Disaster Risk Management: From Theory to Practice

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When the term “disaster” is mentioned there is an immediate assumption that it is about the hazard – earthquake/flood/volcanic eruption/landslide, etc. When in actual terms, these are merely natural phenomena that only lead to “disasters” in the presence of certain conditions. Such conditions that lead to damage and fatalities are inherent vulnerabilities in both social groups and physical structures. There is an obsession in the media with the science of hazards and far less focus on socio-economic and political vulnerabilities leading to a misconception that science is the answer to what’s essentially a consequence of inequality, lack of access and entitlement to resources and far wider structural factors.

The course is an introduction to the central space vulnerability takes in understanding disasters. It is mainly an examination of the nature, scope, context, concepts, and dynamics of vulnerability and risk. This will be undertaken through looking at factors contributing to vulnerability due to structural forces created by economic globalisation and their impact on local-level vulnerability. The course puts people at the centre of the examination focusing on the socio-economic and political dimensions as well as health aspects of vulnerability and disasters rather than hazards per se. The course also touchs on issues of climate change and forced migration, and overall vulnerability reduction and resilience building.

Instead of a conventional approach where introduction to the subject and definitions constitute the first part, the course starts with the main issues in question and works its way to extracting the concepts, dynamics and definitions of vulnerability from looking at the global picture first. This way students, especially those who have no prior knowledge or experience in disaster related work could make sense and relate better to practical cases and examples rather than sitting through theoretical and descriptive definitions.

The course is designed more like a learning journey and structured into progressive but non-linear blocks of exploration with clear signposts and landmarks. The course is designed in a way where “imparting knowledge” is kept to a minimum. This is an extremely practical subject with highly problematic and politically charged areas. It’s best approaching this course in a way of mutual learning, challenging preconceptions and exploring answers rather than expecting to be given such answers. The course will also be flexibly shaped around students’ experience and areas of interest. While there are set sessions, emphasis will be gauged to students’ level.

Deadline for applications: 1 July 2020. Start your online application now!