Transforming development and disaster risk

Frank Thomalla*, Michael Boyland, Karlee Johnson, Jonathan Ensor, Heidi Tuhkanen, Åsa Gerger Swartling, Guoyi Han, John Forrester, Darin Wahl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article focuses on the complex relationship between development and disaster risk. Development and disaster risk are closely linked as the people and assets exposed to risk, as well as their vulnerability and capacity, are largely determined by development processes. Transformation is key to moving from current development patterns that increase, create or unfairly distribute risks, to forms of development that are equitable, resilient and sustainable. Based on a review of existing literature, we present three opportunities that have the potential to lead to transformation in the development-disaster risk relationship: (i) exposing development-disaster risk trade-offs in development policy and decision-making; (ii) prioritizing equity and social justice in approaches to secure resilience; and (iii) enabling transformation through adaptive governance. This research aims to contribute to breaking down existing barriers in research, policy and practice between the disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, and development communities by providing cross-sectoral opportunities to operationalize theoretical knowledge on transformation. It also helps to clarify the connections between different global agendas by positioning transformation as a potential bridging concept to link disconnected policy processes. This paper argues for empirical research to test the opportunities presented here and further define transformative pathways at multiple scales.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1458
Number of pages12
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2018

Bibliographical note

© 2018 by the authors.


  • Adaptive governance
  • Disaster risk
  • Equitable resilience
  • Sustainable development
  • Trade-offs
  • Transformation

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