Submitted by Ganga Kariyawasam
27 Sep 2023

An anticipatory action workshop in Sri Lanka: tools, mechanisms and a pathway forward

Sri Lanka held its first national-level sensitization workshop on anticipatory action in Colombo on 20 September 2023. This was hosted by the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society, in collaboration with the Disaster Management Centre and with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Anticipation Hub.

This workshop was a first step towards developing a roadmap for implementing anticipatory action in Sri Lanka, as a joint venture with stakeholders. More than 50 participants from 30 stakeholder organizations joined the event, including representatives from the government, the United Nations, international and local non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, the private sector, donors, research institutions, academic institutions and universities. There were also partners from the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, including the IFRC and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“The common hazards in Sri Lanka are natural disasters that occur due to extreme weather events, as a result of climate change," said Ganga Kariyawasam, the focal point for anticipatory action at the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society. "We will consider floods, landslides, and droughts when implementing anticipatory action. Dengue epidemic is also an area of focus that we could work on.”

The workshop featured a panel discussion that built a dialogue with the audience and resulted in a productive conversation. Panellists included Raymond Zingg, the IFRC’s regional anticipatory action coordinator for Asia-Pacific; Winson Gnanatheepan, a disaster risk reduction specialist at World Vision; Chinthaka Rathnasiri, the acting director of the Human Settlements Planning and Training Division of the National Building Research Organization; and T.W.K. Indika Pushpakumara, the deputy director (emergency operations) of the Disaster Management Centre. The workshop produced many insights and a new vision for the country's disaster management specialists – one that incorporates anticipatory action.

“This workshop was an important and timely event for Sri Lanka,"confirmed Dr Mahesh Gunasekara, the director general of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society. "It enriched the country’s capacity to act swiftly to protect communities at risk in saving lives, properties, and livelihoods.

"Studies have established significant benefits of taking action prior to a hazard event and mitigating the impacts of a predictable crisis. Every US dollar invested in anticipatory action can generate a significant return, of up to seven US dollars, due to losses avoided and added benefits. This allows us to save more money [to be] spent on recovery and rehabilitation programmes, which eventually will benefit Sri Lanka, a country that is battling for economic stability.”

The workshop was led by Raymond Zingg and Finau Leveni, the IFRC’s regional disaster law coordinator for Asia-Pacific. Susil Perera, an expert in international disaster risk reduction, moderated the event.

The workshop resulted in an increased understanding of the anticipatory action approach by government counterparts, stakeholders, and partners. A Technical Working Group for Anticipatory Action in Sri Lanka will be established as the immediate output, followed by a roadmap to ensure collective action over the next three years.”

Ganga Kariyawasam Focal Point for Anticipatory Action, Sri Lanka Red Cross Society

This article was written by Ganga Kariyawasam, Sri Lanka Red Cross Society.