Analysing risk and vulnerability of South African settlements: attempts, explorations and reflections

16 August 2013

With the world’s urban population now estimated to be at 52% (United Nations 2012:1), towns and cities are increasingly becoming the stage where disaster risk has to be managed and mitigated. Understanding the risks and vulnerabilities in these complex socio-ecological systems thus becomes of utmost importance to be able to intervene in the underlying root causes, dynamic pressures and unsafe conditions. In this paper, the authors share their experience in, and reflect on, recent attempts at exploring integrated and place-specific risk and vulnerability analyses of settlements in South Africa. An overview is first provided of the attempt to develop multi-criteria indicators for integrated assessment of socio-economic vulnerability at a regional level. Secondly, an indication is provided of some first steps in interpreting projections for environmental risks and hazards in terms of possible implications for settlements at this regional level. The paper concludes with some reflections on the challenges and breakthroughs experienced in this exercise, as well as implications for on-going and future research.