Spearheading the shift from disaster response to anticipatory action in agriculture

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08 December 2021, Rome: Acting ahead of crises means protecting people’s lives and livelihoods with benefits that reach far into the future, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) QU Dongyu said today, highlighting the need to shift towards more proactive anticipatory approaches to predictable shocks, ranging from typhoons, droughts and pest infestations to the consequences of conflicts and economic crises.

Qu spoke at the 9th Global Dialogue Platform on Anticipatory Humanitarian Action (7-9 December), hosted by the Anticipation Hub and co-organized by FAO and the World Food Programme (WFP) in partnership with the German Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre (RCCC), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) and the Start Network.

As acute food insecurity continues to reach new global highs driven by intensifying and spreading conflicts, climate crises and the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to scale up anticipatory action to prevent food crises has never been greater.

Today, 161 million people are estimated to be experiencing high acute food insecurity, of whom 45 million are confronted by an imminent risk of starvation.

Conflict-sensitive anticipatory action is at the core of the humanitarian-development nexus and its contributions to peace, the Director-General said, stressing how anticipatory action can both protect development gains and help reduce humanitarian needs and costs.

The Director-General pointed out that advancing the interaction between science and policy will be a crucial pre-condition to make anticipatory action work at scale, to anticipate food crises and make agrifood systems more resilient.

Given the complex interactions between the climate, conflict, displacement, impact of COVID-19 and food insecurity crisis, Qu also underlined the importance of bold policy-making, collective learning, partnership, and coordinated efforts in making anticipation an integral part of risk management.

The Director-General pledged FAO’s support to Members working together for the transformation to more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agrifood systems, with anticipatory action being a key element of this vision.

Earlier this year, at the High-Level Pledging Event, FAO committed to dedicate up to 20 percent of emergency financing towards anticipatory action over the next five years, supported by partners’ contributions.

FAO takes on lead role in anticipatory action

Recognizing that agriculture is central in anticipating and averting hunger, FAO is among the leading organizations in the field of anticipatory action, and a long-time advocate of a shift from a reactive to an anticipatory approach to food crises. The Organization has so far provided support on anticipatory action to more than 45 countries across Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa. The activities focused on different technical and operational matters, ranging from forward-looking risk analysis to the implementation of livelihood protection projects ahead of forecast hazards and crises.

Since 2018, FAO has been a key partner in the organization of the Dialogue Platforms on Anticipatory Action, which aim to facilitate exchange between experts and practitioners active in this field.

This week’s event with the theme “Meeting the challenges of future crises” affords a high-profile opportunity to create further momentum on anticipatory action in the field of resilient agri-food systems, in line with the recently agreed G7 famine prevention and humanitarian crises compact (London, 5 May 2021) which specifically calls for the scale-up of anticipatory action. 

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