The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

Governance and Disaster Outcomes: The Political Ecology of Cyclone Preparedness and Recovery in a Small Island Developing State

Governance and Disaster Outcomes: The Political Ecology of Cyclone Preparedness and Recovery in a Small Island Developing State
Governance and Disaster Outcomes: The Political Ecology of Cyclone Preparedness and Recovery in a Small Island Developing State
The importance of the role of governance in reducing disaster risk has international recognition from the United Nations’ Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. The decentralisation of decision-making has been proposed by scholars as a practice to improve disaster outcomes. However, there is very little research that examines the role of decentralised disaster governance in household disaster experiences. Much of the current disaster experience research tends to use aggregate trend data of numbers of people affected, fatalities and economic loss that reveal high-level changes over time, but provide very little sense of the outcomes for different types of affected households. Studies that focus on household-scale outcomes tend to be one-off studies that do not provide longitudinal evidence of changing household experiences over time. This study fills a gap by researching the historical associations between disaster governance and the lived experiences of households over three decades of disasters.

The research problem is studied through the case study of Samoa, a typical small island developing state. Small island developing states are relevant case studies as they are often physically small and remote, low lying, and resource poor – all of which can affect disaster outcomes. By taking a political ecology approach, the study reveals how power dynamics within communities interact with formal governance systems.

Despite differences between disaster outcomes experienced by all households, this research identified three ‘types’ of households, based predominantly on their primary income source, which had similar experiences. Households with access to formal income and those receiving remittances had improved disaster outcomes between 1990 and 2018. However, subsistence households experienced few improvements in disaster outcomes over this period, continuing to struggle to access income and food after cyclones disrupted their agricultural source of income.

The research finds that while formal decentralised governance arrangements are important at the local scale to support collective action and local scale relief distribution, decentralisation of responsibility often occurs without the complete decentralisation of power and resources. Despite noteworthy reforms in Samoa, the current formal disaster governance arrangements have not improved the disaster outcomes for the most marginalised households. Households with low-income and low social status struggle to access both resources and access to decision-making within villages. For higher-income and more powerful households, improved disaster outcomes are more closely associated with increased national scale economic development as opposed to governance reforms.

I conclude that for governance to improve outcomes, formal decentralisation of responsibility for disaster preparedness, response and recovery may need a concurrent decentralisation of power and resources. However, decentralising power and resources can also be problematic, leading to the concentration of power and resource capture by local elites. The thesis makes recommendations to improve disaster outcomes of all household groups, not just those that are already best placed to recover from disasters.
University of Southampton
Brown, Heather Lorna
bab38669-2c55-4cfb-9c38-51ac380f2cf1
Brown, Heather Lorna
bab38669-2c55-4cfb-9c38-51ac380f2cf1
Tompkins, Emma
a6116704-7140-4e37-bea1-2cbf39b138c3
Corbett, Jack
ad651655-ac70-4072-a36f-92165e296ce2

Brown, Heather Lorna (2020) Governance and Disaster Outcomes: The Political Ecology of Cyclone Preparedness and Recovery in a Small Island Developing State. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 375pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

The importance of the role of governance in reducing disaster risk has international recognition from the United Nations’ Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. The decentralisation of decision-making has been proposed by scholars as a practice to improve disaster outcomes. However, there is very little research that examines the role of decentralised disaster governance in household disaster experiences. Much of the current disaster experience research tends to use aggregate trend data of numbers of people affected, fatalities and economic loss that reveal high-level changes over time, but provide very little sense of the outcomes for different types of affected households. Studies that focus on household-scale outcomes tend to be one-off studies that do not provide longitudinal evidence of changing household experiences over time. This study fills a gap by researching the historical associations between disaster governance and the lived experiences of households over three decades of disasters.

The research problem is studied through the case study of Samoa, a typical small island developing state. Small island developing states are relevant case studies as they are often physically small and remote, low lying, and resource poor – all of which can affect disaster outcomes. By taking a political ecology approach, the study reveals how power dynamics within communities interact with formal governance systems.

Despite differences between disaster outcomes experienced by all households, this research identified three ‘types’ of households, based predominantly on their primary income source, which had similar experiences. Households with access to formal income and those receiving remittances had improved disaster outcomes between 1990 and 2018. However, subsistence households experienced few improvements in disaster outcomes over this period, continuing to struggle to access income and food after cyclones disrupted their agricultural source of income.

The research finds that while formal decentralised governance arrangements are important at the local scale to support collective action and local scale relief distribution, decentralisation of responsibility often occurs without the complete decentralisation of power and resources. Despite noteworthy reforms in Samoa, the current formal disaster governance arrangements have not improved the disaster outcomes for the most marginalised households. Households with low-income and low social status struggle to access both resources and access to decision-making within villages. For higher-income and more powerful households, improved disaster outcomes are more closely associated with increased national scale economic development as opposed to governance reforms.

I conclude that for governance to improve outcomes, formal decentralisation of responsibility for disaster preparedness, response and recovery may need a concurrent decentralisation of power and resources. However, decentralising power and resources can also be problematic, leading to the concentration of power and resource capture by local elites. The thesis makes recommendations to improve disaster outcomes of all household groups, not just those that are already best placed to recover from disasters.

Text
Governance and Disaster Outcomes: The Political Ecology of Cyclone Preparedness and Recovery in a Small Island Developing State - Version of Record
Available under License University of Southampton Thesis Licence.
Download (84MB)
Text
Heather Brown - Permission to deposit thesis
Restricted to Repository staff only
Available under License University of Southampton Thesis Licence.
Text
Heather Brown - Permission to deposit thesis
Available under License University of Southampton Thesis Licence.
Download (267kB)

More information

Published date: 2020

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 452345
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/452345
PURE UUID: 00197968-1db7-4dc3-9b70-5d8c6a0afd9e
ORCID for Heather Lorna Brown: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-2511-2637
ORCID for Jack Corbett: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-2005-7162

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 08 Dec 2021 18:46
Last modified: 08 Feb 2022 02:42

Export record

Contributors

Thesis advisor: Emma Tompkins
Thesis advisor: Jack Corbett ORCID iD

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton: eprints@soton.ac.uk

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/cgi/oai2

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.

×