The Resilience of Islands: Borders and Boundaries of Risk Reduction

  • Karl Kim
  • Konia Freitas


Notions of space and time are keenly understood on small islands. It is the isolation from other communities which encourages awareness of risks as well as strengthens identity and the need for collective, collaborative action. Islands are not only exposed to many man-made and natural hazards and threats, the challenges of effective emergency response, humanitarian relief, and disaster recovery are exacerbated by location and limited transportation resources. In addition, understanding the geographies of risk and vulnerabilities, the capacity to cope with and manage natural and human caused threats and hazards is necessary for survival and sustainability. While islands have long developed mechanisms for managing internal social and political affairs, the challenges with globalization have created new opportunities and challenges. International trade and tourism have long exposed island communities to external forces, with climate change, sea level rise, and other global hazards. Islands need more than ever before to develop robust systems for emergency management, risk reduction, mitigation and adaptation. In addition to national systems for coordinating response and recovery, issues related to civilian-military interactions and exchanges between international organizations play out in the planning, exercises, and management of disasters. In addition to the place-based culture and systems of governance, institutional and organizational requirements are drawn into the mix, requiring effective communications, coordination and harmonization of procedures, policies, and approaches to risk management. There is a need for both generally agreed upon principles and standards as well as a capacity to learn and adapt to localized knowledge and systems. While disasters are seen as rare events, they actually reflect and embody many of the underlying characteristics, problems, and capabilities of the affected communities. Based on experiences in Hawaii, Samoa, Indonesia, and other small island communities, the resilience of islands is investigated. Cultural knowledge, traditional systems of community resource management, and efforts to sustain local knowledge, wisdom and practices amidst growing disparities in wealth, power, and access to information and technology suggest the need for greater awareness, improved training and capacity building, and stronger commitments on the part of island and international communities to disaster risk reduction. The chapter suggests strategies and opportunities for not just building resilience on island communities, but also applying the approaches to risk reduction and resilience to other communities. With the growing scale of disaster impacts, and increased demands for outside resources, disaster managers, planners, emergency response personnel, humanitarian relief workers and those involved in longer term recovery need to understand and manage the crossing of borders and boundaries of risk reduction.


Small islands Cross-border disaster governance Adaptation Resilience Capacity building Humanitarian interventions 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Urban & Regional PlanningUniversity of Hawaii at MānoaHonoluluUSA
  2. 2.Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian StudiesUniversity of Hawaiʻi at MānoaHonoluluUSA

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