10. Establishing CARE’s presence in a new country or area of operation


  • Ensure CARE has authorisation to operate in the country and area of the emergency.
  • Commence the formal registration process as soon as possible.
  • Compile all necessary documents and seek legal assistance in the country.
  • Establish good relationships with key government departments as a priority.
  • Establish coordination with UN coordinating bodies and peer NGOs for administrative purposes as well as programme purposes.

CARE must have appropriate host government permission to operate emergency response activities. There are normally two cases:

In countries where CARE already operates, a country agreement or registration document signed between the government and CARE should already exist and should provide the overall framework allowing CARE’s operations. It is important to review the country agreement to ensure it allows the types of emergency operations planned and that it permits CARE to operate in the particular part of the country affected by the emergency. If an amendment to the existing agreement/registration or additional permissions is needed, they should be sought and processed immediately.

In countries where CARE does not operate, or has no legal registration, it is important to ask the host government to provide written permission for CARE to undertake planned activities before launching any emergency response activities. In this case:

  • immediately when CARE decides to launch a response in a non-presence country, and before CARE staff enter the country, the Lead Member or Coordinating CI Member should send a letter of intent to either the embassy of the affected country, and/or its Foreign Ministry, and/or the UN resident/humanitarian coordinator
  • the Emergency Team Leader should carry a copy of the letter of intent when they enter the country, plus copies of appropriate CARE International documentation (see also Protocol D8 Registration and legal compliance).
  • once in the country, the Team Leader should meet with the appropriate government department responsible for coordinating international NGO humanitarian affairs and request:
    • that the normal legal registration process required to operate in the country begin
    • an interim, written authorisation from the government that allows CARE to immediately start emergency relief work in the affected areas; together with appropriate documents that enable CARE to set up bank accounts, undertake procurement and importation of goods, employ local staff, and bring in expatriate staff
    • confirm in writing all significant registration discussions with the authorities
    • emergency operations should, in all cases, only begin once CARE has been provided written government authorisation
    • it is advisable to contract a legal consultant to assist with the registration process.

To facilitate its formal registration, the following notarised and legalised documents will be essential (requirements may vary from country to country):

  • CARE’s Charter or Articles of Association
  • CARE’s Certificate of Registration
  • Board of Director’s Resolution on:
    • authorising the President and Senior Vice-President of CARE to execute country agreements and take other appropriate action on behalf of CARE
    • establishing a representative/branch office of CARE in the country
    • approving the bylaws of the representative/branch office
    • appointing the head of the representative/branch office
    • issuing a power of attorney to the head of the representative/branch office explicitly stating powers delegated to them for the purpose of registration
  • Bylaws of the representative/branch office
  • Power of attorney issued to the head of the branch, signed by the authorised officer of CARE HQ
  • Certificate from the local authority certifying the representative office’s official address.

It is essential to establish good working relationships with host government departments, especially the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Emergency or disaster services, etc. This assists in coordinating start-up operations through an understanding of government regulations and requirements. An open and transparent relationship helps to speed the registration process and establishes credibility for future programming. As soon as possible after arrival in the country, CARE representatives should arrange meetings with key government departments. A senior national government liaison staff should also be recruited as soon as possible.

Coordination with other agencies is often seen as a programme function. However, coordination with other peer agencies is also important for administration purposes. Agencies that have been in the country for an extended period are a good source of information regarding:

  • suitable locations for office and residence
  • vehicle rental outlets and internal travel costs
  • availability of qualified and experienced staff
  • appropriate and reasonably priced hotels
  • availability and efficacy of in-country banking, communication, health facilities, health insurance, travel agencies, postal services, internet service providers, food supplies, appropriate FFE, recreation outlets, etc.

When CARE representatives arrive in the country, they should:

  • set up initial operating office in a hotel or other appropriate location
  • seek appointments with counterpart officials of the following agencies for formal introductions, information and invitations to coordination meetings:
    • representatives of UN agencies
    • heads of INGOs already operating in the country
  • use meetings to gain recommendations regarding office locations, preferably in close proximity to other agencies
  • seek a letter of introduction from the UN resident representative for opening bank accounts, post boxes, etc.
  • use the UN network to introduce CARE, and distribute information about CARE’s area of operation and staffing requirements.