Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015
Making development sustainable: The future of disaster risk management

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of the Padang earthquake in 2009 demonstrated conclusively that well-targeted education and the communication of risk information can increase awareness of hazards and their potential impacts (GAR 13 paperGFDRR, 2014a

GAR13 Reference GFDRR (Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery). 2014a,Understanding Risk: The Evolution of Disaster Risk Assessment since 2005, Background Paper prepared for the 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction. Geneva, Switzerland: UNISDR..
Click here to view this GAR paper.
). However, the campaign’s key assumption—that increased awareness would lead the West Sumatra population to invest in safer building—turned out to be false. In fact, those living in the worst-affected areas demonstrated higher resistance to change than those in less-affected areas, reflecting their higher exposure to other risks and hence greater constraints on change. The influence of the earthquake on safe building practices seemed to be limited to those who had gone through a traumatic firsthand experience during the earthquake, such as being trapped or injured by falling debris.
While risk can be objectivized through metrics such as annual average loss (AAL) or probable maximum loss (PML) or through maps, these metrics only become useful if they are socially appropriated. Given that risk is socially constructed, this is a prerequisite for a transformation in how the social and economic constraints and
opportunities facing households, businesses or governments are valued. What is considered acceptable or unacceptable risk, or what is an optimum strategy for risk management can only be understood in the relationship between the stakeholders and these opportunities and constraints.
Local assessments of everyday and disaster risks, for example, show how the prevalence of nonphysical hazards and of small-scale recurrent events is part of an undifferentiated multi-threat environment (Figures 7.5 and 7.6). They also show how households of different income levels have very different perceptions of risk.
Not only risk but also the production of risk information is socially constructed. Beyond the instrumental barriers to its use (described in detail in Section 7.8), risk information so often fails to trigger changes in how risk is managed precisely because disaster risk is presented as an objective externality that can be measured and reduced rather than only one of a number of variables in a complex social, economic, political and cultural web of constraints and opportunities (UNISDR, 2011a

UNISDR. 2011a,Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction: Revealing Risk, Redefining Development, Geneva, Switzerland: UNISDR.. .
). Risk then becomes technical, neutral and objective, delinked from its underlying drivers.
(Source: GAR 13 paperGibson, 2014

GAR13 Reference Gibson, Terry. 2014,Local level Monitoring: ‘Front-line’ – building on the experience of Views from the Frontline, Input Paper prepared for the 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction. Geneva, Switzerland: UNISDR..
Click here to view this GAR paper.
Figure 7.5 High-priority threats as reported by communities in ten countries in Latin America12
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