Enhancing resilience of communities and territories facing natural and na-tech hazards
BUREAU DE RECHERCHES GEOLOGIQUES ET MINIERES
3 Av Claude Guillemin
€ 224 562
Hormoz Modaressi (Prof.)
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UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI NAPOLI FEDERICO II
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UNIVERSITE DE GENEVE
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MIDDLESEX UNIVERSITY HIGHER EDUCATION CORPORATION
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Grant agreement ID: 212045
1 June 2008
31 May 2011
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BUREAU DE RECHERCHES GEOLOGIQUES ET MINIERES
Final Report - ENSURE (Enhancing resilience of communities and territories facing natural and na-tech hazards)
The ENSURE consortium (http://www.ensureproject.eu/) intended to develop a new methodological framework for integrated multi-scale vulnerability assessment.
More precisely, the main achievements during the ENSURE project have been the following:
- To improve the understanding of the articulated nature of the vulnerability concept at different spatial scales, a number of reviews were performed on the concepts and definitions, as well as on the methodologies used to assess vulnerability of structural, territorial, social and economic systems. For these latter, it comes out with a definition that largely follows the majority of definitions in the literature: vulnerability is conceived as 'a function of susceptibility to loss and the capacity to recover'. Moreover, the term vulnerability has evolved from a rather negative concept to a concept that relates directly to more positive notions like resilience and adaptive capacity. A differentiation can be made between biophysical and social vulnerability, where the first is directly related to the exposure to a hazard, whereas the latter focuses more on the internal state of a system.
- A review has been performed also to understand how vulnerability was operated in both natural hazards and climate change communities. Its conclusion was that approaches used for assessments in both communities seem to be converging. A particular important contribution to this was the shift from a climate scenario applied to biophysical impacts assessments (first generation) to examining the relationship between current climate variability and current adaptation (second generation) before considering future climate and adaptation in the broad context of environmental stressors, socio-economic change and sustainable development.
- The project has extensively explored the connections between different types of vulnerabilities, namely between: physical and systemic; physical, systemic and social; systemic, social, economic, institutional and territorial. The main objective was to identify key issues that allow recognising and understanding driving forces in the nature of vulnerability. Although some constant elements could be identified, it was stressed that types and relationships of vulnerability are always to be seen in a wider conceptual framework of inter-linkages to be properly understood. However, it turned out that the contexts of the specific hazards as well as the institutional context are indispensable to understand the vulnerabilities and their linkages. This latter notion is considered crucial in the further operationalisation of the vulnerability concept into indicators. Space scale and time are indispensable in the understanding of the various types of vulnerabilities and their linkages.
- A consensus among project partners was achieved regarding the need to make explicit the relevance of resilience and not to restrict to the vulnerability concept only. The main output is that resilience cannot be simply considered as the 'flip-side' of vulnerability. Resilience is perhaps an even more dynamic concept than vulnerability, in that it addresses the capacities to innovate and the ability to strategically orient complex processes like those implied by emergency, recovery and reconstruction.
- Processes and catalytic factors of vulnerability change in the course of time and in particular, along a single disaster cycle and its successive stages and/or along successive disaster cycles, have been highlighted. It was recognised that vulnerability should be considered as a dynamic rather than static concept and that different types of vulnerabilities become more apparent and relevant at different stages of the disastrous event: at the impact, physical vulnerabilities transform into the direct physical damage provoked by the event; during emergency and recovery, systemic, social, institutional, organisational factors determine how slowly or how fast return to normalcy will be possible and at what conditions (for example with respect to the possibility/capability to reduce or increase pre-event vulnerability).
- As for spatial variability, the scale at which vulnerabilities are relevant depends on the institutional, economic and social arrangements in the different contexts, making clear that a unique rule for deciding a priori at what scales a certain analysis must be conducted does not make particular sense. The selection of relevant scales will depend on the context, and on the particular way in which different systems are connected and related to each other. Finally transference of vulnerability in space and time should be examined and assessed as coupled processes.
- A new methodological framework was built and tested within a number of case studies. This has permitted to assess vulnerability and resilience across different temporal and spatial scales, acknowledging the different domains where the latter may manifest, and in particular in the natural and the built environment, allocating a large importance to the so called climate change 'critical infrastructures', in social and economic systems. The proposed framework embeds some fundamental theoretical and practical aspects searched for in the previous work packages. It was in particular conceived as intrinsically systemic, in that various factors, systems and components concur to create vulnerability and resiliency patterns, both individually and through their multiple connections. A set of four matrices, developed for different natural hazards (landslides, floods, earthquakes, forest fires, volcanoes, droughts), has been developed to identify what aspects, relevant parameters and factors should be looked at before the impact (ability or inability to cope with an extreme), at the impact (capacity or not to sustain various types of stresses), just after the impact (ability or not to suffer losses and still continue functioning) and in the longer term of recovery (capacity to find a new state of equilibrium).
Project context and objectives:
The assessment of the relation between the occurrence of natural phenomena (hazards) and expected damages (risk) differs considerably from authority to authority and from country to country due to a variety of approaches and methodological concepts. This highlights the difficulty for the implementation of a comprehensive risk analysis, taking properly into account the vulnerability of hazard prone areas.
In literature, the definition of risk as the result of a potential stress on a territorial system (hazard), combined both the value of the possible involved elements (exposure) and their predisposition to damage (vulnerability), is now widely shared. Nevertheless, in common practice very few vulnerability analyses have been carried out both at regional and/or local spatial scale due to a missing general concept and agreement on vulnerability indicators and standardised approaches to estimate and measure vulnerability in relation to natural hazards. In addition, risk analysis depends on the 'dimension' of the hazard and on vulnerability analysis, and can therefore be characterised in different terms according to the typology of the hazard and the spatial scale of analysis, e.g. as qualitative indicators (high, medium, low) or quantitative (typology of damage and distribution for a given stock building in a given return period for a given expected magnitude).
Finally, there is an increasing complexity in risk analysis due to the emerging role of climate change. This has a twofold implication: i) the influence of climate change in spatial and temporal distribution of weather-related extreme events,ii) the rising awareness about climate change as a hazard that was never experienced before both in terms of scientific methodology as well as practical application in risk assessment.
In order to address this complex situation it is necessary to improve:
-the knowledge on physical damages vs natural hazards, especially on those where vulnerability assessment is still poorly developed for a series of exposed elements (physical vulnerability);
- the knowledge on social and economic losses vs. natural hazards, currently fairly investigated (socio-economic vulnerability);
-the capability of the European society to cope with hazards (systemic vulnerability, resilience);
-the interrelations among different types of vulnerabilities (integrated vulnerability).
As a matter of fact, vulnerability, as a key concept in disaster literature, has already been pointed out long ago for its importance. Nevertheless, the majority of studies and grants have been devoted to hazard related research, neglecting the influence of vulnerability of exposed systems on the death toll and losses in case of natural or man-made disasters. The basic assumption of the following proposal 'Enhancing resilience of communities and territories facing natural and na-tech hazards' is that our ability to understand and evaluate better different types of vulnerabilities constitutes a crucial tool to strengthen communities in the face of disasters due to extreme events and climate change. Improving the understanding of the factors that makes a community more vulnerable, addressing the various physical, psychological, cultural, and systemic social and economic components that shape the relationship between societies and 'natural' environment, will permit more tailored and articulated mitigation measures.
Starting from the consideration of affected communities provides the conceptual justification for considering apparently different fields of study, such as those related to hydro-geological, seismic and volcanic risk as well as climate change. From the perspective of settled communities, in fact, they are not distinct sectors, but the reality of areas that may be threatened by several phenomena at the same time. Such a condition is less an exception than traditionally thought of (see Dilley et al, 2005). Being able to address those in a multi-risk perspective is essential, in order to avoid lack of coherence between mitigation efforts designed separately without consideration of potential enchained or overlapping effects. Furthermore it is crucial to recognise to what extent community resilience can be dynamically developed in the face of a variety of stressors avoiding as far as possible waste of resources as well as conflicting outcomes.
Vulnerability is the key concept since any vulnerability assessment allows comparing regional entities or sectors. Such assessments close the gaps between impact analysis and necessary adaptation strategies by identifying the hot spots for action. Experiences show that this can help decision makers to implement strategic actions (cf. Kropp et al. 2006).
Considering the above described background, the overall objective of ENSURE was to develop a new methodological framework for an integrated multi-scale vulnerability assessment, based on a comprehensive, integrated and inter-disciplinary understanding of how mitigation strategies can be improved in the future, in order to reduce human losses, economic damage and social discomfort due to extreme events striking communities exposed to a variety of natural hazards as well as to the potential consequences of climate change.
More precisely, the following main objectives were planned to be achieved:
-to improve the understanding of the articulated nature of the vulnerability concept (physical, economic, cultural, social and systemic), at different spatial scales (regional and local), comparing definitions that have been proposed by different scholars and research communities (particularly by the 'disasters' and 'climate change' communities which will lead to an improvement of the integration of the vulnerability concepts of the disaster risk community (sustainable mitigation) with those of the climate change community (adaptation strategies) as long demanded by many scientist and practitioners, in order to strengthen progress towards sustainable development);
-to analyse the relationship between the vulnerability concept and other notions that are common in the disaster and climate change arenas, such as 'risk', 'damage', 'exposure', 'resilience' and 'adaptation';
-to develop integration and connection of vulnerability types identifying key issues that allow recognising and understanding the driving forces in the nature of vulnerability (dynamical vulnerability);
-to investigate the temporal and spatial variability of the relation between different types of vulnerability and different types of damage, as basic assumption for future scenarios;
-to propose new and improve existing vulnerability assessment models and parameters, specifying procedures to make them operable within a given territorial or cultural context, so as to assess the vulnerability of a given community to a variety of extremes;
-to develop a comprehensive and structured method that integrates the assessment of different types of vulnerabilities to be tested in three specific case studies at two main scales: local scale and regional context, integrating physical, psychological, cultural, social and economic perspectives;
-to establish improved risk scenarios, based on a new methodological framework considering properly the new vulnerability indicators for different exposed elements, at different geographical spatial scales.
With respect to the above mentioned objectives, the tasks executed during the project (excepted management activities) have been the following:
1. State-of-the-art on vulnerability types (WP1): First, a review was performed on the vulnerability concepts and definitions, as well as on the methodologies used to assess vulnerability of structural, territorial, social and economic systems. Then, the vulnerability concepts used in the field of natural hazards were compared to those used in climate change analyses. Finally, vulnerability was explored through an 'integral' perspective, in an attempt to identify key factors that can affect vulnerability, in order to account not only for the physical reality and systemic aspects, but also for the human 'interiors' (psychology, culture and collective value).
2.Integration and connection of vulnerabilities (WP2): First, connections between the various types of vulnerability (social with economic; systemic with structural; social and economic with physical) were investigated, in order to identify key issues that allow recognising and understanding driving forces in the nature of vulnerability. Second, we analysed to what extent systemic and social, economic vulnerabilities can be considered common to a variety of threats and to what extent they are linked to specific hazards.
3.Vulnerabilities in time and space (WP3): in this WP, we analysed the multiple facets of vulnerability, which are determined by:
(a) the type of hazard under examination;
(b) the type of the agency / structure carrying vulnerability;
(c) the period of concern;
(d) the type of losses / damages of reference;
(e) the geographical position / range / scale of both the potential disaster event and the agency / structure affected.
4.Development of a new methodological framework for an Integrated multi-scale vulnerability assessment (WP4): an iterative process was carried out to develop a methodological matrix-like framework, in order to assess communities' vulnerability and resilience at regional and local levels and across different temporal scales, considering the main fields recognised as relevant in previous WPs (structures, territorial systems, including natural, social and economic systems), as well as the most fundamental links amongst them.
5.Application of an integrated vulnerability conceptual approach (WP5): first, the data relevant for analyses were collected and prepared. Then, the methodological framework developed in WP4 for an integrated vulnerability assessment, was implemented and tested on selected case study areas.
6.Dissemination communication and evaluation of impacts (WP6): the activities here were conform with those planned in the programme:
(i) elaboration of an awareness and dissemination strategy, providing a brief but concise guidance to the partners on how scientific results will be communicated throughout the time frame of the ENSURE project;
(ii) launching of the ENSURE public website;
(iii) elaboration of branding and marketing material, including the development of a logo, an ENSURE identity handbook, presentation layout and contents and brochures;
(iv) publications (international conferences, scientific journals) and other dissemination activities (e.g. attending relevant events and final workshop organisation);
(v) development of an e-learning tool; and
(vi) monitoring / evaluation of impact.
State-of-the-art on vulnerability of structural, territorial and socio-economic systems:
Structural systems (Del1.1.1)
The review on the existing concepts and methodologies for vulnerability assessment of structural systems, related to different natural hazards (earthquakes, floods, landslides and volcanoes) within a given territory, has permitted to highlight common grounds and main differences existing between the various practices, as well as possible gaps to be filled in each field.
For the reviewed hazard-specific practices, risk is essentially defined as the product of (UNDRO, 1979; Dilley et al., 2005): (i) hazard, which is the probability of occurrence of a particular natural event; (ii) exposure, which represents the global 'value' of elements at risk in a given territorial system (buildings, infrastructures, people); (iii) vulnerability, which represents the degree of loss/potential damage/fragility of a particular element or set of elements at risk, within the area affected by the hazardous event characterised by a given intensity or level. In this case, vulnerability is related to the physical interactions between the potentially damaging event and the vulnerable elements of the physical environment. It is defined on a scale ranging from 0 (no loss/damage) to 1 (total loss/damage) and is also strongly dependent on resolution scale for analysis.
Although being hazard-specific, practices for structural vulnerability assessment generally follow the same procedure for analysis:
1. Hazard evaluation, to (i) quantify the probability of occurrence of the hazardous event (e.g. return periods) and (ii) estimate the intensity and the typology of the physical stresses/actions that will be sustained by affected structures within the territory, in case of event occurrence (e.g. hydrodynamic actions in case of flooding, actions resulting from ground shaking or settlements, etc.).
2.Estimation of the exposed elements, classified according to a typology grouping set of exposed elements according to the peculiar features affecting their structural behaviour and response to the possible physical impacts and stresses. Exposure may also englobe indicators representative of the worth (monetary value) for the elements at risk. In the case of cultural heritage, the notion of importance is also used, which represents the capability of each element to represent the historical/cultural identity of a given typology in the study area.
3.Definition/determination of physical vulnerability models, defined either on the basis of statistical processing of damage observations (with or without including the expert judgments) and expert opinion, or on the basis of analytical/simplified-mechanical models. Depending on the spatial scale or resolution for analysis, the methodology consists in attributing a vulnerability indicator (e.g. vulnerability index, fragility function) to a single element (building) or to the whole group of elements either uniformly or randomly in this case. Vulnerability assessment by fragility functions, which relate the probability to reach or exceed a certain degree of loss/damage to the force exerted by the relevant indicator(s) of physical aggression, is common.
Due to the variety of potential threats, according to varying levels of intensity, location and time of occurrence for hazards considered, the definition of the relevant indicator(s) for physical aggression is a main challenging issue when assessing vulnerability through fragility functions. What is to be noted here is that most assessment methodologies use a poor definition of the actual aggression (hazard represented by very few parameters, generally one), leading to strong uncertainties and to inadequacy of vulnerability curves.
Moreover, the incorporation of vulnerability within risk assessment is not developed at the same level for all the reviewed hazards: contrary to earthquake risk assessment, quantitative estimations are not often made in practice for a number of natural perils (e.g. mass movements, volcanoes), where fragility curves are rarely or not used. Physical vulnerability is poorly modelled in this case, for a number of reasons that are essentially related to the nature of the peril itself and to the fact that the benefits of considering an element's vulnerability may be considered as limited. Some of the main reasons we can list:
- human casualties caused by the event itself rather than by building damages;
-lack of observational data (e.g. hazard, elements at risk, induced damages);
-variety of possible processes involved in one hazardous event and complexity of related structural damage mechanisms leading to difficult quantitative assessment;
-buildings exposed to the full force of the event are generally not repairable (e.g. pyroclastic flows, mass movements): in this case, fragility reduces to one constant equal to unity for all non-zero values of the hazard parameter(s);
-possibility to reduce the level of exposure by adapted measures (e.g. efficient land-use planning, engineering works, evacuation), due to the scale (time/space) of the hazardous event. There is less incentive to assess vulnerability, when forecasting (e.g. monitoring) and prevention are possible.
Territorial systems (Del1.1.2)
The meaning of territorial vulnerability reflects propensity to losses of complex geographical entities (physical, social, economic, cultural, organisational, institutional micro-units and macro-structures) due to a stressor, including also for the climate change community, the generation of exposures and new hazards by these entities.
Territorial vulnerability denotes susceptibility to losses of all these units and structures contained in a territorial entity as well as of their interconnections and linkages. Kindred terms are 'geographical vulnerability', 'urban vulnerability', vulnerability of an area, region etc. Some researchers emphasise the 'exposure' dimension of territorial vulnerability, others consider equally the 'exposure' and 'coping capacity' dimensions and there is a third group advocating a three dimensional essence of vulnerability (i.e. one comprising 'exposure', 'sensitivity' and 'adaptive capacity' or 'exposure', 'resistance' and 'resilience'). As to the locus and origin of territorial vulnerability, the exposure component is considered as an external factor while other components (i.e. coping capacity, sensitivity and adaptive capacity, resistance and resilience) are considered internal or inherent to the territory / community factors of vulnerability.
Different procedures of territorial vulnerability assessment exist: some assessment methodologies start from consideration of vulnerability of the micro-units included in a territory (without ignoring the influence of the wider structures) and upscale then step by step to larger units. Others start from macro-structures and macro-indicators and attempt subsequently indicator specialisations and division of the territory to lower scale units. Approaches may be hazard specific (e.g. methodology for floods, the CIPE-MURST methodology, etc.), or referring to groups of hazards (e.g. Munich Re and DRI approaches) or hazard-independent (e.g. ESPON Hazard methodology, ARMONIA etc.).
The methodologies for assessment differ in terms of their stance as regards to the type(s) of losses to which vulnerability refers. In some cases the referred type of loss is explicitly quoted; in others it is implicitly derived; finally there is a third group of methodologies where reference to the loss type is not made at all, implying that the suggested methodology covers all forms of impacts and losses (direct and indirect, primary and secondary, loss of lives, physical damages, economic losses, property losses, disruption of services, operations and processes, bankruptcy or dislocation of firms, business closures and so on).
The results of the performed review show that most approaches do not deal with the root causes of vulnerability, the mechanisms and processes that make a spatial entity (a geographical or territorial unit) vulnerable, but deal instead with the end results, the observable symptoms of vulnerability.
Moreover, although they acknowledge that vulnerability of spatial units is multidimensional (social, economic, functional, systemic and physical dimensions), practical assessment is generally partial and the end-result is almost exclusively 'physically-oriented' and dependent on land-use parameters.
Finally, almost all methodologies, except those focusing on causal origins and the transference mechanisms of vulnerability, are based on procedures and parameters that yield mappable results (spatial distribution of vulnerability to support spatially differentiated measures and policies), which are more or less settled and steady in temporal terms. This rationale presupposes that vulnerability fluctuates in terms of space and leads to neglecting the temporal nature of vulnerability, as well as the immaterial aspects of vulnerability (e.g. institutional), that might affect the material ones or be affected by them, but are a non-spatial property. For instance, pre-disaster exposure is a mappable condition, but resilience (if considered as another component of vulnerability) is a matter of immaterial assets and intimately connected with organisational issues and in this sense, it is a non-spatial property. Moreover, vulnerability is not assessed as a time variant parameter, whereas at least in post-disaster periods, it has to do with dynamic action and movement and undergoes constant changes. First instant losses (due to pre-disaster vulnerabilities) are generally followed by waves of coping efforts which may manage short term recovery but lead the temporarily recovered entities into deteriorated vulnerability conditions in the long term. Coping capacity is not always a factor relieving vulnerability and in any case the latter is a time variant parameter.
An additional review of the territorial capital concept, which is useful for the study of regional development, has been performed as well, in order to find possible connection with territorial vulnerability, as the potential of bringing both concepts closer together, may help to better understand vulnerability: the territorial capital of an area may be considered as a critical factor for determining territorial vulnerability. Moreover, both concepts share common features:
-they are multidimensional and complex;
- they essentially describe an area unit's potential or lack of it to face a challenge, either the area's future development and sustainability or its capacity to withstand shocks and stresses.
In order to further enhance possible correlations between elements of vulnerability and of territorial capital, a table was proposed (see Del.1.1.2-3) which groups the elements of vulnerability and territorial capital into 5 categories: economic, social, natural, manmade - physical and institutional. The elements (skills, knowledge, health, human energy, networks, groups, institutions, infrastructure, technology, equipment, savings, credit, natural resources, land, water, fauna and flora) which make up the five forms of capital (human, social, physical, financial and natural) used in one of the territorial vulnerability models proposed by Wisner et al. (2004) are all typical features of territorial capital. Although not exhaustive, this table already shows interesting conceptual bridges, which indicate that the analysis of territorial capital may become a useful tool for territorial vulnerability assessment.
Socio-economic systems (Del1.1.3)
The review for definitions and approaches to analyse vulnerability and vulnerability of socio-economic systems in particular, reveals that definitions vary between disciplines, hazard types and analytical contexts. Neither multidisciplinary literature on disaster nor risk management has developed a widely accepted definition of vulnerability. As an alternative, often taxonomies of vulnerability are proposed, which are, however, less useful to arrive at a comprehensive and integrated understanding of vulnerability.
The lack of consensus makes it almost impossible and even undesirable to conclude with one final vulnerability definition. On the other hand the adoption of a relativistic approach in the definition of vulnerability would not be very constructive for the further development of methodologies to assess vulnerability. In addition, a kind of evolution of the concept could be sketched and links with other related concepts be identified:
-A differentiation can be made between biophysical and social vulnerability, where the first is directly related to the exposure to a hazard, whereas the latter focuses more on the internal state of a system.
-The stage of exclusive focus on the physical environment and ignorance or over-simplification of the socio-economic environment has largely come to an end.
-The review comes out with a definition that largely follows the majority of definitions in the social, economic and institutional literature: vulnerability is conceived as 'a function of susceptibility to loss and the capacity to recover'.
-The term vulnerability has evolved from a rather negative concept to a concept that relates directly to more positive notions like resilience and adaptive capacity.
- The traditional interpretation of vulnerability as the reciprocal of resilience is more and more challenged and replaced by notions seeing resilience as an integral component of vulnerability or considering vulnerability as the static and resilience as the dynamic propensity of a system.
-Psychological elements like risk perception, awareness and personal and collective coping mechanisms are crucial elements to be considered in any vulnerability assessment.
-The intrinsic relationship of vulnerability with terms such as resilience and adaptive capacity has emphasised more and more the need for the consideration of dynamic elements, including elements of learning, in the application of the vulnerability concept.
The result is that regarding the vulnerability assessment for socio-economic systems, a clear distinction should be made between economic vulnerability and social vulnerability assessment, which are two related but distinct fields of analysis.
The methods of economic vulnerability assessment are closely linked with damage assessment methodologies and therefore experiences in the field of the latter are relevant for vulnerability assessment. Methodological issues that are relevant for economic assessment are: the private versus the public and societal perspective; the scale and level of analysis; stock versus flow estimation; estimation of direct and indirect damage; and the valuation of tangible and intangible losses. Although economic assessment methodologies still differ in specific elements between thematic (hazard-wise) and geographical areas, one could observe presently more or less standardised approaches to measure damages. Finally one could observe a transition from economic and purely financial damage loss assessment to the assessment of the vulnerability of economic systems.
Social vulnerability assessment related to hazards often focuses on the understanding of the social environment that transforms a natural hazard into a disaster, where the cause is often seen as mainly social and the consequences differ between social groups. Methodologies to assess social vulnerability are not necessarily specific and include typical social science approaches, like qualitative and participatory methodologies. Key in these approaches is the recognition of the specific contexts in which the vulnerability is being assessed. Risk perception and local coping mechanisms are some examples of specific elements that are addressed as part of social vulnerability assessment. Integrating the outputs of social vulnerability assessment with the outcome of more physical assessment remains difficult. In addition, a number of relevant indicator initiatives have been identified that intend to measure vulnerability in its different dimensions. Approaches vary from deductive to more inductive approaches. Whatever the approach, crucial remains the application of a systematic and transparent approach in the development of indicators, including a good conceptual understanding of vulnerability in the specific context.
Finally, the availability of up-to-date data remains crucial for any relevant assessment of vulnerability.
Despite the absence of an unequivocal definition of vulnerability, we can conclude that a number of perspectives and methodological approaches from the social and economic sciences provide indispensable contributions to vulnerability assessment in an integrated manner.
Comparison of vulnerability concepts used in natural hazards to those used in climate change analyses (Del1.2)
The proposed review and case study analyses have permitted to understand how vulnerability was operated in both natural hazards and climate change communities.
The review shows that operating similarities in concepts that shared different names can be found, but the opposite case is also observed, with similar notions mentioned by both communities but with a rather different level of practical implementation.
For instance, the concepts of 'susceptibility' and 'sensitivity' used respectively by the natural hazard and climate change communities are in fact closely related and therefore the difference in this case lays almost exclusively on semantic. These terms both reflect the characteristics of a particular system that make it prone to impacts by a particular stimulus.
On the contrary, although the coping capacity concept used in the natural hazard sphere and the adaptive capacity one used in climate change share some similarities, the reviewed case studies show that they are hard to operate in the practical work carried out by both communities. However, contrary to the coping capacity, adaptive capacity is present in the definition of vulnerability and seems to be more operated in the climate change community.
In addition, the review points out the following:
-In the natural hazard case studies related to vulnerability assessment to floods, the concepts used and the parameters employed are the traditional ones of economic flood damage potential. On the contrary, the analysed vulnerability studies carried out within the climate change context hardly incorporate any economic valuation of damages. Moreover, there is an increasing effort to incorporate a social dimension in the natural hazard assessments, since it has been highlighted as an important factor in recent floods. The social system is however represented in a very superficial way for the cases analysed in this review.
-The use of models and scenarios for different time steps is a very pronounced characteristic of vulnerability assessments in climate change. The models used are both socio-economic and climatic in order to test climate impacts under certain policy and development assumptions.
-The final aim of vulnerability studies carried out by the climate change community is generally to implement adaptation measures in order to reduce the vulnerability of the system. Being highly interdisciplinary, climate change vulnerability studies tend to focus on a constellation of hazards that may affect the system. It is therefore common to find measures of vulnerability to floods, droughts, heat haves, sea level rise, agriculture or tourism in the same assessment. The approach at a regional scale is strongly sector oriented while the overarching element for vulnerability assessment is the climatic system. On the contrary, the focus of the natural hazard community is more frequently put on the assessment and reduction of the risk of a system to a particular hazard and also, with increasingly trends in the community, looking on how to increase the resilience of the system. Usually, natural hazard community deals with the risk due to one specific hazard (although multi hazards vulnerability/ risk assessments can also be found) and its implications across several sectors. In order to reduce the risk some options/decisions will have to be made and the consequent risk reduction is evaluated usually in terms of monetary losses avoided.
In conclusion, approaches of vulnerability assessments for both communities seem to be converging. A particular important contribution to this was the shift from a climate scenario applied to biophysical impacts assessments (first generation) to examining the relationship between current climate variability and current adaptation (second generation) before considering future climate and adaptation in the broad context of environmental stressors, socio-economic change and sustainable development.
However, how to develop an overarching definition of vulnerability that could be shared among different disciplines and how to structure vulnerability assessments so that their findings are comparable and generalisations can be made, seem to remain as fundamental challenges for both communities. Moreover, vulnerability assessments should stress significant human-environment relations as a coupled system, one that can be an endogenous source of stress by itself; this means that its own dynamics can be a source of future vulnerability. Finally, we should also consider the multiple scales (space, time) of vulnerability processes.
An integral framework analysis for vulnerability (Del1.3)
An attempt has been made to explore vulnerability through an 'integral' perspective, in order to identify key factors that can affect vulnerability and in order to highlight the influence of intangible aspects of vulnerability on tangible and material aspects.
The Integral theory by itself, which has been developed in the last 30 years, aims at providing a systematic integration of all knowledge. The integral framework proposed by philosopher Ken Wilber is a quite complex approach, grounded on two main models: AQUAL (All quadrants-all levels) and the spiral dynamic. In the ENSURE project, the AQAL model has been taken into account and, a deepening on the Four Quadrants (4Q) scheme has been carried out, in which every phenomenon is analysed under four lenses that are the interior-individual, the interior-collective, the exterior-individual and the exterior-collective perspectives. They represent four distinct ways to look at any reality. The 4Q scheme of the integral framework provides a way to account not only for the physical reality and systemic aspects, but also for the immaterial aspects or human 'interiors' (psychology, culture and collective value).
Having filtered the vulnerability issue through the interior/exterior and individual/collective dimensions, it is worth providing some comments about the limits and the opportunities showed by the application of the 4Q framework. Criticism raised about the 4Q approach is related mainly to two points:
1. the operability in terms of defining parameters for the assessment of different types of vulnerability;
2. the inability to catch the dynamic aspects (time and space) of vulnerability : further investigations by the integral theory practitioners might allow including these aspects in the approach.
However, a positive point about the 4Q is that it is 'an interesting way to think about a problem', especially from the 'individual' and the 'collective' point of views. As a taxonomic tool, it represents a starting point to carry out elaborations on linkages among different aspects of vulnerability and to understand, as an example, interactions between social and physical layers.
In conclusion, the 4Q scheme can be assimilated to a summary table of key factors affecting vulnerability both in an increasing and in a reducing manner. This kind of arrangement, even if it appears divergent from well-accepted schools of thought grounding on the issue at stake, has allowed highlighting linkages connecting some immaterial aspects, as the psychological and cultural ones, with more evident aspects related to the behaviour and the physical environment. By doing so, the 4Q framework has shown its ability in terms of tool of analysis of a given phenomenon. Some limits of the approach have arisen, as well, in respect to the representation of the variability of vulnerability depending on time and space. An analyses of the obtained results, seems to show that an 'integral' theory addressed to the inclusion of everything, risks not to be careful of the various nature of problems and of different peculiarities existing among hazards. Moreover, it is not prone to provide operational indicators to assess and monitoring vulnerability. Nevertheless, the core concept which the AQAL model stems from, namely a spread negligence towards the importance of interior aspects as responsible of actions and physical results, is preserved and validated.
Relationships among different vulnerabilities (Del2.1.1 Del2.1.2 Del2.1.3 Del2.2)
Work performed in WP2 permitted to extensively analyse and search for the relationship between different types of vulnerabilities: between physical and systemic, between physical, systemic and social, between systemic, social, economic, institutional and territorial. The main objective was to explore the connections between these various types of vulnerability in order to identify key issues that allow recognising and understanding driving forces in the nature of vulnerability. In this way it was assumed that the dynamic and evolutionary components of settlements, communities and their relationships could be better understood.
In addition, it was analysed to what extent systemic and social, economic vulnerability could be considered common to a variety of threats and to what extent they are linked to specific hazards. In this way the possible treatment of these vulnerabilities in multi-risk approaches could be explored.
The main result is a detailed and comprehensive systematisation of the various vulnerability concepts which provide a basis for the further operationalisation and subsequent approaches for vulnerability assessment.
The various types of vulnerabilities are not separated one from another, they actually influence each other. For example physical vulnerability is often the result of lack of good norms and regulations of the construction sector to build more resistant structures but it may be as well the result of poor inspection capabilities, of lack of compliance with existing rules and norms, no matter how well advanced they may be.
At the conceptual level, a number of ideas and conceptions on types and relationships of vulnerability have been clarified. Use was made of extensive literature review and the analysis of a wide range of case studies from different institutional, physical and societal contexts. The meaning and semantic implications of basic terms related to the vulnerability concept have been explored and further detailed. Examples of such terms include: systemic vulnerability, external and internal systemic vulnerability, vulnerability to stress and to losses, exposure, coping or response capacity, resilience and various types of vulnerability like economic, social, and physical vulnerability, including ecological and institutional vulnerability.
Although some constant elements could be identified (see below), it was stressed that types and relationships of vulnerability are always to be seen in a wider conceptual framework of inter-linkages to be properly understood. However, it turned out that the contexts of the specific hazards as well as the institutional context are indispensable to understand the vulnerabilities and their linkages. This latter notion is considered crucial in the further operationalisation of the vulnerability concept into indicators. Space, scale and time are indispensable in the understanding of the various types of vulnerabilities and their linkages.
Trade-offs (within space; between scales; and over time) between different types of vulnerability are an important notion identified in a number of case studies.
Other key findings at the conceptual level include:
-Factors contributing to the various types of vulnerability should be clearly distinguished from the vulnerability itself as well as from the consequences of vulnerability.
-Different types of vulnerability (e.g. social and economic) are strongly linked and sometimes difficult to unravel; however, the disciplinary and often asymmetrical development of the conceptualisations of the different vulnerabilities types complicates a fully consistent integration. Diagrams and visualisations are very helpful in depicting these interrelationships.
To conclude, the various types of relationship are part of a more general and integrated vulnerability that of the built environment, where different aspects, social, institutional, economic and physical interact as do the different systems and subsystems that they characterise as far as their relative lack of resistance to natural extremes is concerned. Such a complex interaction and interplay of vulnerability types has been labelled as 'territorial' vulnerability, to make clear that the vulnerability of a region, a metropolitan area or an urban centre is much more than just the sum of the vulnerabilities of individual constructions. It has to do with the way regions, cities and their assets and facilities function, perform and are used by people, agencies and organisations.
At the more substantial level, a conclusion is that the specific context plays a crucial role in the understanding of the relationship between the various types of vulnerability. However, a number of constant elements can be identified, such as:
-The presence and relevance of cycles of 'influence-feedback-influence', and feedback loops which propagate increased or decreased vulnerabilities over time.
-Economic vulnerability seems to exert a greater influence on social vulnerability than vice versa.
-The exploration of the relationship between social and economic vulnerability in relation to physical vulnerability revealed a number of social, economic, institutional and political factors that exert influence on the physical vulnerability. These factors (e.g. Perception and communication turned out be critical factors) are crucial to be considered in relating the physical environment and the surrounding social, economic, cultural and institutional elements.
Methodologies for integrating vulnerabilities, among others by means of indicators and indices, have been identified; but no single one suggested and adopted yet; giving the specific contexts in which these vulnerabilities are to be analysed. However, a number of general principles for setting up a methodological framework for integrated vulnerability assessment have been provided. Any integrated assessment of vulnerabilities has to:
- be flexible, in order to allow procedures and indicators according to the different aims, contexts and scales of the assessment;
-look at vulnerability as a whole, taking into account its multiple facets and the mutual relationships among them;
-couple qualitative and quantitative approaches in order to provide a variety of inputs flexible to different aims and able to support different policies;
-be based on hazard analyses which take into account the different hazards which potentially threaten a given territory, the evolution paths of such hazards, including the potential synergies and chains among them;
-take into account that vulnerabilities and the relationships among them constantly change over time and in space and that different facets of vulnerability raise at different stages of the disaster cycle;
-be based on multi-scale and cross-scale analyses;
-take into account resilience dimensions;
-provide innovative tools for understanding and assessing vulnerabilities and for communicating the outcomes of such a work to other experts, to decision makers and to communities.
Finally, the framework should allow for an iterative and flexible process taking into account the uncertainties and limited knowledge; allowing to learn over time.
Vulnerability and resilience: integration of vulnerabilities vs. natural and na-tech hazards (Del2.2)
Initially, in the ENSURE project, vulnerability was the main topic to be searched for, with little consideration of other definitions. Nevertheless during the project development, a consensus among partners was achieved regarding the need to make explicit the relevance of resilience. Vulnerability and resilience can be interpreted as two separate but interrelated concepts and are valuable to understand from two different perspectives the complex systems which are potentially subject to an external stress.
The main output is that resilience cannot be simply considered as the 'flip-side' of vulnerability. In other terms, a resilient community is not just a community manifesting low levels of vulnerability. Also because what seems to emerge in literature is a different focus of vulnerability and resilience studies: the first are more oriented towards the identification of weaknesses, fragilities that make a given territory, a given community, a given country unable to resist the stress provoked by an 'external' source. Looking at resilience, we appreciate the capacities to react, to overcome the problems created by the same existence of vulnerabilities and to 'bounce back' despite damages and disruption to ordinary life. Resilience entails the capacity to recover effectively, transforming the damage and losses into opportunities for a different territorial and environmental setting, in such a way that pre-event vulnerabilities will be reduced and the resulting societal, urban, and regional patterns are healthier and safer than before the event impact. Authors like Handmer and Dovers, (1997), Norris and co-workers (Norris et al., 2008), have rejected the idea that a resilient community or a resilient city is simply a community or a city that is able to bounce back to pre-event conditions. Sometimes getting back to the exact pre-event conditions is just the opposite of resilience, particularly when high level of vulnerabilities characterised that condition. Instead, resilience has to do with the capacity to adapt to changes, to manage creatively uncertainty, to find resources, both material and immaterial, to face the consequences of a disaster.
Resilience is perhaps an even more dynamic concept than vulnerability, in that it addresses the capacities to innovate and the ability to strategically orient complex processes like those implied by emergency, recovery and reconstruction.
As just mentioned, literature on resilience is as vast as that on vulnerability. Also in this case, the ENSURE project needed to choose a direction of work, an interpretation cutting across the various definitions and alternative views available so as to be able to include resilience in the integrated framework.
Vulnerabilities in time and space (Del3.1 Del3.2)
The fact that vulnerability holds relevant temporal and spatial dimensions is well recognised in literature (while it may be stated that the relationship among different types of vulnerabilities described in WP2 even though well documented has not been at the core of most investigations on vulnerability until now).
With respect to time, several aspects have been considered, and processes and catalytic factors of vulnerability change in the course of time and in particular, along a single disaster cycle and its successive stages and/or along successive disaster cycles, have been highlighted.
Two alternative approaches have been used: 1) the 'Vulnerability Facets' (VF) approach using 'vulnerability to stress' and 'vulnerability to loss' as key terms and searching for interactions among them, and 2) the 'Vulnerability Actor' (VA) approach (rooted in political economy of disasters but validated also by the systemic point of view), using 'vulnerability actor' performing 'resilience functions' as key terms.
Important findings from the VF approach are:
a) only physical and ecological vulnerability are cases of vulnerability to stress, all the rest (economic, social, institutional, territorial) are cases of vulnerability to loss;
b) vulnerability to stress is a function of hazard characteristics;
c) vulnerability to loss is a function of vulnerability to stress and the respective thresholds of losses.
From the perspective of the VA approach, equally important outcomes about the causal origin and the actual processes of vulnerability change are: (a) a VA, as a vulnerability managing system, attempts to get rid of this undesirable property and influences (and is influenced by), directly or indirectly, other Actors' vulnerability; (b) a VA may target simultaneously vulnerability to several potential threats and/or multiple types of losses and may at the same time carry several vulnerability facets; (c) a VA performs specific 'functions' which can be recognised as resilience:
(i) internal (re)balancing of own vulnerability facets, meaning control and restriction of certain facets leaving others to deteriorate;
(ii) transformation/transfer of certain vulnerability facets to other actors;
(iii) (re)distribution to the disaster cycle stages (current and future) and (re)balancing between exposure and response capacity;
(iv) (re)distribution between current and future hazards;
(v) receiving vulnerability from other Actors.
First, it was recognised that vulnerability should be considered as a dynamic rather than static concept: vulnerabilities are shaped over time; vulnerabilities that we are able to assess today are the result of historic processes, shaping cities, communities, infrastructures in a way that builds their potential relationship with hazards.
On the other hand, different types of vulnerabilities become more apparent and relevant at different stages of the disastrous event: at the impact, physical vulnerabilities transform into the direct physical damage provoked by the event; during emergency and recovery, systemic, social, institutional, organisational factors determine how slowly or how fast return to normalcy will be possible and at what conditions (for example with respect to the possibility/capability to reduce or increase pre-event vulnerability).
With respect to space, two main considerations constituted the ground for analysis: on the one hand, the relevance of space per se, on the other the concept of scale.
As for the spatial dimension per se, we may find in literature since long ago, the distinction between places that are differently affected during the same event: the so called core of the disaster, its 'epicentre', where physical damage is more prominent, and the 'periphery' of the event, which is directly and/or indirectly involved in the disaster. In fact, different types of long distance effects can be considered: areas from where help will be provided and to where people will be temporarily evacuated in case of need enter into a new type of relationship with the affected areas. New or increased transportation will be required; a flow of goods, services and resources will reinforce and sometime create new linkages. It would be limiting though to consider only the connections arising for emergency and recovery management purposes: remote areas may be affected by the lack of services, by the interruption of major transportation routes or simply because economic relationships exist with the stricken areas, and some firms will be affected by interruption of activities in the impact zone.
The fact that different areas from those directly affected by an extreme event must be considered, leads to the need to enlarge the overlook from the 'local' scale to larger scales, considering how the 'local' is placed within larger economic and administrative regions. Some authors have stated that vulnerability assessment is inevitably local. The ENSURE project aims at challenging such position by showing that a more complex approach is required, because some vulnerabilities are local, or are particularly relevant locally in shaping the damage (like physical), but others make sense only when larger scales are considered (see for example systemic or social, when the latter include administrative and institutional vulnerabilities). The same consideration regarding scales becomes relevant when the natural environment vulnerability is considered.
Furthermore, some vulnerabilities are actually evident at larger scale because of the nature of the threat and the intrinsic features of systems. The Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland in spring 2010 showed how vulnerable the aviation system is to the consequences of a volcanic explosion provoking ash clouds endangering flights. A rather 'local' event, the consequences of which may nevertheless spread over very large zones; an event that has not provoked significant physical damage, losses or victims, but with a very large impact over transportation system and through the ripple effects in economic activities on the entire aviation industry and on the tourist sector.
The scale at which vulnerabilities are relevant depends on the institutional, economic and social arrangements in the different contexts, making clear that a unique rule for deciding a priori at what scales a certain analysis must be conducted does not make particular sense. The selection of relevant scales will depend on the context, and on the particular way in which different systems are connected and related to each other.
Finally, transference of vulnerability in space and time should be examined and assessed as coupled processes. The transformation and transference mechanisms and processes imply two preconditions for proper vulnerability assessment:
1) vulnerability assessment has to be performed at an appropriately large geographical scale depending both on the potential for vulnerability transference over space;
2) there is a need for a rolling process of vulnerability assessment.
Framework description (WP4, see Del4.1)
The ENSURE framework responds to the requirement of general theoretical advancement that was one of the two main objectives of the project. Combining the different pieces of the puzzle (or what can be recognised as such) into a methodological framework comprising the various aspects that were deemed important by the working group is by no mean a minor result, even though we are aware of the long way ahead before all parts of it will be actually operationalised in a satisfactory way.
As it can be clearly seen in figure 2, the framework is deployed over a plan where both the spatial and the temporal dimensions are evidenced. As for the spatial one, the scales at which both hazards and vulnerabilities should be appraised are represented in two distinct axes. The reason is that not necessarily the scale at which hazards have to be analysed corresponds to the scale at which the different types of vulnerabilities must be considered. For example, physical vulnerabilities are mainly addressed at the local scale, as the intrinsic fragility of structures, infrastructures, and people must be looked at in detail at the local scale. What appears at larger scale is the result of such analysis, in terms of comparison among places. As already mentioned, systemic vulnerability can be appropriately considered only linking the local to the large scale (provincial or county level to the regional and sometimes above regional). When it comes to consider the capabilities to recover effectively in a resilient fashion, all scales must be considered: what will be reconstructed is ultimately what has been locally damaged, but the needed resources cut across all levels of government and depend also on the type and strength of relationships among the affected places and a much wider region.
As for the temporal dimension, it is shown how the various vulnerabilities and resilience are considered with respect to the phases of the disaster cycle. Before the impact, that is when a sufficiently long time has passed since the last big event, the mitigation capacities are considered. Rose (2004) suggests that it is more correct to talk about mitigation capacities in the period before the hazard impact, while resilience should define more appropriately capacity to recover from an extreme event. This is nevertheless a matter of deciding the most suitable definition; what is actually relevant here is the attempt to understand whether or not conditions to enhance coping capacity and resistance of a complex system exist or not and how they are manifested. At the impact, instead, the physical vulnerabilities play the major role: the direct physical damage that can be accounted for are strongly correlated on the one hand to the severity of the hazard, on the other to the level of physical fragility of artifacts and constructions. As the time from the impact passes, other forms of vulnerability gain relevance and in particular during the emergency phase, precisely systemic vulnerabilities. Those express the response capacity (or lack of) not to the direct extreme event impact but rather the consequences of the latter, to the impairment in crucial systems and their components provoked by the physical damage. Finally, considering the time of reconstruction and recovery, resilience gain prominence: here again the response is not to the stress, but to the longer term induced, indirect, secondary effects it has produced. What we want to measure here is not merely a response capacity, but rather whether or not systems are able to recover by reducing pre-event vulnerabilities, to learn from the weaknesses that the event has revealed and to transform reconstruction into an opportunity to build and develop a better, safer and healthier place to live.
The red and green arrows in Fig.2 represent the various connections and links that exist among the different types of vulnerability and resilience, in space and time.
Each set of matrices, corresponding actually to one ellipsoid in figure 2, is in fact compounded by four sections or sub-matrices (see Table 1): the first set relates to the vulnerability of the natural environment; the second to the vulnerability of objects, artifacts, facilities; the third refers to critical infrastructures, such as lifelines and accessibility networks; the last refers to the vulnerability of agents.
List of websites:http://www.ensureproject.eu/
Grant agreement ID: 212045
1 June 2008
31 May 2011
€ 1 798 414,66
€ 1 388 634
BUREAU DE RECHERCHES GEOLOGIQUES ET MINIERES
Deliverables not available
Publications not available
Grant agreement ID: 212045
1 June 2008
31 May 2011
€ 1 798 414,66
€ 1 388 634
BUREAU DE RECHERCHES GEOLOGIQUES ET MINIERES
Grant agreement ID: 212045
1 June 2008
31 May 2011
€ 1 798 414,66
€ 1 388 634
BUREAU DE RECHERCHES GEOLOGIQUES ET MINIERES