2 Aug 2022

Science for Humanitarian Emergencies and Resilience: key learning and resources

After six years of working with the fantastic researchers and practitioners of the Science for Humanitarian Emergencies and Resilience (SHEAR) programme, we are now bidding farewell to what has been an extraordinary experience. SHEAR involved unique interdisciplinary collaboration among researchers and humanitarians that looked at ways to improve our understanding of climate-related risks, as well as forecasts and early warning systems, in parallel with enhancing humanitarian actions to reduce this risk.

SHEAR projects made advances in a number of key areas:

Understanding hazard risk and examining a range of hazards, including landslides, droughts, floods, heat waves and storms, while working to monitor and analyse the conditions under which they occur, how they develop, their drivers, characteristics and inputs.

Developing early warning for fast- and slow-onset hazards including floods, landslide and droughts, and exploring key aspects of governance and communication of early warnings as well as monitoring and detecting hazard events. Research has included innovative applications of technologies from satellite observations to social media, and has assessed different approaches to early warning to understand their effectiveness and applicability for different hazards and contexts.

Developing early actions and coordinating the planning and implementation of humanitarian preparedness, response and recovery, which also requires navigating different roles and responsibilities, mandates and capacities. SHEAR projects have been working to support decision-makers by addressing these challenges in relation to a range of hazards, developing effective communication to support stakeholders with the information they need when they need it, to inform effective disaster preparedness, response and recovery.

In disaster anticipation and response, a range of stakeholders at all levels need to make critical decisions about how to mobilise and allocate assistance, and about which actions to take. This information is drawn from a wide range of complex data, based on monitoring and forecasting of the hazard itself as well as data about key assets and infrastructure exposed to the hazard, and the vulnerabilities and capacities of at-risk populations. SHEAR has worked with stakeholders at all levels and across sectors to improve anticipatory capacities and decision-making processes to enhance action in the face of future hazards.

For example, the Towards Resilience project has developed a model that identifies priority areas for evacuation, guiding decision makers in a more targeted response. The model identifies buildings within the flood hazard zone and flags these for evacuation, adapting these flooding maps based on the given rainfall event. Under the ForPAc (Forecast-based Preparedness Action) project, the Kenya Red Cross Society has developed early action protocols for flood and drought hazards, drawing on new operational forecast products developed by the project to guide stakeholders in their decisions about what actions to take, and when. Drought contingency planning in Pakistan is also using forecasts produced by SHEAR, with Satwin-ALERT’s yield forecasts forming the basis of the Start Network’s planning for winter wheat shortages.

Monitoring, modelling and forecasting, carrying out innovative research to address the key challenges of forecasting for humanitarian emergencies and resilience, working in partnership with stakeholders in government and civil society to strengthen preparedness and contingency planning.

Interdisciplinary collaboration combining expertise from physical sciences, social sciences, disaster risk management practice and governance, as well as financing and insurance to deliver multi-faceted, holistic approaches to key challenges of disaster risk and resilience.

User-centred communication exploring key ways to communicate risk with the stakeholders, with a focus on visualisation as a way to illustrate complex information in ways that support decision-making.

Governance and policy generating extensive learning about putting research into practice, and ensuring that stakeholder needs are at the centre of disaster risk management governance and policy.

Although SHEAR has come to a close, all of the learning and research outcomes will continue to be available to the anticipatory action and disaster resilience communities.

The SHEAR website will remain as a landing page to provide key information about all of the projects, and links to resources.

The SHEAR resources directory is up to date and provides an overview and links to a range of resources developed throughout the programme to synthesise emerging findings, learning, and experience from SHEAR across different areas relating to early warning and early action, and to the implementation of interdisciplinary research. Key resources specific to anticipatory action are also available on the Anticipation Hub, and can be used to guide and inform research, policy and practice.

We look forward to continuing to strengthen resilience to humanitarian emergencies and building on SHEAR's achievements in the future as the Anticipation Hub brings together colleagues in different fields and disciplines to develop early, anticipatory action.