Bottom‐up citizen initiatives as emergent actors in flood risk management: Mapping roles, relations and limitations

Publikation aus Life
Internationale Klimapolitik und Ökonomik

Seebauer S., Ortner S., Babcicky P., Thaler T.

Journal of Flood Risk Management 12(3), 1-17, 2019


The recent shift to individualisation of flood risk calls for a stronger involvement of private actors. Bottom‐up citizen initiatives (BUIs) may bring together governmental bodies with people at risk. Drawing on a screening of existing BUIs in Europe, North America, and Australia and an in‐depth analysis of three study sites, this paper maps BUI activities to stages in the risk management cycle and discusses the institutional, relational and social proximity between BUIs and other stakeholders. Flood BUIs often take over roles that the authorities are not willing or able to fulfil. BUIs emerge out of frustration with current risk policies, after a catastrophic flood event, government‐initiated engagement projects or targeted funding opportunities. BUIs can take different forms, ranging from oppositional pressure groups, self‐help movements for disaster response and recovery, to initiatives formally installed by law. While self‐organised BUIs benefit from high proximity to their home communities, formalised BUIs are deeper embedded in existing institutional structures. In order to gain a stronger voice in the risk debate, BUIs need to expand from the local level to catchment areas and exchange expertise and resources in nationwide or cross‐border networks. However, BUIs may create parallel political structures that are not democratically legitimised.

Keywords: citizen participation, civic protest, disaster risk management, flood action group, grassroots movement, risk governance