29 Oct 2021

High-level panel on space technology for anticipatory action

A high-level panel “Moving from climate crisis response to risk management – space technologies for anticipatory humanitarian action” was hosted by Sweden at its Expo 2020 on October 23rd 2021. The event aimed to strengthen awareness of and to promote innovative solutions to systematically anticipate climatic shocks, that can enable a more effective and dignified humanitarian response.  

A recording of the event can be watched in full here and its concept note can be accessed here. You can read a related news item from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre here

The first part of the event discussed moving from crisis response to risk management to combat food security. It included interventions from Sweden’s Minister of International Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs Per Olsson Fridh, World Food Programme’s Executive Director, David Beasley and the International Committee of the Red Cross Director General, Robert Mardini

The speakers outlined the importance of anticipatory action to save lives and livelihoods, protect development gains and prevent the drivers of conflict. The need for increased funding for anticipatory action was highlighted along with the commitment of the Swedish government to double its climate financing by 2025.

“I intend to instruct my government to work ahead of crisis. An important step in this spirit is the [12 October] announcement that Sweden is doubling its climate aid until 2025…Ahead of COP 26 Sweden is raising the bar on climate aid in the world.” 

Sweden’s Minister of International Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs Per Olsson Fridh 

The second part of the event delved into the opportunities and challenges for using earth observation technologies for anticipatory humanitarian action. The panel included representatives from the Swedish National Space Agency, Centre for Humanitarian Data at OCHA, Start Network, Africa Risk Capacity and NASA.  

Shanna McClain, Global Partnerships Manager at NASA Earth Sciences Division and co-chair of the Anticipation Hub’s Working Group on Earth Observations for Anticipatory Action explained the importance of partnership for harnessing technology for anticipatory action. 

She outlined the need to expand innovation to more complex hazards, improve the downscaling of data for localized decision making and to move beyond pilot projects to sustained applications that build long-term capacity.  She also highlighted how the Anticipation Hub Working Group on Earth Observation is working to identify what data could be strengthened for current protocols for anticipatory action for shocks and stresses like flooding and drought and also for a wider range of hazards. You can read more about the working group here.  

“We need to have more of a concerted effort to institutionalize and build capacity for making these innovations part of our regular methodologies .. we need ensure that people have capacity to continue this over time and translate that information into actual decisions” 

The event was moderated by Ben Webster, Head of Secretariat for the Risk-informed Early Action Partnership (REAP), who shared the following reflection on the event and on moving forward towards COP26.  

It’s very encouraging to hear governments such as Sweden and the UAE increasing their commitment towards the climate agenda and also supporting the shift towards anticipatory humanitarian approaches.
The Dubai Expo event demonstrated that there is huge appetite to scale-up early action – we’ll just need to collaborate and coordinate more effectively across actors who can each bring their relevant areas of expertise. COP26 presents the next major opportunity to secure further support for the approach.

Ben Webster Head of the Risk-informed Early Action Partnership Secretariat