|A Research Agenda for Disaster and Emergency Management (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - Disaster Management Training Programme - United Nations Development Programme , 76 p.)|
9.1 It was suggested in paragraph 8.4 that responses to hazards tend to focus primarily upon the crisis and relief phases; many agencies and donors see the process of recovery and reconstruction, let alone subsequent development, as something that is beyond their mandate or responsibility. A good illustration of this is the perennial discussion about who should take responsibility for assistance to repatriating refugees and for how long after their return such assistance is made available to them. While UNHCR and its associated NGOs are willing participants in the actual repatriating process, the longer-term rehabilitation and re-integration needs that returnees invariably face, especially if they are going back to areas which have been in conflict for protracted periods, are often left largely unmet or totally avoided. The problem is one of humanitarian agencies maintaining that such needs should be dealt with by development agencies such as UNDP or through bi-lateral programs, while the development agencies maintain refugees/returnees/displacees are the responsibility of humanitarian agencies. Bi-lateral donors often face the same dilemma; their multi-lateral and humanitarian divisions are essentially geared to reactive responses to emergency needs, while their development and bi-lateral divisions see the recovery and rehabilitation of displaced people and other disaster victims as falling under the mandate of their humanitarian wings. Clearly therefore, there is a pressing need to strengthen and consolidate the inter-relationships between emergency response phases to disaster events with the longer-term recovery and reconstruction phases. Policy research, such as was suggested in paragraph 8.4, would greatly assist this process.
9.2 In Figure 1, attention is drawn to this close interdependence of the relief phase following a disaster and the subsequent recovery and reconstruction phases. It is important to emphasize here that one should not regard these as discreet phases; the most effective recovery programs are those which usually begin as part of a relief operation. For example, had basic construction materials instead of more tents been made available to returning Kurds during the summer of 1991, the shelter crisis which created a new emergency as winter approached could have, at least partly, been avoided. Rehabilitation programming for displacees and other disaster victims can and should become an essential component of any relief operation, in part to better prepare people for resuming a normal life and in part to prevent the development of dependency upon relief assistance. Instead, too many agencies continue to view relief and emergency assistance as an end in itself; policy research is thus urgently needed to help formulate a new paradigm to disaster response which includes a heightened awareness of the need to integrate relief with recovery and reconstruction. Such research should also make an assessment of what are the most appropriate institutional structures in which to house the process of disaster management from relief through to reconstruction. If, for example, disaster relief is placed in the hands of the military, as is the case in many developing countries where few other institutions have the logistic capacity to mount a major relief operation, it is highly unlikely that much thought will be given to the recovery process. Consequently, case studies of some of the more successful reconstruction experiences should be undertaken to explore:
· why they worked so well;
· what factors influenced the duration of recovery;
· which agency took the lead in the recovery process; and
· the extent to which local vis-a-vis international assistance contributed to the recovery process.
9.3 The latter point raises another important issue, namely, the extent to which large-scale international relief is often part of the problem rather than the solution to subsequent recovery. It is argued by many observers that the knowledge that aid will flow into an area in times of disaster contributes to a reluctance or complacency to undertake better preparedness and mitigation measures. Policy research such as proposed in the previous paragraph must include a critical review of this assertion.
9.4 In any examination of recovery and reconstruction, it is important that the spatial dimensions of the process also be included. As is suggested in Figure 1, there are basically four spatial components to recovery:
· in areas to which disaster victims have been displaced;
· in new locations to which they have been relocated specifically for the purpose of recovery and reconstruction;
· in their home areas to which they have returned after the effects of the hazard have ameliorated; and
· among communities where spontaneously rehabilitating people may have dispersed to in their attempts to recover.
Each of these areas will require distinct interventions; in some cases, disaster victims will need to be specifically targeted while in other cases the most appropriate strategy may be zonal assistance where all residing in the targeted area are eligible to benefit from the intervention. Where recovery also includes development assistance, zonal targeting almost always becomes mandatory. Policy research into recovery processes and strategies should ensure that all four groups of affected populations be included and that the issue of victim-targeted viv-a-vis zonal targeted assistance be critically evaluated.
9.5 A major research area in disaster management is that of the family, community, institutional and societal coping and response mechanisms existing within a state in times of disaster, and especially during the recovery and reconstruction phase. If these mechanisms are fully understood, the planning and implementation of effective recovery programs will clearly be made much easier. People are much more likely to respond to and participate in programs that are closely in tune with activities they normally undertake. A large number of research questions can be posed in this context; research into all of these questions is needed, preferably on a cross-cultural and comparative basis.
9.6 At the family level, the following research questions need to be addressed:
· how does family structure, i.e., numbers, gender and age affect response?
· how does social class and income levels affect family level response?
· how do families decide on response mechanisms and how do their coping strategies vary with different hazards?
· how do the responses of children, the elderly and the handicapped vary from other populations?
· how can one better cope with disaster induced trauma and how does this affect recovery?
· what determines a families evacuation behaviour in times of disasters and its subsequent return?
9.7 At the community level, the following research questions need to be addressed:
· how does the community structure affect its ability to cope with and respond to disasters?
· how do religious beliefs influence response to disaster and do strong religious convictions produce fatalism or resilience?
· are there significant differences in the manner rural communities respond vis-a-vis urban communities, and if so, what is the basis of such differences?
· to what extent does the effectiveness of response depend upon the manner in which communities are organized and the decision making processes within the community?
· what are the expectations of individuals and communities in times of disaster and during periods of recovery, and how do these expectations materialize?
9.8 At the institutional level, the following research questions need to be addressed:
· who creates the emergency and recovery institutions and who are the key players in these institutions?
· does the character and the quality of response vary according to which type of organizations (local, national, international, sectarian, religious, etc.) take the lead in the recovery process?
· what, if any, are the problems created for the recovery process by uncoordinated, unsolicited and/or redundant response institutions?
· what is the role of the mass media in promoting recovery activities?
· what are the longer term special health, and especially mental health needs in the promotion of recovery programs? Does, for example, untreated trauma retard recovery or do other disaster-related health factors prevent or detract people from reconstruction?
9.9 At the societal level, the following research questions need to be addressed:
· how do diverse political systems and structures impact on the recovery process? For example, what are the strengths and weaknesses of military systems when they respond to disasters?
· how do diverse political/ideological systems influence the effectiveness of civil authorities in promoting and executing recovery programs, and what are the constraints created by excessive bureaucratization of the system ?
· how do political/ideological systems influence the mobilization of volunteers in times of emergency and subsequent reconstruction?
· to what extent do political/ideological systems affect the effectiveness with which NGOs respond, and how willing are expatriate NGOs to work within political systems to which they are unsympathetic? What are the consequences to the recovery process when NGOs attempt to work outside of the existing political system?
· to what extent is the overall response to emergency and recovery phases by NGOs more, or less, effective when governments or the NGOs set up NGO-coordinating agencies?
· how can one better influence or control the quality of NGO personnel, their training for the tasks in disaster management which they attempt to address, and their high levels of turnover in personnel? The same questions can be asked regarding government agencies charged with disaster management.
9.10 To the above factors operating within a state, we must add a set of international factors which also influence the nature and effectiveness of interventions aimed at promoting recovery and reconstruction. The major research questions which need addressing in this context are:
· how international bureaucracies inhibit or facilitate recovery? Given that recovery assistance is often not accorded the same level of urgency which relief is, are the time-lags between the articulation of needs and the responses longer than they should be and, if so, what policy changes are required to streamline the delivery of assistance for recovery?
· how the international organizations priorize their assistance for recovery from disasters?
· whether international response levels are equitable for different countries or world regions and, if not, what policy changes are needed to ensure more equity?
9.11 The cost-benefit dimensions of recovery also raise a number of important research questions. Losses to disaster events are invariably measured in economic terms; this may simply be a reflection of the fact that social and psychological costs are much more difficult, if not impossible to measure. Notwithstanding this bias, it is worth questioning whether stated economic costs are always as high as they first appear and to assess the extent to which relief and recovery assistance may often be ill-conceived due to inflated statements of economic losses. Alternatively, while economic losses in the formal sector may be over-estimated, in the non-formal sector the economic losses, and hence the needs for recovery, tend to be largely ignored. Yet, for much of the developing world's urban population, it is only through non-formal sector means of income generation that they are able to maintain a fingerhold on survival. The ability of the non-formal economic sector to recover following a disaster, and the nature of inputs needed to facilitate such recovery remains an almost totally unresearched area.
9.12 The recovery phase following disasters will often lead to some people or communities gaining while others may lose. This can in part be explained by differences in tenacity and aspirations among human populations; it is also a product of differences in access to resources and the means to recover which is, in turn, predicated by such differences as economic status, social class, ethnicity, gender, political affiliation or patronage. Unless the question of who is gaining and who is losing is effectively addressed in times of recovery, the process can lead to profound changes in the social and economic make-up of a community. On the other hand, the recovery process can also be used to effect significant changes into how resources are allocated in a society and the accessibility of greater numbers to better means of income generation and to basic infrastructure and services. Clearly, there is tremendous scope for research into policies and strategies of integrating development initiatives into post-disaster recovery.
9.13 Although the concept that disasters can lead to and promote development was broached about a decade ago,5 researchers have not taken up this challenge to anywhere near the extent possible. Five research themes are suggested here, all of which can be designated as high priority issues. They are:
· an assessment of the extent to which and the conditions under which disasters offset gains made in development, and how such losses can be ameliorated or even avoided;
· an assessment of the extent to which and the conditions under which disasters can provide an opportunity for development;
· an assessment of the extent to which development initiatives can increase vulnerability to disasters, either by creating a false sense of security from hazard events, or by shifting the impacts of a hazard to other areas or to other parts of society;
· the measures and information bases that are required to encourage governments to make disaster preparedness and mitigation integral parts of national development plans. How can the international donor community assist in this process? and
· how to promote development strategies which emphasize risk-reduction in disaster-prone areas.
5 As was promoted by Fred Cuny in "Disasters and Development" Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1983.