1-14 of 14 Results

  • Keywords: crisis management x
Clear all

Article

Lan Xue and Kaibin Zhong

The severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) crisis was the first epidemic caused by a novel virus in the 21st century, killing nearly 774 globally and 349 in China. Started in late 2002, it escalated from a localized outbreak into a national and ultimately an international crisis within just a few months, before the outbreak was finally brought under control in June 2003. The governmental actors were caught off guard before a timely and comprehensive response was put in place in mid-April 2003. As pandemics are becoming both more frequent and more devastating, it is important that efforts be made to intervene early in an outbreak to prevent a potential national and even global threat. The provincial and national governments did not take prompt and comprehensive actions, even after the disease began spreading quickly and taking lives. The Chinese government dramatically revamped their approach to SARS and took very decisive action to respond to the spread of the SARS virus in April 2003; this occurred only when decision makers had been informed of this crisis situation and put on notice to put crisis management on their radar screen and make it a “top priority.” Therefore, it’s necessary to understand what factors influenced the initial delayed response by local and national Chinese governments, from the perspective of information management and governmental political agenda.

Article

Crises and disasters come in many shapes and sizes. They range from global pandemics and global financial crises to tsunamis, hurricanes, volcanic ash clouds, bushfires, terrorist attacks, critical infrastructure failures and food contamination episodes. Threats may be locally isolated such as an explosion at a local fireworks factory, or they may cascade across multiple countries and sectors, such as pandemics. No country is immune from the challenge of managing extraordinary threats, and doing so out of their comfort zone of routine policy making. The crisis management challenge involves managing threats ‘on the ground’, as well as the political fallout and societal fears. Populist and journalistic commentary frequently labels crisis management initiatives as having either succeeded or failed. The realities are much more complex. Evaluators confront numerous methodological challenges. These include the careful consideration of multiple and often competing outcomes, differing perceptions, issues of success for whom, and gray areas stemming from shortfalls and lack of evidence, as well as variations over time. Despite such complexity, some key themes appear continually across evaluations, from internal reviews to royal commissions and accident inquiries. These pertain to the ways in which evaluations can be shaped heavily or lightly by political agendas, the degree to which evaluating organizations are able to open up, the degree to which gray areas and shortfalls are stumbling blocks in producing findings, and the challenge of producing coherent investigative narratives when many storylines are possible. Ultimately, evaluating crisis initiatives is “political” in nature because it seeks to provide authoritative evaluations that reconcile multiple views, from experts and lawyers to victims and their families.

Article

Crises are uncertain and disorderly situations, which temporarily destabilize power relations and impede centralized control over operational crisis responders (e.g., firefighters, police officers, paramedics). Consequently, responders wield considerable autonomy and have room to act on their own initiative. They make crucial decisions in frontline crisis operations based on their situational understanding and professional expertise. As such, they are similar to other “frontline workers” (or street-level bureaucrats) in government service. Their important work has attracted increasing attention in crisis management literature, in which three tensions have emerged. The first tension revolves around the nature and extent of frontline discretion. In some studies, these frontline responders are presented as implementers who are considerably constrained by extensive rules, planned routines, and detailed protocols. Other studies, instead, emphasize the independent and proactive behaviors of frontline workers who use their discretionary space to shape crisis response efforts. The second tension centers on the reasons for discretionary actions. Typically, crisis scholars analyze social and rule-based pressures on frontline workers to explain their discretionary actions as they implement public policy. Critics, instead, build on responders’ own stories to grasp their meaning-making attempts and use this as a basis for understanding why and how responders enact their discretionary practices. The final tension concerns the advantages and disadvantages of frontline worker discretion. There is a widespread belief that frontline discretion in crisis response enables much-needed improvisation, creativity, and flexibility, but increased discretion may also raise legitimacy questions and potentially burden frontline workers with complex ethical dilemmas. To move the understanding of frontline workers in crisis management forward, further research is required in several areas. Empirically, frontline workers are increasingly working in transboundary crisis networks, so that more research is necessary to understand how such crisis networks affect frontline discretion. Theoretically, literature on frontline work in crisis management has remained by and large isolated from other micro-level theories on crisis management, even though there are opportunities for fruitful cross-fertilization with adjacent literatures.

Article

Because social complexity is rarely defined beforehand, social science discussions often default to natural language concepts and synonyms. Assert a large sociotechnical system is complex or “increasingly complex,” and notions of many unknowns, out-of-sight causal processes, and a system difficult to comprehend fully are triggered. These terms, however, also suggest the potential for, if not actuality of, catastrophes and their unmanageability in the sociotechnical systems. It is not uncommon to find increasing social complexity credited for the generation or exacerbation of major crises, such as nuclear reactor accidents and global climate change, and the need to manage them better, albeit the crises are said to be far more difficult to manage because of the complexity. The costs of leaving discussions of “complexity, crisis, and management” to natural language are compared here to the considerable benefits that accrue to analysis from one of the few definitions of social complexity developed and used over the last 40 years, that of political scientist Todd R. La Porte. Understanding that a large sociotechnical system is more or less complex depending on the number of its components, the different functions each component has, and the interdependencies among functions and components underscores key issues that are often missed within the theory and practice of large sociotechnical systems, including society’s critical infrastructures. Over-complexifying the problems and issues of already complex systems, in particular, is just as questionable as oversimplifying that complexity for policy and management purposes.

Article

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.

Article

Arya Honarmand and Mark Rhinard

In Europe, the management of severe, cross-border crises is shared increasingly among actors and institutions at local, national, and supranational governance levels. The supranational political system of the European Union (EU) allows for substantial delegation of collective powers for public policymaking—and that delegation extends to crisis-management-related policies. Those policies and the crisis management “capacities” they lead to, however, are diverse and fragmented. They span the EU’s institutions, cover multiple sectors, and reflect different degrees of EU legal competence. The European Commission and its agencies house and manage most crisis-related policies, while the Council of Ministers of the European Union has its own capacities and provides a degree of political direction. EU agencies, and the European External Action Service (since 2010), contain yet more crisis-management-related capacities. These developments have grown mainly through crisis-driven expansion, albeit in an incremental and dispersed way, followed by consolidation. Scholars from the fields of international relations, public administration, and security studies have been slow to identify these developments. New research is needed on the subtle dynamics driving policy growth, the effectiveness and efficiency of these arrangements, and the comparative dimension with other regional crisis management systems in the world.

Article

Arjen Boin, Christer Brown, and James A. Richardson

The response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 has been widely described as a disaster in itself. Politicians, media, academics, survivors, and the public at large have slammed the federal, state, and local response to this mega disaster. According to the critics, the response was late, ineffective, politically charged, and even influenced by racist motives. But is this criticism true? Was the response really that poor? This article offers a framework for the analysis and assessment of a large-scale response to a mega disaster, which is then applied to the Katrina response (with an emphasis on New Orleans). The article identifies some failings (where the response could and should have been better) but also points to successes that somehow got lost in the politicized aftermath of this disaster. The article demonstrates the importance of a proper framework based on insights from crisis management studies.

Article

Kyle Beardsley, Patrick James, Jonathan Wilkenfeld, and Michael Brecher

Over the course of more than four decades the International Crisis Behavior (ICB) Project, a major and ongoing data-gathering enterprise in the social sciences, has compiled data that continues to be accessed heavily in scholarship on conflict processes. ICB holdings consist of full-length qualitative case studies, along with an expanding range of quantitative data sets. Founded in 1975, the ICB Project is among the most visible and influential within the discipline of International Relations (IR). A wide range of studies based either primarily or in part on the ICB’s concepts and data have accumulated and cover subjects that include the causes, processes, and consequences of crises. The breadth of ICB’s contribution has expanded over time to go beyond a purely state-centric approach to include crisis-related activities of transnational actors across a range of categories. ICB also offers depth through, for example, potential resolution of contemporary debates about mediation in crises on the basis of nuanced findings about long- versus short-term impact with regard to conflict resolution.

Article

Peter Viggo Jakobsen

In war-threatening crises, the contestants face a crucial dilemma: Should they yield to the opponent’s demands to avoid war or risk war to protect their interests? Coercive diplomacy is a holistic “stick-and-carrot” crisis management strategy devised to tackle this dilemma and enable policymakers to resolve crises by means of mutually acceptable compromises short of war. It is in focus here because it integrates the three principal strands of crisis management theory into a single strategy. The first component is coercive. It involves threats to do harm (political, economic, or military) and action that would hurt the adversary in order to influence it to stop/undo its hostile activities. Hurting action may involve political, economic, and military measures, but actual use of force must be limited and serve signaling and influencing purposes only. Its purpose is to bring the opponent to the negotiating table, not to defeat it or render it incapable of continued resistance. The second component is conciliatory and accommodating. It involves the use of positive incentives for compliance with the coercer’s demands. Their purpose is to reduce the cost of compliance and thereby increase the prospects for finding a mutually acceptable solution to the crisis short of war. The third component is the use of assurances to convince the adversary that the coercer will keep three promises: (a) that it will stop hurting the adversary if it complies with the coercer’s demands, (b) that the promised compensation for compliance will be forthcoming, and finally, (c) that compliance will not result in new demands in the future. This combination of coercion and accommodation situates coercive diplomacy in the middle of the crisis management continuum, which has winning at the one end and war avoidance at the other. It also sets coercive diplomacy apart from strategies relying solely on coercion, such as compellence and deterrence, or solely on accommodation and positive inducements, such as appeasement. Coercive diplomacy is a hard-to-use, high-risk strategy with a low success rate—especially with respect to solving crises without any use of force. Success hinges on a favorable context, skillful diplomacy, and psychological factors beyond the coercer’s control. The many factors affecting its successful use and the holistic nature of the strategy involving coercion, positive inducements, and assurances have produced a rich but also fragmented and dichotomous literature, which has been marred by a number of theoretical, methodological, and definitional disputes. Since 2010, a new generation of scholars has taken promising steps to overcome some of these problems using sophisticated mixed-methods research designs. Significant progress can be made if scholars begin to use such designs to better understand how the interaction of coercion, positive inducements, and assurances affects the scope for resolving crises short of war.

Article

Disproportionate policy response—which is composed of two core concepts, namely policy overreaction and under-reaction—is typically understood to be a lack of “fit” or balance between the costs of a public policy and the benefits deriving from this policy and/or between a policy’s ends and means. The disproportionate policy perspective introduces an intentional component into disproportionate response. It represents a conceptual turn whereby the concepts of policy overreaction and under-reaction are reentering the policy lexicon as types of intentional policy responses that are largely undertaken when political executives are vulnerable to voters. In times of crisis, disproportionate policy responses may be intentionally designed, implemented as planned, and sometimes successful in achieving policy goals and in delivering the political benefits sought by the political executives who design them. The premise underlying this argument is that crises vary in many respects, some of which may incentivize a deliberate crisis response by political executives that is either excessive, or lacking. For example, when crises occur at times of electoral vulnerability, the relevancy of policy instruments’ visibility, theatricality, spectacularity, and popularity may dominate the calculus of crisis management decisions. The same applies in cases where strong negative emotions emerge, and subsequently, political executives may opt to overwhelm hysterical populations cognitively and emotionally, trying to convince them that the policy system is viable.

Article

David Alexander

Disaster risk reduction (DRR, or disaster reduction) is an umbrella term for processes of preparing for, responding to, recovering from, and managing the risk of disasters. It refers primarily to the acts of setting the policy and strategic agendas for these tasks. It reflects a long-standing need to reorientate priorities from merely responding to disasters once they have struck to reducing or avoiding their impacts. To be achieved, DRR requires a combination of physical and social measures, with full participation of affected populations and other stakeholders. Academically, disasters have been studied systematically for more than 100 years. During this period, the emphasis has changed from analyzing natural hazards as the primary drivers of disaster to a more pluralistic approach in which vulnerability and exposure to hazards and threats are viewed as playing vitally important roles. Disasters can have natural, technological, social, or intentional (i.e., terrorism-related) causes, but they are increasingly composite events that involve combinations of factors. Hence there is now much emphasis on “natech” events, in which natural hazards affect technological systems, and cascading disasters, in which escalation points caused by interacting sources of vulnerability may have the power to make the secondary effects more important than the primary trigger. Root causes and contexts have assumed a greater salience in the explanation of disaster, which tends to involve complex interactions among social, economic, political, and physical factors. Resilience has come to the fore as a positive concept for organizing processes of DRR. It is usually defined as a mixture of adaptation to hazards and threats and the ability to resist or overcome the negative effects of disaster. DRR concepts and strategies have been mainstreamed in modern society by international action under the auspices of the United Nations and the Sendai Framework for DRR, 2015–2030. The challenges of applying UN frameworks include uncertainty about whether the underlying concepts are durable, whether they can be applied rigorously, whether they have enough support among policy and decisionmakers, and whether they can acquire a sound practical basis. The future of DRR depends on humanity’s ability to implement solutions to conflict, migration, and environmental change, not merely the impact of disasters per se. In an era in which population is rising, wealth disparities and human mobility are increasing, and environmental change has begun to lead to major upheavals, DRR has gone from being a rather esoteric, specialized field to one that is central to the future of human existence.

Article

Spontaneous, so-called emergent groups often arise in response to emergencies, disasters, and crises where citizens and relief workers find that pre-established norms of behavior, roles, and practices come into flux because of the severity and uncertainty of the situation. The scholarship on emergent groups dates to 1950s sociological theory on emergence and convergence, whereas contemporary research forms part of the wider disaster scholarship field. Emergent groups have been conceptualized and theorized from various angles, ranging from discussions around their effectiveness, to their possibilities as channels for the positive forces of citizen’s altruism, as well as to more skeptical accounts detailing the challenges emergent groups may pose for established emergency management organizations in relief situations. Scarce scholarly attention, however, is paid to the role of emergent groups when it comes to empowering marginalized and vulnerable communities. The few empirical studies that exist suggest linkages between active participation in emergent groups and empowerment of otherwise marginalized communities, as shown in an ethnographic study of the work of Occupy Sandy that emerged in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy that struck New York City in 2012. Although more systematic research is warranted, such empirical examples show potential in terms of shifting emergency and disaster management toward more inclusionary, participatory, and empowering practices. As low-income communities, often of color, experience the increasingly harsh effects of climate change, important issues to ponder are inclusion, participation, and empowerment.

Article

Nick Sitter and Elisabeth Bakke

Democratic backsliding in European Union (EU) member states is not only a policy challenge for the EU, but also a potential existential crisis. If the EU does too little to deal with member state regimes that go back on their commitments to democracy and the rule of law, this risks undermining the EU from within. On the other hand, if the EU takes drastic action, this might split the EU. This article explores the nature and dynamics of democratic backsliding in EU member states, and analyses the EU’s capacity, policy tools and political will to address the challenge. Empirically it draws on the cases that have promoted serious criticism from the Commission and the European Parliament: Hungary, Poland, and to a lesser extent, Romania. After reviewing the literature and defining backsliding as a gradual, deliberate, but open-ended process of de-democratization, the article analyzes the dynamics of backsliding and the EU’s difficulties in dealing with this challenge to liberal democracy and the rule of law. The Hungarian and Polish populist right’s “illiberal” projects involve centralization of power in the hands of the executive and the party, and limiting the independence of the judiciary, the media and civil society. This has brought both governments into direct confrontation with the European Commission. However, the EU’s track record in managing backsliding crises is at best mixed. This comes down to a combination of limited tools and lack of political will. Ordinary infringement procedures offer a limited toolbox, and the Commission has proven reluctant to use even these tools fully. At the same time, party groups in the European Parliament and many member state governments have been reluctant to criticize one of their own, let alone go down the path of suspending aspect of a states’ EU membership. Hence the EU’s dilemma: it is caught between undermining its own values and cohesion through inaction on one hand, and relegating one or more member states it to a second tier—or even pushing them out altogether—on the other.

Article

Ian Scott

Government organizational silos have been blamed for a multitude of sins. Yet they have proved to be resilient, principally because they provide opportunities for centralized government, political control over the bureaucracy, and the prospect of rapid decision-making, effective implementation, and support for economic development. But silos often also suffer from serious dysfunctions that impede smooth progress from decision to action. Their relationships with other government, private, and third-sector organizations frequently reflect inadequate horizontal coordination, a failure to communicate and to share information, and disputes over funding and jurisdictional responsibilities. It is instructive to compare how countries in Europe and Asia view government silos and attempt to deal with their shortcomings. Radical reforms in Europe have mitigated some dysfunctions by creating flatter structures, decentralized organizations, and improved horizontal coordination within government and between government, the market, and society. But the reforms have not entirely overcome the “silos mentality,” which may result in failure to share information and may affect implementation. Nor have European governments entirely overcome the tendency to reintroduce centralization and more rigid hierarchies when faced with problems. In Asia, silos continue to be a dominant and valued organizational feature of most governments because they are seen to have an important role in maintaining political stability and promoting economic development. Although political leaders acknowledge their weaknesses and there have been some efforts to improve horizontal coordination, particularly in crisis management, the macro-level public sector reforms that dismantling the silos would entail has not been on the agenda. On both continents, resolving the problems of the silos and finding the right mix between vertical and horizontal coordination remain major challenges.