A better tool to understand, prepare for, and reduce risk

BY Patrick Gremillet, Andrew Thow | December 2, 2015|Comments 0

Will the next big tsunami occur in the Arabian Sea? Will ethnic strife erupt in the Horn of Africa? In this complicated world, it can seem hopelessly unrealistic to predict, prevent or ameliorate crises and disasters. We hope that INFORM will begin to change this.

INFORM, the first global open-source tool to help make decisions on crisis and disaster prevention, preparedness and response, brings together the best rigorous and intellectual analysis to effectively measure risk.

With INFORM, members of UN Country Teams with common goals now have a common language and a way of working truly collaboratively. It is a robust rubric to help understand, prepare for, and reduce risk. It simplifies complicated information and helps build a risk profile for each of 191 countries.

INFORM is a partnership of many (currently 18) organizations. We came together when we realized we were all trying to solve the same problem – how to understand the risk of crises and disasters to help prioritize activities and allocate limited resources. Existing initiatives were organization specific and not widely shared. Other solutions were prohibitively expensive. So we decided to create a completely open-source tool that everyone could use. After a two year development process, we launched INFORM in 2014.


INFORM can support global policy processes, including the Sustainable Development Goals. At the national level, it helps the UN and governmental partners achieve a common understanding of risks for country assessments, formulate better UN Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAFs) and humanitarian strategic response plans (SRPs).

Understanding why and where humanitarian crises and disasters are likely to occur is a fundamental step in saving lives and promoting sustainable, risk-informed development. Most crises can be predicted to some extent. And while they cannot always be prevented, the suffering they cause can often be greatly reduced. INFORM can be used to prioritise countries by risk and its components, decide how to prepare and reduce risk, and monitor risk trends.

INFORM is a unique way to help you make decisions on crisis and disaster prevention, preparedness and response. It will allow users to plan better, coordinate and ultimately save lives.

INFORM works by simplifying a lot of information about risk and its components into a simple risk profile for every country, which covers natural and human hazards, vulnerability and lack of coping capacity. It covers 191 countries. All the results and data used are freely available and the methodology is completely transparent.

INFORM provides a common evidence base so all governments and organisations can work together better to reduce the risk of humanitarian crisis and disaster, build resilience and prepare for crises.

Alongside the 2016 results, INFORM has also released its strategy for taking the same risk assessment process and methodology to regional and national level. From 2016, INFORM Subnational will support local partners to develop detailed risk models that are tailored to specific regions and countries. These will be developed and owned locally, but draw on global resources and expertise and will be validated according to global standards.

For example, the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office in Lebanon has led the development of an INFORM Subnational model for the country. This was created through a consultative process with the government, UN, NGOs and donors. It is being embedded in regional processes and coordination mechanisms to help all partners quantify and prioritise risks. The model provides a much more detailed, complete and comparable picture of risk than previous analyses.

Lebanon Example

INFORM is a collaboration of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Task Team for Preparedness and Resilience and the European Commission. INFORM partners include: ACAPS, DFID, European Commission, FAO, GFDRR, IOM, OCHA, OECD, UNDP, UNEP, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNISDR, UNWOMEN, WFP, and WHO.

While the world is unpredictable, this tool goes a long way towards understanding what you can predict, and planning accordingly.

What do you think? Can this tool help you with your planning processes? What do you think we are missing?


Patrick Gremillet Patrick Gremillet is Partnership Advisor, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction at UNDP. Follow Patrick on Twitter.
Andrew Thow Andrew Thow is Information Management Officer at OCHA. Follow UN OCHA on Twitter.

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