In a globalized world, national-level policymakers make decisions, often during times of crisis and uncertainty, which have implications for neighboring territories. Britain is an example of a nation state that has had to accommodate such a multi-level context in the management of crises. What is clear is that the processes of crisis management rely heavily on the effectiveness and strength of policy relationships at multiple levels of governance. Managing and coordinating crises in these contexts represents a challenge for national crisis managers as these complex governance landscapes produce uncertainties and can reveal ambiguities when it comes to identifying “who” is the dominant crisis manager. For example, the challenges of global health threats, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, highlight how modern governance arrangements breed vulnerabilities for states due to the interconnection of infrastructures and systems. The lack of clarity with regards to who is accountable for the performance of crisis management approaches within complex government environments open up windows of opportunity for blame and ideological games to take effect. Crisis management research highlights that the effectiveness of transnational crisis management depends on policy relationships within and between networks, including the extent to which national technocratic actors feature in the political decisions that affect crisis governance arrangements. Policy relationships themselves are also shaped by the contexts and dynamics of regional and territorial governance, Europeanization processes, and the internationalization of crisis management—all of which produce their own political tensions for the workings and autonomy of national crisis managers. Understanding such complexities is key for researching British crisis management processes.
John Connolly and Dominic Elliott
Christer H. Pursiainen
While crisis management is a well-developed institutionalized activity in public administration and private organizations, it is less developed and notably fragmented theoretically. Without any grand theories, the field is characterized across a range of disciplines by middle-range theories and discourses on one element of the process or another. These discourses seldom communicate with each other and effectively develop in isolation. The result is a fragmented field of theoretical concepts. The traditional “crisis management cycle” nonetheless provides a holistic framework of sorts for both theoretical and practical reflection, including pre-crisis, during-the-crisis, and post-crisis components. Capturing the salient themes of crisis management, this framework is useful in identifying the most important middle-range scholarly debates within the field. Through its holistic and almost all-encompassing scope of existing and potential new dimensions in crisis research, the crisis management cycle also lends credence to the perspective that the field will evolve from its current multidisciplinary character towards more genuinely interdisciplinary scholarship.
David A. McEntire
Disasters and the theory of emergency management are vibrant subjects for scholars. Researchers have focused on a variety of topics, including the definition of disasters, human behavior in extreme events, the nature of emergency management, ways to make the profession more effective, the pros and cons of various paradigms, and new areas of research. In studying these subjects, scholars have employed a variety of methods, including observation, field research, and comparison, among others. Findings from research reveals that humans are responsible for disasters and that vulnerability must be reduced. Studies reveal that antisocial behavior is less likely to occur than more common activities to support victims of disasters. The principles of emergency management have been elaborated, and scholars have argued that the phases of disasters are more complex that initially meets they eye. Research also reveals that bureaucratic approaches to emergency management are based on false assumptions and are too rigid. Scholarship also explores how to make emergency management functions more effective, and a number of articles have been written to explore paradigms to guide research and practice. Theoretical work on disasters and emergency management has examined planning, improvisation, and spontaneous planning. Research has also explored humanitarian logistics, the use of social media, the scholarship of teaching and learning, cultural competency and the culture of preparedness. Going forward, more research is needed on the complexity of disasters and the use or impact of technology in emergency management. A greater understanding of public health emergencies is warranted due to the challenges of Covid-19.
Climate change is increasingly being framed as a “climate crisis.” Such a crisis could be viewed both to unfold in the climate system, as well as to be induced by it in diverse areas of society. Following from current understandings of modern crises, it is clear that climate change indeed can be defined as a “crisis.” As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 1.5oC special report elaborates, the repercussions of a warming planet include increased food insecurity, increased frequency and intensity of severe droughts, extreme heat waves, the loss of coral reef ecosystems and associated marine species, and more. It is also important to note that a range of possible climate-induced crises (through, e.g., possible increased food insecurity and weather extremes) will not be distributed evenly, but will instead disproportionally affect already vulnerable social groups, communities, and countries in detrimental ways. The multifaceted dimensions of climate change allow for multiple interpretations and framings of “climate crisis,” thereby forcing us to acknowledge the deeply contextual nature of what is understood as a “crisis.” Climate change and its associated crises display a number of challenging properties that stem from its connections to basically all sectors in society, its propensity to induce and in itself embed nonlinear changes such as “tipping points” and cascading shocks, and its unique and challenging long-term temporal dimensions. The latter pose particularly difficult decision-making and institutional challenges because initial conditions (in this case, carbon dioxide emissions) do not result in immediate or proportional responses (say, global temperature anomalies), but instead play out through feedbacks among the climate system, oceans, the cryosphere, and changes in forest biomes, with some considerable delays in time. Additional challenges emerge from the fact that early warnings of pending so-called “catastrophic shifts” face numerous obstacles, and that early responses are undermined by a lack of knowledge, complex causality, and severe coordination challenges.