Citizen involvement experiments concerning the prevention and preparedness stage


Since the second half of the '80s, some experiments of a deep involvement of citizens in the prevention and preparedness of risk/disasters have been implemented, in particular in crisis mapping through the collection of information from many citizens showing the empirical importance of collecting "popular information" on environmental and social risks. An example among the first is a large project carried out by CERFE on the hydro-geological risk factors, made in Italy between 1986 and 1987, which resulted in an inventory of landslides in all municipalities at risk in this country, making use of knowledge locally available (CERFE 1987). Under several UN projects, a similar mapping of social and environmental risks has been developed in some parts of the world. A prototype of this kind of activity, the PRODERE program (Development Project for displaced, refugees and returnees) was thus applied in Central America by UNDP, UNOPS, PAHO, UNHCR and the ILO. The interaction between local communities and technicians led to the identification of a set of environmental and social risk factors affecting several communities involved in this program, and to their illustration on maps (UNDP 1996). Similar actions were carried out around the world, including Cambodia, Mozambique, Angola, and the Balkan region. The mapping of the environmental and social risks, therefore, can also rely on the popular information, based on the "somatic" memory (that is on internal and non-verbal), and "extra-somatic" (that is recorded in a document) of the populations inhabiting a given territory. Since then it has emerged, as a key issue, how popular information should be carefully considered by technicians (although it may be biased by their subjectivity). Convergence points can then be observed between "technical knowledge" and "popular knowledge".

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