WP3 - Risk Root Cause Analysis and Historical Urban Trajectories

WP3 responds to the absence of work that associates historical root causes with contemporary expressions of disaster risk and loss. A broad view of urban governance is taken and brings a historical lens to urbanisation and risk coevolution.

WP3.1: Trajectories in urban governance

Research seeks to uncover the dynamic historical processes that continue to shape contemporary expressions of vulnerability, hazard and capacity. Major objectives are:

(1) To document, early C20 to the present, the evolution of urban risk management capacity for the six case study cities from published primary and secondary sources, archives and key informant interviews, distinguishing between risk responses to everyday and extensive risk.

(2) To explore the historical determinants of contemporary dynamics in environmental health, solid waste and disaster response management strategy and capacity in the case study cities. 

A historical lens also helps uncover the processes through which decision-making systems co-evolve over time, including the role of local and international science and development policy trends on local places and urban populations at risk.

WP3.2: Trajectories in urban disaster risk management and understanding governance across scales

Broadly, this research aims to understand urban scaled governance that can help build resilience.

Focus is on the factors shaping the emergence and contribution of mediating or intermediary actors around urban development and risk. We are specifically interested in the governance space between local community actors and organisations and local government/first level of political decision making. This is a critical space where local voice can inform planning decisions but more needs to be known about who the key influential actors operating in this space are, how intermediaries negotiate this dynamic political space (and gain legitimacy) and the various entry points into that space.

Research is based in 3 cities in sub-Saharan Africa; Nairobi (Kenya), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and the third to be confirmed. Recent floods are the physical triggering events for analysis and include considerations of housing and access to land, basic services and infrastructure provision. 


This publication covers a range of disaster risk management (DRM) themes, from community participation in DRM data collection to risk mapping and from urban waste management to hazard accumulation


Mark Pelling

In African cities, orienting risk management towards a developmental agenda can

confront the root causes of poverty and risk. Transition to an integrated approach has

Research carried out in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on cross-scalar risk communication and disaster risk governance reveals that, while there is considerable potential for communities to measure and co

The past may reveal local patterns and triggers of urban risk, highlighting the importance of long-term exposure to everyday events and barriers to risk reduction.

Around half of the urban population in sub-Saharan Africa live in informal settlements, lacking the basic infrastructure and services on which good health depends.

Community-based organisation and action can contribute greatly to disaster risk reduction, and interlinked to this, to building resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Urban flooding cannot be avoided entirely and in all areas, particularly in coastal cities. Therefore adaptation to the growing risk is necessary.

The inhabitants of African towns and cities face a range of hazards, which can best be described as representing a ‘spectrum of risk’ from events that can cause death, illness or injury, and impove

Rapid urban development and a rising population have led to significant changes in

Freetown over the last decades. Although the city’s status as the nation’s economic

The extent to which cities in Africa face climate change and natural hazard related
disaster risks is shaped by much more than just their exposure to hazard. Past and


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