Technical ReportPDF Available

Summary Report of Webinar on It is all about Disaster Risk Governance

Authors:

Abstract

In this webinar, we explored how to better manage the current crisis and better prepare for the next. The guest panel presented a global perspective on the latest research and analysis through short presentations and an interactive discussion. They offered wider policy perspectives, but also insights from Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the UK at the national and local levels, and links to science and technology. This report summarises the contributions from an expert panel and common threads to emerge from those and the subsequent discussions, including responses to questions from the audience.
Summary Report of Webinar on It is all about Disaster Risk Governance
Webinar held to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction – 2020
October 2020 1
Global Disaster Resilience Centre
2020
INTERNATIONAL DAY
FOR DISASTER RISK REDUCTION
Summary Report of Webinar on
It is all about Disaster Risk Governance
Webinar held to mark the
International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction – 2020
October 2020
Summary Report of Webinar on It is all about Disaster Risk Governance
Webinar held to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction – 2020
October 2020 Background 2
Background
The United Nations General Assembly has designated October 13th each year as the International Day
for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDRR), a time to promote a global culture of disaster risk reduction. It is an
opportunity for us all to acknowledge the progress being made toward reducing disaster risk and losses
in lives, livelihoods and health in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction that was
adopted back in 2015.
In 2016, the UN Secretary-General launched “The Sendai Seven Campaign” to promote each of the seven
targets over seven years. The 2020 target is Target E: “Substantially increase the number of countries
with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020”, which lays the foundation for the
implementation of the Sendai Framework. This is closely linked with Priority for Action 2: “Strengthening
disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk.
This year’s theme is about conveying the message that many disasters can be avoided or prevented if
there are disaster risk reduction strategies in place. They can be used to manage and reduce existing levels
of risk and to avoid the creation of new risk. What might be referred to as “good disaster risk governance.
This year is also significant in that, as countries and their communities grapple with this global pandemic,
perhaps never in human history have so many people around the world recognised the importance of
disaster risk.
Many countries are continuing to report alarming figures on infection rates and excess deaths associated
with Covid-19. We also know there will be a long-term legacy on excess deaths as resources have been
diverted away from other essential health services and specialist treatments. The economic impacts are
also going to have a devastating impact on our attempts to alleviate poverty. Recent estimates suggest
that the Covid-19 pandemic could cost 21 trillion US dollars. Just imagine if some of that money had been
invested in better preparedness.
The pandemic has also brought to the fore the concept of systemic risk. Risks of high complexity that
are interconnected. Cascading impacts, of the type we have experienced during the pandemic, are often
poorly understood and somewhat unpredictable in terms of cause and effect. They are also transboundary
and global in nature, challenging our decision makers as they don’t fit easily into existing administrative
or sectoral structures. The pandemic has also exposed existing vulnerabilities, including weaknesses in
existing healthcare and support structures, but also disproportionately affecting the poorest members of
our communities. Underlying drivers of disaster risk have been exposed, including human rights, poverty,
inequality and global supply chains.
What is clear from all this is that strong leadership is required. The Covid-19 pandemic has challenged our
existing disaster and emergency management policies and strategies. Now is an opportunity to rethink
the intersectoral nature of disaster risk management. How can we make disaster risk governance fit for the
21st century?
In this webinar, we explored how to better manage the current crisis and better prepare for the next. The
guest panel presented a global perspective on the latest research and analysis through short presentations
and an interactive discussion. They offered wider policy perspectives, but also insights from Indonesia, Sri
Lanka and the UK at the national and local levels, and links to science and technology.
The event was moderated by Professor Richard Haigh from
the Global Disaster Resilience Centre at the University of
Huddersfield in the UK. Listen to a recording of the event:
webinar recording.
This report summarises the contributions from an expert
panel and common threads to emerge from those and the
subsequent discussions, including responses to questions
from the audience.
Suggested citation:
Global Disaster Resilience Centre (2020, October 14), It is all about Disaster Risk Governance [Webinar].
University of Huddersfield.
https://videohud.cloud.panopto.eu/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=af247b66-3d57-4be7-b222-ac4e015aad76
Summary Report of Webinar on It is all about Disaster Risk Governance
Webinar held to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction – 2020
October 2020 Systematic governance to address systemic risk 3
Systematic governance to address systemic risk
Abhilash Panda
Head of Infrastructure Resilience & Deputy for Intergovernmental and Partnerships Branch,
United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Geneva
This year, disaster risk and the need to mitigate impacts have never been so central to our collective
thinking. This is as an extraordinary time. Covid-19 has transformed longstanding norms and practices, like
the way we work and study. This year’s IDDRR is an ideal time to ask hard questions about how to face this
challenge, rather than how to manage disasters.
Systemic risk, or what we could call mutually aggravating catastrophes, demands effective and systematic
responses. Risks are systemic and crises are cascading in nature. Covid-19 is a perfect example of this, where
a biological hazard becomes a global pandemic, setting off a global recession. No one and no sector are
immune. Risk governance, or disaster risk governance (DRG), is no longer a question of managing disasters
or manging a threat posed by a single hazard. Instead, it requires a holistic understanding of risk, and
how its drivers, like poverty, climate change, loss of protective eco-systems, rapid urbanisation, biological
hazards and population growth in hazard prone areas, combine to create systemic risk, sometimes in
unexpected ways.
Good disaster risk governance can be measured in terms of lives saved, a reduction in ill health or injuries.
It can also be about the survival of critical infrastructure or a reduction in the level of economic losses.
We have to start by asking does government have a vision for a disaster resilient country, city or community.
For this a plan is required. A failure to have a plan is the starting point of a crisis.
Secondly, we have to invest in this plan. Some governments had good plans and knew biological hazards
could be the next major disaster. But they did not invest in it, they did not put a budget against it, allocate
human resources to it. The plan remained as a piece of paper and was not implemented. This is the same
for other hazards as well.
Thirdly, the risks we face are systemic. In the current case, a public health crisis is leading to socio-economic
crises. We live in a multi hazard world. For example, even though we face Covid-19, the climate emergency
remains. We need a plan to address a multi-hazard approach.
The fourth aspect is that in many cases, cities, local authorities and communities have been the default
front of the response to disasters and the recovery. National governments are important, but we need to
strengthen resilience at the local level, and now is the time to support them to implement this.
Looking at mass casualty events over the last 20 years, the death toll could have been significantly reduced
if there had been greater focus on DRG for the more effective and efficient management of risks.
National adaptation plans listed under the Paris Climate Change agreement need to and often do list DRR
as a priority. However, stating it as a priority is not enough. The capacity must be made available to act
upon that priority. The capacity to act needs strengthening disaster risk governance. It requires a vision
and a strategy for national and local institutions free from political interferences and empowered to act on
the public good.
We often say that the worst disaster that can happen has not happened yet. We need to bear that in mind
and seek to understand what is required to strengthen disaster risk governance.
Summary Report of Webinar on It is all about Disaster Risk Governance
Webinar held to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction – 2020
October 2020 Systematic governance to address systemic risk 4
In the subsequent discussion, the moderator asked Mr Panda to consider the extent to which the
challenges associated with systemic risk support the need for convergence, or greater coherence of
the Sendai Framework with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement, and
whether the current situation is an enabler for such convergence.
Mr Panda elaborated that the UNDRR and UNFCCC recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding
yesterday that focused on many dimensions but included the need for greater convergence and
coherence between climate change issues and multi-hazard issues. This illustrates that better convergence
is a continuous process and is not going to be addressed during a single hazard.
Covid-19 has increased poverty and famine, triggered civil conflict, and undermined job security. The
common connection is risk. In an interconnected world no one country or one agenda can address a crisis
of this scale alone. An earthquake off the coast of Indonesia can cause mass casualties in Thailand. Forest
fires in the Amazon can cause poor air quality in Europe. The pandemic has already created more poverty
and increased inequality across the world.
Low-and middle-income countries, many of them emerging markets, already face this inequality in
addressing climate hazards. They have not been receiving enough financial support. With the pandemic,
even this support is being diverted and as the focus has become more nationalised.
We cannot see one hazard at a time. Risk that is left unmanaged soon turns to a disaster. Managing risk
intelligently and in a timely manner requires strong leadership, more coherence and more overlap based
on mutual benefits. A coordinated approach is required that addresses climate change and disasters, since
they go hand in hand.
Countries that develop policies and legislative frameworks, invest in resilient infrastructure and risk
informed development, have greater capacity to manage risk in general, whether natural or human
induced hazards. There is already coherence in the global policy frameworks, but a bottom up approach
can also engage the most vulnerable people and communities to help develop more coherent policy
solutions. It will require joint DRR adaptions and sustainable development efforts which will help towards
resilience.
Summary Report of Webinar on It is all about Disaster Risk Governance
Webinar held to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction – 2020
October 2020 The balance of suffering 5
The balance of suffering
Karl Astbury
Senior Policy Advisor for Resilience at Greater Manchester Combined Authority, UK, Civil Contingencies and Resilience
Unit. Mr Astbury was standing in for Dr Kathryn Oldham OBE, Chief Resilience Officer in Greater Manchester.
In 2015 countries around the world signed the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Collectively
we recognised, and I am quoting from the agreement, that “It is urgent and critical to anticipate, plan for
and reduce disaster risk in order to more effectively protect persons, communities and countries, their
livelihoods, health, cultural heritage, socioeconomic assets and ecosystems, and thus strengthen their
resilience”.
The Sendai Framework galvanised work worldwide on disaster risk reduction and I’d like to focus for a
moment on three issues highlighted by that quote: risk, consequence and resilience.
To start with the issue of risk, as a metropolitan area Greater Manchester assesses disaster risks on
a regular basis. We do this within a national framework and, for over a decade, we have had a global
pandemic identified as one of the risks we may face and, furthermore, as one with serious and significant
potential impacts. Modelling against the risk has been based, in part, on the 1918 influenza pandemic. The
disaster risk of a pandemic is one that we and the rest of the world have known about and have had some
experience of handling.
To offer a very local example from the 1918 pandemic, the medical officer in Manchester was Dr James
Niven. Some of his actions may resonate with us today as he saved lives in the city by meticulously
analysing data and statistics to understand what was happening and then:
• recommended that venues close where people were brought into close contact
• cautioned against large public gatherings
• distributed leaflets in an attempt to raise public awareness about how to stay safe
• recommended self-quarantining if people had symptoms
• and mobilised mass provisions of free food to those who were starving
Arguably Dr Niven is still saving lives today as we learn from and copy his actions.
But turning from pre-identification of risk and how history might help us to understand their implications,
to the second issue highlighted in the quote from the Sendai Framework which is about consequences.
The consequences of Covid-19 stretch across all areas of our society, fundamentally challenging our health
systems, our communities, our livelihoods and economies, our cultural systems and our environment.
The shock that is Covid-19 has spread through the fracture lines in cities, illustrating the disproportionate
impact disasters so often have on those who are vulnerable.
As an illustration, a recent study concluded that deprived and poorer areas of the country, many of which
are found in the north of England, are four times more likely than wealthier areas to be locked down, with
all the wellbeing, social and economic challenges this poses to those communities.
To turn to the third issue, the opening quote talks about resilience with one of the targets in the Sendai
Framework being to substantially increase the number of cities with disaster risk reduction strategies and
thus strengthen their resilience, a subject I’d like to explore a little further.
Summary Report of Webinar on It is all about Disaster Risk Governance
Webinar held to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction – 2020
October 2020 The balance of suffering 6
The international prioritisation of resilience as a concept has meant that cities such as Greater Manchester
now have access to tools, methodologies and processes that reflect some of the foremost thinking in
this area. Resilience was an emerging field in 2015, yet it offers a powerful way of understanding and
responding to systemic risks such as Covid-19.
At a basic level, resilience thinking predicts that a shock such as Covid-19 will amplify chronic stresses
within a city, bringing to the fore the way an urban system works with all its interdependencies.
For example, in the Greater Manchester Strategy first published in 2009, a strategy designed to deliver
long-term change by addressing stresses that have affected generations, two of the ten priorities focus
on children and young people. They focus on early years and education: children starting school ready
to learn and young people being equipped for life. Yet Covid-19 is affecting our nurseries and schools,
causing levels of absenteeism that will measurably affect educational attainment, a challenge exacerbated
by inequalities in access to digital alternatives. Covid-19 is therefore potentially baking in disadvantage
for a generation to come. Resilience also asks cities to think in the round about how risks will impact the
urban area. As an example of how tools can assist in this, the City Resilience Framework identifies twelve
urban themes against which a city can assess the stresses it is exposed to and so its urban ‘immune
system’. In Greater Manchester we have seen the impacts of Covid-19 in all these twelve areas, whether in
redundancies that indicate the fragility of some sectors of the economy or in the way that the first wave of
Covid-19 caused suffering in our residential homes for older people.
However, this analysis also highlights the opportunities that any disaster can throw up. The focus on
outside exercising, with record numbers of people walking and cycling; or the outpouring of volunteering
to support the isolated and vulnerable. The challenge for policy makers and governance systems is how to
capitalise on the benefits as well as to mitigate suffering.
Covid-19 is cross-cutting and cross-sectoral. The policy landscape is complex. And this brings me to
governance, the focus of this year’s international day of disaster risk reduction, and to the issue of suffering.
Covid-19 is characterised by suffering, of those who are ill and of those who lose loved ones. However, the
attempts to mitigate these outcomes bring hidden harms, whether in the loneliness of social distancing
and isolation or in the adverse health impacts of more sedentary lifestyles as we stay at home. Every
policy intervention has a cost attached to it – sometimes economic, sometimes social, sometimes in
health outcomes. Thus, we are asking our governance systems in this emergency to navigate between the
suffering that different interventions might bring and to balance the direct and indirect harms associated
with Covid-19.
With perspicacious thinking, the Sendai Framework emphasises the need for coordination mechanisms in
disaster management that work within and across sectors, involve stakeholders at all levels, and have the
full engagement of national and local government.
Within Greater Manchester, from the outset of the pandemic, we have built on relationships forged as we
have planned for risks and as we have faced different emergencies. We have an Emergency Committee,
Strategic Coordination Group, Tactical Coordination Group and thematic sub-groups. These include
political representation, public and private sector organisations, representatives from the voluntary and
community sector, together with academics. We have national institutions working with local agencies.
However, despite working in partnership and having collaborative models in place for the management of
emergencies, through Covid-19 we have learnt that our partnerships must reach even wider and include
the system and community leaders from an even more extensive set of organisations and interests.
As if dealing with Covid-19 isn’t enough, effective disaster risk governance cannot limit itself to the
management of one emergency, however complex and challenging. As winter draws closer, our
governance systems are also looking at concurrent events – how we will deal with other risks that may
bring additional suffering to the population, whether severe winter weather or simultaneous disease
outbreaks.
Resilience challenges us to deal with the immediate, to consider the implications of our actions and to
forecast into the longer term so that we might support recovery. As we live with Covid-19 19, we have an
opportunity to capture learning about systemic risks, to chart the connections across the urban system
that sometimes bring unexpected consequences and shape the governance that will bring a resilient
future. Above all, we need to act with compassion and kindness if we are to genuinely protect life and
mitigate suffering.
In the subsequent discussion, the moderator asked Mr Astbury to elaborate on the three key pieces of
learning that had emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic in Greater Manchester, especially in relation to
governance.
Summary Report of Webinar on It is all about Disaster Risk Governance
Webinar held to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction – 2020
October 2020 The balance of suffering 7
Mr Astbury identified three lessons that have emerged, although these were framed more as questions to
be addressed in the future.
The first is around the pace of decision making and how that decision making is informed by science.
A challenge is that the science is emerging, and the intelligence is moving at a pace. How can decision
makers accept the inherent uncertainty around some of the science? This is especially important as the
public is looking for certainty.
Second is how can we improve decision making to be more inclusive and how broad do we go? What
new ways of engagement do we need to design and how does this contribute into decision making
processes in a meaningful way?
Lastly, and perhaps a reflection on where we have been, as we moved out of the first wave of infections,
did we do enough in the interim period to keep everyone engaged through our governance system, and
did we get ourselves in the best possible place for what we knew would be a difficult winter? We began
to look at recovery and living with Covid-19. We need to reflect on whether we used that time in the best
possible way to prepare for the next wave.
Summary Report of Webinar on It is all about Disaster Risk Governance
Webinar held to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction – 2020
October 2020 Policies and strategies to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic 8
Policies and strategies to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic
Dr Hemantha Herath
Deputy Director General of Health Services (Public Health Services); Director, National Programme for TB Control & Chest
Diseases; and National Coordinator for Health Sector Disaster Management of the Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has faced and tackled a range of disasters over the last hundred years, from epidemics to ethnic
conflict and natural hazards such as cyclones and a tsunami. As a democracy, sensitive issues can arise in
tackling such threats.
Thus far, in tackling Covid-19, Sri Lanka has fared relatively well in terms of infection rates and mortality. As
of October 10th, the number of confirmed cases was 4,523, with 13 confirmed deaths. When comparing to
many other countries, the fatality rate is low, especially for a developing country (Source: European EDC –
Situation Update Worldwide, 10th October).
We have experienced small clusters of outbreaks from time to time, and we are currently experiencing a
larger cluster, although based on previous experiences, we are optimistic that we can control this cluster
as well. Since April, most of the cases have been detected among Sri Lankans who were repatriated from
other countries. There has been no significant community spread of the disease within the borders of Sri
Lanka.
We believe this situation has been aided by Sri Lanka’s disaster risk reduction policies, which started, or
gained momentum after the tsunami. Prior to that, most policies were based on disaster response. Since
the tsunami, there has been a shift in paradigm from a response-based approach to disaster risk reduction.
Various policy analyses have reinforced a need to shift towards risk reduction, but also towards meeting
community requirements.
The current legal mandate, based on the Disaster Management Act, Clause 10, dictates that ‘It shall be the
duty of every Ministry, Government Department and public corporation to prepare a Disaster Management
Plan. As a result, the health sector has developed its own Disaster Preparedness and Response System,
which consists of several components. The most important is the establishment of a Disaster Preparedness
and Response Division which is instrumental in steering the process. It is exclusively dedicated to disaster
preparedness and response activities, has been functionally operational since 2005, and was physically
established in 2008. It serves as the national focal point, including for the current Covid-19 crisis. It assists in
policy formulation and guidance. It also coordinates preparedness and response. The Division is convertible
to an Emergency Operations Room and serves as a resource centre.
It also works in harmony with the National Framework for Disaster Management. We interact very closely
with the different stakeholders, including the Disaster Management Center, other government agencies,
NGOs, and community-based organisations.
Activities under the system are coordinated by a National Steering Committee and National Technical
Committee, and through Disaster Preparedness and Response Division and sub national EOCs. Activities
include the national strategic plan and institutional planning, management of a contingency fund,
establishing standard operating procedures (SOPs), rapid response teams for emergency trauma care,
influenza preparedness, developing accident and emergency services, a safe hospital initiative and training.
These have been instrumental in preparing the country for the type of situation we are experiencing now.
There is a wide range of training provision, including through the Universities and the postgraduate Institute
of Medicine, which has a specific diploma course for disaster management. Disaster risk management is
Summary Report of Webinar on It is all about Disaster Risk Governance
Webinar held to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction – 2020
October 2020 Policies and strategies to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic 9
included in many postgraduate courses including community medicine, medical administration, human
nutrition and emergency medicine.
In terms of institutional preparedness, all health institutions are required to have updated disaster
preparedness and response plans. Disaster management focal points have been identified in all major
institutions. Preparedness is evaluated at regular intervals, including through drills.
Our capacities were also tested during the ethnic conflict, especially during the humanitarian response
operation in 2007-09. The Ministry of Health coordinated health services to the affected populations
throughout the conflict. There was a major challenge in the provision of health services to internally
displaced peoples (IDPs) in Vavuniya, including the establishing of substantial temporary health
infrastructure. This was successful, including no outbreak of diseases, no excess deaths among IDPs, the
nutritional status was maintained above national level, and the efforts facilitated the resettlement.
We also provided overseas medical relief missions, with teams sent to Myanmar in 2008 (Cyclone Nargis),
to Pakistan in 2010 (floods), to the Philippines in 2013 (Typhoon Haiyan) and to Nepal in 2015 (Kathmandu
Earthquake).
These policies and experiences have substantially improved our preparedness in readiness for facing a
threat such as the current pandemic.
Summary Report of Webinar on It is all about Disaster Risk Governance
Webinar held to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction – 2020
October 2020 Adapting to a multi-hazard threat and the ‘new normal’ 10
Adapting to a multi-hazard threat and the ‘new normal’
Dr Harkunti Rahayu
A faculty member of Institute of Technology Bandung in Indonesia,
and Chair of the Indonesian Disaster Expert Association
What has been the Covid-19 impact in Indonesia, for example in the city of Bandung? We have seen a
paradigm shift in the urban lifestyle.
Before the pandemic, in the ‘old normal’, Bandung was compact, busy, stressful, with a lot of traffic
congestion and pollution. Since the beginning of lockdown due to Covid-19, an abnormal period, the
city has become quiet as people move to online activity. There has been less stress, less traffic, and less
pollution. People have enjoyed experiencing a blue sky. But social distancing has also resulted in less trust
in others.
What will the urban lifestyle be like in the ‘new normal’, after the pandemic? A lot of people believe
that our culture, and daily life, our urban spaces, will not return to the ‘old normal’. Please have got used
to this online activity for business, education and the health system. There will be a heavy reliance on
technology, but this raises the question, how resilient is the IT infrastructure? Only 20% of the population
have the privilege of good access to the internet, primarily in the big cities. Also, for example, the huge
demand for online education at certain times of the day has led to large fluctuations in performance as the
infrastructure struggles to cope. Finally, what will happen to the levels of trust in people? Will they recover
to the pre-pandemic levels?
We now have a dichotomy of perspectives among the community on what the future will be like.
Some believe that one day the pandemic will be gone, and that life will be the same as before Covid-19.
A contrasting view is that it will be necessary to keep implementing Covid-19 health protocols when
socialising as well as a need to adapt permanently to the digital revolution – the ‘new normal’.
These two contrasting views pose different challenges for structural mitigation to deal with natural hazards
such as earthquakes and tsunamis. Indonesia faces less frequent, high impact events like tsunami, but also
high frequency events such as annual flooding, regular landslides and seasonal hurricanes. The number of
casualties is less, but they still cause huge social and economic disruption.
270 million people live in Indonesia and more than 60% live in Java Island. The profile of disasters over the
last 200 years shows that Java Island, which contains most of the country’s big cities, has faced the most
disasters from natural hazards, but also has been most severely affected by Covid-19.
As per October 12th, there have been 336,716 confirmed cases of Covid-19, the 20th highest in the world,
and these are spread across 35 Provinces and 500 cities, with 11,935 deaths (source: Ministry of Health,
Republic of Indonesia). However, what is also concerning is that most of the cases and deaths are located
in the big cities, many of which are also highly exposed to natural hazards.
Indonesia is at the meeting point of four tectonic plates, which means it is in a very seismically active
region. 28% of cities in Indonesia, 150 of them, have been identified as high tsunami risk. In summary, we
have to consider a multi-hazard risk context.
When considering structural mitigation for tsunami, we can look back at 2012 in Banda Aceh to see
some of the challenges we face. After the 2004 tsunami, Banda Aceh has been the subject of significant
investment in structural and non-structural mitigation for tsunami threats. A major earthquake in 2012,
which occurred in a similar location to the 2004 earthquake that trigged the devastating tsunami, tested
Summary Report of Webinar on It is all about Disaster Risk Governance
Webinar held to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction – 2020
October 2020 Adapting to a multi-hazard threat and the ‘new normal’ 11
community preparedness arrangements. Photographs from 2012 show people panicking and flocking
into the streets. Very few people went to the vertical evacuation shelter as they felt it was too close to
the coastline and they did not trust the quality of the building. This is somewhat understandable as
there was no community involvement or participation when constructing the shelter, whose design and
construction was led by a Japanese team.
As a result, there has been more attention on the design and construction of structural mitigation
interventions. An ITB team was involved in the development of a guide, which has informed the
development of subsequent infrastructure, including a tsunami vertical evacuation centre in Padang City,
built in 2015. The guide did not just focus on the technical design, or ability of the building to withstand
earthquakes and tsunami, but also on how it was built and ownership of the building by the community.
The design load in the guide considers gravitational, seismic, wind and tsunami load, such as hydrodynamic
and hydrostatic forces, but also buoyancy, wave force, uplift, debris, and scouring. It also considers the
capacity and space for evacuation, depending of the length of time that it would be accommodating
people. However, this did not account for the space that would be required in a Covid-19 style pandemic.
This illustrates that we need to review all the protocols in light of the new restrictions and constraints
imposed by the pandemic.
The implications go much further. We recently published guidelines for tsunami warning services,
evacuation, and sheltering during Covid-19 for 24 Indian Ocean countries who are members of the tsunami
warning system. This requires countries to consider the location of Covid-19 hospitals, such as whether
they are in a tsunami hazard zone, protocols in evacuation shelters, such as physical distancing, face
masks and sanitiser, the availability of PPE for medical teams and social workers, and separate evacuation
protocols and plans for infected people.
We have also been looking at other hazards, such as flooding in Jakarta. This has included the development
of box shelters to maintain social distancing, routine disinfecting of shelters and routine health checks, but
also collaboration with the Covid-19 task force.
Concluding, these examples illustrate that we need to adopt a multi-hazard approach for structural
mitigation planning, not just in dealing with the current pandemic, but also in anticipating how we can
deal with hazards in the ‘new normal’ situation.
Summary Report of Webinar on It is all about Disaster Risk Governance
Webinar held to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction – 2020
October 2020 Leveraging science and technology to address systemic risk 12
Leveraging science and technology to address systemic risk
Professor Dilanthi Amaratunga
Professor of Disaster Risk Reduction at the Global Disaster Resilience Centre, University of Huddersfield, UK
In our increasingly complex, inter-connected world, risk has become systemic, challenging governance
mechanisms of established risk management institutions and single-hazard approaches. Systemic
understanding of risk goes far beyond previous notions and concerns. It requires a more sophisticated
approach, as well as innovative analytical methods at the forefront that prioritise complex causality,
uncertainty and non-linearity. We must continue developing and testing the tools and approaches needed
for systemic risks.
Systemic risks can be characterised by five major properties. They are highly complex. They are
transboundary and global in nature. There are random relationships between trigger and effects. They are
highly interconnected and complex, stochastic and non-linear in their cause-effect relationships. They are
also non-linear and include tipping points. Science struggles to identify these tipping points in advance.
A complex system can remain stable for an indefinite length of time. Once it reaches a tipping point, the
system drastically changes its conditions of existence in a very short period of time. Finally, they are often
underestimated in public policy arenas and public perception due to uncertainties of point of occurrence
and extent of damage.
As highlighted in the 2019 Global Assessment Report, the era of hazard-by-hazard risk reduction is over. We
need to reflect the systemic nature of risk in how we deal with it. We need to improve our understanding
of anthropogenic systems in nature. We must identify related signals and correlations to better prepare,
anticipate and adapt.
The current health crisis stress-tests our ability to cooperate, learn and adapt in the face of deep
uncertainties and rising risks. It calls for an important reflection on the necessary contributions of the
scientific community and the technological developments to enhance comprehensive risk management.
The global science community must come to terms with the need for a new understanding of the dynamic
nature of systemic risks, new structures to govern complex risks, and develop new adaptive systems and
tools for risk-informed decision-making that allows human societies to live in and with uncertainty.
This will require improving links between science and decision-making on systemic risks. Addressing the
complexity and non-linear nature of systemic risks entails a holistic approach to hazard identification, risk
assessment and risk management. Successful risk management depends on scientific understanding of
risk factors and drivers, and on their behaviour, as well as on the ways in which disasters are expressed
and materialise in society. Social and natural sciences, alongside technology and innovation, will provide
verifiable knowledge and evidence-based answers to help understand causal factors underlying risk.
Additionally, observation and experimentation, explanation of principles and causes, the formulation and
verification of hypotheses, the use of adapted methodologies for this purpose and the systematisation of
knowledge, will help create efficient disaster risk management policies.
Governance of natural hazards needs to pay close attention to the interactions between human-induced,
biological and natural hazards. Inclusive governance of systemic risks can improve disaster risk governance.
We can examine this in an early warning scenario. The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami was a turning point
for early warning systems and their mechanisms, and the Indian Ocean Tsunami Early Warning system
was initiated with the participation of diverse stakeholder groups. However, for multi-hazards, cross-
boundary early warning remains a challenge for many different reasons. Further, early warning for slow
Summary Report of Webinar on It is all about Disaster Risk Governance
Webinar held to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction – 2020
October 2020 Leveraging science and technology to address systemic risk 13
onset disasters (e.g. drought) always has been a challenge and the scenario of linking rapid on set, slow
onset and other types of hazards need lot of research and science backing.
The 2022 Global Assessment Report concept note highlights the importance of unpacking and revealing
characteristics of vulnerability, exposure and managing systemic risks. Understanding the systemic nature
of risk must drive innovation and systems-based solutions across all societies. Applying a systemic risk lens
in analysis, potential thematic areas for detailed examination include the relationships between human
and environmental health conditions, employment and economic shifts, ecosystem services, physical and
social infrastructure and education services.
The 2022 Global Assessment Report concept note also stresses that risk-informed decision making
must also evolve in the context of uncertainty. The DRR community has traditionally focused much of
its effort on assessing risks and providing data, information and knowledge on risk that is as accurate as
possible. However – and despite advances in the availability and accuracy of risk-related data, models and
prediction tools – risk-informed decision-making remains the exception and not the rule. An enhanced
understanding of what drives behaviour in the context of known risk can assist decision-makers develop
solutions that are not only logical but are cognisant of prevailing risk behaviours, wherein the likelihood of
acceptance and implementation is improved.
The concept note also discusses the management of systemic risks. Recognising that many decision-
makers baulks at the complexity of understanding systemic risks and the challenge of developing systems-
based approaches to address multidimensional challenges in contexts of uncertainty, there is a need to
offer an exploration of effective and emergent approaches to managing systemic risks to sustainable and
resilient societies and ecosystems.
In order to address these types of challenges, we must consider the global context and internationalisation
of research and development. A significant part of science and technology development is based on higher
education and research at universities and other research institutions. Collaborations have always been a
natural part of academic life, but within the context of an increasingly globalised research environment,
the ability to link into or build international collaborations becomes all the more important. Strengthening
research collaboration is also important in order to meet the big global challenges confronting science,
such as understanding systemic risks, as well as attracting and retaining links with the best scientific talent.
Summary Report of Webinar on It is all about Disaster Risk Governance
Webinar held to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction – 2020
October 2020 Common threads to emerge 14
Common threads to emerge
The webinar provided a rich discussion around the role of governance in tackling some of the challenges
that have been exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The speakers provided a range of perspectives,
from high level discussions around the global policy frameworks to national level disaster management
planning and its effectiveness in dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak in Sri Lanka, or guidelines for structural
mitigation that must address a multi-hazard threat. We had detailed insights into the impacts, responses
and challenges at the local level, such as in Greater Manchester in the UK and Bandung in Indonesia. We
also heard about the role of science and technology in tackling these emerging challenges.
Despite such diverse and international perspectives, a number of common threads emerged from the
interventions and subsequent questions and responses.
The Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the need for policy coherence. By definition, systemic risk requires
a convergence of the global policy agendas on disaster risk, climate change and sustainable development.
They all require a holistic understanding of risk, and how its drivers, like poverty, climate change, loss of
protective eco-systems, rapid urbanisation, biological hazards and population growth in hazard prone
areas, combine to create systemic risk, sometimes in unexpected ways.
Government must have a vision for a disaster resilient country, city or community. This must be
supported by appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks as government has to be based on this.
There must also be policy instruments and disaster reduction plans that are supported by appropriate
investment. They will only be implemented if there is a budget against them and human resources
allocated to them.
A multi hazard approach is vital. The pandemic has exposed serious flaws in preparedness planning
for a single hazard, as countries have been forced to hurriedly adapt those plans to deal with the
additional complexities associated with concurrent or cascading event, such as local lockdown rules or
the imposition of social distancing measures. Multi-hazard requires good coordination mechanisms in
disaster management that work within and across sectors. An inter-sectoral approach should involve
stakeholders at all levels and have the full engagement of national and local government.
Governance must leave no one behind. As with many natural hazards and climate change, Covid-19
has disproportionately impacted those who are most vulnerable in society and amplified chronic stresses
within a city, such as those living with chronic underlying health conditions, poor job security or who
lack access to digital alternatives. The disruption to society will have long term impacts on efforts to
eradicate poverty, educational attainment and key health indicators, potentially reinforcing disadvantage
for generations.
Covid-19 has transformed longstanding norms and practices, like the way we work and study. Learning
from these experiences is essential. Many countries have used experience from previous events to inform
their current approaches for tackling Covid-19, whether that is learning from over 100 years ago and
lessons from dealing with the Spanish flu, or transferrable experiences from recent epidemics, conflict
situations or other natural hazards. It is evident that Covid-19 has revealed many good practices, but also
exposed serious failings. It will be important that there is a period of critical reflection to understand what
approaches to governance have worked and what have not. The rate of learning is also important. For
example, it appears that some countries have not used their experiences of the first wave of infections to
adequately inform plans for an expected ‘second wave’.
We need to prepare for a ‘new normal’. There is a strong feeling that, even after we emerge from this
pandemic, life will not return to a pre-Covid-19 time. As well as dealing with the loss of family, friends and
colleagues, and the long-term impacts on our economies, we must plan for permanent changes in the
way we work and live. Covid-19 has precipitated longer term trends towards the digitalisation of work,
retail and leisure that can have huge implications for the future of cities and communities. These changes
can provide opportunities but will also expose further vulnerable groups who are not well placed for
this new social and economic landscape. Disaster risk governance must take account of these changes,
including changes to our urban environment and new vulnerabilities.
It will be important to leverage science and technology to address the challenges posed by Covid-19,
but also systemic risk more broadly. Decision making must be informed by science, but that science is
only emerging and there are challenges in how we accept and manage some of the inherent uncertainty
around it. This is especially important as the public is looking for certainty. Effective communication of
science will be vital to build trust and also counter the type of disinformation that has been undermining
policy responses, and amplifying distrust and concern among citizens. We will also require new structures
to govern complex risks, and to develop new adaptive systems and tools for risk-informed decision-
making that allows human societies to live in and cope with uncertainty.
Summary Report of Webinar on It is all about Disaster Risk Governance
Webinar held to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction – 2020
October 2020 Common threads to emerge 15
The coming decade has been called the ‘decade for action’. Along with the climate crisis, the Covid-19
pandemic has reinforced the view that incremental change will not be sufficient to meet the 2030 agenda.
Transformational change will be necessary. Good governance has a vital role in addressing systemic risk
and its complexities. It will be essential in ensuring policy coherence, laying an appropriate legal and policy
framework that is based on evidence, acknowledging diversity and facilitating inclusion, building public
trust, and creating a culture of systematic learning.
For more information
Global Disaster Resilience Centre
Department of Biological and Geographic Sciences
School of Applied Sciences
University of Huddersfield
Queensgate, Huddersfield
HD1 3DH
United Kingdom
www.hud.ac.uk/gdrc
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.