"All people on Earth must be protected by early warning systems within five years." - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, March 23, 2022

Advances in early warning systems and disaster risk awareness have saved tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars. People-centered early-warning systems can help minimize the harm to people, assets, and livelihoods by triggering early action that is well prepared and tested. Yet, only half of countries globally are protected by multi-hazard early warning systems.

This is why the UN Secretary-General has called for every person on Earth to be protected by early warning systems within five years by 2027. The Action Plan was launched at COP27

UNDRR is leading the Disaster Knowledge and Management pillar, with support from WMO. To be effective, this risk knowledge requires a deep and locally-grounded understanding of hazards, vulnerabilities, livelihoods, social inclusion, and exposure among other important aspects to contextualize disaster risk knowledge. This risk knowledge is not just the domain of experts but is most impactful when incorporating all forms of knowledge, from indigenous to scientific, and with a specific focus on understanding risk from the perspective of those who are most vulnerable and those who can help mitigate it.

An early warning system with a disaster risk knowledge and management component can systematically collect data and undertake risk assessments while addressing questions such as:

  • Are the hazards and vulnerabilities well known by the communities?
  • What are the patterns and trends in these factors?
  • Are risk maps and data widely available?
Target G of the Sendai Framework

Target G of the Sendai Framework for DRR, 2015-2023, aims to “Substantially increase the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to people by 2030” as one of its seven targets.

Elements of an effective early warning system

An effective early warning system must be:

  1. Multi-Hazard:  they are designed to detect different hazards that may occur alone, simultaneously, or cascade.
  2. End-to-end:  the system covers the entire range, from hazard detection to action, which includes providing understandable and actionable warning messages.
  3. People-centered: this means designing the systems with people in mind, to empower them to act on time and in an appropriate manner to reduce potential harm.

Early warning by 24 hours can cut the ensuing damage by 30 per cent

One-third of the world’s people, mainly in the least developed countries and small island developing states, are still not covered by early warning systems.  In Africa, 60% of people lack coverage

Investing US$ 800 million in early warning systems in developing countries would avoid losses of $3-16 billion per year

Countries with limited early warning coverage have disaster mortality that is eight times higher than countries with substantial to comprehensive coverage

Making early warning for all a reality

  • Scaling up investments: To achieve the goal set by UN Secretary General, and to meet the Sendai Framework Target G, more investments are needed for developing and improving the MHEWS, improving MHEWS' infrastructure capacity, enhancing preparedness and building capacity for dissemination and communication of warnings globally.

  • Focus on LDCs and SIDS: Regions fare differently in their progress and effort in establishing MHEWS. Special focus is needed on LDCs and SIDS, and Africa, as there are clear gaps in MHEWS capacity in these regions. An appropriate financing mechanism is also important to develop, sustain and strengthen MHEWS, especially for the LDCs and SIDS.

  • Working Together: Actors and stakeholders involved in the MHEWS should work together for scaling up actions on MHEWS. Involvement of the private sector is crucial for the most cost-effective and more sustainable services. Therefore, cooperation, coordination, and engagement between actor and stakeholders should be enhanced at country and regional levels by providing platforms for engagement, establishing communication channels for stakeholder dialogue, and aligning activities of current and future work projects.

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