Submitted by Kristinia Doughorty and Julian Goñi
27 Feb 2024

Perspectives from the Future Leaders Network: the Regional Dialogue Platform in Central America and the Mitch +25 Forum

Kristinia Doughorty

Attending the Regional Dialogue Platform in Central America on Anticipatory Humanitarian Action was a highly informative experience. It provided a unique space for stakeholders from academia, government, the private sector and civil society to engage in rich discussions about the nuances of anticipatory action. Notable topics included scaling up anticipatory action strategically and using cutting-edge artificial intelligence and other technology to simulate and model potential scenarios. These discussions went beyond project-based approaches to critically examine the shortfalls of “projectizing” anticipatory action.  

Other conversations explored how to address risks systemically, recognizing the interconnected nature of challenges and solutions. Moreover, the dialogue platform’s structure – with diverse panel discussions, plenaries and working sessions – proved instrumental in facilitating the transfer of knowledge between different sectors and fostering in-depth discussions. These will contribute to a more collective understanding of anticipatory action in Central America.

One notable session was ‘Science and technology in integrated disaster risk management’, in which participants discussed not only how technology can be used for anticipatory action, but also the challenges in accessing this technology. For example, while countries can benefit from satellite data post-disaster – such as through the International Charter Space and Major Disasters – only a few countries in the region currently use this service.

Holding the dialogue platform alongside the Mitch +25 Forum meant we could also reflect on the impacts of the region’s deadliest storm in recent times, and the strides made since then to improve resilience. These include greater coordination between states, investment in anticipatory and preparedness activities, and incorporating best practices in plans and policies.

Personally, I enjoyed learning about the different games and activities that can be used to educate people about anticipatory action. This is critical in my work as I engage different communities and stakeholders to design interventions to reduce risk and vulnerability. Overall, attending the two events exposed me to new information and introduced me to other practitioners working in the region.

Julián Goñi

In the second plenary session, ‘Opportunities for strengthening governance’, the moderator asked: how can we create a culture of unacceptability in the face of the impacts of disasters on people and their livelihoods? In other words, how can we ensure that what was once considered natural and inevitable becomes intolerable, both for decision-makers and the population at large?

As stated in the session, young professionals, and young people more broadly, who become agents of change to promote this paradigm shift will be key. And, as also stated, the integration of different sectors in spaces for dialogue – for example academia, local governments and youth – will be fundamental. We need to collaborate to broaden the scope of the anticipatory action approach, and to strengthen integrated disaster risk management in our respective countries.

Being part of the Regional Dialogue Platform and the Mitch+25 Forum allowed me to learn about inspiring experiences and good practices, carried out by colleagues from different organizations and countries in the region. As young professionals, who were still at school when Hurricane Mitch hit, it was motivating to learn about the achievements and experience accumulated over the past 25 years. The constant and integrated work of colleagues is reflected in the better understanding we now have of risk, and in the reduction in the impacts generated by more recent extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota.

Many sessions took place in small groups with creative dynamics, which facilitated peer-to-peer exchange. In these, I learned about valuable experiences of putting anticipatory action into practice at the local level, which demonstrated the importance of coordination between different actors and institutions. These examples, such as community seed banks and agro-climatic technical tables, were often presented by members of the local communities participating in the event. This demonstrates the need for a people-centred approach when discussing anticipatory action to ensure that it responds to the specific needs of the most vulnerable populations.

The Future Leaders Network on Early Warning Early Action had the opportunity to participate in an ignite session, in which we could present our network and our recent activities as members of the regional committee for Latin America and the Caribbean. We also took the opportunity to invite young professionals to participate in the Future Leaders Network to continue expanding the scope of anticipatory action in the region.

In conclusion

Holding the Regional Dialogue Platform and the Mitch +25 Forum simultaneously made it possible to bring together a large number of actors involved in coordinating anticipatory action. As young professionals, sharing challenges and experiences with colleagues who have greater experience was a positive outcome and allowed us to make connections with decision-makers in our region. Our participation also consolidated the bonds between members of the Future Leaders Network’s regional committee and forged links with other young professionals from across the region. This will undoubtedly enhance our current and future capacities to develop anticipatory action in our respective countries.

Kristinia Doughorty is a PhD candidate in geography at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Jamaica. She is also the outreach and engagement lead for the Future Leaders Network on Early Warning Early Action in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Julian Goñi is a scientific application specialist, with an orientation towards disaster risk management, at the Meteorology and Society Department of the National Meteorological Service of Argentina. He is also the rapporteur for the Future Leaders Network on Early Warning Early Action in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Regional Dialogue Platform in Central America on Anticipatory Humanitarian Action was held from 31 October to 2 November 2023 in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, under the theme ‘Towards a more local and integrated anticipatory action’. It was held alongside the Mitch +25 Forum, which highlighted the progress made since the devastating impact of Hurricane Mitch in the region. Over 270 people from across the region attended the three-day event.

All photos by the Future Leaders Network.