Department of Social Sciences
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Phone number: 01865 483740
Location: GIP Gibbs G4.08a
As experts predict that at least some irreversible climate change will occur with potentially disastrous effects on the lives and well-being of vulnerable communities around the world, it is paramount to ensure that these communities are resilient and have adaptive capacity to withstand the consequences. Adaptation and resilience planning present several ethical issues that need to be resolved if we are to achieve successful adaptation and resilience to climate change, taking into consideration vulnerabilities and inequalities in terms of power, income, gender, age, sexuality, race, culture, religion, and spatiality. Sustainable adaptation and resilience planning that addresses these ethical issues requires interdisciplinary dialogues between the natural sciences, social sciences, and philosophy, in order to integrate empirical insights on socioeconomic inequality and climate vulnerability with ethical analysis of the underlying causes and consequences of injustice in adaptation and resilience. In this paper, we set out an interdisciplinary research agenda for the inclusion of ethics and justice theories in adaptation and resilience planning, particularly into the Sixth Assessment Report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC AR6). We present six core discussions that we believe should be an integral part of these interdisciplinary dialogues on adaptation and resilience as part of IPCC AR6, especially Chapters 2 (“Terrestial and freshwater ecosystems and their services”), 6 (“Cities, settlements and key infrastructure”), 7 (“Health, wellbeing and the changing structure of communities”), 8 (“Poverty, livelihoods and sustainable development”), 16 “Key risks across sectors and regions”), 17 (“Decision-making options for managing risk”), and 18 (“Climate resilient development pathways”).: (i) Where does ‘justice’ feature in resilience and adaptation planning and what does it require in that regard?; (ii) How can it be ensured that adaptation and resilience strategies protect and take into consideration and represent the interest of the most vulnerable women and men, and communities?; (iii) How can different forms of knowledge be integrated within adaptation and resilience planning?; (iv) What trade-offs need to be made when focusing on resilience and adaptation and how can they be resolved?; (v) What roles and responsibilities do different actors have to build resilience and achieve adaptation?; (vi) Finally, what does the focus on ethics imply for the practice of adaptation and resilience planning?
Managing climate and disaster risk is a deeply political act sitting at the interface of popular expectations, legal mandate, and political fiat. This article makes the case for an expanded research agenda on social contracts in climate and disasters scholarship as a mechanism to better reveal activity across this interface, identify the winners and losers of adaptation, and improve the equity outcomes of negotiated and imposed risk management settlements. Social contracts are defined as multiple and constructed (not singular or fixed), and three distinct yet intersecting forms of social contracts are identified: imagined, practiced, and legal‐institutional. The article argues that mapping the disjunctures, overlaps and transitions between these concurrent social contracts can help reveal gaps between responsibilities held de facto and de jure. This makes a timely contribution to understanding tensions between need, obligation and entitlement that underlie contestations over “who” is responsible for “what” in risk governance. It also helps reveal the dynamic boundaries of social acceptances at the centre of debates around fair adaptation governance. Such work can provide insight on how development relations, including but reaching beyond risk management and climate change adaptation, can be transformed progressively and fairly in a changing climate.
This paper responds to the ‘deliberate transformation’ discourse within climate change and disaster scholarship. It calls for a cautious approach to deliberate transformation as a practice space for non-governmental organisations (NGO), arguing that greater clarity is still needed on precisely what form these transformations may take, how and where they might be stimulated, and—most importantly—who decides. Drawing on a case study of post-disaster NGO interventions in the Andaman Islands following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the paper analyses the role of community-based, rights-oriented education and advocacy programmes in opening space for communities to critically reflect on state responsibilities, capacities, and weaknesses. It argues that these shifts were potentially transformative for the ways local people interact with the state in Little Andaman; however, it also surfaces pragmatic and ethical challenges to the notion of ‘deliberate transformation’ in practice. The data reveal transformations to be complex, spontaneous, and fundamentally political, with simultaneously divergent pathways of change and re-entrenchment; this presents a deep challenge to external agencies seeking to instigate transformation in planned, linear ways over known timescales. A further challenge relates to deliberate transformation as a normative endeavour. The paper argues that any attempt to actively instigate deliberate transformations according to pre-determined visions held by external actors is a direct contradiction to the principle that progressive transformation—as defined in the literature—should be shaped deliberatively by the values and priorities of citizens themselves. To avoid diluting the radical power of transformation as a principle, the paper proposes progressive rehabilitation as an alternative approach in post-disaster contexts, requiring a transformation of the NGO itself from ‘doing to’ to ‘doing with’ citizens, with an emphasis on supporting locally-defined futures. The paper thickens the conceptualisation and evidence base for transformation pathways, with implications for research and practice.
This paper reviews what local governments in more than 50 cities are doing with regard to disaster risk reduction. It draws on the reports of their participation in the global Making Cities Resilient Campaign and its 10 “essential” components, and on interviews with city mayors or managers. These show how resilience to disasters is being conceived and addressed by local governments, especially with regard to changes in their institutional framework and engagement with communities and other stakeholders, also in mobilizing finance, undertaking multi-hazard risk assessments, upgrading informal settlements, adjusting urban planning and implementing building codes. The paper summarizes what city mayors or managers view as key milestones for building resilience, and further discusses their evaluation of the usefulness of the campaign to them. It also discusses how a local government-focused perspective on disaster risk reduction informs our understanding of resilience. This includes how development can contribute much to disaster risk reduction as well as a more tangible and operational understanding of resilience (resistance + coping capacity + recovery + adaptive capacity) that local governments can understand and act on.
Good governance has been clearly identified as a priority for deep disaster vulnerability reduction and resilience-building. In particular, decentralisation has been lauded as a mechanism to democratise risk management decision-making, by redistributing power across scales in favour of local actors. However, in practice, decentralised risk management frameworks have often been critiqued for being incomplete and exclusionary. This paper argues that the politics of scale offers a neglected yet highly valuable framework to understand the construction of limits to decentred power and agency, which cause these apparent gaps between decentralisation as ideology, policy and practice. Scale theory offers this by providing an insight into the dynamics which define where power is located within risk governance regimes, and why. With reference to a case study of Jamaica’s decentralised disaster management system, the paper illustrates the processes through which scaled risk governance systems can be used, distorted, and shaped by their constituent actors. The analysis identifies three processes of incomplete decentralisation, scale-jumping, and scalar disconnect, as being responsible for the reinforcement of a state-centric power asymmetry within the national disaster management system and the stripping of local agency. Hence, these processes are highlighted as fundamental barriers to the aspirations of a framework that claims decentralisation as a normative goal. The conclusions drawn in this paper are significant for critical geographers and policy-makers interested in the conditions for equitable and effective risk governance policy, and who view local leadership as being necessary for long-term vulnerability reduction.