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Article

Despite myriad descriptions and indicators used to define a fragile state, the international community has come to an agreement that a fragile state lacks the ability to maintain physical control of its territorial boundaries, provide basic public services, facilitate economic growth, and interact as a full member of the international community. Fragile states have historically experienced a disproportionate amount of natural disaster-related losses. For example, from 2005 to 2009, more than 50% of those impacted by a natural disaster lived in a fragile state, resulting in over $200 billion in losses. When natural disasters occur in such areas, they exacerbate already weak governance structures and further undermine their governments’ capability to respond to the crisis while simultaneously addressing challenges related to poverty and conflict. To remedy these and other complex issues inherent in fragile states, scholars are beginning to recognize the importance of investigating how fragile states can mitigate natural disaster losses through effective agency coordination and cross-sector collaboration. Agency coordination, in the context of natural disaster response, refers to the integration of facilities, equipment, personnel, and communication by public agencies for supporting incident response activities. Cross-sector collaboration refers to the sharing of information and resources by organizations in two or more sectors to achieve an outcome that cannot be produced by organizations in one sector alone. Because forecasts suggest that natural disaster-related losses will only increase in fragile states owing to population growth, urbanization, and climate change, there is a pressing need to understand the ways public organizations not only coordinate before, during, and after a natural disaster, but also how they collaborate across organizational sectors.

Article

Agenda setting describes the process through which issues are selected for consideration by a decision-making body. Among the myriad of issues policymakers can consider, few are more vexing than natural hazards. By aggregating (or threatening to aggregate) death, destruction, and economic loss, natural hazards represent a serious and persistent threat to public safety. While citizens rightfully expect policymakers to protect them, many of the policy challenges associated natural hazards fail to reach the crowded government agenda. This article reviews the literature on agenda setting and natural hazards, including the strain between preparing for emerging hazards, on the one hand, and responding to existing disasters, on the other hand. It considers the extent to which natural hazards pose distinctive difficulties during the agenda-setting process, focusing specifically on the dynamics of issue identification, problem definition, venue shopping, and interest group mobilization in natural hazard domains. It closes by suggesting a number of future avenues of agenda-setting research.

Article

Simon Allen, Holger Frey, Wilfried Haeberli, Christian Huggel, Marta Chiarle, and Marten Geertsema

Glacier and permafrost hazards encompass various flood and mass movement processes that are directly conditioned or triggered by contemporary changes in the alpine cryosphere, threatening lives and livelihoods in most mountain regions of the world. These processes are characterized by a range of spatial and temporal dimensions, from small-volume icefalls and rockfalls that present a frequent but localized danger, to less frequent but larger-magnitude avalanches of ice and/or rock and related process chains that can travel large distances and thereby threaten people and infrastructure located far downstream. Glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) have proven particularly devastating, accounting for the most far-reaching disasters in high mountain regions globally. GAPHAZ, the Standing Group on Glacier and Permafrost Hazards of the International Association of Cryospheric Sciences (IACS), and the International Permafrost Association (IPA) recently published a technical guidance document on the assessment of glacier and permafrost hazards in mountain regions, drawing on internationally accepted best practices of integrated hazard assessment, reflecting the scientific state of the art. Here, the main aspects of this guidance document are summarized and reflected in the context of the historic development, current state, and future challenges related to the assessment of glacier- and permafrost-related hazard assessments. In a comprehensive assessment of glacier and permafrost hazards, two core components (or outcomes) are typically included: 1. Susceptibility and stability assessment: Identifying where from, and how likely an event could be, based on analyses of wide-ranging triggering and conditioning factors driven by interlinking atmospheric, cryospheric, geological, geomorphological, and hydrological processes. 2. Hazard mapping: Identifying the potential impact on downslope and downstream areas through a combination of process modeling and field mapping, providing the scientific basis for decision-making and planning. Glacier and permafrost hazards gained prominence around the mid-20th century, especially following a series of major disasters in the Peruvian Andes (Huaraz, 1941, and the Huascarán events of 1962 and 1970), Alaska (Lituya Bay, 1958), and the Swiss Alps (Mattmark, 1965). At the time of these events, related hazard assessments were reactionary and event-focused, aiming to understand the causes of the disasters and assess the ongoing threat to communities. These disasters, and others that followed (e.g., Kolka–Karmadon, 2002), established the fundamental need to consider complex geosystems and cascading processes with their cumulative downstream impacts as one of the distinguishing principles of integrative glacier and permafrost hazard assessment. Nowadays, the widespread and free availability of satellite imagery enables a pre-emptive approach to hazard assessment, beginning with regional-scale first-order susceptibility, hazard assessment, and modeling that provide a first indication of possible unstable slopes or dangerous lakes and related cascading processes. Detailed field investigations and scenario-based hazard mapping can then be appropriately targeted to high-priority areas. In view of the rapidly changing mountain environment, leading beyond historical precedence, there is a clear need for future-oriented scenarios to be integrated into the hazard assessment, considering, for example, the threat from new lakes that are projected to emerge in a continuously deglaciating landscape. In particular, low-probability events with extreme magnitudes are a challenge for authorities to plan for, but such events can be appropriately considered as worst-case scenarios in a comprehensive, forward-looking, multi-scenario hazard assessment.

Article

Bureaucratic politics, discretion, and decision-making for natural hazards governance present an important challenge of the use of autonomous bureaucratic discretion in the absence of political accountability. Understanding how these factors influence discretion and policymaking is of critical importance for natural hazards because the extent to which bureaucrats are able to make decisions means that communities will be safer in the face of disaster. But the extent to which they are held accountable for their decisions has significant implications for public risk and safety. Bureaucrats are unelected and cannot be voted out of office. There are two significant areas that remain regarding the use of bureaucratic discretion in natural hazards policy. One key area is to consider the increasing emphasis on networked disaster governance on bureaucratic discretion and decision-making. The conventional wisdom is that networks facilitate disaster management much better than command and control approaches. However, the extent to which the use of bureaucratic discretion is important in the implementation of natural hazard policy, particularly for mitigation and preparedness, remains an open area of research. The other key area is the influence of bureaucratic discretion and decision-making when communities learn after a disaster. The political nature of disasters and the professional expertise of public service professionals imply that in order to make communities safer, bureaucrats will have to use discretion to push forward more aggressive mitigation and preparedness policies. Bureaucratic discretion would need to be used for both political and policy purposes in order to engage in policy learning after disasters that produces a substantive change.

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

Paul Schneider and Bruce Glavovic

Coastal hazard risk is compounded by climate change. The promise and prospects of adaptation to escalating coastal hazard risk is fraught, even in a country like New Zealand that has laudable provisions for local authorities to be proactive in adapting to climate change. Continuing property development in some low-lying coastal areas is resulting in contestation and maladaptation. The resistance of some local authorities to do the inevitable and make long-term planning decisions in the face of amplifying risk can be linked to adaptation barriers. What can be done to overcome barriers and facilitate adaptation? Is transformation of the current mismatch between short-term planning and development aspirations, long-term societal goals, dynamic coastal processes and well-intended legislation and policy goals even possible? What can we learn from adaptation failures? In the face of compelling evidence and an enabling institutional framework, why is it that some coastal communities fail to prepare for the future? We shed light on such questions based on a long-term study of experience in New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula. We focus on the overarching question: Why is adaptation so challenging; and why are some coastal communities locked- into maladaptive pathways? We focus on the influence of a short-term decision-making focus of the problem of a low level of understanding and, following from this, the prioritization of protective works to combat erosion. Further, we draw attention to a major storm impact and the failure to turn this window of opportunity to a shift away from business as usual. Through the exploration of key stakeholder insights, the findings from the literature are reinforced and put into local context thus making the otherwise abstract barriers locally relevant. Matching and aligning adaptation theory with local reality can assist in advancing inquiry and policy practice to govern complex adaptation challenges.

Article

Rapid climatic, natural and societal changes are altering the ways natural hazard risks are represented in societies, and in turn disrupting the ways people respond to these hazards. This poses an important challenge to how societies (re-)build institutions for governing or controlling risks. Institutions are systems of rules, norms and decision-making processes that structure our social interaction and practices. They organize how people define, plan for, and manage natural hazard risks; indeed, they create notions of risk. Going deeper, social sciences have defined institutions by the underlying “culture” on which they are built; the symbols, principles, core beliefs, and cognitive scripts that give institutions meaning. The culture structures how institutions represent the intertwined natural and social world that gives rise to natural hazard risks. Cultures work as a script for classing risks; giving people cues on how to understand and interpret the dangerous situations they find themselves in. Modern institutions are increasingly shaped by techno-scientific cultures, defining hazards and risks by their technically framed probability of physical harm, often expressed in terms of loss and damage. This risk quantification, and aspirations for precision, can give a false sense of control. But climatic change is already undermining, and threatening to undo, many of the long-held representations of natural and social order (and risk to this order) that steer institutions. Current case study research, in different places around the world, shows how climatic change is altering the way institutions interpret the natural hazards they manage in Bangladesh, New Zealand, and Norway for example. Dramatic climate change is confounding institutions’ cultures of risk quantification, and protection, shaking their claims to control natural hazards and undermining public trust in these institutions. One response is that institutions change the ways they define and class hazards, so that ordinary hazards are amplified as extraordinary. Faced with risks that are going beyond their experience and control, some institutions are compelled to unreflexively amplify well-intentioned protection-based responses, with at times unforeseen and disastrous consequences. Cases in Bangladesh and Norway both show how rushed river engineering works can evoke resistance from local communities. Emergency coastal protection can also have deleterious long-term social-ecological impacts, as experience shows in New Zealand. Scholars and practitioners alike recognize the need for critical reflection on how institutional cultures alter natural hazard risks according to climatic and other changes. This reflection is practical work that affects how people operate in institutions every day. It is structural work, as institutions change their rules as they learn more about risks. And it is work of social change, with social groups inside and outside institutions increasingly vocal in their criticism of changing climate risk framings. Case studies illustrate processes of institutional change, but equally, the resistance of institutions to change their cultures and notions of risk.

Article

Throughout the world, major climate-related catastrophic events have devastated lives and livelihoods. These events are predicted to increase in frequency and intensity across the globe, as greenhouse gas emissions continue to accumulate in our atmosphere. The causes and consequences of these disasters are not constrained to geographic and political boundaries, or even temporal scales, increasing the complexity of their management. Differences in cultures, governance and policy processes often occur among jurisdictions in a transboundary setting, whether adjacent nations that are exposed to the same transboundary hazard or across municipalities located within the same political jurisdiction. Political institutions and processes may vary across jurisdictions in a region, presenting challenges to cooperation and coordination of risk management. With shifting climates, risks from climate-related natural hazards are in constant flux, increasing the difficulty of making predictions about and governing these risks. Further, different groups of individuals may be exposed to the same climate hazard, but that exposure may affect these groups in unique ways. Managing climate change as a transboundary natural hazard may mandate a shift from a focus on individual climate risks to developing capacity to encourage learning from and adaptation to a diversity of climatic risks that span boundaries. Potential barriers to adaptation to climate risks must not be considered individually but rather as a part of a more dynamic system in which multiple barriers may interact, impeding effective management. Greater coordination horizontally, for example through networks linking cities, and vertically, across multiple levels of governance (e.g., local, regional, national, global), may aid in the development of increased capacity to deal with these transboundary risks. Greater public engagement in management of risks from climate change hazards, both in risk mitigation and post-hazard recovery, could increase local-level capacity to adapt to these hazards.

Article

While known to be important and essential for improved effectiveness and efficiency, cross-sector coordination and collaboration among different actors engaged in postdisaster recovery is fraught with complications. Among the challenges are (a) who leads, and how; (b) the capacity and roles of the host government; (c) governance structures within organizations (which may differ a great deal); (d) assumptions of power; (e) the trade-off between valuing relationships and “getting the job done”; and (f) the varying constraints (and opportunities) of accountability. Recognizing the need to improve joint actions for a better response, the Humanitarian Reform Agenda (HRA), begun in 2005, led to the remolding of collective models of disaster response and the adoption of the global cluster system, which is essentially organized around the delivery of goods and services (sectors) by traditional aid actors such as the United Nations (UN), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. While the cluster system has largely been acknowledged as an improvement in collaboration among actors, a perennial challenge of cross-sector coordination remains. One of the opportunities for improvement lies in better and more predictable leadership, one of the key areas identified by the HRA. Another opportunity lies in changing the focus from a supply-driven approach of prioritizing what aid providers deliver to a demand-driven understanding, such as that offered by area-based approaches, wherein sectors are more closely aligned. A common form of collaboration within aid is partnership between various actors (e.g., the United Nations or NGOs). Partnerships assume more than a constructing relationship: Effective partnerships emphasize the need for transparency and equity, along with being results-oriented and competent. Recognizing this, the Grand Bargain, resulting from the World Humanitarian Summit, noted that aid providers should engage with local and national responders in a spirit of partnership and aim to reinforce rather than replace local and national capacities. Partnerships, however, fall short all too often, especially when one partner has power over the other, which is often the case. The report Time to Let Go, by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), notes, for instance, that “the relationships between donor and implementer, aid provider and recipient, remain controlling and asymmetrical, and partnerships and interactions remain transactional and competitive, rather than reciprocal and collective.” The challenge remains to achieve the task at hand, while at the same time engaging in effective collaborative mechanisms that value the nature of the relationship. If this is not achieved, effective postdisaster recovery can be jeopardized.

Article

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

Community-based approaches existed even before the existence of the state and its formal governance structure. People and communities used to help and take care of each other’s disaster needs. However, due to the evolution of state governance, new terminology of community-based disaster risk reduction (CBDRR) has been coined to help communities in an organized way. Different stakeholders are responsible for community-based actions; the two key players are the local governments and civil society, or nongovernment organizations. Private sector and academic and research institutions also play crucial roles in CBDRR. Many innovative CBDRR practices exist in the world, and it is important to analyze them and learn the common lessons. The key to community is its diversity, and this should be kept in mind for the CBDRR. There are different entry points and change agents based on the diverse community. It is important to identify the right change agent and entry point and to develop a sustainable mechanism to institutionalize CBDRR activities. Social networking needs to be incorporated for effective CBDRR.

Article

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 are significant events with enormous consequences for democratic political systems. As such, they provide important insights into how governmental institutions address hazardous situations. They also reveal the critical role that the media and politics play in this process. These themes are echoed in the general research on disasters, as well as in the accounts of hazardous events occurring in specific communities and locales. However, despite the wealth of scholarship conducted on this topic across a variety of disciplines, important questions remain about what role citizens play in this process, as well as the impact of governmental hazard management policies on broader democratic processes and societal conditions.

Article

Thomas Husted and David Nickerson

Natural disasters pose a significant and rapidly growing burden to society, causing over a million deaths and worldwide economic losses in the trillions of dollars in the last twenty years. Concerned over the extent to which their populations are exposed to disaster risk, policymakers in disaster-prone countries strive to increase the penetration of disaster insurance from its relatively low current level and wish to arrest the increasing share of public liability for private losses arising from rising public expenditures on disaster recovery. Although evidence regarding disaster risk and insurance suggests that individuals respond to their economic incentives when deciding on the degree to which to expose their property and other to risk from a recurrent disaster, potential inefficiencies in private insurance markets can distort these individual incentives and result in underinsurance and excessive exposure. Current research into whether such apparent market inefficiencies are primarily attributed to the behavior of private market participants or to the adverse incentives arising from current programs of disaster aid, regulation and other public policies is of fundamental importance to attaining these policy objectives. This article critically assesses the current state of mainstream economic and political research into disasters, public policy, and household behavior toward disaster risk. Findings of the most important and influential empirical and theoretical studies over the last 30 years are described, as well as limits on the robustness and interpretation of these findings arising from the characteristics of economic data on disasters and potential bias in measuring the determinants of disaster insurance coverage. Also discussed are both theoretical and empirical evidence that moral hazard on the part of households, insurance firms, and elected officials results in misallocations of private coverage; and it is demonstrated that, exactly contrary to the objectives of public policy, current programs of disaster aid in the presence of moral hazard create incentives for households to minimize, rather than maximize, market coverage of their exposure to disaster risk. The conclusion presents and proves a proposition, original to this article, that any compensatory public aid program is necessarily a source of economic inefficiency and, conditional on net losses, decreases economic welfare.

Article

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.

Article

Large-scale displacement takes place in the context of disaster because the threat or occurrence of hazard onset makes the region of residence of a population uninhabitable, either temporarily or permanently. Contributing to that outcome, the wide array of disaster events is invariably complicated by human institutions and practices that can contribute to large-scale population displacements. Growing trends of socially driven exposure and vulnerability around the world as well as the global intensification and frequency of climate-related hazards have increased both the incidence and the likelihood of large-scale population dislocations in the near future. However, legally binding international and national accords and conventions have not yet been put in place to deal with the serious impacts, and material, health-related, and sociocultural losses and human rights violations that are experienced by the millions of people being swept up in the events and processes of disasters and mass population displacements. Effective policy development is challenged by the increasing complexity of disaster risk and occurrence as well as issues of causation, adequate information, lack of capacity, and legal responsibility. States, international organizations, state and international development and aid agencies must frame, define, and categorize appropriately disaster forced displacement and resettlement to influence effective institutional responses in emergency humanitarian assistance, transitional shelter and care, and durable solutions in managing migration and resettlement if return is not possible. The forms that disaster-associated forced displacements are projected to take and corresponding national responses are explored in the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 in Sri Lanka, a massive disaster in a nation riven by civil conflict; Hurricane Katrina of 2005 in the United States, where the scale and nature of displacement bore little relation to hazard intensity; and the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, and nuclear exposure incident exemplifying the emerging trend of complex, concatenating, multihazard disasters that bring about large-scale population displacements.

Article

As with countless other policy areas, natural hazard policy can be viewed as a jurisdictional competition between executive and legislative branches. While policymaking supremacy is delegated to the legislative branch in constitutional democracies, the power over implementation, budgeting, and grant-making that executive agencies enjoy means that the executive branch wields considerable influence over outcomes in natural hazards policymaking. The rules that govern federal implementation of complex legislative policies put the implementing agency at the center of influence over how policy priorities play out in local, county, and state processes before, during, and after disasters hit. Examples abound related to this give-and-take between the legislative and executive functions of government within the hazards and disaster realm, but none more telling than the changes made to US disaster policy after September 11th, which profoundly affected natural hazards policy as well as security policy. The competition and potential for mismatch between legislative and executive priorities has been heightened since the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was reorganized under the Department of Homeland Security. While this may appear uniquely American, the primacy of terrorism and other security-related threats not only dwarfs natural hazards issues in the United States, but also globally. Among the most professionalized and powerful natural hazards and disaster agencies prior to 9/11, FEMA has seen its influence diminished and its access to decision-makers reduced. This picture of legislative and executive actors within the natural hazards policy domain who compete for supremacy goes beyond the role of FEMA and post-9/11 policy. Power dynamics associated with budgets, oversight and accountability, and relative power among executive agencies are ongoing issues important to understanding the competition for policy influence as natural hazards policy competes for attention, funding, and power within the broader domain of all-hazards policy.

Article

Charlotte L. Kirschner, Akheil Singla, and Angie Flick

As more and more of the population moves to areas prone to natural hazards, the costs of disasters are on the rise. Given that these events are an eventuality, governments must aid their communities in promoting disaster resilience, enabling their communities to reduce their susceptibility to natural hazards, and adapting to and recovering from disasters when they occur. The federal system in the United States divides these responsibilities among national, state, and local governments. Local and state governments are largely responsible for the direct provision of services to their communities, and the Stafford Act of 1988 provides that the federal government will pay at least 75% of all eligible expenses once a presidential major disaster declaration has been made. As a result, state and local governments have become largely reliant on transfers from the federal government to pay for disaster relief and recovery efforts. This system encourages state and local governments to ignore the risks they face and turn to the federal government for aid after a disaster. This system also seems to underemphasize an important mechanism that can bolster disaster resilience: financing the costs of disasters in advance through ex ante budgeting. Four tools for budgeting ex ante—intergovernmental grants, disaster stabilization funds, the municipal bond market, and hazard insurance—are described and examples of their use provided. Despite limited use by state governments, these tools provide governments the opportunity to build community resilience to disasters by budgeting ex ante for them.

Article

Natural disasters cause massive social disruptions and can lead to tremendous economic and human losses. Given their uncertain and destructive nature, disasters invariably induce significant governmental responses and typically pose severe financial challenges for jurisdictions across all levels of government. From a public finance perspective, disasters cause governments to incur additional spending on various emergency management activities, and by disrupting normal business activities they also affect tax base robustness and cause revenue losses. The question is: How significant are these fiscal effects and how do they affect hazards governance more generally? Understanding the fiscal implications of natural disasters is essential to evaluating the size of the economic costs of disasters as well as forecasting governments’ financial exposure to future shocks. Furthermore, how disaster costs are shared among different levels of government is another important question concerning the intergovernmental dynamics of disaster management. In the U.S. federal system, the direct fiscal costs of natural disasters (i.e., increased government expenditures due to disaster shocks) are largely borne by the federal government. It is estimated that Hurricane Katrina cost the federal government approximately $120 billion while Hurricane Sandy cost $60 billion. Even in the years without large-scale disaster events, federal disaster spending is between $2 billion and $6 billion annually. Under the Stafford Act, the federal government plays a critical role in funding disaster-related programs (e.g., direct relief, mitigation grants, and subsidized insurance programs) and redistributing the actual costs of natural hazards, meaning that a considerable portion of the local disaster burden is shifted to all U.S. taxpayers. This raises a set of issues concerning the equity and efficiency of the U.S. disaster policy framework. Managing disasters involves multiphased activities to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from disaster shocks. There is a common belief that the federal government inappropriately spends far more on ex post disaster response, relief, and recovery than what it spends on ex ante mitigation and preparedness, often driven by political motivations (e.g., meeting voters’ preferences for postdisaster aid) and the current budget rules. As pointed out by many others, federal disaster relief and assistance distort the subnational incentive to invest in local disaster prevention and mitigation efforts. Furthermore, given the mounting evidence on the cost-effectiveness of disaster mitigation programs in reducing future disaster damages, the current practice of focusing resources on postdisaster assistance means substantial public welfare losses. In recent years there has been a call for the federal government to shift its disaster policy emphasis toward mitigation and preparedness and also to facilitate local efforts on mitigation. To achieve the goal requires a comprehensive reform in government budgeting for emergency management.

Article

Scholars agree that the impact of a disaster in a globalized world increasingly extends beyond political and geographical boundaries, creating transboundary disaster events. Though not all disasters fit the description of a transboundary event, many embody transboundary characteristics. For instance, national and transnational financing and other resources directed toward post-disaster humanitarian relief and long-term reconstruction efforts can also create transboundary flows that cross political and geographical lines. Rebuilding after physical damage and economic losses during a disaster, the impacts of which are disproportionately higher in the poorest countries, is a costly endeavor that requires multiple sources of finance. Depending on the scale and visibility of the disaster and local capacities, financial arrangements, resources, and assistance can come from a variety of sources including the government, international institutions, and private-sector, and nongovernmental, and civil society organizations. In particular, transnational financing from bilateral donors and international financial institutions, which constitute multilateral and bilateral streams of financing for post-disaster recovery, comprise a significant percentage of recovery funding globally. Such flows, although inherently transboundary, are not well understood as a phenomenon within the transboundary disasters literature. Three major types of agencies provide funding for post-disaster reconstruction including multilateral development banks (MDBs), also referred to as international financial institutions (IFIs); bilateral development agencies within donor countries; and United Nations (UN) development agencies. MDBs such as the World Bank are created by a group of countries that utilizes pooled contributions from national governments and additional resources, such as interest collected from loans, to finance development projects. Bilateral development agencies such as the United States Agency for International Development are institutions established by individual countries to provide development funding to nation-states; they work closely with IFIs. Numerous questions about transnational financing for post-disaster recovery as an important component of the transboundary disaster literature remain unanswered and need further insights. What are the links among transnational stakeholders (i.e., MDBs, bilateral donors, UN agencies, and international nongovernmental organizations) and transboundary financial arrangements for post-disaster recovery? What are the aggregate impacts of transboundary financing on post-disaster reconstruction? How do transboundary financing flows occur among bilateral donors, MDBs, and local and international nongovernmental organizations? Where can scholars find data sets on post-disaster transnational financing? How does transboundary financing impact post-disaster recovery governance in recipient countries? The current state of knowledge on transboundary financing of post-disaster recovery provides some guidance on best practices and the challenges with coordinating and monitoring.