Strengthening anticipatory action within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement: Progress to date and plans for future action

By the German Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre (RCRC Climate Centre)

Background: Anticipatory action saves lives and livelihoods

Climate change has led to more frequent and severe weather and climate events, including storms, heatwaves, droughts, flooding and wildfires. The unfolding climate crisis is putting lives and livelihoods increasingly at risk, especially in fragile and conflict-affected settings. Moreover, governments, civil society and humanitarian organizations now face the unprecedented, cumulative impact of compound hazards. This became apparent as the world grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation compounded by existing climate- and weather-related hazards.

There is good news: we can take action ahead of potentially harmful events. Technological advances have enabled us to predict, with increasing accuracy, the timing and location of adverse events. This gives us time to act before a disaster occurs, saving lives and livelihoods.

Building on decades of experience in the field of disaster preparedness and response, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (the Movement) has spearheaded the use of new technologies to develop Forecast-based Financing (FbF), an anticipatory action approach, linking robust forecasts to pre-agreed action plans and pre-arranged financing.

This approach is used by the Anticipatory Pillar of the IFRC’s Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF). The Anticipatory Pillar releases funding to National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (National Societies) ahead of potential disasters, enabling them to take action on the basis of pre-agreed formal action plans, known as Early Action Protocols (EAP), and forecasts. The Anticipatory Pillar is accessible to all 192 National Societies. Since it was established in 2018, 22 National Societies have applied for funding under the Pillar and developed 33 EAPs relating to a range of hazards and risks.

The state of affairs: Achievements and gaps

The significant innovative potential of FbF has inspired many entities beyond the Movement, including United Nations agencies, to develop and implement similar approaches.

In addition to the increasing adoption of anticipatory action approaches worldwide, there is growing evidence that this approach not only saves lives and livelihoods, but also facilitates the faster provision of more cost-effective humanitarian aid in a way that respects people’s dignity.

Global momentum has been building to scale up anticipatory action, as reflected – inter alia – in two United Nations resolutions (A/RES/74/218 and A/RES/72/132), a G7 statement, the European Council conclusions on disaster risk reduction and the Directorate-General on European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations’ Guidance Note on Disaster Preparedness, the ASEAN Framework on Anticipatory Action in Disaster Risk Management, and the Maputo Declaration by the South African Development Community, which all call on its Member States to strengthen anticipatory action. Cross-organizational cooperation efforts have included the launch of the Anticipation Hub, an online platform to facilitate technical exchange and joint learning on anticipatory action, the Risk-Informed Early Action Partnership, a cross-sectoral coalition for scaling up anticipatory action, and the United Nations Secretary-General’s Early Warning for All initiative, which seeks to ensure that everyone on the planet is covered by early warning systems by 2027. These initiatives have all contributed significantly to building momentum.

Nevertheless, more remains to be done to realize the full potential of anticipatory action. For instance, FbF currently still focuses more on climate– and weather-related hazards (including storms and floods) with an immediate impact rather than on less visible and slower–onset events (such as heatwaves or droughts). The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need to look beyond climate- and weather-related hazards, to include other hazards and crises, and to consider the impact of compound hazards on vulnerabilities, especially in fragile and conflict-affected settings.

Aim and relevance of the resolution: Scaling up anticipatory action

In 2022, the Council of Delegates adopted the resolution “Strengthening Anticipatory Action in the Movement: Our Way Forward” to expand the scope of anticipatory action to cover more communities, hazards and country settings. The resolution, tabled by the German Red Cross, the IFRC, the ICRC and the RCRC Climate Centre, aims to increase the capacity of the “Red Pillar” to take action ahead of extreme events by calling on components of the Movement to, inter alia, integrate anticipatory action into their operational frameworks and processes; increase investment in the anticipatory action capacity of National Societies; strengthen knowledge of, exchange information on, and raise awareness of anticipatory action; expand existing approaches to cover hazards not related to weather events; and tackle compound risks, including in conflict-affected areas.

The resolution represented an important milestone in the Movement’s efforts to move from reaction to anticipation. Since its adoption in June 2022, the number of anticipatory action plans produced by National Societies has risen. The DREF has accepted eight EAPs under its Anticipatory Pillar, with an additional three under review. An EAP relating to population movement is in preparation, and initial discussions are under way on EAPs in conflict-affected areas. In addition, the IFRC has made it easier for National Societies to request funding for activities under the Anticipatory Pillar by simplifying the EAP process and enabling National Societies to apply for funding earlier. The Anticipation Hub has also increased its number of partners from 89 to 107. To monitor and guide implementation, a progress report will be submitted to the 2024 Council of Delegates.

In addition to their commitment to work with states to promote the adoption of, and increased investment in, anticipatory approaches, Movement components are also seeking to include anticipatory action on the agenda of the 34th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, as a humanitarian matter of common interest to components of the Movement and States parties.

Further information on this topic:

Resolution “Strengthening anticipatory action in the Movement: Our way forward” (CD/22/R2)

Background document “Strengthening anticipatory action in the Movement: Our way forward” (CD/22/9)

Anticipation Hub

Blog Post “Red Cross Red Crescent Movement commits to scale up anticipatory action” (22 June 2022)

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