Ahead of the 13th IRDR Annual Conference: Drawing Links Across Conferences
By Joshua Anthony, on 19 June 2023
This week marks the 13th year of the Institute for Risk and Disaster’s annual conference series, continuing a tradition that yearly tackles cutting-edge ideas in risk and disaster science. Covid-19, drones for health emergencies, why warnings matter—no stone is left unturned. Conquering risk demands a look at its wide-ranging constituent parts, from the global scale down to the minutiae of everyday life. But these challenges are often not isolated, spanning geographical, social, and political boundaries. What impact do borders, physical and metaphorical, have on efforts to tackle these issues? A day of discussion at IRDR will examine this, endeavouring to look beyond them, towards Risk Without Borders. In the same spirit, we traverse the temporal border, looking back at the 12th Annual Conference to draw links across conference themes. How do borders affect Climate change – Disaster Risk, Loss and Damage, or Action?
It’s hard to ignore the relevance of borders today when divisions of vulnerability and governance can often have more of an impact than physical geography alone on risk outcomes. A major challenge to tackling this is defining loss and damage, which as Lisa Vanh pointed out last year, could significantly differ across cultural and social boundaries. Timmons Roberts, who has done extensive research on climate negotiations between global north and south countries, raised the issue of equity, how developing countries need the assistance of wealthier countries to overcome the challenges of climate change. Though early attempts at this had failed with proposals in 1991 from Pacific Island nation Vanuatu, there have been promising developments since then. It highlights the barriers that exist between divisions of wealth and power that ultimately come down to borders, be that the invisible lines with which we delineate them, or the diminishing shoreline of a small island developing state.
As important as economics are voices. During her passionate keynote speech, Vanessa Nakate, a climate justice activist, described the risks of climate change that Uganda is already experiencing, and the challenges that activists from the most affected countries face in having their voices heard on the international platform. Perhaps nothing is more symbolic of the arbitrary constraints of borders than the visa application system and how this has prevented young climate leaders from attending UN conferences. As Nakate puts it: every activist has a story to tell, every story has a solution to give, and every solution as a life to change. Not only unique stories, but shared ones across borders are just as noteworthy, as Lucy Easthope, author of When the Dust Settles, explains when reflecting on the similar challenges experienced by both her, a UK expert in emergency planning and disaster recovery, and a midwife working in Myanmar, Sudan, and Bangladesh.
Examining discussions from the previous conference demonstrates that their individual themes should not be viewed as distinct boundaries. Even where there was no explicit mention of borders built within the itinerary and theme, experts could not avoid the limitations that they place on risk research and experience. No doubt, themes from last year will spill over to this one. See it for yourself this Thursday 22 June!
Watch last year’s annual conference on the IRDR youtube channel.
Thank you to Heghine Ghukasyan whose rapporteur notes helped immensely in writing this blog.