RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2019

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212 Reasons to be Cheerful? Interdisciplinarity and innovation in Disaster Risk Reduction
Affiliation Postgraduate Forum
Convenor(s) Caroline Russell (University of Birmingham / SHEAR, UK)
Olivia Taylor (University of Sussex / SHEAR, UK)
Anna Twomlow (Imperial College London, UK)
Chair(s) Caroline Russell (University of Birmingham / SHEAR, UK)
Olivia Taylor (University of Sussex / SHEAR, UK)
Anna Twomlow (Imperial College London, UK)
Timetable Thursday 29 August 2019, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
Room RGS-IBG Council Room
Session abstract Reducing the risks associated with so-called ‘natural hazards’ is a wicked environmental problem faced by many across the globe. Disaster risk reduction needs to be a large scale, long term effort, which fosters innovation and collaboration between actors, sectors and research disciplines. This requires research that engages with both the earth system processes as well as complex socioeconomic dynamics that lead to vulnerability. In the face of a changing climate, this work is ever more important and urgent.

Recent years have seen efforts to fill this gap, heralded by increasingly holistic policy frameworks such as the 2015 Sendai Framework which underlined the importance of a multi-dimensional understanding of hazards, governance and prior investment in preparedness instead of response. Innovative approaches that have subsequently emerged in the disaster risk reduction field include (but are not limited to) efforts to shift to anticipatory action through improved decision processes and standard operating procedures such as forecast based action, environmental virtual observatories, decision support systems, citizen science, multi-hazard analysis, new forms of innovative disaster risk financing, and social network analysis. Many of these have been the subject of significant interest and cause for optimism within both academia and practice.

As the impacts of climate change become increasingly visible and the policy landscape rapidly tries to keep pace with this, further research about how such approaches work in practice is critical. Cautious optimism, empirical evidence of the impacts of these approaches, and openness to criticism, collaboration and improvement is necessary to ensure optimal outcomes and improve disaster risk reduction in a range of contexts. This session will focus on emerging innovations and interdisciplinary approaches to DRR.

Session sponsored by Science for Humanitarian Emergencies and Resilience (SHEAR)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: ac2019@rgs.org
Network narratives: stories of community collaboration within a new institutional context
Caroline Russell (University of Birmingham / SHEAR, UK)
In 2015 four intersecting narratives emerged that promised to shape future actions towards increasing disaster risk reduction (DRR) in Nepal. On an international scale, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, Paris Accord, and Sustainable Development Goals were ratified as a part of a 15-year road map for intergovernmental action on poverty reduction and human-environment interactions. At the national level, Nepal became a federal democracy with the ratification of the new constitution, further redistributing power and responsibility through processes of decentralisation. What these narratives share is the story that collaborative and inclusive action from actors in all sectors is the best way to enhance resilience and tackle the challenge of DRR. Collaborative action maps onto key resilience trends of self-organisation and adaptability, yet there is a concern that at community level collaboration between actors can replicate established asymmetrical power dynamics (Morrison et. al, 2017). This concern is mirrored in scholarship looking at the federalisation process in Nepal and is further exasperated by a gap in knowledge about the nuanced scale of co-operation and co-ordination that exist at the community level in the new institutional context (Nightingale,2018; Watson,2017).

This talk will examine the use of social network analysis as a methodology to capture networks that will be used to map stories that contest or are reconciled with dominant narratives surrounding collaboration, and highlight spaces for future research (Marshall,2015). To examine the success of this approach, I will use a preliminary analysis of data from the first stage of fieldwork in Nepal which mapped community-level networks.
A Framework for Understanding Water-Related Multi-Hazards in a Sustainable Development Context
Julia Docherty (University of Birmingham, UK)
Feng Mao (University of Birmingham, UK)
Julian Clark (University of Birmingham, UK)
David Hannah (University of Birmingham, UK)
Hazards do not occur in isolation and for this reason a multi-hazard approach is vital in realising their impact and providing solutions for disaster risk reduction and sustainable development. This paper develops a novel framework that builds upon bibliometric analysis of the multi-hazard literature and a critical analysis of the existing approaches. It was found that multi-hazard research has expanded greatly over the last 20 years furthering our understanding of the subject with important applications in risk assessment and management. These studies have contextualized multi-hazards, developed models and frameworks to analyse them, provided case studies to test multi-hazard-based approaches, and latterly offered reviews. An important finding was that there is less multi-hazard research in lower income countries and remote environments due to data scarcity and limited accessibility. The critical analysis also found that existing approaches tend to focus on individual hazards, the interaction between one hazard and another, or upon linear hazard chains. Consequently, the paper proposes a new frame work for investigating water-related multi-hazards that has the potential to synthesise existing methods and overcome the challenges identified. The novel framework is dynamic and sufficiently flexible to address geographically specific key considerations including available and accessible data, community variability and cross-sectoral collaborations. The paper concludes that the framework offers an improved understanding of multi-hazards, disaster risk reduction, increased community resilience and progress in sustainable development. Future work will assess the ability of the framework to capture the reality of multi-hazard environments in a comprehensive manner through pilot studies comparing remote and data scarce regions of low-income countries.
'Seeing like an insurance company: The order and disorder of innovations in disaster risk finance and insurance’
Olivia Taylor (University of Sussex / SHEAR, UK)
In a seminal work of anthropology, James Scott analysed how the development schemes of states and governments led to ordering society in ways that rendered it more legible to core state functions such as taxation and the prevention of rebellion. More recent work by James Ferguson has updated this argument, suggesting that in the present world of neoliberal capitalism, investment efforts led by private corporations (which play a significant role in contemporary ‘development’) have led to the ordering of society in ways which systematically include some and exclude others – bringing both order and disorder in their wake.

This session brings this argument to the context of recent policy approaches that bring innovative finance and new modes of insurance to developing countries to manage the risk and uncertainties of disasters, premised on the logic that if governments thought and acted more like insurance companies ‘responses will be more cost-effective with better outcomes’ (Clarke and Dercon, 2016: 79). This represents a significant policy agenda at the international scale to roll out insurance and innovative risk finance en masse – exemplified by the InsuResilience programme which promises to extend insurance to 400 million people in developing countries by 2020 . This globally securitised, ‘insurantial imaginary’ proposes a new, and supposedly ordered and efficient way to manage disasters. In this session, I will suggest that it in fact leads to a one-dimensional understanding of risk and uncertainty, while exposing policyholders to new risks and disorder at the whims of modelling error and global equity markets.
Interdisciplinary mapping – Can GIS incorporate the 'WTH' of planning for risk?
Jenny Knight (University of Birmingham, Forest Edge at BIFoR, UK)
It has been demonstrated that participatory involvement in measures such as Volcanic Early Warning Systems, is not only preferable but essential if effective policies are to be developed. These findings can be expanded to include many areas where ‘risk’ is sociologically ambiguous or scientifically uncertain (i.e. most natural disasters). However, to what level should participation take place and how should it be done? Bearing in mind that ‘risk’ must be informed by both social behaviours as well as physical environmental characteristics this session invites participants to examine the traditionally human geography and physical geography aspects of mapping, why each is important and if it is possible to combine those aspects in a way which can inform our understanding of ‘risk’ and behaviours associated with it. Participants will be asked to take part in a mapping activity in which they identify walking routes, areas of personal significance, wider community behaviours in a given context. They will then examine the physical characteristics of the same environment and analyse conflicts, interactions etc. The session will finish with a discussion and suggestions as to how (and perhaps why), these aspects could be integrated into interdisciplinary planning for environmental risks as well as the difficulties in doing so. Participants would need access to A3 paper, coloured pens and ideally their mobile phones. This activity examines both interdisciplinary and participatory methods in geographical research, challenging us to think reflexively about our position as ‘focused experts’ as well as examining a potentially useful practical methodology.
Assemblage Theory and Disaster Risk Management: Politics and landslides in Kalimpong, India
Peter McGowran (King's College London, UK / SHEAR, UK)
The Sendai Framework includes many reasons to be cheerful. Particularly its advocating for a policy shift towards an agenda of disaster risk management. This sets the stage to use disaster risk management as a tool to guide the sustainable development agenda in a way that avoids creating disaster risk in the first place. Despite its optimistic tone, the Sendai Framework leaves many questions unanswered. It serves to remind us that this understanding of disaster risk management is largely non-existent beyond the pages of academic papers and UNISDR policy documents. It gives policy makers and practitioners little guidance on how to integrate disaster risk reduction into situations where disaster risk is intertwined with conflict generating processes; which is often exactly where the need for disaster risk management is most acute. Theoretical frameworks which can accommodate this complexity are in demand.

Kalimpong district represents such a situation. Landslides in Kalimpong are an assemblage of monsoon rains, silty Himalayan slopes, earthquake tremors, drainage systems built by the colonial powers, tea gardens, an agglomeration of multi-storey concrete buildings built in ‘risky’ places, and a bitterly divided and increasingly unaccountable political system. Based on the first field visit of my PhD, I will reflect on how applying assemblage theory; a concept designed to incorporate complexity, human-non-human interactions, and political change, can be operationalised Kalimpong, where landslide risk and political conflict are intrinsically linked. The session will constitute a presentation of initial findings, including an audience-interactive explanation of assemblage theory, a major component of my conceptual framework.