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

background image
Box 9.2 Dimensions of inequality
Inequality has a number of dimensions that go beyond the mere unequal distribution of income. Many of these dimensions may have a more significant impact on disaster risk levels than income inequality alone. Asset inequality usually relates in particular to housing and security of tenure, but it can also refer to productive assets in farming communities or goods and savings in trading communities. Inequality of entitlements refers to unequal access to public services and welfare systems as well as inequalities in the application of the rule of law. Political inequality exists worldwide in the unequal capacities for political agency possessed by different groups and individuals in any society. Finally, the inequality of social status is often directly linked to space (e.g. informal settlements in urban settings) and has a bearing on other dimensions of inequality, including the ability of individuals and groups to secure regular income, to access services and to claim political space.

The direct impact that social status often has on the capacity of individuals or groups to manage risks and build resilience is regularly underestimated in research and particularly in quantitative assessments of vulnerability to disasters. The different dimensions of inequality that drive disaster risk at all levels need to be brought to the forefront of how disaster risk generation and accumulation are understood.
(Source: Satterthwaite and Mitlin, 2014

Satterthwaite, David and Diana Mitlin. 2014,Reducing Urban Poverty in the Global South, USA and Canada: Routledge Publishing.. .
disaster risk levels not just because it increases income poverty (UNDP, 2013b

UNDP (United Nations Development Programme). 2013b,Integrated Community-based Early Recovery Framework, Disaster Risk Reduction. UNDP Myanmar.. .
) but also through other processes of social and political exclusion, which also affect lower middle-class families in societies with high levels of inequality. Such levels of inequality and a lack of social cohesion can contribute to disaster risk by eroding accountability, enabling corruption and dismantling a social contract that could provide incentives for risk-reducing behaviour. As explored in other chapters of this part of the report, inequality also redistributes disaster risk through processes such as uneven economic development, urban segregation and the overconsumption of resources. Disaster risk inequality is therefore an inherent characteristic of broader social, economic and political inequalities.
Inequality of access to infrastructure, services and safety nets has an influence on the resilience of different groups and individuals in society when affected by disaster losses. Inequality of access to land, income and asset bases affects how households and communities can manage their disaster risks. Finally, inequality of protection through established rights, laws and regulations, and inequality in voice and accountability
impact the capacity of countries to address the underlying drivers of disaster risk (UNISDR, 2009a

UNISDR. 2009a,Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction: Risk and Poverty in a Changing Climate, Geneva, Switzerland: UNISDR.. .
, 2011a).
Globally, social and income inequality are recognized as having a direct relationship with the macroeconomic risks of fiscal crises and unemployment (WEF, 2014

WEF (World Economic Forum). 2014,Global Risks 2014, Ninth Edition. Insight Report. Geneva, Switzerland.. .
). At all scales, inequality also facilitates the transfer of disaster risks, through ineffective accountability and increased corruption, from those who benefit from taking the risks to other sectors and population groups who bear the costs (Birdsall and Londoo, 1997; Kawachi et al., 1997

Kawachi, Ichiro, Bruce P. Kennedy, Kimberly Lochner and Deborah Prothrow-Stith. 1997,Social Capital, Income Inequality, and Mortality, American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 87, No. 9 (September).. .
; World Bank, 2004

World Bank. 2004,Inequality and Economic Development in Brazil, A World Bank Country Study. The World Bank, Washington, D.C. .
; Hulme and Green, 2005

Hulme, David and Green, Maia. 2005,From Correlates and Characteristics to Causes: Thinking About Poverty from a Chronic Poverty Perspective, World Development, Vol. 33, No. 6: 867-879.. .
; UNISDR, 2013a

UNISDR. 2013a,Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction: From Shared Risk to Shared Value: the Business Case for Disaster Risk Reduction, Geneva, Switzerland: UNISDR.. .
High levels of inequality thus limit both economic growth and social cohesion (Persson and Tabellini 1991; Birdsall and Londoo, 1997; Deninger and Squire 1998; Easterley 2002; Piketty, 2014

Piketty, Thomas. 2014,Capital in the Twenty-First Century, First Edition edition. Belknap Press.. .
). And extreme levels of inequality can turn into a serious global governance issue per se, as they can corrode social cohesion to the point where issues such as disaster risk are no longer viewed in terms of common values and priorities (Wilkinson, 2005

Wilkinson, Richard. 2005,The Impact of Inequality: How to Make Sick Societies Healthier, 1 edition (9 Jun 2005). Routledge.. .
; Fajnzylber et al., 2002

Fajnzylber, Pablo., Lederman, Daniel and Loayza, Norman. 2002,What causes violent crime? European Economic Review, Vol, 46: 1323-1357.. .
Previous page Previous Section  
Contact us  |  Disclaimer  |  Our Partners  |  References  |  Acknowledgements  |  PreventionWeb |  WCDRR  |  © United Nations 2015.