Disasters and crises are predicted to grow significantly in magnitude and frequency in the next decade and beyond, aggravated by technological, socioeconomic and geopolitical factors at regional and global levels. Southeast Asia, in particular, faces a wide range of potential risks, such as the effects of climate change, natural hazards, infectious diseases, nuclear meltdown and transboundary pollution.
In order to ensure that the actors involved in humanitarian work are prepared for future complex disasters, the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Programme of the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS Centre) at RSIS jointly organised a workshop on humanitarian futures with the Changi Regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Programme Coordination Centre (Changi RHCC), which is based in the Singapore navy’s Changi Command and Control Centre. The workshop was supported by the Humanitarian Futures team based in Geneva, London and San Francisco, which developed the idea of humanitarian futures and a related toolkit.
The one-and-a-half day workshop was held on 16 and 31 March at the Changi Naval Base. Its aim was to seed futures thinking among the participants and to demonstrate practical ways that organisations can begin to prepare for future disasters. To ensure a diversity of voices and reflect the multi-stakeholder approach in the humanitarian sector, the workshop brought together 18 representatives from government agencies, the armed forces, think tanks, NGOs and the private sector.
Speakers and participants mapped out the trends and transformative factors in the humanitarian sector, reviewed past major humanitarian operations in the Asia-Pacific region, discussed the disruptions and opportunities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in different sectors and explored how organisations with humanitarian roles and responsibilities could adapt to more uncertain and challenging futures. During the breakout session, participants were divided into three groups, each assigned a different scenario that required developing a disaster response plan. The workshop laid the foundation for future exercises that could lead to more realistic plans for institutional innovation and adaptation.