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Cross-level institutional processes and vulnerability to natural hazards in Honduras
Stockholm Environment Institute.
Linköping University, The Tema Institute, Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research . Linköping University, The Tema Institute, Department of Water and Environmental Studies. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
CIAT, Colombia.
Stockholm Environment Institute.
2006 (English)Report (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Hurricane Mitch struck Honduras in October 1998 with disastrous results. Lack of accessto adequate land, credit or technical assistance had forced subsistence farmers and semi-urbanpopulations into high-risk marginal areas. Deforestation and inappropriate farming practicesexacerbated their vulnerability. The losses experienced by the country ranged from lost lives,to lost livelihoods, to destroyed infrastructure.

Our goal in this study was to identify those factors in Honduran society that needed to bechanged in order to reduce future vulnerability to natural hazards. During natural disasters,different groups experience distinct, widely ranging levels of harm, from minor economicdamage to widespread mortality. Disasters occur through the interaction between naturalevents and vulnerable social and ecological systems. Most vulnerability research suggeststhat we should stop dealing with disasters as if the natural hazard itself is the principal cause.Instead, the underlying root causes and dynamic influences on vulnerability need to beaddressed. For these reasons, we focused on the institutional (formal and informal) factorsaffecting vulnerability to natural hazards. In this context, we interpret institutions to be therules that shape the behaviour of organisations and individuals in a society. This approach hasallowed us to reach many insights regarding ways in which Honduras can reduce vulnerabilityby reforming cross-level institutional processes contributing to differential vulnerability tonatural hazards.

The focus of our study was on the social vulnerability to Hurricane Mitch experienced bythree rural case study areas in Honduras. Our aim was to: 1. identify key factors contributingto and affecting this social vulnerability to Mitch; and 2. capture and evaluate the importanceof identified informal and formal key institutions and cross-level linkages influencing thosefactors. Methods included a literature review, close to 110 interviews within the localcommunities, focus groups, about 50 meetings and interviews at municipal and national levelsas well as representatives of international organisations, and non-governmental organisations,and two workshops with a total of about 40 representatives of varying organisations involvedin disaster management at different levels. We used a vulnerability framework that has beendeveloped in previous research at the Stockholm Environment Institute and Clark Universityin the U.S., highlighting the socioeconomic and environmental/ecological conditions, tostructure the analysis and assess the influences of the identified institutions and cross-levelinteractions on vulnerability to natural hazards.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm Environment Institute , 2006. , 64 p.
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-19494ISBN: 978-91-976022-0-4OAI: diva2:225230
Available from: 2009-10-20 Created: 2009-06-25 Last updated: 2010-04-16Bibliographically approved

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Simonsson, Louise
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Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research Department of Water and Environmental StudiesFaculty of Arts and Sciences

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