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Symposium on Best Practices in Humanitarian Information Exchange
Working Groups
17-18 September 2001
Plenary Conference
19-20 September 2001
Geneva, Switzerland,
Palais des Nations

Purpose: The Symposium will review lessons learned from past and current humanitarian information activities and promote best practices to improve the sharing and dissemination of information used in the coordination of emergency relief programmes

Outcomes: The Symposium will specifically address:

  • What has been accomplished in the field of humanitarian information over the last five years and what key challenges remain
  • What are the benefits and constraints for organizations to collect and share information in the field and what can be done to promote
  • organizational buy-in to share this information
  • How current and emerging technologies can facilitate the exchange and the better utilization of information.
  • How simple common standards and practices enhance inter-operability of systems and the sharing of information

Symposium Participants: Professional practitioners with expertise in the collection, dissemination and management of information will be invited to attend the initial Working Group sessions. The larger plenary meeting will be open to professionals working for international organizations, governments, non-governmental organizations, research groups, the media and the private sector.

Symposium Structure: The entire Symposium will take place over the course of four days, starting with two days (17-18 September) of small, focused working groups, each with clearly defined objectives. This will be followed by a one-and-a-half day plenary meeting (19-20 September), consisting of keynote addresses, panel discussions, and presentations by the working groups. The Symposium will be organized to maximize time for individual networking and smaller group discussions between scheduled events. The working language of the entire symposium will be English.

Working Group Tracks: During the first two days, working groups will be convened to:

  • Investigate the use of new, emerging technologies, such as portal search engines, knowledge management gateways, etc. to enhance the exchange and retrieval of information
  • Review lessons learned and evaluate field-based (regional and country) humanitarian information centres
  • Share best practices in the development of field-based websites and make recommendations to strengthen field-based information exchange among humanitarian partners
  • Review lessons learned and evaluate database applications for field-based, cross-sectoral information coordination

Several cross-cutting themes, such as the role of standards, the availability of critical information, and the information needs for both strategic and operational decision-making, will be discussed during the working groups, as well as in the plenary keynote addresses and panel discussions. The Symposium will address the key issue of the relationship between technology, tools and applications and the information content needed by humanitarian organizations.

Panelists and Speakers: During the plenary symposium, panelists and speakers representing UN agencies, governments, non-governmental organizations, the academic research community and the media will make presentations and take questions from the audience.

Symposium Registration: Participation in the first two days of the Working Groups (17-18 September) will be by invitation only. Attendance at the plenary symposium (19-20 September) will be limited to approximately 100 attendees. Individuals who wish to attend the plenary meeting must register on the Symposium website. Individuals who wish to attend the Working Groups must apply using the website registration form.

Organizer: The Symposium is being organized by the ReliefWeb project in collaboration with the Field Information Support project of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

For Information and Registration: Additional information is available at The website includes:

  • an on-line attendance application form
  • the latest announcements
  • updated agendas and participant lists
  • venue information
  • background thematic papers.

If you wish to submit related thematic material or get in touch with the Symposium Coordinator, contact:

Dennis King
Room 1344, DC-1 UN Plaza
New York, New York
Telephone: 1-917-367-2057
Fax: 1-212-963-1040