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Commentary

UK Alliance for Disaster Research Conference - Day 1 Part 2 (2/4)

Day 1: Lunchtime Plenary - Tomorrow’s Cities

Following lunch we had a plenary session on Tomorrow’s Cities, specifically focused on exploring the theme of learning. The session presented a high-level overview of the Tomorrow’s cities program, a major international interdisciplinary program on a mission to reduce disaster risk for the poor in Tomorrow’s cities. The programme is comprised of nine cities, divided into four learning cities and five development cities. The presentations outlined and explored findings in how we catalyse learning to enhance risk management practices to understand pathways to development for transformational risk informed development policy and practices. In total there were four presentations detailing decision support environment and the stages of learning for visioning, learning for strategy, learning for capacity. Ultimately designed to be a co-production approach that brought stakeholders together by recognising, understanding and respecting different social groups, power structures, existing dynamics and enabling them through this iterative decision support environment. The project takeaways were to ensure learning is; responsible, purposeful, useful and sustained, and where possible facilitating a process that moves beyond single loop learning through to double and triple loop process learning.

 

Technical Session 2: interconnected risks and impacts: multi-hazard risk and community involvement

This was then followed by the final technical sessions of the day, again another round of brilliant rapid-fire presentations from various level of career researchers. Regrettably, this was the point at which my second pen of the day decided to give up on me. Additionally, the slight downside to having so many research topics presented at such a fast pace all in one day means my brain can only take in so much. From this session though a few particularly key points stood out. First from Ekbal Hussain who presented findings demonstrating an alarming drop in geoscience skills, skills that are increasingly necessary and invaluable to the growing field of multi-hazards and multi-risk. The case study presented, demonstrated the undeniable imperative for multi-hazards and multi-risk to be integrated into decision making.


Joshua Nicholas presented his Masters project on conceptualising multi-hazard risk; this I have to say was probably one of the absolute best presentations I have ever seen. One of the most enigmatic, passionate and genuinely brilliant communicators I have witnessed in a long time, a straight 10/10 on presentation skills, time, pace, tone, inflection, engagement, slide to vocal ratio, slide use, absolutely spot on. This is certainly a researcher to follow with eager interest. I can imagine an extremely impactful research future is ahead. Key findings from the research; (i) Experts don’t have a higher risk perception than non-risk experts, (ii) Experts are not necessarily more prepared, (iii) Experts are more aware of interconnected risks and, (iv) Experience is the greatest indicator of perception and preparedness. An interesting point I noted was that the more people trust Government the less they do to be prepared, and the less people trust Government, the more actions they take to be prepared. I wonder, given the decreasing level of trust in Governments, will the general public become more prepared?


Following this was Thushara Kamalrathne - engaging grassroots public health in emergency response though scenario-based learning for multi hazard situations and complex emergencies, again a really insightful talk giving a high-level overview on the research project and outcomes, the guidebook: Scenario based training on multi-hazard situations and complex emergencies  A presentation and guidebook that has numerous transferable applications and lessons.


Bruce Malamud then gave a high-level expert overview of a collaborative project on multi-hazard interrelationships and dynamic risk scenarios in urban areas. The key point around this was to enhance awareness and understanding on the range of possible scenarios that could occur. When questioned further on the possible dangers of multi-hazard risk assessments as a prediction tool, Bruce re-affirmed the need to always communicate and account for the uncertainty in scenarios and decision making. 


Malith Senevirathne then gave a very rapid and comprehensive overview of the CORE EU project, building a cohesive community resilience strategy.  This examined the role of codeveloping risk scenarios with practitioners to integrate into planning. Aside from identifying a-typical barriers and challenges, the project identified a number of opportunities, such as increased awareness, integration into planning and synergies through strategic policy alignment. Key findings of the project (i) need to develop effective methods for addressing risk though policy coherence for competing priorities and strategic objectives (ii) DRR needs effective mainstreaming, presently we are still at a primitive stage (iii) recommendations for reforming must ensure policy coherence (iv) framework for mainstreaming can be achieved with an integrated framework looking at drivers of drivers and enablers for risk and risk reduction.


The final presentation was by Sisria Madurapperuma on the triple crisis: climate change, systemic vulnerability and economic downturns on food security in Sri Lanka. The key point I took from this was that the biggest impact of climate change won’t be the extreme events, it will be the day-to-day slow onset silent subtle and compound effects and changes that will ultimately affect those who are most vulnerable to the greatest extremes.


The first day was then subsequently wrapped up with an invite to the UKADR AGM, where a series of progress updates were given on key activities, a high-level discussion on the draft strategy as the consultation period begins. Again, it has been a fantastic first day with some incredible research work presented from a broad and diverse range of participants.

 

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