Transforming disaster risk management: a political economy approach

Working and discussion papers
January 2012

The recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ‘Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation: Summary for Policymakers’ (SREX) (IPCC, 2011) calls for a mix of incremental and transformational changes to reduce the risk from climate extremes now and in the future. Incremental adjustments may not be enough and current disaster risk management (DRM) policies insufficient to address even existing levels of risk.

This Background Note looks at research undertaken in recent years by disaster researchers on the complex role of institutional arrangements in shaping policy decisions. In doing so it identifies some key research issues that need to be addressed to promote the kind of institutional transformation required to deal with current and future climate extremes, including the need for more multidisciplinary perspectives on DRM.

DRM refers to a conceptual framework and set of measures developed to minimise vulnerability and the risks associated with natural hazards. In the past, disasters were considered to be one-off, unpredictable and natural events, but the increasing use of a DRM lexicon in policy documents suggests that the social causes of disaster that make populations vulnerable and expose them to particular hazards are beginning to be recognised.