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Enhance adaptive capacity

Given the challenges posed by climate change, it is important that disaster risk management interventions help people to manage and create sustainable changes that will allow them to adapt over time, as well as protect them from disasters. If not, projects to tackle disaster risk may inadvertently increase people’s vulnerability and exposure over time. The following points highlight elements which promote adaptive capacity, suggest approaches for thriving under uncertainty, and should be considered as part of any strategic approach to managing disaster risk in a changing climate:

  • high levels of diversity in stakeholders, in livelihoods, and in ecology
  • flexible institutions which accept that the post-disaster environment is different from the pre-disaster environment and act, experiment, learn and change accordingly
  • ability to connect actions and stakeholders through networks that can operate effectively across scales rather than just at one level
  • inclusion of multiple stakeholders and knowledge groups in decision-making processes
  • appreciation of previous shocks and what helped to deal with such disturbances in the past
  • iterative learning processes, such as scenario planning, that consider the range of possible future events and changes in the system to manage disaster risk
  • approaches that promote greater equity for the distribution of risk across society
  • appreciation that social values and structures inscribe risk and uncertainty, and that these need to be taken into account in the range of possible response options and
  • planning for what happens when existing systems fail and to recognise that this will happen at some point.

Recommended reading

The National Adaptive Capacity framework. Key institutional functions for a changing climate
World Resources Institute, Washington DC 2009
The paper discusses the National Adaptive Capacity Framework (NAC). It indicates that under the NAC approach, adaptation is treated as an organic process - one which inevitably will grow and evolve in unexpected ways, since every coun...
Weathering the storm: participatory risk assessment for informal settlements
A. Holloway; R. Roomaney / PreventionWeb 2008
Residents of informal settlements often bear the brunt of extreme weather and associated flooding. This guide is intended to strengthen participatory risk assessment capabilities for a wide range of municipal and development professio...
Disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation: closing the gap
T. Mitchell; M. Van Aalst; I. Douglas / id21 Development Research Reporting Service 2008
There is significant overlap between the practice and theory of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation. However, there is limited coherence and convergence in institutions, organisations and policy frameworks. Bot...
Resilience and sustainable development: building adaptive capacity in a world of transformations
C. Folke; S. Carpenter; T. Elmqvist / International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) 2002
This paper is a synthesis of the rapidly-changing field of resilience research and argues that humanity has powerful interactions with biogeochemical, hydrological and ecological processes, from local to global scales. It argues that ...
Assessing vulnerability and adaptive capacity to climate risks: methods for investigation at local and national levels
A., T. Kuriakose; L. Bizikova; C., A. Bachofen / World Bank 2009
This paper presents the research and learning approach of a World Bank study, and offers emerging findings on policy, as well as institutional questions surrounding adaptation arenas in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Ghana and Mozambi...
The determinants of vulnerability and adaptive capacity at the national level and the implications for adaptation
N. Brooks; W., N. Adgera; P., M Kelly / University of East Anglia 2005
This paper presents a set of indicators of vulnerability and capacity to adapt to climate variability using a novel methodology for assessing vulnerability to climate-related mortality. The indicators are based on empirical analysis o...