How coordination between the Red Cross Red Crescent and the World Food Programme in Bangladesh set the stage for scaling-up (December 2021)


In 2015, the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS), the German Red Cross (GRC), the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre (RCCC), and the World Food Programme (WFP) began working together to establish forecast-based financing (FbF) systems in Bangladesh. This made Bangladesh one the first countries to pilot anticipatory humanitarian action. The organizations elected to work on floods (BDRCS and partners also began work on cyclones) because these affect nearly 80% of the population and account for a significant proportion of the deaths and economic damage caused by disasters in the country (Massella and Sarker, 2018).

WFP began by focusing on pre-positioning and logistics, and eventually shifted to implementing forecast-based early actions in specific communities in Kurigram. BDRCS, with support from GRC, the Swiss Red Cross and the American Red Cross, began by engaging individual communities to identify early actions and develop community-specific triggers. Later, in keeping with new Red Cross Red Crescent financing mechanisms (Forecast-based Action by the DREF), BDRCS shifted to developing national Early Action Protocols that can be activated wherever impact-based flood or cyclone forecasts indicate the impact will be the greatest.

Despite these differences in approach, BDRCS, GRC and WFP were working on FbF for flooding and soon recognized the potential of collaboration to increase learning, to expand the reach and impact of FbF, and to avoid duplication. In October 2018, WFP, BDRCS and GRC, as well as the Swiss Red Cross, the American Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) country office in Bangladesh, signed an Agreement of Cooperation. In this, all parties recognized that “close cooperation, collaboration, and coordination” in the development and testing of various elements of FbF “will enhance the early actions and the humanitarian service provided to affected populations” (AoC, 2018; p.1, point E).

Three years later, in 2021, Bangladesh has one of the most established track records in FbF and has become a global frontrunner in the realm of anticipatory humanitarian action. Because of collaboration and joint advocacy on the part of WFP and BDRCS, in 2019 the Government of Bangladesh included FbF in its Standing Orders on Disaster (SOD) – the document that outlines roles, responsibilities and guiding principles for disaster management and humanitarian actors in the country. An FbF Task Force, established through the SOD, held its first meeting in March 2021 and continued to work on FbF strategy throughout 2021. It will ensure continued collaboration among government and non-government actors, and the development of a common framework for anticipatory action in the country.

This briefing captures the lessons from a study conducted in mid-2020 to capture the lessons from the fruitful interorganizational collaboration that took place in Bangladesh from 2015-20. Practitioners around the world can learn from this experience. These lessons are based on a review of project documents and interviews with nine key informants working on FbF in Bangladesh from BDRCS, WFP, GRC, Care Bangladesh and the government. The results highlight successes and lessons learned from the collaboration between WFP, BDRCS and a growing list of humanitarian actors interested in anticipation.