Submitted by Giriraj Amarnath and Martina Mascarenhas
18 Apr 2024

AWARE: a digitally enabled governance platform for effective anticipatory action ahead of climate shocks

As the climate crises worsens, extreme weather events are becoming increasingly more frequent and variable. This exacerbates the risks facing people in climate-vulnerable low- and middle-income countries.

Consider Zambia, one of six countries where the CGIAR Research Initiative on Climate Resilience (ClimBeR) is working to transform the adaptive capacity of land, water and food systems. According to EM-DAT, over the last three decades droughts and floods have cost Zambia more than US$13.8 billion – the equivalent of 4 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) – with an estimated US$4.8 billion in lost GDP predicted in the next decade if no actions are taken to address climate impacts.

Now, more than ever, countries such as Zambia need anticipatory action to cope better with the devastation that increasing climate variability brings. While early warning systems are effective, to fully inform disaster-risk-reduction interventions they require effective coordination and early action protocols that function across multiple levels of governance, from local to national levels. They also require pre-arranged financing to ensure timely actions to support communities’ needs ahead of an impending hazard.

To bring these elements together, ClimBeR launched the AWARE platform in Senegal and Zambia in 2023, following an earlier rollout of an anticipatory action simulation in Sri Lanka in July 2023.

The AWARE platform

ClimBeR’s Early Warning, Early Action, Early Finance (AWARE) platform helps countries to protect communities ahead of impending climate-related hazards, rather than afterwards. The platform is based on the principle of ‘early warning to early action and early finance’, which emphasizes the importance of anticipatory measures to mitigate the impacts of hazards and reduce human and economic losses.

The platform is structured around three modules:

  1. Early warning: this communicates timely and effective information related to floods and drought, warning of an impending disaster or crisis. The dashboard supports governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations and communities, giving them enough time to take appropriate actions that reduce the expected impacts.
  2. Early action: using the early warning information, multiple stakeholders support the swift implementation of actions across various sectors to minimize the negative impacts of a hazard, through measures such as climate-resilient strategies and social safety nets.
  3. Early finance: this module integrates an early action plan with the timely allocation of financial resources to support preparedness, readiness and active-phase efforts. Securing financing in advance allows for more rapid and effective actions, helping affected communities and governments to address the immediate needs and priorities ahead of climate-related hazards.

The integration of these three principles in disaster-risk-management strategies helps to create a more comprehensive and effective framework to deal with climate-related hazards. Collectively, timely information, quick responses, financial preparedness and anticipatory actions help build the resilience of communities and regions, reducing their overall vulnerability to disasters.

From early warnings to anticipatory actions

President Hakainde Hichilema recently declared a state of emergency in Zambia as prolonged drought, brought on by El Niño, disrupted the country’s food supply. In 2024, the country is likely to experience severe economic disruptions due to the drought’s impacts on millions of livelihoods.

The AWARE platform can support governments and development partners ahead of crises such as this, helping them to translate early warnings into concrete anticipatory actions that mitigate a hazard’s impacts. It provides tools for identifying the risks facing communities, and for developing plans to mitigate these risks. For example, it provides forecast information for particular hazards, such as probability forecasts for precipitation (see the image to the right).

A three-phase approach

AWARE also provides information on the anticipatory actions that can be taken ahead of a hazard. Actions to anticipate drought could include changes to agricultural inputs (e.g., using drought-tolerant seeds), or ensuring access to water for drinking and domestic use, and community-preparedness activities.

Relevant information uploaded to the platform is captured in a comprehensive Anticipatory Action Plan, which outlines the actions to be taken during three phases:

  1. preparedness phase, which includes actions taken six to nine months ahead of a potential hazard
  2. readiness phase, when a hazard is forecast for the following week or so
  3. active phase, when the event is imminent, at which point communities are alerted.

This three-phase process was field tested during a simulation exercise in Sri Lanka in 2023, in collaboration with relevant Sri Lankan government departments (disaster management, meteorology), local NGOs, community leaders and humanitarian organizations.

Support to identify sources of early financing

According to research from the Centre for Disaster Protection, the poorest and most vulnerable countries do not benefit enough from pre-arranged financing to better cope with disasters: between 2017and 2021, only US$200 million – less than 4 per cent of the international development financing that is pre-arranged – reached low-income countries. These countries often face challenges in accessing other sources of international financing as well, as existing high levels of debt make repayment difficult. By integrating local information, the AWARE platform can help to establish the financing needs that countries or regions have for climate-related hazards.

Many stakeholders, one platform

The AWARE platform promotes multi-level coordination and collaboration by bringing together a wide spectrum of stakeholders, including government officials, emergency response managers, humanitarian organizations, and the local communities who are actually at risk. It connects data providers, such as meteorological agencies and hydrological centres, with data users (e.g., humanitarian organizations) to improve disaster risk governance.

“We need AWARE because we recognize that climate change and disaster risks are realities we cannot ignore,” says Gabriel Pollen, the national coordinator of the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit in Zambia. “Most importantly, we need AWARE because we understand that timely action can save lives, protect livelihoods, and safeguard our environment. The AWARE platform is also in line with global target of the Sendai Framework, [which aims] to substantially increase the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to the people by 2030.”

We need AWARE because we recognize that climate change and disaster risks are realities we cannot ignore… we need AWARE because we understand that timely action can save lives, protect livelihoods, and safeguard our environment.

Gabriel Pollen National coordinator, Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit, Zambia

This blog was written by Giriraj Amarnath, ClimBeR governance for resilience lead, International Water Management Institute, and Martina Mascarenhas, communications lead, CGIAR Research Initiative on Climate Resilience.