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The most recent view of vulnerability

Stefan Schneiderbauer, Elisa Calliari, Unni Eidsvig, Michael Hagenlocher

edited by: Karmen Poljanšek, Montserrat Marín Ferrer, Tom De Groeve, Ian Clark

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Conclusions and key messages. Over the past decades, vulnerability research has made considerable progress in understanding some of the root causes and dynamic pressures that influence the progression of vulnerability and raised awareness that disasters are not natural but predominantly a product of social, economic and political conditions (Wisner et al., 2004).
Vulnerability assessments are a response to the call for evidence by decision- makers for use in pre-disaster risk assessment, prevention and reduction, as well as the development and implementation of appropriate preparedness and effective disaster response strategies by providing information on people, communities or regions at risk.
The following steps are proposed to further improve vulnerability research and related applications with the final aim to inform policymakers to most appropriately:
co-produce knowledge in a transdisciplinary environment;
evaluate and present inherent uncertainties;
integrate intangible but crucial factors into quantitative assessments;
develop and apply methods that allow for considering cascading and multirisks;
combine vulnerability scenarios with (climate-) hazard scenarios when assessing future risks;
empower communities to better understand and reduce their vulnerability in order to make them more resilient to identified hazards;
design and facilitate multilevel and cross-sectoral feedback loops between public, practitioners and policymaking bodies (local, regional, national and European) and other stakeholders;
standardise vulnerability assessment approaches in order to allow for more comparison (in space and time);
work on improved evidence within vulnerability assessment — this requires continuous effort to improve loss and damage data.
Partnership ▹ The comprehensive analysis and assessment of vulnerability requires an interdisciplinary approach involving both natural and social sciences. In addition, in order to foster sustainable and efficient vulnerability reduction strategies and measures, an approach to produce knowledge co-productively is desirable. This calls for a partnership with affected communities, practitioners and decision-makers. A stronger link and enhanced interaction with other relevant communities is desirable, namely climate change adaptation, natural resource management, public health, spatial planning and development.
Knowledge ▹ The determination of risk often remains hazard centred and hazard specific and does not consider vulnerability appropriately. Vulnerability assessment has tended to be mostly quantitative in nature. Cultural aspects as well as formal (procedures, laws and regulations) and tacit informal (values, norms and traditions) institutions play a fundamental role as both enabling or limiting factors of resilience and have not gained sufficient attention. A challenge is the need to consider local data and information in order to account for small-scale specificities of vulnerability. Present databases on damage and loss caused by natural hazards should be standardised and extended to support evidence building in vulnerability assessment. Existing barriers in the co-production, exchange and use of knowledge have to be understood and minimised.
Innovation ▹ In recent years, improved approaches to assess vulnerability by statistical analyses or indices have been established. Fostering the integration of Earth observation data and technology to detect changes would improve the possibility to represent some of the dynamic aspects of vulnerability. Further improvement requires enhanced event and damage databases and more sophisticated methods for potential future vulnerability pathways and their integration into risk scenarios. The challenge to integrate qualitative information, which often contains crucial facts, needs to be addressed. Observation data and technology to detect changes would improve the possibility to represent some of the dynamic aspects of vulnerability. Further improvements require enhanced event and damage databases and more sophisticated methods for potential future vulnerability pathways and their integration into risk scenarios. The challenge to integrate qualitative information, which often contains crucial facts, need to be addressed.

In Science for disaster risk management 2017: knowing better and losing less, Vol. 28034 (2017), pp. 70-84 
Key: INRMM:14445234



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