What are the first steps?

Anticipatory action is fundamentally different from humanitarian response and development programming. Anticipatory humanitarian actions are those actions taken in advance of a crisis, before either the shock or its peak impact. Therefore, anticipatory action makes acting the default when risks, not needs, increase.

Window of opportunity

Rapid vs slow-onset emergencies

This works differently in rapidonset emergencies, where the window of opportunity to act is extremely short compared to a slow-onset situation. For example, giving people cash 10 days before a looming flood involves a different level of operational readiness compared to, say, distributing drought-resistant seeds three months before the start of a lean season that is projected to be extremely dry. In both cases, though, missing the window of opportunity might render the value and nature of anticipatory interventions obsolete.   

Acting ahead of a crisis

An anticipatory action pilot involves implementing a formal mechanism at the country level called an anticipatory action framework or plan. This predetermines who gets how much money, to do what, based on which signal so that a problem can be caught before it becomes a crisis

The objective of anticipatory actions is to mitigate the peak impact of the shock. Therefore, these actions are implemented only if there is a high probability of such a shock occurring and peaking, and if the implementation is extremely time critical.  

Anticipatory action therefore requires proactive measures to get ahead of major shocks to mitigate their potential impacts on vulnerable populations.  

Three key components

Three core components of anticipatory action are designed to maximize the speed and effectiveness of interventions:  

Trigger/parameters for action
Pre-agreed activities
Pre-committed financing
  • What is the main driver of humanitarian need? 
  • Can you predict what will happen? 
  • What can be done before the shock to reduce impact and human suffering? 
  • Are there feasible and impactful actions which can take place in the prediction window? 
  • Can you create a plan backed by pre-arranged financing? 


If the answer to any of these questions is no, then anticipatory action does not currently make sense for that specific disaster. Other options should be explored.  
If the answer to all questions is yes, then further assessment of the potential scope and scale of an anticipatory action plan can be carried out. 

  • What is the rationale for anticipatory action in country?
  • Is there a compelling case for anticipatory action? If so, what is it?
  • Are there hotspots in country where response to the same shocks is provided repeatedly?
  • Does the existing Humanitarian Programme Cycle (HPC) include references to anticipatory approaches? AND/OR
  • How would AA pilots link to existing response activities as outlined in the HPC?
  • What links exist to the Humanitarian Programme Cycle?
  • Is there existing preparedness planning?
  • Is inter-agency contingency planning already in place?
  • Who/What are the existing actors, partnerships and systems in place?
  • What is the current capacity?
  • What are the potential resources?
  • Is there an option to crowd-in pre-arranged financing?

How to set up an anticipatory action core team

Anticipatory action frameworks are developed and implemented in a consultative and participatory manner.

Resident Coordinator/ Humanitarian Coordinator

The Resident Coordinator/ Humanitarian Coordinator (RC/HC), supported by OCHA/the RC Office (RCO) convenes, leads and facilitates the process from planning to design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.

Anticipatory action core team

The process is anchored in an anticipatory action core team in country, comprising representatives of technical focal points from interested agencies who are willing and able to invest in an anticipatory action framework. The team will regularly update Humanitarian Country Teams, Sectors/Working Groups, and Inter-Cluster Coordination Group on their work.


OCHA roll-out team

During the pilot period, cross-divisional OCHA roll-out teams have been deployed to work collaboratively across OCHA and with RC/HCs, country teams, RCOs, governments and partner organizations to develop anticipatory action frameworks for specific hazards in different countries and regions. Once established, the ownership of the frameworks rest with the RC/HC, supported by OCHA.

Guided by the RC/HC, the core team is key in taking the pilot through the ABC steps of anticipatory action. 

Partners represented by the relevant technical focal points contribute to the design and implementation of the anticipatory action framework.   

The core team:

  • Advises on the identification of the priority impacts/hazard(s) for the framework to focus on  
  • Develops a crisis timeline  
  • Provides input on the design of a trigger mechanism and governance system 
  • Proposes a cross-sectoral set of anticipatory interventions 
  • Develops two to three activation scenarios (in terms of shock severity/funding/number of people targeted) 
  • Develops concrete project proposals for anticipatory interventions  
  • Contributes to the pilot’s monitoring, evaluation and learning activities 

At all stages of the process, the anticipatory action core team works with an OCHA team comprising country and headquarters staff.  

  • Thematic and technical expertise in relevant sectors 
  • Early warning information systems 
  • Preparedness, or operational readiness 
  • Disaster risk management and risk finance 
  • Resilience and climate change  
  • Crisis modifiers and triggers 
  • Contingency planning and finance  
  • Donor representation and relations 
  • Vulnerability assessment and monitoring 
  • OCHA headquarters and the country office appoint a day-to-day focal point for the pilot. The focal point helps facilitate the work of the anticipatory action core team. 
  • Anticipatory action core team members are nominated by agencies and partners that are interested and able to participate in the pilot. Each agency also nominates a lead and alternate focal point.
  • The OCHA focal point is responsible for encouraging active participation and keeping partners and stakeholders up to date (e.g. via the HCT or ICCG). 
  • During the three to six months of the design phase, the anticipatory action core team is likely to meet more regularly.  
  • Once the anticipatory action plan is set up and pending activation, the regularity of meetings decreases. 
  • The meetings then focus on monitoring the system, which dictates the potential activation of the system. 
  • If the framework is triggered, regular meetings are encouraged to support sharing of experiences and learning. 
  • Following the activation period, the core team will continue to meet to ensure that the pilot is well documented, and that learnings are gained to refine and sustainably scale up anticipatory action in country.   
  • The core team will regularly update Humanitarian Country Teams and Inter-Cluster Coordination Group sector members on their work. 
  • Unless otherwise agreed, the core team will dissolve after the pilot is completed. 


Duty stations can experience a high turnover of staff. But when staff leave, they take their knowledge with them. Consider how information and agreed actions can be shared and retained, so that anticipatory action plans remain intact even if core team members depart.

Steps in piloting collective anticipatory action


Definition of risk(s)


Establishment of a crisis timeline


Development of the trigger mechanism
Development of activities
Agreement on funding commitment
Design of learning components


Definition of activation protocols


Endorsement of Anticipatory Action framework


Monitoring of forecast and trigger thresholds


Triggering and fund disbursement


Implementation of Anticipatory Action
Monitoring and evaluation


Refinement and scale up of Anticipatory Action

How to write a concept note for Anticipatory Action

Concept notes define and identify the shock. They provide a sense of who can do what, when and with which resources. Before the anticipatory action is established, the concept note is a key guiding document for the pilot team, providing the rationale and approach for anticipatory action in a country. 
This section provides examples of concept notes and a template that could be used for future pilots. 

Key questions to address in a concept note: 
  • What level of capacity and leadership exists at country level to support anticipatory action? 
  • Who is already working on forecast-based financing in the country?  
  • How would this pilot complement that?  
  • How will it build on existing knowledge and learning?  
  • How might the pilot be similar to or different from existing efforts (i.e. designing a collective anticipatory action plan at scale)? 
  • What is the objective of the pilot? 
  • What is the rationale of the pilot? 
  • What logic will the design and development process follow? 
  • What is the exposure to the threat? 
  • Is there a high probability of humanitarian impact?
  • What is the leading design question?  
    For example – If the country team knew there was a high probability that a prolonged dry spell or a severe flooding event would start at a given point in time, what interventions would the country team want to implement immediately in advance to mitigate the impact of the impending disaster? 
  • What are the rules-based decision framework triggers or models?  
  • How will pre-arranged financing be accessed? 
  • What questions do you need to ask to develop the anticipatory action plan further? 
    For example – What is the lead-in time for interventions? Are interventions appropriate to the context? How can implementing partners be included? Will cash delivery be a default action? 
  • How will you include a crisis timeline in the plan?
  • What are the working arrangements and logistics for the plan? 
  • What is the timeline? 
    TIP: Consider developing a pilot timeline that highlights steps including development of the decision frameworks, pre-arranged financing and seasonal calendars. 
  • How will the pilot undertake real-time learning and process reviews?  
  • How will agency-specific monitoring and evaluation be carried out and planned for?  
  • Will there be an independent evaluation?  
  • Will there be a pre-pilot baseline survey? 

For more information on learning, see the section on learning and evaluation.  

  • What is the most important baseline information?  
  • What are the relevant key facts on the country?