Five trends that will shape private sector disaster management in 2022
Many of us hoped that 2021 would be different – an opportunity to embrace a post-pandemic “new normal”. Instead, this past year has seen an intensifying pandemic and unprecedented humanitarian challenges: 274 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2022, up 17% from the record high this year, and 45 million people will be faced with famine-like conditions across 43 countries, often exacerbated by conflict and the climate crisis.
1. Increasingly complex emergencies will require a collaborative approach that integrates multiple stakeholders, including local private sector
An increasing number of crises are complex emergencies, combining the effects of man-made conflict and fragility with hunger, disease and the climate crisis.
While the number of deaths from conflict and the number of conflicts are decreasing, the long-term impact of conflict remains high. Rising economic uncertainty and unease driven by the pandemic has contributed, with over 5000 pandemic-related violent events recorded between January 2020 and April 2021. The economic impact of violence to the global economy in 2020 was estimated at almost USD 15 trillion!
Political instability and conflict make the operating context more challenging, the number of people in need harder to predict, and add a layer of complexity as responders find themselves dealing with multiple types of crises.
Food insecurity is also on the rise, whether due to economic shocks, conflict, or extreme weather such as droughts. The Grand Sud region of Madagascar is experiencing what experts now call the first climate change-induced famine as a result of desertification and repeated droughts.
The cascading effect of multiple disasters makes disaster management all the more challenging, and carves out a particular opportunity for the local private sector to step up and contribute, from business continuity planning for the private and public sectors to community resilience and more. However, the context must be factored in and a “do no harm” framework applied.
Two examples include the Asia Pacific Alliance for Disaster Management Sri Lanka (A-PAD SL)’s “Meals that Heal” initiative, which factored in religious and cultural sensibilities to ensure the emergency assistance provided in response to heavy floods did not create more tensions in the community; and the leadership demonstrated by the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) in coordinated and conflict-sensitive interventions for displaced communities in Marawi City.
2. Anticipatory Action and Early Warning Systems are key to disaster risk reduction
About half of today’s crises can be predicted, yet only 1% of humanitarian financing is pre-arranged ahead of crises. As a result, humanitarian response is often subject to needless delays while funding is mobilized and distributed. Over the past few years, the humanitarian community has increasingly invested in anticipatory action, leveraging data analysis to predict where and when crises may strike ahead of time and ensuring that funding and response plans are already in place.
After successful pilot projects in Bangladesh, Somalia and Ethiopia, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is scaling up anticipatory action for more efficient, responsive, and dignified humanitarian response. An anticipatory action pilot project for typhoon response in the Philippines includes an explicit role for the private sector as represented by CBi Member Network the PDRF.
The objective is “to mitigate, and to a certain extent prevent, the impact of typhoons on people’s homes and livelihoods, while building on government’s mandatory pre-emptive evacuation procedures that save lives. With this intervention, the most at-risk communities will have better financial resources to prepare prior to landfall.”
Early Warning Systems (EWS) are complementary and have been identified by McKinsey as a smart focus to predict high velocity, high impact events. EWS leverages all available data and communication tools to warn communities of hazardous climate-related events, for instance – from storms to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and more – thereby saving lives and livelihoods by reducing risk and impact. The private sector can support anticipatory action and EWS by contributing data, and adopting an anticipatory approach to disaster management planning.
3. Greater engagement of the private sector in disaster management frameworks and climate financing
The private sector will play an increasingly important role in national and regional disaster management frameworks. Almost all CBi Member networks have an official role in their national disaster management ecosystems; as an example, L’Alliance pour la Gestion des Risques et la Continuité des Activités (AGERCA) is specifically designated as the representative of the private sector and civil society on Haiti’s national disaster management authority.
The private sector is also playing an increasing role in climate financing. The Vanuatu Business Resilience Council (VBRC) had a representative at COP26 to voice the importance of climate financing and climate adaptation funding to support low-income countries and small island developing states better prepare for the on-going climate crisis.
“Dedicated funding will help us better prepare for disasters by developing continuity plans, providing [micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises] with access to emergency communications and affordable climate insurance […], among other things. […] Businesses may be part of the problem, but it’s time they’re also acknowledged as a key actor and part of the solution,” wrote Glen Craig, VBRC Chair.
4. Private sector-led Emergency Operations Centres are a win-win
Letting the private sector lead where its skills and resources can shine is fuelling a growing trend: the establishment of Business-led Emergency Operation Centres (BEOCs). There are myriad approaches, including hybrid or virtual EOCs, though the BEOC should always coordinate and complement national disaster management organizations for a collaborative rather than duplicative approach.
PDRF set up one of the first BEOCs in the world, and through CBi, is sharing practical insights and lessons learned – including from responding to a triple threat at the end of 2020 – with other business networks interested in exploring similar yet adapted initiatives.
5. Working together for peer-to-peer learning across borders and regions
Learning from each other by leveraging practical insights across geographies and disaster types is an opportunity to replicate and adapt best practices. Developed countries have much to learn from the ‘Global South’ and the private sector can facilitate and support this type of knowledge exchange.
At CBi, we facilitate peer-to-peer learning between our country-level Member Networks and strive to distil lessons learned into practical guides for businesses, private sector networks, humanitarian stakeholders, and government agencies to build upon and adapt rather than reinvent the wheel.
Despite growing needs and rising threats in 2022, there’s hope coming from engaged local actors who invest in collective action for our shared humanity. At CBi, we look forward to supporting innovative approaches for a more efficient and effective response to disasters. As we look to 2022, my team and I are excited for what’s ahead: a year of growth and shared experience with business networks to help improve disaster management in the places which need it most.