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Involving People in Informal Settlements in Natural Hazards Governance Based on South African Experience  

Catherine Sutherland

Natural hazard governance in countries in the Global South is shifting from a state-centered approach, which has predominantly focused on disaster risk management, with limited involvement of citizens, and a disaster response to a hazard event, to an approach which is more participatory, inclusive and proactive. This emerging approach aims to be transformative, as it draws on the knowledge and skills of multiple actors, including community members; focuses on risk reduction and adaptation; and builds new models of participatory risk governance at the local and city scale. Progressive legislation has played a major role in supporting this evolution toward a more transformative approach to natural hazard governance, which recognizes the political economy and political ecology of risk. This includes acknowledging the vulnerability of communities in particular contexts, and the need to address development deficits to build resilience in the face of natural hazards. However, a significant gap exists between progressive legislation and policy, and implementation. Informal settlements experience some of the worst impacts of natural hazards due to their exposure, vulnerability, and social and political marginalization. However, they are also resilient and adaptive, developing innovative approaches in partnership with the state and other actors, to plan for and respond to natural hazards. Empirical research on particular case studies where these shifts in governance are evident, is necessary to explore the opportunities for and barriers to transformative, participatory natural hazard governance in cities in the South.

Article

Natural Hazards Governance in China  

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.

Article

Natural Hazards Governance in Mexico  

Elizabeth Mansilla

As a result of the earthquakes that occurred in September 1985 and their human and material consequences, disaster care in Mexico became institutionalized and acquired the rank of public policy when the first national civil protection law was published years later. More than 30 years after the creation of the National Civil Protection System, there have been some important advances; however, they have not been translated into higher levels of safety for populations exposed to risk. On the contrary, the evidence shows that the country’s risk, as well as the number of disasters and associated material losses, increase year by year. To a large extent, this stems from an approach based predominantly on post-disaster response by strengthening preparedness and emergency response capacities and creating financial mechanisms to address reconstruction processes, as opposed to broader approaches seeking to address the root causes of risk and disasters. Post-disaster actions and reconstruction processes have failed to achieve acceptable levels of efficiency, and disorganization and misuse of resources that should benefit disaster-affected populations still prevails.