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Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience

Vulnerabilities and Resilience

An analysis of risks, without an understanding of the multiple ways that those risks are shaped by the vulnerabilities and resilience of communities that have to live with them, is incomplete. It is all too easy to set up research institutes that deliver cutting edge research into hazard, much more difficult, given their multiple manifestations, to bind such research to questions of vulnerability and resilience that determine how we experience those hazards.

The traditional focus of much risk management has been upon the management of the vulnerable, whether through technological development such as hazard-proofing; economic approaches involving risk sharing or insurance; social emphases given the importance of the social fabric to increasing resilience; or political empowerment by enabling those marginalised from help to be better able to secure the voice that in turn makes them a focus of management activities.

In addition to these core areas of capacity, Durham University has a significant additional potential in two often over-looked areas:

(1) Much of the emphasis upon vulnerabilities research is upon the acute manifestations of hazards and risks such as loss of life and property. This is important. However, our capacity extends much further than this into areas best viewed as chronic, but which in turn fundamentally reduce the resilience of communities. This includes research into both the mental and physical health consequences of catastrophes, the loss of social fabric following from major events and the critical need for more innovative ways of enhancing resilience, especially in the Global South.

(2) Hazards and risks are commonly linked to the creation of ‘ill-being’. By contrast, growing resilience is also about growing well-being. We undertake unique research into the dimensions of well-being, broadly defined, that has considerable potential for changing how we increase resilience in the face of adversity.

Taken together, our potential to do cutting-edge research into vulnerabilities and resilience sets us apart from not only our national competitors but also our global ones.

The programme of research Transcending Risk is included in this theme and is led by Professor Lena Dominelli.