We consider what happened in the initial reconstruction interventions following the 6 April 2009 earthquake in L'Aquila (Italy). Using the disaster risk reduction and…
We consider what happened in the initial reconstruction interventions following the 6 April 2009 earthquake in L'Aquila (Italy). Using the disaster risk reduction and resilience paradigm, we discuss the cognitive and interactional failures of top-down approaches, and we analyse the main constraints to enacting inclusive social learning and socially-sustainable transformation and building back better more resilient communities in post-disaster reconstruction.
Our evidence comes from participant observation, action anthropology and analytic auto-ethnography conducted during the reconstruction phase following the L'Aquila earthquake. Findings were triangulated with document analysis, media analysis and retrospective interviewing conducted in 2013 and 2017.
The shift from civil defence to civil protection did not bring any advance in disaster management and development practice in terms of DRR and resilience. The militaristic command-and-control approach, which is still in vogue among civil protection systems, means that local political leaders become the civil protection authorities in a disaster area. As in the L'Aquila case, this exacerbates local social and environmental risks and impacts, inhibits local communities from learning and restricts them from participating in post-disaster interventions.
Most previous commentary on disaster recovery and reconstruction following the L'Aquila earthquake has focussed on the top-down approach carried out by the national government and the Italian Department of Civil Protection (DCP). This paper is unique in that it sheds light on how the command-and-control approach was also implemented by local authority figures and on how this undermined building back better more resilient communities.
The purpose of this paper is to reflect on what can be learned about disaster risk reduction (DRR) from the L’Aquila trial of scientists. The court case was initiated…
The purpose of this paper is to reflect on what can be learned about disaster risk reduction (DRR) from the L’Aquila trial of scientists. The court case was initiated because of a controversial meeting on 31 March 2009 of the Major Risks Committee (MRC), held under the auspices of the Italian Department of Civil Protection. The purpose of the meeting was to consider (prior to the fatal earthquake of 6 April 2009) disaster risk in the L’Aquila area, which was being affected by an earthquake swarm since October 2008.
The authors undertook a document analysis of trial materials, and a review of academic and media commentary about the trial.
The legal process revealed that disaster governance was inadequate and not informed by the DRR paradigm or international guidelines. Risk assessment was carried out only in a techno-scientific manner, with little acknowledgement of the social issues influencing risks at the local community level. There was no inclusion of local knowledge or engagement of local people in transformative DRR strategies.
Most previous commentary is inadequate in terms of not considering the institutional, scientific and social responsibilities for DRR as exposed by the trial. This paper is unique in that it considers the contents of the MRC meeting as well as all trial documents. It provides a comprehensive reflection on the implications of this case for DRR and the resilience of peoples and places at risk. It highlights that a switch from civil protection to community empowerment is needed to achieve sustainable outcomes at the local level.