A persistent challenge in disaster risk reduction (DRR) is that development, crucial for reducing vulnerability to disaster risks, can exacerbate the risks because poorly thought out decisions put people and property in harm’s way. Disasters, in turn, can destroy many years’ worth of development investments. Furthermore, post-disaster redevelopment often rebuilds vulnerability and continues the vicious cycle. While progress in reducing the loss of life from natural hazards in some countries has been made, economic losses, particularly those related to extensive risks in low and middle-income countries, continue to increase globally.

While we cannot eliminate all risks, we can reduce and better manage risks by recognizing and understanding the explicit, and often implicit, trade-offs being made. This discussion brief outlines key dimensions of trade-offs in decision-making on Development and Disaster Risk Reduction at multiple governance levels, identifying intervention points to transform the relationship between development and DRR. It applies a trade-off typology to the concept of  ‘Building Back Better’, one of the key priorities of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, illustrating its potential utility for identifying opportunities for transformative change.

The trade-off typology framework includes key questions reflecting two overarching contexts, as well as a definition and examples for each trade-off dimension. The overarching contexts are: first, how gains, losses and risks are conceived and perceived and how they are weighed against one another and prioritized, and second, the processes through which development and disaster risk related trade-offs are framed, deliberated and negotiated. Through these key questions, five dimensions of trade-offs in development and DRR have been identified: aggregation, participation, equity, time and risk.