The Role of Formal and Informal Insurance Mechanisms for Reducing Urban Disaster Risk: A South-North Comparison

Christine Wamsler, Nigel Lawson

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Climate change and disaster pose a serious and growing risk to sustainable urban development planning, with disasters having quadrupled in the last three decades. The extent of the changing climatic conditions, in combination with growing urbanisation, is making both Southern and Northern institutions and associated social security and governance systems increasingly inadequate in dealing with extreme weather events. This results in an urgent need to discover innovative ways to adapt “outdated” institutional responses and to increase local-level engagement. This paper analyses current risk financing mechanisms at local and institutional levels in both a Southern and a Northern city (San Salvador and Manchester respectively). The North’s dependency on insurance fails to contribute to resilience whereas the South’s reliance on nongovernmental aid organisations (NGOs) has driven a range of bottom-up approaches that support improved risk reduction. Although measures for risk financing are still not part of the NGOs’ repertoire, this provides lessons from which Northern cities could also learn.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-223
JournalHousing Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Bibliographical note

special issue on ‘Disasters, Housing and Actuarialism: On the Securitisation of Risk'

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Building Technologies
  • Other Civil Engineering


  • planning
  • insurance
  • risk financing
  • Disaster risk reduction
  • climate change
  • social housing


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