Last week, Crossmatch introduced its new foreign assistance/disaster relief solution at the Action on Disaster Relief Conference in Panama. While at that conference, we heard a lot about the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, a handbook for disaster preparedness efforts around the world. That got us thinking about how biometrics fit into existing models of disaster preparedness.
Disaster Risk Governance in the Sendai Framework
The concept of “disaster risk governance” is a critical component of the Sendai Framework – one which may in fact be the most relevant in harmonizing the efforts of organizations and constituencies which have a stake in disaster response.
The Framework puts a great deal of emphasis on the need for strong disaster risk governance in the context of disaster relief operations: “Clear vision, plans, competence, guidance and coordination within and across sectors, as well as participation of relevant stakeholders, are needed. Strengthening disaster risk governance for prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery and rehabilitation…fosters collaboration and partnership across mechanisms and institutions for the implementation of instruments relevant to disaster risk reduction and sustainable development.”
Fraud, Waste and Abuse: Hidden Risks?
Unfortunately, internal controls are often neglected during the process of creating disaster risk governance mechanisms. As organizations plan and coordinate their efforts, they frequently forget to build structures for accountability into their disaster response plans – a problem which the Sendai Framework fails to address.
It is that lack of accountability structures which adds a hidden risk – the risk of fraud, waste and abuse in disaster relief operations. All the planning and coordination in the world can go into preparation for a disaster, but without accountability measures there is a strong risk that disaster response operations will be effectively undermined.
If the food, medicine and shelter that disaster victims need has been siphoned off prior to distribution, delivered to those who are not truly in need, or provided in error, then the entire system has failed to respond effectively, no matter how coordinated and well-planned it may be.
The Role of Biometrics
All of this points to the need for effective tools which mitigate the risk posed by a lack of internal controls. Biometrics have long been used in commercial, border management and law enforcement applications to provide strong internal controls. From validating a manager override at a point of sale terminal to identifying criminals at a border control station, biometrics are the ultimate way to maintain accountability and combat fraud, waste and abuse.
Biometric tools are ideally suited to address the kind of fraud, waste and abuse which slip through the cracks of disaster risk governance as put forward in the Sendai Framework. In the process of planning for a disaster, governments and organizations would be well advised to consider the need for biometrics to ensure that their planning has the desired effect in the field.
Want to learn more about the use of biometrics in disaster response? Download an informative white paper in either English or Spanish.
Ben Ball is the Government Market Director at Crossmatch, where he oversees market intelligence and strategic outreach to government customers around the world. A ten year veteran of the Federal government, Ben was a Foreign Service Officer and worked in the Department of Homeland Security.