Disaster – Conflict – Crisis Landscape in a Changing World

By January 9, 2013Report

Humankind is now in an unprecedented and extraordinary position. Never have in human history that life sustaining environment on earth rapidly changed in just one generation. Most of the changes are attributed to human activities. Less ecologically balanced economic and technological activities contributed to the rapid changes and can potentially raise conflicts through physical, biological and social interactions, into which the understanding of their processes are still in the early stage. While changes are continuing, the impact of such changes has been overlooked and continued to threaten exponentially the security and well-being of coming generations. One should also note that the concept of security has been expanded, notably since the end of the coldwar and the fall of the Berlin Wall. It now expands from the merely of state and military security down into environment and human security levels. To this end, energy, food, health and water securities are included which are more than just a matter of supply and demand issue, but even more of fundamental concern regarding the sustainability and resilience aspects within the environment and human security realm.

We should always remember that disasters, conflicts and crisis are never accidental, but rather be something to do with the mind of the people, particularly due to the so-called “the bystander attitude”. The three may be regarded as forming a tripartite family, with crisis as the end result of improper hazards and risks management.

The biogeodynamics of Indonesian archipelago and its paleoenvironment have made this earth segment provides unlimited opportunities to which modern mountain building processes can be studied in great detail. It also has been proved to be a fertile ground where a number of advanced and revolutionary paradigms on earth system sciences have been brought forward to the scientific and academic communities. Understanding the resulting geohazards, current global warming and climatic changes can be also be contributed to through fundamental, integrated and multidisciplinary research in this archipelago. Dramatic changes in the earth landscape and excessive use of its terrestrial and aquatic resources have brought to an unescapable changes in the dynamics of geosphere – biosphere – hydrosphere – atmosphere where mankind rely on their living and sustainable future.

The devastating effects of the 26 December 2004 tsunami are just vivid reminder that natural disasters can result in large losses of human lives and economic assets. But while events on that scale are, fortunately, quite rare, the worldwide frequency of recorded natural disasters has been rising substantially. From about 100 per decade in the period 1900-1940, to 650 per decade in the1960s and 2000 per decade in the 1980s, it reached almost 2800 per decade in the 1990s. Millions of people are killed, injured or displaced each year because of natural disasters, and property damage has been doubling about every seven years over the past 40 years.

With the marked growing frequency and magnitude of extreme environmental events (such as floods, landslides and drought) have intensified research interest in these natural and man induced hazards – in particular with regard to the level of risks they pose in different locations, the vulnerability of communities and their response capabilities. The concept of human security focuses on threats that endanger the lives and livelihoods of individuals and communities. Safeguarding it requires a new approach, and a better understanding of many interrelated variables – social, political, economic, technological and environmental – factors that determine the impact of extreme events when they occur. We should always remember that disasters, conflicts and crisis are never accidental, but rather be something to do with the mind of the people, particularly due to the so-called “the bystander attitude”. The three may be regarded as forming a tripartite family, with crisis as the end result of improper hazards and risks management. Vulnerability and risk assessments are keys to address the improved resilience of human beings and its environment.

The world is urged to invest more in disaster risk reduction. This is crucial if we are to achieve the goals outlined in the Hyogo Framework for action as well as the Millennium Development Goals. It is critical to saving lives and livelihoods. It is urgent to enforce a major shift in development thinking by emphasizing resilience and pre-emptive measures by addressing the three main underlying drivers of climate change impacts and disaster risks: (i) poor and unplanned urban development; (ii) vulnerable rural livelihoods; and (iii) the decline of ecosystems.

An immense faith in human has shown the capacity of people to co-operate when confronted by common problems, instead of fighting. Yet, even after the demise of the Cold War, many societies remain insecure and unstable.

The new millennium is typified by the immense changes of economic life and global industries along with the ever increasing competition among nations. A variety of potential threats related to global, regional and local climatic changes are also coming into their existence. Fast and uncertain changes in national and local life have also highlighted the millennium change. Democratization and regional autonomy require a wise approach on its own. Objective and knowledge-based input and guidance may facilitate in drawing national and local policies and in exercising the best management practices, which involve the social dynamics in relation to the access of natural resources and their impacts to the environmental changes.

Global social-economic-political-cultural dynamics have been experiencing ups and downs, from the Cold War Era, the East – West and Non-aligned Movement, global terrorism – Moslem-Non Moslem relation. Global tensions has been gradually and systematically shifting from merely ideological-geopolitical to a more and augmented by resource driven conflicts. The recent change in the US Presidency, along with the decline of Western Power and the newly emerging global power balance, have brought forward to power reconfiguration and the raising need of a more healthy and inclusive intercultural dialogues. Indonesia, being one of the emerging economies and the largest country in the world with predominant Moslem population, has been spotted in the global recent constelation as having the potential role as one of the key players in the future global intercultural dialogues.
In the meantime, demographic data has shown the increase of population growth in hazardous areas around the world, which will mean that more people and communities are at risk. In urban regions (and particularly in “megacities”), complex infrastructure systems support human activities, deliver services to residents and facilitate economic growth. At the same time, however, residents and businesses have become increasingly dependent on these “lifelines” and this dependence increases vulnerability to disruptions caused by natural hazards, climate variability and global warming. Moreover, human interventions in the environment, such as changes to natural landscapes and emission of pollutants and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, also augment vulnerability to natural hazards.

An immense faith in human has shown the capacity of people to co-operate when confronted by common problems, instead of fighting. Yet, even after the demise of the Cold War, many societies remain insecure and unstable. Non-military destabilising factors, such as poverty and inequality, manifest themselves in a high crime rate and the influx of illegal immigrants. Beyond these human factors, other natural factors with the potential to generate serious conflict are at work. Competition to the access to strategic materials like oil, gas and other strategic minerals were once the sources of conflicts, but now and in the future water may become the driver of conflicts. In an age where resources are rapidly diminishing and competition for resources has never been greater, environmental conflict is becoming more and more salient. Extreme climate and global warming may even worsen the potential and existing conflicts. While environmental and resource-based problems, such as acute water shortages, can heighten the potential for conflict, water is also the one natural resource where co-operative solutions in the name of survival seem most logical. In this area humankind’s track record appears to be remarkably inconsistent. However, even though the resource dimension of international politics may be as old as international relations itself, conflict is more complex (and multi-dimensional) than a crude struggle over resources.

Worth to notice also is that the recent global meltdown has brought world leaders to the notion of having a total green economic revolution, not only to solve the present crisis but even more to safeguard its sustainability and help preventing the recurrence of such a massive financial – economic – monetary – industrial – business crisis. Green economy is being developed through a mondial understanding and recently become a new wave in rebuilding countries and organizations in the aftermath of a disaster, conflicts or crisis.

The complexities of the problems and vulnerability of coastal and ocean regions, particularly in the tropical areas, are deeply rooted down in human behavior as a result of poverty, ignorance and human greed. Such a complexity becomes more with the interference of processes of the earth, both as a result of the unavoidable natural tendency and because of direct or indirect response of the earth balancing processes in seconds to hundreds of years scale.

Environment as well as coastal and ocean resources management take the strategic position in the country due to its geographic setting of the Indonesian archipelago with more than two third of sea coverage. A great number of problems and conflicts have arisen due to superimposing human-driven and nature-driven processes, both from concealed and million years scale until the unexpected and instantaneous ones and from microscopic to kilometers scales.

The complexities of the problems and vulnerability of coastal and ocean regions, particularly in the tropical areas, are deeply rooted down in human behavior as a result of poverty, ignorance and human greed. Such a complexity becomes more with the interference of processes of the earth, both as a result of the unavoidable natural tendency and because of direct or indirect response of the earth balancing processes in seconds to hundreds of years scale. Hence a knowledge-based and integrated non-sectoral approach is required to provide the total solution in both short- and long-term.


Our coastal and marine environments as well as the urban and rural communities are threatened by the ever increasing natural and man-made disasters. The last Giant Indian Ocean Tsunami and storm surges in the region exemplify the nature of instantaneous coastal disasters that may happen and strike another coastal plains and cities. Slow onset disasters such as sea level rise and the accompanying global climatic changes are another type of coastal hazards that gradually threatened the coastal environment and communities within the coming decades.


Indonesia as an archipelagic country composed of some 17.500 islands with more than two third of sea coverage and 81.000 km of coastline. In 2005 The Asian Development Bank estimated about 22 per cent of its population lives on the coast and about 60 per cent on the coastal plains. It is also estimated that some of 14 to 16 million people live in Indonesia were directly employed in coastal and marine related activities. About 51 per cent of them living in poverty that makes them more vulnerable to the risk of the incident of coastal hazard. Environment as well as coastal and ocean resources management, therefore, take the strategic position in the country due to its geographic setting as well as to its population livelihood.
Increasing incidences of resource-based conflicts among stakeholders and territorial disputes between neighbouring countries will eventually influence the sustainable coastal zone management. The present day Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) approach need to be revitalized and refocused into the knowledge based Coastal Community Resilience (Co-co) concept. The existing platform, such as the Indonesian Consortium on Coastal and Marine Research (ICoMar), can be used as a strategic vehicle to deliver the Co-co message.

Text Box: We should always remember that disasters, conflicts and crisis are never accidental, but rather be something to do with the mind of the people, particularly due to the so-called “the bystander attitude”. The three may be regarded as forming a tripartite family, with crisis as the end result of improper hazards and risks management.Text Box:  Text Box:  Humankind is now in an unprecedented and extraordinary position. Never have in human history that life sustaining environment on earth rapidly changed in just one generation. Most of the changes are attributed to human activities. Less ecologically balanced economic and technological activities contributed to the rapid changes and can potentially raise conflicts through physical, biological and social interactions, into which the understanding of their processes are still in the early stage. While changes are continuing, the impact of such changes has been overlooked and continued to threaten exponentially the security and well-being of coming generations. One should also note that the concept of security has been expanded, notably since the end of the coldwar and the fall of the Berlin Wall. It now expands from the merely of state and military security down into environment and human security levels. To this end, energy, food, health and water securities are included which are more than just a matter of supply and demand issue, but even more of fundamental concern regarding the sustainability and resilience aspects within the environment and human security realm.

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