Social construction of risk
The process by which disaster risk exists as a result of human decisions, perceptions and actions, policies and practice, whether enacted individually or collectively, publicly or privately.
1. Recognition of the underlying social drivers of risk to infrastructure and services is an important reminder that disasters are not “natural” and are amenable to risk reduction and mitigation actions if those drivers are understood.
2. “Underlying risk drivers such as poverty and inequality, badly planned and managed urban and infrastructure development, environmental degradation, climate change, conflict and displacement and weak territorial governance configure hazard, vulnerability and exposure. These in turn generate patterns of everyday, extensive, intensive, and systemic risk. […] [R]isk tends to become concentrated in the same social groups and territories, independently of the type of hazard involved.”
Reference for Note 2: Maskrey, A., Jain, G., Lavell, A. (2021). “The Social Construction of Systemic Risk: Towards an Actionable Framework for Risk Governance”. United Nations Development Programme, Discussion Paper.
Social construction of risk in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) – Case of Dominica
Dominica is a Caribbean Island nation having a population of 73,000 spread over an area of 750 sq.km. It has an undiversified economy and a GDP under US$1 billion. 90 percent of its population and most of its infrastructure is concentrated along the seaboard. The Kalinago people, also known as the island Caribs, are exposed to extreme climatic events and oceanographic events such as hurricanes, storm wave actions and sea-level rise. The extent of systemic risk on the island was revealed as Dominica faced Tropical Storm Erika in 2015 followed by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Disaster impacts become systemic as they are linked to high levels of debt and dependence on external finance, economic instability, insularity, remoteness, physical vulnerability, lack of redundancy, and environmental fragility.
Source: Maskrey, A., Jain, G., Lavell, A. (2021). “The Social Construction of Systemic Risk: Towards an Actionable Framework for Risk Governance”. United Nations Development Programme, Discussion Paper.