conference was an overwhelming success and achieved its primary
objective of bringing together a wide range of experts from a number
of sectors and academic disciplines at a single event. Participants
represented the humanitarian and development sectors, academia,
business, government, funding agencies and professional institutions.
Over the course of two-and-a-half days, there were thirty-one presentations
and five formal discussion sessions that examined disaster risk
reduction (DRR) research for natural hazards, with the emphasis
on putting research into practice.
core aim of the conference was to examine how natural hazard research
is accessed and used by practitioners and decision- and policy-makers,
and how policy and practice inform research. It is here that the
meeting successfully highlighted the need for much improved understanding
and dialogue between all the sectors represented. There is an urgent
requirement to better understand respective needs, ways of working
and funding mechanisms, as well as the challenges posed by institutional
and organisational structures and functions. That said, it is clear
that far too much research is still user-unfriendly, and that practitioners
do not adequately engage in and with research. Such shortcomings
are perhaps more pronounced with the natural sciences than with
the social sciences.
risk reduction and resilience were considered and once again it
emerged that natural scientists focus primarily on the physical
hazards, while social scientists and practitioners are more connected
with broader societal issues such as vulnerability and resilience.
However, efforts to cross this divide have been on going for a number
of years, and some of the results and challenges were presented.
The natural hazards that received most coverage were volcanic and
seismic events, but it must not be forgotten that in addition to
earthquakes and tsunami, windstorms, floods, droughts and natural
contamination cause the greatest human losses. Very little connection
was made between natural hazards and climate variability, which
is perhaps surprising with the run-up to Copenhagen 2009. Multi-hazard
environments received limited attention.
and top-down approaches were examined from a variety of perspectives.
The power of community capacity and indigenous knowledge was highlighted
as deserving greater respect, and there were suggestions that DRR
intervention must be rigorously assessed in order to avoid it increasing
vulnerability, particularly in the long term. Research will perhaps
have the greatest impact from the top down, by informing international,
national and regional agencies. However, researchers are concerned
that their analyses and messages are not carried through and are,
therefore, much less effective than they should be. Non-government
organisations could give research a much greater voice and wider
and deeper reach, and research should underpin responsible advocacy.
risk reduction must be underpinned by thorough risk assessment,
and examples of different methods of performing this were presented.
The type of assessment is somewhat dependent on spatial and temporal
scale, and there is increasing realisation that these must be forward
looking, especially as DRR is about anticipating future disaster
risk. How far forward is a key question, but the challenge was laid
down to focus more attention on the bigger picture of risk over
the next two decades, a time by which water, food and energy consumption
are all predicted to rise by 40-50% and there will be an extra two
billion people on the planet. Perhaps, therefore, DRR is a misleading
term and risk reduction or resilience would be more appropriate
to encourage rigorous consideration of total risk on decadal timescales,
particularly as disasters must be considered along with poverty,
affluence, conflict, political and civil unrest, uncertainty, and
environmental and resource degradation, to name but a few.
where do we go from here? Well, the DRR community needs to clearly
articulate the knowledge that they require and develop mechanisms
for its effective creation and dissemination. To achieve this there
are two key areas that should underpin all activities:
Proper and sustained dialogue between all sectors involved in DRR.
Dialogue to inform research and for that research to be effectively
communicated and applied.
important areas for consideration that were highlighted:
Knowledge is fundamental to reducing risk and building resilience,
but it is ineffective without being underpinned by appropriate education.
Education in turn must foster imagination and innovation to devise
How is the research and practitioner community going to assess and
manage risk in preparation for the next ten to twenty years and
Why is the risk community still not effectively engaging with and
making full use of the knowledge, expertise, tools and technologies
that are already available.
How can bottom-up and top-down approaches effectively meet and become
How can the business sector be integrated into DRR activities, particularly
in terms of risk analysis and micro-insurance?
How can new donor and funding streams be created to support risk
reduction research and its effective application?