In tandem: Combining knowledge and experience for crisis response

UN Development Programme
3 min readJul 13, 2022

In times of crisis, volunteers are among the first to take critical action at the frontlines. Under the UNV-UNDP Tandem Teams, national and international volunteers are supporting UNDP country offices in responding to not just the pandemic but also natural hazards and human-induced crises.

The mechanism allows UN Volunteers to work in tandem with international experts, local staff and SURGE Advisors. The latter are UNDP staff members selected for rapid deployment in crisis situations due to their extensive technical and emergency experience.

How Tandem Teams Works

In practice, UNDP country offices submit a request usually in response to a humanitarian crisis. The Crisis Bureau identifies international experts, and UNV identifies national UN Volunteers to be deployed in the Tandem Team.

The UNDP country office makes the selection and connects the international expert, either remotely or on site, with the national UN Volunteer selected for the assignment. The pair then work in tandem on the response.

“The Tandem Teams initiative sets UNDP up for deeper collaboration with UNV to rapidly deploy highly skilled local talent to a crisis setting. UN Volunteers are working alongside UNDP all over the world to respond to COVID-19, conflicts and natural hazards, and helping communities build resilience against future shocks.”
— Asako Okai, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Crisis Bureau Director

The mechanism brings together the local knowledge and insights of UN Volunteers with the diverse expertise and capacity of UNDP. Tandem Teams ultimately benefits all involved, UNV Executive Coordinator Toily Kurbanov said.

“I see this initiative as truly transformational. Tandem Teams is a demonstration of how the UN system can build greater capacity overall. It harnesses technology, people and collaboration to deliver better outcomes for the people and communities we serve.”
— Toily Kurbanov, UNV Executive Coordinator

In 2021, 38 UN Volunteers were deployed across the globe in UNV-UNDP tandem initiatives. We invite you to meet four of them.

Yevheniia Polishchuk, Ukraine

An economist by training, Yevheniia has been supporting UNDP Ukraine since last year on evaluating the impact of COVID-19. She worked closely with partners to design a socio-economic impact assessment and drafted policy proposals to help the most vulnerable people recover from the fallout of the pandemic. Despite the ongoing conflict, Yevheniia continues to work with UNDP Ukraine on the ground.

Yevheniia Polishchuk, Ukrainian UN Volunteer, is supporting UNDP Ukraine as the war continues.

Adnan Safi, Afghanistan

A strong believer in volunteerism, Adnan joined UNDP Afghanistan in Jalalabad in the wake of the events of 2021. He is currently managing the implementation of UNDP’s crisis-response project, ABADEI, in the eastern part of the country. The initiative supports cash-for-work and resilience-building activities for the most vulnerable Afghans, including women and the elderly.

UN Volunteer Adnan Safi is supporting the most vulnerable Afghans.

Christo Gorpudolo, Liberia

Christo joined UNDP Liberia in 2021 to support on all things data! She led efforts to establish the Crisis Risk Dashboard — an innovative digital platform that allows monitoring and analysis of risks to development in a country. She established contact with critical partners for data collection and helped set up a prototype based on anticipated needs and use cases.

Christo Gorpudolo, UN Volunteer from Liberia, works on everything related to data.

Bryan Wakesa, Kenya

A knowledge management and communications analyst, Bryan joined UNDP Africa to support the COVID-19 recovery framework of the African Union. He organized focus group discussions with top stakeholders and worked closely with researchers to develop the recovery strategy. Bryan appreciates different cultures and points of view, and in this role, he got to meet a lot of new people from all over Africa!

UN Volunteer Bryan Wekesa supports the African Union’s COVID-19 recovery framework for the continent.

For more information, watch this video or visit the Tandem Teams website.