Rationale, approach, and general conclusions The Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) is an internationally accepted methodology for determining the physical damages, economic losses, and costs of meeting recovery needs after a natural disaster through a government-led process. As of mid-2017, 55 PDNAs have been conducted since the methodology was elaborated by the European Union (EU), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the World Bank (WB). A review of the PDNA process was first proposed to be a “quick lessons learned” exercise in November 2015. The present review was conducted by the UNDP and World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) with support from the EU from March–June 2017.
The review focuses on 10 areas of inquiry and draws on a sample of 14 PDNAs (10 of these involved an intensive focus including field missions and four were evaluated through desk study and long-distance interviews). The selected sample represents a range of socioeconomic settings, geographic regions, country circumstances (e.g., inclusion of four small island developing states), and types of disasters (floods, cyclones and hurricanes, earthquakes, landslides, and drought).
Over 145 people were interviewed for the review, eight of the 10 focus countries were visited, and six of the 14 PDNAs were in countries that had conducted previous PDNAs.
The central conclusions of the review are:
■ PDNAs are highly valued and relevant, particularly for governments, tripartite institutions (EU, UNDP, WB), international organizations, and donors
■ PDNAs represent a valuable legacy for convening many contributors, working across all productive and social sectors toward a common national purpose
■ Government ownership and leadership in implementing PDNAs are critical for achieving the harmonized management and productive outputs of the exercise
■ The sustainability and effectiveness of PDNA evaluations are enhanced when the process is embedded in national governance structures and wider development objectives
■ Governments consider multiple interests when requesting PDNAs, depending on the needs of the country
■ The institutional expertise and technical competencies provided by PDNA partners are an operational strength and represent future opportunities
■ PDNAs serve different interests among primary partners and participating organizations, and this multiplies potential benefits
■ PDNA partners sometimes identify with or favor a particular aspect of the overall PDNA process, and this can minimize the intended adherence to agreed operational guidelines and principles
The key findings of the review, organized by the 10 areas of inquiry, are as follows:
1. Purpose of PDNAs: The joint approach of assessing disaster effects and impacts to then determine priority recovery needs is valued by affected countries, the tripartite institutions, and other local and international partners.
2. Coordination and collaboration: Country ownership, leadership, and engagement are enhanced by the early assignment of clear roles and responsibilities of a specific ministry or government department to lead the PDNA. Government can play an important role to ensure that there is only one assessment and one output undertaken jointly by the partners.
3. Communication: While a government request consistently triggered a PDNA, government leadership of collaboration arrangements and assignment of agency responsibilities was not always well organized and communicated.
4. Coordination between partners at the headquarters and country levels: In cases of large-scale disasters, the accepted rationales have been broadly consistent among partners at the national levels and at their headquarters. However, in some countries there were diverse views expressed by partners’ representatives who did not seem to share the same outlook or expectations.
5. Comprehensiveness of the assessment: PDNAs produce a wealth of data and analyses of losses, damages, and priority recovery costs, as well as recovery actions in a thorough and accessible manner.
6. Time frames for conducting assessments: While PDNA Guidelines indicate that the exercise should take 6–12 weeks, the majority of cases reviewed were done in 3–4 weeks. Some of the tradeoffs of a shorter time frame are fewer field visits, reliance on secondary data, and less accurate or comprehensive information on social parameters and household impacts. Rapid assessment techniques should be considered when specific information is desired more quickly.
However, rapid assessments cannot be equated with or replaced by the comprehensive and collaborative features that characterize PDNAs.
7. Role of other international and national partners: PDNAs typically involve government agencies, the tripartite institutions, and other international partners, but there is a mixed record of engaging non-state actors and public participation.
8. Other issues related to conducting assessments: The quality of PDNAs is enhanced with the timely availability of national and international technical experts, crosscutting specialists, and up-to-date rosters of expertise with the required language capabilities. Damage, loss, and recovery data need to be appropriate and current, but are usually reliant on existing institutional capacities.
9. Outcomes of the assessments: Achieving intended outcomes is a function of the purposes and aims among the government and its partners, the efficacy of the PDNA in advancing recovery, and the ability to provide added value to multiple stakeholders.
10. Financial allocation for recovery: Comprehensive and validated PDNA information is a contributing factor for mobilizing external resources for recovery.
PDNA strengths and opportunities
The strengths of the PDNA process can be characterized as:
■ PDNAs are globally accepted, responsive to donors, regionally recognized, and nationally valued
■ The PDNA process focuses attention on national needs by moving beyond the destruction and despair of disasters to resilient recovery
■ PDNAs support governments by expanding national capabilities and practices for planning recovery strategies and implementing priority activities
■ PDNAs create a convening power and ability to productively exchange data and analyses within governments and between governments and the international community
■ Damage and needs assessments drive recovery thinking beyond physical reconstruction toward comprehensive and resilient development practices
■ By requesting a PDNA, governments can assert their leadership and obtain recognition for their initiative, both domestically and internationally