Chapter 1. Analytical framework for disaster risk management in Southeast Asia

Chapter 1 delineates the scope and methodology of the study and provides the definition of key terms such as resilience and disaster risk.

The scope of the study aims i) to identify policy challenges related to disaster risk management (DRM) in differing geographic, socio-economic and environmental contexts of Southeast Asian cities; ii) to assess the impacts of current DRM policy practices; and iii) to propose more efficient and effective policy options to policymakers and implementation partners in Asia in order to enhance urban resilience.

The methodology consists primarily of three key pillars: i) questionnaire; ii) meetings and interviews held during study missions to the five case study cities; and iii) five knowledge sharing workshops and several more associated policy forums.

Together, the scope, definitions, and methodology constitute the analytical framework for DRM in Southeast Asia.



Southeast Asian cities are particularly vulnerable to risks related to natural disasters. In particular, they are prone to flooding caused by unusually intense rainstorms as well as the rise in sea level, both related to climate change. Such natural disasters not only severely affect the life of urban dwellers and the local environments, but also negatively affect economic growth. People living in slums and informal settlements are particularly vulnerable to these risks. They often live in hazardous locations such as flood plains, steep hillsides or low-lying coastal areas without sufficient protection against floods, proper drainage, waste removal and roads. The consequences of a major flood or storm can be devastating in such areas and can slow urban development and the pursuit of social equity considerably. Vulnerability is also affected by social and economic factors, such as a lack of land tenure rights, informal employment and a lack of social protection. Managing such natural disaster risks is an essential component of urban policies in fast-growing Asian cities (Matsumoto and Daudey, 2014). Recognising the complexity and uncertainty associated with climate change predictions and other natural disasters, disaster risk management (DRM) is becoming a key concept to enhance urban resilience in Southeast Asian cities.

This study assesses DRM policies at national and subnational levels to enhance urban resilience in Southeast Asian cities. It was conducted as part of the OECD Urban Green Growth in Dynamic Asia project under the OECD Green Cities Programme and supported by the Global Initiative on Disaster Risk Management (GIDRM) (Box 1.1). It aims: i) to identify policy challenges related to DRM in differing geographic, socio-economic and environmental contexts of Southeast Asian cities; ii) to assess the impacts of current DRM policy practices; and iii) to propose more efficient and effective policy options to enhance urban resilience to policymakers and implementation partners in Asia. A particular focus is placed on identifying policy synergies and complementarities between DRM and urban green growth policies.

Box 1.1. Urban Green Growth in Dynamic Asia project and Global Initiative on Disaster Risk Management

The OECD Urban Green Growth in Dynamic Asia project has emerged as the second phase of the OECD Green Cities Programme. While the first phase of the Programme studied four OECD cities – Paris (France), Chicago (United States), Stockholm (Sweden) and Kitakyushu (Japan), as well as Korea and China, the second phase focuses on fast-growing cities in Southeast Asia. The project explores how to promote green growth in cities in Asia, examining policies and governance practices that encourage environmental sustainability and competitiveness in a rapidly expanding economy. The main aim is to assist Southeast Asian cities in decoupling economic growth from environmental stress, and to promote a long-term trajectory of sustained growth. Assessing DRM policies to enhance urban resilience, and proposing more efficient and effective policy options to policymakers and implementation partners in Asia, is at the core of the project. The project has been supported by the OECD Knowledge Sharing Alliance (KSA) as one of the KSA pilot projects. KSA was created in January 2013, in partnership with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ) and Korean Ministry for Strategy and Finance (MOSF). It aims to leverage the OECD’s multi-disciplinary expertise for engaging in conversations and mutual learning processes with emerging and developing economies, and to increase its impact by working closely with multi-lateral and bilateral organisations with field presence and implementation capacities and/or on the ground networks.

The Global Initiative on Disaster Risk Management (GIDRM) was founded by the German Government and is led by BMZ to strengthen Germany’s contribution to improved DRM worldwide. The initiative has three priority areas: (1) Strengthening Disaster Response Preparedness and Civil Protection; (2) Resilient Critical Infrastructure and Economic Cycles; and (3) Effective Early Warning Systems. GIDRM brings together German and regional experts from the public and private sector, academia and civil society to facilitate mutual learning across regions as well as to develop and implement innovative solutions. GIDRM clusters German competencies in the field of DRM and helps to match the demand for specialised services and technologies more effectively. GIDRM has worked extensively in Southeast Asia covering resilience in the tourism sector (Maldives, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand), integrating fire prevention and safety in industrial clusters (Bangladesh), installation of local early warning systems for floods (Philippines), introducing the suitability model (Phi, Viet Nam) and strengthening the resilience of small and medium sized enterprises (Thailand).

Source: GIDRM, 2018; OECD, 2016.

This study also provides insights into the ongoing discussion around the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), particularly the Goal 11 on ‘making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is also relevant for Southeast Asia’s urban leaders and decision makers. It helps to reflect on how to make the best use of their cities’ limited human and financial resources in order to balance rising demand for better urban services and the need for economic development with increasing disaster risks. In many cases, these three complementary goals will form part of a ‘triple win’ policy framework. However, certain urban development targets may not always be in alignment with other local and national economic policy goals. For example, although urban resilience is a fundamental principal of the sustainable urban development agenda, the channelling of resources towards initiatives that build stronger resilience may conflict with a city’s short-term economic development. At the same time, increasing disaster risks threaten cities’ long-term urban development goals, and necessitate targeted investment in sustainable policy initiatives and infrastructure, as well as a rethinking of current business-as-usual (BAU) practices.

The study consists of five city-based case studies from multiple countries in Southeast Asia that reflect various geographical, socio-economic and environmental contexts (Table 1.1). The five cities were Bandung (Indonesia), Bangkok (Thailand), Cebu (Philippines), Hai Phong (Viet Nam) and Iskandar (Malaysia). All five cities face similar natural disaster risks to many other Asian cities, but with substantial differences in their urban policy contexts. Each case study analyses the same elements based on the information received through a questionnaire, meetings and semi-structured interviews with key actors (policymakers from local/regional/national governments, academics and researchers, business community, civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations, etc.).

This paper is divided into two parts and continues as follows. The first part is a synthesis part, which introduces the assessment framework and presents key findings from the assessment of the five case study cities. The second part is the summary of the assessment of each of the five case study cities.

Table 1.1. Overview of the five case study cities


Population (million)

Annual population growth

Area (km2)

Density (people/ km2)

Gross Regional Product (PPP)

Gross Regional Product per capita (PPP)

Bandung (Bandung Metropolitan Area)

8.6 (2015)

1.94% (2000-2010)

3 509

2 452

USD 54.8 billion (IDR 78.25 trillion) in 2012 (constant 2000 prices)

USD 7 490 (IDR 10.69 million) in 2012 (constant 2000 prices)

Bangkok (Bangkok Metropolitan Region)

14.5 (2010)

0.9% (2004-2014)

7 762

1 347

USD 443.3 billion (THB 5.4 trillion) in 2012 (constant 2005 prices)

USD 29 540 (THB 359 798) in 2012 (constant 2005 prices)

Cebu (Metro Cebu)

2.8 (2015)

2.9% (2000-2010)

1 163

2 450

USD 16.4 billion (PHP 225 billion) in 2012 (constant 2000 prices)

USD 5 084 (PHP 69 700) in 2012 (constant 2000 prices)

Hai Phong (City)

2.0 (2015)

1.0% (2000-2010)

1 527

1 284

USD 13.0 billion (VND 73 967 billion) in 2013 (constant 2010 prices)

USD 3 940 (VND 22 million) in 2015

Iskandar (Malaysia)

2.0 (est. 2015)

3.7% (2005-2015)

2 300


USD 37.8 billion (RM 49.9 billion) in 2013 (constant 2005 prices)

USD 19 262 (RM 27,631) in 2013 (constant 2005 prices)

Source: OECD (2016), Urban Green Growth in Dynamic Asia, OECD Publishing, Paris,


Resilience has been defined in a number of ways contingent upon specific thematic foci and/or policy goals. Although many definitions of ‘resilience’ have much in common, there remain nonetheless subtle differences between them. For the purposes of this paper, this study utilises the OECD’s definition of resilience as ‘the ability of households, communities and nations to absorb and recover from shocks, whilst positively adapting and transforming their structures and means for living in the face of long-term stresses, change and uncertainty’ (OECD, 2013). The OECD Recommendation on the Governance of Critical Risks similarly defines resilience as the “ability to resist, absorb, recover from or successfully adapt to adversity or a change in conditions” (OECD, 2014).

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) emphasises that the presence of risk and uncertainty is common to all social-ecological systems (GIZ, 2016). In its “broadest sense, resilience can be understood as the ability of a social-ecological systems to deal with shocks and stresses” (GIZ, 2016). Although earlier definitions of resilience have emphasised ‘the capacity of a system to tolerate disturbance without changing state’ (Levina and Tirpak, 2006), the UNISDR (2009) defines resilience as the “ability of a system, community or society exposed to hazards to resist, absorb, accommodate to and recover from the effects of a hazard in a timely and efficient manner, including through the preservation and restoration of its essential basic structures and functions”. More recent definitions developed by the IPCC (among others) have stated that “resilience of social-ecological systems [need to] expand beyond these concepts to include the ability to self-organise, learn, and adapt over time” (Lavell, et al., 2012).

Urban resilience must be tailored to meet specific local policy needs given a variety of geographic, socio-economic and environmental variables found in cities. A local policy agenda promoting urban resilience that may be appropriate in Bandung, Indonesia is not necessarily viable in Cebu, Philippines, and inversely. Hence, a resilient city is prepared to maintain functional systems that continue to meet the primary needs of its urban communities at times of stresses or shocks and is able to recover quickly through the provision of critical urban services. It does this through the long-term development and management of “hard” and “soft” infrastructure, with policy strategies tailored to types of stresses and shocks. Such an approach may also be relevant to human settlements not necessarily classified as ‘urban’ across Southeast Asia.

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) emphasises that while hazards are natural, disasters are not. An earthquake occurring in an unpopulated area is a hazard; when it affects a large city with poorly built housing stock and unsafe settlement patterns, it exposes the local population to significant risk and may become a disaster (UNISDR, 2011). It should be emphasised that certain natural disasters, especially intense hydrological and meteorological events, are exacerbated by anthropogenic climate change (Thomas, et al., 2015). At the same time, accelerating levels of badly-managed urbanisation are placing greater numbers of people in ‘harm’s way’, on steep hillsides and unstable soils or along flood-prone river banks and in earthquake zones. However, the increasing level of risk experienced by Southeast Asian cities is less connected to their exposure to environmental hazards, and rather more connected to four main factors: climate change, rapid urbanisation, poverty, and environmental degradation (UNISDR, 2011).

Exposure and vulnerability are dynamic and depend on economic, social, geographic, demographic, cultural, institutional, governance and environmental factors. As previously mentioned, they are often the result of skewed development processes associated with, for example, environmental degradation, rapid and unplanned urbanisation in hazardous areas, and limited options of livelihoods for the poor (IPCC, 2012). Many cities in Southeast Asia are expected to undergo rapid demographic, economic and urban change, implying that a concerted policy response to the environmental hazards they face can significantly increase their resilience. It would hence be desirable to understand a number of basic principles applicable to the risks that endanger lives, livelihoods, property and other assets. These include shared problem-solving, risk mapping, community and private sector engagement, and inclusive decision-making. This study uses the IPCC’s disaster risk framework as the starting point for its assessment (Figure 1.1), but focuses less on the risks themselves and rather on the institutional frameworks, governance structures and policy approaches affecting each city’s DRM strategy to enhance urban resilience.

Figure 1.1. Disaster risk framework

Note: In the source document mentioned below, exposure is defined as “the presence of people; livelihoods, environmental services and resources; infrastructure; or economic, social, cultural assets in places that could be adversely affected”. Vulnerability is defined as “the propensity or predisposition to be adversely affected”. In the case of the BMR, it is difficult to assess the future impact of climate change on local precipitation and the likelihood of floods. Some studies suggest that precipitation and flood volumes will increase in the region in future (Panya Consultants Co. Ltd., 2009).

Source: IPCC (2012), Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation. A Special Report of Working Groups I and II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Field, C.B., V. Barros, T.F. Stocker, D. Qin, D.J. Dokken, K.L. Ebi, M.D. Mastrandrea, K.J. Mach, G.-K. Plattner, S.K. Allen, M. Tignor, and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, and New York, NY, USA, 582 pp.

This paper argues that the following three steps are required to institute effective DRM. These steps will help Southeast Asian cities to better manage the worst disaster risks when they strike, thus making them more resilient:

  1. 1. Preparation: Preparation incorporates the crucial early stages of hazard identification and strategic policy formation. A lack of preparation exacerbates the risks posed by environmental hazards that may otherwise be avoided because it does not set in motion more advanced DRM practices. Preparation provides a foundation to manage and limit damage, also considering the cost and time required to recover from a natural disaster. Effective preparation should also identify governance challenges and potential cross-sectoral co-ordination partners, in addition to generating public awareness.

  2. 2. Prevention: Prevention should be proactive and reduce exposure to disaster risks in the long-term through regulation, fiscal instruments as well as investment in resilient urban infrastructure. For instance, risk-sensitive land use could direct urban development to areas that will not be exposed to regular flooding, such as floodplains.

  3. 3. Response: Response should facilitate a city’s recovery from natural disasters. To be most effective, careful policy co-ordination and planning should occur in advance to ‘build back better’ rather than lapsing into a process known as ‘reconstructing vulnerability’. Insurance and contingency funds are fundamental components of effective response planning, to prepare for unexpected costs arising from natural disasters. Both the public and private sector should contribute to the design and implementation of policies to enhance disaster response. For example, while insurance is normally provided by the private sector, national and local governments create market conditions and can provide contingency lines of credit to complement private insurance in areas where insurance would be socially desirable but is not provided by the private sector.


The study is based on the following methodology: i) questionnaire; ii) meetings and interviews held during study missions to the five case study cities; and iii) five knowledge sharing workshops and several more associated policy forums.

Quantitative and qualitative data was collected through a questionnaire. In partnership with local teams, a questionnaire was sent to all participating cities in advance, which aimed to provide the OECD Secretariat with specific information relevant to each case study city (metropolitan area). The information collected by the OECD was used to compare the case study cities, as well as other OECD and non-OECD metropolitan areas, and to assess DRM policies in each city. Specific questions focusing on DRM can be grouped into three sections: i) local characteristics of natural disasters; ii) DRM policies to enhance urban resilience; and iii) governance (Table 1.2). The information obtained through the questionnaire was further elaborated on and enhanced by interviews and meetings held during the respective study missions.

Table 1.2. Questionnaire used for the study

1. Local characteristics of natural disasters

  • Human losses due to past natural disasters (specifying the types of natural disasters involved)

  • Economic impact (real value in USD and as a share of urban GDP) of past natural disasters (specifying the types of natural disasters involved);

  • The locations within the metropolitan region most affected by past natural disasters in terms of economic and human impacts;

  • The key elements influencing local vulnerability to natural disasters (e.g. low elevation of coastal zones, subsidence, settlements in disaster-prone areas, socio-economic status, etc.);

2. DRM Policies to enhance urban resilience at the national and local levels

  • Existing studies identifying risks and vulnerability, environmental hazards and the potential impact of natural disasters on the metropolitan area;

  • Policy instruments responding to i) preparation and ii) prevention and iii) response planning (e.g. policies relating to land use, infrastructure, use of ICT, etc.);

  • Policy instruments to increase the adaptive capacity of low-income households;

  • Policy instruments to promote ‘climate-proofing’ of property and other assets, as well as places of significant cultural, historical, or religious importance; and

  • Policy instruments to enhance complementarities and synergies between different urban policy objectives, such as eco-based adaptation measures;

3. Governance

  • Identification of departments/ agencies responsible for urban planning, vulnerability mapping/planning, disaster risk management (preparedness, response, and recovery/reconstruction), economic growth or development, and the budget;

  • Horizontal co-ordination of these government agencies with each other and other relevant agencies;

  • Vertical co-ordination and integration of planning and response mechanisms (e.g. national spatial and regional planning) and international assistance agencies/organisations;

  • Level of interaction with and participation between relevant government agencies and non-governmental and civil society organizations (NGOs/CSOs), and the private sector in problem-solving, decision-making processes;

  • Existing financial assets, special funds, or ex-ante insurance policies specifically dedicated to addressing the financial requirements of disaster preparation, response and recovery.

Five knowledge sharing workshops were held between August 2014 and December 2015, in addition to several other policy forums (Table 1.3). Around 300 high-level government representatives, predominantly from Southeast Asia, as well as senior management from other relevant international organisations and research institutions participated in these knowledge sharing workshops and forums. These events have acted as a platform to discuss key policy approaches and identify challenges and obstacles to achieve urban resilience / DRM as an integral component of an urban green growth agenda. The main objective of these workshops has been to learn by exchanging and sharing policy practices between government representatives from OECD nations and fast-growing Asian urban contexts.

The unit of analysis for the case study cities was the functional urban area, as defined by the European Commission and the OECD (OECD, 2012). A FUA typically goes beyond the administrative border of a city’s core municipality and includes other surrounding districts. It usually provides a more accurate and internationally comparable indication of an urban area’s size and economic prosperity. This analytical tool could also be used for DRM purposes. For example, it could be utilised to redefine and extend city boundaries to better reflect the FUA which would lead to more coherent metropolitan DRM strategies and plans. However, such data was often not available and instead, the local teams provided alternative information to define the FUA of their metropolitan area. Once the FUA was defined, the local team was then asked to provide data and information corresponding to their FUA, where available.

Table 1.3. OECD knowledge sharing workshops and policy forums (2014-15)




Urban Green Growth and Climate Change Resilience in Bangkok

August 2014

Bangkok, Thailand

Spatial development strategies in Iskandar Malaysia: how to plan, manage and maintain local assets under rapid urbanisation?

November 2014

Iskandar (Malaysia)

Smart Cities and Green Growth

May 2015

Bandung, Indonesia

Green Growth in Port Cities

June 2015

Hai Phong, Viet Nam

Creating a Sustainable and Resilient Cebu: Land use, water and metropolitan governance in the context of rapid urbanisation

December 2015

Cebu, Philippines

Policy Forum on Urban Green Growth in Dynamic Asia from Concept to Implementation Agenda

June 2014

Paris, France

Japan-OECD Policy Forum on Urban Development and Green Growth

October 2014

Tokyo, Japan

Climate Resilience and Disaster Risk Management in Asian Cities (COP21 Side event)

December 2015

Paris, France

Green Growth and Sustainable Urban Development (COP21 Side event)

December 2015

Paris, France

Source: OECD (2016), Urban Green Growth in Dynamic Asia, OECD Publishing, Paris,


GIDRM (2018), Global Initiative on Disaster Risk Management, (accessed 29 August 2018).

GIZ (2016), Assessing and Monitoring Climate Resilience: From Theoretical Considerations to Practically Applicable Tools – A Discussion Paper, available at: (accessed 31 August 2018).

IPCC (2012), Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation. A Special Report of Working Groups I and II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Field, C.B., V. Barros, T.F. Stocker, D. Qin, D.J. Dokken, K.L. Ebi, M.D. Mastrandrea, K.J. Mach, G.-K. Plattner, S.K. Allen, M. Tignor, and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, and New York, NY, USA, 582 pp.

Lavell, A., M. Oppenheimer, C. Diop, J. Hess, R. Lempert, J. Li, R. Muir-Wood, and S. Myeong (2012), “Climate change: new dimensions in disaster risk, exposure, vulnerability, and resilience”. In: Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation [Field, C.B., V. Barros, T.F. Stocker, D. Qin, D.J. Dokken, K.L. Ebi, M.D. Mastrandrea, K.J. Mach, G.-K. Plattner, S.K. Allen, M. Tignor, and P.M. Midgley (eds.)] (2012), A Special Report of Working Groups I and II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, and New York, NY, USA, pp. 25-64.

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