As with Russia and soon on Iraq, the T L Blog is moving to feature a series of Country Profiles followed by an Interview with someone on the ground. Here, we build on the recent Post on Pakistan with Mike Whiting who is working on the Humanitarian effort in Pakistan.

Mike Whiting is a long-standing member of CIPS and is the Chairman of the CILT UK Humanitarian Emergency Logistics Professionals (HELP) Forum.  He has taken part in the humanitarian response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004, Hurricane Katrina 2005 in the USA in the Yogyakarta Earthquake in Indonesia in 2006, Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008, the Haiti Earthquake in 2010 when he worked with USAF. A long-standing member of RedR UK and a member of the Cardiff and Cranfield Humanitarian Logistics Initiative and the Humanitarian Logistics Association; he has had chapters published in two books and has written numerous papers on aspect of humanitarian logistics.

Rob Bell (RJB) Question 1. Mike, what has been your role in the Pakistan catastrophe?

Mike Whiting (MW). I have been sent out to Pakistan by DfID who have a Standby Partnership arrangement with the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS). My role is air transport management. I sit at the Joint Aviation Coordination Cell (JACC) on which is represented the Pakistan Army GHQ, Pakistan Army Air Command, Pakistan Air Force, United States Army, United States Marine Corps and United States Air Force. The task of JACC is to allocate air lifts according to the priority of need established by the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA). JACC operates under the aegis of NDMA. The air assets under our disposal consist of fixed-wing intra-theatre assets (C-17 and C-130 aircraft from the USAF, C-130 aircraft from PAF, Egyptian, Turkish and Royal Saudi Air Force. Rotary Wing assets are made available by Pakistan Army Air Command, USMC, US Army. The work revolves around controlling a constrained airspace and making sure that apportionment of available humanitarian aid reflects the priority of humanitarian need as dictated by NDMA.

RJB. Q 2. What is the situation as things stand?

MW. Pakistan is responding to the worst natural disaster in its history. This is a complex multi-layered set of dynamic challenges: emergency relief and, recovery and longer term rehabilitation. On top of this, this tragedy comes at a time when the economy has faltered and the country is a current hot-spot of militant extremism, which has exacted a heavy social and financial toll. Last but not least, the government seeks to re-vitalise democratic institutions and strengthen the rule of law.

RJB. This makes a rubic cube look easy! Can you give us a perspective in numbers?

MW. Here’s a snapshot of the position. Twenty-one million people in 81 of a total of 141 districts have been affected by the flooding; the area is 100,000 sq km and has impacted 21% of the area cultivated for food crops, 1.2 miliion livestock have perished. 1.84 million houses have been damaged or destroyed, 12,488 educational institutions have been damaged or destroyed among a population which is 36% illiterate. 579 out of 968 health facilities have been severely damaged or destroyed. 27,810 km of road has been damaged or destroyed. For example, hundreds of bridges have been knocked out.

RJB Q 3. They say that Humanitarian Logistics has three phases: 1. Preparedness 2. Response and then, 3. Rehabilitation. Given the Pakistan experience, how do you see:

Phase 1. Preparedness. Were the Authorities ready for this type of catastrophe in any way?

MW. The establishment of the Disaster Management Agency at National and Provincial levels has been a great help. The authority of NDMA, as part of the Prime Minister’s Office effectively removes the bureaucratic inertia. The concept of lateral communication is virtually unknown, and the authorities tend to be reactive rather than proactive. Every action has to be approved by an appropriate agency (government, civil or military institution). The only coordinated and coherent response came from NDMA leadership.

RJB. What about Phase 2. Response to the Emergency itself? How effective and efficient was this? First, in terms of local resources and second, in terms of the International Agencies?

MW. The response of the Pakistan Government and the Pakistan military has been grossly under-rated. The NDMA structure is sound and merely needed beefing up. At provincial level, once staff was augmented, things improved. The military has sustained a truly awesome rate-of-effort rescuing people, providing shelter and food.

With the exception of WFP, Islamic Relief International, Muslim Aid, Save the Children Fund and World Vision International, the speed and effectiveness of the response of other international agencies has been poor.

Dealing with the usual difficulties of manning a surge in demand for experienced and seasoned personnel a large number of Standby partners have been engaged. One of the main tenets of the Humanitarian Response Review of 2005 was the strengthening of the Humanitarian Coordinator/Emergency Coordinator – this is has not carried through to reality on the ground. Coherent, informed coordination between all stakeholders is essential if we are to alleviate the suffering of people effectively. This is a Global issue and Pakistan is yet another illustration of a pressing need.

RJB Q4. After the Haiti earthquake earlier this year, an NGO leader was asked to explain their role. “Getting Haiti back on its feet!” was the response and, Paul Collier the Oxford Economist challenged this claiming that “Haiti had never been on its feet in the first place!” Is this the case in Pakistan?

MW. Pakistan has been dealt a set of tough cards. There is a huge potential for building national capacity on the ground in terms of disaster planning and disaster response. Let’s face it, monsoons are seasonal and sooner or later there will be another. So, more can be done to deal with this AND the next disaster. Building national capacity in logistics and transport in particular would provide much needed work and improve the effective use of the transport infrastructure so that hitherto isolated communities could be reached. We have seen this with the Tsunami in 2004. In general terms we know where in the world disasters can occur. And so, more has to be done to prepare. After all, for every dollar spent making sure that an emergency can be dealt with effectively and efficiently, there are clear returns.

RJB Q5. Moving away from Pakistan; there have been many disasters in recent years. You had personal experience of the Tsunami; we have had Niger; Haiti; Chile; … the list is long. What is the Humanitarian community learning with these recent events?

MW. Far too often lessons are identified during a particular response and then, filed to collect dust on the shelves of HQ. We have to do far more with these lessons learned and shared. This is what loggies do and what should shape the training and development of others coming into this industry. This is where the academics and research community can help to collate experience and develop case studies that can work elsewhere.

RJB. Some would say that this is what the cluster approach within the UN is designed to do.

MW. Regrettably, whilst the HRR 2005 was a step forward and the creation of the cluster system is positive, it is perceived by many as a creature of the UN [each of the cluster leads is a UN agency] and carries a lot of baggage.

Then, there is a fundamental flaw in logistics itself. The Logistics Cluster lead is World Food Programme (WFP). The Global Logistics Cluster is in Rome and is populated by staff who are mainly WFP; supplemented by secondees from other NGOs and UN agencies. The WFP confuse their ‘custodianship’ of the common service they provide with ‘ownership’.

The fact that the WFP staff employed within it are WFP-staffers means that their first loyalty is to the interests of WFP; pragmatically their career depends on this attitude. Much of the work carried out by the Global Logistics Cluster is designed to further the long-term aim of WFP to become the Logistics Provider of choice for the humanitarian community. A similar tribal approach is taken with another common service – the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service.

RJB. Would there be any sense in opening this up to secondments from industry? These “internships” would give industry useful insight into the challenge of Emergency operations and, vice versa. In fact, many of these guys would come from Branded FMCG companies who are looking to understand better these Emerging and Developing markets in any case …

MW. Exactly. Recently, I drafted a letter for Tim Cross to send to Ross Mountain the guy he knows who is working on Paddy Ashdown’s review of DfID.

First, I told him of the The Cardiff and Cranfield Humanitarian Logistic Initiative (CCHLI) which was set up on 13 Jun 2005 when a number of logisticians met to improve/establish links between the Humanitarian Community and the Military, Academia and Business/Commerce. At the same time I and a number of others began to work with the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) to establish HELP – an attempt to get logistic professionals to give of their skills to Humanitarian Emergencies.

RJB. What has been achieved through this CCHLI forum?

MW. Progress was inevitably slow and ponderous, but there is now a Humanitarian Logistics Association (HLA), and with players like RedR UK and HUMLOG (another organisation established by a ‘Nordic’ academic community) a number of initiatives have emerged:

• The promotion/creation of a professional logistics community to enable humanitarian logisticians to share knowledge and experience on common issues and to create a consistent, powerful voice with all the stakeholders in the sector;

• Investment in standardised training and certification to help build a pool of logistics professionals that share common processes and vocabulary, promoting professionalism and collaboration – Fritz/CILT UK Certification in Humanitarian Logistics, Supply Chain Management and Medical Logistics – and hopefully work emerging from ELHRA;

• A focus on metrics and performance measurement to empower logisticians and enable them to demonstrate and improve the effectiveness/efficiency of the humanitarian supply chain; KPMG/CILT HELP CSR project;

• Start to communicate the strategic importance of logistics to create awareness of the central contribution that logistics makes, and to obtain some much needed funding and resources;

• The development of flexible technology solutions to improve responsiveness by creating visibility of the materials pipeline and increase the effectiveness of people and processes CILT/Global Logistics Cluster Logistics Operations Guide, Fritz/HLA driven HELIOS project.

RJB. This is an impressive list but, how is this funded?

MW. There is no core funding and progress depends on the hard work and enthusiasm of individuals – and their ability to get their own organisations to engage in the initiative. These ideas have been documented but, let’s be clear, they are modest when measured against what needs to be done.

DFID are aware of these advances and have been routinely consulted over the past 5 years. However, their line is that they do not fund logistics. To be fair they do fund the ‘Logistics Cluster’, headed by WFP – but with limited impact. And I for one am convinced that this is a part of an underlying problem.

RJB. What about the “After Action Reports”?

MW. Yes, there have been a large number of ‘After Action Reports’ over the years. All too often the focus rests on high level ‘policy’ rather than the underlying problem.

In my view Humanitarian Aid is very largely all about Logistics, which in essence is the ‘End-to-End Supply (or as I prefer to call it ‘Support’) Chain Management – everything from procurement, through purchasing, to delivery to the beneficiaries. And without robust logistic solutions the best “Programmes” in the world will consistently fail to deliver aid quickly to the right people at the right time for the right price.

In any emergency logistics often accounts for as much as 70% to 80% of the overall cost of aid and if we are to improve our ability to respond fast the logistics processes – and the professional training of those responsible for delivering them – must be the best that can be provided.

RJB. T L has been looking at places like Iraq where Military Logistics has been followed by Humanitarian effort and now, is to move towards the market. Many people seem to suggest that the military and the NGOs and, the private sector logistics providers could do more to understand each other and work together.

MW. This is an astute observation. Much more has to be done to learn from each other and stop working in silos. And the Private Sector (Business/Commerce) and the Military have much to offer. For example, the military are increasingly using Contractors/Civilian companies to deliver military capability.

RJB. What about a set of short courses based on the synergies between the Military; H L and, the commercial logistics sector?

MW. This is what is needed. For example, people like myself working with academics such as Professor Martin Christopher – there are many more  and I am using this as an example only – have views on what should go into such courses and, one of the Logistics Institutes in the UK or elsewhere could drive the marketing; course content and delivery. There are many specialists who can be brought in to lead the courses and, mentor new entrants into this arena.

RJB. Terrific idea. After all, in your case we are talking about the Indian Ocean tsunami from January 2004 to December 2006; in Indonesia, the response to Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008 and, more recently, the earthquake in Haiti in January of this year. And Martin is one of the best academics in this field. He has been based at Cranfield and, has done terrific work up at the University of Hull Logistics Institute. Maybe that could be a useful place to start a set of courses. It is centrally placed in the UK and, could link up with other European locations.

Let’s get back to the questions …

RJB Q6.  Within a couple of weeks of the Haiti earthquake over 700 NGOs were on the ground. What does this mean in Pakistan in terms of logistics and the supply chain?

MW. Pakistan, unlike Haiti, is not a failed state. It has massive challenges to face, but the mechanism of government is in place and effective – different from what we may be used, but nevertheless effective. Supply Chain, transport and logistics will be at the very heart of the recovery and rehabilitation of Pakistan.

RJB Q7. In recent years, you have had direct experience and indirect exposure to many global disasters. What would be your list of “greatest hits” – things that were worth doing and had the greatest impact?

MW. In Indonesia the engagement with the military and the government, particularly the provincial government in Aceh built capacity to a point where now Indonesia drives the regional disaster planning and preparedness forums. The key is engaging the national personnel at every level and listening to their perception of needs.

RJB. In other words move away from being prescriptive and push harder on local needs. This should help the process of rehabilitation later on …

RJB Q8. And then, what were the worst moves or outcomes?

MW. Humanitarians should not fog their response with wider issues. They should focus on delivering aid to the vulnerable. It is morally wrong for us to interfere in their way of life and to attempt to impose our values and beliefs on them. Humanitarian response, recovery and rehabilitation should be sustainable and should be what the people need, not what we perceive that they need.

RJB. Q 9. Mike, we have covered a lot of ground and I am particularly pleased that you share the view that more needs to be done on the way forward. You have placed significant emphasis on research and learning from what has happened elsewhere and, you insist on local needs and the danger of pushing a Developed world agenda. This seems to be a useful point to ask you about Transformational Logistics itself? Do you think that we are creating another “flavour of logistics when none is needed. Or, do you sense that T L can play a role in addressing the issues that you raise both within the H L space and, beyond in the markets of the Emerging and Developing world?

MW. Let’s be clear. Transformational Logistics is not duplicating anybody’s efforts. It is fresh off the press and, at this stage has a long way to go. However, it can play a very useful role as a catalyst. In your section on the Blog “Introducing T L” you list the markets that need to be understood better:

T L is saying that mainstream logistics and supply chain thinking needs to increase bandwidth to make sense of these markets. As you put it – there is no one best way and, better, cheaper and faster is not the only solution. This makes sense.

We have to get better at transitional markets and T L can help in this.

Transitional logistics is paramount to the recovery and rehabilitation of Pakistan. Logistics infrastructure has to improve market access on local, regional and national levels commensurate with available as well as potential resources, skills and support. And here I am borrowing from your definition for T L…

There is no one best way and, there are many options and alternatives. Transformational Logistics can improve the bandwidth of mainstream logistics and supply chain thinking and practice. Pakistan, as it emerges from this disaster is characterised by distinct urban and rural realities; poor infrastructure and materials handling equipment and, high levels of informal business and employment relationships. National markets feature significant regional variation in climate, demographics and, relative prosperity. Many contend with scarce or inconsistent energy and water resources and, shortages of skilled labour and experienced management challenge productivity, performance, competitive advantage and investment.

Despite these challenges Pakistan offers high growth potential for all sorts of products and services currently experiencing stagnant or low growth potential in mature economies. Mainstream logistics and supply chain thinking has to adapt to these challenging conditions and deliver social and environmental as well as economic benefits. This means hybrid techniques using resources and assets responsive to local context and needs.

Transformational Logistics can be used effectively to build on mainstream logistics to offer:

  1. A framework for research into logistics and supply chain thinking and practice relevant to Pakistan’s currently mid-term future needs.
  2. A forum to build better understanding and common purpose between the formal and the informal elements of the economy as a whole.
  3. A means to embed a viable, inclusive and sustainable market as an economy responds to a natural disaster, the devastation of warfare or, political and economic dislocation.

And Transformational Logistics can be:

  • An enabler to grow logistics skills standards, capacity and delivery to suit the needs of the Pakistani people.
  • A facilitator to promote and share adaptable, affordable and accessible practice in all end-to-end flows (physical; information, cash and skills) relevant to effective and efficient operations in Pakistan.
  • A catalyst for mature markets and established companies to access new markets in Pakistan and learn from them.

I have used your definition of T L deliberately. It is an important breakthrough but is at an early stage of its development. More people need to see it for what it can be – a means to open up the debate on logistics in  these very very different market conditions.

Then – and this is what interests me most – T L can play a significant role in making more sense of H L. As highlighted earlier, the here phases (prepare; respond and rehabilitation) are very different in their nature and, T L can help out with the final phase. This is a massive issue. After the Emergency, we have to make every effort to move the region or country to a sustainable solution.

By the way, this brings me back to the need for closer collaboration between the military; the NGOs and, private sector logistics. T L could be a superb forum to move this forward. And, this brings us to the need for Research and more learning initiatives to improve standards, value for money and sustainability.

One very important point – you have made a very clear effort to reach out to the H L community and complement our work with T L as another umbrella for research, learning and improved performance and sustainability in these markets. This is welcome. And your work on exploring how simulators and other training technologies can be deployed in this area is something that needs a higher profile.

By the way, I wish you well in finding the “home” that T L is looking for and, the sponsorship from industry and global institutions that will help build momentum. This could help to build the capacity that can deliver better capability and performance all over the place. When do we start?!

RJB. Many thanks for the encouragement! We have covered a lot of ground in this interview and, I can confirm that we are making significant progress on a Research Centre for T L. Watch this space! Can I close with a lighter tone?

RJB Q10. You have flown out to several disasters. How do you pack? What do you take? What is not worth the space?

MW. Several changes of work clothes, underwear and footwear, toiletries, personal medication, first aid kit augmented for malaria prophylactics where appropriate under medical advice, water purification tablets and oral rehydration salts. Apart from that common sense applies. With food keep away from uncooked vegetables and salads, wash your teeth using bottled water and with fruit peel it yourself. Check what it says in the LOG about what to take.