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A global, open-source risk assessment tool has been launched to identify where crises requiring international assistance may occur so they can be better managed.
INFORM is a collaboration between the European Commission (EC), the part of the European Union that proposes legislation, and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, a forum for coordinating humanitarian assistance between UN and non-UN partners.
The tool’s developers say it will provide objective and transparent data on the potential risk of humanitarian crises and disasters, improving decisions about prevention, preparedness and response, and on prioritising resources.

“You can’t manage the risk if you cannot measure it.”

Tom De Groeve, EC Joint Research Centre 

Governments and international response agencies can use INFORM to help prioritise between countries on the basis of actual risk, define preparedness levels, monitor risk trends and plan forthcoming budgets, says Tom De Groeve, senior scientist at the EC Joint Research Centre, which led INFORM’s development.
“The use of science in disaster risk management is increasing, but there’s still often a gap between existing science and effective use of it, and our motivation was to address that,” De Groeve says.
The tool offers risk profiles for 191 countries by drawing on more than 50 indicators that measure: the risk of natural and human hazards; vulnerability, for example, aid dependency and economic and gender inequality; and their ability to respond and mitigate disaster impacts.
It can also be adapted to specific organisational needs by adding elements that provide greater detail, such as risk assessments for specific age groups within a population. Regional and country-specific versions of INFORM are also in development.
“The approach which INFORM takes is important for giving quantitative indications for the potential for disaster risk and therefore being able to prioritise and target what we need to do about that,” says Ilan Kelman, a risk expert at University College London, United Kingdom.
But he warns that indicators related to vulnerability need to be further explored to ensure they fully capture potential risks.
“Vulnerability in particular tends to have very qualitative, intangible, contextual and local aspects,” he says.
Kelman says INFORM’s implementers should coordinate with the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS), which aims to improve alerts, information exchange and coordination immediately after major disasters.
As the ten-year international disaster risk reduction plan, the Hyogo Framework for Action, nears its 2015 end date, De Groeve says the use of science in disaster risk management is crucial and has been a key element in the discussions leading up to next year’s Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, which will take place in March in Sendai, Japan.
“You can’t manage the risk if you cannot measure it,” says De Groeve. “This is why a tool like INFORM is important.”
Link to INFORM