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Christine Wamsler. Photo

Christine Wamsler

Professor, Docent, appointed Excellent Teaching Practitioner (ETP)

Christine Wamsler. Photo

Managing Urban Disaster Risk: Analysis and Adaptation Frameworks for Integrated Settlement Development Programming for the Urban Poor


  • Christine Wamsler

Summary, in English

The damage caused by the dramatic worldwide increase in ‘natural’ disasters is staggering, with the poor in developing countries being most at risk. Disasters make their already precarious living conditions worse, creating a vicious circle of poverty from which they find it hard to escape. To achieve sustainable poverty reduction, more and more attention has thus been given to the need to reduce disaster risk through development work. Despite related efforts, organisations working in urban settlement development still struggle to effectively tackle disaster risk in their daily work.

To address this challenge, the present research aims to demonstrate how disaster risk management could be integrated into settlement development programming (i.e. social housing, upgrading and/or local urban governance programmes). The re search methodology used is an innovative combination of case studies, grounded theory and systems analysis. Case studies of four settlement development programmes were carried out in 15 disaster-prone slum communities in El Salvador, Central America, and their wider context analysed at the municipal, national, and global levels. The outcomes were complemented and generalised with investigations in a series of other countries. The research methods included interviews, group discussions, walk-through analyses, observations, text reviews, questionnaires, research workshops and ‘hands-on’ practice.

This study shows, on the one hand, that while architects, planners and other urban development actors have the responsibility for developing secure and sustainable settlements, they have nevertheless been unconscious contributors to the increase in disaster risk. In fact, they can negatively influence all three components of risk: hazard(s), vulnerability, and coping capacity. The reasons for this relate to: (a) the lack of knowledge regarding the two-way and multifaceted relationship between disasters and urban settlement development; (b) the separation between the working fields of disaster risk management and settlement development planning from the local to the global level – as well as among these levels; and (c) the substantial gap between what households and communities need or do to cope with risk and disasters and the ways in which urban development actors support them. On the other hand, the research importantly demonstrates that urban development actors – through their programmes, organisational structures and mechanisms for social housing provision and financing – can offer a potentially powerful platform for effectively tackling disaster risk.

The empirical and theoretical knowledge developed by this re search is of an intra-, trans- and interdisciplinary/intersectoral nature. Based on the identification of the nexus between disasters and urban settlement development, and of the incomplete approaches to disaster risk management and its mainstreaming, analytical, conceptual and operational frameworks were elaborated. The resulting ‘Analysis and Adaptation Model’ combines seven strategies for the integration of disaster risk management into development programming with five complementary measures to reduce disaster risk. The model provides a comprehensive understanding of the meaning and scope of disaster risk management integration (which applies to the pre- and the post-disaster con text). This assists in both analysing organisations’ work and taking action to improve programme implementation. In conclusion, the research demonstrates how urban development actors working at the local, municipal, national and/or international level might exploit their potential to address the increasing disaster risk of the poor and thus enhance the sustainable reduction of both risk and poverty.


  • Housing Development and Management

Publishing year





HDM thesis series


Thesis 4

Document type



Housing Development & Management (HDM), Lund University


  • Architecture


  • poverty reduction
  • urban planning
  • vulnerability
  • adaptation
  • settlement development planning
  • development assistance
  • disaster
  • social housing
  • disaster risk management
  • prevention
  • mainstreaming
  • El Salvador
  • mitigation
  • risk accumulation
  • risk reduction



Research group

  • Housing Development and Management


  • Kerstin Barup


  • ISBN: 978-91-87866-31-9

Defence date

1 April 2008

Defence time


Defence place

Lecture hall B, at the Architecture School, Sölvegatan 24, Lund


  • Ian Davis (Prof)