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Island Vulnerability
http://www.islandvulnerability.org/png.html

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Island Vulnerability explores the challenges which isolated geographies face when dealing with risk and disasters by examining the processes which create, maintain, and could be used to reduce their vulnerability. This page provides information from Jessica Mercer on vulnerability issues in Papua New Guinea (PNG) which is a SIDS (Small Island Developing State) from her PhD which was accepted in 2008.

Children under threat: HIV/AIDS education in Morobe Province.

Children under threat: HIV/AIDS education in Morobe Province.
(Copyright Jessica Mercer 2006.)


Integrating Indigenous and Scientific Knowledge for Disaster Risk Reduction in Small Island Developing States

By Jessica Mercer
Department of Human Geography, Division of Environmental and Life Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
This project was funded by an International Macquarie University Research Scholarship.
This PhD dissertation was accepted in 2008.

Indigenous communities in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are increasingly vulnerable to environmental hazards both as a result of intrinsic vulnerabilities and extrinsic factors such as climate change. Whilst scientific developments in the form of early warning systems, for example, have provided significant positive benefits to the field of disaster risk reduction, there has been a tendency to focus upon the physical components of risk rather than the human, societal and cultural factors which surround the risk. In many cases this has resulted in the failure of these strategies to impact upon those most vulnerable. In many cases, as with indigenous communities in SIDS, vulnerability to environmental hazards is increasing. This has resulted in an increased call within disaster risk reduction for the benefits of indigenous knowledge to be identified and utilised to reduce vulnerability to environmental hazards. However, whilst the benefits of indigenous knowledge are gradually being acknowledged there continues to be a gap in reaching the right people with the correct strategies for disaster risk reduction. This thesis starts to address the current gap within the disaster risk reduction literature by identifying how indigenous knowledge can be incorporated into disaster risk reduction and integrated with scientific knowledge.

Using participatory techniques, research for this thesis was carried out amongst three communities in Papua New Guinea, a Small Island Developing State. This was to evaluate changes in disaster risk reduction strategies, to establish current disaster risk reduction strategies utilised and to identify intrinsic, and extrinsic factors contributing to community vulnerability. A Process Framework was developed identifying an innovative way to integrate indigenous and scientific knowledge for disaster risk reduction in a culturally compatible and effective manner to reduce vulnerability of indigenous communities in SIDS to environmental hazards. This thesis discusses how this Process Framework could be utilised by disaster risk reduction practitioners working in partnership with indigenous communities to implement sustainable and effective disaster risk reduction strategies.

Remote school buildings in Morobe Province.

Remote school buildings in Morobe Province.
(Copyright Jessica Mercer 2006.)


Publications from this work:

Kelman, I., J. Mercer, and J. West. 2009. "Combining different knowledges: community-based climate change adaptation in small island developing states". Participatory Learning and Action Notes, no. 60, pp. 41-53, full text (211 kb in PDF).

Mercer, J. 2010. "Disaster risk reduction or climate change adaptation: Are we reinventing the wheel?" Journal of International Development, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 247-264, abstract (8 kb in PDF).

Mercer, J., D. Dominey-Howes, I. Kelman, and K. Lloyd. 2007. "The Potential for Combining Indigenous and Western Knowledge in Reducing Vulnerability to Environmental Hazards in Small Island Developing States". Environmental Hazards, vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 245-256, abstract (9 kb in PDF).

Mercer, J. and I. Kelman. 2007. "Combining indigenous and scientific knowledge for PNG disaster risk reduction". ISISA Newsletter (International Small Islands Studies Association), vol. 7, no. 2, p. 6, full text (9 kb in PDF).

Mercer, J. and I. Kelman. 2008. "Living with Floods in Singas, Papua New Guinea". Chapter on Papua New Guinea, pp. 46-51 in R. Shaw, N. Uy, and J. Baumwoll (eds.), Indigenous Knowledge for Disaster Risk Reduction: Good Practices and Lessons Learned from Experiences in the Asia-Pacific Region, United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction, Bangkok, Thailand, full text (614 kb in PDF).

Mercer, J. and I. Kelman. 2009. "Disaster Risk Reduction in Papua New Guinea: Integrating Indigenous and Scientific Knowledge". Chapter 21, pp. 293-311 in R. Shaw, A. Sharma, and Y. Takeuchi (eds.), Indigenous Knowledge and Disaster Risk Reduction: From Practice to Policy, Nova Publishers, Hauppauge, New York, U.S.A.

Mercer, J. and I. Kelman. 2010. "Living alongside a volcano in Baliau, Papua New Guinea". Disaster Prevention and Management, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 412-422, full text (166 kb in PDF, with kind permission of the publisher).

Mercer, J., I. Kelman, and J. Dekens. 2009. "Integrating Indigenous and Scientific Knowledge for Disaster Risk Reduction". Chapter 9, pp. 115-131 in R. Shaw, A. Sharma, and Y. Takeuchi (eds.), Indigenous Knowledge and Disaster Risk Reduction: From Practice to Policy, Nova Publishers, Hauppauge, New York, U.S.A.

Mercer, J., I. Kelman, K. Lloyd, and S. Suchet. 2008. "Reflections on Use of Participatory Research for Disaster Risk Reduction". Area, vol. 40, no. 2, pp. 172-183, abstract (7 kb in PDF).

Mercer, J., I. Kelman, S. Suchet-Pearson, and K. Lloyd. 2009. "Integrating indigenous and scientific knowledge bases for disaster risk reduction in Papua New Guinea". Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, vol. 91, no. 2, pp. 157-183, abstract (7 kb in PDF).

Mercer, J., I. Kelman, L. Taranis, and S. Suchet. 2010. "Framework for Integrating Indigenous and Scientific Knowledge for Disaster Risk Reduction". Disasters, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 214-239, abstract (8 kb in PDF).

Traditional house in Morobe Province.

Traditional (above) versus non-traditional (below) housing in Morobe Province. How have modern adaptations to traditional dwellings affected vulnerability? For example, the fire and health risk of a traditional thatched roof has been replaced by the risk of iron sheeting being blown loose during high winds.
(Both images are copyright Jessica Mercer 2006.)

Non-traditional house in Morobe Province.


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