Tag Archives: early warning

Ushahidi: Crowdsourcing for Peace Mapping

Cross-posted on iRevolution.

Lynda Gratton at the London Business School gave one of the best Keynote speeches that I’ve heard all year. Her talk was a tour de force on how to catalyze innovation and one of her core recommendations really hit home for me: “If you really want to be at the cutting edge of innovation, then you better make sure that 20% of your team is under the age of 27.” Lynda upholds this principle in all her business ventures.

I find this absolutely brilliant, which explains why I prefer teaching undergraduate seminars and why I always try to keep in touch with former students. Without fail, they continue to be an invaluable source of inspiration and innovative thinking.

A former student of mine, Adam White, recently introduced me to another undergraduate student at Tufts University, Rachel Brown. Rachel is a perfect example of why I value interacting with bright young minds. She wants to return to Kenya next year to identify and connect local peace initiatives in Nairobi in preparation for the 2012 elections.

Rachel was inspired by the story of Solo 7, a Kenyan graffiti artist in Kibera who drew messages of peace throughout the slum as a way to prevent violence from escalating shortly after the elections. “Imagine,” she said, “if we could identify all the Solo 7’s of Nairobi, all the individuals and local communities engaged in promoting peace.”


I understood at once why Adam recommended I meet with Rachel: Ushahidi.

I immediately told Rachel about Ushahidi, a free and open source platform that uses crowdsourcing to map crisis information. I suggested she consider using the platform to crowdsource and map local peace initiatives across Kenya, not just Nairobi. I’ve been so focused on crisis mapping that I’ve completely ignored my previous work in the field of conflict early warning. An integral part of this field is to monitor indicators of conflict and cooperation.

There are always pockets of cooperation no matter how dire a conflict is. Even in Nazi Germany and the Rwandan genocide we find numerous stories of people risking their lives to save others. The fact is that most people, most of the time in most places choose cooperation over conflict. If that weren’t the case, we’d be living in state of total war as described by Clausewitz.

If we only monitor indicators of war and violence, then that’s all we’ll see. Our crisis maps only depict a small part of reality. It is incredibly important that we also map indicators of peace and cooperation. By identifying the positive initiatives that exist before and during a crisis, we automatically identify multiple entry points for intervention and a host of options for conflict prevention. If we only map conflict, then we may well identify where most of the conflict is taking place, but we won’t necessarily know who in the area might be best placed to intervene.

Documenting peace and cooperation also has positive psychological effects. How often do we lament the fact that the only kind of news available in the media is bad news? We turn on CNN or BBC and there’s bad news—sometimes breaking news of bad news. It’s easy to get depressed and to assume that only bad things happen. But violence is actually very rare statistically speaking. The problem is that we don’t systematically document peace, which means that our perceptions are completely skewed.

Take the following anecdote, which occurred to me several years ago when I taught my first undergraduate course on conflict early warning systems. I was trying to describe the important psychological effects of documenting peace and cooperation by using the example of the London underground (subway).

If you’ve been to London, you’ve probably experienced the frequent problems and delays with the underground system. And like most other subway systems, announcements are made to inform passengers of annoying delays and whatnot. But unlike other subway systems I’ve used, the London underground also makes announcements to let passengers know that all lines are currently running on time.

Now lets take this principle and apply it to Rachel’s project proposal combined with Ushahidi. Imagine if she were to promote the crowdsourcing of local peace initiatives all across Kenya. She could work with national and local media to get the word out. Individuals could send text messages to report what kinds of peace activities they are involved in.

This would allow Rachel and others to follow up on select text messages to learn more about each activity. In fact, she could use Ushahidi’s customizable reporting forms to ask individuals texting in information to elaborate on their initiatives. Rachel wants to commit no less than a year to this project, which should give her and colleagues plenty of time to map hundreds of local peace initiatives across Kenya.

Just imagine a map covered with hundreds of doves or peace dots representing local peace initiatives? What a powerful image. The Peace Map would be public, so that anyone with Internet access could learn about the hundreds of different peace initiatives in Kenya. Kenyan peace activists themselves could make use of this map to learn about creative approaches to conflict prevention and conflict management. They could use Ushashidi’s subscription feature to receive automatic updates when a new peace project is reported in their neighborhood, town or province.

When peace activists (and anyone else, for that matter) find peace projects they like on Ushahidi’s Peace Map, they can “befriend” that project, much like the friend feature in Facebook. That way they can receive updates from a particular project via email, SMS or even Twitter. These updates could include information on how to get involved. When two projects (or two individuals) are connected this way, Ushahidi could depict the link on the map with a line connecting the two nodes.

Imagine if this Peace Map were then shown on national television in the lead up to the elections. Not only would there be hundreds of peace dots representing individual peace efforts, but many of these would be linked, depicting a densely connected peace network.

The map could also be printed in Kenya’s national and local newspapers. I think a Peace Map of Kenya would send a powerful message that Kenyans want peace and won’t stand for a repeat of the 2007 post-election violence. When the elections do happen, this Peace Map could be used operationally to quickly respond to any signs of escalating tensions.

Rachel could use the Peace Map to crowdsource reports of any election violence that might take place. Local peace activists could use Ushahidi’s subscription feature to receive alerts of violent events taking place in their immediate vicinity. They would receive these via email and/or SMS in near real-time.

This could allow peace activists to mobilize and quickly respond to escalating signs of violence, especially if preparedness measures and contingency plans already in place. This is what I call fourth generation conflict early warning and early response (4G). See this blog post for more on 4G systems. This is where The Third Side framework for conflict resolution meets the power of new technology platforms like Ushahidi.

It is when I meet inspiring students like Rachel that I wish I were rich so I could just write checks to turn innovative ideas into reality. The next best thing I can do is to work with Rachel and her undergraduate friends to write up a strong proposal. So if you want to get involved or you know a donor, foundation or a philanthropist who might be interested in funding Rachel’s project, please do email me so I can put you directly in touch with her: Patrick@iRevolution.net.

In the meantime, if you’re about to start a project, remember Lynda’s rule of thumb: make sure 20% of your team is under 27. You won’t regret it.

Patrick Philippe Meier

Sri Lanka: Early Warning of War Crimes?

Speaking to Le Monde journalist Philippe Bolopion on condition of anonymity, a UN official stated the following:

“On savait qu’on se préparait à un carnage. On a tiré la sonnette d’alarme pendant des mois, mais ils n’ont jamais frappé en public sur le gouvernement. Tout le monde a peur que son agence soit jetée dehors.”

“We knew carnage was brewing. We rang the alarm bells for some months but no one ever took the Sri Lankan government to task publicly. Everyone is scared of having their agency removed from the country.”

Bolopion, Le Monde’s special correspondent in Colombo also obtained evidence of text messages (SMS) sent by local UN and NGO staff from the scene of the war crime.

March 9: “Please, ask the Sri Lankan army to stop.”

March 14: “Where is the no-fire zone”?

And as the LTTE starts recruiting by force:

March 12: “Both sides are torturing us.”

March 12: “We’re dying! Two shells landed 10m away.”

March 19: “Youths are being taken to fight, very sad. How is the international community reacting?”

March 21: “Hundreds of people trying to escape were stopped by local dictators. They were beaten with sticks, without distinction by age or gender. I hear they crying very loudly.”

March 21: “Why is the international community staying silent?”

So much for the responsibility to protect.

US Assistant Secretary of State on Conflict Early Warning

Assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice delivered a speech today on the “Responsibility to Protect.” In her speech, Ms Rice emphasized the need to “sharpen and strengthen our instruments for conflict management, and hone them to cope specifically with mass atrocities.” She identified 5 key instruments:

  1. Conflict Early Warning, Analysis and Decision-Making
  2. Preventive Diplomacy
  3. Peacekeeping
  4. Sanctions
  5. Peacebuilding

Here are her remarks in her own words:

“First are the linked questions of early warning, analysis, and decision-making. We must do more to ensure that a lack of information will never be a reason again for inaction. Working with governments, regional organizations, and NGO partners, we should strive to collect more, different, and better information about the risks and signs of mass violence – and then to share it. That data should also be analyzed with extra sensitivity to the potential for atrocity. And it should be channeled in real time to decision-makers who can do something about it.

But one significant caveat: history shows that slow policy responses to mass slaughter often stems from factors other than a genuine absence of information about what is unfolding. More often, policymakers knew a significant amount but were held back by competing policy priorities, limited knowledge of the country at risk, disincentives for speaking out, political concerns, and other factors.

Second, preventive diplomacy. The last twenty years and more have taught us that international mediation and diplomacy, backed by a readiness to use other tools, are among the most effective ways to prevent and halt violence. At the UN, innovations like mediation standby teams are an important start, but these teams remain underutilized and they need more resources. We still have too few mediators with the right skills ready to deploy in real time – and, I might add, far too few women. We need also greater surge capacity, closer cooperation among mediators, and better coordination between mediation and other tools of conflict management.  And we need to redouble our efforts to forge the international unity it will take for mediation to succeed.

Third, peacekeeping. We greatly appreciate the courage and dedication shown by UN blue helmets around the world, but these brave men and women are often stretched up to – or beyond- their limits. We must make sure that peacekeepers have the help they need to prevent a fragile peace from breaking down, and we must invest in more effective and efficient peacekeeping that can protect civilians menaced by rebel bands and marauding gangs, whether in Haiti or the eastern DRC.

But UN peacekeepers – even better trained and equipped ones – are not always the right solution when innocents are in peril. Sometimes, an unfolding atrocity is so large or so fast that it can be quelled only by the swift arrival of combat-ready brigades or their equivalent-operating outside the UN chain of command, and not built from scratch as a UN peacekeeping force must be. Only a handful of countries have this capacity at the ready, and even fewer can or will guarantee a response when called upon. Such governments, and regional organizations including NATO and the European Union, must take a hard look at their will and capacity to quickly deploy – either to fill the gap before peacekeepers arrive, reinforce them during a crisis, or to respond in cases where peacekeepers are not the right answer to begin with.

Through our Global Peace Operations Initiative, the United States has helped train and equip tens of thousands of peacekeepers, and we are working to improve peacekeepers’ abilities to protect civilians from the imminent threat of violence.

Fourth, we must put the bite back in sanctions. We have increasingly sophisticated tools to compel states and leaders to abide by international laws and norms. Through the UN, we can freeze individuals’ assets, ban international travel, restrict the flow of luxury goods and arms, and do much more to limit abusers’ abilities to threaten others. But, the Security Council often finds it difficult to overcome member states’ reluctance to wield and fully implement sanctions on behalf of the victims of mass atrocities. I hope to be able to work with my Security Council colleagues to make better, smarter use of sanctions -not only to maintain global order or to halt proliferation but also to save innocent lives at immediate risk. Sanctions can be an effective, if not always a flexible, targeted instrument, and we must seek to strengthen them.

And, finally, peacebuilding. We still have much more to do to foster firm foundations for peace in societies that are trying to leave years of conflict behind them. Just because the killing stops does not mean it won’t start again. The past decade has witnessed major innovations in peacebuilding, including the creation of the UN’s Peacebuilding Commission, but we have much farther to go.  We need more flexible development funds that arrive sooner; early investments in the core capacities of a struggling state; international support for national efforts to reinforce the rule of law, demobilize ex-combatants and reform state security services.  We need lasting support for victims of sexual violence and other human rights abuses; and an insistence that we not assume the job is done until the peace is secure.

Intelligence and Strategic Warning

Security Dialogue just published an excellent piece on postmodern intelligence and strategic warning. Co-authored by Myriam Cavelty and Victor Mauer, the analysis has important implications for the field of conflict early warning. This blog post summarizes the key points from the co-authored piece entitled “Strategic Warning and Reflexive Intelligence.” I provide a handful of excerpts along with my comments.

“The dominant notion in the study of surprise attacks is that the problem is not the lack of information per se, but rather an incorrect understanding of what the available information means, as well as other difficulties and challenges arising from cognitive and organizational issues.” The mainstream literature on conflict early warning and response has an excellent track record in completely ignoring challenges arising from organizational issues. For more on this issue, see my 2007 ISA paper (PDF).

The authors provide interesting historical insights on the evolution of intelligence analysis:

The failure to detect North Korea’s surprise attack on South Korea in 1950 prompted the establishment of a worldwide warning system, and the United States began to take advantage of its regional military commands around the world. When the Soviet Union emerged as the main rival of the United States, the intelligence community switched to an indicator-based warning system on the premise that the USSR could not mount an attack without some prior effort to gear up for war, and that if certain key intelligence targets were watched carefully, indications that an attack was being prepared would be detected.

Furthermore, the authors argue that many of the changes brought about by the end of the Cold War still baffle the intelligence community at large.

‘Many of today’s principal analytic problems arise from continued reliance on analytic tools, methodologies, and processes that were appropriate to the static and hierarchical nature of the Soviet threat during the Cold War.’ The tendency is to press the new, still undefined, highly complex post-modern world into the old Cold-War mind-set with all that implies, exemplified in a high degree of ‘spatial fetishism’, a tendency to reduce the units of analysis to territorially demarcated national states.

Despite this general tendency, there is a growing part of the intelligence community that has come to realize that the changing context has significant consequences for strategic early-warning methodologies and methods. However, even though the techniques of alternative analysis have been around for many years, they have only recently (and still only intermittently) been applied in the intelligence community.

For an example of an alternative analytical technique, see the piece I co-authored with Didier Sornette and presented at ISA 2008 (PDF) on applying earthquake physics to conflict early warning.

Cavelty and Mauer trace the application of traditional indicator systems developed during the Cold War to the post-9/11 environment, in which “monitoring is moving from an exercise in surveillance-monitoring towards forecasting, understood as a probabilistic assessment focusing on general trends.” The authors thus argue that the nature of the new threat environment requires that “new kinds of methodologies are needed in order to capture the nature of the new threats (networked, transnational, complex).”

In general, monitoring now focuses on forecasting certain activities or patterns. Successful forecasting is only possible, however, if the problem to be confronted has been clearly defined, which of course necessitates that the threat must be recognized in the sense that it is, at least in part, known.

The authors point to three broad type of methodologies for predicting and forecasting events that have not been clearly identified:

  1. Trends and patterns
  2. Frequency
  3. Probability

In addition, Cavelty and Mauer list four other methodologies that might enhance monitoring: geospatial predictive analysis, data-mining technologies, project management-based approaches and social network analysis.

The first of these, geospatial predictive analysis, is the attempt to predict the location and date of future terror attacks by accumulating data on the geographic location of previous incidents. To this end, data is fed into a software application that generates threat signatures, such as trends in tactics, techniques and procedures. Using a geographic interface, this system is then able to identify terrorist hot spots

The second technique involves data-mining technologies. Here, large volumes of data on known and potential terrorists can be harnessed and analyzed using data-mining tools to identify links and patterns in different data repositories, to identify anomalies, and to predict which individuals are likely to carry out terror attacks. Data-mining tools complement human intelligence and signals intelligence surveillance and can help identify key players and their communication tendencies.

A third technique is based on the use of a project management approach. A project management model can be used to characterize terrorist operations in terms of tasks, schedules and lines of responsibility. Understanding this model enables the counter-terrorism anomalies, and to predict which individuals are likely to carry out terror community to delay or disrupt an imminent operation, conduct ‘what if?’ analyses and guide the systematic search for evidence.

The fourth technique is based on social network analysis. This incorporates, correlates and visualizes biographic, religious, demographic and other social data, and identifies the networks of connections and relationships between individual actors, enablers or groups. Such an approach enables one to understand why individuals become radicalized and how they are actually recruited.

Cavelty and Mauer recognize that these approaches are not without faults.

To mention just a few: The first approach only considers successful attacks and not aborted operations or failed attempts; insight from high-frequency areas is not necessarily applicable to rare-event regions; and this approach focuses on incidents rather than on people, which limits its ability to predict terrorist behavior.

Data-mining, on the other hand, does not enable effective information-gathering on unknown individuals and does not solve the problems of pattern recognition. The project management approach might generate false positives, because identifying terrorists is harder than identifying suspicious consumer behavior and because the approach relies on a limited set of technical indicators rather than complementing technical factors such as the characteristics of groups and the nature of their leadership.

Finally, social network analysis, while important, does not complete the big picture. However, with careful consideration of the pros and cons and through careful combination of more than one method, it may be possible to derive attack indicators with some predictive potential.

The authors also touch on other types of indicator-based systems developed in the realm of political risk analysis such as the innovative project called the Canadian Country Indicators for Foreign Policy (CIFP). Again, however, these models have some important limits.

Such models may produce reasonable forecasts when there is good available data and if there is a belief that existing, well-understood and precisely delineated patterns of behavior will continue into the future despite the fact that many aspects of the particular challenges may still be undiscovered. In other words, for monitoring activities to make sense, it must be believed that the threat is analytically tractable and that cause–effect relationships are identifiable.

Clearly, however, there is an inherent danger in this assumption: such a certainty about being able to know might lead to wrong actions based on over reliance on these systems. Where there is doubt that the relationships described in the model will continue or where forecasts of the independent variables are unreliable, different tools are needed.

Cavelty and Mauer juxtapose traditional models of strategic early warning with domain of discovery. The former assumes that discontinuities do not emerge without warning.

Warning signs have been described as ‘weak signals’ or as factors for change that are hardly perceptible at present but will constitute a strong trend in the future or can have dramatic consequences. The management of ‘unknown unknowns’ makes it necessary to gather ‘weak signals’ and to identify events or developments that could set off alternative dynamics and paths [which] makes it very clear why discovering such signals is a daunting task.

In contrast, the concept of discovery is not about pattern recognition of known patterns but rather about “pattern discovery or the identification of new patterns.” However, “we tend to perceive what we expect to perceive,” and these “patterns of expectation become so deeply embedded that they continue to influence perceptions even when people are alerted to and try to take account of the existence of data that do not fit their preconceptions.”

In sum, “because patterns must be ‘recognized’ by the observer, any observed structure or pattern may be an artefact of the research question; other patterns may go unnoticed for the same reasons.” Equally problematic is pattern bias, “which makes one look for evidence that confirms rather than rejects a hypothesis and fill in missing data with data from previous experiences.”

Put differently, “the belief about the nature of a threat (its ontology) and our knowledge or belief about the way we should approach it (epistemologically and methodologically) shape possible policy responses.” As Cavelty and Mauer point out, “this implies that there is no such thing as apolitical risk analysis: as soon as something is identified as a risk, it is managed and therefore changed.”

The authors describe the techniques developed to overcome some of these problems and cope with uncertain futures. This alternative analysis seeks to “seek to help analysts and policymakers to stretch their thinking by broadening the array of out-comes considered or by challenging underlying assumptions that may constrain thinking.” These methods include scenario development, Delphi exercises, brainstorming, horizon scanning, etc. While these techniques can stimulate strategic thinking, “they do not bring back certainty.”

In order to anticipate threats that can suddenly emerge at any time, anywhere and in a variety of forms, ‘analysts need to think more in terms of a broad mental readiness to perceive early warning signs of threat than in terms of challenging specific assumptions or identifying specific alternative outcomes’. Alternative analysis is designed to overcome biases: using them does not mean that one can know the future. If they are conceived as a set of tools rather than as an ongoing organizational process aimed at promoting sustained mindfulness, it is unlikely that they will be accepted within the community.

Cavelty and Mauer conclude their piece with a serious push for complex systems thinking in the social sciences. I was particularly excited that the authors integrated insights from complexity science into their analysis—very refreshing to read this in peer-reviewed literature. For an in-depth analysis on the intersection between complexity science and early warning, see my 2007 ISA paper (PDF) on the subject.

If the twin forces of complexity and change are taken seriously, “there can be no ‘grand’ theoretical project that distils complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty into neat theoretical packages and categories.” They point out that 
“global risks contradict the language of control of industrial societies [that seek to] feign control over the uncontrollable.” In short, “expert knowledge is […] an insufficient and unreliable resource for political decisions.”

The complexity paradigm implies that certain situations are unpredictable by nature, “not just by virtue of the limitations of the observer.” The authors thus argue that the task ahead consists of “learning to recognize and appreciate complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty,” which implies that we need to “start focusing on different methods that might work well in situations where the assumption of order does not hold.” In other words, “the aim should not be to reduce uncertainty, as traditional scientific methods do, but to accept it for what it is.”

Instead of adopting different methods, however, the strategic warning community has moved from “the threat-based approach towards vulnerability assessment […] to ‘play defense’ in lieu of developing new indication and warning systems.” In other words, this approach substitutes missing knowledge by broadly applying defensive measures. This is particularly problematic since such an approach leads to the development of 
“worst-case scenario approaches and the irreversible damages associated with them [which] logically lead to a politics of zero risk and legitimize any kind of action.”

In short, “this so-called hypothesis-based analysis starts with a preferred scenario and then finds data that support such a scenario.” Not surprisingly, “because such an approach can be presented as having the advantage of countering various kinds of unknowns and allows policymakers to contend with uncertainty, it has significant appeal today. However, such an approach would ultimately fail to deal with the basic tenet of the new threat environment, namely, uncertainty.”

UN & Early Warning in Kenya, Georgia

I just had a particularly interesting meeting at the UN with several well-placed and highly experienced colleagues. The topic of conversation, unsurprisingly, was conflict early warning and conflict prevention.  Academics have long drummed up the various albeit few “successes” of early warning, so it was interesting that my UN colleagues cited Ghana, Guyana and Sierra Leone as their own recent success stories. Each intervention involved substantial prevention-related programs/projects, such as “social cohesion programs,” some one to three years prior to scheduled elections.
 
Equally interesting were the comments made in relation to Kenya and Georgia. In the case of the former, one senior colleague mentioned that,
 
Our own early warning ‘systems’… or rather analyses, mislead us… they suggested that the most conflict prone places would be in the north of the country, so we focused our preventive, training efforts there to reduce the likelihood of escalating ethnic tensions… this was back in March 2007. What we didn’t realize or expect, was that the Rift Valley would become so volatile, let alone the coastal region of Kenya.
 
In the case of Georgia, another senior colleague commented on the fact that,
 
We knew full well what was about to happen, we had our teams in the field, reporting on the increasingly dicy situation several months ago. In fact, we were fully expecting the situation to escalate in August. The problem, again, was not early warning.
 
When I pressed my colleague further on how exactly they knew, i.e., whether they were using specific and/or sophisticated methodologies for their conflict monitoring and analysis, the answer was no. Situational awareness, fact finding, in-country missions, sharing of information between agencies/contacts in Georgia and regular meetings to discuss the situation was in effect what constituted their conflict early warning system.

The conclusion I take from this meeting is not that early warning is not important, but that “good enough” analysis is more important than sophisticated approaches to conflict early warning and forecasting.
 
 
 

FAST was the pioneer

swisspeace‘s FAST early warning project truly pioneered the practice of field-based conflict early warning. Indeed, FAST was the only project of its kind throughout it’s 10 years of operation. The project was the first to apply analytical framework using event-data at the field level, and the first initiative to implement local information networks across more than 20 countries worldwide. The field data collected by FAST was the only of it’s kind. FAST was one of the very first projects that sought to combine quantitative analysis with qualitative assessments in a coherent manner. And finally, the FAST model provided valuable guidance to other early warning initiatives over the past decade. While we have had different ideas about how to improve FAST over the years, we ultimately all shared the same goals: early detection and early response.

On a personal note, I first met the FAST team in October 2001 while on a visit to Bern. It was a truly memorable experience. In those days, swisspeace was still housed in a small office block closer to the city center. I met with a couple members of the FAST team whose enthusiasm for the project was captivating. And when I walked back out into the snowy streets, I knew what it was I wanted to do: I wanted to pursue a career in this exciting field. Coincidentally, there was an opening that Fall for a new position with the FAST team focusing on Central Asia, and I was kindly encouraged to apply.

Susanne Schmeidl interviewed me for the position the following month and offered me the job! It was one of the most agonizing decisions I had to face when it became necessary for me to decide between joining swisspeace and going to graduate school. To make long story short, I went for a potential win-win scenario: go to grad school and do my graduate internship at swisspeace. And somehow it all worked out! Indeed, I should emphasize that if it were not for swisspeace and FAST, I doubt the past seven years of my life would have been anywhere near as exhilarating both intellectually and professionally. While I haven’t been in touch with the team in a while, I am genuinely saddened that such a bold project has come to an end. For sure I had my criticisms of FAST, but it’s easy to criticize a pioneering initiative.

Since the news that FAST would be ceasing operations has been made public, I know many of us have begun to reflect (and ask each other) about what lessons we should be learning thanks to FAST. And of course hindsight is 20/20, especially since FAST was pushing the envelope to begin with. Last week, Susanne Schmeidl, Michael Lund, Lawrence Woocher and I were on an ISA panel that addressed the topic of early warning. Questions about FAST and, interestingly, FEWER were posed. We didn’t have the time to go in much detail but the conversations did remind me of Milt’s suggestion some four years ago in Belfast that we think about the reasons for FEWER closing down and the gaps that the group’s absence left.

So I wonder whether we might use this forum to share some ideas about the rich lessons that FAST has left us with? I know we also share a concern about the state of our field vis-a-vis donor funding, impact and future early warning projects. What consequences do we now face in light of FAST closing down? Is there a way to revitalize the field? How do we ensure that future projects are sustainable over the long term? If you think these questions are appropriate to ask at this point in time, and/or have others that we should be asking ourselves, may I suggest that we use this blog and the comments section (see below) to begin a conversation?

With best wishes,
Patrick