The French Red Cross Foundation, a research organisation dedicated to humanitarian and social action, carries the will of the French Red Cross to commit to an effort of analysis with regard to suffering and ways of addressing it, anticipating the needs of vulnerable populations in France and in developing countries, and supporting new models for operations, training and capacity reinforcement. As such, it has decided to launch a call for applications for a postdoctoral fellowship on the topic of the prevention and management of natural risks and disasters.
According to the World Disasters Report 2018, published by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 3751 natural disasters have been recorded worldwide over the past ten years, 84% of which were linked to hazardous meteorological conditions. Over this period, an estimated two billion people were affected by natural disasters, 95% of whom were affected by disasters linked to meteorological conditions, namely floods (36.7%) and storms (17%). The approximative cost of disasters in the 141 affected countries throughout the world over the past ten years has been roughly 1658 billion US dollars, 72.6% of which were attributable to hazardous meteorological conditions, with storms alone accounting for 41,7% of these costs.
Climate change and natural hazards have consequences which far exceed their environmental impact. In 2015, on the eve of the COP21 in Paris, a report by the World Bank confirmed the link between climate and poverty, with one of its authors stating that “absent such good development, climate change could result in an additional 100 million people living in extreme poverty by 2030”. The continuing rise of temperatures, increasing frequency of extreme natural disasters and pollution are all factors which will undeniably have an impact on the economies of the most vulnerable countries, which are primarily agricultural and therefore highly dependent on the climate. Climate change also exacerbates conflicts over natural resources, pushing populations into forced migration, who then fall into a legal vacuum since there is as yet no status for climate refugees.
This all leads to humanitarian and sanitary crises with specific causes and management methods. The proliferation of these crises will, according to forecasts, require NGOs, states, businesses, and international institutions to manage increasing volumes of operations in the future. This new context will prompt actors of civil society and international institutions to reshape their action with a view to a transition or to closer affiliation to sustainable development objectives, and local public authorities to opt for innovative methods of disaster risk management (new insurance mechanisms, Disaster Risk Reduction) and energy transition. It is therefore important to ask what these environmental upheavals entail, both in terms of their consequences for populations, and in terms of the development and practice of humanitarian aid.
One of the major challenges is better understanding and anticipating the consequences of current aid programmes, and integrating the perceptions of risk and adaptation capacities of local populations. Indeed, it is generally agreed that although the risks associated with natural disasters are due to hazards that are difficult to control, their impact can be limited in several ways, and especially by preparing the populations beforehand. This preparation first involves raising awareness and an effective communication strategy, an essential component of disaster risk reduction programmes in the humanitarian sector. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that a population that has been made aware of a risk does not always adapt its behaviour as a result.
How can we reinforce populations’ resilience and preparation and response capacities in the event of natural disasters and sanitary crises for risk management actors in the context of climate change? Which actions contribute to reducing vulnerability and improving adaptation to extreme meteorological hazards, with a view to lasting resilience and sustainability? How do individuals perceive the risks to which they are exposed? Which parameters influence this perception? What is the correlation between the perception of risks and the adaptation of behaviours? How can the socio-cultural elements of disaster risk reduction management be integrated in order to increase resilience?
The aim of the research will be to identify and understand the sociocultural factors which influence prevention and protection behaviours in the face of natural risks (before, during and after), and the foreseeable effects of climate change, in order to guide the methodology for the implementation of preventive actions and to enable citizens to participate in their own security and that of their surroundings.
The analysis of these sociocultural factors, focusing on the awareness and attitudes which underlie population behaviours and preventive practices, should lead to recommendations for the development of risk reduction actions adapted to the specific contexts of study. Based on the analysis of results and the impact of current prevention activities, and on population behaviours, these recommendations may refer, for example, to the development of tools/materials for raising awareness and preparing for natural disaster risks and the foreseeable effects of climate change, or to key awareness messages for preparation in view of these risks.
Finally, on the basis of the research results and the existing literature on the subject, a more general reflection on resilience is expected, with ideas about what it really means to improve population resilience in the face of natural disaster risks. Resilience is a major social issue of our times. As an extremely promising horizon, it is a term that, although vague, enables advances in public, private, national, international and local policies. But it is also a term that must be used with care, because it takes on very different meanings depending on the actors concerned, and must not lead to an unequal division of responsibilities or to non-accountability on behalf of public and private actors at the expense of the populations. Resilience remains incantatory, is very difficult to put into practice and raises a number of ethical, ideological and political questions, including:
- Who decides what is best for a society or for an individual, and the state towards which they should be striving?
- What scale are we working on, and who are the intended targets of policies that aim to build up individuals’ resilience?
- What is the social cost of transformational adaptation, since this cost is often borne by the poorest and most disenfranchised populations?
Geographical Research Areas
These themes can be addressed in a geographical area including one or several regions. The Foundation has identified eight priority areas for the purposes of this call:
The target areas represent empirical starting-points for research. They do not refer to nationality criteria for eligibility.
Access to the field will be conditional on a precise risk evaluation submitted with the application and updated before departure.
Amount: € 17,000
• 11 April 2019: Launch of the call
• 3 June: Deadline for applications
• 20 June: Results are announced
• 1 Sept. 2019: Research starts
• 1 Sept. 2020: Work delivered
• Natural Disasters
• Climate Hazards
• Socio-cultural Determinants