14 Apr 2021

Leveraging Knowledge to Accelerate Anticipatory Action: An interview with the AHA Centre

To accelerate knowledge exchange and learning on anticipatory action from global to local levels, it is crucial for the Anticipation Hub to collaborate with regional organisations such as the AHA Centre (ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management). The AHA Centre is an intergovernmental organisation, established by the ten ASEAN Member States with the aim to facilitate cooperation and coordination in disaster management amongst ASEAN Member States and with relevant international organisations and stakeholders. The Anticipation Hub is delighted to welcome the AHA Centre as one of its newest knowledge partners. Ms. Alexandra Rüth, the Head of the Anticipation Hub captured this opportunity to interview Ms. Adelina Kamal, Executive Director of the AHA Centre, to learn more about the AHA Centre and how it can work in tandem with the Anticipation Hub to enable more anticipatory action across the region. This blog post shares the key highlights from the interview and clearly demonstrates the vital role regional voices play in stimulating knowledge exchange and advocating to anchor anticipatory action within disaster risk management and humanitarian systems

Anticipatory action is needed in the ASEAN region 

The interview began with Ms. Kamal emphasising the need for the ASEAN region to shift from reacting to anticipating disasters, especially to manage the increasing frequency, intensity and impact of disasters. She explained how hydro-meteorological hazards account for 90% of disasters in the ASEAN region and given the huge advances in forecasting and modeling technology, these hazards can be predicted. Therefore, it is a ‘no-brainer’ to apply anticipatory action and transition the narrative in the region from “the supermarket of disasters to a disaster resilient region”. In addition, this anticipatory approach can empower local communities in ASEAN countries with meaningful risk information to act early.  Furthermore, she reflects on how important this is for the AHA’s Centre’s regional response role because “by enabling anticipatory action we can make One ASEAN One Response better - it will be more effective, more cost efficient and faster.” She drew reference to the unpredictable nature of current COVID-19 pandemic and its response, highlighting that anticipatory action can “put more predictability into the unpredictable”

Strengthen knowledge exchange within the ASEAN region and globally

The AHA Centre vividly recognises the value of knowledge exchange and its importance for sharing experiences from global to local levels. Ms. Kamal emphasized that we can learn from those who “thought through the problem, went through the pains and achieved the gains”. Ms. Kamal and Ms. Rüth discussed the importance of working together to facilitate horizontal learning that stimulates knowledge exchange among practitioners, scientists and policymakers. The ASEAN region can gain access to a global community through the Anticipation Hub. The AHA Centre can utilise the Hub to capture good practices on enabling anticipatory action in the region (for example in the Philippines) and globally. Such good practices can be contextualised and adapted to specific country-contexts using local knowledge, tools and resources in ASEAN countries.

The AHA Centre plays an important role acting as a knowledge hub on disaster management in the ASEAN region and is dedicated to bridging science and decision making. One significant knowledge product generated by the AHA Centre is its second edition of ARMOR entitled, Time is Running Out - Why ASEAN Must Act Now Against Climate Emergencies. Ms. Kamal explains that you can “summarise these ARMOR articles into two words - Anticipatory Action” demonstrating the importance of utilizing the “golden window of opportunity to shift from a reactive to proactive approach”. Ms. Rüth emphasizes how the AHA Centre can utilise the Anticipation Hub to transmit these key learnings to the global stage.

Anchor anticipatory action at the regional and national level 

The AHA Centre has a deep understanding of the contextual conditions and needs of the 10 ASEAN countries, given its response to 30+ disasters over the past 9 years. Ms. Kamal highlights that the Anticipation Hub can utilize these strong relationships and trust the AHA Centre has built in the region to act “as a force multiplier to scale up anticipatory action in the region.“ Ms. Rüth explained that the Anticipation Hub will capture this opportunity to utilise the capacity of the regional organisations like the AHA Centre to help ground anticipatory action within national government disaster risk management systems.  

The AHA Centre can set an example in the region by integrating anticipatory action into their own operational procedures. Ms. Kamal explained that a critical step for doing so is to review their regional preparedness and response mechanisms for disasters to “infuse anticipatory action into One ASEAN One Response.” This involves analysing their current trigger points and identifying how to adapt them, through extensive risk analysis, updating their risk scenarios and adapting the contingency plans. She highlighted that this process will require a lot of work and would be done in close collaboration with ASEAN Member States. The AHA Centre can act as a champion in the region to inspire and stimulate the transition of disaster response systems to become more anticipatory. 

Create systemic changes to realise anticipatory action

Many challenges lie ahead to create the system shift needed to embed anticipatory action in national, regional and global mechanisms. Ms. Kamal shared her top three key insights on what needs to be done.  

1. Build an evidence base that ‘tickles’ fear and changes mind-sets 

Anticipatory action cannot be institutionalized until the mind-set of key actors across adjoining sectors and policy domains adjust. Ms. Kamal explained that “we need solid evidence, facts and figures, to show that unless anticipatory action is taken, then their livelihoods, their economic security will be drastically disrupted.” Creating more convincing evidence on the benefits of anticipatory action plays an important role in shifting individuals from acting based on opinions rather than facts. The Anticipation Hub has a vital role to play in creating and sharing this evidence to influence behaviour change and facilitate this resulting systemic change in mind-set. 

2. Change the success indicators of the humanitarian aid system to value anticipation

The humanitarian aid system needs to value anticipation in its success indicators. Instead of looking at which aid organisation arrives first after a disaster happens, the more important indicator should be if the impacts of the disaster can be averted through anticipatory action. The Anticipation Hub and regional organisations like the AHA Centre have important advocacy roles to utilise the evidence to encourage this change. 

3. Influence ‘unusual suspects’ especially decision-makers that mobilize resources

Anticipatory action cannot be scaled up without political support from key national actors, such as parliaments and councils and key global players like donors and financing institutions who are making the decisions to mobilize resources. All these powerful decisions “by those at the top” of national, regional and global organisations will determine whether the resources in the humanitarian system are spent on response or enabling anticipation. The AHA Centre and the Anticipation Hub need to utilise their networks and evidence-base to influence these decision-makers especially those outside of their own circle of influence. Ms. Rüth ends by sharing that “we can only change the system together” .

The Anticipation Hub can apply this horizontal approach, by facilitating learning, and learning not only about good practices but also about failures, challenges, what works and what does not work.

Ms. Adelina Kamal Executive Director of the AHA Centre

The Anticipation Hub would like to express our thanks to Ms. Adelina Kamal, Executive Director of the AHA Centre, for taking the time to further discuss the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead to truly embrace anticipatory action. We look forward to embarking on this journey together. 


Watch a short clip from the interview below:

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