Summary and Keywords
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 which people or structures exposed to hazards, but on the vulnerability of those people and structures exposed. Vulnerability helps to explain the societal construction of risks and the identification of root causes that make people or structures susceptible to natural and climate-related hazards and is therefore an essential component of reducing the risk of disasters and of adapting to climate change.
This 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 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 (buildings). Since then, the concept has 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 various 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 (hazards) apparently out of human control but primarily by what is exposed and vulnerable to natural hazards and extreme 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 still too little focus on addressing underlying vulnerabilities.
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