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Vincenzo Bollettino, Tilly Alcayna, Philip Dy, and Patrick Vinck
In recent years, the notion of resilience has grown into an important concept for both scholars and practitioners working on disasters. This evolution reflects a growing interest from diverse disciplines in a holistic understanding of complex systems, including how societies interact with their environment. This new lens offers an opportunity to focus on communities’ ability to prepare for and adapt to the challenges posed by natural hazards, and the mechanism they have developed to cope and adapt to threats. This is important because repeated stresses and shocks still cause serious damages to communities across the world, despite efforts to better prepare for disasters.
Scholars from a variety of disciplines have developed resilience frameworks both to guide macro-level policy decisions about where to invest in preparedness and to measure which systems perform best in limiting losses from disasters and ensuring rapid recovery. Yet there are competing conceptions of what resilience encompasses and how best to measure it. While there is a significant amount of scholarship produced on resilience, the lack of a shared understanding of its conceptual boundaries and means of measurement make it difficult to demonstrate the results or impact of resilience programs.
If resilience is to emerge as a concept capable of aiding decision-makers in identifying socio-geographical areas of vulnerability and improving preparedness, then scholars and practitioners need to adopt a common lexicon on the different elements of the concept and harmonize understandings of the relationships amongst them and means of measuring them. This article reviews the origins and evolution of resilience as an interdisciplinary, conceptual umbrella term for efforts by different disciplines to tackle complex problems arising from more frequent natural disasters. It concludes that resilience is a useful concept for bridging different academic disciplines focused on this complex problem set, while acknowledging that specific measures of resilience will differ as different units and levels of analysis are employed to measure disparate research questions.
In the context of this article, risk governance addresses the ways and means—or institutional framework—to lead and manage the issue of risk related to natural phenomena, events, or hazards, also referred to popularly, although incorrectly, as “natural disasters.” At the present time, risk related to natural phenomena includes a major focus on the issue of climate change with which it is intimately connected, climate change being a major source of risk.
To lead involves mainly defining policies and proposing legislation, hence proposing goals, conducting, promoting, orienting, providing a vision—namely, reducing the loss of lives and livelihoods as part of sustainable development—also, raising awareness and educating on the topic and addressing the ethical perspective that motivates and facilitates engagement by citizens.
To manage involves, among other things, proposing organizational and technical arrangements, as well as regulations allowing the implementation of policies and legislation. Also, it involves monitoring and supervising such implementation to draw further lessons to periodically enhance the policies, legislation, regulations, and organizational and technical arrangements.
UNISDR was established in 2000 to promote and facilitate risk reduction, becoming in a few years one of the main promoters of risk governance in the world and the main global advocate from within the United Nations system. It was an honor to serve as the first director of the UNISDR (2001–2011).
A first lesson to be drawn from this experience was the need to identify, understand, and address the obstacles not allowing the implementation of what seems to be obvious to the scientific community but of difficult implementation by governments, private sector, and civil society; and alternatively, the reasons for shortcomings and weaknesses in risk governance.
A second lesson identified was that risk related to natural phenomena also provides lessons for governance related to other types of risk in society—environmental, financial, health, security, etc., each a separate and specialized topic, sharing, however, common risk governance approaches.
A third lesson was the relevance of understanding leadership and management as essential components in governance. Drawing lessons on one’s own experience is always risky as it involves some subjectivity in the analysis. In the article, the aim has, nonetheless, been at the utmost objectivity on the essential learnings in having conducted the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction—UNISDR—from 2001 to around 2009 when leading and managing was shared with another manager, as I prepared for retirement in 2011.
Additional lessons are identified, including those related to risk governance as it is academically conceived, hence, what risk governance includes and how it has been implemented by different international, regional, national, and local authorities. Secondly, I identify those lessons related to the experience of leading and managing an organization focused on disaster risk at the international level and in the context of the United Nations system.
Risk reduction is a policy priority in governments at all levels. Building community resilience is one of the keys to reducing disaster risks. Resilience-focused risk reduction considers the wider social, political, and cultural environments of a community and emphasizes the importance of working with community members. This is in stark contrast to the previous vulnerability-focused risk management that treats disasters as unavoidable natural events and recognizes people as passive or helpless under the unavoidable disasters.
Community resilience is a critical concept in identifying visions and directions for risk reduction strategies. Community resilience has two major qualities: inherent community conditions (inherent resilience) and the community’s adaptive capacity (adaptive resilience). There are at least four components that should be included in risk reduction strategies to enhance both inherent and adaptive community resilience: risk governance, community-based risk reduction policies, non-governmental disaster entrepreneurs, and people-centered risk reduction measures.
Risk governance is required to bridge the gap between national policies and local practices, scientific knowledge of natural hazards and locally accumulated knowledge, and national assistance and local actions. Community-based risk reduction policies should complement national disaster policies to reflect locally specific patterns of hazard, exposure, and resilience that are otherwise ignored in policy design process at the international and national levels. Risk reduction strategies should also encourage emergence of non-governmental entrepreneurs who can contribute to the speed and success of community relief and recovery following a disaster by resolving the immediate needs of the affected communities and transitioning people toward autonomy and self-reliance. Finally, risk reduction strategies should include people-centered policy measures that are designed to change the awareness, attitudes, and behaviors of people so that they are more prepared when facing a disaster.
Parvin Sultana and Paul Thompson
Floodplains are ecologically diverse and important sources of livelihood for rural people. Bangladesh is one of the most floodplain-dominated countries and supports the highest density of rural population in the world. The experience of Bangladesh in floodplain management efforts provides evidence, lessons, and insights on a range of debates and advances in the management of floodplain natural resources, the challenges of climate change, and the role of local communities in sustaining these resources and thereby their livelihoods. Although floodplain areas are primarily used for agriculture, the significance and value of wild common natural resources—mainly fish and aquatic plants—as sources of income and nutrition for floodplain inhabitants has been underrecognized in the past, particularly with respect to poorer households. For example, capture fisheries—a common resource—have been adversely impacted by the building of embankments and sluice gates and by the conversion of floodplains into aquaculture farms, which also exclude poor subsistence users from wetland resources. More generally, an overreliance on engineering “solutions” to flooding that focused on enabling more secure rice cultivation was criticized, particularly in the early 1990s during the Flood Action Plan, for being top down and for ignoring some of the most vulnerable people who live on islands in the braided main rivers. Coastal embankments have also been found to have longer term environmental impacts that undermine their performance because they constrain rivers, which silt up outside these polders, contributing, along with land shrinkage, to drainage congestion. Locals responded in an innovative way by breaking embankments to allow flood water and silt deposition in to regain relative land levels.
Since the early 1990s Bangladesh has adopted a more participatory approach to floodplain management, piloting and then expanding new approaches; these have provided lessons that can be more general applied within Asia and beyond. Participatory planning for water and natural resource management has also been adopted at the local level. Good practices have been developed to ensure that disadvantaged, poor stakeholders can articulate their views and find consensus with other local stakeholders. The management of smaller water-control projects (up to 1,000 ha) has been taken on by community organizations, and in larger water-control projects, there is collaborative management (also called “co-management”) among a hierarchy of groups and associations and the appropriate government agency. In fishery and wetland management, many areas have been managed by community organizations to sustainably restore common resources, although their rights to do this were lost in some cases. Associated with community management are successful experiments in adopting a more system-based approach, called “integrated floodplain management,” which balances the needs of agriculture and common natural resources, for example, by adopting crops with lower water demands that are resilient to less predictable rainfall and drier winters, and enable communities to preserve surface water for wild aquatic resources. Bangladesh also has had success in demonstrating the benefits of systematic learning among networks of community organizations, which enhances innovation and adaptation to the ever-changing environmental challenges in floodplains.
Marian Muste and Ton Hoitink
With a continuous global increase in flood frequency and intensity, there is an immediate need for new science-based solutions for flood mitigation, resilience, and adaptation that can be quickly deployed in any flood-prone area. An integral part of these solutions is the availability of river discharge measurements delivered in real time with high spatiotemporal density and over large-scale areas. Stream stages and the associated discharges are the most perceivable variables of the water cycle and the ones that eventually determine the levels of hazard during floods. Consequently, the availability of discharge records (a.k.a. streamflows) is paramount for flood-risk management because they provide actionable information for organizing the activities before, during, and after floods, and they supply the data for planning and designing floodplain infrastructure. Moreover, the discharge records represent the ground-truth data for developing and continuously improving the accuracy of the hydrologic models used for forecasting streamflows. Acquiring discharge data for streams is critically important not only for flood forecasting and monitoring but also for many other practical uses, such as monitoring water abstractions for supporting decisions in various socioeconomic activities (from agriculture to industry, transportation, and recreation) and for ensuring healthy ecological flows. All these activities require knowledge of past, current, and future flows in rivers and streams.
Given its importance, an ability to measure the flow in channels has preoccupied water users for millennia. Starting with the simplest volumetric methods to estimate flows, the measurement of discharge has evolved through continued innovation to sophisticated methods so that today we can continuously acquire and communicate the data in real time. There is no essential difference between the instruments and methods used to acquire streamflow data during normal conditions versus during floods. The measurements during floods are, however, complex, hazardous, and of limited accuracy compared with those acquired during normal flows. The essential differences in the configuration and operation of the instruments and methods for discharge estimation stem from the type of measurements they acquire—that is, discrete and autonomous measurements (i.e., measurements that can be taken any time any place) and those acquired continuously (i.e., estimates based on indirect methods developed for fixed locations). Regardless of the measurement situation and approach, the main concern of the data providers for flooding (as well as for other areas of water resource management) is the timely delivery of accurate discharge data at flood-prone locations across river basins.
Seth Guikema and Roshanak Nateghi
Natural disasters can have significant widespread impacts on society, and they often lead to loss of electric power for a large number of customers in the most heavily impacted areas. In the United States, severe weather and climate events have been the leading cause of major outages (i.e., more than 50,000 customers affected), leading to significant socioeconomic losses. Natural disaster impacts can be modeled and probabilistically predicted prior to the occurrence of the extreme event, although the accuracy of the predictive models will vary across different types of disasters. These predictions can help utilities plan for and respond to extreme weather and climate events, helping them better balance the costs of disaster responses with the need to restore power quickly. This, in turn, helps society recover from natural disasters such as storms, hurricanes, and earthquakes more efficiently. Modern Bayesian methods may provide an avenue to further improve the prediction of extreme event impacts by allowing first-principles structural reliability models to be integrated with field-observed failure data.
Climate change and climate nonstationarity pose challenges for natural hazards risk assessment, especially for hydrometeorological hazards such as tropical cyclones and floods, although the link between these types of hazards and climate change remains highly uncertain and the topic of many research efforts. A sensitivity-based approach can be taken to understand the potential impacts of climate change-induced alterations in natural hazards such as hurricanes. This approach gives an estimate of the impacts of different potential changes in hazard characteristics, such as hurricane frequency, intensity, and landfall location, on the power system, should they occur. Further research is needed to better understand and probabilistically characterize the relationship between climate change and hurricane intensity, frequency, and landfall location, and to extend the framework to other types of hydroclimatological events.
Underlying the reliability of power systems in the United States is a diverse set of regulations, policies, and rules governing electric power system reliability. An overview of these regulations and the challenges associated with current U.S. regulatory structure is provided. Specifically, high-impact, low-frequency events such as hurricanes are handled differently in the regulatory structure; there is a lack of consistency between bulk power and the distribution system in terms of how their reliability is regulated. Moreover, the definition of reliability used by the North American Reliability Corporation (NERC) is at odds with generally accepted definitions of reliability in the broader reliability engineering community. Improvements in the regulatory structure may have substantial benefit to power system customers, though changes are difficult to realize.
Overall, broader implications are raised for modeling other types of natural hazards. Some of the key takeaway messages are the following: (1) the impacts natural hazard on infrastructure can be modeled with reasonable accuracy given sufficient data and modern risk analysis methods; (2) there are substantial data on the impacts of some types of natural hazards on infrastructure; and (3) appropriate regulatory frameworks are needed to help translate modeling advances and insights into decreased impacts of natural hazards on infrastructure systems.
Tropical cyclones (TCs) in their most intense expression (hurricanes or typhoons) are the main natural hazards known to humankind. The impressive socioeconomic consequences for countries dealing with TCs make our ability to model these organized convective structures a key issue to better understanding their nature and their interaction with the climate system. The destructive effects of TCs are mainly caused by three factors: strong wind, storm surge, and extreme precipitation. These TC-induced effects contribute to the annual worldwide damage of the order of billions of dollars and a death toll of thousands of people. Together with the development of tools able to simulate TCs, an accurate estimate of the impact of global warming on TC activity is thus not only of academic interest but also has important implications from a societal and economic point of view. The aim of this article is to provide a description of the TC modeling implementations available to investigate present and future climate scenarios.
The two main approaches to dynamically model TCs under a climate perspective are through hurricane models and climate models. Both classes of models evaluate the numerical equations governing the climate system. A hurricane model is an objective tool, designed to simulate the behavior of a tropical cyclone representing the detailed time evolution of the vortex. Considering the global scale, a climate model can be an atmosphere (or ocean)-only general circulation model (GCM) or a fully coupled general circulation model (CGCM). To improve the ability of a climate model in representing small-scale features, instead of a general circulation model, a regional model (RM) can be used: this approach makes it possible to increase the spatial resolution, reducing the extension of the domain considered. In order to be able to represent the tropical cyclone structure, a climate model needs a sufficiently high horizontal resolution (of the order of tens of kilometers) leading to the usage of a great deal of computational power.
Both tools can be used to evaluate TC behavior under different climate conditions. The added value of a climate model is its ability to represent the interplay of TCs with the climate system, namely two-way relationships with both atmosphere and ocean dynamics and thermodynamics. In particular, CGCMs are able to take into account the well-known feedback between atmosphere and ocean components induced by TC activity and also the TC–related remote impacts on large-scale atmospheric circulation.
The science surrounding TCs has developed in parallel with the increasing complexity of the mentioned tools, both in terms of progress in explaining the physical processes involved and the increased availability of computational power. Many climate research groups around the world, dealing with such numerical models, continuously provide data sets to the scientific community, feeding this branch of climate change science.
Managing the risks of climate change partly involves setting and implementing regulatory standards that help to diminish the causes of climate change. This means setting regulatory standards that require businesses to emit fewer pollutants, most notably carbon dioxide. In large federalist systems like the United States and the European Union, this regulation is produced by a variety of institutional structures and policy instruments as well. In the United States, federal regulations often encompass stricter standards with less flexibility; these standards have direct impacts on the relevant regulated interests, but they also influence the content and structure of non-governmental regulations, such as those promulgated by NGOs or industry trade associations. This influential “shadow of hierarchy” can be witnessed in both the U.S. and E.U.
However, at a more local level, businesses and governments do not solely operate within the confines of strict, hierarchical regulation. Both sets of organizations join together horizontally to form compacts and regulatory networks that are often characterized more by guidance, soft law and collaborative efforts. While such institutions can be a welcome and effective complement to stricter, hierarchical regulation, such networks require high levels of trust and goal congruence to overcome the potential collective action problems that are inherently possible in such networks. Finally, the conditions under which networks and hierarchies both develop to construct environmental regulatory policies will depend on the dynamics of the policy process as well. Under ordinary circumstances, diverging preferences and collective action problems may create the foundation for more incremental and weaker regulatory standards, whereas an environmental disaster might create a groundswell of support for strict, judicially binding legislation. In this way, policy processes affect the structure of hierarchies and networks and ultimately the shape of regulations designed to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Anna Murgatroyd and Simon Dadson
Flooding is a natural hazard with the potential to cause damage at the local, national, and global scale. Flooding is a natural product of heavy precipitation and increased runoff. It may also arise from elevated groundwater tables, coastal inundation, or failed drainage systems. Flooded areas can be identified as land beyond the channel network covered by water. Although flooding can cause significant damage to urban developments and infrastructure, it may be beneficial to the natural environment. Preemptive actions may be taken to protect communities at risk of inundation that are not able to relocate to an area not at risk of flooding. Adaptation measures include flood defenses, river channel modification, relocation, and active warning systems. Natural flood management (NFM) interventions are designed to restore, emulate, or enhance catchment processes. Such interventions are common in upper reaches of the river and in areas previously transformed by agriculture and urban development. Natural techniques can be categorized into three groups: water retention through management of infiltration and overland flow, managing channel connectivity and conveyance, and floodplain conveyance and storage. NFM may alter land use, improve land management, repair river channel morphology, enhance the riparian habitat, enrich floodplain vegetation, or alter land drainage. The range of natural flood management options allows a diverse range of flood hazards to be considered. As a consequence, there is an abundance of NFM case studies from contrasting environments around the globe, each addressing a particular set of flood risks. Much of the research supporting the use of NFM highlights both the benefits and costs of working with natural processes to reduce flood hazards in the landscape. However, there is a lack of quantitative evidence of the effectiveness of measures, both individually and in combination, especially at the largest scales and for extreme floods. Most evidence is based on modeling studies and observations often relate to a specific set of upstream measures that are challenging to apply elsewhere.
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 risk management has developed in conjunction with broader risk management theory and practice. Thus, it reflects a discourse that has characterized this field, particularly in the last decades of the 20th century. Effective implementation of natural hazards risk management strategies requires an understanding of underlying assumptions inherent to specific methodologies, as well as an explication of the process and the challenges embodied in specific approaches to risk mitigation.
Historical thinking on risk, as it has unfolded in the last few hundred years, has been exemplified by a juxtaposition between positivist and post-positivist approaches to risk that dominated the risk discourse in the late 20th century. Evolution of the general concept of risk and the progress of scientific rationality modified the relationship of people to natural hazard disasters. The epistemology, derived from a worldview that champions objective knowledge gained through observation and analysis of the predicable phenomena in the world surrounding us, has greatly contributed to this change of attitude. Notwithstanding its successes, the approach has been challenged by the complexity of natural hazard risk and by the requirement for democratic risk governance. The influence of civic movements and social scientists entering the risk management field led to the current approach, which incorporates values and value judgments into risk management decision making. The discourse that generated those changes can be interpreted as positivist vs. post-positivist, influenced by concepts of sustainability and resilience, and generating some common principles, particularly relevant for policy and planning. Examples from different countries, such as New Zealand, illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of the current theory and practice of natural hazards risk management and help identify challenges for the 21st century.
Dewald van Niekerk and Livhuwani David Nemakonde
The sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region, along with the rest of the African continent, is prone to a wide variety of natural hazards. Most of these hazards and the associated disasters are relatively silent and insidious, encroaching on life and livelihoods, increasing social, economic, and environmental vulnerability even to moderate events. With the majority of SSA’s disasters being of hydrometeorological origin, climate change through an increase in the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events is likely to exacerbate the situation. Whereas a number of countries in SSA face significant governance challenges to effectively respond to disasters and manage risk reduction measures, considerable progress has been made since the early 2000s in terms of policies, strategies, and/or institutional mechanisms to advance disaster risk reduction and disaster risk management. As such, most countries in SSA have developed/reviewed policies, strategies, and plans and put in place institutions with dedicated staffs and resources for natural hazard management. However, the lack of financial backing, limited skills, lack of coordination among sectors, weak political leadership, inadequate communication, and shallow natural hazard risk assessment, hinders effective natural hazard management in SSA.
The focus here is on the governance of natural hazards in the sub-Saharan Africa region, and an outline of SSA’s natural hazard profile is presented. Climate change is increasing the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events, thus influencing the occurrence of natural hazards in this region. Also emphasized are good practices in natural hazard governance, and SSA’s success stories are described. Finally, recommendations on governance arrangements for effective implementation of disaster risk reduction initiatives and measures are provided.
Natural hazards have repercussions that reverberate to the political level. Their adverse socio-economic impacts could undermine political support from key fractions in society. Governments, aware of this, have incentives to ease the adverse social impacts of natural hazards. However, the channels of impact from natural hazards to voter and government behavior are complex, indirect, and nonlinear. More than their immediate impact, therefore, major natural hazards contain important symbolic and mythological power that can sway public opinion and influence disaster policies for years to come.
John Minnery and Iraphne Childs
Natural hazards governance varies across Australia for two critical reasons: first, the country’s large size and latitudinal range; and second, its divided federal government structure. The first feature—the magnitude and latitudinal spread—results in a number of climatic zones, from the tropical north, through the sub-tropics, to temperate southern zones and the arid central deserts. Consequently, state and local government jurisdictions must respond to different natural hazard types and variable seasonality. In addition, the El Niño-La Niña southern oscillation cycle has a strong impact. Flooding can occur throughout the continent and is the most frequent natural hazard and most extensive in scope, although extreme heat events cause the greatest number of fatalities. In summer, cyclones frequently occur in northern Australia and severe bushfires in the southeast and southwest. Hence, governance structures and disaster response mechanisms across Australia, while sharing many similarities, of necessity vary according to hazard type in different geographical locations. Climatological hazards dominate the range and occurrence of hazard events in Australia: floods, cyclones, storms, storm surge, drought, extreme heat events, and bushfire (but local landslips and earthquakes also occur).
The second major reason for variation is that Australia has three formal levels of government (national, State, and local) with each having their own responsibilities and resources. The national government has constitutional powers only over matters of national importance or those which cross State boundaries. In terms of hazards governance, it can advise and support the states but is intimately involved only with major hazards. The six States have the principal constitutional responsibility for hazards planning, usually with a responsible State minister, and each can have a different approach. The strong vertical fiscal imbalance among the levels of government does give the national government powerful financial leverage. Local governments are the front-line hazards planning and management authorities, but because they represent local communities their approaches and capacities vary enormously. There are a number of ways in which the resultant potential for fragmentation is addressed. Regional groupings of local governments (usually assisted by the relevant state government) can work together. State governments collaborate through joint Ministerial meetings and policies. The intergovernmental Council of Australian Governments has produced a National Strategy for Disaster Resilience, which guides each state’s approach. Under these circumstances a clear national hierarchical chain of command is not possible, but serious efforts have been made to work collaboratively.
The responsibility for hazard governance in Canada is indirectly determined by the division of subjects in the Constitution Act of 1867. This is because emergency management is not a distinct constitutional subject, and therefore it is a matter of assessing which subjects are most related to the practices of emergency management. As a result of this uncertainty both the provincial and federal governments have emergency management legislation. The various provincial legislation and the federal Emergencies Act of 1988 are primarily focused on providing for the use of extraordinary powers as part of crisis response. The federal Emergency Management Act 2008 does take a more comprehensive approach that includes hazard mitigation, but its reach only extends to federal departments.
The governance tools most applicable to hazard management, such as land-use planning and zoning, are normally found within the Provinces’ planning or municipal legislation. The planning legislation empowers local authorities to manage development and its interaction with the natural environment. However, these powers are seldom directed towards hazard mitigation. If there is a reference to natural hazards in the planning legislation it is usually to specific risks, such as flooding or slope failure, that are spatially bounded risks to development.
This separation of hazard governance in the legislation is reflected in local government practices. In most provinces emergency managers are not required by their respective legislation to incorporate hazard mitigation into community emergency programs. The planning legislation, however, seldom extends the community planner’s mandate for mitigation beyond the concerns for safe building sites and the separation of incompatible land uses. The responsibility to prevent human development from interacting with the extremes of the natural environment, or more succinctly “hazard governance,” is not clearly assigned in Canada.
Timothy Sim and Jun Lei Yu
China is a vast country frequently impacted by multiple natural hazards. All natural disasters have been reported in China, except volcanic eruptions. Almost every region in China is threatened by at least one type of natural hazard, and the rural areas are most vulnerable, with fewer resources and less developed disaster protective measures as well as lower levels of preparedness.
In the first 30 years since its establishment in 1949, the Chinese government, hindered by resource constraints, encouraged local communities to be responsible for disaster response. As the country’s economy grew exponentially, after it opened its doors to the world in the late 1970s, China’s natural hazard governance (NHG) system quickly became more top-down, with the government leading the way for planning, coordinating, directing, and allocating resources for natural disasters.
The development of China’s NHG is linked to the evolution of its ideologies, legislation system, and organizational structures for disaster management. Ancient China’s disaster management was undergirded by the ideology that one accepted one’s fate passively in the event of a disaster. In contemporary China, three ideologies guide the NHG: (a) passive disaster relief characterized by “help oneself by engaging in production”; (b) active disaster management characterized by “emergency management”; and (c) optimized disaster risk governance characterized by “multiple stakeholders working together.” Meanwhile, the NHG legislation and systems have become more open, transparent, and integrated one over time.
Evidenced by the unprecedented growth of social organizations and private companies that engaged in disaster-related activities during and after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, discussions on integrating bottom-up capacities with the top-down system have increased recently. The Chinese government started purchasing services from social organizations and engaging them in building disaster model communities (officially known as “Comprehensive Disaster Reduction Demonstration Communities”) in recent years. These are, potentially, two specific ways for social organizations to contribute to China’s NHG system development.
Enrique A. Castellanos Abella and Benjamin Wisner
Natural hazard governance in Cuba elicits widely differing commentaries. While some experts praise it as an extension of state commitment to social welfare, others debate the ethics, necessity, and utility of forced evacuation. However, many disaster experts are unaware of the long-term development of disaster reduction in the country—how Cuban risk governance has evolved in a unique geopolitical and social environment. Mass mobilization to prepare for military invasion and prior response to hurricane disaster provided the foundation for Cuba’s contemporary focus on disaster risk reduction. A pragmatic analysis of the development of natural hazard governance in Cuba and its components reveals key factors for its success in protecting lives. Deployment of local risk management centers, nationwide multi-hazard risk assessment, and early warning systems are recognized as important factors for the effectiveness of disaster reduction in the country. The number of scientific organizations collecting data and carrying out research is also a factor in the reduction of disaster impact and increases the level of resiliency. Over time, an increasing number of organizations and population groups have become involved in risk governance. Risk communication is used as a tool for keeping popular risk perception at an effective level, and for encouraging effective self-protection during hazard events. The continuous development and improvement of a multilateral framework for natural hazards governance is also among the important components of disaster risk reduction in Cuba.
However, the economic crisis that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union and the long-lasting U.S. government blockade have been constraints on economic development and disaster risk reduction. These geopolitical and macroeconomic realities must be recognized as the main causes of the large economic losses and slow recovery after a natural hazard impact. Nevertheless, disaster recovery is carried out at the highest level of management with the goal of reducing vulnerability as much as possible to avoid future losses. Despite economic losses due to natural disasters, Cuban governance of natural hazards is evaluated as a success by most organizations and experts worldwide.
Natural hazards have evolved from being the responsibility of subnational governments—if the government intervened all—to become a core function of national governments. The cost of disaster losses has increased over time in states with developed economies, even as fewer lives are lost. Increasing losses are caused by an increasing number of extreme weather events, which wreak havoc on urbanizing populations that build expensive structures in vulnerable locations. Hazards governance attempts to use political and organizational tools to mitigate or prevent damage and bounce back when disasters occur. In large and developed states, authority for hazards governance is fragmented across levels of government, as well as the private sector, which controls much of the infrastructure and property that is subject to losses.
The political consequences of disaster losses are mixed and depend on contextual factors: sometimes politicians, government agencies, and nonprofit and voluntary organizations are blamed for failures on their watch, and sometimes they are rewarded for coming to the rescue. The study of disasters has become more interdisciplinary over time as scholars seek to integrate the study of natural hazards with socio-political systems. The future of hazards governance research lies in improving understanding of how to manage multiple, overlapping risks over a period of time beyond next election cycle, and across levels of government and the private sector.
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.
The earthquakes that occurred in Mexico in September 1985 represent a breaking point in the public policies associated with disasters.
As a result of these events and their fatal human and material consequences, the federal government created mechanisms to institutionalize disaster response, reinforced the monitoring and generation of knowledge about natural hazards, and, furthermore, developed financial mechanisms to handle the rehabilitation and reconstruction post-disaster. In the scientific field, the earthquakes of 1985 also gave a strong impetus to academic research in some disciplines of natural science that were being conducted in the main universities of the country.
Over the years, and with the occurrence of new disasters, both public policies and the focus of research have achieved significant progress in some areas that have even earned excellent reputations internationally, including, among others, the creation of financial mechanisms to face high levels of material damage in intensive disasters and the development of anti-seismic materials and construction techniques.
Less remarkable progress exists in the design of policies to address the “roots” of risk and, consequently, in stopping the growing trend of disaster occurrences and the accumulation of damages and losses. Issues such as the marginalization of millions of people, the chaotic growth of cities, the informality in land occupation, as well as severe levels of environmental degradation throughout the country have been systematically ignored despite the existence of a broad knowledge and evidence that can feed the design of public policies for risk integral attention.
The profile that disaster risk management has acquired in Mexico is not exclusive. It is a response to an international dynamic where the predominance of “technocratic” solutions to disasters and the “physicalist” approach in the generation of knowledge seems to be returning. Currently, principles such as the social dimension of risk and disasters; the questioning of the economic growth models based on inequality; and the need for protection of natural resources as a public good are overwhelmed by the world of the insurance that has gained ground in protecting the interests of government and big business but not those of the millions of people who live in risky conditions. Not even the evidence on global warming, which can increase the intensity of some hazards and their impact on millions of people, has been able to contain the surge of the international financial sector and the design of selective and short-sighted mitigation mechanisms.
Natural hazards in Nepal have traditionally been managed on an ad hoc basis as and when they occur, with individuals and communities largely responsible for their own risk management. More recently, however, there has been a shift from response to disaster preparedness and risk reduction, in line with the United Nations Hyogo Framework for Action and the more recent Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). Like many developing countries, Nepal has received significant financial and technical support to implement DRR programs from the national to the community levels. While this has provided a much-needed incentive for action in this post-conflict, transitional state, it has also created a complex governance landscape involving a multitude of government and non-government stakeholders. Heavily influenced by the neoliberal development agenda, and in the absence of an up-to-date disaster management act, DRR programs focused largely on institution-building and technical interventions, for example, the establishment of disaster management committees, the retrofitting of schools and hospitals, and the development of flood early warning systems. Such interventions are highly technocratic and have been critiqued for failing to address the root causes of disasters, in particular, the systemic poverty, social inequality and marginalization that characterizes Nepal. Nepal is also undergoing a complex political transition, which has seen the ratification of a new constitution, federal restructuring, and local elections for the first time in 20 years, as well as the passing of the new Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act 2017. There is much scope for optimism but successful risk reduction moving forward will require commitment and action at all levels of the governance hierarchy, and a wider commitment to address the social injustice that continues to prevail.
Steve I. Onu
Nigeria, like many other countries in sub–Saharan Africa, is exposed to natural hazards and disaster events, the most prominent being soil and coastal erosion, flooding, desertification, drought, air pollution as a result of gas flaring, heatwaves, deforestation, and soil degradation due to oil spillage. These events have caused serious disasters across the country. In the southeast region, flooding and gully erosion have led to the displacement of communities. In the Niger Delta region, oil exploration has destroyed the mangrove forests as well as the natural habitat for fishes and other aquatic species and flora. In northern Nigeria, desert encroachment, deforestation, and drought have adversely affected agricultural production, thereby threatening national food security.
The federal government, through its agencies, has produced and adopted policies and enacted laws and regulations geared towards containing the disastrous effects of natural hazards on the environment. The federal government collaborates with international organizations, such as the World Bank, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Center for Infectious Disease Research (CIDR), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations High Commission for Refugees UNHCR, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), to address disaster-related problems induced by natural hazards.
However, government efforts have not yielded the desired results due to inter-agency conflicts, corruption, low political will, and lack of manpower capacity for disaster management.
There is a need for a good governance system for natural hazards prevention and reduction in the country. This will require inter-agency synergy, increased funding of agencies, capacity building, and public awareness/participation.