Publication Details

Category Text Publication
Reference Category Journals
DOI 10.1016/j.envsci.2015.06.011
Title (Primary) Reputational risks and participation in flood risk management and the public debate about the 2013 flood in Germany
Author Kuhlicke, C.; Callsen, I.; Begg, C.
Source Titel Environmental Science & Policy
Year 2016
Department SUSOZ
Volume 55
Issue Part 2
Page From 318
Page To 325
Language englisch
Keywords Risk governance; Conflict; Media analysis; Blame; Accountability; Stakeholder
UFZ wide themes RU6

Stakeholder participation is seen to be integral for the improvement of flood risk management. In many cases, however, participation in flood risk management practice has also become a space of conflict and debate. In order to better understand these conflicts, this paper focuses on the interplay between the practices of participation which seek to improve the management of first order risks such as floods and second order reputational risks which arise as a consequence of arguments about participation in political and publicised discourses.

Our analysis draws on empirical data related to the experience of the 2013 flood, which affected large parts of eastern and south-western Germany. The empirical data was gathered in Saxony and includes interviews conducted with citizens and experts involved in participatory processes in flood risk management as well as analysis of newspaper articles published during and directly after the 2013 flood.

The analysis found that practices of participation in flood risk management are highly politicised in Saxony and Germany in general. The basic argument that surfaced in the aftermath of the 2013 flood was that because some groups were very powerful and active in pursuing their individual interests during participatory processes, the planning and construction of technical measures took too long to provide some communities with protection against the flood and hence increased their overall susceptibility. As a consequence of this public blaming of participation for the damages that occurred in 2013, the very structure of participatory processes as well as the right of actors to participate in flood risk management were questioned. The paper concludes that the interplay of institutionalised practices of participation and public and media-related discourses about participation stand in close connection in Saxony. The institutional setting only allows for very limited participation in decision-making processes and, at the same time, provides the possibility for responsible administrations to delegate responsibility and blame to those stakeholders participating in risk management in case “something goes wrong”.

Persistent UFZ Identifier
Kuhlicke, C., Callsen, I., Begg, C. (2016):
Reputational risks and participation in flood risk management and the public debate about the 2013 flood in Germany
Environ. Sci. Policy 55 (Part 2), 318 - 325 10.1016/j.envsci.2015.06.011