Determining public policy and resource allocation priorities for mitigating natural hazards: A capabilities-based approach

Science and Engineering Ethics 13 (4):489-504 (2007)
This paper proposes a Capabilities-based Approach to guide hazard mitigation efforts. First, a discussion is provided of the criteria that should be met by an adequate framework for formulating public policy and allocating resources. This paper shows why a common decision-aiding tool, Cost-benefit Analysis, fails to fulfill such criteria. A Capabilities-based Approach to hazard mitigation is then presented, drawing on the framework originally developed in the context of development economics and policy. The focus of a Capabilities-based Approach is protecting and promoting the well-being of individuals. Capabilities are dimensions of well-being and specified in terms of functionings. Functionings capture the various things of value an individual does or becomes in his or her life, including being alive, being healthy, and being sheltered. Capabilities refer to the real achievability of specific functionings. In the context of hazard mitigation, from a Capabilities-based Approach, decision- and policy-makers should consider the acceptability and tolerability of risks along with the affectability of hazards when determining policy formulation and resource allocation. Finally, the paper shows how the proposed approach satisfies the required criteria, and overcomes the limitations of Cost-benefit Analysis, while maintaining its strengths.
Keywords Capabilities  Capabilities-based Approach  Natural Hazards  Mitigation
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    Amartya Sen (2004). Elements of a Theory of Human Rights. Philosophy and Public Affairs 32 (4):315 - 356.
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