| Project objectives:
It is proposed that a series of workshops be developed which will allow the various NATO countries to learn from each others natural disaster experience. The
focus would not only be on disaster impacts, but more importantly upon mitigation strategies - technological, political, cultural, economic and legal. Though
cultures and the hazards countries are exposed to are diverse, and strategies naturally vary as a result of that diversity, there are many commonalities on
how to mitigate the risk of natural disasters. By comparing what has worked well, and perhaps more importantly not so well, we can all be better prepared to develop
policies and strategies in our own countries that will more effectively fulfil the vision of the Canadian Assessment.
Workshop topics could include (1) human and economic impacts, (2) risk assessment, (3) geological risks, (4) severe weather and climate, (5) coping strategies
including response and recovery, preparedness and mitigation, (6) barriers, (7) case and/or sectoral studies and (8) emerging issues such as IT, climate
change or surprises. In order for this project to be successful, it would be important for this to be an interdisciplinary exercise, involving not just academics
but also practitioners, managers and politicians.
Methodology and plan of work
Initially the proposed purpose of the workshops is to inform participating countries about the methods and results of the Canadian and U.S. natural hazard
assessment projects (as noted below, participation by cooperating scientists from the United States is anticipated), to create a forum for other NATO countries
to exchange disaster related information, and to consider what might usefully be accomplished in future meetings.
Future activity of the project will depend on the level of participation and the expressed needs of the participating countries. It is not proposed that Canadian
project leaders (with or without US participation) undertake natural hazard assessments in NATO or Partner countries, but rather that their experience be
offered as a resource for those participating countries who wish to carry out their own assessments.
Should the workshops be sufficiently successful, the NATO and Partner community might wish to consider undertaking their own assessments. The U.S. and
Canada might be helpful to other countries in this regard, as a result of their experience. It is conceivable that, given a sufficient level of participation,
a supraregional assessment project could develop, involving several neighboring countries, in which case this proposal could be extended to a full-scale
Recent decades have seen rapidly escalating costs as a result of natural disasters. These trends are global and worrisome, and particularly interesting in
that they coincided with a UN initiative during the decade of the 1990s intended to curb the rising costs of natural disasters (the International Decade for
Natural Disaster Reduction - IDNDR). Natural disasters impose a large cost on society, both in terms of economic impacts but also in terms of human misery, and
there are some indications that global change, both environmental and social, may continue to exacerbate this issue.
As a result of the above, some countries have undertaken (U.S.), or are (Canada) undertaking national assessments of natural hazards and disasters, intended
to provide a ‘way ahead' that will create a less vulnerable society. The vision of the Canadian assessment is to create more sustainable communities, which
are less vulnerable to natural hazards and disasters and more resilient in the face of surprises. A full description of the Canadian Assessment can be found
Historically, natural disasters were viewed as events over which we had no control, with society as victims. Attempts at mitigation were primarily technological
and based on the assumption that nature could be controlled. The disaster paradigm has shifted significantly in recent years towards a perspective that, to
a large extent disasters occur because society allows itself to be vulnerable - thus the title of the U.S assessment, ‘Disasters by Design'. There now exist
many case studies that demonstrate that various disasters might not have occurred, or certainly would have been much less severe, had not development occurred
in hazardous zones (such as on flood plains), had environmental degradation not reduced natural functions, or if the risk of rare but high consequent events
been properly incorporated into risk analyses prior to development