Governance for disaster risk management

Involving stakeholders is essential for elaborating and legitimizing public policy on disaster risk management during the post-disaster recovery process, as stipulated by the Rio Declaration and the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015. Such processes are at the core of the Risk, Policy and Vulnerability (RPV) Program’s work on disaster risk governance.

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RPV has engaged extensively with stakeholders, most recently designing and carrying out a public participatory process that developed a unique role for experts.

In another study, based on two case studies in France and Italy, RPV [1] recommended the creation of multi-risk platforms, which would involve researchers, funding institutions, and public and private stakeholders. The aim is to develop a publicly available database on the many different hazards and risks facing the communities, and to create local multi-risk commissions to promote deliberation.

RPV researchers conducted semi-structured interviews with municipal government officials and community leaders in two cities of Japan affected by the 2011 tsunami disaster and identified the different ways that local communities defined, prioritized, and adopted objectives and measures for long-term reconstruction, such as land-use adjustments, relocation of communities, and rebuilding of sea walls [2]. This research showed that “building back better” can be a highly contested terrain in this case on government plans to construct a seawall. The plurality of stakeholder views was mirrored in RPV research on landslide risk mitigation where, like in the Japanese sea wall case, many stakeholders opposed concrete structural defense measures.

To support policy processes, decision support tools and risk analyses have proliferated in the literature and in practice. However, their application to multiple stakeholder processes is not straightforward, particularly for complex and contentious policy issues, like building seawalls or landslide protection. This proved to be the case in an innovative experiment carried out by RPV researchers who discovered that civil protection officers, despite a high interest in multi-risk assessment, might be hampered in implementing a new tool by the complexity of the processes involved and the multiple views of the stakeholders.

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Regarding the controversial issue of expert involvement in policy processes, RPV researchers reflected on the criminal trial of scientists in the L'Aquila case in Italy. They showed that the challenge for experts in communicating uncertain information to the public becomes more important as co-production processes increasingly shape risk governance [3]. They also investigated the possibilities for co-production of knowledge in the development of decision-support tools and their application by national civil protection officers across Europe [4].

RPV researchers asked what drives transformative change with regard to disaster risk policy, and investigated this question by examining the history of landslide and flood risk governance in Italy. Of particular interest was whether major disasters catalyze policy change [5]. The research showed that catastrophic disasters can open a policy window, but that events alone have not been sufficient for driving major reforms. Among other factors, strong advocacy coalitions that are in place before the disaster have proven essential.


[1] Scolobig A, Komendantova N, Patt A, Vinchon C, Monfort-Climent D,Bengoubou-Valerius M, Gasparini P, Di Ruocco A (2014). Multi-risk governance for natural hazards in Naples and Guadeloupe. Natural Hazards, 73(3):1523-1545

[2] Mochizuki J (2014). Decision-Making, Policy Choices and Community Rebuilding after the Tohoku Disaster. IDRiM, 4(2).

[3] Scolobig A, Mechler R, Komendantova N, Liu W, Schroeter D, Patt A (2014). The co-production of scientific advice and decision making under uncertainty: Lessons from the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake, Italy GRF Davos Planet@Risk, 2(2):71-76.

[4] Komendantova N, Mrzyglocki R, Mignan A, Khazai B, Wenzel F, Patt A, Fleming K (2014). Multi-hazard and multi-risk decision support tools as a part of participatory risk governance: Feedback from civil protection stakeholders. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 8:50-67 (June 2014) (Published online 16 January 2014)

[5] Scolobig A, Linnerooth-Bayer J, Pelling M (2014). Drivers of transformative change in the Italian landslide risk policy. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 9:124-136 (September) (Published online 11 May).

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Last edited: 02 April 2015


Joanne Linnerooth-Bayer

Distinguished Emeritus Research Scholar Equity and Justice Research Group - Population and Just Societies Program

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