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Anticipation Hub: striving to make anticipatory humanitarian action the new norm

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Disasters never stop, whether triggered by natural hazards or other events, but acting early can save lives and minimise negative human, social, economic and environmental impacts.

Launched in December 2020, the Anticipation Hub is a knowledge and exchange platform providing access to evidence-based learning resources, tools and expertise for practitioners, scientists and policymakers to enhance their ability to anchor anticipatory action, reduce disaster risks and adapt to climate change. It is hosted by the German Red Cross in cooperation with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, with funding from Germany's Federal Foreign Office.

Today we are joined by the Head of the Anticipation Hub, Alexandra Rüth, who provides an overview of their main areas of work, partnerships, challenges and ambitions:

Anticipatory action should be “the new norm”. Why?

It is a crucial approach/methodology to lessen human suffering in a context of increasingly recurrent and deadlier, yet predictable crises by coupling science and expertise in humanitarian action. It is of utmost importance to maximise joint efforts and cooperation to help those in need even before a disaster hits. The Anticipation Hub is bringing together different actors involved in that endeavour, with a platform where it is all about collaboration. We have three strategic priorities: to stimulate learning, innovation and exchange; to provide guidance and support connecting different specialists and users to identify solutions; and to promote lasting change through sustained policy and advocacy efforts to mainstream anticipatory approaches.

Partnership is a key aspect of the Anticipation Hub. Already in the first months since its launch over 65 organisations have joined as partners, from across the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, research institutions, academia and think tanks, UN agencies, NGOs and networks/platforms – from the Risk-Informed Early Action Partnership (REAP) to the University of Namibia or NASA Disasters programme, to cite some examples.

Indeed. Such a broad and diverse range of partner organisations at global and local levels reveals a great interest in anticipatory action and highlights our shared vision to drive forward anticipatory action in a collaborative manner. Our main objective at present is to consolidate our partnerships through ongoing and future activities, deepening that engagement and gradually welcoming others. We also have a particular focus in striving to engage further with governments, taking into account the crucial role they play in mainstreaming anticipation and early action within national frameworks, and with humanitarian donors, such as the European Commission.

What are the main priorities and challenges in terms of anticipatory action?

With the focus on scaling up, establishing standards, promoting coherence and garnering evidence will be important to create more impactful and sustainable anticipatory humanitarian action that reaches more people and cover more locations. This in turn entails a change of mindset by many different stakeholders. Latest initiatives and success stories have generated a momentum the Anticipation Hub aims to foster. It is now, for instance, “unacceptable” to leave vulnerable populations on their own ahead of extreme flooding, when adequate anticipatory action and forecast-based financing can translate e.g. into cash distributions enabling families to purchase basic items that may help them mitigate the predicted impacts of flood and potentially avoiding a disaster. That can (and must) be done in Bangladesh, in European countries and elsewhere in the world, with tailored actions in each case. In parallel, we must collectively tackle with emerging topics and tailor anticipatory approaches to different contexts, from drought to the complex interplay between health/epidemics/COVID-19 and violence or conflict in a given region.

 Mozambique Red Cross take early action as Tropical Cyclone Eloise brings strong winds and rains, December 2020. Ⓒ IFRC

At the European Union level, key institutions and Member States are being encouraged to expand their support to anticipatory action with increasingly flexible funding, improved coordination with other disaster risk financing instruments and more assistance to local and national responders. While more and more humanitarian crises are predictable, less than one percent of funding is currently available for anticipatory action.

Globally there are now multiple funding mechanisms that can be used for this purpose, including IFRC’s Forecast-based Action by the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (FbA by DREF) and others, but most are conceived for small-scale projects. That needs to change. Apart from expanding global pools, donors should enable national actors to access funds for anticipatory action through national risk financing mechanisms in order to that system-wide shift for anticipatory action to happen. Otherwise, impact will remain limited. It is important to note that increase in financing for anticipatory action must also come with an increased investment in capacities of local actors to deliver in higher volume and within short lead times.

The starting point of anticipatory action has traditionally been humanitarian, but linkages with climate change and sustainable development are increasingly obvious.

Although it is great that the European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) sees anticipatory action as a key to their approach to preparedness, anticipatory action must not be purely humanitarian. Investing in early warning and preparedness capacities particularly at the local level is vital, and goes across multiple sectors. We need to be able to bridge existing gaps – drawing from the expertise and actions from each partner organisation, promoting synergies and fostering the nexus with concrete initiatives that connect with developmental and climate change actors, among others.

What does the future of anticipatory action look like?

Years ago, the German Red Cross jointly with IFRC, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the START Network were among the few organisations pushing for anticipatory methodologies and tools. That has substantially changed, especially through efforts like the Anticipatory Action Task Force (FAO, IFRC, OCHA, START Network and WFP) who jointly advocate scaling up of anticipatory action. However, there is still a long way to go for it not to be considered an innovative feature but rather a necessary approach to be mainstreamed/embedded into national disaster management systems. We need to stay up to date, reinforce our partnerships and capacity development initiatives and step up our collective leverage vis-à-vis decision-makers. Our ultimate goal is to contribute to a safer and healthier future, where people and communities at risk are less exposed and more protected.

 

Official website of the Anticipation Hub

IFRC press release ‘Early action gets a boost with launch of new Anticipation Hub’

IFRC World Disasters Report 2020

Red Cross EU Office booklet ‘Red Alert. National Red Cross Societies managing disaster risks in Europe

For media inquiries, please contact Eva Oyón on: eva.oyon@redcross.eu or +32 2 235 09 22