KORE - Knowledge Sharing Platform on Resilience

Disaster Ethics Conference 2020

©FAO/Gianluca Gondolini
18/05/2020 20/05/2020


Copenhagen, 18th-20th of May 2020

Disasters and emergencies are becoming increasingly widespread and costly, causing great harm to many people. Their socio-economic repercussions reach far beyond their epicenters by means of migration as well as economic and environmental interconnectedness. There are many ethical issues and dilemmas related to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). How these are dealt with largely determine policies and methodologies ranging from risk analyses, to research, to humanitarian relief. Yet, they are often insufficiently recognized or dealt with, especially in the profession of emergency management to the detriment of both those who work as professionals and to disaster victims. Hence, our decision to hold a conference on disaster ethics with participants from academia, humanitarian organizations and emergency management agencies.


The purpose of this conference is to address the issue of disaster ethics, particularly within the field  of emergency management. Our point of departure is that ethical deliberations, both normative and descriptive, form an integral part of disaster management and that they should be more deeply integrated into risk assessments, all forms of DRR strategies, codes of conducts and disaster relief guidelines.

For example, risk assessments are complicated exercises with outcomes that are highly dependent upon choices of methodology (for example, how to conduct a cost-benefit analysis) and metric (such as economic loss, mortality, or loss of reputation), both of which are underlain by often-unstated values. However, a review of dozens of state, provincial and national risk assessments show that none of them include ethical analysis in their analysis, though ethical judgments are implicit in how they were designed and executed. These assessments, therefore, embody unstated assumptions, biases and values that require greater clarity than are currently provided. An ethical risk assessment must be explicit and transparent about how and why specific methodologies and metrics are chosen or excluded, and the implications of those choices

Through sharing experiences, presenting current research, and facilitated discussion, we intend to share knowledge between academics and practitioners, identify research priorities, and help create a better network of researchers and practitioners involved in this field. One of the explicit aims of the conference is to ground the more abstract concept of disaster ethics into practical guidelines. These guidelines should become engrained in the consciousness of researchers and practitioners alike.

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