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DOCUMENT TAGS Anticipation

Forecasting hazards, averting disasters - Implementing forecast-based early action at scale

Date added

29 March 2018


Donors and humanitarian agencies are thinking carefully about how to use forecasts to provide earlier support to at-risk communities before a disaster occurs. While this interest stems from a desire to reduce the growing humanitarian burden and reconsider how aid is spent on humanitarian crises, forecast-based early action is also of interest to development professionals operating in social protection, disaster risk management and risk financing: preventive action should happen anyway, but in a context of limited resources forecast-based early action can help with decisions about how to best allocate funds in advance of an imminent impact. 

You can read about the Start Funds Crisis Anticipation Window by clicking here.

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While practitioners agree on the importance of early action, there is a wide interpretation of what this means and when it can occur. Forecast-based early action (FbA) initiatives are diverse, with very different approaches to the timing of decisions and actions, and to the types of forecast, monitoring data and delivery mechanisms used. They are similar in design to early warning systems: both are set up to minimise and prevent the impacts of imminent threats by providing information and support to at-risk communities.

Forecasting and communication of early warnings have improved significantly in recent years, but action based on those warnings has not kept pace due to a lack of readily available resources and internal inefficiencies in NGOs and UN and government agencies. FbA mechanisms respond directly to this challenge by placing considerable emphasis on decision-making protocols, so actors know what to do on the basis of a forecast; on ex ante financing of early action; and by using cost–benefit analysis more rigorously to help promote ex ante investment in disaster risk reduction (DRR).

As such, FbA has the potential to revolutionise disaster risk management in a way that previous efforts to improve the links between early warning and early action have not. This paper identifies the core features of over 25 FbA instruments designed to anticipate and reduce the impacts of natural and man-made hazards (see Annex 1). It outlines how, by integrating forecast-based decision-making in existing national and international organisations and NGO delivery systems and in international humanitarian financing mechanisms, forecasts could play a more significant role in humanitarian practice and disaster risk management. 

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