When nature strikes... Unlocking domains of disaster response


The research focuses on responses to disasters caused by natural hazards. It will be investigated how different groups of actors perceive, understand and deal with disaster. These include the local population, local and central governement and bureaucracy, civil society, international (humanitarian) agencies and the scientific community. Disaster responses of these different groups often contradict or negate each other at high material and human costs, and social science so far lacks a sound theoretical framework for grasping the dynamics of disaster reponse. Disasters caused by floods, high winds, droughts, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcano eruptions and the like have a high impact on societies and populations. The immediate loss of shelter and rupture of livelihood renders people in need of often large-scale external assistance, while the breakdown of infrastructure at the same time hampers the provision of relief. Futhermore, measures to prevent future disasters are usually neglected, resulting in unsustainable solutions exacerbating further vulnerability to disaster. The inadequacy of disaster responses can parthly be attributed to a lack of understanding of the phenomena. Disasters are not just unfortunate events, but grow from long-term processes of human-environmental interactions. They point to a lack of 'mutuality', a measure of both how well a society is adapted to the environment and how well that environment fares at the hands of human activity. Far from being caused by whims of nature, disasters are the result of a natural hazard in combination with the vulnerability of the affected population, where vulnerability is conceived of as a measure of a population's political, economic and social exposure to the risks inherent in natural hazards.





Prof. dr. ir. D.J.M. Hilhorst

Verbonden aan

Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), International Relations and Development Programme


Prof. dr. ir. D.J.M. Hilhorst


01/01/2002 tot 01/01/2004