The urban domino effect: a conceptualization of cities’ interconnectedness of risk, Input paper

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Cities are both at risk and the cause of risk. The interconnectedness of urban features and systems increases the likelihood of complex disasters and a cascade or ‘domino’ effect from related impacts. However, the lack of research means that our knowledge of urban risk is both scarce and fragmented. This paper presents a framework for understanding and addressing urban risk. It examines the unique dynamics of risk in urban settings and exemplifies its particularities with data and analysis of specific cases. From this, it identifies improvements both in the content and indicators of the successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA2) that will be adopted in 2015. While it is common to see disasters as ‘causes’, and the destruction of the built environment as ‘effects’, this paper highlights that the intricate links between cities and disasters cannot be described by a unidirectional cause-and-effect relationship. The city–disasters nexus is a bidirectional relationship, which constantly shapes, and is shaped by, other processes (such as climate change). This paper demonstrates how the characteristics of the urban fabric (physical/ spatial, environmental, social, economic and political/ institutional) and related systems increase risk by: (i) intensifying hazards or creating new ones, (ii) exacerbating vulnerabilities, and (iii) negatively affecting existing response and recovery mechanisms. We argue that in-depth knowledge of the links between cities’ characteristic features, related systems and disasters is indispensable for addressing root causes and mainstreaming risk reduction into urban sector work. It enables city authorities and other urban actors to improve and adapt their work without negatively influencing the interconnectedness of urban risk.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGlobal assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015
PublisherThe United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


  • resilience
  • cities
  • urban planning
  • risk reduction


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