3.3 Factors promoting stability or change

Flood risk management strategies and governance arrangements change over time. Knowledge of which factors lead to stability and which factors promote change is essential to be able to promote change and to promote change in the desired direction. Through literature review and analysis of stability and change in the six countries in the past decades, we found the main factors that can explain stability and change. They are related to: i) physical circumstances; ii) physical and social infrastructure; iii) structural factors; iv) agency and v) shock events (STAR-FLOOD Deliverable 4.1, see §8.2.1). In practice, changes can often only be explained by a set of interrelated factors. Some of these factors can be steered by stakeholders involved in flood risk management (each with their own circle of influence), others cannot. The table below presents factors that promote change and factors that promote stability in flood risk governance.

Table 3.2: Factors promoting stability and change

Promoting Stability Promoting Change
Difficult / Cannot be influenced
  • Large past investments in infrastructure (sunk cost)
  • Economic development level of country / available resources
  • General physical situation (e.g., types of flood threat)
  • Climate change, socio-economic change
  • (near) Flood events
  • Increasing cost of maintaining flood infrastructure (past investments)
  • Culture of learning, innovation and change
Can be influenced
  • Governance is centred in specific divisions of accepted responsibilities
  • Strong body of expert knowledge and strong epistemic community on existing strategies
  • Current legislation (formalization of rules and procedures)
  • Political norms and codes of conduct
  • Strong historical narratives
  • Public trust in existing institutions and their efficiency
  • Belief of efficiency of current strategies / arrangements
  • Current implementation gap
  • Decreasing legitimacy of current rules
  • New ideas, problem definitions and policy concepts
  • New knowledge and expertise (learning)
  • New rules such as EU Floods Directive
  • Entrepreneurs highlighting the sub-optimality of the current approach
  • Strong pressure by specific interests (actor coalitions)