13 Oct 2023

The Amrita Center in India receives the 2023 Averted Disaster Award at the 11th Global Dialogue Platform

The Amrita Center for Wireless Networks and Applications is the winner of this year’s Averted Disaster Award and received the award on the final day of the 11th Global Dialogue Platform on Anticipatory Humanitarian Action. This recognizes its work on landslide early-warning technology and efforts to engage communities for emergency preparedness and resilience in India. 

The Amrita Center has effectively predicted landslides and saved lives through its communication work and emergency training within affected communities. For example, it deployed the world’s first wireless sensor network for landslide monitoring and early warning, through projects in Munnar, Western Ghats, and Sikkim, Himalayas.  

The Amrita Center’s work bridges the gap between technology and affected communities. Scientists work with community members to understand the challenges of living in landslide-prone areas, and then collaborate with them to co-design solutions. For example, community members actively participate in monitoring and reacting when landslides are imminent. This collaborative approach has resulted in better technology that protects communities and saves lives. And, as the number of landslides in these regions has increased in recent years, countless lives have been saved. 

“I would like to thank each one of you for this award, and the committee for selecting us,” Dr Maneesha V. Ramesh said at the award ceremony. “I will take back what I have learned [at the conference] so we can do anticipatory action better.” 

The Amrita Center’s collaborative approach, bringing together scientists and the community, is an example of best practice in developing effective disaster-risk technology. When at-risk communities are engaged as implementing partners from the outset, they are more likely to follow emergency guidance and develop long-term community resilience.

Shanna McClain Program manager, NASA / Averted Disaster Award selection committee member and host of the award ceremony

The runner-up in this year’s award was the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat in Pakistan, in recognition of its Winter Preparedness Program. This is a community-based initiative focused on avalanche monitoring and risk reduction, which addresses the acute lack of weather-forecasting systems in the mountainous regions of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral. Special recognition for disaster risk communication and diplomacy was given to two projects: BBC Media Action for its East Africa Weather Wise programme, which has a focus on drought-affected communities in Kenya; and Prepared International for its significant contributions to disaster risk diplomacy in Israel, Jordan and Palestine, with a central goal of enhancing cross-border disaster preparedness and response coordination within the region. 

Living Without Fear - 2023 Averted Disaster Award Winner

The award ceremony featured the premier of a short documentary film, ‘Living Without Fear’, which highlights the achievements of the Amrita Center. The documentary can be viewed here.

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Anchoring anticipatory action in the Grand Bargain

Earlier in the day, a parallel session explored how anticipatory action can be anchored within the Grand Bargain. Anticipatory action has always been one of the priorities of this strategic global initiative and, during this session, the speakers and participants explored how it can support efforts to scale up anticipatory action around the world.  

Konstantin Klammert, German Federal Foreign Office, set out the importance of having this discussion at the Global Dialogue Platform. “It was super useful to get the views from actual practitioners, especially because there was large agreement over the most pressing issues: the availability of, and access to, finance, and the need for country-level coordination,” he noted. “We are excited to tackle these issues with the anticipatory action community over the next year, and flesh out exactly how the Grand Bargain can be useful here.”  

Participants shared ideas about the Grand Bargain’s role in supporting anticipatory action. One suggestion was its ability to engage new, or ‘non-traditional’, donors, both in terms of financing for the approach and in coordinating the finance available. Another important role is ensuring that this finance really gets to the local actors who are implementing anticipatory approaches around the world. 

The Grand Bargain is about using existing funding more effectively... how do we go about that? Donors can set out clear expectations, [for example] that funding is used in a more flexible way.

Daniel Pfister United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Reflections on the 11th Global Dialogue Platform

The 11th Global Dialogue Platform concluded with reflections from partners and participants. “It's been a wonderful experience to remain connected to the online platform and stay informed about global developments,” said Catherine Jones, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, one of the many people who joined the event online. “The innovative evolution of anticipatory action since the last platform, including the consideration of displacement, conflict and risks beyond natural hazards, has been so interesting. It’s truly gratifying to witness our community’s continuous growth year after year.” 

"The acrobat session was excellent,” added Leonie le Borgne from the World Food Programme. “It reminded me how important trust, coordination and timing are, both for them when they’re sailing through the air, but also for us when we are racing against time trying to get ahead of extreme climate events. Turnover affects trust; multiple agencies and competing mandates get in the way of coordination, and timing is a constant pressure both for action and later for evaluating anticipatory action. It was relevant to remind ourselves why we work through these, and how important they are – with the help of the visuals from the acrobatic trio!”

The official opening of the application period for the Averted Disaster Award 2024 began today. Submissions are welcome from individuals, projects and organizations of all sizes, across various regions and industries, whose effective disaster risk management interventions have gone unnoticed due to their success. The nominator does not need to have been directly involved in the intervention. The submission deadline is 12 January 2024.

Project photos © Amrita Center

Award photos by Philipp Meise © Anticipation Hub