What drives relocation policies in the Maldives?

The predominant responses to rising sea levels are in situ adaptations. However, increasing rates of sea-level rise will render ex situ adaptations—in the form of relocations—inevitable in some low-lying coastal zones. Particularly small island states like the Maldives face this significant adaptation challenge. Here, government action is necessary to move vulnerable communities out of flood-prone areas. Yet, little empirical knowledge exists about the governance of relocations. While the literature often highlights risks and benefits of relocations, it remains unclear how governments organized relocations and what drove relocation policy. Therefore, we examined Maldivian relocation policies from 1968 to 2018 to explain government support of relocations. For this, we used a qualitative research design and extended the multiple streams approach with the theoretical lens of historical institutionalism. To gather data, we conducted semi-structured interviews (n = 23) with relocation policy experts and locals affected by relocations. Interview data was complemented with a desk review of relevant laws, historical records, and policy documents. We find 29 completed and 25 failed cases of relocations in the 50-year period. Key drivers of relocation policies are focusing events, socioeconomic development, and institutionalized island autonomy. We find that relocations were predominantly initiated as means to facilitate economic development, not as a response to rising seas or coastal risk. With current rapid economic development and strengthened democratic institutions, relocations are not considered as a policy option anymore. We conclude that implementing relocations proactively will face significant barriers in the future, which highlights the urgency of successful in situ adaptations in the Maldives.

The online version of the paper is accessible here

Gussmann, G., Hinkel, J. (2020). What drives relocation policies in the Maldives?. Climatic Change (2020). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2020.09.028

A framework for assessing the potential effectiveness of adaptation policies: Coastal risks and sea-level rise in the Maldives

Effective policies that integrate climate change considerations are crucial for successful adaptation to increasing climate risks. While there is an abundant normative literature proposing potential effective ways to adapt, there is a lack of empirical literature on current risk and adaptation policy and its potential effectiveness. Studying existing policies can help to reveal existing constraints, draw inferences about performance and design future policies. However, there is no established method for assessing risk management and adaptation policies. Addressing these gaps, we developed an analytical framework, combining and extending existing approaches, to assess the potential policy effectiveness in dealing with climate risks. The framework merges aspects of climate integration, policy coherence and compliance. Applying this framework to coastal risk management and coastal adaptation policies in the Maldives, we conducted a desk review of policy documents and semi-structured interviews with coastal policy experts and stakeholders. We find five policies addressing coastal risks and adaptation. One of these integrates sea-level rise considerations but is not legally binding. A key constraint on policy coherence are static approaches that ignore the variance in hydrodynamic hazard across the archipelago. Moreover, compliance is constrained by low capacities to monitor actual land use, political influence on the allocation of coastal protections and insufficient coastal protection budgets. Based on these findings, we expect that coastal policies are ill-prepared for dealing with sea-level rise and that scaling-up sea-level rise integration into policy is a critical first step towards improving this.

The online version of the paper is accessible here

Gussmann, G., Hinkel, J. (2021). A framework for assessing the potential effectiveness of adaptation policies: Coastal risks and sea-level rise in the Maldives. Environmental Science & Policy. Volume 115: 35-42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2020.09.028

New Paper on COVID-19 and Complexity

Although the first coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) wave has peaked with the second wave underway, the world is still struggling to manage potential systemic risks and unpredictability of the pandemic. A particular challenge is the “superspreading” of the virus, which starts abruptly, is difficult to predict, and can quickly escalate into medical and socio-economic emergencies that contribute to long-lasting crises challenging our current ways of life. In these uncertain times, organizations and societies worldwide are faced with the need to develop appropriate strategies and intervention portfolios that require fast understanding of the complex interdependencies in our world and rapid, flexible action to contain the spread of the virus as quickly as possible, thus preventing further disastrous consequences of the pandemic. We integrate perspectives from systems sciences, epidemiology, biology, social networks, and organizational research in the context of the superspreading phenomenon to understand the complex system of COVID-19 pandemic and develop suggestions for interventions aimed at rapid responses. View FULL PUBLICATION HERE

Keywords: complex systems; COVID-19; superspreading; networks; fast response; improvisation; interdisciplinary perspectives; transdisciplinarity; SARS-CoV-2; pandemic