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Climate Change and Conflict Policy Brief  No.46 - September, 2019

Urbanisation and Natural Disasters in Pacific Island Countries

The growth of urban populations in Pacific Island Countries is reflected in growing numbers of informal settlements with high levels of exposure and vulnerability to natural disasters. As urban populations grow and become increasingly dense, with large numbers living in informal settlements, the potential for major catastrophes is increasing. Despite this, most disaster risk management throughout the region still focuses on rural areas, reflecting historical practices and experience and some political preference for rural areas. There is a greater need in the region to develop measures that reduce people’s exposure to hazardous events in towns and cities, mostly by incorporating urban planning measures that discourage settlement in marginal and hazard-prone areas. This will be challenging given the complexity of land tenure arrangements throughout the region. It is also important that the root causes of people’s vulnerabilities are addressed, so that the processes by which they come to live in unsafe conditions can be understood and measures introduced to reduce people’s risks and losses. This policy brief focuses discussion on urban communities and concludes by outlining a number of activities which would contribute to reducing people’s exposure to hazardous events in Pacific Island towns and cities.