Crises in the next decade and longer future are predicted to grow significantly in magnitude and frequency and aggravated by technological, socio-economic and geopolitical factors at regional and global levels. Such possibilities give rise to the demand for humanitarian actors to build new expertise, capacity and partnerships to prepare for the much more complex and uncertain future. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how a public health crisis can cause profound humanitarian, socio-economic and security consequences. It thus serves as a reminder for humanitarian organisations about the need for institutional transformation to deal with future crises. Apart from drawing lessons from past experience, it is essential to take an anticipatory and adaptive approach to preparing for future scenarios that will be likely to see the concurrence or interface of different types of hazards at higher intensity and frequency. Against this background, those with humanitarian roles and responsibilities will need to develop the mind-set and capacity and to integrate better with other organisations to deal with the future crises.
Southeast Asia, too, like the rest of the planet, faces the risks of interconnected and complex threats that often have consequences well beyond the geographical region where they may initially have occurred. The region is vulnerable to the effects and consequences of climate change, such as rising sea levels, more frequent extreme weather events, and higher risks of a public health emergency and food crisis. In addition, Southeast Asia faces the challenge of violence-induced humanitarian crises, cyberattacks, technological breakdowns, and the dangers of mis- and dis-information on social or other media. The difficulty in managing these potential risks is compounded by the decreasing levels of trust in multilateral processes. Therefore, the importance of examining how Southeast Asia, particularly the actors with humanitarian roles and responsibilities, can prepare for future complex crises is clear.
As Southeast Asia aims to realise the ASEAN vision 2025 on disaster management and the world strives to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the RSIS HADR programme will organise a series of two-part workshops on humanitarian futures, with the aim to strengthen support systems for policy planners and decision-makers on ways to better prepare for and respond to humanitarian challenges in this decade and beyond. The first workshop was held on 16th and 31st March to introduce the futures thinking to participants from the military, government agencies, NGOs, and the private sector. The second one aims to help the participating organisations to plan for the dangers and difficulties in managing ongoing crisis.