A commitment to expand early warning systems in southern Africa
At the recent Ministerial Meeting on Integrated Early Warning and Early Action System Initiative, ministers from across southern Africa stated their commitment to a major expansion of early warning systems in the region. This will protect lives and livelihoods from the increasing impacts of extreme weather and the climate crisis.
Their statement – the Maputo Declaration on Bridging the Gap between Early Warning and Early Action – will guide the region as it seeks to implement the call of Antonio Guterres, the United Nations (UN) secretary-general, that every person on Earth should be protected by early warning systems in the next five years. It commits governments in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region to:
- establish appropriate standard operating procedures
- enact enabling national policies and legislations on meteorology and disaster risk management, with the aim to empower national meteorological and hydrological services and increase their authoritative voice in impact-based forecasting
- provide additional support to the human, financial and infrastructure capacities of the entities responsible for early warning and early action, particularly national meteorological and hydrological services and national disaster management offices
- increase collaboration between Member States in the SADC region and the wider continent
- encourage and enhance coordination among national, regional and international entities, as well as private partners, involved in disaster-related activities
- facilitate the timely declaration of a state of emergency by governments in the SADC region to allow for swift humanitarian assistance in response to available scientific evidence.
“One third of the world’s people, mainly in the least-developed countries and Small Island Developing States, are still not covered by early warning systems,” said Mami Mizutori, the special representative of the secretary-general for disaster risk reduction and head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. “In Africa, 60 per cent of people lack coverage. This is unacceptable. To help these countries meet Target G of the Sendai Framework, international support must be enhanced so that they can build and expand their early warning systems.”
A roadmap for anticipatory action in southern Africa
This expansion of early warning systems in Africa will be fundamental to scaling up anticipatory action in the region, which is the ambition of the Regional Anticipatory Action Working Group. At the same meeting, the RAAWG secretariat – the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – presented its Southern Africa Regional Anticipatory Action Roadmap.
This document describes the technical and strategic partnerships needed to scale up anticipatory action, and is framed through four guiding pillars:
- robust multiactor and multisectoral coordination frameworks for anticipatory action
- harmonization of triggers or anticipatory protocols
- aligning and coordinating financing
- evidence-based advocacy and awareness-raising.
The time is ripe to move from only responses to more anticipatory approaches. To ensure truly actionable early warning systems are in place… the IFRC supports urgent and more ambitious climate action and environmental protection as per the commitments of the climate charter.
Speech by Jurg Wilbrink, regional anticipatory action and disaster risk reduction advisor, IFRC
“Dear honourable minister of transport and communication, honourable ministers, deputy directors of WMO, AUC, SADC, Excellencies, representative of the public and representatives of the UN agencies, the National Red Cross and all partners present here today,
“I am honoured to represent the IFRC and want to give thanks [for] the warm welcome to this important conference in Mozambique. Over the years, African National Societies (ANSs), with support from the IFRC and partners, have made progress in implementing community-based disaster risk reduction measures and operationalize early action systems that make early warnings actionable, by linking them to predefined actions and anticipatory finance to be disbursed and implemented ahead of a shock.
“Through the various anticipatory action pilots and programmes, our ANSs have demonstrated that anticipatory action is fast, cost-effective, impactful, dignified, improves the quality of programming, promotes localization and encourages accountability. Overall, anticipatory action contributes to building community resilience and reducing the costs of late humanitarian responses. We truly believe and see increasing operational evidence and learning showing that early or anticipatory action protects development gains and is an important pillar in the nexus between climate change and humanitarian response.
“To date, over 15 ANSs are implementing anticipatory action; [more than] 15 ANSs [are] developing Early Action Protocols (EAPs), nine EAPs are approved, and one Simplified Early Action Protocol is approved; [there are] programmes with the aim of supporting communities to anticipate, prepare for and respond to future risks and shocks. And by 2025, we commit 25 per cent of Disaster Response Emergency Funding [to be] allocated to anticipatory action.
“In Mozambique with the Mozambique Red Cross, we have reached, through our response and anticipatory actions and three EAPs – under Cyclones Idai, Chalane, Eloise, Gombe – over 1.5 million people with our community-based efforts.
“The IFRC welcomes the innovation that this region is driving. The time is ripe to move from only response to more anticipatory approaches. To ensure truly actionable early warning systems are in place, I really want to emphasize that the IFRC supports urgent and more ambitious climate action and environmental protection as per the commitments of the climate charter.
“The IFRC encourages collective learning, coordination and partnerships. We host the Risk-informed Early Action Partnership (REAP) for evidence-based advocacy and the Anticipation Hub for knowledge sharing.
“Excellencies, the IFRC is delighted to see important aspects of early warning early action needs and asks, driven by the Member States present today, incorporated in the declaration. This is a huge step towards COP27 and the IFRC warmly welcomes this declaration – and stands firmly to support SADC and its Member States to drive and pursue the effective early warning and early action systems in this important region.”
The Ministerial Meeting on Integrated Early Warning and Early Action System Initiative was held from 5-9 September 2022 in Maputo, Mozambique, and was organized by SADC, the African Union Commission, the Mozambique government and other partners.