2.3 Towards resilience, legitimacy and efficiency

2A wide variety of strategies exists and there are considerable differences between the strategies that countries apply. One may wonder in what direction the current set of strategies and measures in a country could be improved. Or in other words: What can be considered an improvement?

The answer to this question is twofold. Firstly, there are no ‘one size fits all’ solutions. What is considered an improvement depends on societal and political preferences and on the specific physical and societal context: Which types of floods are encountered? How significant is the risk? What flood risks are acceptable, and to whom? How far does society want to reduce flood risk? At what (societal) cost? What measures are implemented already? And what are the physical and institutional boundary conditions determining what is possible in the future?

Secondly, we can provide the reader with generally desirable outcomes that indicate possible ways forward, based on the state of the art in literature on disaster risk management and governance (STAR-FLOOD Deliverable 3.3, see §8.2.1). This section describes three desired outcomes for flood risk management and their underlying criteria – resilience, legitimacy and efficiency. They can help to determine in which direction to improve. The criteria can be applied to select strategies and measures, as well as to design improved governance arrangements (see next chapter).

Thus, the general outcomes and criteria are to be handled with care. They provide inspiration for improvement rather than judgement. The outcomes and underlying criteria are explained in more detail below.

2.3.1 Resilience

Resilience can be divided into three components: the capacity to resist floods, ability to absorb and recover and adaptive capacity. Capacity to resist is defined as the ability to prevent flood hazards from occurring, typically through the use of flood defences. This might be seen as ‘the first line of defence’.

The next ‘line of defence’ and the next facet of resilience is the ability to absorb and recover from flood events. This ability is important, because flood events can always occur, no matter how good flood defences are. It offers the possibility for (relatively) safe failure, just like the airbag in a car. The ability can be improved by measurse that mitigate the consequences in case of a flood event and enable a good recovery. For instance, economic damage in case of a flood can be reduced by flood adapted building (before a flood); inhabitants can be evacuated according to evacuation plans (during a flood); and insurance schemes can enable a faster recovery after the flood. Indirectly, insurance schemes can also promote individual risk prevention and mitigation, for example by offering cheaper insurance policies to property owners who take measures to limit damage. This enables communities to overcome flood events and return to ‘business as usual’ with as little disruption as possible.

A third facet of resilience is adaptive capacity, or the capacity to learn, innovate and improve flood risk management.

2.3.2 Efficiency

Efficiency is a desired outcome that emphasises that flood risk management and governance should use resources (economic, human, and technological) in an efficient manner; maximising desired outputs and minimising required inputs. Economic efficiency focuses on the use of financial resources. The broader criterion of resource efficiency focuses on other types of resources such as technology, infrastructural assets and human resources (e.g. knowledge, skills and personnel).[1]

2.3.3 Legitimacy

Legitimacy can be defined as the societal acceptance of the input, process and output of flood risk management and related governance arrangements. It includes many aspects: accountability, transparency, social equity, participation, access to information, procedural justice and acceptability.  For instance, the decision-making process and relevant information should be transparent, so all affected stakeholders can see how decisions are made. Furthermore, there should be opportunities for various stakeholders to participate at relevant points in the decision-making process. All stakeholders should be able to challenge decisions made and the rule of law should be secured. Finally, cost and benefits should be distributed in a fair manner among stakeholders.

[1] NB. Effectiveness, or achievement of the goals set, is an underlying condition for both resilience and efficiency. Therefore, it is also important to improve the effectiveness of flood risk management and governance.