UNU Argues for a Holistic Approach to Vulnerability Measurement

UNU-EHS20 February 2013: Assessing a community's adaptive capacities, coping strategies and vulnerability cannot be done by focusing on economic or past losses, according to the second edition of a book by the UN University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), titled 'Measuring Vulnerability to Natural Hazards: Towards Disaster Resilient Societies.' 

Instead, the book argues for a holistic approach that incorporates cultural, demographic, economic, environmental, institutional and social factors to understand risk from changing climatic conditions, extreme events and societal changes.

The book promotes a problem-framing approach to vulnerability that aims to bridge the fields of climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction (DRR) and development policy. It presents theoretical frameworks and describes methods of assessing resilience and vulnerability, including the global risk analysis for the 2009 Global Assessment Report on DRR, the World Risk Index and the Social Vulnerability Index. International, national and local case studies from Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe showcase practical examples.

Crises can serve as a catalyst for change and innovation, as well as an opportunity to improve adaptive capacity and reduce disaster risk, according to research described in the book. In Bangladesh, for example, post disaster recovery efforts included improved evacuation strategies and cyclone early warning systems and the construction of special shelters, all of which reduced disaster risk and vulnerability, while increasing adaptive capacity and human security.

The book includes five sections that focus on: basic principles and theoretical and conceptual frameworks; vulnerability and environmental change; global, national and sub-national assessment approaches; local vulnerability assessment; and institutional capacities, public sector vulnerability and dynamics of vulnerability. Over 35 experts in DRR and vulnerability assessment contributed to the book. [UNU Press Release] ['Measuring Vulnerability to Natural Hazards: Towards Disaster Resilient Societies' Website]