SDC-52306 Urban Disaster Governance and Resilience


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Group work4
Excursion (one day)8
Course coordinator(s)dr. RJ Coates
Lecturer(s)dr. JF Warner
dr. RJ Coates
Examiner(s)dr. JF Warner
dr. RJ Coates

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

Another social science or development studies course, especially relating to the environment. Participation in SDC-35306 Natural Hazards and Disasters would be beneficial.

Continuation courses:

SDC-34306 Conflict, Development and Disaster; SDC-34806 Humanitarian Aid and Reconstruction; SDC-31306 Property Rights, Natural Resources and Conflict; SDC-30806 Political Ecologies of Natural Resource Distribution; ENP-36806 Governance for Sustainable Cities; LUP-32806 Political Dilemmas of Spatial Planning


This course is part of the Minor Disaster Risk and Resilience, but is also available as a stand-alone course option. It addresses urban disaster governance and resilience in both practical and theoretical ways, and aims to sensitise students to the complexity of factors that contribute to the impact of disasters and to the multi-dimensional nature of urban disaster risk management and recovery. Responding to the reality that urbanisation is taking place at a planetary scale, the course engages students in a conceptual discussion about urban societal resilience and its relationship to vulnerability, drawing on issues of inequality, land degradation, social organisation and governance.

While the concepts of vulnerability and resilience are linked to ecologies of land use and climate change, they also describe social processes, caused by and impacting upon the ways that affected populations are organised and how they relate to each other and to government institutions. Central questions throughout the lectures are on the one hand how the make-up of societies and their governance feed into urban disasters, and, on the other, how these disasters may change the make-up of societies and of the states that govern them. Building on the broad knowledge base created in the course Natural Hazards and Disasters, the course provides a more in-depth treatment of how urban societies create, cope with and recover from disaster. Ideas such as community capacity, social capital, and post-disaster learning are related to broader governmental and political economic factors. Can cities be made 'disaster-proof' or 'smart' just through policy production? Can resilience-building programmes effectively deal with the (often) highly politicised causes of risk? The devastating impacts of hazards in fragile settings characterised by political marginalisation, demonstrates the challenging contexts within which disaster risk reduction policies try to work.

The course thus offers students tools to analyse how societies produce and are impacted by urban crises, as well as how social institutions change post-disaster. Why are disasters sometimes perceived as turning points towards inclusive citizenship, and why are opportunities missed in other instances? Emphasis is placed on the non-western contexts within which much recent urban sprawl has taken place, although key examples from western countries are also discussed. An important part of the course is a group assignment in which students analyse a particular case and propose how resilience might be enhanced.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- explain and contrast the concepts of urban resilience and vulnerability;
- understand links and interactions between urban development, disaster risk and governance processes;
- assess the impact of disasters on changes in governance and urbanization;
- analyse the place of social capital, community, and government institutions in disaster response;
- apply learning from the course to design and evaluate proposals for enhancing societal resilience to crises.


- lectures and seminars with active participation of students;
- a video film with active discussion;
- supervised tutorials and group work; 
- one-day practical assignment/excursion.


- written exam (60%);
- group case study report (30%);
- active participation during lectures, seminars and case study presentations (10%).


Will be made available at start of course online.

Compulsory for: WUDIRBSc Minor Disaster Risk and Resilience6MO