Overview and Function


Information Management (IM) is a core responsibility of UNHCR, and the High Commissioner  has called for intensive efforts to strengthen the organization’s capacity in this area through the Information & Data Management Strategy 2012–2014.

The Emergency Information Management Guidance Notes and Toolkit (hereafter “Toolkit”) is one of many steps towards operationalizing information management being taken within UNHCR.

The Toolkit is structured to present UNHCR information and data management advice and tools meant to inform a coordinated humanitarian response during the first two to four months of a refugee emergency, but the guidance provided is relevant and useful in a broader range of operational settings.

The Toolkit is not intended to be an exhaustive resource on information and data management. Instead, the Toolkit offers information and data management guidance for emergency situations, and also provides a set of practical tools for use by anyone responding to the first phase of a refugee emergency. Where available, examples from the field of specific tools have been provided; in some cases, references for additional information on core UNHCR sectors are also cited.

This Toolkit should be treated as a complement to existing UNHCR emergency response guidance. The overall objectives of the Toolkit are to enable evidence-based decision-making to support UNHCR’s coordination role in refugee emergencies, and to enhance the targeting of emergency assistance and resources for persons of concern. 

Scope of Information/Data Management

Information/data management is the capture, handling, storage, analysis and dissemination of data pertaining specifically to operations and to populations of concern, including demographic and statistical information. It involves information on needs and conditions as well as geo-referenced information. It also involves information on protection and sector-specific concerns related to needs, delivery and impact in a spectrum of issues, including health, nutrition, water/sanitation, core relief items, shelter, community-based response, registration, tracking and responding to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), as well as concerns relating to protection site management.

Information and Data Management Roles and Responsibilities Outlined

Information and data management is inherent in the roles and responsibilities of every UNHCR staff and offices, and improvements in this area have a direct impact on the quality and efficiency of our operations. While UNHCR is working hard to enhance IM support in operations, with dedicated positions in this area, it is clear that UNHCR staff will collectively need to institutionalize best practices in IM to improve their operations. Thus, an Information Management Officer (IMO), or a person designated by the Representative as the information management focal point (hereafter “Information Manager”), will be able to support and provide leadership within an office to improve IM practices with members of the UNHCR team.

UNHCR managers should ensure that information management is coordinated within the work of the office and that staff are aware of and deliver upon information management functions within their specific positions. As a service to our partners, UNHCR managers are also responsible for ensuring that information and information products outlined in the Toolkit are delivered to partners in a timely and predictable manner.

The Toolkit establishes UNHCR’s internal information and data management roles and responsibilities for UNHCR managers; protection officers; registration, community services and external relations officers; and the IMO throughout the first phase of a refugee emergency. But information and data management does not stop there. Managers should continuously engage with their staffs and partners to assess how additional information and data management activities could enhance coordination and the delivery of support to the people we serve.

The Toolkit emphasizes the function of the IMO – a new role within UNHCR – in bringing together and analyzing information content, sources and systems within and outside UNHCR. It will also assist managers at all levels in identifying gaps, priorities and target resources based on the analysis of needs in a refugee emergency. The IMO’s role is not to attempt to undertake IM for every position within UNHCR, but rather to empower colleagues throughout the office to undertake IM within their organizational roles.

In refugee situations, information management is not only a function UNHCR requires for its internal needs, but is also a service we provide to fulfil the needs of partners. Some of the information management tools in this Toolkit specifically support inter-agency cooperation and coordination, such as Who’s Doing What Where (3W) information, emergency needs assessments, needs assessment coordination and data standards for reporting population figures. The Toolkit also explains how to operationalize a coordination body for inter-agency refugee information management.

Disseminating a Standard Set of Information Products and Operational Analysis

The Toolkit defines standards for information products that UNHCR will deliver as a regular service to its partners, in the form of the following: camp profiles, maps illustrating security phases and population movements, situational and Who’s Doing What, Where (3W) information, population statistics broken down by standard UNHCR age and sex demographics that comply with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) standards, info-graphics, and a variety of operational and analytical inputs for UNHCR web portals.

Information and data management requires the coordination and dissemination of reports and operational information throughout UNHCR and with our partners. By doing so in a regular and predictable manner, it is hoped that the guidance and information management products contained throughout this Toolkit will improve coordination among a great number of first-phase refugee emergency responders.

Organization of the Toolkit

The Toolkit is divided into sections covering core information management functions and activities in the first phase of a refugee emergency. The sections are inter-connected, and it is intended that Toolkit users will move back and forth throughout the document depending on their specific needs and knowledge of information management. Each section of the Toolkit may also be referenced alone and located by using the index at the beginning.

A brief overview of core IM objectives and activities is provided in each section, followed by a “how-to” guide for undertaking IM functions. Practical IM tools to be used in emergency IM response have been included for each section. Where possible, examples of IM tools that have been used by UNHCR operations throughout the world have also been included in each section. For additional information, the Toolkit provides reference documents and links for supporting information in greater detail.

Performance Responsibilities

Not only is information management a core responsibility of everyone in every office, but UNHCR managers and Representatives are recognised as having a critical role in ensuring the quality and the delivery of IM information and products in their operations.

Updating and Maintaining the Toolkit

The Emergency Information Management Toolkit will remain a fluid collection of documents and tools, to be updated as required based on the evolution of information management practices, innovations in UNHCR field operations and new global-level standards.


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Happy browsing, 

IM Team