A burst of energy and enthusiasm: Systems Building for effective anticipatory action at the 4th Africa Dialogue Platform
The 4th Africa Dialogue Platform on Anticipatory Humanitarian Action took place from the 29th of June to the 1st of July. During these three days over 300 participants came together from 51 countries to share experiences through an abundance of interactive and creative virtual sessions - including collective storytelling, poetry, games, quizzes, cartoons, hot seat interviews and much more.
The event was organised by the Anticipation Hub and hosted by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the German Red Cross (GRC) in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP), the Start Network and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre (RCCC).
Call for scaling up anticipatory action grows louder and louder
A recurring theme across many sessions was the need to continue to shout louder to advocate for scaling up anticipatory action and move beyond a piloting approach. Anticipation action initiatives are in place in 25 African countries - but the message is clear - we need to create systems that can be scaled up to reach more people and cover more hazards and compounding risks. There is a clear call to strengthen partnerships, collaboration and cooperation to institutionalise anticipatory action in Africa within government systems to create a sustainable system with sufficient financing to reach scale.
The opening remarks from the GRC, FAO and IFRC strongly emphasised these messages.
In Africa, amazing progress has been made and we are now moving the focus to expand to other hazards - from floods to droughts and now moving into anticipating non-weather hazards like locusts, and pandemics. The challenge of compounding risks ... will remain with us in the coming years, and it has been a huge challenge in the past year.
We have learnt great lessons and seen the significant impact of anticipatory humanitarian action from the pilot stages. We need to scale up to implementation phases. This will only be possible if we ensure that systems are in place within our organizations, government, academic institutions and communities to ensure that a conducive environment has been created to support the effective implementation of anticipatory action in the various levels and contexts.
We have made progress in our approach where we are less reactive today compared to the past but we are not yet there. We need stronger commitments from governments, partners, donors so as to scale up our work on anticipatory action.
Space for open and honest conversations
Each year the Africa Dialogue Platform has been growing to include a wider spectrum of stakeholders represented across humanitarian agencies, NGOs, governments, academica and more. Key speakers and panellists included regional representatives from IGAD Food Security, Nutrition and Resilience Analysis Hub, OCHA, UNDRR, FEWS NET, Eastern Africa Grain Council, Red Cross Red Crescent Societies, Government Departments and African Risk Capacity Replica.
The Africa Dialogue Platform has proved to be the space where the anticipatory action community across Africa can have open and honest conservations to voice their ideas and discuss emerging challenges and solutions, while capturing new sources of energy and motivation to continue on their vision to achieve anticipatory action at scale in Africa. The need to strengthen research capacity among African institutions, leverage technology, and empower communities in anticipatory action was poignantly highlighted in many sessions.
My biggest challenge in anticipatory action is the discrepancy involving the ‘science from the Global North’ vs empowering African based scientists (in meteorological services and institutions) to develop their own solutions … we need research to be African-based so it can be turned into operational systems within Africa.
In the search for solutions we should leverage technology and the involvement of local communities, foster closer collaboration so that we can go from short to medium and long-term thinking among all humanitarian and development partners.
There was a clear commitment among speakers to continue to work together in tandem and synchronize their anticipatory action approaches moving forward. The Eastern, Western/Sahel and Southern Africa regional voices were central to the conversation, especially during the third day.
The Anticipation Hub Strategy was officially launched during the Platform and Ms. Alexandra Ruth, Head of the Anticipation Hub called for all practitioners, scientists and policymakers in the region to get involved in the Anticipation Hub and utilise it as their space to facilitate more knowledge exchange regionally.
Lets sharpen our tools
The event helped to collect all the ‘nuggets of wisdom’ from across the experts in the anticipatory action community and facilitate exchange. The strong participation combined with a diverse range of speakers and panellists encouraged deep and rich conversations resulting in high-quality knowledge sharing and learning on anticipatory action throughout the Platform.
The quality of the exchange has grown from one platform to the next and it is a testament to the innovative projects and activities being implemented across the region.
There was consensus among participants that we are technically ready for early warning and early action but recognised the challenges that still lie ahead for the community to bridge the knowledge gaps, strengthen the evidence base and stimulate advocacy and awareness amongst the ‘newcomers’ or ‘unusual suspects’ to engage with anticipatory action. All of these are prerequisites for Systems Building to support effective implementation of anticipatory humanitarian action.
We are making a lot of progress on the side of information and communication technologies, but it is still the weaker link when we talk about the last mile of Early Warning Early Action. It is still a challenge to reach people in rural and remote areas despite the availability of for example mobile phones.
Our Message to the World
A powerful “Message to the World” was shared by Irene Amuron, Anticipation Manager at the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, during the closing session. Despite all the progress achieved, the community is facing increasing risks from all angles with Covid-19 being a stark reminder of the need to “always anticipate, prepare and respond to multiple risks at any one time”.
The message emphasized that “it is not too late to turn the tide” and called for urgent action in the following areas to create the systemic and sustainable shift to more anticipatory humanitarian systems in Africa.
Read "Message to the world" here
Invest in research and science capacities in African Institutions
Reach scale by aligning finance and resources and investing in the evidence-base
Work with sustainability in mind, build anticipatory action into national DRM systems
Build a movement for anticipatory action, linking local to global and engaging communities
Invest in coordination to harmonize methodologies and tools across agencies
Explore diverse types of early actions across sectors (beyond cash)