Transforming Disaster Risk Management: A Political Economy Approach
Author: Emily Wilkinson
Size: 8 pages (97kB)
This paper examines recent work by disaster researchers on the complex role of institutional arrangements in shaping policy decisions. It identifies incentive structures, information gaps and intra-governmental relations as key factors affecting the decisions of national and local authorities. It recommends more interdisciplinary research on political processes and policy change to develop a clearer theoretical focus for Disaster Risk Management, so as to help promote the necessary institutional transformation.
National policy processes are political and non-linear, and the diverse interests and incentives that drive these processes need to be considered. However, Disaster Risk Management (DRM) frameworks are, by definition, normative. They do not consider how different options for reducing risk are identified and selected and the reasons why some options are not addressed. Political economy analysis can help to develop a more sophisticated theory of decision-making around DRM.
DRM measures have some of the characteristics of what economists refer to as 'public goods' because they are underprovided by the market, are free from rivalry and are non-excludible. However, government policies in most countries continue to focus on responding to disaster rather than managing disaster risk.
To examine the institutional influences on DRM policy it is useful to divide the role of government into five categories: 1) providing disaster risk reduction goods and services; 2) avoiding risk; 3) regulating private sector activity; 4) promoting collective action and private sector activity; and 5) coordinating multi-stakeholder activities. Causes of inadequate government performance in these five roles are thought to include lack of interest and political will, resistance, complex political and economic incentive structures, information gaps and coordination problems at different scales of governance:
Understanding power relations and incentives is key to exploiting 'room for manoeuvre' and identifying policy alternatives. However, studies of policy reform in agriculture and rural development suggest that this analysis must be undertaken by insiders – the decision-makers themselves. Therefore, working with relevant actors to understand their interests and inter-relationships should be an essential feature of political economy approaches to DRM. In addition, theories of policy change need to be able to explain the factors influencing policy responses to very different kinds of disaster risk – both slow- and rapid-onset.
Political economy analysis could usefully ask:
Wilkinson, E., 2012, 'Transforming Disaster Risk Management: A Political Economy Approach', ODI Background Note Series, Overseas Development Institute, London
Organisation: Overseas Development Institute (ODI), http://www.odi.org.uk/