A Complexity Approach to Disasters and Humanitarian Crises

Humanitarian crises and related complex emergencies caused by natural hazards or conflicts are marked by uncertainty. Disasters are extreme events mitigated through preparedness, response, and recovery. This article uses social complexity theory as a novel framework for deriving actionable insights on the severity of disasters. Results from the complexity approach proposed in this article suggest a set of new insights and implications for basic research and policy analysis on humanitarian crises and disasters. The utility of such results is to illuminate, or ‘‘see,’’ the underlying process and generative dynamics of disasters, thereby increasing scientific and policy capacities for ‘‘seeing it coming.’’ This is why this is an analytical framework and process for making the unobservable observable (seeing it coming), as a hybrid methodology that is particularly suitable for understanding uncertainty—more precisely, the pattern of uncertainty and its possible causes—and risk by extracting new  information that is contained or encoded in any given sequence of disaster data. Such information is useful for improving preparedness, planning, and recovery. The hybrid nature of this approach results from a combination of statistical, mathematical, and computational procedures within a unified analytical methodology. The following discussion focuses on main findings and selected policy implications.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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