Research conclusions and recommendations

STAR-FLOOD was set-up as a multi-disciplinary project, combining policy analysis and legal studies and employing a comparative approach from the outset. This has led to interesting conclusions and recommendations for improving flood risk governance in Europe. The STAR-FLOOD consortium has submitted its final report to the European Commission. In line with its starting assumption, the project has shown that flood resilience (capacity to resist floods, to absorb and recover from them, and to adapt) is enhanced through a diversification of flood risk management strategies. Countries differ in their approaches to diversification. In The Netherlands, Poland, France and Belgium, we see a desire to create a back-up layer of contingency. In England a diversity of strategies has been in place for several decades, while Sweden is currently diversifying due to climate change concerns. In most cases, however, the factual implementation of diversified strategies is lagging behind intentions as laid down in discussions and policy plans. While diversification enhances resilience, other factors have also been shown to be necessary. These include:
• The need for establishing connectivity between strategies, actors, levels and sectors through bridging mechanisms, including coordinating actors; procedural duties and instruments; formal rules and regulations; financial and knowledge resources and bridging concepts;
• The involvement of companies, community groups and citizens in flood risk management; their involvement is necessary both for substantive and normative reasons;
• The optimisation and enhanced enforcement/enforceability of existing rules and regulations, both at EU and national level;
• Different types of resources (finance, knowledge, skills, ICT tools, public support) that help societal actors to innovate, thus achieving more with less money.

Flood risk governance should not only increase societal resilience to flooding, but it should also be efficient and legitimate. Efforts to improve resource efficiency by increased application of (societal) Cost Benefit Analyses are underway in different countries, albeit to a different extent. In cases where Cost-Benefit Analysis is employed, due consideration is taken to resource efficiency. In terms of legitimacy, aided by international legal frameworks such as the Aarhus convention and EU law, the systems in the researched countries are relatively well-developed in matters related access to information and transparency; procedural justice and accountability, while there is room for improvement in areas such as social equity; public participation and acceptability.

On the basis of the empirical analysis, so-called design principles for societally resilient, resource efficient and legitimate flood risk governance arrangements have been developed. While it must be stressed that the aim has not been to find one-fits-all solutions for the management of flood risks, the following recommendations can be made:
• Action should be taken at all levels of governance to raise awareness among the citizens;
• Active citizen engagement should be promoted;
• The division of responsibilities between government levels and between the government and the citizens should be clarified;
• Effective bridging mechanisms across levels and sectors should be established;
• Enforcement mechanisms in spatial planning should be implemented;
• The use of property-level measures should be introduced;
• Where appropriate, the insurance scheme should be used to incentivize adaptive building;
• Action to promote learning and knowledge development should be promoted;
• Funding sources for flood risk management should be diversified by encouraging private-sector investment and aligning flood risk management to other policy goals to increase access to other funding streams;
• The legal responsibilities conferred by the Floods Directive should be clarified, and made a compulsory part of the flood risk management plans.

For the full reports, please visit the STAR-FLOOD reports page.

key conclusions