Risk experts from the University of Portsmouth – both past and present – were invited to join a global forum on ‘Understanding Risk’, held in in Venice from 16 to 20 May. The event was primarily sponsored by the World Bank (Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, GFDRR), the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) and companies in the insurance sector.
The Understanding Risk forum involved almost 700 delegates from over 100 countries. It brought together disaster risk experts and practitioners – focusing on the identification, assessment and communication of risk – with representatives of government agencies, multilateral organizations, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, research institutions, academia, community-based organizations, and civil society.
Pictured is disaster risk reduction expert, Dr Richard Teeuw, coordinator of Portsmouth’s MSc in Crisis and Disaster Management, with Sarah Brown, a post-doctoral graduate from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences. Dr Brown is now working as a researcher in volcanic risk reduction, at the University of Bristol.
“This forum provided an opportunity to discuss many aspects of risk that the world currently faces. At the top of the list were concerns about the likely impacts of climate change and increasing global population, particularly in urban areas and coastal settings. The session on “Building a less risky future: How today’s decisions shape disaster risk in the cities of tomorrow “ would be of interest to many researchers at The University of Portsmouth”, said Dr Teeuw. Other topics with sessions at the forum were, Risk Identification & Assessment, Disaster Risk Management, Critical Infrastructure, Risk Communication and the Media.
“In the sessions on Vulnerable Populations, the statistics on gender inequality in disasters were profound. For instance, Bangladesh made great improvements in reducing the impacts of cyclone storm surges over the past 40 years; but even though the numbers killed have been greatly reduced (from hundreds of thousands, to hundreds), 15 out of every 16 fatalities are women. Clearly, more research is needed to reduce the risks facing women during emergencies, particularly in low-income countries.”
“The University of Portsmouth has a strong research, consultancy and teaching interest in the uses of Open Data, particularly free satellite imagery, so it was interesting to see the many sessions on that topic, led by the World Bank, government agencies and the insurance industry. There was a related session from the NGO sector, focusing on how volunteer Digital Humanitarians assisted with the Nepal earthquake, rapidly providing damage maps for search and rescue teams – coincidentally, something that we recently practiced here at Portsmouth, with an international disaster simulation exercise.”