In the last decades, the study of natural hazards, disasters, and emergency planning has undergone a process of convergence and integration, shifting the focus from either a physical, human, or governance perspective to an integrated analysis; from studying single events to thinking in terms of systemic processes and complexity. Along with this convergence a fluent dialogue among researchers and practitioners has emerged, supporting the exchange of concepts, models, expertise, and tools. In the meantime, the efficiency of emergency planning and management has markedly improved and has become the most developed component of risk governance. The improvement of early warning systems, based on enhanced environmental monitoring and forecasting, has gradually been incorporated and is substantially dependent on new geospatial technologies which allow for highly accurate spatial and temporal coverage and resolution. Nonetheless, the persistent evidence of escalating material damage and sustained loss of life creates great public concern and a lack of confidence in these measures.
In the last few years this convergence of ideas and expertise from various disciplines has brought human dimensions to the forefront of the policy agenda of international organizations and governments, and vulnerability has become a key topic of scientific research. The study of global environmental change, and particularly climate change, has brought issues of adaptation and mitigation to public attention as suitable strategies for responding to the predicted effects of global risks. This new circumstance points to a change in the nature of risk governance towards a strengthening of preventive measures and an enhancement of efficiency.
This book addresses and analyzes proactive approaches to the governance of risk from natural hazards, recognizing them as the most suitable strategy in dealing with the set of pressing factors leading many populations to increase their risk exposure. Proactiveness does not imply that the role of emergency preparedness and disaster response be diminished, but does indicate instead a closer integration of these phases of risk management within the broader approach of risk governance. Disasters will, in one way or another, still occur. Decision makers respond to the social demand for safety with the development of civil protection systems, with a deeper analysis and monitoring of natural hazards that will help to enhance early warning and prediction. They begin to fail however, with risk communication, and hardly react at all with risk mitigation actions, since these imply a change of paradigm. Those measures with mid-term effects involving modification of the individual and collective behavior of large human groups, and whose effectiveness depends on cooperation rather than on command and control approaches, or on the implementation of technologies, are rarely preferred. Governments, both in developed and developing countries, favour short-term policies which mask other priorities only recognized too late, as they are dependent on inconspicuous decisions made by citizens day after day.
This book brings together seventeen contributions from different disciplines, with various but complementary points of view, to discuss the directions and key components of risk governance. It explores the various approaches envisaged to broaden the scope of the distinct and rather separate public policies related to the management of risks from natural hazards, including emergency management, environmental management, community development, and spatial planning. This allows for an exploration of the effective integration of the social, economic, and environmental dimensions towards an efficient implementation of sustainable development. The book looks to a convergence in a form of multilevel, integrated, participative, and adaptive governance that may efficiently respond to the increasing uncertainty brought about by escalating risk exposure and global environmental change.
The text explores how spatial planning, as an existing comprehensive policy instrument, may contribute to risk governance with its strong capacity to influence the occupation of hazard-prone areas and the avoidance of risk accumulation. Comprising both urban and regional planning, it focuses on the regulation of land use, looking to the future while taking into account present needs, demand for natural resources and existing, limiting physical factors. Spatial planning has the potential to integrate mitigation, adaptation, and vulnerability reduction measures into the framework of socio-ecological systems. But this is not sufficient. A stronger cooperation between all levels of administration, enhanced public participation, and the transfer of knowledge from experts to lay people will all facilitate an increase in capacity, awareness, and empowerment of individuals and organizations.
This collection of essays reviews the central role of emergency management in risk policy, and the progression from the cycle of disaster to concepts such as social-ecological systems, vulnerability, resilience, mitigation, and adaptation, thereby supporting a conceptual shift towards a more holistic vision. The book seeks to contribute to the augmentation of the conceptual framework of risk governance and to increase the awareness of practitioners and decision-makers in adopting proactive policies. It is concerned with the advancement of a systemic and conceptually integrated perspective of risk policy and presents many issues of interest to risk scholars. Questions yet to be resolved include whether risk management can be integrated into spatial planning or whether other planning approaches should be explored.
Urbano Fra Paleo, University of Santiago de Compostela