Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015
Making development sustainable: The future of disaster risk management

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incomplete or ineffective. Moreover, the proliferation of warning information with different messages may dilute their strength and authority. As discussed in Chapter 6, the capacities of local governments may be weak, local preparedness plans may only exist on paper, and there may be a lack of clarity with respect to roles and responsibilities at all levels. The transmission of warning information across national borders is likewise a political challenge in some regions. Civil or military conflicts undermine not only the effectiveness of early warning, but also that of disaster risk reduction in general (GAR 13 paperWMO, 2014a

GAR13 Reference WMO (World Meteorological Organization). 2014a,Synthesis of the Status and Trends With the Development of Early Warning Systems, Background Paper prepared for the 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction. Geneva, Switzerland: UNISDR..
Click here to view this GAR paper.
In particular, progress has been uneven in two key early warning sub-systems. Firstly, the integration of risk information (where available) into hazard warning information is still weak. Despite exceptions such as the Famine Early Warning System,7 early warning continues to prioritize monitoring and forecasting hazards and may omit or underestimate the key importance of exposure and vulnerability in explaining risk levels (Box 8.5). Ultimately, vulnerability early warning is as important
as hazard early warning if the translation of disaster losses into impacts is to be avoided. As recurrent disasters in the Horn of Africa show, early warning is not effective when chronic livelihood crises reach a tipping point, putting extreme pressure on food prices, livestock survival, and water and food availability. At least 13 million people across southern Ethiopia, south-central Somalia and northern Kenya were affected by drought in 2011-2012. Armed conflict across the region compounded chronic ecological and economic vulnerability, which escalated the crisis and limited people’s survival and recovery choices (Slim, 2012

Slim, Hugo. 2012,IASC Real-Time Evaluation of the Humanitarian Response to the Horn of Africa Drought Crisis in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, Inter-Agency Standing Committee Synthesis Report. June 2012.. .
A second issue is that in order to be effective, early warnings not only have to forecast a hazard but need to include value-added information with respect to the risks that can be expected and the actions that can be taken. Even while warnings can now be issued directly via SMS, which overcomes the communication barriers at the last mile, it is still rare for alerts to provide information on the level of risk. Both depend on detailed and intimate knowledge of the local contexts where impacts are
Box 8.5 Absence of development in the Bolivian Chaco
(Source: adapted from Reyes and Lavell, 2012

Reyes, Lilian and Allan Lavell. 2012,Extensive and every day risk in the Bolivian Chaco: Sources of crisis and disaster, Journal of Alpine Research, 100-1 (2012): Montagne, marginalité et catastrophe.. .
The people of the Chaco region in south-eastern Bolivia know what an absence of development looks like. In the municipalities of Huacareta (Chuquisaca), Caraparí and Entre Ríos (Tarija), for example, 82 per cent, 51 per cent, and 43 per cent of the population (respectively) live in extreme poverty, with infant mortality rates fluctuating between 64 and 72 for every 1,000 live births.

In the course of the 2009/10 El Nio Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event in the region, reductions in rainfall began to generate problems with food availability and access, compromising livelihoods and food security. Access to water and basic sanitation was limited, leading to a greater incidence of health problems, especially for those living in more remote areas.

Following alerts of rainfall deficit and low temperatures in late 2009, an assessment by external experts focused on the variation in rainfall averages. In reality, the assessment should have focused on the underlying drivers of risk: adverse soil conditions, biophysical and environmental degradation, and social and economic deprivation, factors that ultimately resulted in an officially reported “humanitarian gap” of more than a third of the rural population of the Chaco towards the end of September 2010.

Where disaster is understood as a disruption to normal life and development, everyday and extensive risk are not recognized as indicators precisely because they are part of that normality in places such as the Chaco region. In the Chaco, this meant that warnings of a looming crisis did not come early, but late.
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