The United Nations has a phrase we all need to get used too: ”..leave no-one behind.’‘ How important is that for emergency agencies issuing warnings?

It’s a phrase heard frequently at UN meetings around the world, as it comes from ”Agenda 2030”, https://sustainabl edevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld which itself supports the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

In many developing countries these words are now seared into the minds of policy makers and community leaders who understand that they have come to underpin the values of all UN agencies, as well as many collaborative NGOs and multi-lateral partners.

What’s it mean for warnings, and why is it an ethical issue?

It refers to those people we refer somewhat annoyingly as ”marginalised.” People living with disabilities; children; people who are sick; sometimes the phrase even refers to groups like ”women” or ”people of colour” or ”poor people.”

For me it reminds us that there is a group who might not receive an adequate warning because the people issuing it make stereotypical judgements about the type of warning they can produce, and the platform on which it is distributed.

An effective warning is issued in such a way that it changes people’s behaviours and attitudes, and reduces possible deaths and loss.

Ethically, if you care about one person, you should care about them all. Everyone’s life is of equal value. So the task must be to create warnings which can change attitudes and behaviours among people living with intellectual or physical disability; with illness, frailty; or who care for others; or who have different cultural needs or sexual orientation; or background experiences.

The warning will almost certainly need to be issued much earlier; with more complexity; and on a rarely used platform (we might call it ”word of mouth).

It might have to be issued months in advance, repetitiously, which means those issuing warnings are going to have to take some risks.

It might have to be written in multiple languages, with graphics or audio instead of text. The ”call to action” might have to come from a priest or unqualified community leader, who doesn’t work at the emergency agency.

In all these events the warnings process needs specialists; probably needs more money; needs better planning.

There is always money to ensure that political leaders have secure premises with banks of TV monitors behind them as they issue their important warnings statements; and now increasingly there is likely to be a signer, helping people living with deafness.

So money is no object – it’s time for agencies to ensure they budget properly so that warnings can effectively reach all people.

Leave no-one behind.

(Forewarned supports the SDGs.)

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