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UK Alliance for Disaster Research Conference - Day 1 Part 1 (1/4)

Morning Keynotes


I had the privilege of attending the long-anticipated UK Alliance for Disaster Research annual conference 2023. Day 1 was certainly all it was cracked up to be, with a lot of well-deserved praise for conference organizers Prof. Dilanthi Amaratunga and Prof. Richard Haigh co-chairs of the Global Disaster Resilience Centre, University of Huddersfield, UK. With praise for members of the UKADR who have continued to take the organisation from strength to strength under the leadership of Co-Chairs Prof. Amy Donovan and Susanne Sargeant. With further unanimous celebration for the launch of the new UKADR website.

Keynote: The Origins of Disaster Risk Reduction

The morning's keynote speech by Dr Abhilash Panda was one of the most memorable highlights of the day. Dr Panda, took us on a chronological journey into the origins of disaster risk reduction to help us contextualise and understand what we should be looking at now and considering for a post Sendai-world. Overall, this was a fantastic presentation, confidently and expertly delivered based on nearly two decades of learned experience and insightful reflection from practice. This talk, illuminated the need to shift from disasters to the modern risk and resilience paradigm one that is all-hazards focused and progressive to the needs of socio-economic risk in a complex system.

The most significant takeaway of all was the need to move from risk assessment to risk management. Remarking that risk assessment is one of the few things we can take as a definitive success from Sendai and continue to build out from through an outcome-based approach. Reflecting that more of than that not upstream and downstream variables can’t be accounted for, and risk assessments are often out of date as fast as they are finalised. As such all-hazard risk management is gaining increasing importance for building preparedness and adaptive capacity. This further lead to iteration of the point around the growing need to increasing our collective understanding of complex risk interactions within interconnected systems. Through this we can seek to better manage risk through a stakeholder driven solutions, where we no longer view markets as creators of risk but protectors, with a greater role in solutionising to become more than service providers. 

Dr Panda concludes by noting that the next 6 years will be crucial to defining the post-Sendai goals. The world we will be operating in will be considerably more complex, and more risk prone than it is already. Concluding that ultimately, addressing economic impacts is key to protecting the human development agenda and to do this we must make resilience investable.

The rest of the day featured multiple technical sessions with several presentations given on various research projects being undertaken across various aspects of disaster science from global to local scales.


Technical Session 1: Risk Governance and Climate Change

From the technical session on Risk Governance and Climate change, in particular was the presentation by Amy Donovan – which outlined Imaginaries as a methodological approach to understanding risk perceptions between stakeholders at the nexus of hazard and vulnerability. As a method it demonstrated how it effectively removes the imposition of top-down western ideologies. A method that shows its value by generating a wealth of informative insight practice in participatory approaches for root cause and effect analysis.

The following presentation by Terry Cannon - climate is a class issue. A thought-provoking session, where Terry challenges us to rethink our understanding and response to climate change. Asking us to re-examine our views and beliefs as to the current causes. Positing that, rather than a national blame game that’s currently underway, look deeper beyond the political and media narratives to the root causes of poverty. Because ultimately those who have power built the world this way and want to keep it that way. Concluding that current narratives only help to cover the deeper issues for longer.

The presentation by Samson Mpueh, presented findings from a qualitative study of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction policy integration in Lagos and Delta States of Nigeria. From this the main anecdotal point I took away is that despite contextual differences, the barriers for integration appear fairly universal and resonate with those experienced here in the UK at the science-policy-practice interface. One of the most notable points in the findings was that areas with some indications of policy coherence, coincided with the case study where Government departments were co-located physically in the same building. This makes me think further and question in the world of hybrid and digital networking, to what extent does the digital division exacerbate and impede policy coherence or can it enhance and uncover new opportunities?

Mariantoniette Morga, gave an overview of the participatory action research (PAR) framework for the Mediate EU project, demonstrating all the steps for co-development, co-production and continuous iteration through the project life cycle. PAR cycle 1 has now been completed and interesting results have been produced. (i) Noting that what science thinks is a critical priority is not necessarily what partners think is a priority (ii) Stakeholders do have an understanding and awareness of complex compound and cascading hazard and impacts but limited methods to account for this is assessment and management, and (iii) Risk and resilience assessments carried out at the 4 case study / testbeds are very similar to each other.

Mark Ashley Parry, spoke to the topic of trust, truth and nihilism. Positing that modern society is reliant on trust for meeting modern challenges and delivering on high level policy goals like the Sendai Framework, the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. However, at present, we are confronted with the issue of truth decay issue and an increasing lack of institutional trust. Remarking that trust is diminishing as a result of (i) biases, (ii) how info is generated, shared and consumed, and (iii) increasing division in political ideologies. Raising key questions for how to effectively perform mis and dis-information management. This was then contextualised with the instance of EXXON and climate denial campaigns, stemmed from their opposition science research. Mark summarises to conclude that trust is an essential component of risk management and resilience building, without it we can’t deliver on policy goals as trust is inherent to the success of all aspects of the disaster risk reduction cycle. 

Thanya Weerasinghe, gave a brilliant and lively presentation on the role of collaboration in developing and delivering climate change strategies for companies. Setting the scene to emphasise the key point - If companies don’t take action, it will affect their profitability. Despite this many are still reactive. To facilitate a shift to practice, adaptive capacity is currently seen as the most suitable method to become the focus of anticipatory action and collaboration. Findings from the research indicate that collaboration happens at across industry, supply chains and multi stakeholder networks. Concluding with suggested areas for further research; (i) presently limited studies that focus on the collaborative component of CCA strategies (ii) the role of the different stakeholders, and (iii) a growing need to focus on vulnerable industries and regions.




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