Political economy of Forecast-Based Action in the context of the 'new humanitarianism' paradigm: a multi-scalar analysis of anticipatory intervention

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sussex
Department Name: Sch of Global Studies


Donors, governments and the NGO community often do not do enough to prepare for climate and 'natural' hazards. Traditionally, the bulk of funding has been supplied post-disaster (Kellet and Caravani, 2013), as was the case with the response to the Greater Horn of Africa 2011 drought, where despite early warnings the international community failed to respond in advance (Lautze et al, 2012).

However, recent years have seen a suite of new approaches aimed at acting in advance of hazards. This approach is typified by integrating early warning systems into humanitarian actions, such as Forecast-Based Financing (FbF) and Forecast-Based Action (FbA), by a shift to 'on demand' climate information services and by novel insurance tools such as those promised by the London Centre for Global Disaster Protection . These approaches are marked by the call 'for increasing engagement between humanitarian aid and adaptation interventions' (Eriksen et al 2017:1), and represent a paradigm shift towards 'new humanitarianism' (Marin and Naess, 2017). Taken together, this shift represents a confluence of developments such as a desire to improve the usability of climate science, a more nuanced approach to adaptation and resilience, whereby the resilience paradigm serves as a bridging concept between humanitarian and adaptation initiatives.

Taking off from the knowledge that policymaking is incremental, complex and characterised by competing agendas (Wolmer et al., 2009), this PhD draws from the development studies expertise at the University of Sussex and the ForPAc network to understand the operationalisation of FbA in Kenya, contextualising this against the broader paradigm shifts and initiatives outlined above. Following a problem-driven political economy analysis (DFID, 2009), techniques such as stakeholder interviewing and power mapping will be used to examine the actors, interests, ideas and institutions that influence how FbA is implemented in practice. The following research questions reflect the proposed multi-scalar approach;
i) At a national level, how does the paradigm shift outlined above align with pre-existing development priorities and policy processes? In Kenya, this is complicated by the devolved county system, which has created opportunities for participatory decision-making and access to climate finance (Barrett, 2015), whilst also fracturing the policy process.
ii) At an institutional level, how constrained are institutions by the perceived risk of acting in vain (Coughlan de Perez, 2015), or by the delicate positionality of humanitarian organisations within diplomatic spaces (Marin and Naess, 2017: 26)? There is much to be learned about the challenges for institutions adopting FbA.
iii) At a local level, initial research suggests that increasing attention to resilience and adaptation among humanitarian actors may not lead to reduced vulnerability because resources tend to be captured through existing power structures (Mosberg et al. 2017). Is this replicated through the implementation of FbA?


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/R007799/1 02/01/2018 01/01/2022
2133223 Studentship NE/R007799/1 01/03/2018 30/11/2021 Olivia Taylor