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Title: Is Disaster Risk Creation more Significant than Disaster Risk Reduction?


Most research and practice work in disaster risk reduction (DRR) is based on the assumption that it reduces vulnerability or mitigate hazards. Research is supposedly ‘taken up’ by governments and relevant institutions and used to inform DRR policy. Donors, NGOs and other actors supposedly engage in activities that reduce disaster risk. This talk upsets these comforting assumptions. It argues that government and the private sector are much more likely to create disasters than to reduce them. The argument that Disaster Risk Creation (DRC) is more significant than the efforts of academics and organizations to reduce disasters is of course controversial. But in the context of a global economy, dominated by the ideology of neo-liberalism, I argue that a great deal more honesty is needed in how academia relates to the problems of disaster creation.

The presentation examines the concept of Damage to Cure Ratio (D:C), which assesses the difference between finance and activities that are supposed to reduce disaster impacts (the ‘cure’) and the resources that are used to make vulnerability worse, to increase global warming, and to expose more people to natural hazards. I argue that this concept deserves much more research, and suggests some examples where it appears that the ratio is of the order 1000:1. In other words in some areas a thousand times more resources are spent to make disasters worse than to make them better. In this context it is obviously vital that disaster research takes stock of what it can and cannot achieve, and develops ways to advocate for a more realistic approach to disaster risk.


Terry Cannon is Emeritus Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies in the UK. His main research focus is on rural livelihoods, disaster vulnerability, and climate change adaptation, especially at the local level. He has recently focused on the significance of culture in relation to risk and people’s perception of hazards and climate change. This involved being a lead editor for the Red Cross World Disasters Report 2014: Focus on Culture and Risk. He is one of the co-authors of At Risk: Natural Hazards, People’s Vulnerability, and Disasters, which has become one of the most widely cited and used books in the field, and translated into Spanish, Japanese and Chinese. He is also engaged in capacity building on these issues for NGOs and UNDP in several countries, including Bangladesh and Vietnam.

  • Felix Martin
  • Syarifah Dalimunthe

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