Reaching new heights on anticipatory action: reflections from the EWEA Future Leaders Network
As the world’s most disaster-prone region, effective anticipatory action in Asia-Pacific is essential to reduce the impacts of hazards. ‘Effective’ means not just how technically advanced an early warning system is, but also that actions are inclusive, and proactive.
Partnerships are essential for effective anticipatory action and the in-person part of the 7th Asia-Pacific Dialogue Platform, which took place in Kathmandu, Nepal, from 13-15 June 2023, was an opportunity to strengthen these. This blog offers some reflections from members of the Early Warning Early Action (EWEA) Future Leaders Network.
One highlight was the presentation about practitioners in Nepal who use mobile applications and community-based landslide early warning systems. Their goal is to establish a well-informed community that could respond appropriately to early warning messages. I was inspired by how they involved indigenous people in disaster preparedness.
It was a personal honour to tell people about the AWAKE (Awareness and Knowledge about Early Warnings) project, which provides inclusive disaster education for children (aged 7 to 15 years) and people with disabilities, and I am grateful to the Anticipation Hub for the opportunity to do this. AWAKE uses an educational learning process for floods and landslides, based on four learning styles: (1) visual; (2) auditory; (3) reading and writing; and (4) kinaesthetic. It acts as a sign for us, as practitioners in EWEA, to start working on an inclusive early-warning education system for. AWAKE can be implemented in many areas, so feel free to reach out for further collaboration with the Future Leaders Network.
Participating in the Asia-Pacific Dialogue Platform was a truly inspiring experience. Through my work with the Danish Red Cross, I support anticipatory action in Nepal, but we are currently not working on anticipatory action in any other countries in the region. It was therefore a real eye-opener to learn about all the exciting projects and activities that are being implemented in the region, from very local community-based systems to engagement with national government authorities.
As a member of the Future Leaders Network, it was great to see so many early-career professionals presenting their work at the dialogue platform. This showed that there really is a place for early- career professionals in such an important forum and that we, in the wider anticipatory action community, have a responsibility to accommodate and encourage their active participation. I talked to many of them during the Asia-Pacific Dialogue Platform and it is clear how skilled, engaged and inspiring they are.
I was happy to have the opportunity to meet with other members of the Future Leaders Network and have concrete discussions about how we can promote and engage the network within the region. A lot of exciting and interesting ideas came up and we are now working on how to carry them out and ensure the network’s relevance and engagement within the region.
The three days of the Asia-Pacific Dialogue Platform were exciting and interactive, with well-planned activities and sessions, games and group activities. The one I found especially informative was anticipatory action for heat action planning. With the growing number of heat waves in recent years, the discussion on this topic was much needed, and it received plenty of attention during the event. The Vietnam Red Cross Society shared its innovative approach of using community cooling centres and cooling buses to combat heat waves; this could be highly beneficial for Nepal as well, as more extreme heat waves are expected in the future.
Downscaling early warnings for anticipatory action was another highly instructive session that highlighted how forecast information is downscaled and communicated to communities at risk, and in simple language that is easy to understand. I enjoyed the ‘Anticipatory action – beat the hazard!’ board game, which was fun and interactive. I was also pleased to learn about the community-based landslide early warning system and Pahiro alert, both of which inform communities in Nepal about early actions for landslide risks.
Lastly, the dialogue platform is always a great place to catch up with distant friends and colleagues. I reunited with university friends and the Future Leaders Network team, and we could share our thoughts, ideas and plans for regional activities on anticipatory action to implement in the future.
As a first-time participant at the Asia-Pacific Dialogue Platform, I was uncertain about what to expect. As it turns out, it provided a unique space for various partners to share their rich experiences in promoting and implementing anticipatory action, often using fun and engaging methods, which add to an overall positive atmosphere.
One session that stood out for me was ‘Murky waters: unpacking anticipatory action in conflict and displacement in Asia Pacific’. The conversations raised several valid concerns about risk and navigating the complexities of conflict. One prominent concern was that we, as humanitarians, can be seen as taking sides and therefore exacerbating conflicts. Another concern was the appropriateness of early actions, which may be perceived as provocation and escalating the conflict. I was also inspired by the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society’s work to successfully scale up its efforts across partners, hazard types, geographical areas and funding sources.
Though the work to promote anticipatory action in Indonesia may still have a long way to go, I found it reassuring to see a diverse, dedicated delegation present and bringing this approach to the forefront of government attention. I also had the privilege to meet three familiar faces from the Future Leaders Network, and we had fruitful discussions about ideas for future activities in the Asia-Pacific region. Moving forward, I am excited to connect and collaborate with the young leaders across the region to support early warnings that truly make a difference on the ground.