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Risk, vulnerability, and asset‐based approach to disaster risk management

Krishna S. Vatsa (Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management, George Washington University,Washington, D.C.)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 1 October 2004



Households are exposed to a wide array of risks, characterized by a known or unknown probability distribution of events. Disasters are one of these risks at the extreme end. Understanding the nature of these risks is critical to recommending appropriate mitigation measures. A household’s resilience in resisting the negative outcomes of these risky events is indicative of its level of vulnerability. Vulnerability has emerged as the most critical concept in disaster studies, with several attempts at defining, measuring, indexing and modeling it. The paper presents the concept and meanings of risk and vulnerability as they have evolved in different disciplines. Building on these basic concepts, the paper suggests that assets are the key to reducing risk and vulnerability. Households resist and cope with adverse consequences of disasters and other risks through the assets that they can mobilize in face of shocks. Asustainable strategy for disaster reduction must therefore focus on asset‐building. There could be different types of assets, and their selection and application for disaster risk management is necessarily a contextual exercise. The mix of asset‐building strategies could vary from one community to another, depending upon households’ asset profile. The paper addresses the dynamics of assets‐risk interaction, thus focusing on the role of assets in risk management.



Vatsa, K.S. (2004), "Risk, vulnerability, and asset‐based approach to disaster risk management", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 24 No. 10/11, pp. 1-48.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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