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Recent extreme hydrological events (e.g., in the United States in 2005 or 2012, Pakistan in 2010, and Thailand in 2011) revealed increasing flood risks due to climate and societal change. Consequently, the roles of multiple stakeholders in flood risk management have transformed significantly. A central aspect here is the question of sharing responsibilities among global, national, regional, and local stakeholders in organizing flood risk management of all kinds. This new policy agenda of sharing responsibilities strives to delegate responsibilities and costs from the central government to local authorities, and from public administration to private citizens. The main reasons for this decentralization are that local authorities can deal more efficiently with public administration tasks concerned with risks and emergency management. Resulting locally based strategies for risk reduction are expected to tighten the feedback loops between complex environmental dynamics and human decision-making processes. However, there are a series of consequences to this rescaling process in flood risk management, regarding the development of new governance structures and institutions, like resilience teams or flood action groups in the United Kingdom. Additionally, downscaling to local-level tasks without additional resources is particularly challenging. This development has tightened further with fiscal and administrative cuts around the world resulting from the global economic crisis of 2007–2008, which tightening eventually causes budget restrictions for flood risk management. Managing local risks easily exceeds the technical and budgetary capacities of municipal institutions, and individual citizens struggle to carry the full responsibility of flood protection. To manage community engagement in flood risk management, emphasis should be given to the development of multi-level governance structures, so that multiple stakeholders share fairly the power, resources, and responsibility in disaster planning. If we fail to do so, some consequences would be: (1), “hollowing out” the government, including the downscaling of the responsibility towards local stakeholders; and (2), inability of the government to deal with the new tasks due to lack of resources transferred to local authorities.

Article

Public participation in environmental management, and more specifically in hazard mitigation planning, has received much attention from scholars and practitioners. A shift in perspective now sees the public as a fundamental player in decision making rather than simply as the final recipient of a policy decision. Including the public in hazard mitigation planning brings widespread benefits. First, communities gain awareness of the risks they live with, and thus, this is an opportunity to empower communities and improve their resilience. Second, supported by a collaborative participation process, emergency managers and planners can achieve the ultimate goal of strong mitigation plans. Although public participation is highly desired as an instrument to improve hazard mitigation planning, appropriate participation techniques are context dependent and some trade-offs exist in the process design (such as between representativeness and consensus building). Designing participation processes requires careful planning and an all-around consideration of the representativeness of stakeholders, timing, objectives, knowledge, and ultimately desired goals to achieve. Assessing participation also requires more consistent methods to facilitate policy learning from diverse experiences. New decision-support tools may be necessary to gain widespread participation from laypersons lacking technical knowledge of hazards and risks.

Article

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

Syed-Muhammad Ali, Akhtar Naeem Khan, and Hamna Shakeel

Climate change is one of the greatest threats to the security of water, food, and energy in Pakistan. Pakistan has seen increased visibility of direct and indirect impacts of climate change since the early 1990s. Pakistan’s government achieved a milestone in 2012 when the first National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) was proposed. In response to dynamic climate trends, it provided a broad set of adaptation measures for vulnerable sectors such as power, food, water, and health. In 2014, a more precise follow-up framework was developed which proposed strategies to achieve the objectives of the NCCP. The government is also cooperating with national and international organizations and societies to make vulnerable sectors and local communities resilient against water shortages, flash floods, cyclones, and temperature extremes. Analysis of the existing state of adaptation actions and systems exposes several deficiencies. There is a huge knowledge gap between researchers and policymakers which needs to be bridged. Stakeholders, local communities, and experts from relevant fields need to be involved in the process of policy making for the development of a comprehensive adaptation plan. Educational and research institutes in Pakistan are deficient in expertise and modern tools and technologies for predicting future climatic trends and the risks they pose to various sectors of the country. Lack of awareness in the general public, related to climate change and associated risks, is also an obstacle in developing climate-resilient communities. The government of Pakistan is giving due importance to the development of policies and capacity building of relevant implementing departments and research institutes. However, there is still a need for a strong enforcement body at the national, provincial, and municipal levels to successfully implement government strategies.

Article

Non-profit organizations make significant contributions to society in a number of ways. In addition to providing services to underrepresented, marginalized, and vulnerable populations in our communities, they also play important advocacy, expressive and leadership development, community building and democratization, and innovation-oriented roles. The sector is thus regarded as “critical civic infrastructure,” civic capacity, or a social safety net. As such, through collaborative engagement in disaster or emergency management, non-profits can be even more instrumental in helping communities become disaster resilient. Disaster management can be understood as a four-stage cycle that includes mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery functions. Past disasters demonstrate that non-profits engage with this cycle in diverse ways. A few types of non-profit organizations explicitly include, as part of their mission, one or more of these stages of disaster management. These include traditional disaster relief organizations, organizations dedicated to preparedness, or those responsible for supporting risk reduction or mitigation efforts. Another set of organizations is typified by non-profits that shift their mission during times of disaster to fill unmet needs. These non-profits shift existing resources or skills from their pre-disaster use to new disaster relief functions. The other type of non-profit to respond or support disaster management is the emergent organization. These emergent non-profits or associations are formed during an event to respond to specific needs. They can endure past the disaster recovery period and become new permanent organizations. It is important to remember that non-profits and more broadly, civil society—represent a unique sphere of voluntary human organization and activity separate from the family, the state, and the market. In some cases, these organizations are embedded in communities, a position that grants them local presence, knowledge, and trust. As such, they are well positioned to play important advocacy roles that can elevate the needs of underrepresented communities, as well as instigate disaster management policies that can serve to protect these communities. Furthermore, their voluntary nature—and the public benefit they confer—also position them to attract much-needed resources from various individuals and entities in order to augment or supplement governments’ often limited capacity. In all, civil society in general, is a sphere well positioned to execute the full spectrum of emergency management functions alongside traditional state responses.