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People’s participation in disaster risk reduction: recentering power

Hore K, Gaillard JC, Davies T, Kearns R. 2020. People's participation in disaster-risk reduction: recentering power. Natural Hazards Review. 21(2):04020009. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)NH.1527-6996.0000353.


People’s participation is widely acknowledged as a necessary part of effective, efficient, and inclusive disaster-risk reduction. However, there is little reflection on how disaster literature and policy commitments translate into meaningful participation in practice. Participation often takes the form of standardized, top-down approaches, giving participants little interaction with decision-making. Such approaches often privilege some and marginalise others. This results in misunderstandings, disillusionment, and creation or exacerbation of distrust among stakeholders. Many of these shortcomings can be attributed to a failure to adequately acknowledge, analyze, and accommodate power and power relations within the theory and practice of participation. We identify the need to (re)center in-depth and critical considerations of power and power relations within participatory practice and debate. Also necessary is the development of frameworks for understanding and analyzing power and power relations in place-specific participation. Doing so will help restore the political potential of participation. It will also provide insights that could foster people’s participation in disaster-risk reduction.

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