Goldman School of Public Policy - University of California, Berkeley

Featured Research

Institutional Capacity for Natural Disasters: Case Studies in Africa

In Climate Change and African Political Stability Student Working Paper No. 6 (pdf), a group of students led by Goldman School professor Jennifer Bussell explores the causes of variation in government policies to reduce the risk of, prepare for, and respond to natural disasters. While the report focuses on ten case studies within Africa, many policymakers will find that the analysis can be useful to a broader set of cases, particularly in developing countries.

Although natural hazards—floods, drought, earthquakes, and tropical cyclones to name a few—do not always result in disasters, they often present a clear policy challenge for national governments. Given that natural disasters are a frequent risk around the world, and national governments play a key role in disaster management, researchers have an inherent interest in understanding why national governments take, or fail to take, a particular stance toward investment in activities that should reduce the overall vulnerability of their countries to natural hazards. By examining several African countries, the research team hopes to shed new light on the most appropriate and efficient uses of aid and national resources for dealing with natural shocks.

The goal of the project is two fold: the first is to provide a current assessment of natural disaster management capacities in a set of African states. This effort emphasizes the role of national policies in providing a framework for all actors engaging in natural disaster-related programs and shaping the environment in which these activities occur. The second goal is to offer the first comprehensive empirical test of arguments regarding the incentives of states to invest in disaster management activities. These hypotheses are then tested, using case-based evidence from ten African states including Senegal, The Gambia, Ghana, Togo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.

In order to achieve these goals, the project takes a wide-ranging perspective and uses a qualitative paired case study design. In doing so, the researchers hope to provide evidence both for and against a number of theoretical hypotheses while also offering a more nuanced perspective on the ways in which states prepare for and respond to natural hazards.

This was originally posted at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law and the University of Texas at Austin.