Paradigm Shift in Disaster Management

Dominant and Top-down approach in Disaster Management

What is Paradigm Shift?

Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996; American philosopher of science), in his famous book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), argues that ‘science’ does not progress as a linear accumulation of new knowledge, but undergoes periodic revolutions called ‘paradigm shifts’. A ‘paradigm’ is a specific theoretical orientation, based upon a particular epistemology and research methodology, reflective of a particular scientific community at a particular time in history. A paradigm frames and directs the nature of the type of research inquiries generated from that theoretical orientation, as well as provide the fundamental basis for evaluating the results of the generated research. A paradigm provides the questions for B what should be asked, what phenomena should be observed, and how should the observations are being interpreted. A paradigm reflects a consensus view of a particular scientific community, bought into by the members of that community, either consciously articulated or, more likely, simply assumed and not intentionally acknowledged.

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The concept of paradigm (a word derived from the Greek 'paradeigma' is used in everyday life as a synonym for "example" or to refer to something that is taken as a 'model'According to Kuhn, the paradigms evolve, being revealed by new paradigms more in line with the manifestations of reality. It is important to note that each time it constitutes essentially in relation to how man is thought at the time, how raises the value of the present, the value of past and future value

According to American Heritage Dictionary, Paradigm refers to a ser of assumptions, concepts, values and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline.

In another way, the paradigm is a scientific way to sort some problems as well as it is the way of thinking, answering and questioning and providing a model to reach a destination. In general, a Paradigm shifts from one way of thinking to another. It’s our revolution and transformation of thinking in a different way.

According to Thomas Kuhn, a Paradigm shift is a fundamental change in the basic concepts and experimental practices of a scientific discipline.


In a broad sense, a paradigm may be defined as a set of theories and empirical methodologies which allow a scientific community to identify frames and solve problems and serve as a foundation for future scientific discoveries. During a paradigm shift, two simultaneous changes are supposed to occur: the decline of the old paradigm, when the paradigm begins to fail to solve problems and explain anomalies and the emergence of a new one if a new theoretical corpus allows the publication of promising results. During these changes, the hope of new discoveries modifies the researchers’ scientific choices who progressively abandon the traditional research fields in favour of the new set of assumptions.

In the social sciences, the paradigm is related to the concept of worldview. The concept is used to mention all those experiences, beliefs, experiences and values that affect and influence the way a person sees reality and acts accordingly. This means that a paradigm is also the way in which the world is understood.

A paradigm in social science is a way of understanding a reality that is perceived by the individual, and whose answers are modifying it. I.e. the paradigm affects the individual, and the sum of individual behaviours varies model or paradigm. Why do societies change their values, their beliefs, and their customs? The Economist Adam Smith defined paradigms as a set of shared assumptions that explain reality and predict future behaviours.


Philosophy of Disaster Management (DM)

Before the requirements for coping with disaster can be determined and adequately met, it is essential to bear in mind the simple but nonetheless important philosophy which is involved. This is that disaster can have wide-ranging effects on a country, its government, and its people. Therefore, the primary responsibility for coping with disasters must rest with the government. Government is responsible to the people for meeting the needs created by the disaster, in the same way, that it is responsible for other aspects of national life. However, a government may, and usually does, need help from NGOs, the private sector, the general public and, in many cases, from its international development partners also.

This being so, it is government organization and resources that necessarily have to bear the brunt of counter-disaster action. Further, when government departments and agencies (including emergency services) have to deal with a disaster, they invariably have to accept a considerable additional workload. Moreover, they usually have to function under pressure and in cooperation with a variety of other agencies (government or otherwise). A further point is that disaster produces some needs that may not be covered by normal government organizations such as mass feeding.

This is why, in essence, a disaster management system is needed. But —and this is important—the disaster management system does not control other government departments; it does not tell those departments how to do their jobs. The main function of the disaster management system is to ensure that at all times, and as far as possible, the resources and operations of these government departments and, as appropriate, NGOs are coordinated to produce the best possible counter-disaster effort. 

In sum, therefore, the simple philosophy for coping with disaster is one of government and people working together in a coordinated way via a coherent disaster management system. The remainder of this chapter should be considered against this background.


What is Paradigm Shift in Disaster Paradigm?

Natural and man-made disasters often result in loss of lives, cause injury to people, and lead to loss of livelihoods and damage and destruction of property, assets and infrastructure. Disasters worsen the risk and exposure of vulnerable communities and lead to psychosocial stress and trauma among the disaster-prone and disaster-affected communities. In the case of recurring disasters like floods, the disaster-prone communities often become victims of a crisis of confidence as their coping strategies are often overwhelmed, survival threatened and normal life adversely affected for several months repeatedly. Children, infants, the elderly and the physically and mentally challenged people become more vulnerable to neglect and deprivation in the event of a sudden outbreak of disasters, especially when the displaced communities are forced to stay in temporary relief camps.

The government of different countries, international, national and local (also voluntary) agencies have adopted comprehensive disaster management plans and programs, emphasizing community participation with an intention of reducing the pains and sufferings of victims, shortening the number of loss of human lives and livestock (Mehta, 2009; United Nations, 2010).

The paradigm shift in disaster management is a change of practices from the erstwhile relief centric response to pro-active prevention, preparedness, mitigation as well as recovery and rehabilitation driven approaches so as to conserve the development gains and also minimize losses to life, livelihood and property.


But a few decades ago, disasters were viewed as one-off events and only responded to by governments and relief agencies without considering the social and economic implications and causes of these events. Initiatives were driven by outside experts that popularly known as a dominant approach (Allen, 2006; Heijmans and Victoria, 2001).

Previous literature related to disaster management (Islam, 1995; Heijmans and Victoria 2001; Murshed, 2003) showed that the dominant (top-down) approach did not bring fruitful results in disaster management. Top-down intervention alone in disaster management was insufficient because such intervention often paid little attention to addressing community dynamics, perceptions and needs, and ignored the potential of local resources and capacities that in some cases increased people’s vulnerability (Murshed, 2003, p. 146).

This approach was also followed in Bangladesh and did not bring positive results in managing disaster (Islam, 1995, p. 239). Considering the backdrop of the dominant approach, for the last few years, the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) has been holding regional and national training programs on ‘community-based approaches to disaster management (Yodmani, 2001, p. 5) and the philosophical notion has been shifted from dominant approach to alternative perspective (Ariyabandu, 1999). The ultimate goal of the alternative perspective is to introduce community-based disaster management (CBDM) program.

CBDM can be seen as risk reduction programs designed primarily by and for the people in certain disaster-prone areas where participation of the entire community is necessary. CBDM is a promising model in disaster management that incorporates the principles of community mobilization and organization. This method endeavours to reform the top-down approach that has failed to meet the needs of vulnerable populations and ignored the potential of local resources and capacities (Victoria, 2001 cited in Pyles 2007, p. 325). Proponents of the community-based approaches believe that these are ‘suitable strategies’ for grasping the dynamics and complexity of vulnerability, addressing vulnerability and strengthening local capacities’ as vulnerability is manifested at the local level (Eynde and Veno, 1999, p. 171 cited in Pyles 2007). 


During this paradigm shift, there has been a growing realization that disaster mitigation is immensely effective at the community level (Murshed, 2003, p. 145), because the community people themselves are the first victims as well as responders (Ritchie, 2003, p. 102). So, disaster-prone communities should be empowered with proper training and necessary information. The government of Bangladesh has also realized this fundamental belief in community-based disaster management and formulated disaster management policy, plans and programs inspired by the philosophical notion of alternative perspective (MoFDM 2007 and DMB 2010).

 Paradigm Shift in Disaster Management Bangladesh

The Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) is a ship collaborative initiative of the Bangladesh Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief (MoDMR) and UNDP. Developed in 2004, and scaled up to CDMP-II in 2010. The core objective of CDMP is to strengthen the national capacity to manage risks related to disasters, as well as the immediate response and recovery of efforts. It is done through a comprehensive approach that focuses on all hazards, and all phases of disaster management, and is involving all relevant stakeholders.


The first phase laid the foundations for institutionalizing a risk reduction framework and Phase II (CDMP II) is designed to further expand this pioneering approach. CDMP’s activities include knowledge building and policy support with and through the government, as well as community-level interventions to reach the most vulnerable section of the population. Communities are now integrating disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation measures and are more resilient.

Disaster Management has changed drastically with CDMP driving the way. When natural disasters occur, communities at the local and government level are equipped with training, tools and protocols on how to cope with these disasters. Communities, governments & The holistic approach of CDMP have allowed for many of the members captured in these photographs to live better and safer lives. Many of them with protective and adaptive capabilities to deal with these disasters. Volunteers are all more aware of how to endure Disasters with minimum damages, and rebuild quickly, minimizing negative impacts.

§ Integrate disaster risk management into the national development process development process

§  Raise professional skills of government staff to move from a relief to risk management culture

§  Adopt new mechanisms/systems Adopt new mechanisms/systems to lower national risk to specific hazards specific hazards

§  Adopt a comprehensive all-risks management risks management programme (initiated through the Comprehensive programme (initiated through the Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme-CDMP)


Importance of Paradigm Shift in Disaster Management

Disasters cause massive casualties, affect human beings, impact the delivery of services, cause environmental harm and leave immense economic impacts. Additionally, years of developmental progress get reversed post-disaster occurrences. UNDP report of 2005 states that the Indian Ocean tsunami (2004) set back socio-economic development by 20 years in the Maldives. The tsunami occurred only 6 days after Maldives was removed from the UN’s list of least developed countries. After the tsunami, the tourism sector which accounts for 70% of the nation’s income, got severely affected. The earnings of this sector have helped improve the living standard of the nation and contributed to higher employment rates and enrolment rates in schools. The tsunami reversed the whole process of development over the past 20 years. A similar scenario is observed in the Syrian conflict where the Human Development Index (HDI) of Syria has rolled back 35 years. (UNRWA, 2013) Thus attempts to minimize disaster risks and impacts to alleviate human suffering are not only our moral responsibility but also it is extremely necessary to maintain the hard-earned developmental progress. In many cases, it is observed that it is far more cost-effective to prevent disasters from occurring beforehand than to recover from them afterwards”. (Disaster Management Training Programme, 1994) It is estimated that every dollar spent on risk reduction saves between $5 and $10 in economic losses resulting from disasters. (Schwartz, 2006) Natural hazard events will continue to occur, but steps can be taken to reduce factors that increase risk due to exposure, increase the ability to withstand disasters, and increase the effectiveness of response and recovery. This necessitated the shift from a reactive to a proactive approach.

Bangladesh Disaster Management Model

Bangladesh has adopted the HFA 2005-2015 and developed a simple but effective model to guide its disaster risk reduction and emergency response management efforts. It focuses on risk reduction and has two major components. Firstly, risk reduction through defining the risk environment and managing the risk environment and secondly, an emergency response which essentially is managing the residual risks. Defining risk requires hazard analysis - the process of identification of events that lead to harm or loss, vulnerability assessment - understanding the interaction of hazards on communities and risk treatment - ranking risk in priority and determining actions that reduce risk. 

Managing the risk environment aims at enabling “communities to better understand their changing risk environment and thus become more resilient through proactive risk reduction efforts.” Emergency response involves responding to an actual threat situation. It includes early warning dissemination, organising evacuation and rescue operations and providing humanitarian assistance as well, and undertaking preparedness action during the pre-disaster period. An important element in the strategy is mainstreaming disaster risk reduction. Essentially, it means that the development interventions 

 Never induce any additional risk to the people; 

 Sustain and protect the accumulated gains despite the occurrence of disaster; 

 Contribute to reducing disaster risks of the communities. 

Bangladesh Disaster Management Model

Mainstreaming disaster risk reduction requires every department and agency of the government to have understanding, capacities and motivation to build-in risk reduction elements in their respective programmes. The Department of Disaster Management has the responsibility to mount an emergency response and promote disaster risk reduction. Clearly, establishing disaster risk reduction elements in all parts of the government system is beyond the scope and authority of a single government agency. It necessitates institutional arrangements for mainstreaming disaster risk reduction the sector-based development interventions.


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