COMPREND Concept Paper


Global Workshop on Community-Based Forecasting and Early Warning Preparedness for Natural Disasters



            The world is now experiencing an unprecedented increase in the magnitude and frequency of natural disasters of all types. Drastic changes in climate and sea level rise are causing the extinction of species, as well as catastrophic weather events. This trend in nature challenges us in the timely achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Recognizing that the fullest expression of the MDGs is at the local level, communities that can see ahead and prepare for devastating disasters strengthen their resilience and security by reducing the impact of these disasters.

Harnessing Local Approaches in Disaster Reduction


Massive relief and response to disasters such as the great earthquake and tsunami at the end of 2004, and the October 2005 earthquake in northern Pakistan are imperative. However, we recognize that the magnitude of such responses could be significantly reduced through pro-active programs that strengthen the ability of communities to see ahead and prepare effectively for these natural events.


Such is the vision and spirit of COMPREND, a UNDP supported global program that facilitates Community Monitoring and Preparedness for Natural Disasters (see Annex 2). The core of COMPREND is grounded in a grassroots best practice, where a rural community of half a million totally survived a magnitude 7.8 earthquake, which destroyed 180,000 buildings in the community itself. While this community had no loss of life directly from the destruction of the quake, over 240,000 people perished from the event in the regions surrounding the community.[1]


COMPREND builds upon the lessons of this community’s early warning experience, as well as additional good practices in the mitigation of weather disasters, tsunamis and volcanic events. The program shares innovative technologies, from both the physical and social sciences, involving community volunteers of different ages and from all walks of life.


As a results-oriented program, COMPREND joins science and social action at the community level, to strengthen community resilience and capacity to mitigate the effects of natural disasters.


COMPREND Framework for Community Action


            In the last decade, the UNDP partnered with the UNGP-IPASD (United Nations Global Programme for the Integration of Public Administration and the Science of Disasters) to establish pilot projects at the community level that see ahead for destructive natural events. Recent field results in the Philippines and China have shown the effectiveness of community-based disaster monitoring efforts.


            COMPREND is the successor to the UNGP-IPASD. The activities of the COMPREND global program are designed in response to its field results and feedback from its program participants. Established in September 2004, the program’s first year of operation generated the following framework for community action:


  1. A global meeting that brings together interested disaster-prone countries to discuss the progress made so far by communities in monitoring for natural disasters. Citizens, public officials and scientists share their experiences and ideas on socio-technical approaches that generate greater involvement of local community members in disaster forecasting and preparedness. This global meeting takes place in 2006.
  2. Develop international partnership of schoolchildren in raising their awareness of the environment and its relationship to natural disasters. Fund-raise for “environmental awareness workshops” that involve schoolchildren.
  3. Further develop the capacity of the crustal stress community awareness networks in the Philippines and in China. Strengthen monitoring, communication and networking between each community site, and improve local community education and preparedness for natural disasters.
  4. Establish a national geomagnetic monitoring network in the Philippines to see ahead for weather disasters, as well as for tectonic events.
  5. Complete a “resource book for everyone on earthquake monitoring and preparedness”, with the first full draft ready by early 2006. Fund-raise for this publication to be available via the Internet at minimal cost to the potential reader, and distributed to the village level worldwide by the end of 2006.
  6. Strengthen the outreach of COMPREND, particularly via COMPREND’s new website.


Framework Implementation


  This present concept paper is to facilitate the timely realization of (1) above. The breakthroughs made by the community-based monitoring projects in the Philippines and China have awakened local communities to their potential role in significantly reducing the impact of natural disasters. This concept paper describes the Community Shequ[2], a Global Workshop on Community-Based Forecasting and Early Warning Preparedness for Natural Disasters, to be held in 2006.


The Community Shequ is a global community workshop and dialogue space. The workshop will highlight local level best practices across the spectrum of natural disasters, showcasing the resource, knowledge and energy of local communities as a powerful modality in disaster mitigation. This meeting will cover seven days and focus on innovative strategies that grassroots communities have developed to see ahead and effectively prepare for natural disasters. 


The Community Shequ will facilitate community-driven dialogue among local community leaders from different disaster-prone regions of the world, representatives from NGOs, various levels of government and international organizations, members of the scientific and business communities, as well as the media. The workshop will examine in depth selected best practices in community-based disaster forecasting and early warning preparedness. The discussions will target on key themes of direct relevance to community monitoring of the environment, including information sharing, early warning policies and disaster education. In promoting and supporting community voices, the Community Shequ will explore key cross-cutting issues, including:


·         Mutual expectations between communities, scientists, business leaders and government officials, regarding their mandated role in disaster mitigation, and how each group experiences these expectations;

·         Ways in which local communities can substantively contribute to early warning policies at the community and national levels, thereby improving economic and human security;

·         Integration of corporate business partners in disaster mitigation

·         Commonalities shared by and differences between the various types of natural disasters, especially with regard to the environmental signals associated with each type of disaster;

·         Networking/transmission of sensitive disaster-related information that would make a difference at the grass roots level, and

·         Ways to engage, through media and disaster education campaigns via inter- and intra-community dialogue, different sectors of society (including businesses, NGOs, women, the disabled and schoolchildren) in raising public awareness on environmental changes related to natural hazards.


Planning and Design of the Community Shequ


The Community Shequ will provide local communities with the opportunity to take on some effective ways of seeing ahead and thereby preparing adequately for natural disasters. This global workshop will also have communities begin exploring the question: What would partnership with government, businesses, NGOS and scientists look like if communities directed the planning and design process to allocate disaster mitigation resources?


       The Community Shequ is a community-directed workshop, and therefore must begin, from the first day of its conception, to include local community organizations/leaders in the workshop planning, program design, meeting facilitation, and agenda setting. The workshop organizers intend to conduct outreach to community groups in disaster-prone regions, groups that will together create a relevant and results/action-oriented Community Shequ.


Activities of the Community Shequ


The Community Shequ will bring together a number of successful cases in community-based monitoring and preparedness for natural disasters. The workshop program will also include site visits to locations where community members are actively monitoring their environment, able to assess the developing hazards and take actions to reduce the impact of a potential disaster.


The participants will share their best practices in disaster forecasting and early warning preparedness, and distinguish what aspects of these practices would be of interest to implement in their own communities. They will then go into action creating the structures that will have them realize these aspects, in a timeline that the communities themselves assess and define.


Outcomes of the Community Shequ


            The outcomes of the global workshop listed in Annex 1 will serve to guide the developmental activities of global programs such as UNDP/COMPREND, which can partner in monitoring, over time, the progress made by the various participant groups in achieving their self-generated plans of action. The Community Shequ will enable interested partners from government, business, academe and NGOs to join with grassroots groups in designing a comprehensive and sustainable community development plan that reduces the impact of destructive natural disasters.




Summary of Objectives and Activities:
Global Workshop on Community-Based Forecasting and Early Warning Preparedness for Natural Disasters


Intended Outcome: Local communities seeing ahead and preparing effectively for natural hazards, taking on ownership as dynamic players / actors in creating / developing grassroots security and safety for natural hazards.

Outcome indicator: Communities generate and implement action plans for comprehensive risk reduction.

Title: Global Workshop on Community-Based Forecasting and Early Warning Preparedness for Natural Disasters


Intended Outcome



Output Targets


Indicative Activities


1. Local communities present and speak effectively on their good practices in forecasting for impending natural hazards.


1.1. Selected communities with good practices in disaster forecasting and early warning preparedness; brief documentation on each of these good practices, showing who was involved and why were these practices successful.


1.1.1. Pre-planning outreach initiative, including use of COMPREND website and networks of partnering grassroots community groups, to locate / select communities with good practices in disaster forecasting and early warning preparedness.


1.1.2.  Facilitation in preparing the documentation for each selected good practice community, as input for workshop proceedings.


2. Local communities and their national decision-makers come into a dialogue space where community concerns are aired and local solutions initiated, with positive shifts at the national policy level.






2.1. Proceedings of the Community Shequ, to include workshop input and context / content of the workshop discussions.




2.1.1. Communities speak directly to disaster professionals and to policy makers.


2.1.2. Policy makers, disaster professionals / scientists and the public express the challenges they have vis-à-vis each other in the matter of sharing disaster-related information.

Communities get to express their frustrations and difficulties in being at the receiving end of professional / scientific pronouncements and decisions that directly impact their safety and security.



3. Community participants become aware of the natural environment and its subtle shifts, and take on monitoring the environment and networking this information for risk reduction; they develop the capacity to defuse rumours about predicted natural disasters.


3.1. Targeted brochures and pamphlets for wide distribution through journals, media and the Internet, etc., regarding the numerous ways to reduce the impact of natural disasters using basic knowledge of environmental changes and early-warning contingency planning at the family level.


3.1.1. Scientists share their observations of the environment in ways that are comprehensible to policy makers and to grassroots communities, as well as seek partnership with these communities in gathering information on changes in the environment.


4. Local communities develop an integrated and systematic approach to forecasting and early warning preparedness, for natural hazards including tectonic and destructive weather events.


4.1. Audio-visual and written documentation of community-based socio-technical approaches to seeing ahead for destructive natural disasters, for purposes of community-based disaster education campaigns.


4.1.1. Sharing of innovative strategies that local communities have created in seeing ahead and taking preparedness action to mitigate the impact of the forecasted hazard.


4.1.2. Discussion of the various types of natural disasters, what their commonalities and differences are, and the environmental signals preceding such disasters; early warning actions people can take to reduce the impact of such events.


5. Communities as the generators of substantive action in disaster policy at the community and national levels, creating structures where by their needs are addressed at the legislative and policy levels.

Communities are empowered and pro-active in seeking out new funding sources for their self-designed community action plans.


5.1. Community Voices Declaration: a communities-authored document and declaration capturing their perspectives, conclusions and policy recommendations to be presented to local / national / international policy bodies; includes articulation of communities as dynamic actors in risk reduction, in contrast to the typical view of grassroots communities as managed entities in national risk reduction plans.


5.2. Participants leave the workshop with concrete plans of actions in a timeline, and an accountability framework that will keep participants responsible for forwarding their actions.



5.1.1. Participants work together to draft a declaration that expresses what they have gained from the Community Shequ.


5.2.1. Participants design the next steps and actions, including voluntary (in-kind) measures to be taken at the local level, to fulfil the possibilities they create for their own communities vis-à-vis disaster forecasting and early-warning preparedness.

5.2.2. Local communities enter into dialogue with development professionals, business leaders, government officials, and donors on how these groups can partner to support locally driven community development efforts related to disaster reduction.


6. All the participants of the Community Shequ leave the conference having: a) created a possibility in community-based forecasting and early warning preparedness for natural events; b) empowered in their choice to actively contribute to realizing that possibility or not, and c) satisfied with the discussions and sharing that led them to that choice.


6.1. Final proceedings of the Community Shequ, including workshop input, output, context / content of the workshop discussions and comments / evaluation of the Community Shequ.


6.1.1. Workshop participants provide their feedback and evaluation of the Community Shequ.


7. Revitalized / activated local community monitoring networks, with forecasting and early warning preparedness results that are documented and presented to the global community by on-line virtual forums and/or international meetings.



7.1.    Communities produce forecasting and early warning preparedness results that are showcased on-line to fellow participants and donors.



7.1.1. Workshop organizers maintain regular communications with workshop participants to facilitate sharing of their on-going progresses globally.






United Nations Development Programme: Community Monitoring & Preparedness for Natural Disasters





The recent rise in the severity and frequency of natural disasters is of serious concern to the global community. These disasters significantly impact global development. Annual economic losses by these disasters have increased worldwide from US$75.5 billion in the 1960s to US$659.9 billion in the 1990s. Today 85% of the people exposed to natural hazards and disasters including earthquakes, tropical cyclones, floods and droughts live in developing countries.


To reduce loss of life and economic impact, the United Nations strives to raise global awareness on natural disasters and on the possible approaches communities can take to reduce the impact of such disasters. Noting the emergence of many techniques and methodologies for early warning and community preparation for disasters, as well as the rapid advances in information-sharing technology, the United Nations seeks to facilitate timely exchange of disaster-related information, data and experiences to all interested Member States.


To this end, the UNDP is launching an initiative on Community Monitoring & Preparedness for Natural Disasters, COMPREND. Established in September 2004, this global initiative promotes activities that catalyze environmental monitoring and preparedness efforts at the local community level for earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and severe weather disasters. Founded on south-south cooperation, i.e., collaboration between developing countries, COMPREND is a global program that encourages the sharing of community disaster experiences and advances in forecasting technologies. It recognizes that early warning for natural disasters at the community level depends upon parallel activities that strengthen public awareness of the environment and its changes, local forecasting capabilities and social organization to gather and disseminate relevant information effectively.


COMPREND is designed at the global level to share interregional knowledge through face–to–face meetings, international conferences/demonstrations, exchange visits, workshops, publications and a website. It facilitates collaborative research using advances in software and data from established global monitoring networks. At the national and local levels, COMPREND projects include monitoring changes in the natural environment, raising public awareness through education and action-learning, and strengthening local information and communication networks to link communities with scientists and public administrators in disaster reduction. Protocols that are specific to each locality, country and type of disaster will be integrated to share information, vulnerability, risk and preparedness strategies.


Below are examples of the types of projects and outcomes that COMPREND facilitates. These documented results are the accomplishments of the United Nations Global Programme for the Integration of Public Administration and the Science of Disasters, UNGP-IPASD (, which preceded COMPREND and completed in 2003.


In the Philippines and in China, municipalities have built socio-technical networks in their communities, with a high degree of people participation. For the Philippines, community volunteers from ten municipalities covering one-third of the country are actively monitoring ahead for earthquakes through CSCAN, the Crustal Stress Community Awareness Network.


CSCAN-Philippines, as a community-based system, achieved remarkable results in seeing ahead for six medium-sized earthquakes that occurred between January 2002 and April 2003. Results are documented in two UNDP articles [Article 1] [Article 2].

In China, local communities share their information at all levels and integrate disaster mitigation activities into regular work programs. During the summer months of 1998 and 2003, UNDP-China directly facilitated the building of a nine-station CSCAN monitoring system in the seismically active region of China’s northwest Xinjiang Autonomous Region. (See Annex 3 for 2003 UNDP Project Completion Report in .pdf format)


The community-based earthquake monitoring networks in China and the Philippines developed from a partnership of the UNDP and the UNGP-IPASD. From 1998 –1999, another notable example of partnership occurred with the UNDP, UNGP-IPASD and UNOCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) joining together to mitigate and document a “once-in-a-hundred-year” catastrophic flood event in southern China during the summer of 1998. Details of this event are provided by the following UNDP report.




COMPREND is bold in its focus on producing timely results at the country and local levels. Multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral in scope, this global program utilizes innovations in the social and physical sciences to engage local communities in disaster awareness and action. Support by partners from the public-private sectors and all walks of life are welcomed.


For further information on COMPREND, which is established in the Capacity Development Group (CDG) of the Bureau for Development Policy (BDP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) - New York, please contact:

        Jean J. Chu, Senior Consultant, UNDP/COMPREND

Emails: and

Mobile numbers:               +1-718-791-9763 (when in the USA)

+86-136-9306-7556 (when in China)

+63-919-836-5037 (when in the Philippines)

or                 Arleen Verendia


Tel: +1-212-906-5618

Fax: +1-212-906-5896
Postal Address: FF-631-A, 304 East 45th St., New York, NY 10017.

[1] “Integrating public administration, science and community action: a case of early-warning success in Qinglong County for the magnitude 7.8 Tangshan earthquake”. In A. Farazmand (Ed.), 2001, Handbook of Crisis and Emergency Management (pp.581-616). New York, NY: Marcel Dekker, Inc.

[2] Shequ is the Chinese word for “community”, and is pronounced Sir-chew.