Political Economy

The Political Economy of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)

The Disaster Risk Reduction Program Florida International University (FIU) with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID), has developed a course for higher education on Political Economy of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).This course is intended for graduate (M.A., M.S. or Ph.D.) students across a variety of disciplines, although the course focuses on social science aspects of disaster and disaster risk reduction.

The structure of this course reflects a political economy approach to disasters and disaster risk reduction, addressing the more fundamental issue of defining political economy and explaining, with particular reference to disasters and disaster risk reduction, why we see political economy as the intersection point of economics, moral philosophy, and politics. The course will “read into” four cases: New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina 2005, Haiti and the earthquake of 2010, Chile and the earthquake and tsunami of 2010, and New Zealand and its Christchurch earthquakes of 2010 and then 2011, asking what explains the extent and pattern of human and property losses in each of the four events, and what explains the quite stark loss differences between the four events? Later in the course, there will be an (1) extended treatment of the “V” (vulnerability) component of the basic equation, (2) a review of the 20th century’s creation of a massive global “Risk Stock,” and (3) a quick scan of ten of the world’s most problematic (or perhaps frightening would be better) at-risk cities. After that, the course will deeply delve into DRR itself and the crucial roles of land use management, building standards, and environmental management, while treating the more explicitly political dimensions of trying to increase DRR, identifying the multiple and cross-cutting actors who need to be involved and the problems of issue avoidance/non-decision making, agenda control, symbolic action, implementation or enforcement neutering, and accountability. The course concludes by going back to the four cases (New Orleans, Haiti, Chile, and New Zealand) and have students present individual “counterfactual” analyses of what could and should have been done since 1950 in each of the impact areas to minimize the losses from the 2005 (New Orleans), 2010 (Haiti, Chile, and “Christchurch I”) and 2011 (“Christchurch II”) events. These counterfactual analyses are extremely important because they must contain sub-analyses of what political-economic factors prevented or inhibited (or facilitated) effective DRR in each case in the period from 1950 to the times of their respective extreme event occurrences.