CONFERENCE – Crossing Borders: Governing Environmental Disasters in a Global Urban Age in Asia and the Pacific

  • 2015•11•06     Singapore

    Disasters are not readily contained within neatly drawn territorial boundaries. Both in their immediate impacts and in their compounding cascades, a disaster such as a chemical spill in a river or dangerous air pollution originating from a major metropolitan region can quickly spread across national borders. People displaced by an environmental disaster who are offered insufficient assistance at home can also migrate in great numbers across borders, mostly within nation-states but increasingly internationally. Often, too, compound disasters emanate from a single disaster, such as nuclear power plant meltdown that flows over borders to interrupt global supply chains, or a pandemic like Avian Flu or Ebola that generates high social and economic impacts around the world. As even remote regions are incorporated into a globalizing urban matrix of anthropogenic transformations of nature, the melting of the Himalayan glaciers associated with global climate change irreversibly alters seasonal access to water. This in turn exaggerates droughts, flooding, landslides and other seemingly more localized disasters which impact on food production for urban populations transcending administrative partitions across continental Asia and the Pacific.

    The purpose of this multidisciplinary conference is to examine the ways in which environmental disasters with compounding effects are being governed as they traverse sovereign territories across rapidly urbanizing societies in Asia and the Pacific. While cross-border disasters are becoming ever more frequent in our global age, the division of the world into nation-states has meant that environmental disruptions continue to be treated as domestic concerns. Yet when disasters do spill over territorial boundaries, governance structures and mechanisms must be improvised if disasters are to be mitigated. In many cases, borders heighten problems of cooperation and collaboration, even in such basic actions as information sharing. Further, local governments are rarely included in international cross-border disaster cooperative efforts, which tend to ignore local knowledge about how to generate resilience to disaster impacts.

    UNU-EHS Senior Expert, Matthias Garschagen, is one of the event’s conveners and presents a review on current approaches to cross-border disasters impacts as well as governance.

    The conference is organized by Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, in collaboration with Institute for Environment and Human Security, United Nations University (UNU-EHS), and Urban Knowledge Network Asia, International Institute of Asian Studies (UKNA-IIAS). Sponsored by Singapore Ministry of Education grant on ‘Governing Compound Disasters in Urbanizing Asia’.

    For more information on the conference, please click here.