What is TASW

The significant investment in pandemic preparedness generated many practical lessons and innovations that can be used in wider threats. The Towards a Safer World initiative (TASW) convenes a broad range of multi-sector, multi-regional stakeholders involved in whole-of-society preparedness including non-traditional partners from business and the military. TASW's diverse network is committed to maintaining the body of whole of society practice, communicating it widely, mainstreaming it within institutions, reaching out to others who can benefit from it, and learning from each other. TASW’s objective is to improve the capabilities of a network of  committed champions of whole-of-society preparedness and their institutions through sharing and applying best practice, and through capacity-building events, simulations, workshops, training and research. TASW’s goal is more effective whole-of-society preparedness so as to lessen the economic, social and humanitarian impact of pandemics and comparable high-impact risks. 

Goal The Towards a Safer World Network contributes to increased societal resilience (including continuity of governance, economic systems, critical services and resilient livelihoods) in the face of disease pandemics and other comparable threats to health.

Objective The Network strengthens the capabilities of committed professionals to implement best whole-of-society preparedness practices that have been developed and tested in relation to pandemics: individuals do this within their own spheres of responsibility as well as within their institutions and organizations.

Background The first phase of Towards a Safer World yielded a series of lessons from whole-of-society pandemic preparedness which were collated in ‘Beyond Pandemics: A Whole of Society approach to Disaster Preparedness’ and disseminated at a conference in Rome on September 15- 16, 2011. The conference concluded that lessons from TASW are relevant both for continued pandemic preparedness and for other crises that are unpredictable, global and able to cause widespread disruption, suffering and death. By the end of the conference it was evident that practitioners from a variety of sectors, organizations and countries wanted to remain involved in whole-of-society preparedness for pandemics and related threats. They agreed to work as a network committed to maintaining and refining the body of practice, communicating it widely, mainstreaming it within institutions that otherwise would fail to sustain it, reaching out and engaging others who might benefit from it, and continuing to learn from each other. The network includes non-traditional partners and is international but not inter-governmental. The Towards a Safer World Network is one strand of efforts to strengthen National Risk Management and Emergency Preparedness capabilities.

Economic considerations

The number of disasters worldwide has increased dramatically in the past years. The IMF estimates that damage associated with disasters is 15 times higher now than it was in the 1950s.  The communicable disease SARS led to a an immediate economic loss of approximately 2% of East Asian regional GDP in the second quarter of 2003, even though only 800 people died as a result of contracting it. The World Bank estimates that a 2% loss of global GDP during a global influenza pandemic would represent around $800 billion over a year. The Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) estimates that disasters caused $109 billion of economic damage in 2010. In 2011, the trend of mega-disasters continued. The World Bank estimates that economic damage from the March 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami amounts to $235 billion. The containment of suffering, lives lost and economic damage within a disaster or crisis is directly linked to the effectiveness of response. It can be reduced through effective preparedness, including measures to improve response, to increase disaster management capacity, and to plan and prepare: these activities can have dramatic dividends. The World Bank has estimated that, on average, countries can save $7 in recovery costs for every $1 spent on risk reduction measures. The World Bank has calculated that donors pledged $3.9 billion towards preparedness and response to avian and human influenza and disbursed $2.73 billion between 2006 and 2010. The TASW network will contribute towards maximizing the value of this investment by sustaining the preparedness and knowledge that it developed.

What does the TASW Network promote?

Key good practices emphasized by the TASW Network include (i) coordination of multi-actor networks, including professionals from business, Government and civil society, (ii) planning for the maintenance of critical services, (iii) implementation of communication strategies, (iv) simulations to test and validate contingency plans, (v) mobilization of funds for preparedness and (vi) development of tools for measuring preparedness.

Comparative advantage of TASW

The TASW Network is a diverse group of energetic and expert practitioners: it is also the evolving body of whole-of-society best practice; and has extensive experience of using simulation exercises to test contingency plans. The Network convenes a broad range of stakeholders including non-traditional partners from the private sector and the military: they do not normally get the opportunity to interact with each other. TASW is a network of individuals rather than organizations. This facilitates candid, informal and innovative interactions. The significant investments and broad participation in pandemic preparedness since 2005 have generated many practical lessons and innovations - relevant not only for improving responses to health crises, but also for strengthening societal resilience in the face of other major threats. TASW’s diverse stakeholder base can promote learning across silos, new working practices and more effective use of preparedness resources; help ensure that pandemic good practices are applied more widely where relevant, and enable disaster risk management actors to prepare for the threat of pandemics and integrate pandemic into wider disaster planning. Sustaining commitment for pandemic preparedness in the present resource environment will improve the efficiency of responses when further pandemic-like events occur.

What does TASW do?

The core of the Network’s future plan is to sustain, expand and pro-actively manage a group of professionals (who will be encouraged to establish and nurture similar networks of their own so as to amplify impact in local, national and regional settings). The TASW Network’s approach is to improve the skills and capabilities of individuals and their institutions through identifying and supporting application of best practice, and through developing and organizing research, simulations and workshops. The intended impact is more effective and sustained whole of society preparedness so as to lessen the disruption associated with pandemics and other comparable complex and unpredictable risks and improve the impact of response. Pandemic and related health crises are at the heart of the Network, but several of the practices emerging from the pandemic experience are relevant to other threats. A balance will be maintained between (a) continuing to address pandemic threat and (b) articulating the value of lessons from pandemic experience for other comparable risks.

Activities The current phase of the TASW Network is:

  1. Establishing and managing a network of professionals whose work involves whole of society preparedness for pandemics and comparable risks
  2. Strengthen network members’ capacity to respond to emergencies by:
    • Developing and refining best practices, including practical case studies, examples of local-level good practice, checklists, guidance and tools, based on network members’ experience, enriched continually with new ideas from the field, and drawing on risk management and private sector expertise
    • Enhancing knowledge-building through a web-based platform to facilitate exchange of experiences of whole-of-society preparedness and convey knowledge covering a wide range of disciplines and sectors
    • Supporting targeted research and learning from existing research
    • Developing and maintaining a roster of experts in various disciplines with the capacity to deliver support to network members on demand e. Developing and implementing simulations and stress tests
  3. Foster collaboration at country, regional and global levels by:
    • Establishing close links with existing groups and platforms (including global and regional platforms and regional political and economic fora) to advocate for new ways of working to foster resilience
    • Strengthening links with private sector actors (including through mapping what roles business can play), the military and civil defense and links between health and other sectors involved in preparedness
    • Organizing inputs – including tabletop simulation exercises - to regional meetings and workshops, including regional events
    • Organizing a special session at Global Platforms on the work of TASW
    • Focusing on a sub-set of countries and regions to be able to measure results at country level in terms of strengthened capacity to respond to pandemic and related threats
  4. Contributing to wider strategies to strengthen National Disaster Risk Management Organizations by:
    • Bringing into the TASW network key individuals from these organizations
    • Engaging them in TASW workshops and events


The outcomes are an increased capability in whole-of-society preparedness for pandemic and other comparable threats, through building of knowledge, skills and motivation amongst influential business, civil society and government practitioners, and through connecting those practitioners together and facilitating and supporting South-South collaboration. Actions taken by network members will be monitored in the light of TASW recommendations in order to be able to keep track of and report progress.

Project management The Network is corrdinated by Dr Chadia Wannous