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SYNTHESIS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

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- 1 - September 25, 2001 ASSESSMENT OF HIGH-RISK DISASTER HOTSPOTS BRAINSTORMING MEETING SYNTHESIS AND RECOMMENDATIONS A Joint World Bank/Columbia University Workshop Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, New York 6-7 September 2001 On September 6-7, the Center for Hazards and Risk Research at Columbia University and the Disaster Management Facility conducted a meeting to solicit expert input for a global project to identify areas of highest natural disaster risk (meeting announcement with project description attached). The project is funded by a grant to the World Bank and ProVention Consortium from the United Kingdom's Department for International Development Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance Department. Approximately 30 people attended the brainstorming meeting (participant list attached). Day one consisted of approximately 20 short presentations followed by questions (final agenda attached). Presentations were wrapped up on day two, followed by several hours of moderated plenary discussion on the major themes identified. On the basis of input provided by the brainstorming meeting, the World Bank will prepare terms of reference for the project. The range of technical challenges identified at the meeting, as well as the challenges of incorporating the potential contributions of other major stakeholders working in this area, suggest that the project should be implemented in two phases. The first phase will provide an initial "rough-cut" global risk assessment results for key hazards and affected populations and elements. Additional research directions and partnerships identified during the first phase will be the basis for a second phase and final products. It is hoped that the data, methods and partnerships developed in the course of the project will provide an on-going framework for continuing tangible progress in the area of global natural disaster risk management. The following summary is based on presentations and discussion at the brainstorming meeting. The summary does not comprehensively cover all themes and issues presented and discussed. Additional material can be found in individual presentations posted on the website report of the meeting: Rationale for project Background materials and opening remarks by the meeting organizers describe the disaster risk hotspots project as a means of providing a rigorous analytical basis for narrowing down a global problem -- natural disasters -- to smaller, highest risk, geographic areas where natural disaster risk management is most crucial. Through spatial analysis of recent and forthcoming global data sets, the project will seek to characterize and quantify natural disaster risks and their causes to- 2 - September 25, 2001 obtain a data-based, first-order identification of areas where additional risk identification, reduction and transfer measures are especially warranted. Discussion of the hotspots project rationale at the brainstorming meeting raised issues such as: • participation and stakeholder involvement • the economic merits of disaster prevention and the relative merits of alternative preventive measures • appropriate formulations of disaster-loss outcomes against which to assess risks (e.g. mortality or economic impacts) • the role of science for informing policy • the complementary roles of global- and national/local-scale analyses • the utility of a data-based global risk identification project when it can be argued that disaster-prone areas are already identifiable based on personal experience, existing national-level disaster event databases and case studies, and • the significance natural disasters when compared with other global problems such as HIV/AIDS. In the context of the issues raised, the following points were made or are worth noting: • The hotspots project will provide input for allocating disaster and risk management resources geographically, sectorally and pre- versus post-disaster but its results will not have a deterministic effect on decision-making in any of these areas. • As the initial stage of the project is global in scope, the initial stakeholders are primarily international organizations. At national to local scales, however, it is understood that regional, national and local-level stakeholders will not only be involved but also expected to provide essential input for determining research priorities. • While the project is expected to identify high disaster-risk areas, it is not expected to identify risk reduction priorities within those areas. The project focus is on risk identification rather than reduction and, in any case, risk reduction and transfer measures clearly must be based on the priorities and capacities of national governments and at-risk communities rather than on results of a global geographic analysis. • National-level disaster-event databases catalogue instances of "realized risk" but provide a limited basis for comparing risks between geographic areas, identifying risks at sub-national scales and specifying the portion of the risk contributed by hazards versus vulnerability-related causal factors. The hotspots project will identify the actual geographic distribution of risk based on the spatial distributions of risk factors and elements at risk, albeit initially at a global scale, rather than using countries as the unit of analysis. The specific contributions to overall risk of: 1) geophysically-derived hazard event probabilities and, 2) the characteristics of vulnerable or potentially vulnerable elements, will be evaluated. It is hoped that further research will be assisted by the data and risk assessment methods tested and validated during the course of the project.- 3 - September 25, 2001 • Immediate applications for the project results that are within the manageable interests of the sponsoring organizations, who have disaster and risk management mandates, render questions regarding the utility of the project for decision-making moot. To meet such needs, however, the formulation of disaster-loss outcomes against which to measure risks must reflect both the humanitarian and economic dimensions of the disaster problem. It will also be important to clearly characterize and communicate uncertainties arising from the probabilistic nature of hazard events as well as data limitations. Finally, the results must be interpretable as a basis for concrete risk management action both globally and


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