Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Informal Disaster Governance

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Scholars and practitioners are increasingly questioning formal disaster governance (FDG) approaches as being too rigid, slow, and command-and-control driven. Too often, local realities and non-formal influences are sidelined or ignored to the extent that disaster governance can be harmed through the efforts to impose formal and/or political structures. A contrasting narrative emphasises so-called bottom-up, local, and/or participatory approaches which this article proposes to encapsulate as Informal Disaster Governance (IDG). This article theorises IDG and situates it within the long-standing albeit limited literature on the topic, paying particular attention to the literature’s failure to properly define informal disaster risk reduction and response efforts, to conceptualise their far-reaching extent and consequences, and to consider their ‘dark sides.’ By presenting IDG as a framework, this article restores the conceptual importance and balance of IDG vis-à-vis FDG, paving the way for a better understanding of the ‘complete’ picture of disaster governance. This framework is then considered in a location where IDG might be expected to be more powerful or obvious, namely in a smaller, more isolated, and tightly knit community, characteristics which are stereotypically used to describe island locations. Thus, Svalbard in the Arctic has been chosen as a case study, including its handling of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, to explore the merits and challenges with shifting the politics of disaster governance towards IDG.

Keywords:  Arctic; climate change; disaster governance; disaster risk reduction; policy change



© Patrizia Isabelle Duda, Ilan Kelman, Navonel Glick. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.