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SEI brief

Transforming the relationship between development and disaster risk: Insights from a year of research

This research synthesis brief presents preliminary insights from the first phase of the SEI Initiative on Transforming Development and Disaster Risk (TDDR), from 2015 to 2016.


Thomalla, F., M.Boyland, H. Tuhkanen, J. Ensor, Å. Gerger Swartling and A. Salamanca (2016). Transforming the relationship between development and disaster risk: Insights from a year of research. SEI Research Synthesis Brief.

The goal of the TDDR Initiative is to improve understanding of how risks are created and how they accumulate. Analysis builds on the recognition that disaster risk and development are closely linked: the people and assets exposed to risk as well as the extent of their susceptibility and capacity are largely determined by developmental processes.

Work in the initiative to date has focused on articulating principles and pathways for transforming the existing relation- ship between development and disaster risk. The initiative has begun to examine how to transform the status quo by rst unpacking this “locked-in” relationship and then developing conceptual and theoretical principles and pathways for transforming it.

The initiative’s research and analysis focuses on three key areas of work: 1) Understanding the trade-offs between development and disaster risk; 2) Addressing issues of social inequity and injustice in development processes through “equitable resilience”; and 3) Transforming DRR and development governance and institutions through inclusion, collaboration, social learning and system innovation.

The insights from these three areas of work are used to develop an integrated conceptual framework for understanding the relationship between development and disaster risk, and how this currently unsustainable relationship can be transformed to reduce risk and achieve more equitable, resilient and sustainable DRR and development outcomes.

The insights show that transformation is key to moving away from current development patterns that increase or create risks and inequalities to forms of development that are equitable and resilient. Transformative pathways must include consideration of risk trade-offs in development decisions, and creating enabling conditions for approaches that strengthen the resilience of people at risk by promoting social equity and justice. Transformative governance is the vehicle through which these goals can be achieved.

By developing a conceptual framework that enables us to communicate what we mean by transforming development and disaster risk to different actors, we hope to bring together the DRR and development communities of practice for collaboration and learning.

The principles and pathways of transformation developed to date will serve as a foundation for Phase 2 of the TDDR initiative (2017–2018), in which we aim to co-create the knowledge and tools required to reduce disaster risk among poor and at-risk communities in Southeast Asia and East Africa.

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SEI authors

Åsa Gerger Swartling
Åsa Gerger Swartling

Head of Knowledge Management, Senior Research Fellow

Global Operations

SEI Headquarters

Heidi Tuhkanen
Heidi Tuhkanen

Senior Expert (Green and Circular Economic Transformations Unit)

SEI Tallinn

Albert Salamanca
Albert Salamanca

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Asia

Profile picture of Frank Thomalla
Frank Thomalla

SEI Affiliated Researcher

SEI Asia

Profile picture of Jon Ensor
Jon Ensor


SEI York

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