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Mihir Bhatt, Ronak B. Patel, Kelsey Gleason, and Mehul Pandya
Both the impact and the frequency of natural disasters and extreme events in South Asia are steadily increasing due to growing exposure and vulnerability. These vulnerabilities are compounded by fast economic growth and an increase in natural disasters across the region. Disaster losses in South Asia are rising and are felt across many domains. From the formal to the informal economy, natural disasters have increasingly strong impacts in terms of lives lost, social impact, and impediments to growth. New challenges in disaster risk reduction are emerging due to an increase in the duration and frequency of natural disaster events attributable to climate change. Though both climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction efforts exist to some degree throughout South Asia, integrating climate change adaptation into disaster risk reduction is critical to successful and inclusive growth of economies in the region. Challenges remain, and national and subnational governments are making some progress in policies aimed at both climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. However, many of these efforts are planned, designed, and implemented separately, with limited understanding of how disaster and climate risk are linked. Moreover, progress is hindered by poor understanding of how integration of these concepts can result in better governance of risk in South Asia. Additionally, political will, capacity constraints, and institutional barriers must be overcome. Efforts by the international community are making progress in unifying these concepts, yet gaps and challenges still exist. The benefits of converging climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction in Asia are significant, from minimizing climate-related losses to more efficient use of limited resources and more effective and sustainable development.
Jörn Birkmann and Joanna M. McMillan
The concepts of vulnerability, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation are interlinked. Risk reduction requires a focus not just on the hazards themselves or on the people and structures exposed to hazards but on the vulnerability of those exposed. Vulnerability helps with the identification of root causes that make people or structures susceptible to being affected by natural and climate-related hazards. It is therefore an essential component of reducing risk of disasters and of adapting to climate change.
The need to better assess and acknowledge vulnerability has been recognized by several communities of thought and practice, including the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) communities. The concept of vulnerability was introduced during the 1980s as a way to better understand the differential consequences of similar hazard events and differential impacts of climate change on different societies or social groups and physical structures. Since then, the concept gradually became an integral part of discourses around disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Although the history of the emergence of vulnerability concepts and the different perspectives of these communities mean the way they frame vulnerability differs, the academic discourse has reached wide agreement that risk—and actual harm and losses—are not just caused by physical events apparently out of human control but primarily by what is exposed and vulnerable to those events.
In the international policy arena, vulnerability, risk, and adaptation concepts are now integrated into the global agenda on sustainable development, disaster risk reduction, and climate change. In the context of international development projects and financial aid, the terms and concepts are increasingly used and applied. However, there is still too little focus on addressing underlying vulnerabilities.
Federico Marco Federici
Communication underpins all phases of disaster risk reduction: it is at the heart of risk mitigation, by increasing resilience and preparedness, and by interacting with affected communities in the response phase and throughout the reconstruction and recovery after a disaster. Communication does not alter the scope or severity of a disaster triggered by natural hazards, but the extent to which risk reduction strategies impact on affected regions depends greatly on existing differences inherent in the society of these regions. Ethnic minorities and multilingual language groups―which are not always one and the same―may become vulnerable groups when there has been little or no planning or no awareness of the impact of limited access to trustworthy information when the disaster strikes.
Furthermore, large-scale disasters are likely to involve personnel from the humanitarian sector from both local and international offices. Communication in most large-scale events has progressively become multilingual; from the late 20th and early 21st centuries, it is expected that large disasters see collaboration between intergovernmental, governmental, local, national, and international entities that operate in different ways in rescue and relief operations. Regardless of linguistic contexts, communication of reliable information in a trustworthy manner is complex to achieve in the aftermath of a disaster, which may instantaneously affect telecommunication infrastructures (overloading VOIP and GPS systems). From coordination to information, clear communication plays a role in any activity intending to reduce risks, damages, morbidity, and mortality. Achieving clear communication in crisis management is a feat in a monolingual context: people from different organizations and with different capacities in multi-agency operations have at least a common language, nonetheless, terminology varies from one organization to another, thus hampering successful communication. Achieving effective and clear communication with multilingual communities, while using one language (or lingua franca), such as English, Arabic, Spanish, or Hindi, depending on the region, is impossible without due consideration to language translation.
Natural hazard governance has become complicated. This is because many recent disasters had the biggest impact in urban areas with a large concentration of people heavily dependent on infrastructure and services. The rapid urbanization, population increase, development of critical engineering works, industrialization of cities with modern types of buildings, and the concentration of population living in hazardous areas are matter of growing concern, as they are likely to contribute to heavier loss of life and increasing economic losses in future disaster damage. The El-Asnam (formerly Orléansville) earthquake of October 10, 1980 (Ms 7.4) raised the awareness of both the Algerian government and the civil society of the need for disaster risk reduction policy. Since then, disaster risk reduction has been on the agenda of the government programs, and concrete measures have been undertaken in organization, legislation, institutions, training, education, communication, and information. The government has made significant efforts to improve the natural hazard governance. It has made a substantial impact on academic research and higher education in some disciplines of engineering and natural science in the country’s largest universities. Risk governance for natural hazard in Algeria will be seen here in light of the implementation mechanisms, the main achievements and progress, the new legal and regulatory tools and mechanisms, and cooperation aspects. In conclusion there will be a discussion about global evaluation and perspectives.
Paul Raschky and Sommarat Chantarat
ASEAN countries are frequently hit by a variety of natural disasters, and a large fraction of economic activity in ASEAN countries is located in areas exposed to these natural perils. Increasing disaster damages require ASEA countries to manage the financial losses in a more efficient and proactive manner. Currently, most risk-transfer mechanisms in this region rely on ad-hoc government relief, which is not sustainable. Multilateral cooperation in the areas of risk-modeling and mapping as well as joint efforts to establish financial risk-transfer solutions could help to overcome existing challenges in this area.
Thomas Smucker, Maingi Solomon, and Benjamin Wisner
A growing number of civil society actors across the African continent are in the forefront of disaster risk reduction (DRR) engagements that span service delivery, humanitarian response, community mobilization, capacity building, and policy advocacy. Their roles include valorization of local knowledge and harnessing pressure for transformative change. All of this contributes to natural hazard governance. In contrast to early post-colonial dominance by central governments, natural hazard governance across the continent has gradually been dispersed downward to local institutions and outward to civil society. A series of factors has shaped African civil society and its engagement with DRR-related activities since the 2000s, including heavy debt burdens, neoliberal market reforms, the formation of substantial national NGO sectors out of diverse social movements, and the growth of international humanitarian networks with substantial African presence. Although country- and region-specific political dynamics have created different pathways for civil society engagement with DRR, macro forces have produced strong overarching similarities in state–civil society interaction, particularly with regard to the shrinking of the state and a movement toward technical approaches in DRR. Common pressures of debt, violent conflict, mega-project investment, corruption, and the “natural resource curse” have inflected state–non-state relations because some civil society organizations in all regions have had to become advocates of “another development” and critics of business-as-usual. Within such limitations, practitioners have much to learn from best practices of a diverse set of organizations that span the continent.
Allison Rowlands and Benjamin Wisner
International nongovernmental organizations (INGOs), national nongovernmental organizations (NNGOs), as well as faith-based and community-based organizations play a vital role in natural hazard governance in Asia and the Pacific. One immediately thinks of humanitarian response, and, indeed, these organizations can and do play a role; however, as some Asian nations in particular have developed strong state institutions and have grown in their worldwide and regional economic and political status, civil society’s role has diversified. Among the other functions the nongovernmental sector plays in the mobilization of local people and advocacy for or against policies, it is involved in investment decisions as well as acts as a watchdog regarding the status of human rights in relation to natural hazard exposure and recovery and transparency in the use of disaster risk reduction and recovery funds. This diverse collection of nongovernmental institutions also has a role in knowledge production and access and innovates programs that showcase how governments might break down silos and put action behind the rhetoric of taking an intersectoral, multihazard, integrated approach that combines risk reduction, climate change adaptation (CCA), and livelihood enhancement. Indeed, nongovernmental actors also push for societal transformation as they work on issues of discrimination, inequity, electoral transparency, and human rights. These issues are among the root causes of the structural vulnerability of some groups in society to natural hazards. While governments in the region sometimes welcome these supplementary and complementary roles by INGOs and NNGOs, they are also a source of government–nongovernmental tension that has to be negotiated.
James Goltz and Katsuya Yamori
Tsunamis are natural hazards that have caused massive destruction and loss of life in coastal areas worldwide for centuries. Major programs promoting tsunami safety, however, date from the early 20th century and have received far greater emphasis following two major events in the opening decade of the 21st century: the Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 26, 2004, and the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011. In the aftermath of these catastrophic disasters, warning systems and the technologies associated with them have expanded from a concentration in the Pacific Ocean to other regions with significant tsunami vulnerability. Preparedness and hazard mitigation programs, once the province of wealthier nations, are now being shared with developing countries. While warning systems and tsunami mapping and modeling are basic tools in promoting tsunami safety, there are a number of strategies that are essential in protecting lives and property in major tsunami events. Preparedness strategies consist of tsunami awareness and education and actions that promote response readiness. These strategies should provide an understanding of how tsunamis occur, where they occur, how to respond to warnings or natural signs that a tsunami may occur, and what locations are safe for evacuation. Hazard mitigation strategies are designed to reduce the likelihood that coastal populations will be impacted by a tsunami, typically through engineered structures or removing communities from known tsunami inundation zones. They include natural or constructed high ground for evacuation, structures for vertical evacuation (either single purpose structures specifically for tsunami evacuation or existing buildings that are resistant to tsunami forces), seawalls, breakwaters, forest barriers, and tsunami river gates. Coastal jurisdictions may also use land-use planning ordinances or coastal zoning to restrict development in areas of significant risk of tsunami inundation. The relative efficacy of these strategies and locations where they have been implemented will be addressed, as will the issues and challenges regarding their implementation.
Nibedita Ray-Bennett, Daniel Mendez, Edris Alam, and Christian Morgner
Although the concept of natural hazard management as the central institutional mode of governance for coping with disasters appeared in the 1970s, inter-agency collaboration in natural hazard management came to the fore with the declaration of the United Nations (UN) Yokohama Strategy in 1994. The Yokohama Strategy focused on collaboration amongst international and regional organizations, donors, early-warning systems, the scientific community and national emergency agencies, among others. The successors of the strategy, the Hyogo Framework for Action launched in 2005, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction in 2015, continue to emphasize the same. Inter-agency collaboration in governing hazard management is a collective effort, and these efforts have been promoted through cooperation, communication, and effective decision making between actors and organizations, enabled by enhanced technology. The content of the UN’s Yokohama Strategy, Hyogo Framework, Sendai Framework, and the cluster system bear this out. However, more research is required to understand the extent to which national governments have translated the UN’s frameworks into action. Studying how governments and responders coordinate and cooperate and what they coordinate, cooperate on, and communicate will clarify the realized processes that underpin hazard management.
Benjamin Wisner, Alonso Brenes, and Victor Marchezini
International nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) and national NGOs (NNGOs) attempt to play many roles in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and governance of natural hazards. Although in this part of the world, disaster risk management has conventionally been the domain of government and military, a number of factors have favored engagement by civil society actors. These factors include increasing budget pressure on governments, in part due to a shift of donor finance from LAC to Africa, that predisposes them to sharing the cost of DRR. Another factor is the growing consensus worldwide that DRR must include proactive preparedness and vulnerability reduction and not simply emergency response. Besides their more recent entry into humanitarian action, civil society actors work in other roles that assist comprehensive, prospective-preventive DRR. These roles include community and local mobilization and bridging between governments and citizens. As advocates, especially in alliance with academia, they attempt to influence national government policy. Some civil society organizations also campaign on issues of malgovernance including corruption that reduce the effectiveness of DRR initiatives. NNGOs also attempt to introduce risk-bearers’ voices, knowledge, and institutional memory to policymakers. They may also help to introduce innovative local governance practices, in particular attempting to link DRR, climate change adaptation (CCA), and development service delivery. Civil society work may show the use of innovative methods and model with pilot projects the integration of DRR, CCA, and enhancement of livelihoods Civil society organizations also contribute to societal transformation through their actions to support transparency, democracy, and distributive and restorative justice.