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Peacekeeping - MINUSTAH

Credit: UN

Professor Lena Dominelli, a Co-Director of IHRR, has authored two new guides on disaster intervention and humanitarian aid that are freely available.  The first is a Handbook on Disaster Intervention and Humanitarian Aid, the second provides ethical guidelines for research into disaster and humanitarian aid interventions.  Parts of the handbook are based on Durham University research into the impacts of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami in Sri Lanka.  This ESRC-funded research project considered both the immediate and long-term impacts of disaster interventions as instances of institutionalising practices on those living in disaster affected areas.  The handbook provides solid advice to practitioners and policymakers who are faced with complex, uncertain circumstances that must be dealt with quickly and effectively.

The research introduced at the Breaking the Mould Conference at Durham University, covers 386 transcripts of interviews and focus groups, 38 sets of field notes and 45 questionnaires from NGOs.  One of the main findings about disaster interventions in the case of the 2004 Tsunami in Sri Lanka is that the effectiveness of humanitarian aid depends on many things including ‘context, intentions of donors and recipients, cultural expectations, opportunities for local people to exercise agency and the resources and skills held by or are available to disaster survivors’.  Importantly, there are also risks to aid workers that should be considered: ‘…humanitarian aid workers themselves can be endangered through ordinary everyday routines as well as have their lives threatened’. Read the rest of this entry »

Event sponsored by the Institute for Hazard, Risk and Resilience (IHRR), Durham University. Organised by the Citizens’ Panel attached to the Centre for Social Justice and Community Action (CSJCA), Durham University.

This event follows on from a very successful Institute of Advanced Study-sponsored series of activities in 2012:  ‘New storylines for living with environmental change: citizens’ perspectives’. During this series, a Citizens’ Panel was formed with the overall aim of developing an approach to public engagement with science – exploring the social and ethical implications of different emerging and potentially contested technological responses to ‘living with environmental change’. Our first event of 2013 was held on 7th March, and was entitled ‘Responsible Science and Public Engagement: A Scientific Dilemmas Café.’

Monday 3rd June 2013, 4.00pm – 6.00pm

Holgate Centre, Grey College, Durham University

South Road, Durham DH1 3LG. Phone: 0191 334 5900 Read more


The UK’s chief government scientist Sir John Beddington announced that world leaders need to urgently tackle climate change, especially because of increasing trends towards more extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and storms over the next 25 years.  The more extreme and erratic forms of weather that the UK has experienced in recent years may become more common due to a changing climate.

Prof Sarah Curtis who is the Executive Director of the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience was interviewed by both television and radio media recently about what can be expected for the future.  Prof Curtis  mentioned the importance of planning with local authorities and national planning being taken by government to adapt to a changing climate, and that focused preparation and planning are needed to cope with variable climate and extreme weather events. Read more


What led to the spread of tuberculosis in cattle and badgers in Britain?  This podcast narrated by Paul Ging includes a highly informative interview with Prof Peter Atkins who led two recent studies on the subject with PhD student Philip Robinson from the Department of Geography at Durham University.

While the controversial badger cull to be implemented this summer by government has led to a polarised debate between securing the welfare of the country’s badgers and protecting farmers’ cattle, research led by Atkins provides historical insights that could help better inform policy in preventing the spread of TB.

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An interesting point to note is that the Randomised Badger Culling Trial, which is often referred to as evidence that culling badgers will control bovine tuberculosis, came to the following overall conclusion, which appears inconsistent with assertions made by government today: Read more

This video features Baroness Valerie Amos UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator and Prof Lena Dominelli, co-director of IHRR and organiser of the 2012 Breaking the Mould Conference at Durham University.  Baroness Amos talks about how ‘resilience is about breaking the mold’ in order for humanitarian and development organisations to protect against natural disasters and other large-scale emergencies that require humanitarian aid.  Emphasising the need to do more to build resilience to disasters, Baroness Amos and Professor Dominelli explain how investing more efforts in preparation for disasters is imperative to responding effectively to them.

Ash plume from the eruption of Mt Pinatubo. Spraying sulphate aerosols into the stratosphere would mimic the effects of volcanic ash plumes reflecting solar radiation back out to space.

Governing scientific and technological innovations is tricky business.  This is primarily due to the presence of uncertainty, the risks that society must face if it chooses to intervene using methods that could either have damaging consequences, fail entirely or both.  Everyone knows it’s a clique of course, but we really do ‘live in exciting times’ as humanity has at hand an array of advanced technologies at its disposal.  But climate change is in a sense antithesis to technological development or at least to how it has proceeded thus far, mostly because the world is locked into using fossil fuels as its primary source of energy.  Yet the controversial applications of geoengineering may prove a last resort for reducing the temperature of the planet preventing devastating environmental impacts induced by climate change. Read more

A report from The Climate and Development Knowledge Network looks at how to reduce economic vulnerability to disasters in low and middle-income countries throughout the world.  It provides some detailed recommendations for planning for disasters and reducing vulnerability along with conveying a comprehensive understanding of the current and future challenges for reducing economic losses to disasters in less developed countries.

While last year was the costliest on record for disasters this was due to the fact that some of the largest disasters of 2011 actually affected more developed countries the most, such as Japan (See 2011 worst year on record for economic losses due to earthquakes).  2011 revealed that developed countries are also vulnerable, but because their GDP can usually withstand losses from even large-scale disasters by comparison developing countries have more to lose especially in regards to climate change.  The macro-effects of disasters are ‘much more pronounced’ in lower-income countries, according to the report.  In many cases these losses come down to vulnerability — exposure to hazards and risks.  Read more

Anyone who has been through airport security in the US before and after 11 September 2001 knows how it has transformed politically, socially and technologically.  Other countries, especially the UK, have fallen suit using similar scanning and surveillance technologies in large international airports such as Heathrow.  But the majority of passengers are ‘low risk’ meaning that they are unlikely to commit an act of terrorism either at the airport or when airborne.  Yet they are still often times forced to submit to procedures that are built upon the premise that they could be a terrorist or if not a terrorist then a potential threat or disruption to airport security, if not national security.  This is problematic for a number of reasons, especially considering the resources invested into securing airports from potentially anyone distracts from the ‘real terrorists’, whoever they may be.  In response to this conundrum, the TSA in the US is piloting ‘risk-based’ approaches to enhance airport security.  While avoiding the obvious non-culprits such as children, people over 75 and those serving in the armed forces, the TSA plans to depend more on techniques that monitor behaviour and implement ways to ‘pre-check’ passengers such as biometric verification and behaviour monitoring techniques. Read more

Earlier this year the UK government updated its National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies to include large global hazards such as the damaging impact of space weather on tele- and satellite-based communications, power grids, air travel and other forms of technological infrastructure.  These forms of hazards include solar flares, coronal mass ejections and solar energetic particle events.

While these extreme events are rare, with the last recorded space weather event affecting the UK occurring in 1859 known as the Carrington Event, space weather has the potential to cause mass disruption and devastation to any electrical system people depend on for survival. Read more

The Environment Agency is leading a new project in England and Wales to engage vulnerable communities who are considered ‘at risk from coastal change’.  According to the EA, over five million people in England and Wales are at risk from flooding from rivers and the sea.  As sea levels are projected to rise in the future along with an increase in severe storms, it will increase the risk of coastal erosion, flooding and salinisation affecting many communities who live near the coastline.  To give some idea of how much sea level rise could affect communities living on coastlines this online interactive tool generates maps of flood risk for countries throughout the world using NASA satellite data: Read more

Hazard Risk Resilience Magazine Issue 2 Out Now!

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