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The evidence base on anticipatory action

Working papers

Written by Lena Nur, Emily Wilkinson

Anticipatory action (AA) is attracting global attention, with the number of pilot initiatives that deliver support to vulnerable communities before disasters strike growing in number and size. Such initiatives, often referred to as forecast-based early action (FbA), forecast-based financing (FbF) and early warning early action (EWEA), rely on forecasting and risk information to trigger planned and pre-financed actions when a disaster is imminent or before acute impacts are felt.

This paper takes stock of the evidence produced so far on the benefits of acting prior to the onset – or deepening – of a crisis. Overall, existing evidence indicates that the effects of AA at household level are mainly positive. For instance, beneficiaries experience: less psychosocial stress when floods hit; higher crop productivity and less food insecurity during prolonged periods of drought; and lower livestock mortality during severe cold spells. However, not all expected benefits are observed in all cases, and findings should be considered in context and in relation to the kind of action taken. Acting early can be better than doing nothing, but it is less clear whether it is better than doing other things at other times.

This research was undertaken in collaboration with the World Food Programme.

Lena Weingartner, Tobias Pforr and Emily Wilkinson