a commitment to localizing knowledge, companies can find their role. TÜRKONFED’s partners have been there with us in the bad days, and we thank you for standing with us.”
The workshop participants highlighted four main themes during the day:
- Improving coordination between the humanitarian community, governments, and private sector;
- The important role of businesses in disaster preparedness;
- Collecting and sharing data amongst response actors, including the private sector; and
- Working together to build back better in the affected region’s recovery and reconstruction.
1. Improved coordination to enable a more effective response
Challenge: Despite efforts by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the deployment of CBi’s Network Specialist, Rhiza Nery, as the private sector focal point in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, there was still a sense that greater coordination and improved communication between the local private sector, the United Nations, and the Government could avoid parallel efforts for greater impact.
Recommendation: Integrating private sector coordination and establishing communication mechanisms that are aligned with relevant contingency and response plans by the Government would improve communication, resource tracking, and resource allocation during an emergency.
2. Emergency preparedness: Going from theory to practice
Challenge: Business emergency management and continuity plans cannot just be written documents, they must be plans that are regularly discussed, updated and are actionable.
To this point, Mr. Murat Gencer, Risk Director, Sabancı Holding stressed, “Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) need to be discussed, in environments such as this, to ensure we are truly prepared.”
Recommendations: Businesses should regularly conduct drills and assess potential risks to ensure practical readiness of business emergency management and continuity plans. For example, pinpointing earthquake zones and emergency routes, building and maintaining relationships with the local administration, and practicing crisis communication strategies with employees.
Participants also discussed the potential of the national disaster response or contingency plan having a mapping of where the local private sector’s resources are and the most effective way to access them. “We need to understand that companies are at all different levels of preparedness, and that we should prioritize information sharing to build business disaster resilience.” – Cem Tüfekçi, Earthquake Task Force Chairman, TÜSIAD
3. Collecting and sharing data for better coordination
Challenges: The United Nations, the Turkish Government and local businesses were conducting separate assessments, and the United Nation’s tally of humanitarian aid contributions and allocations did not fully include the private sector’s contributions.
Recommendation: Establishing a standardized approach to data collection, that includes all relevant actors, to better understand where resources are most needed and avoid waste and duplication.
Good Practice: CBi developed a Türkiye Earthquakes Private Sector Donations Tracker Dashboard, and while the collection of data has proven challenging, it continues to evolve and provide additional transparency and accountability.
4. Recovery and reconstruction: Building back better
Challenges: Identifying and responding to the affected people’s actual needs, avoiding aid duplication and waste, and understanding the best course of action to the outward migration of people from the earthquake impacted regions, particularly women and children.
Recommendations: Communicate directly with those you are serving and actively consider the specific needs of men, women, boys, girls, the elderly and persons with disabilities.
Invest in vocational training to rebuild the skilled labour force and restart the economy in the affected regions. Provide small business grants and business-to-business mentoring programmes. For reconstruction, build back better with the green certification of buildings, the creation of industry zones, and turning waste management into economic growth opportunities. Philippe Clerc, Resilience Development Adviser, UNDP Türkiye, reminded participants that, “The more we answer short-term needs with long-term thinking, the better we are and the stronger we become.”
Good Practice: Through conversations with the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (Turkish: Afet ve Acil Durum Yönetimi Başkanlığı, also abbreviated as AFAD), Koç Holding determined the company’s recovery efforts would focus on shelter. To maximize impact, Koç Holding hired an anthropologist to consult the affected community on what was most important to them for the shelter project.
The container city, ‘Cities of Hope’, in collaboration with AFAD and 25 partners, focuses on the small comforts of normal life for children, women, persons with disabilities and economic development. The city includes gathering areas that mimic city squares, containers that include televisions, air conditioning, and sitting areas, and community resources such as centres for psychological support, mosques, churches, hair salons, laundry etc., while being accessible for persons with disabilities. “Everything has collapsed here, but now we have hope.” – Affected person’s response to Koç Holding container city.
Good Practice: The Small and Medium Enterprises Development and Support Administration (KOSGEB) and the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Türkiye (TOBB) started the Private Sector Recovery Alliance to strengthen the earthquake region through targeted collaboration in planning and policy, coordination and joint action, partnerships, joint mobilization efforts and matching funds, project management, monitoring and evaluation.
“Our doors are open to all stakeholders who would like to collaborate with us in the name of solidarity” said Mr. Cahit Ceren, Manager, SME Policy & Industry Division, TOBB.
To ensure women are integrated into the workforce, UNDP has instituted a women’s grant programme in all eleven of the earthquakes affected regions in Türkiye. The programme has received over 2,000 applications, and with the support of Sweden, will provide more than 10,000 USD in small entrepreneurial grants. As the earthquake response phase segues into the recovery phase, CBi and its partners are committed to continuing to support private sector engagement in disaster management in Türkiye and beyond. If you would like more information on how you can support these efforts or have data about business contributions to the Türkiye earthquake response and recovery, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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