The Pacific’s Path to Resilience - Anticipatory Action for Disasters
It's no secret that the Asia-Pacific region has been at the forefront of anticipatory action (AA) agenda. This region is vulnerable to sudden onset hazards such as floods and typhoons. In the 2022 Nadi Declaration, 17 Pacific countries and territories committed to “strengthening anticipatory action and disaster preparedness measures including through regional and subregional pre-positioning of approved goods and pooling of resources”.
AA sits between preparedness and response, in a window of opportunity between an early warning/trigger for action and the onset of disaster. Improvements in our ability to forecast disasters are increasing the time available for AA and increased the accuracy of the locality of need.
Initially, AA actions were based around pre-positioning stock in anticipation of a forecast disaster. Tonkin + Taylor have been privileged to support two such programmes:
- The STOCK of Humanitarian Organisations Logistics Mapping Stockholm-platform which provides a visual representation of pre-positioned humanitarian contingency stock in the Pacific and worldwide and
- Safe n Redi a website showing church owned buildings in Fiji and Vanuatu that may be used for evacuation centres and storing aid.
Since then, alternative AA solutions have been explored. I will be delving into these exciting new developments and celebrating work in this space. I have seen the devastation caused by disasters in the Pacific, so I am passionate about creating better anticipatory actions to ensure communities are the best prepared to tackle climate issues in the future.
Asia-Pacific Technical Working Group on Anticipatory Action and Asia-Pacific Regional Cash Working Group’s depiction of AA. Relief Web AA Cash Transfers
Innovative AA Programmes
These innovative AA Programs have emulated the parametric insurance products to provide aid directly to individuals or communities forecast to be impacted by an impending event. This aid may be in the form of credits at local stores or direct cash transfers. This type of AA requires excellent knowledge of local risk to set appropriate trigger values.
The Case For Cash.
According to the Asia-Pacific Technical Working Group on AA (APAC TWG AA), the benefits of cash transfers over goods are that they can be quicker and simpler to implement if the necessary payment mechanisms are in place. The working group concluded that cash assistance often had the highest impact in helping beneficiaries recover from events.
If the cash is available before a disaster, it can be used to purchase items needed when impacted by the disaster. This may also provide relief for disrupted supply chains and dampen inflationary impacts on materials required for recovery and rebuilding. The report concluded that ultimately, the households are the ones who understand their individual situations and are best placed to decide what to do in anticipation of a hazard event.
Nothing About Us Without US.
Empowering communities is a central theme the technical report of the APAC TWG AA. The report states that community engagement should be prioritised in the design of localised triggers. Community-level local knowledge can help to ensure that possible impacts are understood and fed into the design of appropriate triggers. The group also listed the following lessons learned from AA actions in APAC.
- Communities must be involved in the design of AA.
- Designing technically sound AA projects will require links with a wide range of experts, from the design phase onwards.
- Simple, quantifiable triggers that can be easily explained and regularly monitored are best.
- The data source for trigger must be open, public, and regularly updated – with a clear schedule on when new data will be uploaded.
- Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) should factor in both the design process and the anticipatory activities themselves.
- Services are often disrupted during disasters – this should be factored into the design of AA.
- There is value in positioning AA within existing disaster risk reduction (DRR) and disaster risk management (DRM) initiatives and systems.
- Continuous routine activities are also needed to support AA. Examples include training local staff, conducting simulations and monitoring triggers.
- Government leadership and inter-agency collaboration are essential to ensure a coherent narrative.
- Ensure Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) is integrated into the AA.
Measuring the effectiveness of AA, particularly those targeted at local groups or individuals, is crucial to build support from governments and humanitarian agencies. A 2022 report (Monitoring AA EO a game changer) suggests that Satellite earth observations can help by strengthening the evidence base via rapid, low-cost assessments. They argue that EO can answer questions such as: “Did the model trigger early action at the right time in the right region?” Or “Did the pre-agreed early action lead to the desired socioeconomic benefit?” as well as helping with initial risk assessment. NASA have been active in this space with the launch of its Disasters Program. The programme will enable us to observe flood risk and anticipate the likelihood of floods in ways never before possible. The Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) will be working closely with NASA to ensure Pacific Island Nations can leverage this technology.
Looking Into The Future Of AA
In the future AA should cover concurrent and cascading hazards. In the case of rapid-onset disasters like typhoons, secondary shocks (such as landslides, flooding, and disease outbreaks) would also benefit from AA. This will present a challenge for trigger development. In their Power of Humanity report the Red Cross encourages governments and agencies to expand “anticipatory action approaches to more country contexts and hazards; improving existing approaches by ensuring that anticipatory action reaches more people, including those living in conflict-affected areas, and by addressing compounding risks”. They suggest “integrating anticipatory action into operational and legal frameworks and processes; increasing the availability of and access to financing so that it reaches those who need it when they need it; and strengthening knowledge exchange, learning, guidance and advocacy around anticipatory action, including enhanced community capacity, to ensure that people’s needs and priorities are better addressed”.
The reports discussed above all found that the most successful DRR is locally owned. The Pacific has led the way with both local and regional organisations such as SPREP and the Pacific Data Hub. I believe if we engage with local communities and local perspectives, their priorities can be better incorporated into DRR strategies. Such an approach fosters trust and collaboration between communities and external experts, ultimately leading to more effective and sustainable disaster risk reduction initiatives.