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Reducing People’s Vulnerability to Natural Hazards: Communities and Resilience

The concepts vulnerability, resilience and community are widely used and abused in the literature on natural hazards and disaster risk reduction. This paper seeks to bring greater rigour in their use. In particular, vulnerability must be understood as a set of socioeconomic conditions that are identifiable in relation to particular hazard risks, and therefore perform a predictive role that can assist in risk reduction. Resilience is often confused as a concept, sometimes seen as the inverse of vulnerability, and by others as an independent quality. These confusions may be especially relevant in the context of §policy for disaster risk reduction at the scale of community. Here there is often an idealized notion of community as undifferentiated and unproblematic. Vulnerability (to natural hazards) should be understood in the context of the individual and household as being composed of five (interacting) components: livelihood, base-line status, self-protection, social protection, and governance. The paper highlights the key problems associated with disconnections between these that result in rising vulnerability. In particular, it examines vulnerability in the context of the current expansion of interest in community based disaster preparedness (or management). For this to be effective, a clear analysis is essential of the relations between disaster preparedness and governance, especially the way that power operates at the community level. The ways in which community can operate to support, undermine or be irrelevant to disaster preparedness are analysed. It concludes by suggesting the conditions that are required for community to have any real significance as a component of risk reduction.
Publisher:
UNU-WIDER
Series:
WIDER Research Paper
Volume:
2008/34
Title:
Reducing People’s Vulnerability to Natural Hazards: Communities and Resilience
Authors:
Terry Cannon
Publication date:
April 2008
ISSN Web:
1810-2611
ISBN 13 Web:
9789292300807
Copyright holder:
© UNU-WIDER
Copyright year:
2008
Keywords:
household analysis, political economy, economic development, vulnerability, resilience, community, natural hazards, disaster
JEL:
Q54
Project:
Fragility and Development
Sponsor:
UNU-WIDER gratefully acknowledges the financial contributions to the project by The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and the UK Department for International Development—DFID.
Format:
online
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