Expert of the Week   for  26 Jan - 01 Feb 2015

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Fadi Hamdan


Disaster Risk Management Center (DRMC) 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.

How to address Disaster Risk Management (DRM) challenges by improving linkages between Climate Change Adaptation (CCA), DRM, poverty reduction and sustainable development and growth.

Read more on the context

QQuestion by Mr Pelle Lutken

Dear Fadi, the question from my side is what is the role of, and the opportunities for, the private secrtor in improving linkages between DRM, CCA and poverty reduction to ensure sustainable development?

Thanks in advance,

Mr Pelle Lutken Policy Specialist | UNDP

APosted on 01 Feb 2015

Dear Pelle

Many thanks for a, serendipitously, very pertinent question.

Dear Pelle

Many thanks for a, serendipitously, very pertinent question.

The private sector has an extremely important role to play in improving linkages between DRM, CCA, and poverty reduction which in turn can contribute to sustainable development. However, before deciding on the role of the private sector, allow me to articulate my definition of the private sector. In particular, I see it, as indeed many others do, as the part of the economy run by private individuals or groups, and it is important to recognize in this context, is alternatively referred to as the citizen sector. Against this background, it becomes easy to identify small businesses in rural and urban areas as part of the private sector. This is very important, as in many instances, the term private sector is reduced to simply meaning large multi-nationals or financial banking institutions.

Using the above broader definition, I believe the private sector has an extremely important role to play in effecting change and ensuring sustainable development through the integration of DRM and CCA considerations in private investment decisions. Furthermore, the private sector has an important role to play in ensuring that response and early recovery feeds into proper recovery investment strategies that "build backs better" lives and livelihoods through more informed investment decisions. This is particularly true for the private sector at the local level where such decisions are taken on a daily basis. Banks do have a very important role to play in ensuring that the private sector at the local level has the necessary access to financial tools including micro-finance and micro-insurance in order to invest in integrating DRR, CCA in investment decisions in order to build back more resilient livelihoods.

with kind regards


QQuestion by Fabián Yory

Why the people do not receive the alerts about the risk on the resident places?

Fabián Yory

APosted on 31 Jan 2015

Dear Fabian

Many thanks for a very fundamental question in need of answering.

I believe it was North Vancouver municipality , few years ago, who won the Sakasawa award for providing public online access to homeowners and residents on seismic risk (in terms of ground acceleration accounting for local site effects), which in turn allowed people to strengthen their housing accordingly. However, this is the exception rather than the rule for early warning and risk assessment messages. More often than not, in many "developing" countries, early warning messages arrive at "research" centres without any written and disseminated plan on how to act upon receiving such a warning, even for tsunami warnings where the presence of a plan on which people trained can be the difference between the survival or death of tens of thousands of people.

Recognizing the challenge is the first step. Attempting to analyse the process that leads to its unfolding, as indeed your question demands, is the second more challenging step. Below, I list some reasons which may explain this, while not claiming that this is a comprehensive list in any manner:

1. there are institutional issues involved, including the fact that in most cases the mandates for disseminating such messages to residential places, are either scattered between different agencies or completely absent (at least in explicitly identifying the need for disseminating messages for residential places).

2. there are governance issues involved, in the sense that in many cases, officials will not be held accountable for not creating plans for disseminating messages, especially when they can argue that it is not explicitly requested in their tasks (see point 1 above).

3. there are social issues involved, such as awareness of the population that this is a "right" that they must call for and hold officials accountable for based on being aware that the dissemination of these messages can, in some cases, save thousands of lives.

4. there are economic issues involved, such as the perception that these messages can scare-off investors, foreign and national, and favour investments in some sectors rather than others.

5 there are political issues involved, in the sense that reaching residential places is most effectively achieved at the local level; however, in many countries there is strong resistance to decentralisation which can empower local authorities to fulfil their tasks enshrined in national legislation (including maintaining public safety).

The solution, in my view, should address all the above challenges, perhaps through raising the awareness of citizens on their right to live in a state with an effective public sector capable of drafting legislation, mandates, plans and strategies, allocating funds for them and monitoring their successful implementation.  



QQuestion by Mr cedric Hoebreck

How Development, Poverty and Climate Change Adaptation efforts interact with important regional and international trade and commerce agreements?

Mr cedric Hoebreck Program Advisor, Disaster Risk Reduction | WV Australia

APosted on 30 Jan 2015

Dear Cedric
Many thanks for a very interesting question.
It is very important to highlight, as indeed you have, that development, poverty, risk reduction and climate change adaptation are taking place against a background of regional and international trade and commerce agreements rather than in vacuum. These trade agreements, like any other parameter we look at in this context, may play a positive or negative role in the success of DRR , CCA and poverty reduction efforts. In order to determine whether a set of trade or commerce agreements are positively or negatively affecting DRR , CCA and poverty reduction efforts, we need to assess whether they are mitigating or increasing the main disaster risk drivers, namely: poverty, environmental degradation, unchecked urban expansion and weak governance and risk governance. In addition we have to check whether they are empowering or restraining the development of an effective public sector capable of pertinent and implementable legislation and capable of fighting corruption.
When increased trade leads to reduced poverty but increased environmental degradation due to ongoing climate change, the situation becomes more difficult as increased environmental degradation may lead to more frequent and severe disasters which will by far offset any gains in poverty reduction. Environmental degradation may lead to additional migration of the rural poor from rural to urban slums, thereby increasing the unchecked urban expansion, another main disaster risk driver. 
Furthermore, globalization and the free transfer of goods and capital, with limitations on the transfer of people and labor, means that the "rules of the game" are skewed towards large companies who can escape increased taxes, thereby undermining democracy and people's ability to effect t change in public sector expenditure on infrastructure and livelihoods resilience through increases in taxes to large companies or the excessively rich. This in turn increases the possibilities of weak governance, another main disaster risk driver.  
However, trade agreements that empower the private sector at the local (sub-national) level can result in a major reduction in poverty in rural and urban areas, which in turn can reduce weak governance. Improved governance can lead to a more equitable division of benefits and risks and losses from economic activities, which in turn is envisaged to reduce environmental degradation. Furthermore, reducing poverty in rural areas can halt internal migration from rural areas to urban slums.
These are some of the issues to consider when evaluating the effects of regional and international trade agreements on DRR, CCA, poverty reduction and the related chances of sustainable growth, hoping that highlighting them here will contribute to the debate during the world conference on disasters in March of this year.

QQuestion by Mr John Brogan

No question, just to express appreciation for the exchanges on this Week's expert dialogue. Very helpful!
Thank you, Dr. Hamdan

Mr John Brogan WASH Advisor | Terre des hommes Lausanne

APosted on 30 Jan 2015

Dear John
Many thanks for your encouragement and kind words. I am happy to have been of assisstance. 
with kind regards

QQuestion by Mr Neel Amber Dhanani

Due to the corruption in Pakistan, the people are loosing their lives, livelihoods and infrastructure, etc since last many years. Can we include the Corruption or Corrupt Government into man made disaster????? How can we reduce this type of disaster.

Mr Neel Amber Dhanani Disaster Ridk Reduction and Humanitarian Response | Self

APosted on 30 Jan 2015

Dear Mr Dhanani
Many thanks for a very interesting question.
Actually your question provides an opportunity to underline a very important fact. DRM policies and strategies, just like CCA policies and strategies do not happen in a vacuum. They take place in a certain political context and political-economy considerations. So for example policies or "cries" for investment in infrastructure take place against a background of austerity measures for public spending and cuts in taxation of big multi-nationals who position themselves in weak tax regimes.  Similarly the Kyoto agreement and calls for curbing climate change take place against the background of free trade agreements which facilitates shipment of goods across oceans in the air and on the waves, thereby leading to more emissions. And similarly, as indeed your question highlights, calls for disaster risk governance takes place in contexts with varying degrees of corruption, which (i.e. corruption or weak governance in its entirety including the in-effectiveness of the public sector) has been identified as one of the main disaster risk drivers (in addition to environmental degradation, poverty and unchecked  urban expansion). Indeed the Brookings Institution, in its post Haiti earthquake report, identified the ineffectiveness of the public sector and its inability to fight corruption, as the main cause for the vast number of deaths in the wake of the Haiti earthquake in comparison to those in the wake of the Chile earthquake in 2010. However, this "lesson learnt" has not been translated into more effective public sector strictly fighting corruption.
Analyzing results using critical thinking is something that can be carried out by various researchers and think tanks. However, effecting change as serious as the role of the public sector in a society, needs people across all age groups, sex, social and economic backgrounds and needs situations to consider they have a right to live in a corruption-limited society that ensures they do not suffer losses from extensive risks with low severity or indeed intensive risks for which humanity have found technical solutions a long time ago using what is now "traditional" non-innovative methods.

While this seems a difficult objective, let us hope that the discussions in Sendai in March will help shed light on this issue.


QQuestion by Mr Andy McElroy

Dear Fadi,

Lebanon has extensive experience of crisis management in relation to armed conflict. I wonder if the question of this discussion should also include potential links to this issue too. Many countries are linking DRM to their national safety/security agenda. This is happening in Korea where I am based, for instance. What are your thoughts on this Fadi

Best wishes Andy McElroy

Mr Andy McElroy PIO | UNISDR
Korea, Rep of

APosted on 30 Jan 2015

Dear Andy
Many thanks for your question.
There are some smilarities between conflict and disasters arising from natural hazards. More important there are significant linkages between them as I hope to demonstrate below:
Extensive risk affects vulnerable poor rural and urban areas on a constant (annual) level, thereby leaving them more vulnerable to intensive risk, thereby leading to even more inequality in terms of distribution of exposure, vulnerability, risk, losses and even profits from various policies and strategies. Increased iequalities leads to conflict stresses (as extensive risk losses but due to conflict) and shocks (as intensive risk losses but due to conflict).  Stresses affect the poorer more vulnerable areas whether rural or urban, further intensifying their vulnerability to shocks, and extensive and intensive risks. Here we see linkages in terms of vulnerability and losses.
Equally, there are also linkages in terms of solutions. a risk governance framework that tries to ensure equal access to the decision making process would inevtiable lead to a more equitable distribution of benefits, vulnerability, exposure, risks and losses. This in turn would reduce losses due to both intensive and extensive risks as well as the probability of conflict shosck and stresses.
More equitable access to the decision making process becomes more urgent as climate change and its effects continue to unfold.
with kind regards

QQuestion by Ms Sawsan Bou Fakhreddine

How can local response plans improve the linkage between CCA, DRM, poverty and sustainable development?

Ms Sawsan Bou Fakhreddine Chief Technical Officer | UNDP DRR Unit

APosted on 30 Jan 2015

Dear Sawsan
Many thanks for your question.  
It is at the local level that it becomes easier to effect change, especially in countries with various governance challenges at the national level. This is particularly true in cases where governance challenges stem from the division of roles and responsibilities between judicial, executive and legislative authorities based on sectarian or ethnic considerations, as indeed is the case in many countries across the Middle East, officially or unofficially. In these situations, the  local population "enjoys" the same religion, sect and ethnicity to a large degree; which in turn creates the opportunity to discuss issues related to development and economic policies, albeit at the local level, without these considerations lying underneath "fear of the other" considerations.  As such, it becomes easier to promote a risk governance framework that can scrutinize the "winners and losers" from the various economic and development policies and more objectively examine the unequal distribution of profits, exposure, vulnerability, risks and disaster losses arising from these policies, while giving due considerations to their variation across age, sex, head of household, economic background, social background and ability (e.g. the presence of special needs) in a relatively more free manner due to the "homogenous" character of the population.
Against such a background at the local level, it is necessary that local response plans first assesses and then responds to the varied capacities and needs of women and men, boys and girls , across social and economic backgrounds, age groups, sex and special needs situation during response and early recovery. Equally important, response plans must recognize their role in the disaster management cycle and recognize that preparedness and response alone will not save lives, on the contrary it might lead to additional deaths. For example, developing response plans in schools and evacuation drills in schools, and informing officials at the national and local levels that these schools are now ready, creates the false impression of safety; without any consideration to the fact that if the school falls on top of those inside, only the lucky few can evacuate.
A more fundamental limitation that response plans must recognize is that early recovery is not the full recovery. Indeed the latter implies building back better lives, infrastructures and livelihoods. Unfortunately , whole disasters due to both intensive and extensive risks are creating opportunities to build back better; however these opportunities continue to be ignored. This is partly because there is insufficient understanding from those developing disaster risk management plans at both national and local levels, on the needs to link them to recovery.
Finally, it is recovery, and recovery at the local level, that can examine development and economic growth policies, and suggest fine-tunings and modifications in order to reduce the inequality in benefits and risks, reduce vulnerability in general and create more resilient communities by actively empowering communities to create their own resilient livelihoods. Something, which remains elusive, yet should be easier in the wake of disasters if we have prepared recovery plans apriori.

QQuestion by Dr Georgina Jordan

what is the role of implementing agencies in ensuring linkages between CCA, DRR, poverty reduction and sustainable growth ?

Dr Georgina Jordan QA and KM | SomReP

APosted on 28 Jan 2015

Dear Dr Jordan
Many thanks for your question.
Firstly, implementing agencies, including UN and international NGOs, must start by recognizing the importance of mainstreaming DRM into their own programs. Furthermore, they should adhere to their advice to national and local governments, namely that mainstreaming is best achieved not simply by holding meetings or forming committees to talk about it. Rather, as a first step, and to build momentum and gather support, it is best to link it to specific multi-sectoral activities that are a priority within various subsections or divisions in a particular UN agency or national or international NGO. For example, linking program on livelihood improvement for fighting poverty, with programs on water, others on clean environment and those of DRR and CCA through specific activities that show linkages and reflect priorities of subdivisions would be one possible way forward in some countries suffering drought in rural communities based on agriculture.

Furthermore, such an approach would then allow the UN and international agencies to build support in the host country for mainstreaming by show casing the success stories which have been achieved. 
Equally importantly it will provide valuable experience for national staff in UN and international NGOs, and to the partners in national and local organisations, to accumulate valuable tangible experience on the importance of mainstreaming DRR and CCA in various activities, and the manner in which this can be done.
This in turn would lead to a significant leap in sustainable development efforts, whose success requires mainstreaming of even a wider set of disciplines, by demonstrating the manner in which mainstreaming can happen in certain multi sectoral disciplines. Once this is carried out, it becomes easier to expand the scope and include other important disciplines such as food security, gender empowerment and equality, governance among others which should be accounted for from the beginning of the process.
Furthermore the acumulation of such experiences will expedite the refinement of mainstreaming guidelienes for achieving sustainable development that account for regional and national specifities.

QQuestion by Ms Luna Abuswaireh

In 2015 governments across the globe will commit to a new Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, new set of development goals (SDGs) and new Climate Change Agreement. In this context, what opportunities exist to enhance coherence in the implementation of actions across various global commitments to ensure effective disaster risk reduction actions at local and national level for resilience ?

Ms Luna Abuswaireh Regional Programme Officer | UNISDR

APosted on 27 Jan 2015

Dear Luna

Many thanks for your question.

I believe the main opportunity that exists is to first recognize that despite the achievements a lot remains to be done. In various frameworks for disaster risk reduction, development and climate change adaptation insufficient attention, in my view, was given to governance. In particular, the fact that government policies, which are formed in many cases by unequal distribution from the different stakeholders in the country, lead to unequal distribution of benefits in addition to unequal distribution of exposure, vulnerability, risks and losses due to natural hazards and climate change. As such it is insufficient to carry out capacity building of institutions if it is not accompanied by linkages to the decision making process. A clear example of that is that even if UNISDR succeeded in disseminating the important message that risk reduction is most effective, and cost-effective, when directed at the most vulnerable communities and groups within society; and that a majority of losses are due to extensive risks, limited efforts is still being undertaken in reducing risk (i.e. HFA priority 4) and in collating disaster loss data with a view to improve the science-policy interface.

Another opportunity that exist is to recognize the need for recovery efforts and plans and that these must account for the differential needs and abilities of women and men, and their variation with age, social and economic backgrounds and special needs.

These opportunities amongst others, are best addressed by a sustainable development governance framework, similar to the risk governance framework, that can address unequal access to the decision making process as a way to address the vast inequalities in exposure, vulnerability, risks and disaster losses. This in turn can help ensure balanced portfolios of strategies and policies which balance between 1) rural and urban development, 2) intensive and extensive disaster risk reduction efforts,3)  corrective and prospective strategies, 4) industrial, agricultural, real estate and banking sectors, with sustainability at their heart.



QQuestion by Ms Amani Hammad

Dear Dr. Fadi;
As you know, the Middle East is now witnessing conflicts that are dramatic on casualties and other losses, this compound with already existing exposure to natural hazards can minimize the validity of existing risk assessments in the said region, how can re-assess resilience and recovery capacities in light of these unpredictable dynamics? and how can govt and communities react

Ms Amani Hammad Head of DRR Portfolio | UNDP - Jordan

APosted on 27 Jan 2015

Dear Ms. Amani,

Many thanks for your question.

Disaster losses from extensive and intensive risks, and losses due to stresses and shocks combine in the MENA region to act against development goals, hindering development and poverty reduction, stalling efforts to adapt to climate change thereby making sustainable development an even more illusive goal. 

Furthermore, there are several similarities between extensive risk and stresses, as they both tend to affect poorer rural neighborhoods and urban slums, thereby leaving them more vulnerable to intensive risk and shocks, thereby leading to unequal distribution and concentration of losses due to all these risks combined in these areas which are in most need of development.  In other words, there is unequal distribution of vulnerability and losses, with the worst concentration located in poorer rural areas and urban slums due to intensive and extensive risks as well as conflict stresses and shocks.

Perhaps certain efforts for infrastructure resilience vary depending on the type of event under consideration (whether it corresponds to conflict or to a natural hazard), however building resilience measures of communities and livelihoods to natural hazards can compliment resilience building efforts against conflicts.

A first step is to improve the science-policy interface and make sure that there are accurate data on losses and that such data is informing the decision making process.  Another measure is to ensure that decision makers understand that every shock, stress, extensive and intensive risk is an opportunity to build back better , more resilient, infrastructure systems and livelihoods provided there are recovery plans which have been developed apriori. At the heart of all efforts to build resilience against both conflict and natural hazards, there must be a growing recognition regarding the paramount importance of the inequalities in the distribution of vulnerabilities, exposure, risks, losses and wealth in the region and the need to address these through a series of physical (e.g. improved infrastructure), social (e.g. raising awareness), economic (e.g. micro finance and micro insurance for vulnerable communities), natural (halting environmental degradation as a first step), institutional (improving governance, and access to power and policy makers) and political (participation in the decision making process). This, in turn, will allow for effective and sustainable solutions that will reduce poverty, improve adaptation to climate change, reduce disaster risk thereby increasing the chances of success towards achieving sustainable development. 




QQuestion by Mr Dave Paul Zervaas

Dear Fadi, do you think the concept of resilience is helpful in trying to better understand the linkages between CCA, DRM and sustainable development? One of the prior experts (Terry Jeggle) questioned the usefulness of resilience as a practical and pragmatic concept. What is your vision on this?
Thanks. Dave

Mr Dave Paul Zervaas Programme Officer | UNISDR

APosted on 27 Jan 2015

Dear Dave

Many thanks for your question. 

Resilience, like any other term used by various stakeholders in a multidisciplinary debate like DRM means different things to different people.  There has been some instances where tangible quantitative definitions were provided especially for the resilience of critical national infrastructure, with subcomponents of response, recovery, resistance, reliability and redundancy. When it comes to the resilience of communities and livelihoods, defining resilience in a quantitative manner is more difficult in my view because the subject matter is more difficult to quantify.  In general, my apprehension is in the way it is often interpreted in a passive manner. To be specific we speak about resilience against shocks and stresses (in case of conflict) or resilience against extensive disaster (everyday) risk and intensive disaster (extreme) risk. The danger is that we then direct efforts at being resilient against these shock, stresses and disaster risks instead of trying to prevent them. Whereas resilience must be seen as part of a larger portfolio or even as an interim measure. Another example is climate change adaptation and being resilient to climate change. Here again the issue may be misunderstood as dealing with the effects of climate change as a substitute to trying to first stop it and then reverse it.

This “misuse” of resilience is due to several reasons including the fact that implementing and funding agencies already have a bias towards response efforts, and when attempts were made to mainstream resilience it was primarily mainstreamed into response efforts. Response efforts are very important but they alone cannot contribute to sustainable development. According to the UNISDR methodology resilience of a community is to “resist, absorb, accommodate to and recover from the effects of a hazard in a timely and efficient manner, including through the preservation and restoration of its essential basic structures and functions”. When seen in this context, resilience has a very important role to play in ensuring that DRM and CCA efforts are integrated (if they both lead to recovery in a timely and efficient manner) which in turn contributes towards achieving sustainable development.

To recapitulate, the main challenge is in the manner the term resilience has been understood by national, and some international, implementing and donor agencies, focusing on resisting, absorbing or accommodating but insufficiently on recovery. The most suitable manner to address this problem is to provide guidelines for achieving resilience of livelihoods, together with guidelines on developing recovery plans and strategies that “builds back better” lives and livelihoods. The absence of such guidelines may be one reason why the concept of resilience is not adopted in its entirety. Finally such guidelines should try to differentiate between different states of vulnerability and resilience in the sense that moving from a very vulnerable situation with very limited resilience requires very different actions from those required in an already resilient community.

To end on a positive note, it is hoped that the HFA2 will provide the forum for the development of these guidelines and the exchange of best practices regarding their implementation.