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North-West University (2019)

Disaster “problem” framing : a constructivist framework for disaster risk policy in Zimbabwe

Chipangura, Paul

Titre : Disaster “problem” framing : a constructivist framework for disaster risk policy in Zimbabwe

Auteur : Chipangura, Paul

Université de soutenance : North-West University

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy in Development and Management 2019

As disasters continue to be on the rise with devastating consequences globally, the need for effective disaster risk reduction policy has never been greater for the safety and well being of the citizenry. The process by which disaster risk reduction policy choices are made is thus fundamental in minimizing the devastating effects of disasters. This calls for understanding the dynamics of disaster risk “problem” framing in disaster risk policy making in order to effectively mitigate, prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. Of concern in disaster risk management has been whether disaster risk should be viewed as an objectively identifiable phenomenon (objectivism) or a subjective, socially constructed process (constructivism). However, little research has been done to understand what these frames mean for disaster risk policy designs, and with what, consequences for their implementation. This research effort thus sought to understand how disaster risk “problems” are framed and explore the implications of framing on policy formulation and implementation. It focused on the relation between disaster risk causality, disaster risk policy problem framing and policy responses in Zimbabwe. Understanding, disaster risk framing is critical because, framing influences how disaster risk policy problems are defined and constructed as well as how the governance arrangements developed to address the problems are designed. The empirical focus of this research was on the ongoing post-disaster experiences and perceptions of the at-risk people, policy makers and policy implementers in Zimbabwe. The research was guided by the interpretivism research approach because it is concerned with the understanding of collective social constructions of meaning and knowledge that are determined by political and social processes. The research used qualitative semi-structured interviews to seek out the views of practitioners and specialists in a deeper ma nner as well as to allow flexibility within the interview. In achieving the objectives of the study, four research articles were developed and they formed part of the thesis. Article 1 sought to understand how disaster risk is portrayed in objectivism and social constructivism perspectives. In objectivism, disaster risk is viewed as the real, quantifiable product of nature‟s impact on society ; independent from the social constructions of a society. Social constructivism reflect an emerging understanding that disaster risk while potentiated by a physical condition, are essentially a “social construction” the result of social choices, social constraints, and societal action and inaction. The article revealed that viewing and managing disasters through the lens of objectivism might not yield the desired results of minimising risk as it conceals vulnerabilities to disaster risk. The objectivist perspective is therefore in itself considered inadequate for the study of disaster risk and that social constructivism assumptions are required in order to analyse disaster risk. Article 2 sought to critically explore societal perceptions of disaster risk problems in Zimbabwe in order to give them meaning and render them manageable. The results of the study revealed that the Zimbabwe disaster risk management system is dominated by the hazard frame and rival frames such as vulnerability and theistic frames are silenced.


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