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Article

Assessment and Adaptation to Climate Change-Related Flood Risks  

Brenden Jongman, Hessel C. Winsemius, Stuart A. Fraser, Sanne Muis, and Philip J. Ward

The flooding of rivers and coastlines is the most frequent and damaging of all natural hazards. Between 1980 and 2016, total direct damages exceeded $1.6 trillion, and at least 225,000 people lost their lives. Recent events causing major economic losses include the 2011 river flooding in Thailand ($40 billion) and the 2013 coastal floods in the United States caused by Hurricane Sandy (over $50 billion). Flooding also triggers great humanitarian challenges. The 2015 Malawi floods were the worst in the country’s history and were followed by food shortage across large parts of the country. Flood losses are increasing rapidly in some world regions, driven by economic development in floodplains and increases in the frequency of extreme precipitation events and global sea level due to climate change. The largest increase in flood losses is seen in low-income countries, where population growth is rapid and many cities are expanding quickly. At the same time, evidence shows that adaptation to flood risk is already happening, and a large proportion of losses can be contained successfully by effective risk management strategies. Such risk management strategies may include floodplain zoning, construction and maintenance of flood defenses, reforestation of land draining into rivers, and use of early warning systems. To reduce risk effectively, it is important to know the location and impact of potential floods under current and future social and environmental conditions. In a risk assessment, models can be used to map the flow of water over land after an intense rainfall event or storm surge (the hazard). Modeled for many different potential events, this provides estimates of potential inundation depth in flood-prone areas. Such maps can be constructed for various scenarios of climate change based on specific changes in rainfall, temperature, and sea level. To assess the impact of the modeled hazard (e.g., cost of damage or lives lost), the potential exposure (including buildings, population, and infrastructure) must be mapped using land-use and population density data and construction information. Population growth and urban expansion can be simulated by increasing the density or extent of the urban area in the model. The effects of floods on people and different types of buildings and infrastructure are determined using a vulnerability function. This indicates the damage expected to occur to a structure or group of people as a function of flood intensity (e.g., inundation depth and flow velocity). Potential adaptation measures such as land-use change or new flood defenses can be included in the model in order to understand how effective they may be in reducing flood risk. This way, risk assessments can demonstrate the possible approaches available to policymakers to build a less risky future.

Article

Gender Mainstreaming and Climate Change  

Margaret Alston

Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by climate change, not because of innate characteristics but as a result of the social structures and cultural norms that shape gender inequalities. Feminist activists and transnational organizations continue to voice their concerns regarding the need for greater attention to gender inequalities in the context of climate change. Gender mainstreaming is a policy process designed to address the gendered consequences of any planned actions—the ultimate aim being to achieve gender equality. Gender mainstreaming emerged in the late 1990s at the Beijing Women’s Conference as a result of the frustrations of feminist activists and international nongovernmental organizations about the lack of attention to gender equality. Yet its implementation has been hampered both by a lack of vision as to its purpose and by ongoing tensions, particularly between those who espouse equality and those who support the mainstream. This has led to resistance to gender mainstreaming within departments and units that are charged with its implementation, and indeed a reluctance of key players to commit to gender equality. Yet there is still strong support for the original feminist intent from activists and researchers addressing the impacts of climate change. The transformational potential of gender mainstreaming is still viewed as a process that could address and challenge gender inequalities in the context of increasing climate challenges. However, there are barriers that must be overcome for the transformational potential of gender mainstreaming to be realized. These include equating climate justice with gender justice, ensuring that the radical feminist intent of gender mainstreaming is not co-opted by the neoliberal agenda of maximizing economic development over gender equality and women’s empowerment, and ensuring that organizations tasked with facilitating gender mainstreaming not only understand its intent but also address gender inequalities within their own organizational structures and practices.

Article

Changing Disaster Vulnerability and Capability in Aging Populations  

Jennifer Whytlaw and Nicole S. Hutton

The aging population, also referred to as elderly or seniors, represents a demographic of growing significance for disaster management. The population pyramid, an important indicator of population growth, stability, and decline, has shifted from the typical pyramid shape into more of a dome shape when viewing trends globally. While these demographic shifts in age structure are unique to individual countries, adjustments in disaster management are needed to reduce the risk of aging populations increasingly affected by hazards. Risk is especially evident when considering where aging populations live, as proximity to environmental hazards such as flooding, tropical storm surge, fires, and extreme weather resulting in heat and cold increase their risk. Aging populations may live alone or together in retirement communities and senior living facilities where the respective isolation or high density of older adults present specific risks. There is a concern in areas with high economic productivity, also considered post-industrial areas, where the population consists more of those who are aging and less of those who are younger to support the labor needs of the market and more specifically to support and engage aging populations. This disparity becomes even more prominent in specific sectors such as healthcare, including senior living assistance. In developing economies, the young are increasingly leaving traditionally intergenerational households to seek greater economic opportunities in cities, leaving many seniors on their own. Thus, risk reduction strategies must be conscious of the needs and contributions of seniors as well as the capacity of the workforce to implement them. The integration of aging populations within disaster management through accommodation and consultation varies across the globe. Provision of services for and personal agency among senior populations can mitigate vulnerabilities associated with age, as well as compounding factors such as medical fragility, societal interaction, and income. Experience, mobility, and socioeconomic capabilities affect decision making and outcomes of aging populations in hazardous settings. Therefore, the means of involvement in disaster planning should be adapted to accommodate the sociocultural, economic, and environmental realities of aging populations.

Article

Natural Hazards Governance in Western Europe  

Florian Roth, Timothy Prior, and Marco Käser

Western Europe is an area dominated by established democratic governments, backed by strong economies, for the most part. Drawing on refined technical risk analyses, preventive measures, and comprehensive resources for emergency response, countries from Western Europe have managed to mitigate the most prevalent and recurring hazards. Over the centuries, European governments have been successful in reducing the death toll related to natural phenomena. This has been achieved by addressing all three dimensions of the risk triangle—hazards, exposure, and vulnerability. However, cultural and political differences result in subtle, but distinct differences in the context of natural hazard governance. While these differences can be considered a strength in dealing with local hazards under specific contexts, they can complicate effective and coordinated prevention, preparedness, and response measures toward large-scale hazards. This is especially the case with transboundary hazards, the regional response to which has strongly influenced hazard governance in Western Europe. Evolving risk circumstances have resulted in constant adaptations in hazard governance in the region, including local, national, and transboundary arrangements, and a more recent re-localization in the face of new complex threats that has fallen under the umbrella of resilience building.

Article

Children, Youth, and Disaster  

Alice Fothergill

Children and youth are greatly affected by disasters, and as climate instability leads to more weather-related disasters, the risks to the youngest members of societies will continue to increase. Children are more likely to live in risky places, such as floodplains, coastal areas, and earthquake zones, and more likely to be poor than other groups of people. While children and youth in industrialized countries are experiencing increased risks, the children and youth in developing countries are the most at risk to disasters. Children and youth are vulnerable before, during, and after a disaster. In a disaster, many children and youth experience simultaneous and ongoing disruptions in their families, schooling, housing, health and access to healthcare, friendships, and other key areas of their lives. Many are at risk to separation from guardians, long-term displacement, injury, illness, and even death. In disaster planning, there is often an assumption that parents will protect their children in a disaster event, and yet children are often separated from their parents when they are at school, childcare centers, home alone, with friends, and at work. Children do not have the resources or independence to prepare for disasters, so they are often reliant on adults to make evacuation decisions, secure shelter, and provide resources. Children also may hide or have trouble articulating their distress to adults after a disaster. In the disaster aftermath, it has been found that children and youth—no matter how personally resilient—cannot fully recover without the necessary resources and social support. Social location—such as social class, race, gender, neighborhood, resources, and networks—prior to a disaster often determines, at least in part, many of the children’s post-disaster outcomes. In other words, age intersects with many other factors. Girls, for example, are at risk to sexual violence and exploitation in some disaster aftermath situations. In addition, a child’s experience in a disaster could also be affected by language, type of housing, immigration status, legal status, and disability issues. Those living in poverty have more difficulties preparing for disasters, do not have the resources to evacuate, and live in lower quality housing that is less able to withstand a disaster. Thus, it is crucial to consider the child’s environment before and after the disaster, to realize that some children experience cumulative vulnerability, or an accumulation of risk factors, and that disasters may occur on top of other crises, such as drought, epidemics, political instability, violence, or a family crisis such as divorce or death. Even as children and youth are vulnerable, they also demonstrate important and often unnoticed capacities, skills, and strengths, as they assist themselves and others before and after disaster strikes. Frequently, children are portrayed as helpless, fragile, passive, and powerless. But children and youth are creative social beings and active agents, and they have played important roles in preparedness activities and recovery for their families and communities. Thus, both children’s vulnerabilities and capacities in disasters should be a research and policy priority.

Article

Managing Vulnerability During Cascading Disasters: Language Access Services  

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.

Article

Physical Vulnerability in Earthquake Risk Assessment  

Abdelghani Meslem and Dominik H. Lang

In the fields of earthquake engineering and seismic risk reduction the term “physical vulnerability” defines the component that translates the relationship between seismic shaking intensity, dynamic structural uake damage and loss assessment discipline in the early 1980s, which aimed at predicting the consequences of earthquake shaking for an individual building or a portfolio of buildings. In general, physical vulnerability has become one of the main key components used as model input data by agencies when developinresponse (physical damage), and cost of repair for a particular class of buildings or infrastructure facilities. The concept of physical vulnerability started with the development of the earthqg prevention and mitigation actions, code provisions, and guidelines. The same may apply to insurance and reinsurance industry in developing catastrophe models (also known as CAT models). Since the late 1990s, a blossoming of methodologies and procedures can be observed, which range from empirical to basic and more advanced analytical, implemented for modelling and measuring physical vulnerability. These methods use approaches that differ in terms of level of complexity, calculation efforts (in evaluating the seismic demand-to-structural response and damage analysis) and modelling assumptions adopted in the development process. At this stage, one of the challenges that is often encountered is that some of these assumptions may highly affect the reliability and accuracy of the resulted physical vulnerability models in a negative way, hence introducing important uncertainties in estimating and predicting the inherent risk (i.e., estimated damage and losses). Other challenges that are commonly encountered when developing physical vulnerability models are the paucity of exposure information and the lack of knowledge due to either technical or nontechnical problems, such as inventory data that would allow for accurate building stock modeling, or economic data that would allow for a better conversion from damage to monetary losses. Hence, these physical vulnerability models will carry different types of intrinsic uncertainties of both aleatory and epistemic character. To come up with appropriate predictions on expected damage and losses of an individual asset (e.g., a building) or a class of assets (e.g., a building typology class, a group of buildings), reliable physical vulnerability models have to be generated considering all these peculiarities and the associated intrinsic uncertainties at each stage of the development process.

Article

Natural Hazards Governance in Democratic States With Developing Economies  

Indrajit Pal

Catastrophic natural disasters have served as reminders of the connection between fragile governments and human losses. Developing economies are impacted most from natural as well as anthropogenic hazards. For example, the Indian Ocean tsunami (2004) claimed 227,898 lives, primarily in three politically fragmented countries with developing economies: Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India; and the 2010 Haiti earthquake affected more than 3 million people and killed between 46,190 and 316,000. According to EM-DAT, the cumulative number of global disaster deaths over the past 30 years was 1,677,000, with an annual average of 54,082 deaths. According to Swiss reinsurance companies, the average global natural disaster insurance loss for the last 10 years (2009–2018) was $67 billion, and global insurance losses accounted for 0.09% of global GDP on average. Over the past decade, “natural” disasters have caused more than 780,000 fatalities and destroyed physical properties worth a minimum of $960 billion. The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) initiated the international disaster governance agenda for the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) global blueprint in 2005 and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) in 2015. Since the HFA, the international disaster risk reduction (DRR) community is increasingly viewing disaster risk management (DRM) as a governance concern. Governments are not a single structure; they are divided into various functions, hierarchies, policies, and responsibilities in working to create resilient communities at various levels (national and subnational). In countries with developing economies, government agencies have a significant role in DRM, which includes community-based organizations, science and technology research institutes, environmental protection agencies, and finance ministries. The existence of disaster management systems able to integrate vertical and horizontal coordination efforts is a critical weakness. Although there has been significant improvement globally in government capacities as well as institutional frameworks and legislative provisions for DRR in recent years, progress has been uneven. National-level policy formulation in a top-down model has often not made a significant impact at lower levels of government, where awareness-raising, training, and capacity-building likely would be significantly addressed. An extensive literature review is provided to help understand decentralized governance and its efficacy for local-level risk management of natural hazards for developing economies. Community risk perceptions and ways to respond to disasters vary from location to location; thus, it is important to implement decentralized policies and customize them to local needs and priorities to achieve low-impact sustainable development.

Article

Collective Choices Affecting Natural Hazards Governance, Risk, and Vulnerability  

Thomas Thaler, David Shively, Jacob Petersen-Perlman, Lenka Slavikova, and Thomas Hartmann

The frequency and severity of extreme weather events are expected to increase due to climate change. These developments and challenges have focused the attention of policymakers on the question of how to manage natural hazards. The main political discourse revolves around the questions of how we can make our society more resilient for possible future events. A central challenge reflects collective choices, which affect natural hazards governance, risk, and individual and societal vulnerability. In particular, transboundary river basins present difficult and challenging decisions at local, regional, national, and international levels as they involve and engage large numbers of stakeholders. Each of these groups has different perspectives and interests in how to design and organize flood risk management, which often hinder transnational collaborations in terms of upstream–downstream or different riverbed cooperation. Numerous efforts to resolve these conflicts have historically been tried across the world, particularly in relation to institutional cooperation. Consequently, greater engagement of different countries in management of natural hazards risks could decrease international conflicts and increase capacity at regional and local levels to adapt to future hazard events. Better understanding of the issues, perspectives, choices, and potential for conflict, and clear sharing of responsibilities, is crucial for reducing impacts of future events at the transboundary level.

Article

Linking Hazard Vulnerability, Risk Reduction, and Adaptation  

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.

Article

Planning Systems for Natural Hazard Risk Reduction  

James C. Schwab

Planning systems are essentially a layer of guidance or legal requirements that sit atop plans of any type at any governmental level at or below the source of that guidance. In the case of natural hazard risk reduction, they involve rules or laws dealing with plans to reduce loss of life or property from such events. In much of the world, this is either unexplored territory or the frontier of public planning; very little of what exists in this realm predates the 1980s, although one can find earlier roots of the public discussion behind such systems. That said, the evolution of such systems in 21st century has been fairly rapid, at least in those nations with the resources and technical capacity to pursue the subject. Driven largely by substantial increases in disaster losses and growing concern about worldwide impacts of climate change, research, technology, and lessons from practice have grown apace. However, that progress has been uneven and subject to inequities in resources and governmental capacity.

Article

Integrating Access and Functional Needs in Community Planning for Natural Hazards  

Nnenia Campbell

Populations that are rendered socially invisible by their relegation to realms that are excluded—either physically or experientially—from the rest of society tend to similarly be left out of community disaster planning, often with dire consequences. Older adults, persons with disabilities, linguistic minorities, and other socially marginalized groups face amplified risks that translate into disproportionately negative outcomes when disasters strike. Moreover, these disparities are often reproduced in the aftermath of disasters, further reinforcing preexisting inequities. Even well-intentioned approaches to disaster service delivery have historically homogenized and segregated distinct populations under the generic moniker of “special needs,” thereby undermining their own effectiveness at serving those in need. The access and functional needs perspective has been promoted within the emergency management field as a practical and inclusive means of accommodating a range of functional capacities in disaster planning. This framework calls for operationalizing needs into specific mechanisms of functional support that can be applied at each stage of the disaster lifecycle. Additionally, experts have emphasized the need to engage advocacy groups, organizations that routinely serve socially marginalized populations, and persons with activity limitations themselves to identify support needs. Incorporating these diverse entities into the planning process can help to build stronger, more resilient communities.

Article

Challenges for Natural Hazard and Risk Management in Mountain Regions of Europe  

Margreth Keiler and Sven Fuchs

European mountain regions are diverse, from gently rolling hills to high mountain areas, and from low populated rural areas to urban regions or from communities dependent on agricultural productions to hubs of tourist industry. Communities in European mountain regions are threatened by different hazard types: for example floods, landslides, or glacial hazards, mostly in a multi-hazard environment. Due to climate change and socioeconomic developments they are challenged by emerging and spatially as well as temporally highly dynamic risks. Consequently, over decades societies in European mountain ranges developed different hazard and risk management strategies on a national to local level, which are presented below focusing on the European Alps. Until the late 19th century, the paradigm of hazard protection was related to engineering measures, mostly implemented in the catchments, and new authorities responsible for mitigation were founded. From the 19th century, more integrative strategies became prominent, becoming manifest in the 1960s with land-use management strategies targeted at a separation of hazardous areas and areas used for settlement and economic purpose. In research and in the application, the concept of hazard mitigation was step by step replaced by the concept of risk. The concept of risk includes three components (or drivers), apart from hazard analysis also the assessment and evaluation of exposure and vulnerability; thus, it addresses in the management of risk reduction all three components. These three drivers are all dynamic, while the concept of risk itself is thus far a static approach. The dynamic of risk drivers is a result of both climate change and socioeconomic change, leading through different combinations either to an increase or a decrease in risk. Consequently, natural hazard and risk management, defined since the 21st century using the complexity paradigm, should acknowledge such dynamics. Moreover, researchers from different disciplines as well as practitioners have to meet the challenges of sustainable development in the European mountains. Thus, they should consider the effects of dynamics in risk drivers (e.g., increasing exposure, increasing vulnerability, changes in magnitude, and frequency of hazard events), and possible effects on development areas. These challenges, furthermore, can be better met in the future by concepts of risk governance, including but not limited to improved land management strategies and adaptive risk management.

Article

Natural Hazards Governance in South Asia  

Mihir Bhatt, Ronak B. Patel, and Kelsey Gleason

South Asia is faced with a range of natural hazards, including floods, droughts, cyclones, earthquakes, landslides, and tsunamis. Rapid and unplanned urbanization, environmental degradation, climate change, and socioeconomic conditions are increasing citizens’ exposure to and risk from natural hazards and resulting in more frequent, intense, and costly disasters. Although governments and the international community are investing in disaster risk reduction, natural hazard governance in South Asian countries remain weak and often warrants a review when a major natural disaster strikes. Natural hazards governance is an emerging concept, and many countries in South Asia have a challenging hazard governance context.

Article

Natural Hazards Governance in Cuba  

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.

Article

Natural Hazards Governance in India  

Anshu Sharma and Sunny Kumar

India faces a very broad range of hazards due to its wide geoclimatic spread. This, combined with deep-rooted social, economic, physical, and institutional vulnerabilities, makes India one of the highest disaster-affected countries in the world. Natural hazards have gained higher visibility due to an increasing frequency and magnitude of their impact in recent decades, and efforts to manage disasters have been largely unable to keep pace with the growing incidences, scale, and complexities of disaster events. A number of mega events between 1990 and 2005, including earthquakes, cyclones, floods, and a tsunami, created momentum in decision making to look at disasters critically and to push for a shift from response to mitigation and preparedness. While efforts were put in place for appropriate legislation, institution building, and planning, these processes were long drawn out and time and resource intensive. It has taken years for the governance systems to begin showing results on the ground. While these efforts were being formulated, the changing face of disasters began to present new challenges. Between 2005 and 2015, a number of unprecedented events shook the system, underscoring the increasing variability and thus unpredictability of natural hazards as a new normal. Events in this period included cloudbursts and flash floods in the deserts, droughts in areas that are normally flood prone, abnormal hail and storm events, and floods of rare fury. To augment the shifting natural hazard landscape, urbanization and changing lifestyles have made facing disasters more challenging. For example, having entire cities run out of water is a situation that response systems are not geared to address. The future will be nothing like the past, with climate change adding to natural hazard complexities. Yet, the tools to manage hazards and reduce vulnerabilities are also evolving to unprecedented levels of sophistication. Science, people, and innovations will be valuable instruments for addressing the challenges of natural hazards in the times ahead.

Article

Vulnerability as Concept, Model, Metric, and Tool  

Benjamin Wisner

Vulnerability is complex because it involves many characteristics of people and groups that expose them to harm and limit their ability to anticipate, cope with, and recover from harm. The subject is also complex because workers in many disciplines such as public health, psychology, geography, and development studies (among others) have different ways of defining, measuring, and assessing vulnerability. Some of these practitioners focus on the short-term identification of vulnerability, so that maps and lists of people living “at risk” can be generated and used by authorities. Others are more concerned with reasons why some people are more vulnerable when facing a hazard or threat than others. Professionals working at the scale of localities are interested in methods that bring out residents’ own knowledge of hazards and help them to cooperate with each other to find ways of reducing risk. There are some interpretations of vulnerability that seek its root cause in the creation of risk by political and economic systems that make investment and locational decisions for the benefit of small elites without regard for how these decisions affect the majority. Finally, whatever success there may be in treating vulnerability in any of the ways just mentioned, it will always be a part of the human condition, and this fact in itself is puzzling.

Article

Corruption and the Governance of Disaster Risk  

David Alexander

This article considers how corruption affects the management of disaster mitigation, relief, and recovery. Corruption is a very serious and pervasive issue that affects all countries and many operations related to disasters, yet it has not been studied to the degree that it merits. This is because it is difficult to define, hard to measure and difficult to separate from other issues, such as excessive political influence and economic mismanagement. Not all corruption is illegal, and not all of that which is against the law is vigorously pursued by law enforcement. In essence, corruption subverts public resources for private gain, to the damage of the body politic and people at large. It is often associated with political violence and authoritarianism and is a highly exploitative phenomenon. Corruption knows no boundaries of social class or economic status. It tends to be greatest where there are strong juxtapositions of extreme wealth and poverty. Corruption is intimately bound up with the armaments trade. The relationship between arms supply and humanitarian assistance and support for democracy is complex and difficult to decipher. So is the relationship between disasters and organized crime. In both cases, disasters are seen as opportunities for corruption and potentially massive gains, achieved amid the fear, suffering, and disruption of the aftermath. In humanitarian emergencies, black markets can thrive, which, although they support people by providing basic incomes, do nothing to reduce disaster risk. In counties in which the informal sector is very large, there are few, and perhaps insufficient, controls on corruption in business and economic affairs. Corruption is a major factor in weakening efforts to bring the problem of disasters under control. The solution is to reduce its impact by ensuring that transactions connected with disasters are transparent, ethically justifiable, and in line with what the affected population wants and needs. In this respect, the phenomenon is bound up with fundamental human rights. Denial or restriction of such rights can reduce a person’s access to information and freedom to act in favor of disaster reduction. Corruption can exacerbate such situations. Yet disasters often reveal the effects of corruption, for example, in the collapse of buildings that were not built to established safety codes.

Article

Disasters, Climate Change, and Violence Against Women and Girls  

Virginie Le Masson

Gender-based violence (GBV) is violence inflicted on someone because of their gender. It is also the worst manifestation of gender inequalities and discrimination against women and girls. Since the 1990s, the literature has increasingly documented how the combination of disaster impacts and the failure of protective systems (often unavailable in the first place) aggravates gender inequalities and violence against women and girls (VAWG). Sexual, physical, economic, psychological abuse, violence perpetrated by partners, trafficking, child marriage, and many different forms of VAWG are documented in a wide range of geographical locations at all stages of economic development. Far from being an “extraordinary” consequence of disasters, VAWG, particularly domestic abuse, reflects a continuum of a pervasive manifestation of inequality, violence, and discrimination. GBV survivors are unlikely to report abuse or seek help, particularly when protection support is unavailable or inadequate. This discrepancy between the prevalence of violence and the lack of protection is exacerbated in the aftermath of a disaster and during crises due to environmental changes. Yet, although crucial to better examine the prevalence, trends, and consequences of VAWG during and after disasters, gender-disaggregated data are persistently missing from disaster risk assessments and vulnerability analyses of climate change impacts. Such data are also required to better support intersectional analyses of GBV occurring before, during, and after crises—that is, not just documenting the experiences of women and girls but also understanding changes in power relations and the social identities and conditions that influence the diversity of experiences among women and men, in addition to documenting the experiences of sexual and gender minorities.

Article

Disaster Risk Reduction and Furthering Women’s Rights  

Supriya Akerkar

Traditional conceptions of disaster mitigation focus mainly on risk reduction practices using technology; however, disaster mitigation needs to be reconceptualized as a discursive and social intervention process in the disaster-development continuum to further women’s rights and equality and their emancipatory interests before, during, and after disasters. Such reconception would be more aligned with current formulations within the Sendai Framework of Action (2015–2030), which to an extent highlights the need to engage with gender inequalities through women’s leadership in disaster and development planning and the fifth UN Sustainable Development Goal on furthering gender equality. As discursive practices, disaster mitigation should question discrimination against and marginalization of women in disaster recoveries and development processes in different contexts. Discourse about women and gender is ingrained in the society and further perpetuated through regressive and patriarchal state policies and practices in the disaster-development continuum. A critical and progressive politics for women’s rights that furthers their equality would counter regressive discourses and their effects. Women experience discrimination through complex and multiple axes of power, such as race, class, ethnicity, and other social markers. Instead of treating women as a passive site for relief and recovery, nongovernmental organizations, both national and international, should work with women as persons with agency, voice, aspirations, and capacity to bring about policy and social change in the terrain of the disaster-development continuum. Critical humanitarianism and mobilizing women’s leadership would be a hallmark of such work. The relation between disaster mitigation and women’s rights is that of a virtuous cycle that calls for a synergy between disaster response and development goals to further women’s equality and rights. A vision for socially just and equal society must inform the relation between disaster mitigation and furthering women’s rights.