Learn from the experts: How we move beyond emergency relief in fragile and conflict-affected settings

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In the first of a three-part webinar series, IWMI assembled a panel of Anticipatory Action experts to discuss empowering communities with lasting Anticipatory Actions for long-term resilience and improved Food, Land and Water Systems.

“With so many unstable contexts demanding resources, prioritization for anticipatory action is often neglected, favoring short-term projects over long-term resilience.” – Moyra Mahari, Country Emergency Coordinator at the Adventist Development and Relief Agency.

As we navigate the complexity of Fragile and Conflicted-Affected Settings (FCASs), it has become increasingly evident that moving beyond immediate emergency relief is essential for promoting long-term resilience and sustainability. As a result, Anticipatory Actions (AAs) are recognized more and more as essential tools for mitigating risks and building resilience. However, implementing AAs in FCASs is not straightforward. In fact, realizing the full potential of AA requires a concerted effort to address the unique contextual factors and systemic barriers that hinder its implementation.

In response to these challenges, the CGIAR’s Initiative on Fragility, Conflict, and Migration, International Water Management Institute and the Anticipation Hub’s Anticipatory Action in Conflict Practitioner’s Group recently convened part one of a three-part webinar series on Navigating anticipatory actions in fragile and conflict-affected settings to improve food, land and water systems: insights and best practices. The webinar provided a timely opportunity for frontline responders, researchers, government, and development practitioners to come together and reflect on the current state of AA in FCAS.  shared insights, experiences, and lessons learned, with participants seeking to deepen their understanding of how AA can catalyse transformative change within the Food, Land, and Water Systems (FLWSs) in these fragile contexts.

Find a full list of our experts here.

Webinar host Chhavi Sachdev with our panellists.



Key insights

Community-centric AA and resilience in FCM contexts

In reflecting on the challenges of community engagement in conflict settings, Andrew Wheatley, Regional Anticipatory Action and Conflict Adviser, highlighted a critical issue:

“I think we all talk a very good game about community engagement, but we often struggle to put that into practice, especially in conflict environments. There’s an issue of mindset—our comfort zone is very much in responding rather than taking time to think, plan, and position ourselves.”

One of the key pillars of successful and impactful AA is community engagement, as emphasized by Wheatley. By involving local populations in the decision-making process and co-designing response plans, AA interventions can be tailored to meet the specific needs and context of each community. This participatory approach not only strengthens social cohesion but also creates a sense of ownership and agency among community members, empowering them to take proactive measures to protect their livelihoods and assets.

Throughout the webinar, speakers emphasized the significance of building trust and promoting active participation among local communities. Drawing from their experiences in the field, they provided practical examples of how empowering communities to lead their own preparedness and response efforts leads to more resilient and self-sustaining FLWSs in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.

The role of data and technology in rapidly changing situations

The integration of data and technology plays a pivotal role in navigating rapidly changing situations, especially in FCASs. As Emmanuel Attoh, IWMI Climate Adaptation Researcher, aptly describes, “Anticipatory action without an early warning system is just like a human body without its senses.” This analogy highlights the importance of early warning systems in providing crucial prediction; enabling adequate preparation to mitigate impending risks.

Attoh’s insights further shed light on the tangible benefits of such systems in conflict contexts. Despite inherent technical and operational challenges, early warning systems have proven instrumental in identifying critical issues. In South Sudan, organizations like FAO and WFP utilized these systems to identify food insecurity hotspots, facilitating targeted interventions. Also, in Sudan, early warning information played a vital role in responding effectively to flooding amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. These examples highlight the practical utility of data-driven approaches in crisis management and risk mitigation efforts, particularly in environments marked by political instability, inadequate infrastructure, and heightened vulnerability.

Collaboration and capacity building as cornerstone for effective and efficient action

“A very good example of collaboration and community-led AA is what we have witnessed while working in Tutti Island. Despite its vulnerable location, the community was able to endure recurrent floods over the years through preparedness. They developed their own ways of anticipating and mitigating risks, and during the conflict, they adapted these methods to deal with new challenges, such as negotiating with armed forces for safe access to food and water.”-Maysoon Badi, CEO and Programme Director of the Sudan Urban Development Think Tank.

The effectiveness and efficiency of AAs not only relies on data but also on robust collaboration and capacity building across stakeholders. Governments, NGOs, and local communities must join forces to develop a unified and comprehensive response to crises. Andrew Wheatley emphasized the importance of collaboration by sharing insights from Somalia, where early interventions successfully mitigated crisis impacts. Wheatley’s experience in Somalia highlighted the significance of proactive planning, which allowed assistance to approximately 100,000 households ahead of expected flooding. This success story exemplifies the transformative potential of AA when collaborative efforts are prioritized. The panel called for greater emphasis on capacity building, ensuring that local institutions are equipped to sustain these efforts in the long term. In these FCM contexts, capacity building becomes even more critical, necessitating tailored approaches that address the unique challenges faced by communities affected by violence and instability.

Recognizing the importance of being adaptable and flexible in humanitarian responses is crucial. Collectively, the panelists stressed the need for a systemic approach that integrates scientific research with practical interventions. The webinar was a powerful reminder of the potential of AA to transform crisis management in FCASs, thus reducing fragility, conflict, and migration. By empowering communities, integrating climate finance in FCM contexts, aligning with national policies and frameworks, leveraging data and technology, and fostering collaborative efforts, we can build more resilient and sustainable systems for FLWSs.

Looking ahead

Part one of this webinar series highlighted the ongoing importance of collaboration and knowledge sharing, building on insights from the 11th Global Dialogue Platform roundtable discussion in Berlin in October 2023. This emphasized the strategic value of demand-driven research in addressing the challenges of AAs and dynamics of fragility, conflict, and migration.

In FCAS, immediate relief is crucial, but near-term response efforts alone are insufficient for promoting long-term recovery and sustainability. As the humanitarian community faces ongoing crises and emerging threats, there is a growing recognition of AA’s role in promoting resilience and sustainable development.

We are committed to driving continued learning and collective action through the FCM Anticipatory Action Community of Thinking (CoT) and our partnership with the Anticipation Hub. Stay tuned for updates on the second part of the webinar series.

Ngowenani Nohayi is a Research Officer – Policy and Water Governance, IWMI.

Top Photo: CGIAR FCM Initiative.

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