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Flood Management and Equity: the missing piece in the policy puzzle

Working papers

Written by Peter Newborne

Debates on water policy tend to focus on scarcity of water, with comparatively little attention paid to analysis of policy frameworks for the management of floods. This Background Note focuses on the principles that determine how governments plan and invest for the protection of people, and property, from floods. This is a fundamental issue, yet it is a neglected part of the already limited debate on flood management.

Within this limited debate, the focus is on technical, economic and (to some extent) political aspects, without taking account of ethical dimensions. Although discussions of international perspectives, e.g. North-South responsibility for climate change, have included equity, the justice issues underlying the flood management policies of individual states are still neglected.

This Background Note is one of four prepared for World Water Day, 2009. It argues for further reflection on the ethical dimensions of public policies for flood protection. Comparative case studies of different approaches to flood protection in countries of the South and North are needed. These would map existing accountabilities, review the status of equity – referenced to theories of justice – and investigate adaptabilities to stress and shocks.

Peter Newborne