Submitted by Lydia Cumiskey, Adele Young and Dorothy Heinrich
28 Nov 2022

Two become one: integrating networks for young professionals to strengthen the bridge between early warning and early action

The gap between early warning and early action

Early warning systems currently only reach one-third of the world’s population. At the same time, there is widespread acknowledgement that the capacity to translate early warnings into early action is also limited. This is a significant gap: effective early warnings and early action have huge potential to save lives and reduce the impacts of disasters and the climate crisis.

Cross-sector collaboration, interdisciplinary solutions, political leadership and capacity development are needed to bridge this gap. Encouragingly, there are growing efforts to put these in place. At COP27, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and its partners launched its Early Warning for All Action Plan. This represents a huge opportunity to bridge the gap between early warning and early action - and young professionals have a major role to play in achieving this. New interdisciplinary solutions and governance approaches will be needed, and students, volunteers, and early-career professionals and researchers can help to provide these within hydrometeorological agencies, government bodies, humanitarian organizations, universities, research institutes and the private sector.

Building networks to bridge the gap

The Early Warning Systems Young Professionals Network, established by the Water Youth Network, was launched at the second Multi-hazard Early Warning Conference in Geneva in 2019, fulfilling a need identified at the first conference in 2017. Its objectives were to deepen understanding of the challenges and needs around early warning systems, to share knowledge around these systems, and to build interdisciplinary working relationships across generations. At the core of the network was the need to connect natural sciences, engineering, social sciences and other disciplines that work across the four core components of early warning systems: (1) disaster risk knowledge; (2) detection, monitoring, analysis and forecasting; (3) warning dissemination and communication; and (4) preparedness and response (see WMO 2018).

The four components of end-to-end, people-centred early warning systems. Source: WMO 2018

By connecting young professionals, early-career researchers and young people, this network strengthened relationships across these traditional silos to achieve a lasting impact. It also made some significant achievements, including:

Bridging disciplines and building networks: the young professionals’ perspective at the second Multi-hazard Early Warning Conference, Geneva, May 2019. © Water Youth Network

A growing network of young professionals

One strength of the network was its reach to scientists, researchers and practitioners working in detection, monitoring and forecasting. Of its 117 members, 52 per cent worked in this sector, compared with 14 per cent working on communicating early warnings and 12 per cent on the preparedness and response components of early warning systems.  This breakdown highlights the need to actively engage these latter two disciplines and bridge the gap to them.

The launch of the Anticipation Hub in December 2020 was another milestone in strengthening the network. In early 2022, the Water Youth Network became a partner of the Anticipation Hub, which provided increased opportunities to connect with practitioners within and beyond the humanitarian sector, and to share its own experiences in building a network for young professionals.

Stronger together

At the third Multi-hazard Early Warning Conference in Bali, May 2022, the Anticipation Hub launched the Early Warning Early Action Future Leaders Network, which aimed to connect, inspire and empower future leaders across practice, science and policy, and to work collaboratively on enabling early warnings that translate into anticipatory action on the ground. After careful consideration of the shared goals and combined potential, the Water Youth Network and the Anticipation Hub agreed to integrate the two networks into one, which will be known as the EWEA Future Leaders Network. The Water Youth Network will continue to play a leading role, guiding the development of the core team and its work plan for 2023 and beyond.

Combining the two networks is already proving beneficial. For example, at Cairo Water Week in 2022, Adele Young, former co-coordinator of the Early Warning Systems Young Professionals Network, and Dorothy Heinrich, co-founder of the Early Warning Early Action Future Leaders Network, joined forces to support youth engagement at the session ‘Intergenerational thinkshop for hydromet early warning early action (EWEA): the engagement of young professionals in disaster risk reduction’. This resulted in the Cairo Statement to COP27.

The newly merged EWEA Future Leaders Network is continuing to deliver, just like its predecessors. For example, co-chair Graziela Ariani Olua, a weather forecaster at the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics (BMKG), was one of the winners of the Associated Programme on Flood Management competition on youth-led projects, which was supported by the Water Youth Network. She is currently implementing the Awareness and Knowledge about Early Warnings (AWAKE) educational project, which focuses on working inclusively to improve preparedness and the ability to respond appropriately to early warnings.

Launching the AWAKE project in 2022. © Graziela Ariani Olua

Join this growing network

The new, integrated network represents the beginning of an exciting relationship that will  continuously build the capacity of current and future generations of young professionals who work in various sectors - from forecasting and early warning to anticipatory action. By integrating these communities, young professionals are demonstrating their capacity to capture synergies and align initiatives to achieve a common goal: to create a future-proof bridge between early warning and early action. Together, we are stronger – will you join us?

The EWEA Future Leaders Network

The new EWEA Future Leaders Network logo highlights the integration of early warning and early action, while its three colours emphasize the integration of practice, science and policy. The logo was inspired by the logo of the Early Warning Systems Young Professionals Network.

This blog was written by Lydia Cumiskey (former co-coordinator of the Early Warning Systems Young Professionals Network and the Water Youth Network, and co-founder of the EWEA Future Leaders Network), Adele Young (former co-coordinator of the Early Warning Systems Young Professionals Network and the Water Youth Network) and Dorothy Heinrich (co-founder of the EWEA Future Leaders Network). You can sign up to join the EWEA Future Leaders Network here, join the LinkedIn group or follow the network on Twitter.