Logo GRF IDRC 2012
Session Overview
MON4.5: Governance and decision making in DRR
Time: Monday, 27/Aug/2012: 1:00pm - 2:30pm
Session Chair: Qian YE, Integrated Risk Governance Project/IHDP
Session Chair: Helen T SULLIVAN, Rider University
Location: Wisshorn



A study of the performance of risk and vulnerability assessments by Swedish Public Agencies

Marcus ABRAHAMSSON1,2, Kerstin ERIKSSON1,2, Henrik HASSEL1,2, Kurt PETERSEN1,2, Henrik TEHLER1,2

1Lund University Centre for Risk Assessment and Management, Sweden; 2Department of Fire Safety Engineering and Systems Safety, Lund University, Sweden

Risk and vulnerability assessments (RVA) are vital components of the work conducted by public agencies at different levels, as part of the processes for governing and managing risks in the society. In Sweden, public agencies at all levels are required by legislation to perform risk and vulnerability assessments within their respective area of responsibility. The present paper presents a study of how Swedish municipalities, county administration boards and national authorities work with RVAs, with a special focus on three aspects of such assessments that are highlighted in the legislation: vital societal functions, critical dependencies, and capability assessment. The main data collection technique was semi-structured interviews and a total of 25 actors were included and interviewed. The goal was to achieve a good representation of the different actors that perform RVAs. Thus 5 national authorities, 5 county administration boards, and 15 municipalities were chosen in order to obtain a representative functional distribution (in terms of national authorities responsible for different sectors), geographic distribution as well as size distribution. In addition, risk and vulnerability assessments produced by the interviewed actors over the last five years have been analyzed in order to complement the data from the interviews. The study shows that there is rather large variety of approaches, perspectives and views adopted by different actors, all with different advantages and drawbacks. It is argued that the findings of the study can be used to improve the RVA-practices of public authorities.

Social unrest: a systemic risk perspective

Ortwinn RENN

University of Stuttgart, Germany, Federal Republic of

This paper develops a framework of social unrest based on a complex understanding of systemic risks. The term ‘systemic’ describes the extent to which any risk is embedded in the larger context of social and cultural aspects that shape our understanding of risks, influence our attention to causal relationships and trigger our activities for handling these risks. Social unrest can be grouped into this framework of systemic risks. It can be a cause of risk to others, it can be a consequence of experiencing risk (for example a terrorist threat) or the manifestation of such a risk (the actual terrorist attack) or it can be a promoter of a risk chain that is located in other functional systems of society (for example financial crisis). Since social unrest is more a process of escalation than a finite state of the world we have conceptualized the term in form of a step-by-step escalation scheme. Each step makes social unrest more likely and also if it then occurs more severe. In the course of this process, activities may get more and more radical, in particular if these collective protest actions are ignored or even oppressed (examples may be wild strikes, regional boycotts or blockades). In addition, our analysis includes social simulation attempts to identify emprically valid indicators for social unrest. One of the key variable is the relationship between facebook entries with critical remarks towrads the present regime and the number of political arrests.

Dealing with disaster in transitional democracies

Fredrik BYNANDER1,2

1Centre for natural Disaster Research, Sweden, Kingdom of; 2National Centre for Crisis management Research and Training (CRISMART)

Society’s susceptibility to the explosive forces of nature is a function of its robustness, flexibility and absorption of the trauma inflicted by major natural hazards. In order to improve society’s capacity to prevent and manage natural disasters, The Swedish Centre for Natural Disaster Science (CNDS) aims to help increasing the understanding of the societal, scientific and technical processes involved in natural disasters. This part of the program probes the link between democracy, governmental efficiency and natural hazards. It focuses specifically on transitional democracies and their ability to uphold some level of governance in the face of natural events that triggers a need for mitigation, response and recovery. Lessons are drawn from a large bank of case studies on transitional states responding to disaster. To better understand the complex interrelationship between society and natural hazards, scientific endeavours need to be truly integrative throughout the range between the complex behaviour of nature, the functional foundations of society and the technology that interconnects the two. CNDS is part of a government strategic research initiative that has recently set out to accomplish exactly this. The analysis discussed here is part of a core aim of the program to scrutinise the performance of policies targeting vulnerability to natural hazards, forms of negotiations and the design of international treaties, which can enhance natural disaster management.

A disaster management framework for coping with acts of extreme violence in school settings: a field study

Camelia DUMITRIU1, Carmen Aida HUTU2

1Université du Québec À Montréal (Quebec University at Montreal) UQAM, Canada; 2Gh. ASACHI University, Iasi, Romania

The evolving threat to school safety caused by acts of extreme violence is explicitly addressed by the “Standard for Natural and Man-Made Hazards to Higher Education Institutions” (ANSI, 2010). School violence has become a “global phenomenon that affects one of the core institutions of modern society […] in virtually all nation-states” (Akiba et al., 2002). This study presents the results of an interdisciplinary three-year research project on disaster management planning for coping with acts of extreme violence in schools. The project was funded by the SSH Research Council of Canada and carried out by an academic team from UQAM (Montreal School of Business) in collaboration with researchers from six countries.

We collected data in six countries on four continents and interviewed relevant stakeholders (regarding the event/school/community/national educational system) in ten schools that had experienced an act of extreme violence (a multiple-victim event). We adapted and then used the ‟Pressure and Release” and ‟Triangle of Risk” models to analyze the preparedness action carried out by the selected organizations, their coping capacity, and their response actions.

We identified: (a) eight root causes and dynamic pressures that can increase the vulnerability of the educational system to man-made hazards and its susceptibility to the impact of these hazards, (b) the main deficiencies in preparedness, and (c) the challenges raised by the intervention process and the disaster recovery stage.

A framework for disaster management planning was developed to integrate these findings.

Our results support the United Nations’ findings (A Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2004) and will help policymakers and educational institutions to enhance institutional resilience by (a) dealing proactively and effectively with the new emerging risks that are related to school violence, and (b) improving the process of disaster risk management at each stage of the “risk cycle” (prevention, intervention and recovery).

Risky talks and talking risks in disaster management: a way forward or backward?

Nibedita Shankar RAY-BENNETT

University of Leicester, United Kingdom

Since the conception of the Hyogo Framework for Action (2005-2015) in the World Disaster Conference in 2005, ‘risk’ is mainstreamed in all disaster management activities.

The Disaster Risk Management Programme (DRM) initiated jointly by the Government of India and the UNDP in India (20002-2007), cyclone-cum-flood shelter management in Bangladesh and the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 in the United Kingdom (to name a few) are some of the ways 'risk' is practiced.

In this light, I argue that the adoption of 'risk' as well as its application especially in the context of international development needs to be problematised: first, by questioning how risk reduction approach differs from the other approaches such as hazard management approach, vulnerability approach and consequent management approach. In doing so, I question is this ‘a way forward or backward’ for the disaster and development community who are committed to reduce poverty and vulnerability from the impact of environmental disasters.

Second, I posit that the ‘way forward’ would entail studying risk at the interface of socio-technology, communication, vulnerability and cultural theories.

In so doing, I posit that risk theories would not only generate substantially new ideas and approaches for managing disasters but also promote critical reflexivity amongst the DRR and development communities.

Have we finally found the elusive "Higgs Boson" particle of disaster risk Reduction?

Walter West HAYS

Global Alliance For Disaster Reduction

This presentation is a summary of an ongoing critical review of the notable global disasters of my generation as a professional (40 years), which indicates that the probabilistic answer to the question raised in the title is 0.9.

The answer, which can be expressed in two words and in terms of “eight laws of enlightenment,” was in front of the eyes of the world’s professionals the entire 40 years. Never more so than in the past decade when there has been a significant increase in the numbers of communities, urban areas, and nations that have been stricken by natural disasters and catastrophes. The answer lies on our ability to make these social constructs resilient to the potential disaster agents of the disaster-causing event (e.g., a flood, an earthquake, a severe windstorm, or a volcanic eruption).