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date: 22 January 2019

Natural Hazards Governance in Cuba

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Natural Hazard Science. Please check back later for the full article.

Natural hazards governance in Cuba has been subject to polarized discussion. While some experts explain state practices as an extension of social welfare policy, others raise concerns about forced evacuation. Disaster experts commonly forget the long-term development of disaster reduction in the country. A pragmatic analysis of the evolution of natural hazard governance in Cuba from its origins in civil defense onwards reveals the key factors for their success in protecting human life. When facing natural hazards, the country evolved from disaster recovery missions many years ago to more focus on disaster risk reduction tasks nowadays. Over time, there has been an increasing number of organizations and sections of the population involved in risk governance. Deployment of local risk management centers, nationwide multihazard risk assessment, and early warning systems are recognized as important factors for the disaster reduction effectiveness in the country. The number of scientific organizations collecting data and carrying out research in the whole process of natural hazard governance has permitted reduction of disaster impacts and increased resiliency.

Risk communication is used as a strong tool for maintaining awareness and risk perception in the population at large. The continuous development and improvement of a multilateral framework for natural hazards governance are among the key factors underlying Cuba’s risk reduction. Still, an economic crisis right after the Soviet Union collapsed and the long-lasting U.S. government blockade have been two constraints on the economic development of the country, and these constraints should be recognized as explaining large economic losses and the slow recovery after a natural hazard impact. In Cuba, we see a paradox of risk governance that protects human life but is less successful in limiting economic loss from natural hazards. Nevertheless, disaster recovery is carried out at the highest level of government commitment and management skill with the goal of reducing vulnerability as much as possible to avoid the same impact if the same hazard would affect them again. Thus, Cuba attempts to “build back better” as recommended by the United Nations Office for Natural Hazards. Despite economic losses due to natural disasters, Cuban governance of natural hazards is evaluated as a success by most organizations and experts worldwide.