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Vulnerability and Risk: Some Thoughts from a Political and Policy Perspective

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Public policies to mitigate the impacts of extreme events such as hurricanes or terrorist attacks will differ depending on whether they focus on reducing risk or reducing vulnerability. Here we present and defend six assertions aimed at exploring the benefits of vulnerability-based policies. (1) Risk-based approaches to covering the costs of extreme events do not depend for their success on reduction of vulnerability. (2) Risk-based approaches to preparing for extreme events are focused on acquiring accurate probabilistic information about the events themselves. (3) Understanding and reducing vulnerability does not demand accurate predictions of the incidence of extreme events. (4) Extreme events are created by context. (5) It is politically difficult to justify vulnerability reduction on economic grounds. (6) Vulnerability reduction is a human rights issue; risk reduction is not.

Keywords: Extreme events; predictions; public policy; risk; uncertainty; vulnerability

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1539-6924.00357

Publication date: August 1, 2003

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