Pakistan holds its first National Dialogue Platform on Anticipatory Action
Pakistan’s first National Dialogue Platform on Anticipatory Action took place in Islamabad on 19-20 December 2023, under the theme, ‘Together for scaling up anticipatory action in Pakistan’. The event was hosted by the National Disaster Management Authority Pakistan, in collaboration with the German Red Cross, the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, Welthungerhilfe, the World Food Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The National Dialogue Platform brought together more than 150 participants, including humanitarian actors, meteorologists, climate scientists, national and provincial disaster management authorities, academia, community leaders and decision-makers. Discussions focused on constructing, reinforcing and amplifying anticipatory action in Pakistan to reduce the impact of anticipated disasters. In particular, the sessions sought to:
- promote a shared understanding of anticipatory action
- facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experiences
- understand the roles of international financial institutions in advancing the inclusion of funding for disaster risk and pre-arranged financing
- identify gaps, challenges, roadblocks and milestones for a collective way forward
- develop practical recommendations for implementing anticipatory action effectively in Pakistan
Over the two days, there were also plenty of opportunities for networking and collaboration among the stakeholders, who all work proactively to address the challenges posed by natural disasters.
The challenges posed by climate-induced disasters necessitate collective anticipatory action. This first National Dialogue Platform offers an opportunity for all stakeholders to converge, share knowledge and formulate strategies for proactive disaster management.
Outlining national priorities
Towards the end of the event, the participants outlined the priorities and fundamental building blocks for anticipatory action to expand in Pakistan. They also came up with concrete recommendations to support the testing, implementation and evidence-collecting of activities, and identified a pathway for developing a country-level roadmap for anticipatory action. “Anticipatory action has emerged as an innovative way forward to act ahead of predicted disasters unfold[ing], to reduce humanitarian, infrastructural and economic losses,” remarked LtG Inam Haider Malik, the chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority.
In this era, our focus must centre on climate-led initiatives linked with timely early actions to diminish the impact of disasters on vulnerable communities. COP28 discussions align[ed] with anticipatory actions as well. The National Dialogue Platform is a pivotal step towards building resilience, and the Pakistan Red Crescent Society is committed to collaborating with all partners for effective anticipatory actions.
Welthungerhilfe in Pakistan is enthusiastic about the proactive strides being taken to integrate anticipatory action. This transformative process necessitates adjustments not only within the national disaster risk management framework but also across various technical departments. We are particularly pleased that the government is spearheading this system change. The inaugural anticipatory action dialogue platform in Pakistan serves as a testament to the impactful outcomes achievable through collaborative engagement and concerted efforts [by] all stakeholders.
FAO reiterates and gives its support to the creation of a national coordination mechanism that can convene government and anticipatory action practitioners to develop a national anticipatory action framework for Pakistan; harness the various and fragmented efforts into a coherent body of evidence-based learning that can support anticipatory action practice, policy-making and decision-making at the institutional level; and support the mobilization of resources, both domestically and internationally. The great collaboration shown by [the organizing partners] and others during the first National Dialogue Platform demonstrates that the seeds have already been planted, and so we need to get going and support it.
I want to emphasize our unwavering commitment to addressing food insecurity amid the challenges posed by climate change. Our focus on early warning systems, anticipatory action, and the enhancement of community and national capacities underscores our dedication to forging a resilient path forward. Additionally, we remain steadfast in promoting gender equality and inclusion, recognizing their pivotal roles in achieving sustainable food security.
Images from the first National Dialogue Platform in Pakistan
During the closing session, Mr Asif Khan, the head of the German Red Cross’s Country Liaison Office, highlighted that scaling up anticipatory action will require a joint undertaking to explore anticipatory approaches. This is needed to extend them to climate- and weather-related hazards that have not yet been sufficiently addressed by anticipatory action, such as heat waves and droughts, which often have less visible impacts. The overarching theme – ‘Together for scaling up anticipatory action in Pakistan’ - aligns with key policies and processes both within and beyond the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. For example, the Movement's ambitions to address the climate crisis emphasize the need to facilitate access to funds and assist governments in establishing anticipatory mechanisms for climate-smart disaster risk reduction. Furthermore, a core objective of the IFRC’s Strategy 2030 is to aid individuals in anticipating, responding to, and swiftly recovering from crises.
He further emphasized that localization is the way forward, so anticipatory action work must be driven and co-designed by local actors. This includes people in vulnerable situations being engaged in developing plans for anticipatory action.
Building upon successful pilot programmes, joint efforts between humanitarian actors and the government should aim to incorporate anticipatory action into the country’s policy framework.
Looking ahead: the next steps for Pakistan
The concept of anticipatory action is gaining traction in Pakistan, as evidenced by discussions at the first National Dialogue Platform. However, participants representing various organizations underscored the persistent challenges, such as insufficient hazard specific data, limited forecast capabilities, and the necessity for enhanced coordination when expanding anticipatory measures from the district to the national level.
Additionally, the National Dialogue Platform provided a forum to articulate forthcoming plans and activities. Participants identified key priorities and recommendations, including:
- develop a national roadmap for anticipatory action
- integrate anticipatory action into existing disaster risk management policies, national disaster management plans and monsoon contingency plans
- a long-term national disaster management plan which includes anticipatory action, and with impact-based forecasting being mainstreamed
- the institutionalization of anticipatory action, adopting a multi-hazard approach; this is essential for creating a robust and sustainable framework that can effectively respond to a variety of potential threats
- establishing a national technical working group to bring together experts and stakeholders, foster collaboration and expertise, and drive the development and implementation of anticipatory action
- making national dialogue platforms a regular and recurring feature in the country, providing a consistent platform for stakeholders to share progress, challenges and best practices
- engage provincial stakeholders through a consultative process, to gather valuable local-level insights on anticipatory action initiatives.
At the government level, the necessary commitments to anticipatory action include:
- prioritize and incorporate anticipatory action within existing disaster-risk-management policies and tools
- establishing the national dialogue platforms as a regular feature in Pakistan.
This article was written by Muhammad Atif Khan, project manager - forecast-based financing, German Red Cross, Pakistan.
All photos by the Pakistan Red Crescent Society and anticipatory action team members.