Disaster governance, livelihood recovery and resilience: recent cyclones and coastal communities of Bangladesh

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Uddin, Mohammed Salim
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This study examines the strategies used by the inhabitants of coastal rural communities of Bangladesh to build resilience against cyclone disasters, and the effects of these strategies on their livelihood dynamics and recovery and reconstruction processes. It also examines issues of good disaster governance and policy implementation at the local community level. In this study, particular attention was paid to on-the-ground validation of attributes of community resilience to disaster-shocks from the perspective of disaster victims (i.e., emic perspectives). The research applied a mixed-method approach to an exploratory case study design. Field investigation was carried out in two cyclone-affected Unions of Kalapara Upazila in Patuakhali District of southwest Bangladesh. A number of Participatory Rural Appraisal tools - namely a household survey, focus group discussions, key informant interviews, in-depth case studies, and document reviews - were employed to collect the necessary data. The findings revealed that a significant number of cyclone victims have shifted their postdisaster livelihoods by changing their occupation—both intrasectorally and intersectorally. Flexibility in livelihood strategies and diversity of income generation were found to be critical to post-cyclone livelihood reconstruction. The cyclone victims in the studied communities recognized social actors as a pivotal attribute of community resilience, and ‘knowledge, skills and learning’; ‘values and beliefs’; ‘people-place connections’; ‘social networks and support’; ‘active institutions’; and ‘selforganization’ were ranked higher than other attributes. The study also found that several local-level disaster management programs under national policy frameworks were transformed into practice and resulted in positive impacts. However, many national policy initiatives were not executed effectively due to insufficient technical and financial capability, poor leadership, corruption, and top-down decision making. Overall, these results make a strong case for shifting disaster management and recovery policy away from the current top-down model which views community members as merely passive victims towards an approach which leverages the agency of local community members and local institutions. Policy attention should also be paid to the significant role played by social capital and social learning in the post-disaster transformation process
Community Resilience, Disaster Management, Disaster Good Governance, Local-Level Policy Implementation, Livelihood Recovery and Resilience, Social Learning