The elusive 'window of opportunity' for risk reduction in post-disaster recovery

This brief discussion note takes a critical look at assumptions that disaster risks are likely to be addressed in the course of post-disaster recovery efforts and was developed in particular to stimulate debate at the ProVention Forum to be held in Bangkok, Thailand in February 2006. These reflections are strongly informed by issues emerging in the ALNAP Tsunami Evaluation Coalition's review of linking relief, rehabilitation and development (LRRD), for which the author is writing the synthesis report. It also draws on experience in recovery from a number of other contexts. There is a common assumption that the post-disaster recovery phase provides a 'window of opportunity' for disaster risk reduction (DRR). This assumption is supported by the hypothesis that several factors can be capitalised upon, shortly after a disaster, to ensure that DRR is enhanced. The hypothesis is that DRR is more easily promoted after a disaster than before. Indeed, past experience shows that these factors are present after a disaster. They do create some pressures to reduce disaster risks. The question is whether they are enough. To a large extent the Window of Opportunity hypothesis has not proven to be accurate. There is evidence of a flurry of talk about DRR after many major disasters but, by the time recovery programmes are put into place, the prominence of DRR is rarely much higher than it was prior to the disaster.