Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
RN08_05: Social Dimensions of Disaster Preparedness and Response
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Eugenia Petropoulou, University of Crete, Greece
Location: UP.4.214
University of Manchester Building: University Place, Fourth Floor Oxford Road

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Emergence and Volunteerism in Disaster Response Operations

Roine Johansson1, Erna Danielsson1, Linda Kvarnlöf1, Kerstin Eriksson2

1Mid Sweden University, Sweden; 2RISE The Research Institute of Sweden

The actions of unaffiliated volunteers in disaster response operations are often regarded as a form of emergence, which is frequently considered a relatively spontaneous and context-free phenomenon. Recently, analyses of emergence have been criticized for not acknowledging the pre-conditioned aspects of social life, such as power, networks and community attachment. In the present study, such conditions have been included in the analysis of emergence in a disaster response context. The aim is to investigate under what conditions emergence occurs. What kind of emergent actions take place in response to a disaster? Can just anybody get involved in emergent response activities on a voluntary basis? What kind of social relations do emergent volunteers develop with other volunteers and with other actors? Interviews have been undertaken with people who made voluntary contributions, outside the official response operation, to the response to a large-scale forest fire in Sweden. Results show that emergence is not as context-free as earlier assumed. Our study shows the importance of strong ties to the community, with friendship or professional connections between local people. In some cases, the emergent nature of voluntary actions decreased over time: some emergent activity became more organized and was included in the official response operation.

Disasters, Invisible Citizenship and the Role of Victims’ Associations

José Manuel Mendes

University of Coimbra, Faculty of Economics, Centre for Social Studies, Portugal

The forest fires in 2017 were one of the worst disasters to affect Portugal, with more than 275.845 hectares burnt, 119 dead and hundreds of injured people. Communities and landscapes were devastated, houses, livelihoods and businesses destroyed.

The main conclusion to draw is that the victims from Portugal’s forest fires of 2017 were not caused by social isolation. The main cause for the 2017 forest fires victims was the material, symbolic and political distance to decision centres and to those responsible for citizens’ safety. That is a consequence in what we have been calling, in our studies with disaster victims’ associations, invisible citizenship. To contravene this invisible citizenship, the response from civil society was relevant. There was an unprecedent wave of solidarity by citizens, corporations and other institutions, and also thousands of spontaneous volunteers alongside structured volunteer networks by corporations, non-profit organizations and NGOs.

Most importantly, the immediate creation of victims’ associations in a society with low civic mobilization after catastrophes or extreme events, fostered citizenship rights and “the right to have rights”, and the production of collective memories and personal identities that allow for the commemoration of the traumatic event and the creation of “affective communities” that are visible in the public arena. Also, they strive for processes of memorialization and narrative building in the relation between personal experience and ongoing formation of a social, collective memory.

Adaptation to Climate Change: Instrumentalisation and Narratives

Julie Gobert1, Florence Rudolf2

1Ecole nationale des Ponts et Chaussées, France; 2INSA, Strasbourg, France

The INTERREG project Clim’Ability aims to enable companies in the Upper Rhine to understand risks and opportunities in the context of climate change. Climate change could be seen as a long-term crisis, which has already visible impacts on biodiversity and then the natural resources employed by human activities. The contributors to this communication have particularly studied the wood and forest sector in the Parc Naturel des Vosges du Nord to tackle scientific and operational questions: How to deal with uncertainties at the local level for a specific business sector? Which kinds of adaptation face to the climate change consequences? Consequently, they conducted a series of semi-structured interviews with the stakeholders involved in forest management, the wood transformation, the building industry or architecture. They also read the grey literature and attended different meetings between actors.

Adaptation can be very variously conceived: as a means to resist again a hostile environment, to draw new pathways of acting and producing, to transform activities…. Authors from different scientific disciplines have analysed this term and the forms of action/reaction it induces. Some have provided general principles and broad strategies for adaptation, others have identified opportunities for and barriers to adaptation. Different analytical framings have then emerged: livelihoods-based, focused on social and institutional processes, on social learning…

This communication targets to outline how climate change may be instrumentalised for different goals which illustrate diverging or converging narratives about adaptation: protecting forest biodiversity and multifunctionality, promoting wood products in the building sector, endorsing the employment of local feedstock…

The Missing Link in Building Resilience for Disasters: Social Vulnerability

Hediye Sibel Kalaycioglu1, Kezban Celik2, Sinan Turkyılmaz3, Umit Celen4, Emin Yahya Mentese5, Sema Kara6

1Middle East Technical University, Turkey; 2TED Unıversity, Ankara Turkey; 3Hacettepe Unıversıty, Ankara Turkey; 4Amasya Unıversıty, Amasya Turkey; 5Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Turkey; 6Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Turkey

Social vulnerability is the neglected dimension in natural disasters. Understanding the social and cultural dimension in disasters is significant for a resilient society. The presentation is based on a field research in İstanbul by the Directorate of Earthquake and Ground Research of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. The data is collected from a representative sample of 40.000 households from all sub-districts of İstanbul through conducting face to face interviews with a household member between the ages of 18 and 70. The aim of the research was to identify the indicators of social vulnerability of households in the likelihood of disasters, like earthquakes, floods, landslides in İstanbul city center. Indicators have been socio-demographic factors, length of urban experience, socio-economic factors, access to health services, social solidarity and networks, risk perception, values and risk behaviors. The survey results were analysed to identify a social vulnerability scale and an SES scale at the household level. It is notable that, although socio-economic status and social vulnerability level are assumed to be highly correlated in the literature, İn the case of İstanbul, factors such as risk perception, values and socio-demographic factors like age and length of stay in urban, play a more important role than occupation, education of income. Especially the degree of risk perception and values have a very high significance for resilience. Hence the indicators of resilience are highly correlated with cultural values in the household level. This research gives us clues about why the policy makers are slow in structural reforms for building a resilient society.