Multi-hazard Early Warning Systems – the way forward in Southeast Asia

Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam, having recently completed assessments of their early warning systems, agreed in February, together with other countries and regional organizations, to move forward with the establishment of a Southeast Asia-wide framework for meteorological and hydrological disaster risk reduction and capacity development.

The assessments, carried out using the Multi-hazard Early Warning Systems Checklist with the assistance of the Regional Integrated Multi-hazard Early Warning System (RIMES) for Africa and Asia, were core components of an ongoing project aimed at strengthening weather, climate and water-related impact-based forecasting and warning services. They provided an overview of current capacities, gaps and needs for producing, delivering and acting on early warnings of multiple hazards, informing contents and approaches of future capacity-development initiatives. They looked at each country’s legal and institutional frameworks, the actors involved and recent and on-going projects, focussing on the role of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs), and performed a desk review of existing assessments and documents. This was followed by validation workshops and interviews in each beneficiary country in 2019 and 2020.

This work was discussed at a subregional workshop held in Thailand in February 2020 at which participants reached a consensus on the development of a coordinated Southeast Asia-wide framework for strengthening the hydrometeorological disaster risk management and capacity development of NMHSs. WMO will work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, RIMES, the World Bank and other key players to develop the framework.

The workshop also made recommendations for developing and pilot testing an operational methodology for multi-sectoral impact forecasting of tropical cyclones, for organizing training workshops on impact-based forecasting and warning services in Thailand and Viet Nam, and for a Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) Initiative follow-up project foreseen in Cambodia and the Lao People's Democratic Republic. The workshop also built a common understanding of Forecast-based Financing (FbF)/Early Warning Early Action (EWEA). These approaches enable access to humanitarian funding for early action based on in-depth forecast information and risk analysis. This will mean strengthening the capacity of NMHSs for impact-based forecasting and warning services, and heightening collaboration with the humanitarian agencies working in the countries concerned. In addition, the workshop introduced the topic of shock-responsive social protection which, in support of FbF/EWEA, has the potential to build resilience among the poor and most vulnerable and to improve the effectiveness of emergency response.

These initiatives will contribute to the new (2021–2025) ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) Work Programme and ultimately to implementing national priorities and globally the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030. ESCAP, FAO and WMO will promote these approaches among their Members and partners, for example, through the upcoming ASEAN Declaration on Drought and the 2021–2025 ASEAN-United Nations Joint Strategic Plan of Action on Disaster Management. Thus, these initiatives will benefit from regional United Nations collaboration mechanisms with which WMO is increasingly engaging. This work was carried out through a CREWS Initiative project being implemented from 2017 until 2021 with support from Environment and Climate Change Canada.

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