What has the UN Disaster Risk Reduction agency got to do with you?

I was interviewed this week by the Independent newspaper about why more than 100 scholars from around the world issued a public letter to delegates at the UN’s event on disaster risk reduction. This provides more depth than my opinion piece in the newspaper.

Q – What was the impetus behind this letter?

Jem – The impetus for this letter is a widespread experience that many of our fellow professionals working on social and environmental issues privately know that we have been using a failing approach, with all the indicators heading in the wrong direction, but that they are hesitant to say so in public. We perceive that is because they are not yet clear on how to make sense of that failure or what might come next. They also see professional risk in criticising both capitalism and the story that our world will improve with more technology and investment. Whereas more people in the general public now sense that our systems are broken, many experts in establishment institutions continue to think they must remain upbeat in public. But signatories to the letter clearly think that attitude could undermine the needed reckonings and radical changes.

Q – Who are the signatories?

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Seeking Truth on Disaster Risk – Q&A with UNDRR expert Scott Williams

Did you know that the United Nations has a whole agency dedicated to reducing humanity’s exposure and vulnerability to disasters? It is called the UN Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) agency and it does much the same as what many UN agencies do – convene governments and experts to discuss knowledge of the problems and best practices for addressing them so that multilateral agreements can be reached, and technical assistance provided.

Scott Williams is a lead contributing author to the risk reduction report of the UNDRR. In a Deep Adaptation Q&A Professor Jem Bendell asked Scott the extent to which our organisations of governance are helping or hindering how society responds to existential crises and what could still be done to help. The conversation ranged from discussing those institutions to the limits of our methods to assess risk, to exploring the need for new ways of being ‘professional’ through new forms of dialogue. Scott was frank and honest about his personal assessment that with the seasons certain to break down in the Northern hemisphere in the coming years that humanity faces catastrophic change. That message that is currently not welcomed in official reports or meetings of organisations that exist to try to better manage the existing systems of power.

Continue reading “Seeking Truth on Disaster Risk – Q&A with UNDRR expert Scott Williams”