Natural shocks, such as floods, earthquakes, and droughts, pose significant challenges for all governments. Unlike other policy areas, for which policymakers typically have a reasonable time period to investigate and debate policy options, natural hazards often require decision making under severe time constraints and when many lives are at stake. In developing countries, where overall government capacity is often lacking in multiple areas, natural shocks pose particularly difficult problems for policy makers, but recent events around the world highlight the risks to all administrations of insufficient preparedness. In addition, the likely consequences of climate change will greatly test the ability of governments to respond effectively to crisis situations. Natural disasters can result from limited government capacities to respond to shocks while subsequently placing tremendous demands on government.
In this course, we will consider the capacity of countries to prepare for and respond to natural shocks and evaluate the relationship between this capacity and the emergence of natural disasters. Our discussions will focus on the incentives of national governments to invest in disaster risk reduction, preparedness and response, the ways in which governments interact with international and non-governmental organizations, and the role of local communities building disaster-related capacities. Students will have the opportunity to explore their particular interests in the field of natural disasters through group activities during the semester and in an individual project.