There is growing interest in proactive, risk-informed humanitarian action to provide more timely, efficient and dignified assistance to communities at risk of crises. Calls to scale up such approaches have emphasised the inadequacy of the current levels of funding for anticipatory action and pre-arranged crisis finance and the importance of setting targets against which to measure progress. Yet, there remains significant variation amongst such targets, and in terms of what constitutes a realistic ambition. We need to reassess within the crises that receive international assistance, what opportunities are available to put in place plans, financing, and where possible implement mitigation actions ahead of the events themselves. The challenge for the humanitarian community is to harness existing science and technology to allow us predict and prepare ahead of escalating crisis risks, whilst also retaining the capacities to respond to highly complex, interconnected and/or unprecedented events. This paper intends to provide a clearer framework for understanding what can be anticipated, and to what degree. The analysis in this report shows that there are significant avenues within the humanitarian caseload to take advantage of the existing operational risk information systems as well as the wider potential for crisis risks not yet served by current operational systems. Additionally, the report recognises that there are limits to the degree that crises can be predicted and funding can be pre-arranged. This reinforces the need for anticipatory action and disaster risk financing measures to be complemented by other response mechanisms during and after a crisis situation and for responses to be tailored to individual crises and contexts.   

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The report also provides the following six recommendations:

  1. Scale up donor funding going to anticipatory action and pre-arranged crisis finance to maximise the potential for such approaches, and accelerate efforts to track these financing flows.
  2. Support and encourage open risk modelling and sharing of evidence and learning on the strengths and limitations of risk information systems not least from the perspective of implementers and communities at risk.
  3. Maximise opportunities for anticipatory action and disaster risk financing to be deployed in tandemand by diverse actors working together, ensuring that the value for money and effectiveness of joint approaches are not lost due to conflicts over organisational mandates.
  4. Set realistic and achievable targets that consider current capabilities and limits of risk-informed humanitarian action, and that consider contextual variations and locally-led priorities.
  5. Consider the role of development and climate portfolios alongside humanitarian funding when setting targets, to better reflect the nexus that this work falls within.
  6. Support humanitarian agencies, particularly at the local level, to ensure operational readiness so that timely financing translates into faster and more effective support to at-risk communities.