Sounding the Siren: Preparing the aid system for the climate emergency

We are entering an era of continual emergency. The aid system lacks the capacity to cope with crises on the scale to which we are likely to experience them. The Sounding the Siren Report will examine and advise on how the aid system can prepare and respond to the climate crisis we are facing.

The problem – a system at breaking point

Crises have become more complex and multi-layered. Humanitarians are responding to more hybrid crises - regions experiencing both disasters and conflict, coupled with economic and political instability. Disasters are frequent, unpredictable, intense.

The number and of emergencies caused by extreme weather events is increasing - storms, floods and droughts have tripled over the past 30 years.

Climate events multiply existing threats or crises, locking communities in perpetual rebuild.

Coupled with COVID-19’s economic fallout, recovery takes longer, existing emergencies will worsen, and national budgets and aid funds are failing to meet demand.

There is growing pressure on international assistance as high income countries also tackle domestic crises – i.e. Australia wild fires, COVID-19.

Across the sector we are already running out of resources – people, equipment and funding – are dangerously stretched.

More and more people may be left without the healthcare, shelter and food they need. How will the world respond?

What we’re doing about it

“The humanitarian sector must alter. It will have to become faster, more reliable and more professional.”

The Sounding the Siren Report is a collaboration between UK-Med, Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (University of Manchester), Save the Children, with funding from the UK Disasters Emergency Committee.

The study uses a mixed methods approach, based first on a literature review, summarizing key documents produced by academics, NGOs and UN agencies on the various impacts of climate change on the sector. It will also be based on interviews with key informants. The research team will be interviewing people who are involved with humanitarian strategy, planning and operations, based at headquarters, and in the field. The people surveyed should represent a cross-section of the sector, with representatives chosen to represent a mix of the following:

Different types of organisations: UN-based or UN-affiliated organisations, large humanitarian organisations, the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, global “North” and global “South” headquartered organisations

Different locations of respondents: Field based and HQ-based

Different sectors: health, water and sanitation, food security, conflict and migration, shelter, education and protection, to obtain an understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities faced in each sector of activity

Different personal characteristics of respondents: gender, nationality, others

What happens next

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) is being held in the UK in November 2021. This is a once-in-a-generation chance to shift the dial and ensure the humanitarian sector and communities at risk are prepared and able to meet this threat, by amplifying what’s working and addressing what’s not.

The report will outline practical recommendations for policy makers, the humanitarian sector and the public to ensure we are acting now to meet this challenge.

The report will be published in October 2021. If you would like early access to the report’s findings, including a preview to the interactive digital story, sign-up below.

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Video credit: Tom Fisk (fisk.tom on Instagram)