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Reducing People?s Vulnerability to Natural Hazards: Communities and Resilience


  • Cannon, Terry


The concepts vulnerability, resilience and community are widely used and abused in the literature on natural hazards and disaster risk reduction. This paper seeks to bring greater rigour in their use. In particular, vulnerability must be understood as a set of socioeconomic conditions that are identifiable in relation to particular hazard risks, and therefore perform a predictive role that can assist in risk reduction. Resilience is often confused as a concept, sometimes seen as the inverse of vulnerability, and by others as an independent quality. These confusions may be especially relevant in the context of §policy for disaster risk reduction at the scale of community. Here there is often an idealized notion of community as undifferentiated and unproblematic. Vulnerability (to natural hazards) should be understood in the context of the individual and household as being composed of five (interacting) components: livelihood, base-line status, self-protection, social protection, and governance. The paper highlights the key problems associated with disconnections between these that result in rising vulnerability. In particular, it examines vulnerability in the context of the current expansion of interest in community based disaster preparedness (or management). For this to be effective, a clear analysis is essential of the relations between disaster preparedness and governance, especially the way that power operates at the community level. The ways in which community can operate to support, undermine or be irrelevant to disaster preparedness are analysed. It concludes by suggesting the conditions that are required for community to have any real significance as a component of risk reduction.

Suggested Citation

  • Cannon, Terry, 2008. "Reducing People?s Vulnerability to Natural Hazards: Communities and Resilience," WIDER Working Paper Series 034, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  • Handle: RePEc:unu:wpaper:rp2008-34

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Wim Naudé, 2010. "Africa And The Global Economic Crisis: A Risk Assessment And Action Guide," EUI-RSCAS Working Papers 27, European University Institute (EUI), Robert Schuman Centre of Advanced Studies (RSCAS).
    2. repec:eee:wdevel:v:97:y:2017:i:c:p:298-312 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Arouri, Mohamed & Nguyen, Cuong & Youssef, Adel Ben, 2015. "Natural Disasters, Household Welfare, and Resilience: Evidence from Rural Vietnam," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 59-77.
    4. Jublee Mazumdar & Saikat Kumar Paul, 2016. "Socioeconomic and infrastructural vulnerability indices for cyclones in the eastern coastal states of India," Natural Hazards: Journal of the International Society for the Prevention and Mitigation of Natural Hazards, Springer;International Society for the Prevention and Mitigation of Natural Hazards, vol. 82(3), pages 1621-1643, July.
    5. Akter, Sonia & Mallick, Bishawjit, 2013. "The poverty–vulnerability–resilience nexus: Evidence from Bangladesh," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 114-124.


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