African Union Commission convenes inaugural AMHEWAS Steering Committee and Technical Working Group in Namibia
Shaping the future: Africa's drive for multi-hazard early warning systems
July 28, 2023
The African Union Commission (AUC) achieved a significant milestone in continental disaster risk reduction efforts by convening the inaugural Africa Multi-hazard Early Warning and Early Action System (AMHEWAS) Steering Committee and Technical Working Group meetings in Windhoek on 24–28 July 2023. These critical sessions marked a substantial step towards disaster preparedness and building resilience to climate-related and multiple hazards across Africa.
The session was inaugurated by H.E. Hon. Jennely Matundu, Namibia's Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, who underscored the pressing need for a multi-hazard early warning system in Namibia. She cited the devastating effects of a seven-year-long drought, compounded by the aftershocks of COVID-19, on agriculture, livestock, and livelihoods. Hon. Matundu highlighted that such a system would not only diminish disaster-related losses but also become a pivotal tool in climate change negotiations, accounting for loss and damage.
Wahid Ben Younes, Deputy Ambassador of Tunisia to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the African Union, and the first vice-chair of the Sub-Committee on Environmental Issues of the AU Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC), expressed grave concerns over Africa's mounting disaster impacts, including floods, cyclones, droughts, and landslides, exacerbated by unsustainable land use and socio-economic vulnerabilities.
In response to the escalating disaster repercussions on the continent, the AUC introduced the seven-year AMHEWAS Programme, which stands out for its capability to share risk data across multiple levels, making it a critical solution for strengthening multi-hazard early warning systems in Africa.
Harsen Nyambe, AUC's Director of Sustainable Environment and Blue Economy (SEBE), emphasized the programme's importance in reducing disaster damages. "Setting up robust multi-hazard early warning systems stands as a paramount strategy for governments, equipping people to pre-emptively respond to calamities and, in turn, dramatically minimizing losses," Mr. Nyambe highlighted.
The Steering Committee, which met on 24–25 July, adopted its terms of reference, discussed the AMHEWAS Programme and associated projects, appraised the 2022 annual report, deliberated on resource mobilization strategies, and endorsed the 2023–2024 work plan.
Following the Steering Committee, the AMHEWAS Technical Working Group (TWG) convened on 26–28 July. Comprising representatives from the African Union Member States, Regional Economic Communities, relevant AUC departments, development partners, UN agencies, media and youth organizations, academia, and women's groups, the TWG evaluated the existing state of Africa's multi-hazard early warning and anticipatory actions.
Africa's risk profile is marked by high vulnerability, high hazard, and low coping capacity. Currently, almost all 55 African Union Member States do not have a fully functional multi-hazard early warning system. Climate change and poorly planned development are set to worsen the situation, making current disaster risk management systems inadequate. The group focused on speeding up the implementation of multi-hazard warning systems and agreed on the AMHEWAS implementation plan for 2023–2024.
The AMHEWAS Programme strives to enhance the interoperability of early warning systems at the continental, regional, and national levels. To achieve this, three situation rooms have been interconnected among the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, the African Centre for Meteorological Application for Development (ACMAD) in Niamey, and the IGAD Climate Prediction and Application Centre (ICPAC) in Nairobi, with technical assistance from the CIMA Research Foundation. This ensures streamlined communication and informed decisions for disaster preparedness and early action on the continent.
Italy, Sweden, UNDRR, UNDP, and GIZ on behalf of Germany provided financial support for the two inaugural meetings in Namibia.
Established in 2022 by the African Union Commission, with Italy and UNDRR's support, the AMHEWAS Programme aims to significantly reduce disaster impacts in Africa. With initial contributions towards developing the Africa Institutional and Operational Framework for Multi-Hazard Early Warning and Early Action System by the CIMA Research Foundation, Sweden and UNDP have shown their commitment to the initiative.
UNDP has also been active in the Steering Committee and Technical Working Group meetings, reaffirming its dedication to supporting, alongside Sweden, AUC, ECOWAS and other sub-regional entities, and Member States in bringing AMHEWAS to life.
Additionally, the European Union's Intra-ACP Natural Disaster Risk Programme played a catalytic role in supporting the African Union Commission's disaster risk reduction activities. More countries, including Luxembourg, Denmark, and Norway, have since joined forces with existing contributors, bolstering the collaborative effort to strengthen anticipatory action and improve risk data management capabilities across the African continent.
The Africa Institutional and Operational Framework for Multi-Hazard Early Warning and Early Action System was adopted by the 55 African Union Heads of State and Government, setting in motion the implementation phase of the seven-year AMHEWAS Programme from 2022 onwards.
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