Ugandan MPs and grad students roll the dice to ‘pay for predictions’

Ugandan MPs and grad students roll the dice to ‘pay for predictions’
27 June 2013

Thirty Ugandan MPs, members of the country’s parliamentary forum on disaster risk reduction, took part in a special session of the Climate Centre decision-making game, Paying for Predictions, earlier this month at the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) headquarters.   

They were joined by Musa Echweru, Minister for Relief and Disaster Preparedness, some other interested officials, and 20 representatives from a variety of agencies.
More than 30 master’s and PhD students (photo right) and their professors took part in a separate Paying for Predictions session at Makerere University in Kampala. 
That session was seen as creating space for further collaboration between the URCS and Makerere on a framework for ongoing climate adaptation work. 
The Ugandan disaster risk reduction (DRR) forum provides a parliamentary platform for discussion of DRR issues, as well as input to national policy on disaster preparedness and management.
Preparedness fund
Later, Mr Echweru said the games had “a bearing on what happens in our lives, in our communities, and indeed in our government as far as planning and preparedness are concerned. 
“Taking us through this has helped us a great deal to again become more conscious that it’s only those who are prepared who will always carry the day, and since we want to carry the day as a government, we have no choice but to be prepared.” 
“The MPs seemed so interested,” said Shaban Mawanda, Senior Programme Manager for DRR at the URCS. “The majority actually invested in preparedness.”
The Ugandan National Society, with support from the German Red Cross, is now creating a unique mechanism for “anticipatory humanitarian action”: a preparedness fund to be disbursed before a disaster, when triggered by a plausible scientific forecast of an extreme-weather event. 
It’s believed to be the first project of its kind anywhere in the world.
“The key thing is to help politicians, students and disaster managers understand that science-based forecasts can help anticipate extreme events,” said Catalina Jaime,
the German Red Cross delegate for the project, who covers the Teso and Karamoja regions of Uganda.
“Live games like Paying for Predictions will help people rehearse the thinking involved, and understand what the Ugandan Red Cross is trying to do.” 
‘Luck of the rains’
“The challenge embodied in Predictions is like those that confront humanitarian workers in the real world all the time,” said Dr Pablo Suarez, the Climate Centre’s Director for Research and Innovation, who presented the Kampala sessions.
“Should you ‘spend’ a bean for flood preparedness and risk acting in vain if there’s no flood; or is it better to do nothing now and possibly spend four beans for disaster response later?
“Depending on your decisions and others’, and the luck of the rains, each strategy gets good or bad outcomes, but the participants usually figure out that some strategies are better than others.”
“Then in the sixth round of the game, along comes climate change to increase the flood risk.” 
More than 30 master’s and PhD students and their professors joined the Ugandan Minister for Relief and Disaster Preparedness and 30 MPs for separate sessions of the Climate Centre decision-making game, Paying for Predictions, in Kampala earlier this month. (Still image: Thomas White)