Expert of the Week   for  13 - 19 Oct 2014

Expert photo

You too can be featured here. Share your expertise in DRR with the community.

Sign up now!

Experts Log in


Fadi Hamdan


Disaster Risk Management Centre Expertise:  Dr Hamdan’s main area of expertise is the adoption of a holistic approach for the identification and analysis of the main social, economic, institutional, natural and physical factors that contribute to vulnerability and risk accumulation; and the study of how these interact with main risk drivers including poverty, weak risk governance, environmental degradation and unchecked and rapid urban expansion.

Fadi has extensive experience in Disaster Risk Management and Risk Governance as per international codes, guidelines and recommendations, for a variety of natural hazards including floods, storms, earthquakes, landslides, drought and tsunamis. This knowledge includes the incorporation of risk reduction and risk management considerations into the development process, and the assessment of the vulnerability of cities to disaster risk (including social, economic, institutional, natural and physical factors contributing to vulnerability). Fadi also has experience in the resilience assessment and development of urban resilience plans for cities with different socio-economic and political economy realities. In all these plans, linkages are made with the challenges of sustainable development related to poverty, inequality, climate change and other shocks and stresses, employment, financing infrastructure, and water, food and energy security amongst others.

Effecting Change in Disaster Risk Management (DRM) by Addressing Political Economy and Risk Governance Challenges.

Read more on the context

QQuestion by Mr Matthias Schmale

Dear Fadi, This year's World Disasters Report published by the International Federation of Red Cross + Red Crescent suggests that organisations and practitioners involved in disaster risk reduction insufficiently consider the role of culture in their work. Do you agree? More specifically is religion an obstacle in that people blame Gods for disasters rather than relying on scientific evidence?

Mr Matthias Schmale Under Secretary General | IFRC

APosted on 19 Oct 2014

Dear Matthias,
many thanks for such an interesting and noncontroversial question.
I do agree with your statement that "culture" is not sufficiently accounted for in the DRM work of both institutions and practitioners.  IN my view, this includes accounting for the culture of public and private sector institutions supposed to be implementing DRM strategies and policies which may have been developed and funded by international donor agencies, as well as looking at the social, insitutional and political factors that contribute to vulnerability and that, when adequately addressed, can reduce vulnerability and help build resilience.
Regarding the second part of the question on religion and religious practices which obviously are very much influenced, if not determined,  by cultural practics I feel the answer cannot be a straightforward yes or no. Firstly, religion, just like technology, can play a positive or a detrimental role in promoting DRR depending on how it is being used and for what purposes. So for example, stating that natural hazards are an act of god which we must expect and  effectively mitigate against can raise awareness and help prepare for these events. Using religious establishments to promote safety and advocacy messages related to DRR is also a positive thing, and so is using religious establishments "sound-aids" (e.g. church bells, drums, mosque microphones, etc.) to disseminate early warning messages (e.g. on flash floods).
However, religion can also play a damaging role in DRR by spreading ill informed messages with the aim of silencing calls for good risk governance, accountability and equal access to power and the decision making process related to DRM. For example, in several lom to middle income countries, or other countries with low degrees of literacy, religion is used to convince people to accept fatalities and livelihood losses due to natural hazards as an act of god. This is equivalnet to stating that disasters, rather than natural hazards are "natural", going against the awareness raising message in the DRR field for the last few decades. More often than not attempts to counter this line of flawed argument are "portrayed" as an attack on religious values. Perhaps this is one way in which religious establishments have an important role to play, to counter the spread of these messages (where many times these messages are not initiated by the religious establishments themselves but by officials apprehensive of calls for accountability in the wake of disasters).
best regards

QQuestion by Ms Jessica Sallabank

1) Why is investment in DRR not always a priority for governments in comparison to say defence, health or education - how can the government understanding of DRR ( and it value) be improved. What would be the best ways to do this and through which channels?

2) Should DRR be enshrined into law to ensure greater vigilance and scrutiny - for example governments should be 'legally bound' to DRR?

Ms Jessica Sallabank Media Officer | IFRC

APosted on 19 Oct 2014

Dear Jessica,
Many thanks for your interesting questions.
Even when goverments invest in DRR and Health, they do not necessarily secure these investments by making sure their investments account for DRR considerations - a challenge indeed seen in many other investments by both the private and public sectors. One main way to improve governrment undersdtanfing of DRR, and to improve the hierarch of DRR in govenrment priorities, is to stress the importance of investing in DRR not only for protecting development gains aimed at reducing poverty and providing equal access to high quality basic services (water, sanitation, health, eduction, etc.) ; but equally for protecting and improving the economic competitiveness of countries and cities in a globalized world where supply chain dynamics imply that businesses and investments may come under increasing pressure to migrate away from countries unable, unwilling and/or unaware of the need to protect investments and infrastructure.

Regarding your second and very interesting question, in my view governments are already "legally bound" to DRR, but that does not necessarily lead them to investing in it. For example, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is a legally binding convention, unlike the MDG or the HFA. Within the CRC the rights of the child include right to safe schools, right to health, right of protection, right to unbiased and equaly access to these services, amongst others irrespective of sex, age, ethinicity, ability, religion, social and economic backgrounds. However, in many countries these rights have not led to investments capable of fulfilling these rights, including investing in safe schools and hospitals, to ensure quality and safe services for all. This again raises the importance of the need of all stakeholders to have equal access to power and the decision making process related to the use, production and distribution of resources in order to guarantee a minimum degree of "fair" distribution of benefits and risks arising from economic and human activities.
Finally, in this regard, an important and necessary shift, should perhaps come from citizens and people before it may be expected to come from governments, namely: to start considering DRR (in the sense of safe schools, hospitals, housing, etc) as a basic human right and not simply as a service.
best regards

QQuestion by Ms Hossam Othman

Dear Fadi ,
Resilience a key (performance) term in DRM, how could we implement or improve a global socio-ecological system,
from the Political and government challenges concern only

Ms Hossam Othman Lecturer , Risk Management-Logistics Engineer | AASTMT

APosted on 18 Oct 2014

Dear Hossam,
Many thanks for your question.
Improving the global socio ecological system is a major challenge which many are trying to address. Attempts for improvement, in my view, should be informed by the following considerations:
1. the global socio ecological system of based on certain dynamics of the use, production and distribution of resources leads to an unequal distribution of benefits and risks arising form the various human and economic activities. This unequal distribution of benefits and risks leads to an unequal distribution of exposure, vulnerability, risk and indeed disaster losses, which tend to be disproportionately concentrated among the poor and the marginalised households, communities and sectors within countries; and indeed also disproportionately concetrated in poorer countries (in terms of human exposure and relative size of economic assets in comparison to total GDP).
2. There is a need to embody and adopt the principles of sustainable growth, and sustainable development, at the heart of the various human and economic activities. This way of thinking is being promoted by various international initiatives such as the MDG, HFA, UNFCCC, etc.
3. The above requires a hierarchy for assessing impact and benefits of major national and international economic decisions, where their inherent ecological sustainability, and their ability to promote sustainable development, must be given high priority and weight.
4. A major challenge is that risk transfer mechanisms are very limited and are currently unable to follow the distribution of benefits and risks arising from the various economic activities at both international and national levels.
5. Another challenge is that such decisions are not always discussed in an open forum that provides equal access to power and the decision making process for  all stakeholders, including the most vulnerable communities, sectors and nations,
6. However, progress is being achieved along several fronts, including:
a. increased awareness of our interconnectedness where it is difficult in the long run to have sustainable growth in one country or part of the world, while other parts are subject to socio-ecological degradation
b. improved tools for tracking risk transfer mechanisms, and increased awareness on the importance of such tools
c. improved awareness by governments and investors alike, on the need for sustainable growrh
d. increasing acceptance that the most vulnerable communities and nations constitute a necessary part of any successful  solution, which needs to (amongst other things) provide them with access to power and the decision making process
7. Notwithstanding the above progress, increased effort could be directed, in my view, on:
a. further improve tools for risk transfer tracking, including using the most up to date available technology including big data solutions, social media, etc
b. Contextualise capacity building for vulnerable communities and nations, as well as capacity building campaigns in general. This can only be done by contextualised capacity, vulnerability and needs assessment that is both participatory and gender dis-aggregated, and that accounts for the various social, economic, institutional, political, physical, cultural and natural factors that contribute to vulnerability.
c. create linkages between building resilience against intensive and slowly unfolding risk (e.g. climate change and extreme events) and everyday risk and everyday priorities within vulnerable communities.
d. Improve the tools for analyzing the ability to effect change, and analyze the political-economy decision making process in general, at different stages of the risk governance framework (risk pre-assessment, technical and societal risk appraisal, risk evaluation, risk management and risk communication).
Best regards

QQuestion by Mr Dave Paul Zervaas

Dear Fadi,
Effective governance is key to pragmatic and cost-effective disaster risk management but is often a challenge. Do you think national platforms for DRR are a good solution to ensure a representative mix of actors for national DRR policy?

Mr Dave Paul Zervaas Program Officer | UNISDR

APosted on 17 Oct 2014

Dear Dave
Many thanks for an interesting question. In countries where there is a certain level of transparency; good governance; an effective public sector; political, social and economic legitmacy; and in general where the concept of a participatory governance approach is embraced; then in such cases a national platform can act as the "forum" to facilitate and ensure that all stakeholders and groups of the affected population can have access to power and to the decision making process related to the use, production and distribution of resources, and the corresponding production and distribution of benefits and risks arising from the various economic and human activities. 
However, many of the countries subjected to intensive and intensive risks and corresponding losses do not meet the above criteria. In such cases, and more often than not, lip service is paid to developing a national platform, often residing in the ministry of the interior, and often staffed by public sector employees and affiliated organisations (inclding for example women organisations). Clearly an alternative to empower people, especially vulnerable communities, is needed in such cases. This proces is a long one but perhaps its starting point may be awareness raising, capapcity building and advocacy at the community and local levels. However, this in turn needs the rationalisation of capacity building, awareness raising and advocacy tools and messages. Unfortunately, more often than not, these programmes are driven by external actors, based on internationa guidelines, without the national or international capacity to contextualise them to national and local challenges related to power relations and access to power and the decision making process.
In conclusion, I hope, like many DRM practitioners, that the coming HFA2 will provide a forum to address these issues and try to come up with proposals to overcome these challenges, 
best regards

QQuestion by Eng Mohammed Hardan

كيف يمكن التعامل مع مخازن المخلفات الخطره ابناتجه من المصانع والتي لها تاثير كبير ع التربه والمياه الجوفيه والسطحيه في حالة .حيث انها سوف تشكل خطورة في حالة مرورالفيضانات في تلك المواقع...ماهي الاحترازات الواجب اتخاذها للحد من تلك المخاطر التي ق

Eng Mohammed Hardan Head of Waste Management | Ministry of Environment

APosted on 17 Oct 2014

Dear Eng Hardan
below answers in arabic and english
your question on how to deal with hazardous waste which leaves a delibitating impact on land, ground and surafe water and the enviornment at large is a very important one.  There are many available solutions for such wastes ranging from the immediate ones (reuse, recovery and treatment) to prevention and reduciton in quantity of hazaardous waste being produced. But perhaps from a political economy perspective, a related important question is how to identify what sectors, communities and households benefit from the activities that are generating hazardous waste and which sectors, communities and households aredisproprtionately disadvantaged by the vulnerability, risks and losses arising from hazardous wastes.  In other words, how are the benefits and the risks of the hazaardous waste generated activities distributed whether inside individual countries or between countries. Another important question is are those that are disproportionately affected by the vulnerability, risks and losses of the hazardous waste generating activities able toparticipate in the decision making process related to the use, production and distribution of resources which is leading to the generation of hazardous waste.
best regards
تتراوح خيارات التعامل مع النفايات الخطرة من نلك التي تعتمد على اعادة الاستعمال والمعالجة الى تلك التي تحاول ان تمنع وتقلص من انتاج هذه النفايات الخطرة.
ولكن من وجهة نظر موضوع الحلقة هذه، لا بد من السؤال ما هي النشاطات الاقتصادية والانسانية التي تساهم في انتاج النفايات الخطرة وكيف تتوزع فوائد ومخاطر النشاطات هذه على المجتمعات، الاسر والقطاعات الاقتصادية المختلفة. ولا بد ايضا من السؤال هل تشارك المجتمعات،
  القطاعات والاسر المتضررة بشكل كبير من النفايات الخطرة  في عملبة صنع القرار المتعلقة باستخدام ، انتاج وتوزيع الموارد والتي تؤدي بدورها الى انتاج النفايات الخطرة؟  

QQuestion by Mr Ziad Nassar

I am interested to know where are the important contributions of Disaster Risk Management as it pertains to big data storage? Also, how would you mitigate the risk specifically for the venture capitalist (investors) backing the information economy?

Mr Ziad Nassar CEO | AddBloom
United States of America

APosted on 17 Oct 2014

Dear Mr Nassar,
Many thanks for such an interestng question,
There is an important interaction between big data storage and disaster risk management which must be recognized from both sides.  On the one hand, big data storage providers should deveop their own DRM strategies making sure they are able to continue to provide their range of services including early warning, response and recovery rationalisation during and immediately after disasters. This requires them to adopt resilient systems based on the four pillars of redundancy, resistance and reliability, response and recovery.  
On the other hand, DRM specialists and strategy drivers should recognize that big data storage is not constrained to early warning, response and recovery. In fact big data providers can have a very important role to play in addressing some of the main challenges facing DRM change including the tracing of risk transfer practices in many countries and sectors as well as empowering vulnerable communities to lobby decision makers in order to develop balanced policies which address both everyday needs and every day risks as well as intensive (rare) risk, including in illegal and unchecked urban settlements.
Venture capitalist should make sure that their IT investments is taking place in companies with a resilient DRM strategy.  Furthermore, they must recognize the importance of investing in sustainable growth since globalisation and supply chain dynamics implies that disrupted development will affect a multitude of sectors and countries even if the originating event is often isolated to one country.
Best Regards 

QQuestion by Mr Walid Halik

What are the options available for financing Disaster Risk Management Strategies and what are the success stories of other countries, both in the region and worldwide?

Mr Walid Halik Manager | BDL

APosted on 15 Oct 2014

Dear Mr Halik
Many thanks for a very interesting question. 
Disaster Risk Management Strategies are composed of prospective strategies for preventing risk from accumulating in the future (e.g. through the development and enforcement of codes and laws), response strategies to respond to disasters once they occur and corrective strategies to reduce the existing levels of risk which may have accumulated due to decades of unchecked and unregulated development and investment which did not account for disaster risk management considerations.
Corrective risk management strategies are considered to be costly in comparison to prospective strategies; however the former are the only ones capable of reducing fatalities which may arise as a result of existing high risk levels. While corrective strategies are costly, evidence shows that they are cost efficient when targeted at reducing the risk in the most vulnerable households, neighborhoods, communities, sectors and livelihoods.
Options for financing these strategies include retaining the risk and reducing it (corrective measures), insurance and reinsurance, and transfer of risk to capital markets.
The decision on the threshold of risk to be retained and reduced, and that which will be insured, re-insured and/or transfered to capital markets should be the subject of a nation wide discusion with a variety of stakeholders in a participatory manner.
In many cases,countries  try to promote insurance and reinsurance, without giving sufficient attention to corrective risk management strategies, which remain the only possible manner to reduce possible fatalities due to high levels of accumulated risk. While it is not possible to delete all risk, retaining and reducing risk, especially in highly vulnerable area, can be very cost effective as indeed has been shown by several countries in latin America (Coloumbia), New Zealand, and more recently Algeria in the wake of the 2003 earthquake.
best regards

QQuestion by Ms Lilian Ouma

Dear Dr. Hamdan
How can we better protect children by addressing political economy considerations in protection drm strategies ?

Ms Lilian Ouma Senior Program Office | World Vision Somalia

APosted on 15 Oct 2014

Dear Ms Ouma
Many thanks for your interesting question. 
Strategies for protecting children must build resilience against both natural hazards and conflicts, with planned interventions before, during and after crises and/or natural hazardous events.  To do so there is a need for governments to build safe and secure shelters, refugee centres, centres for the abused children, entertainment centres, schools, nurseries, day care centres, hospitals, juvenile centres, orphanages amongst others. There is also a need for governments to regulate and ensure the safety of all such centres in the public sector and the private sector, including in the latter case those run by religious orders and establishments.
These centres must be built in a safe manner as a first step to ensure the safety of children. Furthermore, there is a need to develop, where applicable, standard operating procedures to protect children during crises and disasters to ensure that their rights as enshrined by the Convention on the Rights of the Child are being respected. 
This can only be done by developing these safety strategies and standard operating procedures in a participatory manner, allowing the children to participate according to their abilities, while accounting for the differential needs, capacities and vulnerabilities according to age, sex, ethnicity, ability and social and economic background in general.

best regards

QQuestion by Eng Nuha Eltinay

How can we reduce the risk of Natural Disasters on the Internally displaced populations living in informal settelments and refugee campsites?
(Targeting innovative special planning long term sustainable building methods)

Eng Nuha Eltinay Urban Planner | Arab Urban Development Institute
Saudi Arabia

APosted on 15 Oct 2014

Dear Eng Ettinay,
Many thanks for your interesting and very timely question.  Regarding the internally displaced populations living in informal settlements and refugee campsite, we must first start by recognizing that these vulnerable communities and segments of the population are subjected to losses arising from both high frequency low severity events (such as storms, floods, landslides, etc that happen more than once a year either seasonally or around the year) as well as low frequency but severe events ( such as a  severe but rare earthquake or flood). More often than not, emphasis is placed on dealing with the severe event while ignoring the losses that happen on a regular basis, keeping household livelihoods and infrastructure in these areas very vulnerable to severe shocks and stresses.
Innovative spatial planning is a positive way forward, especially when it accounts for the needs, views, capacities and vulnerabilities of the affected communities and when these are assessed in a participatory manner and disaggregated according to sex, age, ability, ethnicity, and social and economic backgrounds.
Long term sustainable building methods is also a positive way forward, especially when it is coupled with addressing the social (awareness, education, safety nets), economic (poverty, lack of resources at local and community level) and institutional (weak governance, limited ability to participate in the decision making process, lack of clarity of mandates) factors affecting vulnerability rather than simply limiting assessments and proposed solution to addressing the physical factors contributing to vulnerability (i.e. building methods).
Finally, from a political economy perspective, there is a need to ensure that vulnerable populations living in informal settlements are enabled to participate in the decision making process related to the use, production and distribution of natural resources including land, water and the environment- all of which have a direct impact on their ability to sustain their livelihoods and lives.

best regards

QQuestion by Dr Georgina Jordan

Dear Dr. Hamdan
When dealing with both natural and man mad hazards which impact on the same vulnerable group what type of safety nets are most appropriate at the community level when a natural hazard creates a shock.

Dr Georgina Jordan Quality Assurance and Knowledge Manager | Somalia Resilience Program

APosted on 15 Oct 2014

Dear Dr Jordan,
Many thanks for your very interesting question.  You are indeed right in pointing out that natural and man made hazards should be addressed together when aiming to improve resilience especially at the community level.  One of the challenges there is to have a balanced portfolio of "safety nets" that addresses both short term urgent needs together with longer term needs for sustainable progress and development. 
This can only be done, in my view, by stirking a balance between addressing both the everyday needs of communities (including the need for shelter, water and food which sometimes result in unsafe and non sustainable practices) and the longer term needs of environmental sustainability, planned urban expansion, sustainable livelihood practices that can adapt to climate change, etc. The above may be looked at as attempts to reduce the drivers for conflicts over land and limited resources.
Furthermore, there is a need to strike a balance between addressing extensive risk (or everyday risk) that will inevitably affect poorer rural communities and poor neighborhoods in urban areas and  intensive risk that occurs with a higher severity but at a much lower frequency. More often than not, for political economy considerations related to unequal access to power and the decision making process, extensive risk that affects mainly the poor and the vulnerable leaving them poorer is ignored or not given sufficient attention at policy level including the collation and analysis of disaster losses.
Finally there is a need to promote safety nets based on a  resilience based development approach which identifies and addresses linkages between poverty reduction , climate change, disaster losses and conflict - all of which are most effectively addressed by recognizing linkages between them.
The above can only be achieved by considering vulnerable communities as part of the solution and not simply a problem to be addressed. in turn this is done by grounding intervention efforts on a gender dis-aggregated, participatory, capacity, needs and vulnerability assessment. 
Finally,  enabling vulnerable communities to participate in the local and national decision making processes related to the use, production and distribution of resources remains one of the most effective and efficient ways to address both disaster risk and conflict drivers.
best regards,

QQuestion by Mr Andres Gonzalez Rodriguez

In Lebanon Humanitarian agencies are confronting a protracted long term crisis. When we talk about risk reduction and risk management in this crisis which are the main factors we should take into consideration to be able to mitigate these risks?

Mr Andres Gonzalez Rodriguez Country Director Lebanon | War Child Holland

APosted on 13 Oct 2014

Dear Mr Gonzalez Rodriguez,
Many thanks for this very interesting question.  Several interventions have been developed in Lebanon for both the host community and the refugees. Notwithstanding the importance of these, there is a need to account for the following:
1. a vulnerability assessment should be carried out, the results of which should inform the prioritization of the interventions.
2. the interventions aimed at building resilience should address poverty and presence of refugees in different regions, and their effect on basic infrastructure services, together with resilience against climate change and disaster risk management in order to contribute to sustainable development
3. the resilience interventions should be part of a resilience program at the national, governorate, local and sectoral level. 
4. resilience building interventions should address redundancy and reliability of basic services, together with their ability to respond to crises and promptly recover from them looking at vulnerability and resilience building of the most affected groups within the population, and particularly from a political economy perspective, it is necessary to account for the physical, social, economic, natural and institutional factors contributing to vulnerability.

In conclusion, we have to recognize that responding to shocks and crises can provide an opportunity to build better infrastructure services and livelihoods, in a manner that contributes to sustainable development. However, this requires the presence of recovery plans that have guidelines for "building better". Unfortunately the development of recovery plans remains a difficult task in many countries in the region, including Lebanon.

QQuestion by Mr Jyotiraj Patra

Dear Dr Hamdan,
What are some of the underlying factors that promote/hinder DRM becoming a development priority?
Secondly, if you could kindly share some cases where political economy diagnostics have been instrumental in informing disaster policy

Mr Jyotiraj Patra Research Award Recipient (RAR) | IDRC

APosted on 13 Oct 2014

Dear Mr Patra,
Many thanks for your interesting question.  From a political economy perspective, DRM is about the distribution of benefits and risks arising from the use, production and distribution of resources including land, water, and the environment at large.  This process (the use, production and distribution of resources) inevitably creates benefits and risks that are unequally distributed between 1) the various economic sectors (e.g. agriculture, real-estate, manufacturing), and 2) the different segments of the population (where benefits and risks may vary according to age, sex, ethnicity, religion, ability, and economic background).  Furthermore, the inequality in the distribution of risks and benefits may be further exacerbated by unqual access to power and the decision making process (related to the use, production and distribution of resources) at both the national and local levels, as well as at the international level (between poor and rich states). Hence it is not so much that factors "promote / hinder DRM becoming a development priority" as much as political economy factors favoring some sectors and groups over others.  The way to analyze this process would be through a hybrid framework that combines 1) a political economy analysis framework with a 2) risk governance framework in order to determine where and how decisions are being made and according to what factors and considerations.

Regarding the second part of your question, political economy considerations can be used to first understand why for example national school safety programs are not being universally adopted eventhough they have demonstrated their ability to protect children and avoid fatalities from earthquakes , floods , etc and then to lobby decision makers at critical junctions in the decision making process to ensure that they shall be discussed and eventually adopted.  Similarly political economy considerations can be used to explain why, until now, less emphasis is being placed on extensive (everyday) risk as compared to intensive risks in many countries worldwide.

Best Regards